I respectfully request that you will obtain the decision of the President, or War Department, on these points, as that of the highest authority will be necessary to sustain the general officers in their efforts to enforce it, should it be proper to do so.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. L. STEVENSON.
HDQRS. FIRST DIST., DEPT., OF MISS., AND E. La.
Columbus, MISS., August 10, 1863
Colonel B. S. EWELL,
COLONEL: I deem it expedient to state for the information of the general commanding the department, that the political status of the people of this district has become, as he is probably in some measure aware, a matter of discussion in the public prints as well as in private circles.
My acquaintance with the prevailing public sentiment enables me to state that, although much despondency prevails, growing mainly out of disasters to our arms in Mississippi, commencing with the defeat of General Van Dorn's forces at Corinth, and the subsequent losses and defeats terminating with the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, under Lieutenant-General Pemberton, it has not yet, as has been reported, found expression in "peace meetings" or other public manifestations of discontent.
A general apprehension has prevailed that this portion of the State, in consequence of the inadequate force left to protect it, will be abandoned to the enemy whenever he shall seek to occupy it in force, and, as might be expected, some people, laboring under such apprehension and the despondency naturally resulting from it, have spoken of our Government and its functionaries in disparaging terms, and of some of our military commanders as being both faithless and incompetent. To this extent, and no more, has public discontent found expression, with exceptions such as are frequently found in communicates laboring under the influences attendant on the vicissitudes of war.
Thus far supplies for military purposes have been readily obtained under the operation of existing laws from the ample resources of this district. In the meantime, that most essential material of war, men, I am constrained to say, cannot as readily be had.
The spirit of volunteering has ceased to exist, and although there are numbers of able men apparently within conscription limits, few go forward to swell the ranks of our armies, there being no public sentiment sufficiently potent to impel them to enter the service. This want of patriotic fervor is traceable to assignable causes, coming under the ruling desire of saving property. It is to be apprehended, that this feeling reacting balefully on that class of our population possessed of small estates. They assume that if the more wealthy portion of the community, slaveholders especially, will not enter the ranks of the army to defend their rights of property, it is not incumbent on them, who have no such large interest at stake. The argument assumes the greater plausibility considered in connection with the number of substitutes employed by the more wealthy, and unless something is done, and that speedily, to arrest this growinontent, we shall cease to have that cordial support from this class of citizens, who con-