HEADQUARTERS FIRST MILITARY DISTRICT,
Charleston, S. C., June 20, 1863.
Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff, &c.:
GENERAL: I have lately had much conversation with planters and other citizens respecting negro labor for the fortifications. The call of the State agent from the upper districts will not bring the people until a month hence, and unless it is responded to more fully than previous calls, it will hardly furnish them in adequate strength. I have thought that a combination of the planters on the coast might be effected, by which they would furnish a certain portion of these hands for a lengthened period, and I learn that some have agreed to do so, and a few have been already sent. The time for laying by the rice crop, however, has come, and I doubt not, that by employing proper agents among the planters on Cooper River, from 200 to 300 able-bodied negroes can be obtained for from one month to six weeks.
The work which is most important at present appears to me to be the erection of a battery, and covering work at Grimball's to shorten our line on James Island, and enable our troops, at present in garrison at that point, to occupy it properly.
I suppose it is manifestly out of the question to expect the finishing of light-draught iron-clad boats, and the reoccupation of Cole's Island, which would, if it were possible, preclude the necessity of the work suggested. I inclose a letter from Colonel Simonton,* and a memorandum from Captain Blake,* concerning such a work. I am of opinion, however, that it should be of heavier character than suggested, and a greater force employed. The difficulty is in the labor, and I have respectfully to request authority to endeavor to procure it, and establish such rules for the guardianship and provision for the negroes as will prevent the complaints which have been made concerning them heretofore, and insure them proper employment.
If this is approved by the commanding general, I will proceed in the effort, and if labor can be obtained, I would further respectfully suggest that Captain Ramsey, of the Engineers, be assigned to the construction of the work, and that he be ordered to communicate upon the subject with these headquarters.
From the last reports from Morris Island, the enemy appear to have given up their work on Little Folly Island. The epaulement across the southern extremity of Morris Island is progressing. A 10-inch mortar which has bee injured by splitting a piece of a trunnion, will still do for short ranges. I have ordered it to be replaced. The carpenters and the solders discharged by Captain Cheves, and re-engaged by Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, have not returned to the island, but, unless they are prevented by the engineer department, are expected to go down to-day. Tents and shelter have been provided for them.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
JUNE 23, 1863.
See my indorsement on Colonel C. H. Simonton's letter of 9th instant, relating to the same subject. The construction of all defensive works