War of the Rebellion: Serial 047 Page 0533 Chapter XL. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.- CONFEDERATE.

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for, especially in case of sickness. Without at present venturing to express any opinion as to the necessity of the detention, or the correctness of the impression referred to, the committee would be happy to receive any suggestion or information which you may be able and willing to supply.

Confident that you will appreciate their anxiety to improve a system which recommends itself neither to the military authorities nor to the people, I have the honor to sign myself on behalf of the committee, very respectfully,



[First indorsement.]


Charleston, S. C., December 3, 1863.

Respectfully referred to Colonel D. B. Harris, chief engineer of military department, for his views.


General, Commanding.

[Second Indorsement.]


Charleston, S. C., December 5, 1863.

Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN,

Assistant Adjutant-General, and Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: In reply to the indorsement on the communication of Honorable W. Henry Trescot, dated Columbia, S. C., December 1, 1863, I have the honor to submit the following remarks:

It is of great importance to the public interests that the engineer arm of the service should be promptly supplied with the labor necessary for coast defense, but as yet the means adopted to obtain this supply, have never been adequate to the object in view. We can find ample employment for an effective force of 3,500 laborers. If practicable, it would be better that this force should be renewed at the expiration of every thirty days, as experience proves that, after this length of service, change of labor, habits, and diet, and homesickness greatly impair the efficiency of the negro; but, judging from the repeated failures of the present system to furnish fresh supplies of labor at the end of every thirty days, it is doubtful whether any plan can be devised by which as large a force as required can be collected monthly. I therefore suggest that the term of service be for sixty days, allowing, however, the owner to relieve his slaves by substitutes, if he desires it, at the end of thirty days. It is impossible to say how long we shall require so large a laboring force for coast defense, movements of the enemy necessitating corresponding charges in our dispositions and the construction of our defenses.

It is true that slaves are often kept at work on the fortifications beyond the time for which they were impressed; but this detention has been forced upon the engineer department by the failure of the State agent and impressing officers to furnish a force sufficiently large to relieve them all at the expiration of their term of service. The State agent has not supplied per month for many months past, an average of more than one-fifth of the number of laborers for which requisition has been made, and the impressing officers are not more successful in their efforts. I am of the opinion that "the general conviction