Meridian, Miss., January 9, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:
GENERAL: Since assuming command of the department, information of an undoubted character has reached me, satisfying me that there is a large class of able-bodied men within the limits of this department who are not in the service. Some of these men are absentees without authority from their commands; others have been discharged on account of physical disability, but are now fit for service; others, again, liable to conscription, have never been really enlisted. Of these a large portion are residents, chiefly of a strip of counties bordering the department to the southwest and north-disputed territory; some of these counties within, and others adjoining, the enemy's lines; many of the actually inaccessible to our conscript officers, and all of them affording greater or less security to laggard and deserters. Hence, the Government loses the services of these men, and they cannot be availed of unless some mode of recruiting be adopted which will call forth this material.
I have received a number of applications from parties desiring to be permitted to raise commands of mounted men from these classes of men, confining their efforts to counties immediately on or near the border, and embracing only recruits beyond the reach of the conscription. Such a plan of increasing the strength of this army recommends itself to my judgment. None other, it occurs to me, promises success in the territory referred to. I beg to call the matter to the early and careful attention of the War Department, and to request, respectfully, if deemed consistent with the public interests that authority be vested in me to authorize the organization of troops from these materials upon such basis and under such limitations as may be considered most expedient.
Very respectfully, general, your most obedient servant,
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
H. L. CLAY,
JANUARY 26, 1864.
Inform the general that his recommendations for such authorities will receive favorable attention, but caution him that they must be strictly limited to within the enemy's lines, and where the conscript law cannot be enforce, and that the experience of the Department is not favorable to the good to be expected from such permits.*
J. A. S.,
*See Cooper to Polk, January 30, 1864.