and is greatly abused, especially in the State of South Carolina;" that is, within the limits of my command.
In the charge of "forcible assignment," I presume he refers to the disposition made in January and February, 1863, of certain men between the ages of eighteen and forty, of some eight regiments of South Carolina troops, on the discharge of those regiments after temporary service in this department, for in no other way have I ever attempted the least interference with conscripts. The language of Colonel Preston, I regret to perceive, must leave the impression that my orders and action in the premises were an abuse of authority and unauthorized.
That what I did was with the sanction of the proper authority and for the good of the service, I beg to exhibit in the following papers:
A copy of my letter, marked B, dated January 21, 1863, acquainting you that the time of the reserve regiments would expire in three weeks, when they must be discharged, to the material reduction of my force, and that therefore, unless otherwise instructed, I should construe the War Department circular of the 8th January, 1863, herewith, marked C, as authority to send officers to the camps of said regiments, before the expiration of their term of service, to enroll all persons subject to conscription, inasmuch as there must a material loss of time if these men must pass through the camp of instruction at Columbia before I could again have their services.
Having thus duly informed the War Department of my purpose on the 29th of January, 1863, or eight days later than my letter, I issued Special Orders, Numbers 27, a copy of which I append, marked D, calling on all in said regiments of reserves within the ages of eighteen and forty to choose companies in regiments or battalions in this department for the war, and that all who failed to do so in due season would be assigned to regiments then in service in this department, and district commanders were severally charged with the execution of the order.
Troops were eminently needed in this department; they were not to be spared from other quarters; for that reason these very reserve regiments had been received by the President into the service and their retention in the State was legitimate and exigent, and was it, and by means of the volunteering privilege, referred to by Colonel J. S. Preston in his letter of 9th April, 1863, as an abuse, the five regiments, comprising the greater portion of my infantry, sent in May and June to General Johnston, and which fighting, were recruited to a strength that has so much enhanced their efficiency. In connection with what Colonel Preston calls an abuse of the privilege of volunteering in this State, I deem it proper of the Secretary of War, Mr. Randolph, dated 10th September, 1862, directing that conscripts procured by the exertions of officers detailed from regiments to act as enrolling officers, should be assigned to that regiment, Colonel Preston, on 27th September, 1862, suggested that 6 officers should be sent to report to him for that purpose. See paper herewith marked E and inclosure marked E 1.
Second. That as 6 officers would not give one to each regiment, or meet the spirit and purpose of the Secretary's order, I issued the circular herewith, marked F, to certain district officers to detail officers to report to Colonel Preston to recruit for their regiments.