Raleigh, N. C., November 2, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Acting Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of yours in relation to the arms of the First Regiment North Carolina Volunteers. You propose a bargain for the arms in a manner so pleasant as to commend it most favorably to my consideration, but the indications of your purpose to retain the arms under any circumstances must forbid any trade. Let the arms be restored to their proper owners, and then we can listen to a proposition for their disposal. The arms belonged to the State of North Carolina, and were tendered along with the volunteers to the Confederate Government for a limited period, and at the expiration of that period the volunteers, along with their arms, should be restored. That is good faith, and if not observed under the present urgent need for arms will occasion serious dissatisfaction and injury to the interest of the Confederacy and to our own defenses.
The right to these arms is regarded as unquestionable, but it seems as if they are to be held by mere force, under the title of possession, and there is no redress. North Carolina would not insist on her right, or even claim them, but from an imperative necessity for them at home. She has already shown to the Confederacy and to her sister States how cheerfully she contributed them to the common cause while she had them, and now that invasion has reached her own soil her own arms and denied her. We are called on to defend our homes with our own men. We raise and present companies and regiments, and they are refused by your instructions because they have no arms, and now you refuse us the arms. The officers charged by you with the defense of North Carolina call upon me for six regiments and four artillery companies. I have now most of the men raised, but under your orders they are refused for want of arms, and we are all paralyzed. If I were to call on you for arms and you had none I could submit with patspossess a State of her own arms and retain them when they are so much needed will awaken distrust and disaffection toward the Confederacy, and seriously impair our united counsels and actions for the future.
The State of North Carolina is now using every effort to manufacture rifles and buy guns, but the operation of this proposed rule must retard the buying and making of arms and mustering them into service. In connection with this subject I will take the liberty of informing you that some of the companies of the First Regiment came into the service with their own arms, which they had provided themselves with while drilling in the volunteer companies before the war. I know this is the case with Company A, and have heard so about others. To take these arms away would leave a very bad impression on the minds of the volunteers who had generously furnished their own arms and used them so well; but still their case is no stronger than the State's, and I can add nothing in their behalf more than I have said for the State. I am further informed that about 200 of them have been distributed among the militia on the Peninsula. I am willing for these arms to do service for any in this war, but first their owners, who now need them most.
Hitherto the seat of war has turned your attention almost entirely to Virginia, but the operations of the enemy have reached our coast, and I am compelled to call your attention to it. The officers charged with the defense of our extensive sea-board have called on me for six regiments and four batteries, and I most respectfully but urgently call on