December 20, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
SIR: I received last night the inclosed letter from General F. H. Smith, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, and transmit to you for your consideration, in the hope that you will find it consistent to grant the request therein preferred. It is a matter of great importance to the institute.
I am, truly,
HEADQUARTERS VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE,
December 19,1 861.
His Excellency JOHN LETCHER,
Governor of Virginia:
GOVERNOR: You are aware that the Board of Visitors of this institution, in response to the public demand, and acting under the expressed wishes of the President of the Confederate States, have directed the reopening of the school on the 1st of January next. On that day it will be reopened with 250 cadets. In amking the necessary preliminary arrangements for supplies, I find great diffciulty in securing the trnasportation of groceries, fromt he fact that the Confederate Government, very properly, has the preference of its own supplies. In view of these difficulties, and of the importance of the continued operatio of the Military Institute to the military defneses of our common country, I respectfully request that you will solicit from the War Department an order upon the commissary at Staunton to supply me, upon requisition, such an amount of groceries, at cost for cash, as may be required for the conduct of the school, and upon like terms as such supplies are now issued to officers. I would add that besides the general benefit which the Confederate Government is receiving from the Military Institute, there is at this time the special one of a cartridge laboratory,atives, making some 10,000 cartridges per day, and the order which I have requestd wsill facilitate this important branch of the Ordnance Department of the Confederate States. I will also take this occasion to say that in reopening the Military Insitute, during the pendency of the war, the great pruposes of the school may be much promoted by some arrangemetn with the Confederate Government by whch a board of examiners may be detailed by the War Department to attend each annual examination, and select from the graduating class such cadets as in the judgment of the board may be found worjthy to be recommended to the President for the commission of brevet second lieutenants in the various corps of the Army. Such an arrangement will not onlyprovide the Army with a select number of educated young officers to the extent that may be demanded, but will operate as a most salutary stimulus to the industry and order of the cadets. I ask no exclusive privilege for the Military Institute, and suggest this as one of the ways in which the largest and most efficient military school of the South may be made most effective for the public servide. I do not know what legislation, if any, may be necessary should this suggestion meet with favor with the President, but his intimate aquaintance with the subejct, in all its bearings, will enable him to point out the best mode of carrying out the plan.
I remain, Governor, very respectfully,
FRANCIS H. SMITH,
Major-General and Superintendent Virginia Military Institute.