will mention also that I have an agent now here who reports that he had already warned 600 negroes from the counties of Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, and Brunswick, and that he had no trouble in getting them (though it takes three weeks or a month to procure them). Though the order is countermanded, he says he can still get them. If the Secretary of War will give me an order to impress again the slaves of the counties composing my district I will obey it in good faith; but on the score of justice as well policy I would advise against any further impressments from those counties. The works must remain unfinished unless these negroes are impressed, and I recommend that the agent for the counties above mentioned, whom I have kept here for the purpose, be ordered to bring in the slaves already warned. The counties are Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, and Brunswick.
I sent a flag of truce to Hampton, at the request of Mrs. John Tyler, widow of the late ex-President, with a letter for her mother, through General Wool. My officers found the enemy building quarters in Hampton, evidently for more troops, as those now in that region are already quartered. The papers state that General Casey's division and Captain Porter's bomb-proof fleet are expected at Fort Monroe to co-operate with Burnside. These quarters are doubtless built for these troops. I do not see anything in the state of public affairs to justify us in relaxing our efforts. I hope, therefore, the Secretary will authorize me to procure the labor from the three counties named, and that I may receive an answer by telegraph on Saturday evening. I send a letter from Major Bloomfield showing that the decision of the Quartermaster-General in relation to the conditions of the hiring of negroes operated greatly to defeat my purpose. I think the decision incorrect. No law of Congress was required to enable the Government to pay for slaves if lost, any more than to pay for the labor of slaves if impressed without the consent of the owners. I will merely mention that most men in Virginia would rather have their slaves impressed than hired, as in the former case they expect to hold the Government responsible for the loss of the slave as well as for the value of his labor, and in the latter case is not responsible for his loss. A large majority of the people would prefer to see the works go on and their slaves taken. Unpatriotic lawyers and small politicians are the persons who annoy the Government on these subjects.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
Adjutant and Inspector General.
It is impossible to concede that any general can proceed to the department commanded by another and there exercise authority to impress. General M. might have applied to you to issue orders to impress men for him. I see no objection to your ordering the impressment of such negroes as are wanted for him, if they cannot be obtained otherwise by him.
J. P. B.