STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, EXCECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,
Raleigh, May 25, 1863.
Honorable J. A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: Your letter of the 23rd instant, inclosing copy of one from General Lee with descriptive rolls of deserters from General Rodes' brigade, appealing to me for action in regard to the best means of arresting desertion in the army, has been received. You will see by copy of my proclamation,* that everything which it is possible for me to do has been already done. The most stringent orders have been issued to the militia to guard all fords and feries and publis highways, and every imaginable step taken to insure activity and obedience. And to avoid, if possible, the danger of conflicting with the legal tribunals of that State, I have recently written to the President suggesting that he should make a requisition upon me for the milita for the purpose of arresting deserters, &c., to which letter I beg to refer you as an evidence of my great desire to put a stop to this evil. I regret, sir, that you should have deemed it necessary to adopt as an expanation of the cause for so much desertion-an idea which has its origin solely in political prejudice-the "too ready interpositoin of the judicial authority in these question of military obligation," and the false constructions given to the decisions of our judges in the army. That such impressions do prevail in the army I make no doubt. You are not the first authority I have had for that fact; but why it should exit and how it was first made I am unable to determine, except upon the ground that there exist among our neighbors, and even among some of our own citizens, "a too ready" disposition to believe evilo of the State. When it is know that North Carolina is the only State in the Confederacy which employs her militia in the arrest of conscripts and deserters; that she has better executed the conscritp law; has fuller regiments in the field that any other, and that at the two last great battles on the Rappahannock, in Decempber and in May, she furnished over one-half on the killed and wounded, it seems strange, passing stange, that an impression should prevail that desertion would receive offcial contenance and protection on her borders.
The decisions of our judges have been published in all the papers of our State, and any pervarsion of their meaning must be designed and willful. Neither have our judges been "too ready" to offer them. Heavy penalties, as your know, are annexed to the refusal of a judge to grant the writ of haveas corpus, and an upright judge must deliver the law as he conceives it to be, whether it should happen to comport with the received notions of the military authorities or not. I must therefore most respectfully decline to use my influence in restaining or controlling that co-ordinate branch of the Government which intrudes upon nobody, usurps no authority, but is, on the contrary, in great danger of being overlapped and destroyed by the tendency of the times. Whilst, therefore, it is my intention to make every possible effort to substain the common cause, it is my firm determination tu sustain the judicial authorities of the land, the rights and privileges of the citizens to the utmost of my power. By the action of Congress no appreal lies from the supreme court of a State to that of the Confederate States, and the decisions of the supreme court of North Carolina when formally rendered will be binding upon all parties. I also regret to see that the impression will be made by these letters of yours and General Lee's that desertion is grater among the North Carolina troops
* See May 11, 1863, p. 706.