CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, June 17, 1861.
JOHN B. SALE,
SIR: In your letter of May 28, 1861, you request the Secretary of War to answer a question or two which are very respectfully propounded by you. You inquire whether it is absolutely decided that troops will be accepted for only three years or for the war, and whether the President will not receive volunteers into the service for one or two years. The Secretary of War directs me to say in reply that there is, as you estimate, no little dissatisfaction in the country because, as a general thing, volunteers will not be received into the service of the Confederate States for the period of twelve months. But all this dissatisfaction, it is confidently believed, arises solely from an outside view of the subject, and would instantly vanish before an insight into the reasons and motives by which the Department has been determined. The enemy who seek to subjugate us and hold us in abject bondage to their arbitrary and ruthless will demand and receive volunteers only for three years. Surely, then, if we mean to contend in right good earnest for our independence, our lives, and our sacred honor, as well as for the purity of our family altars, we shall be willing to enlist for at least an equal period. If we would be free men, or rise to the height of the present great crisis, we must not shrink from hardships which our invaders are ready and willing to encounter. And besides, if as true and loyal citizens we would serve the Confederates States, we should bear in mind the great cost of bringing volunteers into the field, their great improvement by actual service, and, above all, the ruinous consequence which may result from their withdrawal after a service of twelve months from before an enemy which has enlisted for three years. There are many, you say, who have lucrative callings worth [it may be] from $2,000 to $10,000 per annum, and no other source of support or prosperity such as a planter or capitalist has. It may be hard, as you suggest, that they should exchange this for a series pay of a private soldier to maintain themselves and families. But if so, there is a remedy for this hardship. If they will only form themselves into companies, already armed and equipped at their own expense, they will be accepted, and can then serve their country for the short period of twelve months. This course has already been adopted by some of our citizens, and it is to be hoped it will be pursued by many more. A still nobler example has been set by others who have not only armed and equipped themselves, but also refused to take pay as privates for the twelve months for which they enlisted. In this way have they escaped the hardship of serving for a series of years, and at the same time complied with all the rules which the public good seems to demand. But there is one simple, common-sense view of this whole subject which should dispel every shadow of dissatisfaction and silence all the complaints which have been uttered against the decision of this Department. We have more volunteers for the war or for three years than we are able to arm or equip, and hence it would be absurd to arm and equip those who wish to serve only twelve months. They cannot be accepted unless they come fully armed and equipped. You say the action of a great many awaits the information you seek. For this reason it has been given at length.
A. T. BLEDSOE,
Chief of the Bureau of War.