HEADQUARTERS SOUTH CAROLINA,
September 28, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN,
Acting Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I have raised, under requisitions from your Department, five regiments of volunteers for the war, and am now engaged in preparing for the defense of our coast, and would most respectfully ask that no one be authorized from your Department to raise additional troops from this State without the knowledge and consent of the Executive. Having sent some 11,000 stand of arms to Virginia, in the hands of volunteer troops, for Confederate service, from this State, I find some difficulty in procuring suitable arms for the troops I am now engaged in raising, and would be grateful for any assistance you may afford me in this behalf.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
F. W. PICKENS.
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, September 29, 1861.
Brigadier Gen. A. R. LAWTON,
SIR: Your letter of the 25th instant to the Adjutant-General has been submitted to me and by me to the President, and it is my duty to inform you that the Government finds mater for grave censure in your conduct. Your letter states that you have taken possession of arms belonging to the Government without a shadow of authority for so doing, and gives as a reason that "no instructions had been sent you in reference to the rifled cannon and small-arms," and "there are thousands of unarmed men offering to organize for the defense of this coast. " The Department is utterly at a loss to conceive on what ground you could expect instructions in relation to these arms. It acts through its appropriate bureaus, and had given instructions in relation to the disposal of them to the chief of the Ordnance Bureau, the officer charged by law and by the organization of this Department with that duty, and it could no more suppose you would interfere in a matter which in no wise concerned your command than that you would assume to exercise authority in Virginia or Missouri; nor does any urgent necessity, such as you allege, seem to have existed. Whatever extenuation might properly be conceded to the case of an officer commanding on a distant frontier cannot justly be applied to your case, because it was within your power to ask instructions by telegraph or to crave permission to use the arms for the exigency of a sudden attack. Instead of so doing you informed the Department by telegraph of your intention to seize these arms, to which no other answer could be made than to renew the order to the Ordnance Bureau to have them disposed of in conformity with previous orders.
It is scarcely necessary to observe that if the Government cannot have its property intended for public defense landed or deposited at any point of the Confederacy without being exposed to have it seized and appropriated by its officers to meet supposed local exigencies, it would be better to abandon at once all attempts to conduct the defense of the country on an organized system and deliver over the control of the military operations to the local militia or to popular meetings. I deeply regret the necessity of making these remarks,