alluded to may grow into frightful proportions unless checked, but the responsibility of life and death, so liable to be abused, is obviously too great to be intrusted to the hand of every officer whose duties may bring him face to face with this question. It is likely to become one of portentous magnitude if the war continues, and I do not see how it can be properly dealt with except by the supreme legislature of the country. I deem the action of Congress in this regard as needful for the protection of military commanders as for their guidance.
I have the honor to be, sir very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. MERCER,
Commanding Military District of Georgia, Savannah:
GENERAL: The undersigned, citizens of Liberty County, of the Fifteen District, would respectfully present for your consideration a subject of grave moment, not to themselves only, but to their fellow-citizens of the Confederate State who occupy not only our territory immediately bordering on that of the old United States, but the whole line of our sea-coast from Virginia to Texas. We allude to the escape of our slaves across the border lines landward, and out to the vessels of the enemy seaward, and to their being also enticed off by those who, having made their escape, return for that purpose, and not infrequently attended by the enemy. The injury inflicted upon the interest of the citizens of the Confederate States by this now constant drain is immense. Independent of the forcible seizure of slaves by the enemy whenever it lies in his power, and to which we now make no allusion, as the indemnity for this loss will in due time occupy the attention of our Government for ascertained losses on certain parts of our coast, we may set down as a low estimate the number of slaves absconded and enticed off from our sea-board at 20,000, and their value at from $12,000,000 to $15,000,000, to which loss may be added the insecurity of the property along our borders and the demoralization of the negroes that remain, which increases with the continuance of the evil, and may finally result in perfect disorganization and rebellion. The absconding negroes hold the position of traitors, since they go over to the enemy and afford him aid and comfort by revealing the condition of the districts and cities from which they come, and aiding him in erecting fortifications and raising provisions for his support, and now that the United States have allowed their introduction into their Army and Navy, aiding the enemy by enlisting under his banners, and increasing his resources in men for our annoyance and destruction. Negroes occupy the position of spies also, since they are employed in secret expeditions for obtaining information by transmission of newspapers and by other modes, and act as guides to expeditions on the land and as pilots to their vessels on the waters of our inlets and rivers. They have proved of great value thus far to the coast operations of the enemy, and without their assistance he could not have accomplished as much for our injury and annoyance as he has done; and unless some measures shall be adopted to prevent the escape of the negroes to the enemy, the threat of an army of trained Africans for the coming fall and winter campaigns may become a reality.
Meanwhile the counties along the seaboard will become exhausted of the slave population, which should be retained as far as possible