to take any action, as Congress alone can provide for such payment.
With high consideration and regard, your obedient servant,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
COLUMBIA, January 8, 1863.
Hon. WILLIAM PORCHER MILES,
Member of Congress, Richmond:
MY DEAR DIR: Since I sent you a copy of a paper about the conscription laws I find the proceedings of the War Department have virtually suspended their operation through camps of instruction and substituted a system of recruiting and volunteering. A circular order (8th January, 1863) does away entirely with the necessity of the vast and expensive machinery set in motion under the law. It is very far from being an improvement on the law, for it is nothing more or less than a system of impressment, and will produce infinite discontent and bring but few men from this State. It is a mistake. Already under it the country is flooded with ignorant subaltern officers, selected and sent out because they are useless in the field, to enlist or gather up men under the regulations of General Orders, No. 82; that is, they are appointed enrolling officers to administer the grave and delicate functions of the conscript laws. It breaks up the enrolling system established by law and puts the matter virtually in the hands of men selected as recruiting sergeants. The order is made on the plea of getting the men more rapidly in the field. It will utterly fail in that purpose. Had the Department acted precisely under the law and Orders No. 82, and sent the officers provided for to me on the 1st day of December, I would by the 1st of March have had every man liable in South Carolina in the field. Up to this day they have sent me but three officers. It is true, about a week since there was forwarded a list of about sixty to choose from. Major Melton and myself have sought every information concerning them from members of the Legislature, and as yet we have not bee able to select but two as at all fitted forany of them can scarcely write their names. My opinion is that under the errors of the Department and the entire want of comprehension by it of the scope and purport of the law, together with this circular order, you had better repeal the whole system and begin anew. As it now is so confused, so utterly fruitless, becoming so odious, it is much worse than nothing. Properly administered I regard it as an eminently wise system, and while General Orders, No. 82, is seriously defective, the defects might have been reMained in the mode of executing it. The modifications have increased the defects and neutralized all the good. I think you have been driven from a most admirable policy and system by the incompetency of those to whom their administration was intrusted. Had the President and Secretary held the matter in their own hands, and administered it as a vast civil machine, as well as the nursery of the military force of the country, it would have been effectual and permanent. But when you were mayor of Charleston you had as well have put your policemen to administer your finance and sanitary ordinances as for the people who have been to be put at this conscription law. Either leave the whole matter to the States, or make it a civil as well as military process.
Very truly and respectfully, yours,
JNO. S. PRESTON.