enforce his draft in East Tennessee last spring a fearful stampede commenced and was in steady progress. General Smith by his proclamation stopped the execution of the law and invited the people to return. They did so by the thousands, not only those who had crossed the lines as citizens, but some who had entered the Federal service, some of whom are now in our Army as willing volunteers. Although the evil is in part beyond our reach, much can yet be done. If the President will under the act of Congress suspend the enforcement of the conscript law in East Tennessee and by his proclamation invite all East Tennesseeans to return to their homes, restoring them to citizenship and assuring them that during the present struggle they should [not] be required to enter the Army against their will, upon condition that they devote themselves industriously to the cultivation of their farms, all who have not yet left home will remain, all who are out in the caves, mountains, &c. (and their name is legion), will at once return, and so will every man in Kentucky who is not in the Federal Army, and all in the Army who can get a good chance to desert.
Nine-tenths of the producing labor of East Tennessee is white labor, hence, when by conscription or stampeding the men subject to military duty leave, the labor of East Tennessee is gone. There are within our borders at this time thousands of families left without any male members capable of labor. These helpless women and children are to become a charge upon the public, for whatever may be the sins of their husbands and fathers the Southern people cannot deal cruelly with them. Acts of vengeance to our women and children we must leave to our enemies with which to blacken the PAGEs of history.
I commend to your consideration the views here so hastily and imperfectly expressed, and beg of you to interest yourself in behalf of East Tennessee. I of course do not expect my plan to be literally pursued. If any of my suggestions are adopted, all I desire is, all I seek to do is, to get before the President the true state of things in East Tennessee, relying upon his superior judgment to devise the mode of relief. Please excuse my intrusion and the length of my letter. I am not in the habit of inflicting such penance upon public men.
I am, sir, yours,
ROBT. M. BARTON,
FEBRUARY 14, 1863.
Respectfully submitted to the President.
For Secretary of War:
J. A. CAMPBELL,
Assistant Secretary of War.
FEBRUARY 28, 1863.
For more than a year the general views expressed have been acted on. Often warned that the clemency shown was unjustified, the hope was still entertained that it would avail. Even now it is not proposed to mete to them a harder measure than is elsewhere provided, but if we are to have the hostility of the class called in East Tennessee Union men, it were better they should be in the ranks of the enemy than living as spies among us and waiting for opportunity to strike.