Today in History:

34 Series I Volume IX- Serial 9 - Roanoke


trebled in strength in the last months, were then and still are unfinished, both as regards the protection of the men against the enemy's shell, guns, and mortars by sea, as well as his attacks by land. As the War Department had sanctioned, during the administration of Mr. Walker, my calling on the people for slave labor to work on the fortifications in my charge, and as my instructions were to push these fortifications to completion, I considered it proper in itself and necessary to the faithful obedience of my orders to continue using, as before, this labor until the exercise of the authority granted me by the Government to hire slaves should be successful in procuring the requisite labor. It was intended to be my last call.

The counties of the Peninsula and neighborhood having furnished negroes frequently, I throughout it prudent to call upon the counties of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie for this last supply, and I believe I have exercised the power (recognized by the War Department) with discretion. Nevertheless, I immediately directed Mr. Lamb not to take any further steps with reference to the country of Chesterfield, and as he informed me that he had an appointment to meet the negroes from Dinwiddie at Petersburg, I instructed him to keep it, but not to bring any whose masters objected in the least to their coming. This course, pursued before the reception of your letter, I presume meets with the approbation of the War Department and the President. I received a letter last night from Captain Rives, temporarily in charge of the Engineer Department at Richmond, stating in effect that he was not prepared to undertake the hiring of negroes for the works her of their control.

All the negroes are discharged from Yorktown with the exception of 160, about 130 of these being procured from the country of Greenville by calling upon the inhabitants to furnish the labor; it is reported to me that they furnished these men with pleasure. The number required by the works here is about 400. At Mulberry Island, on James River, there are about 30; 200 are required there, and at least 200 at Gloucester Point, where there are, I think, not more than 50, though I have not inquired within the last week.

Under these circumstances I beg that I may be furnished without delay with precise instructions which the War Department, I hope, is well assured will be executed with promptness to the letter and spirit. I beg that this communication may be laid before the President through the Secretary of War. Inclosed are copies of two letters from General Lee. That containing his original instructions to which allusion is made in one of the inclosed is mislaid, but doubtless will soon be found among the papers in the office.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General, Commanding.

P. S.-You will also receive a copy of a communication from the War Department fully approving my course in impressing slaves.

[Inclosure Numbers 1.]

Richmond, Va., May 25, 1861.

Colonel J. B. MAGRUDER,

Commanding, &c., Yorktown:

COLONEL: Two 12-pounder brass pieces have been directed to be sent you at Yorktown, which may be applied to the land defenses either