Official Records, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1093
HEADQUARTERS VIRGINIA MILITARY
February 17, 1865.
Hon. J. C. BRECKINRIDGE,
Secretary of War:
DEAR SIR: The present state of the
country justifies any one in presenting for the consideration of the Government
well-meant suggestions, even if they should appear crude to those who are better
The tone of public sentiment and the tenor of present
legislation indicate that the call of General Lee for negro troops will be
I suggest that the maximum number allowed to be raised
should be half a million.
I do not suppose that so many are required or could be
obtained. But to place the maximum at this figure would, I believe, inspire
dread in the minds of our enemy, who exaggerates, through ignorance, our power
in this particular; and further, to call for half a million would, by the effect
upon the minds of owners and slaves, facilitate and insure the raising of
The second suggestion I would make is, that in the event of
the troops being raised you might command the services of our corps of cadets
with their officers to perform the work of organization and drilling in the
shortest time, and with the greatest efficiency.
In 1861, between the 20th of April and the 20th of June,
the cadets drilled 15,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia, and if a large
camp of instruction were established at Camp Lee the same work could be done for
all the negro troops that would be sent there.
Allow me to say that these suggestions are the result of
conversation among some of the officers of our school, and the last one is
contained in a letter to me from General Smith, our superintendent, who is now
absent in Lexington.
Very respectfully, general, your
J. T. L. PRESTON,
Acting Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute.
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