of January, 1865, the Confederate House
, for the first time, went into secret session on the subject of negro enlistments, and there the discussions formally began.
The proposition was, at first, to impress forty thousand negroes for menial service in the army.
On the 30th, a proviso, offered by J. M. Leach
, of North Carolina
(one of the obstructionists), that none of the negroes so impressed should be put in the army, was voted down.
On February 2d, Gholson
, of Virginia
, in the House
, and on the 4th, Orr
, of South Carolina
, in the Senate (both of them obstructionists), tried, but failed, to carry propositions to the effect that the enlistment policy was disheartening and demoralizing, and would divide the Confederacy
On the other hand, Conrad
, of Louisiana
, and Brown
, of Mississippi
, both introduced propositions which recited the contrary.
In fact, as has been said before, the representatives of invaded States were generally for arming the negroes, those of States not overrun for the contrary policy.
These propositions were duly referred, and I find that the subject was actively discussed in secret session of both houses on the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th.
On the 9th, the Senate rejected Senator Brown
's enlistment proposition.
On the 11th of February there was a great public meeting in Richmond
, at which Secretary Benjamin
and Senator Henry
both spoke in zealous and earnest advocacy of the enlistment programme, and on the 13th, there were two new bills introduced by Mr. Oldham
, of Texas
, and Mr. Barksdale
, of Mississippi
, looking to negro enlistments.
's bill was offered in the Senate, and was not heard of again.
In the House
, a motion to reject Barksdale
's bill was defeated by a two-thirds vote.
This bill provided for the enlistment of slaves by their masters, and did not reward them with their freedom for volunteering — in fact, there was no volunteering about it. They were to be sent to fight the Yankees
as they had been sent to work on the defenses.
On the 15th, the subject of enlistments came up in the Virginia Legislature, which, on the 17th, adopted resolutions recommending the enlistment policy.
It was not, however, until the 27th that this Legislature voted to instruct its Senators
to vote for the measure in the Confederate Congress.
The subject was ardently discussed in secret session of that Congress from the 17th to the 25th.
In this interval, the soldiers from Mississippi
, South Carolina
, and Texas
, and elsewhere, declared in favor of the new policy, and a letter of General Lee
's was published looking to the same end. In that letter the illustrious commander-in-chief said that he considered the measure “not only expedient but necessary.”