Message of Governor Bonham.
Executive Department, Columbia, S. C., Sept. 21, 1863.the day of your annual meeting is so near at hand that I should not have convoked you again in extra session but for what I deem a pressing emergency, admitting of no delay. The progress of the war for the last few months has not been favorable to our arms. The brilliant repulse of the enemy's iron-clad fleet, on the seventh of April last, in Charleston Harbor, has been succeeded by the fall of Vicksburgh and Port Hudson, our retirement from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee, and also by our evacuation of Morris's Island, but not without a stubborn resistance by the brave garrisons of Wagner and Gregg, under a fire from naval and land batteries such as no works have ever before withstood. Fort Sumter still holds out with an infantry garrison, which has recently achieved a brilliant success. Her noble ruins afford the best proofs of the indomitable courage of the officers and men of the First South-Carolina artillery. Our malignant foe is now erecting on Morris's Island powerful batteries of Parrott guns, and repairing his damaged fleet, preparatory to another and more determined attack upon our harbor outposts, whilst his land forces are being increased with the hope, possibly, of carrying Charleston in a combined attack by land and sea. The call of the President for five thousand troops for six months service within the State, beginning the first of August last, has been promptly responded to, with the exception of five companies, now in process of organization. This requisition and the enforcement of the Conscription Act to forty-five, embracing almost the entire population between the ages of forty and fifty, so impairs the efficiency of our militia organization that I find it impracticable to obtain readily a force adequate to such emergencies as seem likely now soon to be upon us. To meet those emergencies I have endeavored, under your late act and the act of 1841, to raise a volunteer force of one mounted regiment, two companies of cavalry, and one battery of artillery, for service wherever in the State they may be needed. This force has not been so promptly raised as the occasion requires, and I have therefore felt it my duty to again convene your bodies, and to recommend to you that you devise such a plan as in your wisdom may seem expedient for furnishing, for immediate service, a military force of at least two regiments of infantry, one of which should be mounted, and a proportionate force of cavalry and artillery. Also,  that the law be so amended as to place in some military organization for the defence of the State every able-bodied citizen between the ages of sixteen and sixty not in the confederate service or otherwise legally exempted. The immediate danger to be apprehended arises from raiding parties of the enemy, who may dash suddenly into the State from Tennessee, through Upper Georgia or the passes of the mountains of North and South-Carolina. Should the enemy in large force attempt invasion from these sections, the confederate government will, no doubt, afford adequate protection. But to repel raids and protect our firesides, the State herself should make preparation. The persons to compose the organizations should be the able-bodied citizens between sixteen and sixty years of age not in the confederate service or otherwise legally exempted, and in this class should be embraced all persons who have procured exemptions by furnishing substitutes. No one should be relieved from the duty of defending his home because of having furnished a substitute for the war for confederate service. Aliens who have declared their purpose to become citizens, as also such as are domiciled among us enjoying our laws, should be in-cluded. I recommend also that the class of those whose service is limited to the district or regiment in which they reside be reduced to the lowest practicable point consistent with the safe policy of the State. I call your attention to the report of the Adjutant and Inspector-General upon that subject, herewith transmitted. In connection with the subject of exemptions, I call your attention to my correspondence with the Commandant of conscripts for South-Carolina, Major C. D. Melton, who is the successor of Colonel John S. Preston, with whom, previous to your last extra session, I had a correspondence, a copy of which was then transmitted to you. Another copy, as also a copy of that with Major Melton, is now transmitted. This subject calls for legislation, so as to reconcile, as far as possible, the difference between the laws of the two governments. It is an important question, involving the jurisdiction of the two governments, and needs to be delicately handled. I am satisfied our true policy is as far as is compatible with the constitutional rights of the State, to conform to the law of Congress on this subject. I have not felt at liberty to make any distinction between the classes exempted by our law when the cases have been made, but have claimed the exemption of all alike. The action of the Executive Council, on the same subject, and the action of your two Houses, at your last session, (the House approving and the Senate by its silence acquiescing in my action,) made it proper that I should reply to Major Melton as I had done to Colonel Preston. Additional legislation is needed to enable the Executive, through civil or military authority, or both, more effectually to aid the confederate government in arresting deserters from the army. In most cases the absentees have probably not left their commands with the intent to desert their colors; but the result of their absence is the same, so far as the good of the service and protection of the country are concerned. I have endeavored, so far as I was authorized, to afford assistance; but the law is inadequate to such efficient aid as is needed. Many construe your late act on this subject to mean that the sheriffs are not to render aid to the enrolling-officer till resistance has been made. In all such cases the deserter, of course, makes his escape. Such law as you may think proper to pass should embrace deserters from State service, and should also punish aiding and abetting deserters in escaping from the army and in resisting and avoiding arrest. I invite your attention to the operation of the system of impressment adopted by the confederate government. I am informed that in some sections where the people have little more than is absolutely necessary for their own use, it is apprehended that destitution will be brought about by its unequal operation. Coming, as you do, from every section of the State, you are doubtless better informed upon this subject than myself, and better prepared to adopt a judicious policy than I am now to suggest it. I have called the attention of the confederate government to the subject, and suggested to them the probability that the collection of the tax in kind, which operates more equally on all, would obviate the necessity for the impressment of provisions. The system adopted for furnishing labor for the coast defences has failed to accomplish its purpose. Large numbers have availed themselves of the provisions of the law, and paid one dollar and fifty cents instead of furnishing the labor; and others, with the hope of impunity, have neither furnished the labor nor paid the fine. With the money collected by the agent he has been unable to hire any labor. I recommend an amendment of the acts on this subject, so as to abolish the fine, and so as to authorize the Governor, through the Commissioners of Roads, (who in the main are true to their trusts,) to impress the labor requisite to enable him to respond to the calls of the Commanding General, giving credit for all labor previously furnished, and that the time of service be extended to two months. The free negroes should be included. I doubt not that there has been cause for the complaint heretofore made as to the treatment and detention of the negroes; but it is believed that, through the instrumentality of the energetic State Agent, (whose report is herewith transmitted,) many of the evils have been remedied.
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives: