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[275] reduced ours by twelve thousand. The latter, in his letter to you of the 17th ultimo, expresses the opinion that this army is too weak to oppose the enemy should he advance.

There would be much less difficulty, I think, in advancing from Northern Mississippi, avoiding the mountains.

I can see no other mode of taking the offensive here, than to beat the enemy when he advances, and then move forward. But, to make victory probable, the army must be strengthened. A ready mode of doing this would be by substituting negroes for all the soldiers on detached or daily duty, as well as company cooks, pioneers, and laborers for engineer service. This would give us at once ten or twelve thousand men. And the other armies of the Confederacy might be strengthened in the same proportion. Immediate and judicious legislation would be necessary, however.

I earnestly ask your Excellency's consideration of this matter. A law authorizing the Government to take negroes for all the duties out of the ranks, for which soldiers are now detailed, giving the slave a portion of the pay, and punishing the master for not returning him if he deserts, would enable us to keep them in service. This is the opinion of the seven or eight ranking officers present.

My experience in Mississippi was, that impressed negroes run away whenever it is possible, and are frequently encouraged by their masters to do so; and I never knew one to be returned by his master.

I respectfully suggest the division of this army into three corps, and, should your Excellency adopt

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