Doc. 137.-letter from Jefferson Davis to John R. Chambless.
Richmond, June 24, 1861.Hon. John R. Chambless, Chairman of the Harper's Ferry Committee, &c.--Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, accompanied by a resolution of inquiry, adopted by the Committee of the Convention of the State of Virginia, “whether, prior to the 24th day of April, any of the Confederate States had transferred to the Confederate Government the public property captured by them from the late United States, and upon what terms; also whether any such transfers have been made since the said date, and upon what terms” --to all of which I have to reply that, on the 12th of February, 1861, the Congress of the Confederate States of America assumed charge of the questions pending between the several States of the Confederacy and the Government of the United States, relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, dock-yards, and other public establishments, and directed that act to be communicated to the several States; and again, on the 15th of March, 1861, the Congress recommended the respective States to cede the forts, arsenals, dockyards, and other public establishments within their respective limits, to the Confederate States; and in case of such cession, authorized and empowered the President to take charge of said property. It was also provided by act of 28th February, 1861, that the President be authorized and directed to assume control of all military operations between the Confederate States, or any of them, and Powers foreign to them; and he was authorized to receive from the several States the arms and munitions of war acquired from the United States and then in the forts, arsenals, and navy yards of said States, and all other arms and munitions which they might desire to turn over and make chargeable to the Confederate Government. In response thereto, the State of Georgia did, on the 20th of March, 1861, by an ordinance of her Convention, authorize the Confederate States of America to occupy, use, and hold possession of all forts, navy yards, arsenals, custom houses and other public sites, with their appurtenances, within the limits of said State and lately in possession of the United States of America, and to repair, rebuild, and control the same at its discretion, until the ordinance should be repealed by a convention of the people of said State. By another ordinance of same date and authority, the control of all military operations in said State having reference to, or connected with, questions between said State or any of the Confederate States of America, and Powers foreign to them, was transferred to the Government of the Confederate States of America. In like manner were transferred the arms and munitions of war acquired from the United States and then remaining in the forts and arsenals. It was further provided that the Governor be authorized to transfer to the Government of the Confederate States such arms, munitions of war, armed vessels or steamers belonging to said State, as in his judgment might be expedient, and upon such terms as  should be agreed upon. The Government of the Confederate States was to become accountable for all such arms and munitions of war as should be transferred. On the 8th of April, 1861, an ordinance was adopted by South Carolina, which, in terms of similar import to that of the State of Georgia, transferred to the Government of the Confederate States all the forts, arsenals, custom houses, navy yards, and other public sites in her limits. Though not on file in the War Office, my recollection is that the arms and munitions of war were in like manner transferred. On the 20th of March, 1861, the State of Texas, by an ordinance of her convention, in like manner assigned to the Government of the Confederate States all the forts and navy yards, arsenals and lighthouses and their appurtenances within her limits. On the 6th of May, 1861, the State of Arkansas, in convention, by ordinance, instructed and commissioned her delegates to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States to cede, convey, and transfer to the Government of the Confederate States of America the site, buildings, and appurtenances of the arsenal at Little Rock, and the site, buildings, and appurtenances of the hospital at Napoleon, with several conditions annexed, none of which probably affect the use of the property by the Confederate States. This power has not yet been exercised by the delegates commissioned as above stated. On the 5th of June, 1861, North Carolina, by ordinance of the State Convention, ceded to the Confederate States of America jurisdiction over the arsenal at Fayetteville, except that civil process in all cases, and such criminal process as may issue under the authority of the State of North Carolina, against any person or persons charged with crimes committed without said tract of land, may be executed therein, and transferred arsenals, magazines, &c., the title and possession of the lands described, to the Government of the Confederate States. I have not been advised of any decision by the convention of North Carolina in relation to the transfer of arms captured from the United-States, though it is known that a part of those arms has been sent to Virginia, and another portion issued to troops who have been mustered into service and are now on duty within the limits of this State. In the removal of the seat of Government to the city of Richmond, a box, containing a portion of the files of the War Office, has accidentally been separated and has not yet arrived. From this or other cause I have not been able to obtain record evidence of the action of the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and therefore state the action of their several State Conventions from memory. In regard to the first named, the course adopted was similar to that of Georgia. In Louisiana the Governor was authorized, as his judgment should direct, to transfer to the Government of the Confederate States the arms and other public property captured from the United States. The forts and arsenal at Baton Rouge have been occupied by the Confederate troops, and a portion of the arms in that arsenal has been transferred. The action of Florida was generally the same. In Mississippi no arms or munitions of war were captured from the United States, but those obtained by purchase before her secession have been used to supply troops furnished on requisition for the Confederate service — say ten or eleven regiments now employed beyond the limits of the State. The only public property within the limits of the State, and recently held by the Government of the United States, was an unfinished fort on Ship Island and two marine hospitals on the Mississippi River. The first is in the possession, and the second at the disposal of the Government of the Confederate States. I am, most respectfully, yours,