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Official correspondence of Confederate State Department.

Letters from Honorable J. P. Holcombe.

Montreal, June 16, 1864.
Hon. J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, C. S. A.:
Sir — I have very little to communicate since my last dispatch. Some ten or twelve more men have been sent on to take the boat which leaves for Bermuda next week. It is apparent, from all the information I receive, that very few remain who are willing to return at once to the discharge of their duty. There will, however, always during the existence of the war be small parties to be forwarded who have escaped into Canada and who are anxious to rejoin the army. As these will generally consist of brave and enterprising men, I am trying to make some permanent arrangement to furnish them in the most economical way with the necessary means. For this purpose I propose to leave as much as five thousand dollars in the hands of B. Weir & Co., to carry interest until used, to defray these expenses; and to employ discreet and responsible persons in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Saint Catherine, Windsor, and other points likely to be reached by our men, whose interest in the cause will induce them to take the requisite precautions to prevent imposition and to advance the price of transportation until reimbursed by Mr. Weir. Experience has shown us that our escaped prisoners are too improvident in general to be entrusted with money, and I am organizing a system by which tickets for transportation and necessary board to Halifax can be furnished them by our agents. The isolation, both commercial and political, of these Provinces, and the number of distinct lines over which the men must be passed, render this a tedious and somewhat troublesome task. As soon as it has been accomplished I shall return via Bermuda to the Confederacy.

I have the honor, &c.,

Clifton house, Niagara Falls, C. W., August 11, 1864.
Hon. J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, C. S. A.:
Sir — Since my last dispatch I have visited all the points in Canada at which it was probable any escaped prisoners could be [294] found. I have circulated as widely as possible the information that all who desired to return to the discharge of their duty could obtain transportation to their respective commands within the Confederacy. For this purpose I have made arrangements with reliable gentlemen at Windsor, Niagara, Toronto and Montreal to forward such, as from time to time may require this assistance, as far as Halifax, from which point they will be sent by Messrs. Weir & Co. to Bermuda. The system thus organized will provide for the return of any ordinary average of escaped prisoners. If, however, any contingency should lead to the accumulation of a large number in Canada, some special arrangement, like that contemplated when I left Richmond, would be required. As events (to which it is scarcely prudent to refer) may soon transpire which would render this contingency by no means remote or improbable, I have deemed it my duty to defer my departure for a time. I feel the more confidence in my judgment from the fact that it has the concurrence of Messrs. Clay and Thompson. I have availed myself of the interim of every opportunity to co-operate with those gentlemen and think that I have been able to render useful service. My present expectation is to return in September.

A distinct communication from Mr. Clay and myself is sent by this mail.

With the highest respect, &c.,

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B. Weir (3)
James P. Holcombe (3)
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