Commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department to the Commander of the Confederate Army of the West

Shreveport La  Sept 4th 1863

General,  The policy of our enemy in arming and organizing negro regiments, is being pushed to formidable proportions.  Our plantations are made his recruiting stations, and unless some check can be devised, a strong and powerful force will be formed which will receive large additions as he advances on our territory

More than 1000 recruits, in some cases organized on the plantations and forced into the ranks, were made in the recent raid on Monroe.  When we fall back, as little as possible should be left for the enemy.  Able bodied male negroes and transportation should be carried back in advance of our troops.  Facilities should be given, and our friends and planters instructed, in positions exposed to the enemy, that it is the wish of the Dept Commander that, without awaiting his approval they remove to safe localities, their able bodied slaves and transportation

Every sound male black left for the enemy becomes a soldier whom we have afterwards to fight.  This is a difficult subject and must be handled cautiously, but I believe it will be wisdom to carry out the above policy to the extent of our abilities   I am General respectfully Your obt servt

(signed)  E Kirby Smith

Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith to Maj. Genl. Price, 4 Sept. 1863, ch. II, vol. 70, p. 328, Letters Sent, Trans-Mississippi Department, Records of Military Commands, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, National Archives. A notation indicates that an identical letter was sent to General Richard Taylor, commander of the Confederate District of West Louisiana. Later in the month, General Smith's chief quartermaster proposed to slaveholders in areas exposed to enemy raids that they hire their able-bodied male slaves to the Confederate army rather than permit them to fall into enemy hands. (See The Destruction of Slavery, p. 712.) Beginning in the summer of 1863, when Union forces gained control of the entire length of the Mississippi River, federal authorities systematically expanded the recruitment of black soldiers into adjacent territory still under Confederate control. Union expeditions moved from the river into the interior of Arkansas and Louisiana, under orders to push back rebel troops who might otherwise attempt to join their comrades east of the river, and to bring back all able-bodied black men suitable for enlistment. (See, for example, The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 308–10.)

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 772–73, and in Free at Last, pp. 139–40.