Virginia Slaveholder to the Confederate Secretary of War

Etna P.O.  Hanover [Va.]  May 2 [1862]

Dear Sir   Many farmers in Virginia are injured by a practice which has become habitual and extensive among the soldiers of our own army.  The soldiers employ runaway negroes to cook for the mess, clean their horses, and so forth.  The consequence is that negroes are encouraged to run away, finding a safe harbour in the army.  Two of my neighbours have each recovered runaway negroes within the last few weeks; who were actually found in the employment of the soldiers on the Peninsula and these negroes had been runaway many months.  I therefore write to ask you to issue a general order forbidding this practice and anexing a penalty sufficiently severe to break it up.

All that is necessary is to forbid the employment of any coloured person unless he can show free papers or a pass from his master; and hold the soldier responsible, for the genuineness of the free papers or pass.

In this section of country a heavy draught has been made upon the farmers (half of our available working force) to work on the fortifications.  I, for one, rendered this tribute cheerfully to a cause which is dear to my heart, though that, together with the excessive rains will materially shorten my crop.  I think however, we ought to be protected by the army authorities from the abuses above mentioned.  Yours &c

L. H. Minor

I can scarcely see to sign my name

One of my negro men has been runaway for many months and I have reason to believe that he is in the service of the soldiers.

L. H. Minor to Sir, 2 May [1862], M-458 1862, Letters Received, series 5, Secretary of War, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, National Archives. The problem of Confederate soldiers' harboring fugitive slaves was not confined to Virginia. More than a year later, upon learning that soldiers under his command were guilty of “acts of pillage & destruction upon the private property of our own citizens,” a Confederate cavalry commander in Mississippi ordered: “No negroes will be permitted to remain with this command, except such as are allowed by the Regulations viz one servant for each officer–one teamster for each wagon or ambulance, & four cooks & four washermen for each company– Each negro will be provided with a pass to be approved by the Regtal or Battalion Comdr & by the Inspector Genl of the Brigade, & which shall be renewed monthly– showing the name of the negro– the position he occupies & the Regt & Co to which he is attached, or the officer whom he is serving– All other negroes will be sent out of camp at once–” (General Order No. 65, Hd. Qrs., Chalmers Cav. Brigade, 12 Sept. 1863, ch. II, vol. 299, pp. 363–65, Orders & Circulars Received, Papers of Gen. J. R. Chalmers, series 117, Collections of Officers' Papers, Records of Military Commands, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, National Archives.) Confederate authorities repeatedly ordered regimental commanders to report those slaves who were working for the troops “without written authority from their masters.” (U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, 1880–1901), series 4, vol. 2, pp. 86, 551–52.)

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 698–99, and in Free at Last, pp. 43–44.