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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/229

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Negroes in Our Army. 22l

A SOURCE OF STRENGTH.

Apart from the assistance that home and foreign prejudice against slavery has given to the North, slavery is a source of great strength to the enemy in a purely military point of view by supplying him with an army from our granaries; but it is our most vulnerable point, a continual embarrassment, and in some respects an insidious weak- ness. Wherever slavery is once seriously disturbed, whether by the actual presence or the approach of the enemy, or even by a cavalry raid, the whites can no longer with safety to their property openly sympathize with our cause. The fear of their slaves is continually haunting them, and from silence and apprehension many of these soon learn to wish the war stopped on any terms. The next stage is to take the oath to save property, and they become dead to us, if not open enemies. To prevent raids we are forced to scatter our forces, and are not free to move and strike like the enemy. His vulnerable points are carefully selected and fortified depots; ours are found in every point where there is a slave to set free. All along the lines slavery is comparatively valueless to us for labor, but of great and increasing worth to the enemy for information. It is an omnipresent spy system, pointing out our valuable men to the en- emy, revealing our positions, purposes, and resources, and yet acting so safely and secretly that there is no means to guard against it. Even in the heart of our country, where our hold upon this secret espionage is firmest, it waits but the opening lire of the enemy's battle-line to wake it, like a torpid serpent, into venomous activity.

In view of the state of affairs, what does our country propose to do ? In the words of President Davis:

" No effort must be spared to add largely to our effective force as promptly as possible. The sources of supply are to be found in restoring to the army all who are improperly absent, putting an end to substitution, modifying the exemption law, restricting details, and placing in the ranks such of the able-bodied men now employed as wagoners, nurses, cooks, and other employees as are doing service for which the negroes may be found competent."

MEN IMPROPERLY ABSENT.'

Most of the men improperly absent, together with many of the exempts and men having substitutes, are now without the Confed- erate lines and cannot be calculated on. If all the exempts capable