Letter from William H. Thomas to Zebulon B. Vance, November 22, 1862
From Wm. H. Thomas
Knoxville Nov. 22. 1862
In the progress of the war men and circumstances change. At the commencement you were in Military I in Civil positions. Now my position is what your position is then. I find myself at the head of a Regiment or Legion of Indians and mountaineers, entrusted with duties in East Tennessee and Kentucky. And as your duties relate principally to the defense of North Carolina permit me to submit for your consideration a few facts believed to be connected with the public services and the defense of the State.
1.st Would it not be advisable to make an arrangement to have able bodied negro men belonging to the counties in reach of the enemy employed by the State and transferred from their present positions to work on the extension of the Railroad. They could, I presume be employed for the cost on ensurance and food and raiment. By this two objects would be gained. 1.st ever negro would be a saving of $1000, to the owner, 2d Every able bodied negro kept out of the hands of the enemy would lessen the number of troops we have to raise in defence, equal to a saving of at least $1000 per year. Thus if North Carolina employed ten thousand negroes on the road where a small force could keep them in subjection, $10,000,00 would be saved to the owners, and 10,000 men less would defend our cause.
One consideration now animates us all. What will ensure success not what would be most agreeable to us. The Legislature appropriated two millions of dollars to defend Eastern North Carolina and the Western frontiers. Both are now in danger. The western Countries are in danger of being over run by deserters and renegades who by the hundred are taking shelter in the smoky mountains. The men between 35 and 40 west of the Blue Ridge should be furnished with arms and ammunition, and required to aid in guarding their homes And the Confederate should be required to place Military compys at every trap in the Smoky mountains from Ashe to Cherokee. As long as we can hold the Country encircled by the Blue Ridge and Cumberland mountains and their outside slopes we have the heart of the south, which commands the surrounding Plains. The loss of this country larger than England or France is the loss of the Southern Confederacy and we sink under a despotism
[Raleigh] [A.L.S Governors’ Papers (Vance), State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh.]
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