Official Records, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1093
HEADQUARTERS VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE,
February 17, 1865.
Hon. J. C. BRECKINRIDGE,
Secretary of War:
DEAR SIR: The present state of the country justifies any one in presenting for the consideration of the Government well-meant suggestions, even if they should appear crude to those who are better informed
The tone of public sentiment and the tenor of present legislation indicate that the call of General Lee for negro troops will be responded to.
I suggest that the maximum number allowed to be raised should be half a million.
I do not suppose that so many are required or could be obtained. But to place the maximum at this figure would, I believe, inspire dread in the minds of our enemy, who exaggerates, through ignorance, our power in this particular; and further, to call for half a million would, by the effect upon the minds of owners and slaves, facilitate and insure the raising of 200,000.
The second suggestion I would make is, that in the event of the troops being raised you might command the services of our corps of cadets with their officers to perform the work of organization and drilling in the shortest time, and with the greatest efficiency.
In 1861, between the 20th of April and the 20th of June, the cadets drilled 15,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia, and if a large camp of instruction were established at Camp Lee the same work could be done for all the negro troops that would be sent there.
Allow me to say that these suggestions are the result of conversation among some of the officers of our school, and the last one is contained in a letter to me from General Smith, our superintendent, who is now absent in Lexington.
Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
J. T. L. PRESTON,
Acting Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute.