October 31, 1862, American Citizen (Canton, Mississippi)
It is a settled fact, admitted on all hands, that our government cannot supply our soldiers in the field with clothing. It behooves us, then, to inquire, “Are the people doing all in their power to supply the deficiency?” We fear they are not. We fear that there is too great an indifference prevailing in the public mind on this all-important subject. If our armies are not fed and clothed, they cannot fight, and if they cannot fight and fight successfully, we are a subjugated people, beyond all peradventure. Let every one who has a relative in the army, to see to it that he is well clothed. Let them not rest night nor day till that is accomplished. Having accomplished that, let him or her then “not grow weary in well doing,” but go forward in the good work, and do all they can to clothe some other person who may not be so fortunate as to have relatives at home to care for them. You need not be afraid of doing too much. If the particular friend for whom you buy and sew should have more than he needs, rest assured he has a comrade in arms who is needy, and to whom he will turn over his surplus.
Since commencing this article our eye has fallen upon an article in the Richmond Whig on this subject, which we cannot do better than to transfer. The Whig, in referring to the army under General Lee, from which it has direct information, says that many of his soldiers have not changed their clothing since they left Richmond. They have slept in it, fought in it, crossed the Potomac in it, marched over dusty roads and through storm and sunshine in it; yet they have not changed it or washed it in all this time, because they had no other to put on when that was taken off. The reader will not be surprised to hear, therefore, that many of the troops are covered with vermin, and their clothing rotten and dirty beyond anything they have ever seen. There is no negro in the south who is not better off in this respect, than some of the best soldiers and first gentlemen in all the land.
The same journal understands that the government has already forwarded to General Lee’s army over thirty thousand garments and a large shipment of shoes. This number of garments, allowing a coat, pair of pants and shirt to a man, will furnish suits, say, for ten thousand needy men. This will go far toward relieving the more destitute. The government has in its employ in Richmond fifty-eight tailors who cut out the cloth, and twenty-seven hundred women who make it up into garments—the whole turning out, on an average, nine thousand garments per week, or coats, pants and shirts for three thousand men. There are other establishments in other parts of the Confederacy, where clothing is being manufactured for the army, and the force engaged is sufficient, perhaps, to turn out twenty thousand garments a week. At this rate, estimating our army in the field at four hundred thousand men, it would require more than a year to furnish each man with a single suit of clothes. If we suppose the various government establishments will be able to supply two hundred thousand men by Christmas, there will still be two hundred thousand left who will have to look to the people at home for their outfits, or go without clothing. If the government should provide for three hundred thousand, the number left for the country to clothe would still be frightfully large—one hundred thousand men!
These figures are merely rough estimates, and are only intended to serve the purpose of directing the attention of the people to the magnitude of the labor before them. After government shall have done all it can, there will still be much left for the warm hearts and willing hands of the people to perform. And, if they would accomplish this labor in time to benefit those for whom it is undertaken, they cannot set about it too soon. The weather among the mountains in Virginia is already cold to the men who do duty for us with only tattered, dirty and threadbare garments upon their manly limbs. Let the people, then, everywhere, and in whatever circumstances, commence the good work as soon as possible, and never leave off until one of the best and bravest armies in the world shall have been furnished with all the comforts it may be in our power to bestow. There are none so indigent that they cannot contribute something to the relief of such troops as ours. Let it be remembered that though destitute as they are represented to be and though many of them have gone without food for days together, and that at a time when they were making long marches and fighting bloody battles with the enemies of our country, still they are cheerful, patient and resolute as ever, and are ready now, as they have been at all times, to assert their birthright to be free. If the invader thinks differently he has only to seek them where they are, and he will soon be cured of his folly.