Robert E. Lee and Confederate Confiscation of Private Arms—Jan 25, 1865

Gen. Robert E. Lee, February 1865On this date in 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee issued a reminder to his citizens that all private arms were to be delivered to the CSA Army for immediate use.  This item seems so extraordinary as to deserve a separate entry from our series on the Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown.

January 25, 1865.

To arm and equip an additional force of cavalry there is need of carbines, revolvers, pistols, saddles, and other accouterment of mounted held by citizens in sufficient number to supply our wants. Many keep them as trophies, and some with the expectation of using them in their own defense. But it should be remembered that arms are now required for use, and that they cannot be made so effectual for the defense of the country in any way as in the hands of organized troops. They are needed to enable our cavalry to cope with the well armed and equipped cavalry of the enemy, not only in the general service, but in resisting those predatory expeditions which have inflicted so much loss upon the people of the interior. To the patriotic I need make no other appeal than the wants of the service; but I beg to remind those who are reluctant to part with the arms and equipments in their possession that by keeping them they diminish the ability of the army to defend their property without themselves receiving any benefit form them. I therefore urge all persons not in the service to deliver promptly to some of the officers, designated below, such arms and equipments, especially those suitable for cavalry, as they may have, and to report to those officers the names of such persons as neglect to surrender those in their possession. Every citizen who prevents a carbine or pistol form remaining unused will render a service to his country. While no valid title can be acquired to public arms and equipments, except form the Government, it is reported that many persons have ignorantly purchased them from private parties. a fair compensation will, therefore, by made to all who deliver such arms and equipments to any ordnance officers, officer commanding at a post, officers and agents of the quartermaster and commissary departments, at any station, or officers in the enrolling service, or connected with the niter and mining bureau. All these officers are requested, and those connected with this army are directed, to receive and receipt for all arms and equipments, whatever their condition, and forward the same, with a duplicate receipt, to the Ordnance Department at Richmond, and report their proceedings to these headquarters. The person holding the receipt will be compensated upon presenting it to the Ordnance bureau.

While it is hoped that no one will disregard this appeal, all officers connected with the army are required, and all others are requested to take possession of any public arms and equipments they may find in the hands of persons unwilling to surrender them to the service of the country, and to give receipts thereof. A reasonable allowance for their expenses and trouble will me made to such patriotic citizens as will collect and deliver to any of the officers above designated such arms and equipments as they may find in the hands of persons not in the service, or who will report the same to those officers. A prompt compliance with this call with greatly promote the efficiency and strength of the army, particularly of the cavalry, and render it better able to protect the homes and property of the people from outrage.

R. E. LEE,


I noticed this item on two separate Civil War sources this morning, both The American Civil War blog and Civil War Daily Gazette, and copied the above text for your interest.  I can’t imagine how many of my fellow patriots would react today if any civil authority moved to confiscate their private firearms, in time of war or not.

This is also an interesting missive, in that I see no hint that Gen. Lee did not believe that but for the want of men and material he could hold off the Yankee hoards inevitably.



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