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[90] prompted in this matter by no love of privileges of position, or of official rights, as such, but by a firm belief that, under the circumstances, what I propose is necessary to the safety of our troops and cause.

The suggestion made in this letter was not accepted. Early in the month the army lost Major-General Van Dorn, and in the latter part of it General Beauregard, who held the first place in the estimation of much the larger number of the troops; both were sent by the Government to the valley of the Mississippi.

What was known in the army as the bounty and furlough law went into effect on the first day of the year. It was intended to encourage engagement in the service by those who had volunteered for but one year. Either from defects in the law itself, or faults in the manner in which it was administered, it had the effect of weakening the army by its immediate operation, without adding to its strength subsequently. Its numbers were greatly reduced before the end of the month by furloughs under the recent law, given directly by the acting Secretary of War. It was further weakened, and its discipline very much impaired, by Mr. Benjamin's daily interference in its administration and interior management. That officer was in the habit of granting leaves of absence, furloughs, and discharges, accepting resignations, and detailing soldiers to labor for contractors, or on nominal service, taking them out of the army upon applications made directly to himself, without the knowledge of the officers whose duty it was to look to the interests of the Government in such cases. He also granted indiscriminately to officers, private soldiers,

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E. Van Dorn (1)
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