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[686] formation of special volunteer corps destined for certain local defences, such as that of the ports and coasts.

The loss of Kentucky, Missouri, half of Tennessee and New Orleans, at the beginning of 1862, called for some powerful effort on the part of the Confederate government to win back the smiles of fortune. The capture of Fort Donelson and the bloody battle of Shiloh, together with the ravages of disease, had singularly reduced the ranks of its armies. The four hundred battalions of infantry of which they were then composed could not muster more than one hundred and sixty or one hundred and eighty thousand men for active service in the field.

It was at this critical juncture that the time of service of the volunteers engaged in April and in May, 1861, for one year expired. The discharge of these soldiers, already comparatively trained, a small number of whom only appeared disposed to re-enlist, would have completely broken up the Confederate armies. The Provisional Congress, which, according to Southern historians, manifested but little energy and less practical good sense, had devised a measure which, instead of obviating this danger, was calculated to produce the most disastrous consequences. It decided that all soldiers enlisted for one year who should sign re-enlistment papers would receive besides the bounty two months leave of absence. This opportunity to quit a hard service and revisit their homes was eagerly seized by a large number of volunteers. They left the armies en masse, and in a few weeks the regiments were all reduced to an insignificant figure. The men who availed themselves of this law re-enlisted, in fact, not in the regiments to which they belonged, but in those that were in process of formation, and as to which it was impossible to foresee when they would take the field; so that the one hundred and forty-eight old regiments which were to be discharged at the end of their one year's term of service were left without the necessary elements for re-formation. The generals complained bitterly of this desertion. There was but one measure that could remedy so great an evil; this was compulsory service. Mr. Davis vigorously called for it in the message he addressed to the permanent Congress, which had just assembled, on the 25th of February, 1862.

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