Discharge of disabled soldiers — Granting of furloughs.
Camp Deas, Oct. 18, 1861.
--I am glad to see that a Board has been instituted to consider the subject of discharges to disabled soldiers.
This subject I urged upon persons in authority two months ago. Two weeks since I succeeded, after months trial, in getting a discharge for a soldier who had not performed a day's duty since the 1st of June last, (four months.) The man had gone home on a ‘"sick leave,"’ but overstaying his time, was actually arrested as a deserter and brought back to camp, and but for the order from the War Department, would have been here to day. The Government has thus in this case paid and supplied for four months a man who was of no sort of service, but a burden to his company, and who greatly desired a discharge.
Many men, in their patriotic ardor, volunteered to serve their country in the field, who were entirely unfit for such exposure.
Many may be found in my regiment who are half the time on the ‘"sick list."’--Their whole appearance indicate to a medical man that they are not prepared to lie upon the wet ground, or stand sentinel two hours in a drenching rain.
With care and the comforts of home they might live for years in their ordinary health, useful member of society; but who, if they do not die this winter, will carry home next Spring a miserably wrecked constitution.
I really honor such men, and think they should be properly cared for.
I do not think that all men who are seriously sick should be discharged, with the idea that if they recovered they be permitted to enlist again.
Men in Richmond
may think this a good idea; but I am very sure that he will not find an officer in the field who will agree with him. A middle course is better and wiser, I think.
Let the War Department, or the chief of the Medical Department, issue an order requiring every surgeon in the army to examine carefully every man in each regiment whom he knows or suspects is of feeble constitution, and certify to the Department the nature of the disability in question.
Let this be done at once, so that the regimental surgeon
's certificates can be received by the middle of next month, and the parties so discharged reach their homes by the first of December.
If this matter is attended to, thousands and tens of thousands of dollars will be saved to the Confederate States
, besides an amount of comfort and happiness conferred upon our deserving fellow-soldiers which it is impossible to estimate.
If this end cannot be reached in any other way, it would be better to appoint surgeons temporarily for the purpose; but this would be expensive and tedious.
There is another matter which is giving rise to much trouble in the army, and which will tell very seriously upon the next enlistment, unless it be early attended to. I refer to the ‘"furlough"’ system.
Some three months ago a system was inaugurated that acted admirably.
It was to permit two men to leave each company at a time, for from five to seven days. Lots were cast, and the men awaited patiently their turn.
Every week two returned, satisfied, and indeed delighted with their trip home; while two others left, charmed with the prospect of a similar meeting with friends.
Thus every one was contented and happy.
But a general order
came that no man, ‘"sick
"’ or ‘"well,
"’ should leave the regiment on any account; in a word, that no more furloughs
would be granted.
The depressing effect of this order was so great, that the well men got sick, and the sick men became ill.
There is often no cordial to a sick man so healing as the prospect of the warm greetings of a mother's well-known voice, and the tender solicitude which heams from a loving sister's eyes.
Last week, fearing a young man, far from home and friends, who lay ill of typhoid fever, might die of sheer despondency, I was compelled to promise that which I feared I would not be able to grant.
But his exhausted energies must be supported
by every means possible.
I promised him a visit to his father and mother, whom he had not seen for two years! His face flushed, and his eyes filled with tears as he said, ‘"Oh, do get me a 'leave!' I will soon be well enough to travel."’ Who can describe the pictures that memory hung up in this young man's mind at the prospect of a return to his home?--What doctor can describe the currents of resolution and energy that flowed through his excited brain?
There is more in this than has been ‘"dreamed of."’ I fear in the "philosophy of many a wise man. To an educated young man, who has never known what the want of sympathy or the tenderest attention in sickness was, to be stretched upon the straw, with nothing but bad
water as food for days, who can tell the depressing effects of his situation, with the prospect, often in his mind, of dying amid such scenes?* But I weary you with this subject.
A word in conclusion.
Let the sick be carefully examined, and when it is ascertained that the patient will probably not be fit for service for a month,
let him, if possible, be sent home at once.
Let an order be issued that two men of each company be permitted to leave at a time for 5 or 7 days--not more than two being absent at a time — and you will at once see a different spirit in the army here and elsewhere.
I speak what I know.
By this arrangement only 20 men will be absent at one time; and surely this will not weaken a regiment of 7 or 800 men. My opinion is it will, in more ways than one, strengthen it.--It will lessen the number of men sick and unfit for duty.
This I know from personal observations.
P. S.--One of our pickets was driven in yesterday.
The prospect of going to a General Hospital has rather a depressing,
than an energising effect.
For convalescent patients, any hospital is a bad