Stragglers, deserters, and absentees.
The Secretary of War
, referring to these characters in his report, says that the effective force of the army is but little over half or two-thirds of the men whose names are on the muster rolls.
An astounding state of things, indeed.--What are we to think of the discipline of the army?
What are we to expect in the future, if such evils are to remain unchecked?
And some members of Congress talk of extending the conscript age, and making a levy en masse
of the people, (when the present number of exempts cannot provide food for the remainder,) in order to make up the deficiencies arising from the straggling, absenteeism, and desertion of men whose presence in the army would make it large enough for all practical purposes?
Is not the obvious remedy to bring back the stragglers, absentees, and deserters, and make them perform their duty, instead of enlarging the limits of conscription, only to engender a fresh batch of stragglers, absentees, and deserters more numerous than the last?
If military discipline cannot keep men of the present military age in the army, how is it to keep those who are not half so fit for service?
We should be sorry indeed to believe that the present evil cannot be remedied, for it is an evil that will increase instead of diminish, by putting men in the army whose prime of life has past, and whose home ties are stronger and more pressing than those of younger men who have no one dependent on their exertions.--For our own part, we believe that if Congress will devote a very moderate degree of attention to the maturing of measures for the return of stragglers, deserters, and absentees to the army, it will accomplish a hundred-fold more for the efficiency of our army and the success of our cause than it ever could by a levy en masse
of the people.
The crime of straggling, absenteeism, and desertion from the Southern
army, are in finitely more scandalous and infamous than the same officers in the Yankee
They are invaders; we defending all that man holds dear.
Such crimes against society, against honor, against their own faithful comrades, are past all endurance.
That the valiant and loyal heroes, who, for nearly three long years, have stood firmly at their posts, many of them never once seeing their Homes, should be forsaken in this way by those whose interests are as great as their own in the success of our cause, is, in itself, an abomination which deserves the severest scourge of the civil and military laws.
Let Congress, and the whole nation, rise up at once and compel every soldier absent from the army to go back at once, join his comrades, and help to save his country.