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[233]

The resistance to the passage of troops through the city of Baltimore, hastening to the relief of the Federal Capital, and the destruction of bridges of the Wilmington and Baltimore, and the Northern Central railroads, together with the refusal of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company to transport the Government forces and supplies, involved the necessity, at an early stage of the present troubles, on the part of this department, to take possession of so much of the railway lines as was required to form a connection with the States from which troops and supplies were expected. A military route was accordingly opened from Perryville, on the Chesapeake, by steamers, to Annapolis, and thence by railroad to Washington. In view of the necessities of the crisis, Congress, it is not doubted, will justify the step taken.

As the movements of the United States forces are continued, the supervision of railroad and telegraph lines will remain a necessity to be met by the department. I would, therefore, recommend the propriety of an appropriation to be made by Congress, to be applied, when the public exigencies demand, to the reconstruction and equipment of railroads, and for the expense of maintenance and operating them, and also for the construction of additional telegraph lines and their appurtenances. I would also recommend a special appropriation for the reconstruction of the Long Bridge across the Potomac, which is now a military necessity.

The importance of enforcing the strictest discipline, where active army operations are carried on in the rebellious States, cannot be too strongly urged. Public confidence is for the time being destroyed, and the nice moral distinctions which obtain among men in well-ordered communities, are apt to be lost sight of. The Federal courts being suspended, grave offences may be committed over which our military courts, as now organized, have no authorized jurisdiction. It would seem only consistent with a just regard to the interests of the Government and the people, that some properly organized military tribunal should be empowered to take cognizance of criminal offences, and to punish the offenders when found guilty. Such a tribunal should not have any jurisdiction when the functions of the Federal courts are uninterrupted. I therefore recommend that the subject be referred to the consideration of Congress.

The subsistence of the troops now in the service is a matter of the highest importance. Rations, proper in quantity and quality, are quite as essential to the efficacy of an army as valor or discipline. It is desirable, therefore, that the quantity of rations distributed to the troops should, as far as possible, be adapted to their previous dietary habits. While it cannot be expected that the luxuries to which many have been accustomed should be provided by the Commissariat, a just regard to comfort and health imposes upon the Government the duty of furnishing sound, healthful, and palatable food. A larger proportion of vegetables and of fresh meats,when they can be procured, than can now be furnished under the army regulations, would undoubtedly diminish the danger of epidemics among the troops. I, therefore, submit the question, whether it would not be expedient for Congress to enlarge the powers of the Commissariat, so as to enable it the better to carry into practice the views here suggested.

As all requisitions for camp equipage for the means of its transportation, and for supplies, are made upon the Quartermaster-General's department, it is highly essential that every facility should be afforded its chief for meeting all such requisitions with promptness. At present the power of that bureau is limited. For instance, it seems very desirable that the troops in field should be supplied with water-proof capes and blankets, to serve as a protection against the effects of the climate. As the army regulations do not recognize such an item of clothing, and as no discretion has been lodged with the department to act in the matter, many of the troops, for the lack of this essential outfit, have suffered much inconvenience. Some of the States of New England have sent their quotas forward equipped most admirably in this respect. I would reommend that this subject be commended to Congress for its favorable consideration.

The sudden increase of the army in May last induced the acting Surgeon-General to call the attention of this department to the necessity of some modification of the system of organization connected with the supervision of the hygiene and comfort of the troops. A commission of inquiry and advice was accordingly instituted, with the object of acting in cooperation with the medical bureau. The following gentlemen have consented to serve, without compensation, upon the commission:--Henry W. Bellows, D. D.; Prof. A. D. Bache, Ll. D.; Prof. Jeffries Wyman; Prof. Wolcott Gibbs, M. D.; W. H. Van Buren, M. D.; Samuel G. Howe, M. D.; R. C. Wood, Surgeon United States Army; George W. Cullum, United States Army, and Alexander E. Shiras, United States Army. They are now directing special inquiries in regard to the careful inspection of recruits and enlisted men, the best means of guarding and restoring their health, and of securing the general comfort and efficiency of the troops, the proper provision of hospitals, nurses, cooks, &c. The high character and well-known attainments


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