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[460] as a fact developed in the course of our investigation that many of the newly arrived conscripts do suffer for the want of clothes and blankets. This is not the fault of the commander or his officers. It results from the circumstance that conscripts recently enrolled are sometimes hurried to camp without an opportunity being afforded them to visit home and provide themselves with clothes and blankets, and make other preparations for camp-life, but often from their own neglect to do so after ample notice. If there be blame anywhere, it is attributable to the carelessness or indifference of the enrolling officer in the country to the wants and comforts of the conscripts, or to defects in the provisions or execution of the law.

The fault lies here, and not, as your Committee are assured, in the administration of the laborious and responsible department, under the management of the commander, Colonel Shields, whose high character, urbane manners, delicate feelings of humanity, and eminent qualifications for his post forbid the conclusion that he would exercise his authority otherwise than in the most considerate and humane manner toward the conscripts under his charge, or would practise or tolerate any other than a proper care and attention to their wants and necessities. As far, therefore, as your Committee could pursue their investigation — and it was as searching as the nature of the case and their sources of information admitted — they could discover no instance of a death, cruelty, inhumanity, or even of extreme suffering or hardship. Hardships there undoubtedly are and have been; but only such, and not more severe than are incident to camp fare and a soldier's life. We are informed by the surgeon, Dr. Palmer, of a case where a man fell in a fit; but he was known to be subject to fits, and they were not produced by exposure to the cold, as the surgeon believes. It happened during the severe weather, in February, and probably gave origin to the report of inhumanity at the camp, which was so widely propagated and excited the sensibility of the General Assembly and the people.

Your Committee did not consider themselves limited in their inquiries to the rumor of suffering among the conscripts for the want of wood. Their duty embraced a wider scope. It was to examine whether any abuses or inhumanity was practised or tolerated at Camp Lee in the treatment of conscripts in any way or in any form. The General Assembly of Virginia had a special interest in the investigation, as the camp is near her capital, and the place of rendezvous for her conscript soldiers. Over them she was bound to exercise a parental care. Your Committee, therefore, proceeded to Camp Lee, and take pleasure in stating were received with politeness and courtesy by Colonel Shields, the commandant, and all the officers at the post. Every facility and opportunity were afforded them for examination and inquiry into the condition of the camp, and of the wants, necessities, accommodations, and comforts of the men. Colonel Shields himself, and all of his officers, frankly and with alacrity responded to every inquiry addressed to them touching the matter to which we directed our inquiries.

We were allowed unrestricted access to every place we desired to visit, and an officer accompanied us, to show us through the hospital, the barracks and quarters of the men, which we inspected as closely as time and our inexperienced habits in relation to such matters would enable us. We found the hospital clean, well provided with comfortable beds and bed-clothing, and, we do not doubt, the patients are attentively nursed and attended with skilful medical treatment. The large building appropriated as the principal quarters of the men, we would remark, is, by reason of the open floors being made of green plank, and the small fire-places, difficult to be warmed sufficiently to be comfortable in extremely cold weather. But otherwise the quarters are dry and well cleaned, and as well adapted to the sleeping uses of the healthy soldier as could be expected. Camp Lee is situated upon an elevated plain, remarkably dry, and represented to be unusually healthy. Although it was generally understood at camp that the Committee had made the visit to ascertain if there existed or had been practised any abuses, yet no complaints were made, nor in answer to inquiries could we learn that any existed upon which complaint could be founded. No facts, at least, were brought to our knowledge.

Your Committee take pleasure in reporting this as the result of their inquiries. They believe that the investigation will have a good effect, and was, under the circumstances and gravity of the charges, alike due to our conscripts and the officers of the post. It will show to our people that the General Assembly are not insensible to the wants and sufferings of our noble soldiers, in whatever field or camp they are called to render service to their country; nor faithless to her solemn obligations to extend a parental care over them, and to shield and protect them whenever oppression and distress may come upon them. It will accomplish more. It will relieve the minds of distant families and friends as to the supposed maltreatment of husbands, sons, and brothers in Camp Lee, and mitigate something of that repulsiveness and dread with which that military post is viewed by conscripts who are sent there, pursuant to military regulations.

G. W. Lewis, Chairman of Senate Com. B. H. Magruder, Chairman of House Com.

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