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[275] those who have been unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded of avoiding the military service of their country.

I fully concur in the opinion expressed by the Secretary, that there is no ground for the objection that a new provision, to include those who furnished substitutes under the former call, would be a breach of contract. To accept a substitute was to confer a privilege, not to enter into a contract; and whenever the substitute is rendered liable to conscription, it would seem to follow that the principal, whose place he had taken, should respond for him, as the government had received no consideration for his exemption. Where, however, the new provision of law would fail to embrace a substitute now in the ranks, there appears, if the principal should again be conscribed, to be an equitable ground for compensation to the conscript, who then would have added to the service a soldier not otherwise liable to enrolment.

On the subject of exemption, it is believed that abuses cannot be checked unless the system is placed on a basis entirely different from that now provided by law. The object of your legislation has been, not to confer privileges on classes, but to exonerate from military duty such number of persons skilled in the various trades, professions, and mechanical pursuits, as could render more valuable service to their country by laboring in their present occupation than by going into the ranks of the army. The policy is unquestionable, but the result would, it is thought, be better obtained by enrolling all such persons, and allowing details to be made of the number necessary to meet the wants of the country. Considerable numbers are believed to be now exempted from the military service who are not needful to the public in their civil vocations.

Certain duties are now performed throughout the country by details from the army, which could be as well executed by persons above the present conscript age. An extension of the limit, so as to embrace persons over forty-five years of age, and physically fit for service, in guarding posts, railroads, and bridges, in apprehending deserters, and, where practicable, assuming the place of younger men detailed for duty with the nitre, ordnance, commissary, and quartermasters' bureaus of the War Department, would, it is hoped, add largely to the effective force in the field, without an undue burthen on the population.

If to the above measures be added a law to enlarge the policy of the act of twenty-first April, 1862, so as to enable the department to replace not only enlisted cooks, but wagoners and other employs in the army, by negroes, it is hoped that the ranks of the army will be so strengthened for the ensuing campaign as to put at defiance the utmost efforts of the enemy.

In order to maintain, unimpaired, the existing organization of the army until the close of the war, your legislation contemplated a frequent supply of recruits, and it was expected that before the expiration of the three years for which the men were enrolled, under act of sixteenth April, 1862, the majority of men in each company would consist of those who joined it at different dates, subsequent to the original muster of the company into service, and that the discharge of those who had completed their term would at no time be sufficient to leave the company with a less number than is required to enable it to retain its organization. The difficulty of obtaining recruits from certain localities, and the large number of exemptions from military service granted by different laws, have prevented sufficient accessions in many of the companies to preserve their organizations after the discharge of the original members. The advantage of retaining tried and well-approved officers, and of mingling recruits with experienced soldiers, is so obvious, and the policy of such a course is so clearly indicated, that it is not deemed necessary to point out the evil consequences which would result from the destruction of the old organizations, or to dwell upon the benefits to be secured from filling up the veteran companies as long before the discharge of the early members as may be possible. In the cases where it may be found impracticable to maintain regiments in sufficient strength to justify the retention of the present organization, economy and efficiency would be promoted by consolidation and reorganization. This would involve the necessity of disbanding a part of the officers, and making regulations for securing the most judicious selection of those who are retained, while least wounding the feelings of those who are discharged.

Experience has shown the necessity of further legislation in relation to the horses of the cavalry. Many men lose their horses by casualties of service, which are not included in-the provisions made to compensate the owner for the loss, and it may thus not unfrequently happen that the most efficient troopers, without fault of their own, indeed it may be because of their zeal and activity, are lost to the cavalry service.

It would also seem proper that the government should have complete control over every horse mustered into the service, with the limitation that the owner should not be deprived of his horse except upon due compensation being made therefor. Otherwise, mounted men may not keep horses fit for the service; and the question whether they should serve mounted or on foot would depend, not upon the qualifications of the men, but upon the fact of their having horses.

Some provision is deemed requisite to correct the evils arising from the long-continued absence of commissioned officers. Where it is without sufficient cause, it would seem but just that the commission should be thereby vacated.

Where it results from capture by the enemy, which, under their barbarous refusal to exchange prisoners of war, may be regarded as absence for an indefinite time, there is a necessity to supply their places in their respective commands. This might be done by temporary appointments,


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