Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/September/Resources of the Confederacy in February, 1865
SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS,
Resources of the Confederacy in February, 1865.
[Continued from August Number.]
Richmond, February 16, 1865.
Hon. J. C. Breckinridge, Secretary [of] War:
Sir—In response to your circular of the 7th instant, calling for a statement of the means and resources on hand for carrying on the business of this bureau, &c., &c., I have the honor to call your attention to the following papers:
1st. A statement prepared by Major Cole, in reference to the requirements of the service as to field transportation, and the means necessary for meeting the demand. This paper shows the great scarcity of horses in the country, and the difficulty of procuring them, together with the measures being adopted for the purpose. The great obstacle at present is the want of funds.
2d. A statement from Major Cross, relative to the supply of clothing, present and prospective. The difficulties encountered in this branch of the department arise from scarcity of wool, the frequent stopping of the work by ordering away the operatives, and the want of funds.
3d. A communication from Lieutenant-Colonel Sims, as to the condition of railroad transportation, the wants of the railroads, &c. The chief difficulties encountered there arise from defective machinery, and the impossibility of supplying new, the want of legislation giving the Government proper control over railroads and their employees, and the want of funds to pay the roads so as to keep them in as good condition as the blockade and the limited resources of the country will permit. Several special communications on this subject have been addressed by this bureau to the Hon. Secretary of War. At present this department has no control over railroads except so much as has been yielded by contract or courtesy.
The supply of grain and long forage in the country is believed to be quite enough to supply the public animals, but no distinct opinion can be hazarded as to the ability of this bureau to supply it to the armies during the coming campaign, as so much will depend on the relative positions of the different armies, and the preservation or destruction of our lines of transportation.
To sum up, I venture to state that this bureau can conduct its operations with success enough to sustain our armies, if labor is allowed to the various work shops on which it depends, without interruption, if the privilege of detailing contractors under certain circumstances be continued, and the necessary funds are promptly furnished. Without these this department is powerless, and the want of them is fast paralyzing its efforts.
|Your obedient servant,|
A. R. Lawton,
Office Inspector-General Field Transportation,
Richmond, February 1st, 1865.
General Lawton, Quartermaster-General:
Sir— The urgent request of General Lee, made to me in person, and that of his Chief Quartermaster, to be prepared to equip his artillery and transportation with horses, added to the calls made upon me for the same supplies for armies South, induces me to address you this communication, in which I desire to recapitulate what I have before at different times, in writing and verbally, had the honor to submit to you, on the subject of the number of animals needed to equip our armies for the spring campaign, and the source from which such supplies are to be obtained.
As the officer charged with the providing of horses and mules for the armies of the Confederate States, I feel it to be due to myself for the record to show, that I have taken all necessary steps to a proper discharge of my duty, to ascertain the resources of the country, and to suggest plans by which deficiencies may be supplied, and that, should the demand made on me not be met, and any damage result from such failure, I may be exculpated from blame, by reference to my official communications.
The inability of the Confederate States east of the Mississippi to sustain the draft which would be made for horses and mules for the coming campaign, was discussed and announced by me in May last, when I was procuring such supplies for General Johnston's army. The number estimated by me at that time to be necessary must be largely increased, by reason of the losses sustained in General Hood's campaign in Tennessee.
In May last I dispatched an officer to General E. K. Smith, Commanding Department of the Trans-Mississippi, with letters to him announcing our necessities, and urging him to send us a portion of the animals which he was reported to have captured from the Federal army, and asking that funds might be furnished, and permission granted to my officer, charged with the business, to go into Mexico, and procure animals, to be sent over this side. In both I was disappointed, and in August following I suggested the plan, since adopted and sought to be executed, of procuring a large number of animals from Mexico. Owing to the delays in procuring the funds, and from the fact that no one has yet been selected to proceed to Texas in charge of the operations to be undertaken, we cannot expect to receive a first from Mexico under three or four months, and even should General Smith consent to furnish us any out of his supply (which I have again asked him for) we cannot receive them before about the middle of March, and to obtain any at all now within the period named, a proper officer must be in Texas to conduct business.
I have also proposed that I shall be provided with means and authority to procure supplies and animals from the enemy's lines, which I have every reason to feel assured can be done to a large extent. I am informed by my officers, certainly reliable, that horses and mules can be obtained deliverable in Mississippi, payable in cotton on the following terms, viz: first class artillery horses for 600 pounds of cotton; second class artillery for 500 pounds; and third class for 400 pounds; but to do this, my officers must have the cotton in hand so as to receive the animals and deliver the cotton at such times and places as opportunity offers.
In Virginia the prices asked, payable in gold, are for first class $60, and it is thought that two thousand can be obtained in that way. The number that can be obtained in Mississippi in a space of two or three months is put down at (2,000) two thousand.
I have before informed you, that according to my information, there will be needed for the armies of the Confederate States at least six thousand horses, and four thousand five hundred mules. The number to be procured in the Confederate States east of the Mississippi by impressment depends on the decision which may be made, as to the quantity of animals the farmers will be allowed to keep, as essential to their operations. I estimate the supply to be obtained from all sources (provided I am furnished means) not to exceed (5,000) five thousand animals on this side of the Mississippi. This leaves a deficit of (5,500) five thousand five hundred to fill my estimate.
If the horses are not supplied, the military operations are checked and may be frustrated. If the farmers are stripped of a portion of the animals essential to the conduct of their agricultural operations, there must be a corresponding reduction of supplies of food for man and horse. Convinced, as I am, that the best and only means of procuring the needed supply of animals are those that I have indicated, feeling deeply the pressure of the demands made and to be made on me to furnish such supplies, dreading the consequences of a failure to meet such calls, and fearing that I may be exposed to censure for such failure, I respectfully urge that I may be immediately put in possession of the necessary means to carry into effect the plans for providing the necessary animals, than which I confess myself unable to suggest any other; or that, in case it shall be decided that my plans are impracticable, and the means I ask for cannot be furnished, that I may be relieved from the duty I am now performing, and some one be appointed in my stead, who can dispense with what I consider, and have stated to be indispensable, to enable me to successfully perform the duty.
I think it proper to again repeat what I have before asked to have done, in order to secure the needed supplies:
First. With respect to the operations in Mexico and Texas, I estimated that the sum of £350,000 in sterling or gold turned over to me, say at the rate of £100,000 per quarter, would enabled me to obtain about (15,000) fifteen thousand animals at the rate of about $60 per head.
I was informed by you that this amount would be furnished by the Treasury. I received letters of credit for £50,000, and sent it to Texas by Major W. S. Harris, and further amounts are now required. An officer to control and manage the business is wanted, one possessing the qualifications which I had the honor to state I deemed requisite. No one has been yet assigned to the duty. Nothing can be done until such officer arrives in Texas.
Second. The purchase of horses and mules to be delivered in Mississippi from the enemy's lines to be successful, must be conducted on this simple plan: The officer who receives the horses must have in his hands the cotton to make instant payment. It must be at suitable points for being carried off easily. He must not be trammelled by officers of other branches of the service, and so situated as to be able to fulfill his engagements promptly and surely. If he is to get his cotton paid through treasury agents (and not allowed to purchase it himself), and be governed by them as to the price he is to pay for horses, I fear he will fail to carry out the object.
Third. To obtain horses in Virginia, gold or Federal money is essential. They can be purchased for gold at rates below those prevailing before the war. This is not the case with other articles of military supply in the Confederate States obtained from abroad by the Government. I am induced to believe that two thousand horses can be had in a short space of time along the lines of Virginia and North Carolina from the enemy's lines, if money can be supplied, and at prices, perhaps, not greater than we expect to pay in Mexico.
I beg leave respectfully to request that I may be officially informed as soon as practicable of the decision in reference to the before mentioned subjects, in order that I may be enabled to give General Lee an exact statement, showing to what extent he can rely on this office for the animals deemed necessary to place his army on a footing for active service in the spring.
I have not been able so far to reply fully to General Lee's inquiries, for the reasons herein stated, as remaining open for determination.
|I have the honor to be, sir,|
|Your obedient servant,|
A. H. Cole,
Richmond, January 27th, 1865.
Sir—I submit herewith, in response to your recent call, a report which shows the issues within the past six months to the armies in the field. A little delay has occurred, awaiting the receipt of reports of issues, due from distant points in the Confederacy. The report shows the issues to General Lee's command from July 1st to January 21st, and to other commands from July 1st to January 21st, except that the report of issues for the Departments of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana are still due for the month of December. I was gratified that information now given was asked, for the impression is so common that our armies are poorly provided for, that I gladly avail of an opportunity to show what has been done.
I enclose also a copy of General Orders No. 100, which regulates the allowance of clothing yearly. This table of supply, adopted from the old service, was made with reference to abundant resources, and doubtless shows what will answer the necessities of a soldier with fair economy and management. This Department has never aimed to limit its issues to this standard, especially in regard to jackets and pants, but has endeavored to provide a suit of clothing every six months for each man. When it is considered that the issues now reported are field issues proper, and exclusive of issues to men in hospitals, of issues to men on furlough, of issues to detailed men at posts, of issues to paroled and exchanged men, of issues to retired men, and of all last issues whatever, it will be found, I think, that with the exception of overcoats, which have not been made up, owing to the great consumption of woolen material for jackets and pants, and the item of flannel undershirts, but partially supplied, the armies have been fully supplied. I do not hesitate to say that in some instances there has been extravagance, and moreover, that much of the individual want that strikes the eye is due to the improvidence of the soldiers, who too often dispose, by sale and barter, of what they have received. It is proper to add that this report includes but a portion of the issues made by the State of North Carolina to her troops, and no other State issues whatever, although it is known that other States have contributed liberally. Georgia, for instance, has issued within the past year as follows : 26,795 jackets, 28,808 pairs of pants, 37,657 pairs of shoes, 7,504 blankets, 24,952 shirts, 24,168 pairs of drawers and 23,024 pairs of socks, but as the apportionment thereof between the various armies does not appear, these issues are not noted. Add to all the issues made by numerous relief associations and through individual contributions, and it will show that in the past we have at least needed an economical expenditure and proper distribution of supplies, more than anything else, to secure the comfort and efficiency of our armies. The issues of shirts, drawers, socks and caps may in some instances appear light. This is due to the fact that in previous quarters, through the abundance of these articles, the troops have been fully supplied. It has always been understood that all calls for these articles could be responded to, and of some there is still a large supply on hand; for instance, in the depot at this point, over 100,000 pairs of socks and 25,000 pairs of drawers, besides excesses elsewhere.
In connection with the table of supply referred to, I will remark that the first year is reckoned to commence from October, 1862, when communication was abolished, so that now we are in the third year.
I will also add, as supplemental to the report recently made in regard to the sale of cloth, that the Department Officer at Montgomery, Alabama, has disposed of 7,000 yards single width, and that 1,000 suits are now being made up here for the officers of General Lee's command. This, with what has already been reported, shows that provision has been made for six thousand officers within the past six months. Very respectfully, &c.,
A. R. Lawton,
|Hon. Mr. Miller, Chairman Special Committee.|
Memorandum of Resources of Department—Clothing, Camp Equipment, and Miscellaneous Stores.
1. The enclosed report will show what has been furnished the armies of the Confederate States in the way of clothing within the past six months. The issues show a fair provision in all articles save overcoats and flannel jackets, and in some instances an extravagant consumption of supplies. The condition of the troops in connection with the issues made suggests, either an imperfect distribution of supplies, or waste on the part of the individual soldier, or it may be both. The latter is known to prevail to an extent that makes it a great abuse.
2. As to the future, the greatest difficulty will be to provide the raw material—wool and leather, the former especially. The manufacturing facilities are ample. Efforts are being made to supply the deficiency of wool from the Trans-Mississippi region, where it is abundant. Some deliveries have recently been made on this side. The wool is worked up as rapidly as had. By using cotton clothing during the summer and spring, and reserving the woolen goods for fall and winter, it is hoped and believed that enough may be had to prevent suffering next winter. We will get through this season without much trouble. There is a fair supply of leather, or hides in the vats, and a moderate supply of shoes on hand. The blankets now in the hands of the men must be turned in in the spring for reissue. As there is not in the entire Confederacy a single establishment that makes them, machinery has been ordered from abroad. The supply of cotton clothing has heretofore been abundant, and is now ample. There will be no difficulty hereafter on this head, at least so long as the railroad connections can be relied on to make the raw material of one section available in another. It is now very hard to keep the factories in Virginia even partially supplied with cotton.
To accomplish anything, however, it is really indispensable that some relief be extended, and that promptly, as follows:
1. Money or some equivalent must be had to keep the machinery of the department going. Arrearages especially should be provided for. For instance, over $5,000,000 is now due to the factory interest alone for goods long since delivered and expended, and that, too, after a liberal use of call certificates, non-taxable bonds, and even the raw material, cotton. All the factories are under contract to deliver at fair prices two-thirds of their production. They all work under a uniform system, one built up with care and labor, and with a result perfectly satisfactory. The whole, unfortunately, is about to crumble in for want of funds; the factories being without the means to meet current expenditures, even at times to pay taxes. Their only relief is, to put their production upon the market, and the department is in no position to complain of the loss of material.
2. If money can be supplied, then the system of barter, now almost universal, should be checked, or at least placed under restrictions. The necessities of the Subsistence Bureau have compelled with it a free resort to barter. The Mining and Nitre Bureau has also gone largely into it. In Virginia, especially, this has been done. Material necessary for the manufacture of clothing for the army has been directed from its legitimate use. Thus cotton is expended here when the factories have stopped work for the want of same. Cotton yarns are made way with, when wanted for army socks, and also shirtings and osnaburgs needed for clothing and forage sacks. The Subsistence Bureau has now some 150 bales of osnaburgs stored here to be used in barter, and this Department is without a single yard of material to make into shirts or drawers.
General Lee represents his army to be in want of underclothing, and a call has recently been made for 12,000 shirts, which, for the first time, could not be sent forward promptly. That illustrates strongly the drawbacks resulting from an attempt to relieve the necessities of one branch of the service by diverting irregularly material due to another. If barter must continue, cannot it be restricted, and as far as possible articles like tobacco used in lieu of what goes to make up essential military supplies? The Department has struggled on successfully in the past, notwithstanding this serious difficulty, but some relief is needed for the future.
In the same way hides of beeves slaughtered by commissaries are made way with, though due to this Department under general orders, and absolutely essential to the continued supply of shoes to the army. The practice of purchasing beeves with the obligation to return the hides to the seller should be discontinued.
3. Some protection similar to that given to the factory operatives by Special Order No. 310, paragraph XXXII, should be extended to the detailed men of mechanical skill employed in the established work-shops of the Department, so as to guard against unnecessary interruptions, and cause great loss of supplies. With some relief in these particulars, to develop home resources, and such aid as may be looked for from abroad, through contracts encouraging individual , a reasonable confidence is felt that a sufficiency of army clothing can be provided, at least for the present year.
These remarks apply equally to camp equipage and miscellaneous stores.
Wm. B. B. Cross, Major.
|Jackets.||Pants.||Shoes.||Blankets.||Hats and Caps.||Flannel Shirts.||Cotton Shirts.||Drawers.||Socks.||Overcoats.|
|General Lee's Command in Virginia:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864, and to Jan'y 21, 1865.
|Army of Southwest Virginia:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864.
|Department of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia—General Hardee:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864.
|Army of Tennessee:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864.
|also||7,000||captured by Forrest.|
|Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864.
|Department of North Carolina:
Aggregate amount third and fourth quarters 1864.
Richmond, February 10th, 1865.
General—In making the report you ordered, upon the condition and wants in regard to transportation by railroad, it may not be improper to call your attention to the cause of the difficulties which have always attended it with increasing force as this city is approached.
In North Carolina and Virginia, where transportation bears the most heavily because of its increasing volume as you approach Richmond, the roads are the least able to bear it. They were constructed and equipped to transport that great stream of travel between the North and South; and with no expectation of a heavy freighting business, prepared themselves with such machinery as was adapted to carrying a light train very rapidly. So long as the army could draw supplies from any quarter, and the lines running south as far as Wilmington and Charlotte, were called on only to transport men, the work was performed promptly and well, but when supplies failed in Virginia and North Carolina, and Georgia and South Carolina had to furnish them, an immense business was at once created upon those lines, which they were unprepared to meet. Their engines were light and few in number, and their cars the same. Had the gauge of the tracks south suited, machinery might have been drawn from there; but this not being so, we have had to struggle against a heavy business with inadequate means of performing it. Under these circumstances any machinery will depreciate; it is overworked and not well attended to, and must inevitably grow less reliable. New cars are being built, though the difficulties encountered retard the progress very much, but new engines cannot be manufactured in the Confederacy.
It becomes all important, then, that those we have should be preserved in good repair, and here we meet the really great difficulties arising from the scarcity of mechanics and materials.
The hardships of the war, and the fear of conscription, have induced many of this class to leave the Confederacy; most of them were natives of the United States. Feeling but little or no interest in our country or cause, they are generally of a roving and reckless character, forming attachments to places but rarely, and impatient of restraint. Many of them enlisted and have been killed, so that the number in the country has been constantly decreasing. This deficiency cannot be supplied as in ordinary times by the instruction of apprentices, because the conscript law takes them for the army just at the period when they are learning to be useful, nor can they be induced to come from abroad at the present pay, and with the fear of the army before them.
To the want of mechanics is to be added the want of materials. Not a single bar of railroad iron has been rolled in the Confederacy since the war, nor can we hope to do any better during its continuance. The main lines will be kept up by despoiling the side lines, but if our lines should expand and the rails and machinery be taken away by the enemy, we could not replace them. But without discussing the supply of rails, which is in the hands of a special commission, there are many articles of iron which cannot be had because of its scarcity. Aside from iron there are copper, pig tin, steam gauges, cast steel, files, &c., &c., without which it is impossible to maintain engines. They are as necessary as iron. Heretofore a small supply has been had through Wilmington, but with that port closed, we are cut off entirely, except by trading with the enemy, and paying in cotton. With plenty of mechanics and material, the machinery now in use could be improved, and there would be a corresponding improvement in transportation; but it should be borne in mind, that as machinery grows older it takes more work to keep it in efficient condition, and therefore the same men and material now do not accomplish so much as at the commencement of the war.
Your earnest attention is called to the entire absence of responsibility of railroad officers to any military authority. It is true, there is a kind of moral influence exercised over them, rather from some undefined idea that the hand of Government can reach them, than from any other cause. The public, and indeed most of the officers, are under the impression that your bureau has supreme power over all the railroads and trains in the Confederacy, and had but to order them at your will to any point you desired. As to the men, they are exempt and enjoy almost entire immunity from the ordinary means of punishment. The only attempt yet made to render the railroads amenable to some authority, has resulted in a law so full of loop-holes that it is inoperative.
These are the main reasons why our railroad transportation is already deficient, and daily depreciating. Efforts are being made to purchase material, but success is quite uncertain. At present the want is not so serious as the want of mechanics, though it may become so if the materials are not obtained. It may not be out of place to mention that notwithstanding the scarcity and value of this kind of transportation, it receives but little protection or security from our armies, which seems strange when not only their comfort but their safety depends on its efficiency. As cases in point, and of recent date, is the loss of cars and engines at Atlanta, Griswoldville, Gordon and Savannah, footing up probably twenty-five engines and four hundred cars, or an equipment greater than we now have to work the Richmond and Danville Railroad.
|I am, General|
|Your obedient servant,|
F. W. Sims,
Confederate States of America, War Department,
Richmond, Virginia, 16th February, 1865.
Hon. J. C. Breckinridge, Secretary War:
Sir—I have somewhat delayed answering the circular from your office of the 7th instant, in order to present a more complete and satisfactory reply.
I now have the honor to submit the following statement of the means and resources for carrying on the service confided to this bureau, impediments thereto, and what is desired to promote greater and necessary efficiency.
To this end I propose to lay before you—
1st. A statement in regard to officers of engineers and engineer troops—their number, assignments and the necessary increase demanded by the interests of the service.
2d. Engineer workshops.
3d. Railroad repairs, including the collection of railroad iron by a special commission.
4th. Labor required for all the service confided to the engineer corps, whether military or civil, including its organization.
First, then, in regard to officers, there are—
|In regular corps of engineers||13||officers.|
|In provisional corps of engineers||115||officers.|
|In engineer troops||105||officers.|
|Assigned to engineer duty||13||officers.|
|Officers of regular corps on other duty||7||officers.|
|Total available for engineer service||239||officers.|
The officers of the regular and provisional corps are distributed to the different armies and departments, in such manner as to meet the most urgent calls of the engineer service, and the companies of engineer troops are serving, as a general rule, with the armies and in the departments in which the divisions are, from which they are taken as follows:
|Army of Northern Virginia||12||companies.|
|Army of Tennessee||10||companies.|
|Department of North Carolina||1||company.|
|Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida||2||companies.|
|District of the Gulf||1||company.|
Of these companies, three with the army of Tennessee, and three in the Trans-Mississippi Department have not as yet, however, been fully organized. It is proposed to create one more in the Trans-Mississippi, thus making a full regiment, and one more in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, to be employed chiefly as artisans.
As there is still an urgent demand for engineer officers, an application has been made, on my recommendation, to Congress for (22) twenty-two additional officers in the provisional corps. This bill has passed the Senate, and will, it is hoped, at an early day be favorably considered by the House, and become a law. If so, nominations for suitable appointments will be promptly made by the bureau.
The assignments of the few military engineers, who joined the Southern army at the commencement of the war, to duty with troops, has been a serious drawback to the engineer service, which has therefore been performed in a great measure by civil engineers, who have been appointed from time to time in the corps.
2d. Engineer workshops, for the manufacture of tools, implements and preparation of material for pontoon bridges, have been established at Richmond, Charleston, Augusta, Mobile, Demopolis, and in the Trans-Mississippi Department, from which the calls from the different armies and departments have been, as far as practicable, supplied. The great difficulty in this direction has been the want of materials, particularly iron for tools and bridge constructions, a want owing principally to the disturbed condition of the country and defective transportation.
Entrenching tools have been obtained by importation to a considerable extent, and funds have been sent abroad to purchase others, but the closing of most of our regular ports of entry, it is feared, will prevent their being received.
3d. For the prompt repair of railroad bridges and trestlework, and for duplicating these last, an organized body of mechanics should be available. This has been partly provided for, but it is proposed to increase the force, if practicable, to at least one hundred for the roads leading directly to the army of Northern Virginia. Similar organizations should be made for service further south and west.
A commission for the collection of railroad iron from unimportant lines, and distribution when necessary to those of vital consequence, as well as for the construction of iron plated gun-boats, has been organized by the joint action of the War and Navy Departments. Every possible impediment has been thrown in the way of this commission, and serious delays have been caused under the impressment act, by parties suing out injunctions, and resorting to other similar legal steps. In many cases, the iron rails must be had promptly as a military necessity, or disaster must follow. When this is established, the authority for removing them from less important roads should be given and enforced by the commanders of armies and departments, who are evidently the best prepared to judge and act. Orders from the War Department must be executed under the provisions of the law regulating impressments. Orders from commanders under military necessity can be at once carried into effect.
4th. Labor—The greater part of the labor connected with the engineer operations has been performed by fatigue parties, by engineer troops, by a limited number of details for mechanical service, and by negroes hired and impressed; but from all these sources the supply has been inadequate. A better and more permanent organization of negro labor is demanded for military and civil engineer service, to the extent of about (29,000) twenty-nine thousand men (7,000 being for the Trans-Mississippi Department), not including those needed as teamsters and cooks for the workshops and other local service.
It has been made the duty of the bureau, by General Order No. 86, 1864, to organize all the slave labor called under act approved 17th February, 1864, for service with our armies, and officers have been appointed to attend to the same.
But up to this time the number of slaves impressed by conscript officers and delivered for organization is small, and I fear unless the impressments are made more rapidly than heretofore, that this labor, so essential, will not be available in time. The organization will be made as rapidly as the negroes are received.
There will be required a number of men, chiefly from the reserve forces, as directors, superintendents, managers and overseers, a part of whom will be considered as engaged in the engineer service.
In addition to the foregoing, the details of about (1,700) seventeen hundred able-bodied men (400 being for the Trans-Mississippi Department) is required. A large proportion of these necessary details has already been made by local commanders, and the men are constantly and fully employed.
It is hoped that the foregoing statement furnishes approximately, at least, the information desired.
|I have the honor to be,|
|With great respect,|
Your obedient servant,
Confederate States of America,
Richmond, Virginia, February 9th, 1865.
Sir—In reply to the circular of the 7th instant, from your office, I have the honor to submit the following report:
By recent instructions, the superintendent of Conscription has (on the authority of the War Department) directed that all disabled men detailed from the Army of Northern Virginia, should be returned for such duty as they may be able to perform in the field.
Objections cannot reasonably be made to this, provided the men not found equal to any duty in the field be returned to the same hospital from which they have been taken. But by Circular No. 35, of December 2, 1864, from the Bureau of Conscription, generals of reserves are directed (on the authority of the War Department) to organize for certain local service "all men found for light duty and not otherwise assigned and actually employed," which deprives the Medical Department of the opportunity to replace with conscripts found for light duty the detailed men relieved in the manner above stated, or to fill the requirements arising from time to time for hospital attendants. The hospitals cannot be properly conducted without a liberal allowance of white male attendants, and it is recommended that Circular No. 35, of 1864, from the Bureau of Conscription, be modified so as to permit either conscripts found for light duty, or reserves over forty-five years of age, to be assigned as hospital attendants.
Under the authority of law (embodied in General Orders No. 69, of 1863, and No. 25, of 1864), soldiers sick or wounded, and likely to remain unfit for military duty for sixty days, are furloughed. It is undoubtedly humane to furlough these men, but the practice is wholly inconsistent with preserving and maintaining an army. Many of the men are lost sight of, and never return. It is recommended that the law be repealed. Furloughs should only be authorized by orders to be granted as circumstances may demand.
Foreseeing the many and great difficulties to be encountered in procuring medical supplies from foreign countries through the blockade, attention was given at an early day to the establishment of medical laboratories, and the manufacture of medicines at Lincolnton, North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Macon and Atlanta, Georgia, and Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama. While these laboratories have been engaged more especially in the manufacture of medicines, heretofore universally procured from abroad, great attention has been given to the manufacture of indigenous remedies, which are now administered by medical officers, in lieu of medicines of foreign origin, with favorable results.
In the beginning of the war, the Department was compelled to depend entirely upon purchasing agents, and contracts awarded to individuals for a supply of hospital furniture, bedding, &c., and which contracts in a majority of cases were never filled. It was then determined to assume "direct control of the manufacture of these articles, and artisans were detailed from the ranks of the army, and, when practicable, disabled soldiers were employed.
These employees of the laboratories, purveying depots and distilleries, are in a great measure expert chemists, druggists and distillers and men of professional skill, whose services are absolutely indispensable for the manufacture of medicines, hospital furniture and alcoholic stimulants. It is therefore hoped that the Honorable Secretary will see the necessity of these men being permanently attached to the Medical Department, as the practice of constantly changing these employees is productive of delay and embarrassment to the Department. It is also important that they should be exempt from all military duty, for if called out in an emergency, when the Purveyor is called on to fill requisitions for the wounded, it is evident that suffering must ensue in consequence of their absence. Medical supplies can only be prepared and put up by skilled druggists.
For the supply of alcoholic stimulants, the Department has been until recently dependent upon contracts with individuals. It was ascertained that this mode of supply was susceptible of gross fraud, for although expressly forbidden by the terms of the contract, the contractors not only manufactured an excess over the quantity called for by the contract, but frequently manufactured so indifferent and spurious an article that the Department was obliged to reject it, thus leaving large quantities of whiskey in their hands, which they readily disposed of at prices largely in advance of Government rates. At the suggestion of this bureau, Congress at its last session granted authority to the Surgeon-General to establish distilleries for the manufacture of alcoholic stimulants. Accordingly they have been established at Salisbury, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Macon, Georgia, and in Wilcox county, Alabama. The distilleries at Salisbury and Columbia are manufacturing from two to five hundred gallons each of whiskey and alcohol per day. Those at Macon and in Wilcox county, Alabama, will be ready to commence operations in two or three months, when all contracts for stimulants throughout the country will be cancelled.
A large portion of the grain consumed by these distilleries is rendered useless for other purposes, being damaged in transportation or from insecure storage, and turned over by the Quartermasters to this Department. Thousands of bushels of grain are thus saved to the Government and made available for army purposes. Arrangements have been perfected with the Quartermaster's Department to supply the distillery at Salisbury with grain, thus avoiding competition between the agents of the two Departments in the market. It is contemplated to make similar arrangements with the Quartermaster-General to supply the distilleries in Georgia and Alabama, so soon as they are ready to commence operations, and it is recommended that instructions be given that officer to furnish the necessary grain when notified by the Surgeon-General that he is ready to receive it.
The late Secretary of War gave orders to the Quartermaster's Department to furnish all the bureaux of the War Department with cotton goods sufficient to supply their wants. Estimates were accordingly forwarded to the Quartermaster-General by this bureau, but as yet not a yard has been furnished, and there seems to be no probability of obtaining a supply from this source. Arrangements are now being perfected with a company in South Carolina to sell to the Medical Department, on liberal terms, the entire product of their factory.
There is another subject of great importance, to which the attention of the Secretary of War is earnestly invited. The sick and wounded in the large hospitals in or about the city, and at certain other places, are now subjected to intense suffering, in consequence of the failure of the Quartermaster's Department to furnish fuel.
At one of these hospitals (Chimborazo) the surgeon in charge for two years furnished his own wood, during which time there was an ample supply. The Quartermaster declined to permit this arrangement to continue, and each winter since this hospital has been inadequately supplied.
The surgeon in charge of Jackson hospital has the offer of a contract for wood to be supplied the hospital; the Quartermaster refused to make the contract, stating that he had made ample provision. At Winder hospital the surgeon in charge during the past summer or fall offered, if he was provided with a small number of teams (two), to supply his own fuel; the Quartermaster refused, asserting that he could supply the hospital with the wood required. These cases are mentioned to show that the fuel could have been provided.
A serious difficulty in conducting the hospitals arises from the failure of the Commissary Department to furnish the hospital funds. Very general complaint has been made on this subject—one of importance, as without the hospital fund, it is impossible to supply the sick and wounded with the necessary supplies. The hospitals have also been embarrassed by the non-payment of the hospital attendants by the Quartermaster's Department.
Attention has been given recently to the importation of supplies through our lines on the Mississippi river, and the gulf border of Mississippi and Alabama. Cotton is exchanged for medical supplies, and in consequence of the recent disaster at Wilmington, it is believed that this trade will constitute the chief source of supply. This Department has obtained medicines in this manner through the energy of Surgeon Richard Potts, who has had exclusive control of the importation of such articles as are most needed, until recent orders from the War Department, taking entire control of transactions of this nature, has impaired his usefulness, and put a stop in a measure to the supply. The Honorable Secretary's attention is earnestly invited to the necessity of allowing Surgeon Potts (located at Montgomery, Alabama), ample means for obtaining medical supplies in the manner indicated.
The department has on hand, of some articles, a twelve months' supply, of others a limited supply, but if allowed to retain its skilled employees at the various laboratories, purveying depots and distilleries, and to import medicines freely through our lines in Mississippi and Alabama, no fear need be entertained that the sick and wounded of the army will suffer for the want of any of the essential articles of the supply table.
|Very respectfully, your obedient servant,|
S. P. Moore,
|Hon. John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.|