In recommending officers or men for promotion, you will always, where other qualifications are equal, give preference to those who show the highest appreciation of the importance of discipline and evince the greatest attention to its requirements.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE C. S., Numbers 4.
February 22, 1865.
I. The experience of our own and other armies having established that the safety, no less than the efficiency, of troops requires that order by maintained and every man kept in his proper position in action, the following instructions will be immediately carried into effect:
A thorough examination by competent officers selected by the corps commander, or officer commanding detached troops, will be made as to the qualifications and character of the commissioned and non-commissioned officer of each company. Such of the former as shall be reported deficient in intelligence, coolness, and capacity will be brought before examining boards, and those of the latter so reported will be reduced to the ranks. Appointments to fill vacancies among the non-commissioned officers will be made from those soldiers of the company most distinguished for courage, discipline, and attention to duty. The whole number of file-closers in each company shall be one for every ten men, and for this purpose lance appointments will be given, if necessary, to men of the character above described, who will be required to wear a distinctive badge.
II. The file-closers will be carefully instructed in their duties by the regimental commanders, and vacancies will be filled as they occur among the non-commissioned and lance officers from the best and most tried soldiers of the company. On the march they will be required to prevent straggling and be held responsible for the presence of their respective squads of ten. In action they will keep two paces behind the rear rank of their several squads, the non-commissioned and lance officer with loaded guns and fixed bayonets. They will be diligently instructed to aid in preserving order in the ranks and enforcing obedience to commands, and to permit no man to leave his place unless wounded, excused in writing by the medical officer of the regiment, or by order of the regimental commander. For this purpose they will use such degree of force as may be necessary. If any refuse to advance, disobey orders, or leave the ranks to plunder or to retreat, the file-closer will promptly cut down or fire upon the delinquents. They will treat in the same manner any man who uses words or actions calculated to produce alarm among the troops. Justice to the brave men who remain at their posts, no less than the success to our arms, demands that this order be rigorously executed, and it will be enjoined upon file-closers that they shall make the evasion of duty more dangerous than its performance.
III. The value of the foregoing order will depend upon the character of the file-closers and the diligence with which they are instructed. None should be selected but such as can understand and appreciate the importance of their duties, and possess the necessary coolness and determination to perform them faithfully. Regimental commanders
79 R R-VOL XLVI, PT II