of Congress grating bounties and furloughs to non-commissioned officers and privates of the Provisional Army. I have received no order from the War Department directly on this subject. A copy of General Orders, Numbers 1 [of 1st instant], transmitted to General Beauregard, has, however, been laid before me.
The terms, both the law and of the order in question leave my mind in doubt as to the time at which any person re-enlisting has the right to expect a furlough; whether it must necessarily be granted out of his present term of service for twelve months, or if be competent so to distribute the furloughs as to put off some of the men until their new term shall have begun. As the law directs "said furloughs to be issued at such times and in such numbers as the Secretary of War may deem compatible with the public interests," I find myself compelled to request further instructions on this point.
In case it be determined that these furloughs are to be granted during the first period of a volunteer's service, I beg leave to submit for the consideration of the Department the impracticability of granting them within the time specified in such numbers as will induceany considerable re-enlistments among the twelve-months' regiments in this command, for the army here is composed in large part of such regiments, and inasmuch as the terms of service of nearly all of them expire at no distance day, it would be necessary to grant furloughs in very great number during the next few months, in order to obtain many re-enlistments for the two years following. To grant them in such numbers I deem incompatible with the safety of this command. The men here now are as few as we can safely meet the enemy with;yet there is no saying how soon he may attack us. We know that he was not in sufficient force to meet General Jackson at Romney, and obviously he meditates no offensive in that quarter. General Hill writes from Leesburg that the enemy has ceased to annoy his working parties with his artillery, and that his pickets had reported large quantities of baggage to be morning towards Washington. There is a rumor that General Banks is marching to the same point, whether true or false we do not know; but we do know McClellan has not put his army into winter quarters. General Jackson informs me that a deserter, a very intelligent man, reports that the troops had been ordered from Cincinnati to the east, supposed to Washington, all which facts forbid any relaxation of vigilance on our part, and warn us against any diminution of this command. If it should, on the other hand, be decided that furloughs may be granted after as well as before the expiration of the first year's service, the principal difficulty still recurs, and must continue to recur as long as this army shall continue of its present size and be confronted by the forces to which we are now opposed. As long as the existing condition of affairs continues it will be unsafe to allow any large number of men to leave here; and without sustaining such a loss I do not see how the object of the law can be accomplished. In order to remove these doubts and difficulties, by which we must otherwise be greatly embarrassed, I find myself under the necessity of refereeing to you for instructions as to the government of my conduct. The law requires me to be guided by the Secretary of War, not only as to the "time" of granting furloughs, but also as to the number of them to be granted.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON,