been made to secure efficient and accomplished ones) will soon resign, rather than be attached to anon-fighting corps of very mediocre reputation. I see no reason why these companies should not be assigned by you to divisions whenever, in your judgment, proper, and according with the best interests of the service. I fear that your suggestion of obtaining a number of men of foreign allegiance, and men otherwise exempt from the operation of the conscript act, is not susceptible of practical application on a sufficiently large scale, and would at best result in the formation of engineer troops of a very inferior class. Every effort will be made, however, to get good men from these sources.
The following plan, which it is thought will attain, with comparative promptness, the desired end, and without reducing your fighting resources, is respectfully submitted for your consideration. It is proposed-
1st To detail from each division 50, instead of 100, men, to form the nucleus of the engineer companies, and give them steadiness under fire; with these might be incorporated the present pioneer companies. For each man detailed from a division for the engineer troops, 2 conscripts shall be assigned in substitution, if you will cause a statement of the number of men, and the companies from which they were detailed, to be furnished to this Department.
2d. As Lieutenant Colonel W. P. Smith`s legitimate duties fully occupy his time, it is further proposed to promote Major T. M. R. Talcott, of your staff, to the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel, under the act of Congress authorizing the promotion of officers of the regular army (he being a first lieutenant of the Confederate States Artillery), and place the organization of the First Regiment of Engineer Troops under his charge, especially the recruiting to its maximum number.
3d. To direct one or more acting officers of each company of engineer troops to report to him for the special duty of selecting and taking charge of the requisite number of conscripts or recruits to swell each engineer company to its full quota. In compliance with the law, these men can now be assigned to any division as infantry recruits, and immediately thereafter selected for engineer service.
By the above method your army will be relieved of the necessity of furnishing more than 50 per cent. of veterans for the new organization, and, in consideration of its great importance, it is hoped that the call to so limited an extent will meet with your approval.
I am, general, with great respect, your obedient servant,
J. A. SEDDON.
Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Near Culpeper Court-House, July 26, 1863.
Brigadier General J. D. IMBODEN,
Commanding Northwestern Brigade, Woodstock, Va.:
GENERAL: Your letters of the 23rd and 25th instant have been received.
I regret to learn that you have had so much difficulty in disposing of the prisoners after reaching Staunton, and am glad to hear that you lost so few. From the accounts I receive, I fear several hundred must have escaped after crossing the Potomac. I would like to have from you an exact report of the numbers turned over to the authorities at Richmond.