enemy into the belief that their services were no longer necessary, declined to re-enlist, and prepared to turn over the burden of the war to those who had as yet borne no part of it. Efforts to procure re-enlistments and the expectation of change relaxed the discipline of the Army, impaired its efficiency, and rendered it incapable of accomplishing what otherwise might have been achieved.
While our armies were thus passing through successive stages of disorganization to dissolution, those of the enemy, recruited and reorganized, had reached a high state of efficiency, and were ready at the opening of the campaign to enter upon it, with every guarantee of success that numbers, discipline, complete organization, and perfect equipment could afford.
The success they obtained under these circumstances, far from being a matter of surprise, were necessary consequences of the relative conditions of the armies, and it is truly surprising that these successes were not greater and more complete.
The plan of voluntary enlistment having failed to preserve the organization, and to recruit the strength of our armies at a time when the safety of the country required both of be effected, a resort to draft or conscription was the only alternative. To all acquainted with the true condition of things there could be no ground for doubt. In a period of thirty days the terms of service of 148 regiments expired. There was good reason to believe that a large majority of the men had not re-enlisted, and of those who had re-enlisted a very large majority had entered corps which could never be assembled, or, if assembled, could not be prepared for the field in time to meet the invasion actually commenced.
There was, therefore, an interval of disorganization and weakness impending, and the enemy had already entered Virginia with an army now known to have had more than double the numerical strength of our own, and superior to it in everything but courage and a good cause. It was obvious that conscription alone could save us, and it could hardly be supposed that a Constitution adopted in the midst of war inhibited the only possible mode of raising armies.
Influenced by these and other consideration, Congress adopted the measure popularly known as the conscript act. Four months have not elapsed since its passage, and the present condition of the Army and of the country sufficiently proves its wisdom. Four months ago our armies were retiring, weak and disorganized, before the overwhelming force of the enemy, yielding to them the sea-coast, the mines, the manufacturing power, the grain fields, and even entire States of the Confederacy. Now we are advancing, with increased numbers, improving organization, renewed courage, and the prestige of victory, upon an enemy defeated, disheartened, and sheltering himself behind defensive works and under cover of his gun-boats. A military system which has done so much in so short a time should be cherished and perfected and its defects speedily corrected.
Soon after the passage of the conscript act the Department prepared to carry it out, and on the 28th of April published General Orders, No. 30, a copy of which is herewith returned, prescribing regulations for the enrollment, mustering in, subsistence, transportation, and disposition of conscripts. *
It was determined to establish one or more permanent camps in each State at points selected with reference to health and facilities
*See VOL. I, this series, p. 1094.