horses could be procured. It is difficult now to meet the wants of our artillery and transportation. But I think the law should invest the Government with complete authority for the time being over every horse mustered into the service, and authorize the use of them in such manner as will most promote the public interests, providing at the same time proper compensation for the owners should it be found necessary to deprive them of the use of their horses. A cavalry soldier cannot perform the terms of his enlistment without a horse, and the Government should be able to control the horse on this ground and to this extent at least.
I fully concur in what General Bragg says with reference to depredations, whether committed by cavalry or any other part of the army. Any legislation that can repress this evil would be most beneficial.
3. I am not in favor of increasing the pay of any officer, but think it would be well to allow rations and clothing to company officers and their servants (such as they may lawfully have), and to other officers of like rank and pay with company officers. I see no necessity to extend the law to officers of a higher rank.
4. I think that the evil of officers and men absenting themselves without leave should be provided against as far as practicable by legislation. The ordinary mode of punishing by court-martial does not effectually check it, and I do not think General Bragg exaggerates the extent of the practice. In the case of officers, I think the law should vacate their commissions by its own operation and subject them to conscription.
5. In this connection, I would call your attention to the evils that flow from the absence of officers permanently disabled. Regiments are frequently commanded by captains, from this cause, companies by sergeants, and sometimes brigades by majors and lieutenant-colonels. Many officers are borne on the rolls who are unfit for service. It would be hard to drop them, and yet they prevent the promotion of other officers and interfere with the efficiency of their commands.
I would suggest the establishment of an invalid corps, to which such officers might be transferred, retaining their rank and pay. This corps might be made useful in many ways and relieve troops fit for field service.
6. I concur in the remarks of General Bragg in reference to the rank of the chief staff officer of our armies and those of the personal staff of commanding generals. The number and rank of the latter should correspond with their duties. These officers have no opportunity of promotion, and their importance is not overestimated by General Bragg.
7. If any change in our hospital system can diminish the vice of absence without leave, I think it should be made. I do not know the particular features of the system to which General Bragg refers.
I herewith return General Bragg's letter,* as you request.
I think it very important in providing for the personal staff, which should be adequate to the wants of the officer with whom they serve, that he should be strictly confined to the staff allowed by law.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,