HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,.
Centreville, February 1, 1862.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:.
SIR: Your letter of the 25th ultimo, in reply to mine of the 18th, did not reach me until yesterday..
In entering upon the delicate and difficult work assigned me I shall keep view your advice, "To go to the extreme verge of prudence in tempting the twelve-months' men by liberal furloughs to re-enlist." It is, however, indispensable to the success of the undertaking that you should remove certain difficulties which not only embarrass the execution of these particular orders, but are also causing great confusion and an approach to demoralization in this army. They result from a practice of giving orders to the army in matters of military detail which should come only from the commanding officer present. It is impossible to specify all these orders, as many of them are brought incidentally to my knowledge from the difficulties attending their execution. I allude especially to those granting leaves of absence, furloughs, discharges, and acceptances of resignations upon applications made directly to yourself, the officers concerned having had no hearing, and detailing in the same way mechanics and other soldiers to labor for contractors, ordering troops into the department without informing me of the fact, and from it without consulting me, and moving companies from point to point within it. Two of these companies were at Manassas, having been selected to man some of our heavy batteries there. They had been well instructed in that service, and of course were unpracticed as infantry. The companies that take their places will for weeks be worth less as artillery than they as infantry. If as general I cannot control such matte- rs, our heavy guns will prove a useless expense..
The matte rs mentioned are purely military, and I respectfully submit should be left under the control of military officers..
I have been informed that you have already granted furloughs to four entire companies, three belonging to the same regiment, but have received but one of the orders. They are, it is said, re-enlisted as artillery. We thus lose good infantry and gain artillery having no other advantage over recruits than that of being inured to camp life. This increases the difficulty of inducing the re-enlisted of infantry as such. You will readily perceive that while you are granting furloughs on such a scale at Richmond I cannot safely grant them at all..
To execute these orders consistently and advisedly there must be a system. If the Wa r Department continues to grant these furloughs without reference to the plans determined on here, confusion and disorganizing collisions must be the result..
I have been greatly surprised to-day to receive an order from the War Office detailing a private for a waking party here. I hazard nothing in saying that in time of war a Secretary of War never before made such a detail. .
In asking your attention to the mischief resulting from the orders alluded to above, be assured that I am making no point of mere official propriety. They a re practical evils, which are weighing heavily upon this army. Officers laboring under the impression that I am in some way responsible for the changes which they direct complain that they are made without consulting their wishes and in opinion to their plans..
The discipline of the army cannot be maintained under such circumstances. The direct tendency of such orders is to insula the com-
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