During the emergency of the Mississippi campaign, when it was hoped the people mighth be turned out almost in mass, the power of administering the law was granted to General Johnston at his request. He soon turned the whole matter over to General Pillow. That officer, wit characteristic energy and zeal, but with numbers of supernumerary officers and in an irregular manner, proceeded to change the old system of administration previously adopted by the Conscript Bureau, and to enforce a sort of general impressment of all the conscript classes in some way into the service. Numberless complaints of irregularities, of disregard of the exemptions and restrictions of law, and of the employment only of military coercion besieged the Department. The whole proceeding was a departure from what had been, on deliberation, adopted as the system of administering the law. The idea of the Department has been, as it believes was the contemplation of Congress, that the conscription should be enforced by the regular agencies of law, and chiefly under the influence and prestige the law commands, steadily and impartially, but with due regard to all the exceptions and limitations contained in its provisions. The idea of the law and that the claim of service was made under its authority was to be kept ever distinct and paramount.
The substitution in lieu of mere military authority and the employment of coercion, when there was really no resistance, was believed to be, as it has proved, mischievous and productive of great discontent. In consequence it was found necessary to revoke General Pillow's authority and again inaugurate the regular administration of the Conscript Bureau.
Of course, the critical period of transition must be one of imperfect execution; but the attention of Colonel Preston, the present efficient head of the Conscript Bureau, is being earnestly directed to the removal of irregularities, and the withdrawal of the supernumeraries called for by General Pillow's plan, and the substitution of the more regular and simpler administration of the law. I am sanguine that the result will soon be manifested of less dissatisfaction, and yet more through enforcement of conscription. Instead, therefore, of seeking a remedy in another change and the substitution of a new direction I would earnestly invoke your aid and co-operation, as the commander of the department, to the operations of the Conscript Bureau. Colonel Preston will be happy at all times to profit by your suggestions, and will exact from all his officers and agents due deference to your counsels and wishes.
On the subject of deserters and stragglers within your department, on which you have likewise written, I am very reluctant to oppose any objection to the authority you ask for their recruitment into new organizations. That plan of tempting deserters and stragglers to resume their duty as defenders of the country has been frequently urged on the attention of the Department, and it is not to be denied that, with reference to special localities, it is probable more men could be recruited in that way than by enforcing the previous obligation to service. It must be recollected, however, that the question has a wider scope, and that such mode of proceeding, besides being subversive of discipline, amy result most mischievously to the general service by producing dissatisfaction and tempting to desertion.
It has been the deliberate judgment of most of the officer in command, among whom may be specially named Generals Lee and Johnston, that all authority to raise new organizations, and much more those in districts where deserters abound, are mischievous and