BUREAU OF CONSCRIPTION, Richmond, April 12, 1864.
Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War.
If the exigencies of his department are as represented by General Polk, it may be proper to grant him authority to raise companies of exempts to be employed in maintaining the external police of his army and the quiet of his department. In granting this, however, it does not seem to be consistent with the policy of the law or the provisions of General Orders, Numbers 26, to allow men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, or of the reserve classes, who are enrolled and organized, to be embraced in troops called for the special exigencies of a department. The service of all such is prescribed by law and also the terms of organization, and the assignment to other service under different organization would certainly be in conflict with the law and concedes the authority to raise armies. There is certainly no existing warrant for General Polk to organize a police force either from conscripts or reserves, and instance are frequent of great confusion in and detriment to the service arising from generals commanding assuming to raise and organize troops for any purpose without full warrant of law. The recent condition of things in Alabama and Mississippi, and which in a great measure causes General Polk's difficulties, is a prominent instance of this evil, and this bureau is at this moment ordered to receive into the general service eight disbanded companies, raised, organized, and assigned by a general commanding a department. If the conscript authorities have not force enough to manage the external police of General Polk's army, and it is deemed best not to increase that force, the readiest mode of meeting General Polk's views will be to assign to his police such organized companies of reserves as may be selected for that purpose by the Secretary of War under proper limitations. I respectfully recommend that it be done.
I deem it due to use this and all propene occasions to reiterate my conviction that neither conscription nor the enrollment, organization, and disposition of the reserves should under any circumstances be placed under the control of generals commanding in the field.
JNO. S. PRESTON,
Colonel and Superintendent.
HEADQUARTERS, Demopolis, March 31, 1864.
Colonels JACKSON AND IVES, Near Tuscumbia:
Orders were sent you by telegraph to Okolona, thence by courier, instructing you to fall back from your present position to one more remote from the enemy. That order is hereby revoked. You will use your discretion in the selection of a point to locate your commands which in your judgment will be most favorable to the furtherance of the objects you have in view, keeping a vigilant watch upon the enemy all the time. You will at once establish a line of couriers from your headquarters to some point on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad where telegraphic communication can be had with these headquarters.
By command of Lieutenant-General Polk:
T. M. JACK,