HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST LOUISIANA,
Alexandria, January 21, 1864.
Brigadier-General BOGGS, Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of dispatches from department headquarters of the 19th instant, inclosing copies of communications from Brigadier-General Allen, together with a cop of the authority granted him to pardon all deserters or other absentees who might voluntarily give themselves up to him or his officers. I retreat that it was not deemed advisable to apprise me of this grant of authority to General Allen (whose theater of operations was defined by the limits of the military district under my command) at the time it was issued to him, instead of deferring the notice until the authority ceased by the retirement of General Allen from the service. I might then have avoided the spectacle of inconsistency recently presented to the army of deserters caught, tried, and shot by my orders while in the adjoining or perhaps same parish General Allen was granting amnesties and pardons. The very large number of deserters and absentees from every organization in the army may well inspire doubts whether the general amnesty lately granted by the President, as well as other lenient measures of more restricted influence, have not increased the evil they were intended to remedy. However this may be, these amnesties were officially published for the information and guidance of all concerned. I should have felt it my duty to present these views to the consideration of the lieutenant-general commanding had the authority granted to General Allen been limited in application to deserters from the several organizations intended to compose, when assembled, his brigade, or even to recusant conscripts unattached, but the authority granted extended to all deserters and absentees whatsoever.
The various camps established by General Allen within this district (established without my knowledge or that or any officer serving here, one, I believe, at my headquarters) thus became, like the cities of old, so many harbors of refuge into which deserters, if in danger of apprehension by their officers, might escape deserved punishment and even secure rewards. The grant of authority to General Allen states that deserters voluntarily surrendering themselves will be pardoned on his recommendation. Had this pardon been promised on the recommendation of the immediate commanders of such deserters, although the example of deserved punishment would have been lost, something would have been gained by increasing the legitimate influence of commanders over their men. In this case the pardon is granted at the request of an officer who had had no connection with the deserter in the past, as he is to have none in the future, and who cannot possibly know anything of the circumstances under which the crime was committed.
That the effects alleged here are not imaginary, I respectfully invite attention to the cases of Privates Williamson and Campbell, of the Crescent Regiment, Mouton's brigade. These deserters were discovered in one of the camps established by General Allen, and under the command of Colonel Russell. Their colonel, Beard, sends a party to arrest them. Colonel Russell properly, under his instructions, refuses to give them up, and at the request of General Allen Colonel Beard is required not only to received them back without punishment, but to accord to them the privilege of selecting either of his ten companies in which they may be pleased to serve. A few