service to his discharge. I do not think that the decision of such questions can be made so well by any as by those whose experience with troops has made them acquainted with the urgent claims to relief, which are constantly brought to the attention of commanding officers, but which they are forced to deny. For this reason I would recommend that the rolls of exempts and details in each State be inspected by officers of character and influence, who have had experience in the field and have had nothing to do with the exemptions and details. If all that I have heard be true, I think it will be found that very different rules of action have been pursued toward men in service and those liable to it in the matter of exemptions and details, and I respectfully recommend that Your Excellency cause reports to be made by the Enrolling Bureau of the number of men enrolled in each State, the number sent to the field, and the number exempted or detailed. I regard this matter as of the utmost moment. Our ranks are constantly diminishing by battle and disease, and few recruits are received. The consequences are inevitable, and I fell confident that the time has come when no man capable of bearing arms should be excused, unless it be for some controlling reason of public necessity. The safety of the country requires this, in my judgment, and hardship to individuals must be disregarded in view of the calamity that would follow to the whole people if our armies meet with disaster. No detail of an arms-bearing man should be continued or granted, except for the performed by one not liable to, or fit for, service. Agricultural details take numbers from the army without any corresponding advantage.
I think that the interests of land owners and cultivators may be relied upon to induce them to provide means for saving their crops, if they be sent to the field. If they remain at home their produce will only benefit the enemy, as our armies will be insufficient to defend them. If the officers and men detailed in the Conscript Bureau have performed their duties faithfully, they must have already brought out the chief part of those liable to duty, and have nothing to do now except to get such as from time to time reach military age. If this be true many of these officers and men can now be spared to the army. If not, they have been derelict, and should be sent back to the ranks, and their places supplied by others who will be more active. Such a policy will stimulate the energy of this class of men. The last resource is the reserve force. Men of this class can render great service in connection with regular troops, by taking their places in trenches, forts, &c., and leaving them free for active operations. I think no time should be lost in bringing out the entire strength of this class, particularly in Virginia and North Carolina. If I had the reserves of Virginia to hold the trenches here, or even to man those below Richmond on the north side of the river, they would render greater service than they can in any other way. They would give me a force to act with on the offensive or defensive, as might be necessary, without weakening any part of our lines. Their mere presence in the works below Richmond would prevent the enemy from making feints in that quarter to draw troops from here, except in such force as to endanger his own lines around Petersburg. But I feel confident that with vigorous effort, and an understanding on the part of the people of the necessity of the case, we could get more of this class than enough for the purpose last indicated. We could make our regular troops here available in the field. The same remarks are applicable to the reserves of North Carolina, who could render similar at Wilmington, and allow the regular troops to