War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0792 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

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Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey was not "directed to convey censure and reprimand to an officer of his regiment," but that he was informed that he would confer an obligation on me by saying to the officer in question that had I been apprised of the discreditable conduct to which I alluded at the time when I gave him certain promotion in his regiment that promotion would not have been granted. I presume that meant that promotion would not hve been granted. I presume that Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey perfectly well knew the distinction between an order from a military superior and a request from another, nor does there seem to me the slightest possiblity of mistake between them. But the error of opinion to which I had the honor to allude is not less apparent than the itake of fact.

Although I am in no sense Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey's military commander, he being a military officer in the military service of the United States, yet since he is in command of a regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers I have as governor of the Commonwealth furnishing his regiment to the service certain grave and important duties confided to me by law of the United States in reference to the selection of its officers inlducing not only that of making the original appointments but that also of filling all vacancies as they occur. And in performance of the duty of filling such vacancies I have out of compliment to the officer commanding any regiment in which they occurred always corresponded with such officer (in the spirit of their circular letter* herewith sent for your information) in order to do what I could, first, to secure to every soldier his merited promotion; and, second, to strengthen and confirm the just military and personal inlfuence and control of each colonel in his regiment. But this correspondence implies reciprocal and honorary relations between the colonel and myself. He is bound to deal w ith me frankly and upon his honor; and I think I have a right to complain rather that your intervention in this instance tends to injure the service by interrupting the proper relations between Massachusetts colonels and their governor than that my letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey tends to interfere with discipline. For there are two ways of meeting an dealing with the merits and demerits of military subordinates-the one is by reward and the other is by punishment. It is the power of courts-martial to punish offenses. But they cannot appoint officers nor promote them from one rank to another. This power is possessed by the governors of the States in respect to the volunteer regiments. And thus they are in danger (as anyone would be) of granting substantial advnatages to the underserving and of turning aisde the demands of practical and of abstact justice by perverting their incidental power of reward.

Nor, general, as you will at aonce perceive does the duty of the appointing power stop with simply considering whether a given candidate has been convicted by a court-martial for some offense nor whether he has done something for which he might be amenable to court-martial since one might in due season manifestly deserve promotion notwithstanding that; and on the other hand an officer might by acts and character not open to that sort of legal animadversion be utterly undeserving of the expression of confidence that would be implied in his official promotion. Now assuming the truth of the facts to which reference was made in the letter of my assistant secretary (if they were not true then the observations confessedly did not apply) I found that either by Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey's inadvertence or otherwise I had made an appointment which I had great reason to regret and which I had and now have good reason to fear weakens the regiment,


*Not found.