WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, December 13, 1861.
Honorable F. P. BLAIR, Jr.,
Chairman Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives.
SIR: In answer to your communication of the 9th instant, inclosing a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 4th instant instructing the Committee on Military Affairs to inquire what change if any is necessary in the laws providing for the payment of soldiers who are held as prisoners of war, I have the honor to inclose a report of the Paymaster-General, whose views on the subject I particularly recommend the attention of your committee.
THOMAS A. SCOTT,
Acting Secretary of War.
PAYMASTER-GENERAL'S OFFICE, December 11, 1861.
Honorable SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.
SIR: I have the honor to return herewith the resolution of the House of Representatives of the Thirty-seventh Congress relative to the payment of prisoners of war, and the letter of the Honorable F. P. Blair, chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House, which papers have been forwarded by you to me with directions to report on the same, In obedience to those direction I would respectfully report that great complaints having been made on the subject of me non-payment of these men a plan was proposed to allow certain persons who might be considered as immediatelyd ependent on the soldier for support to draw his pay while he was a prisoner even without a written authority from him. This plan was submitted fro the approval of the President and being sanctioned by him was published as a general order of the Army. A copy of it is herewith inclosed. * It is believed that under the circumstances this is the best mode that can be devised for making these payments. There is of course a risk to the United States of making a overpaymnet by reason of the uncertainty whether the prisoner is still alive up to date of payment, but it is but fair that the Government should assume such risk, an dit is guarded against as far as possible by requiring that one month's pay should always be kept in arrear.
This plan is, however, beyond the strict letter of the law which requires that the creditor of the United States should receipt for all sums paid on his account or authorize their payment in writing. I would therefore respectfully recommend that Congress be requested to legalize the provisions of General Orders, Numbers 90, of this year, so as to protect both the United States and the disbursing officer from all future claims when the money due a soldier has bee or may be paid to his family under the provisions of the order.
Another point in connection with this subject of prisoners I would respectfully call intention to. Many men of the three-months' volunteers have been captured and are still prisoners. Their regiments have been disbanded some time, but as these men are still held as prisoners it is but just they should be considered as in the service of the United States until discharged from prison and paid accordingly. This view of their case has been adopted by this department, but as the question
* Omitted here; see p. 121.