War of the Rebellion: Serial 124 Page 0655 UNION AUTHORITIES.

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or at sea at time of draft, is published for the information and guidance of officers of this Bureau, viz:

The class of persons referred to, if deserters according to the letter of the statute, are not so according to its spirit, and should not be treated by the Government. The drafted men who are declared to be deserters for having failed to report themselves for duty are those who have had actual personal notice, or constructive notice, from leaving a summons at their last place of residence that they have been drafted, and that their attendance at the place of rendezvous named is required. It is assumed that the constructive notice has reached the parties, and hence they are denounced as deserters for not obeying it. Desertion involves a criminal intent, and a man cannot, in the sense of the law, or with any propriety of language, be held to have deserted a service when he did not know he belonged to it-to have neglected a duty when he had no means of knowing that it had been imposed upon him. The law would stultify itself were it to declare otherwise. Ignorance of the law excuses no man, but ignorance of facts always does. The law obliges no man to do an impossible thing, nor can it on any principle hold him responsible for not having done it. When, therefore, a drafted man is aborad or at sea, or otherwise placed in such circumstances as to render it physically impossible for him to have had knowledge of the draft, and of his duty under it, he should not be advertised or treated as a deserter. Such a step would be cruel, and would shock that sense of public justice which all entertain. If such persons do not, without delay, report themselves for duty after receiving information that they have been drafted they should be arrested as deserters. It will be for the Secretary of War to determine how long the public interests will permit the Government to wait for the return of this class of persons. Unquestionably the drafted men who do not within a reasonable time return to the country, so as to enter the service, should not be accepted as a part of the quota of troops due from the State to which they belong.





Washington, D. C., August 9, 1863.

The following interpretation of the second and third clauses of section 2 of the enrollment act is published for the information and guidance of officers of this Bureau, viz:

Second. "The only son liable to military duty of a widow dependent upon his labor for support."

The term "only son" commonly means that there is but one son; hence the expression "only son liable to military duty" means one son liable to military duty, where other sons, if any, are not thus liable. Thus, to make a good claim for exemption under this clause, it must be established, first, that the person drafted is the only son liable to military duty of a widow; and second, that the widow is dependent for support upon this particular son.

The widow may have any number of sons not liable to military duty as minors, over age, or otherwise; but if she have one son who is liable, and she is actually dependent upon that son, he is exempt.

Third. "The only son of aged or infirm parents dependent upon his labor for support."

This clause carries the same meaning of the word "only," making it, synonymous with one. The same construction will be placed upon this as upon the second clause of this section.

To obtain exemption under this clause it will, therefore, be necessary to establish, first, that the aged or infirm parents have but one son liable to military duty; and second, that they are dependent upon this particular son for support.