EXECUTIVE CHAMBER, Harrisburg, Pa., December 11, 1863.
Colonel J. B. FRY,
COLONEL: I inclose a copy of my letter to the President* in reply to his of the 9th, inclosing your communication to him on the subject of recruiting in Pennsylvania. I have issued a general order embracing the substance of your reply to my letter to the President, and such privileges as were made applicable to this State by your correspondence. It is very important for many reasons that the demands of the Government on this State should be answered without a draft, and I will use every effort to raise volunteers in lieu of it. The decision of our supreme court against the constitutionality of the act of Congress is by no means the only reason for a just anxiety to avoid the necessity for a draft. I may have an opportunity of seeing you before the 5th of January, and I cannot but think that a free interchange of views would help the public service. It will afford me great pleasure to hear from you and to act in harmony with you in the performance of our respective duties in the work.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. G. CURTIN.
WAR DEPT., PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL'S OFFICE, Washington, D. C., December 12, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: It is proper for me to report to you the practice of this Bureau in the matter discussed by the Secretary of the Navy in the extract below from his report:
Under the recent enactment petty officers, acting engineers, and others indispensable to a ship's complement and efficiency, have, as well as seamen, been subject to the draft while on shipboard and in naval service. Some of them on distant stations have been enrolled, drafted, and put to great inconvenience in their efforts to obtain relief, not infrequently subjecting their commander and the seamen themselves to embarrassment. It certainly could not have been intended by Congress that persons in actual service afloat should be withdrawn from the Navy, where they were faithfully discharging indispensable duties, and then be compelled, under the penalties of the law, to go into the Army.
The existing enrollment act does not provide in terms for the exemption of men in the naval service; but when the question came up practically it was decided that it was not best and was not the intention to take men actually in the naval service and put them by draft into the military service, and hence it has been the practice to discharge from obligation to military duty under the draft those men who were actually in the naval service, leaving them to the Navy, but in neither the Army nor Navy were the civil employes held to be exempt; they were in both services alike held to duty under the draft in accordance with the principles announced in the following opinion of Colonel Holt, Judge-Advocate-General.+
I know of no other cause for the embarrassment to which the naval service has been put in this matter, as stated by the Secretary of the Navy, than that arising from the refusal of this Bureau to exempt from the draft civilians connected with the Navy. In addition to the
*See p. 1163.
+See Circular Numbers 63, August 4, p. 621.