force available, in case of emergency, to relieve the regular garrisons of internal guard duty, and even to take their places alongside of the regular troops in the defenses.
The force organized from the Quartermaster's Department in Washington and its dependencies numbers about 5,000 men; that at Nashville numbers nearly 7,000.
Twice have the quartermaster's forces in Washington been called out to perform guard duty; once they have taken their place in the trenches and assisted to repel an attack upon the capital. A large detachment of them, about 1,400 strong, has lately been detailed to proceed to the front and remove that timber which sheltered guerrillas attacking one of our important railroad lines of supply. Those at Nashville have twice been placed under arms when that city has been threatened by the reblately a detachment of them pursued and recovered from the rebels a captured drove of cattle belonging to the Subsistence Department.
Of the number and force of the organizations at Louisville and Cincinnati I have as yet no full report.
I am pleased to be able to report that the men employed in this department have responded to this call upon them for services in defense of their country with the same cheerful alacrity and patriotism with which our people generally have met the perils and labors and sufferings of this war for human rights and liberty.
This department has employed persons of African descent to perform the labor of teamsters, grooms, laborers upon docks and wharves, upon steam-boats, and generally in all the manual labor for which their previous training has fitted them. The supply has not been equal to the demand. Seeing that the public prints represented that there was much distress among the colored refugees in the Southwest and in North Carolina, application has been made to the commanding officers of those districts to furnish for the work of the depot of Washington and of the quartermaster's department of the Army of the Potomac negroes, to whom good wages and good treatment would be guaranteed. These applications have been unsucessful.
Major-General Canby, commanding Division of West Mississippi, reports that there are not enough laborers in that department to meet the requirements of the public service; that it is necessary to detail soldiers from the ranks for much labor indispensable to the success of military operations, thus reducing the fighting strength of his command. And Major-General Banks reports that "there are no negroes in the Department of the Gulf are not wanted, either in the army or for other public service, and not a man, woman, or child can be spared."
Much distress, doubtless, attends the sudden change of condition of these people from slavery, in which their wants were provided for by their masters, to freedom, in which they must abandon their former homes and support and provide for themselves. But the fact that employment is ready for them all shows that this distress should not be of long continuance, and that great social revolution is being accomplished with much less suffering to the oppressed and liberated race than was to be feared.
The refugees who flocked to Washington at the beginning of the war congregated in camps and hovels in the outskirts of the city, and