ACTG. ASST. PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL'S OFFICE,
WESTERN DIVISION OF PENNSYLVANIA,
Harrisburg, December 12, 1864.
Brigadier General JAMES B. FRY.
Provost-Marshal-General, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: In addition to the special inspection reports of offices of district provost-marshals and boards of enrollment, and that a clear idea may be obtained of the condition of the Bureau in this division, I have the honor to make the following report in regard to the condition of this office and of the division under my charge and also to make sundry recommendations which my short experience leads me to believe will be for the benefit of the department. The Western Division of Pennsylvania not only comprises an immense area, being five-sixths of the whole territory of the State, but from its peculiar physical and geographical features, and the nature and occupation of its inhabitants, presents greater obstacles to the provost-marshal in the execution of his duty than any other portion of the loyal States. From northeast to southwest innumerable ranges of mountains traverse the State, rendering access difficult and offering secure retreats and hiding places to deserters and delinquent drafted men. West of the western range of mountains and extending nearly to Lake Erie is a vast wilderness (nearly one-sixth of the State), covered with virgin forests of hemlock and pine. The inhabitants, living almost entirely from the proceeds of their labor as lumbermen, are ignorant and easily imposed upon by designing politicians, but are hardy, vigorous and make good soldiers. Scarcely any roads traverse this wilderness. The mass of the population are roving in their habits, removing from place to place as the facilities for obtaining lumber prompt. On the western edge of this wilderness is the great oil region of Pennsylvania, wonderful in its growth and migratory as to its population. Underneath almost the whole division lie immense beds of coal, the working of which gives employment to the very worst class of beings, both native and foreign, to be found in this country.
The difficulties which beset the acting assistant provost- marshal-general and his assistants in the vast and sparsely settled territory, the mountains, wilderness, oil regions, and coal mines, can readily be imagined. The headquarters of the division are at Harrisburg, the most central point as regards transportation, &c. My experience so far, however, satisfies me that ease of access is not a desideratum. From all parts of the division persons are flocking to my office on frivolous errands, which the boards of their own districts can and do decide properly. The great objection to Harrisburg is that it is the State capital. Here center all the political cliques and cabals of the State, each of which thinks the acting assistant provost- marshal-general should be its creature and obey its behests. Each of these cliques has its special pets to foster, its special enemies to overcome. It is almost impossible to obtain a clerk whose appointment does not excite the ire of some good patriot. No man has ever struggled harder than myself to steer clear of these political entanglements and do my duty to the Government without fear favor or affection and I fear I may safely add that no man has succeeded in making more and more bitter enemies. I am satisfied, however that under the present condition of political feeling (and personal feeling among politicians) that no man on the face of the earth can come here and do my duties for three months without making bitter enemies of some one of the cliques.