Such was the disposition of the corps, and the following, in general terms, the nature of services performed:
The duties of the corps during the past year were better understood than in previous years, which gave to it more tone and character, and enabled it to approximate in most of the military departments to its true position.
In one-the Department of the Gulf-it combined all the branches of the corps of information which it was designed, and of right ought, to be. H ere it added to aerial telegraphing, telescopic reconnoitering, and general scouting, the entire secret service department, thus having all information usually gathered from these sources flow into one common center, where it was compared, classified, reduced to logical form, and then laid before the commanding general to be acted upon. The advantage arising from thus concentrating these services is specially apparent in the fact that particular reports and doubtful information could be thoroughly sifted, and tested in two, three, or more different modes by the one officer having control of the several means for collecting knowledge of the enemy's movements and designs.
In other military departments, as I have stated, the corps only approximated to this more perfect system of economy. But as the value of concentration in military organizations was being daily more and more recognized, eventually assigned to the corps wherever a detachment of it would have been placed upon duty.
In the Army of the Potomac our duties were limited to signal communication, observing and reporting the changes and movements of the enemy, and such aide duty as we were called upon to perform.
In the armies operating under Major-General Sherman the signal detachment added to signaling and telescopic reconnoitering, general scouting, courier, guide, and aide duty.
The detachment in the Department of the South was limited to keeping communication open between the several military posts along the coast, and between the land and naval forces, when operating in conjunction.
Upon the plains a detachment operated with the various expeditions against the Indians, keeping open communication between detached parties and the main body of the army.
In the Department of Pennsylvania the signal detachment was employed in watching the crossing of the Potomac, as well as doing general outpost duty, with instructions to give timely information to the commanding general of any threatening danger, that it might be met upon the threshold of the department, and overcome before any injury could be done to the community.
In the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, in addition to communicating by signals between portions of the army, and the observing of the movements of the enemy, the detachment was beneficially employed in various expeditions and operations of the army and navy combined, connecting the commanders of the two forces so immediately as to make their several efforts harmonize in such manner that their blows fell with double effect upon the strongholds and battalions of the enemy.
The insurrectionary armies having been, at the opening of the spring campaign, forced to surrender, and the power of the Government having been re-established to its rightful extent, the great work of disbanding and returning to the conditions of peace the military