The business in the claim of this division has been increasing rapidly since the passage of the act of Congress of July 4, 1864.
During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865, the whole number of claims, regular and miscellaneous, filed amounts to 4,174.
Number acted on................................ 2,792
Number not acted on............................ 1,382
Very little progress has been in the adjustment of these claims, as previous to January 1, 1865, only 800 had been filed, 3,374 having been filed during the last six months.
Considering the many disadvantages under which officers of this department labored in the discharge of their duties in the field, and the necessity of instructing important positions to acting quartermasters, I find claims for animals taken for public use by them to be comparatively easy of adjustment, as, with but few exceptions, the proper accountability has been rendered except in cases where records and papers have been captured or destroyed by the enemy; hence the great mass of claims filed is for property taken by unauthorized officers of the Army, not accountable to this department.
The following difficulties are met with in the adjudication of these claims viz:
First. Where memoranda receipts are given and the signatures of the officers certifying are unknown, and the only evidence the claimants can furnish that the officers took the property are the receipts themselves, great difficulty and embarrassment result from not being able to determine the genuineness of the signatures. Before the muster out of service of the troops it was the practice to communicate by letter with the officers themselves. The number of receipts given by irresponsible and unknown parties in the name of officers has attached suspicion to many claims, no doubt just and equitable, which I do not feel satisfied to pass upon without the verification of the officer's signature.
Second. Where memoranda receipts have not been given I am of opinion that the interests of the Government cannot be sufficiently protected by adjudicating these claims upon the ex parte evidence, which under present regulations can only be procured. As a general rule, just and equitable decisions cannot be given upon evidence presented by claimants unless the department can adopt some practice of examining witnessess originate.
Proof of loyalty seems to be so easily procured that from the records of this division it would seem that few have ever been disloyal, and I respectfully suggest that an additional guard be thrown around this kind of evidence; at least to require officers and witnesses to state their reasons for believing the claimants to have been loyal at the dates the claims originated.
The kind and character of evidence furnished in support of the great mass of these claims are insufficient to satisfy me that the property has been "actually received or taken for the use of and used by" the U. S. Army. As the act is now construed a very limited number of the claims on file will be allowed, and if a more liberal construction is given in regard to the phrase "proper officer," I would respectfully suggest that a board of officers be appointed in each military department to examine and report upon these claims.