War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0543 UNION AUTHORITIES.

Search Civil War Official Records



Washington, D. C., November 30, 1865.

Brigadier General JAMES B. FRY,


GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this Bureau from this organization up to September 30, 1865. In preparing it the principle has been kept in view that a history of the Bureau, conceived with regard to its most important relations, becomes a history of that branch of the Army of which it has been the official center.

Whether the Veteran Reserve Corps has been of service to the country, what has been the method of its organization, what were the errors, and what the merits of that method are the main points that I have attempted to elucidate.


The Invalid Corps, subsequently styled the Veteran Reserve Corps, sprang from a national necessity. So severe was the draft of the war on the able-bodied manhood of the American people that an intelligent economy of the public forces demanded that some portion of the vast number of men who are unfit for field service should be utilized for military purposes.

To conscript or enlist infirm citizens would have been cruelty and folly, except under the extremest pressure of necessity. But to keep in service experienced soldiers who were simply disabled for the march; to relieve with them more than their own number of able-bodied men, who could thus be sent from the rear to the front; to provide the Government with a reliable military police, urgently needed in a time of raids, riots, and treasonable, or at least injudicious murmuring; to constitute a garrison force admirable for its unity of organization and purpose, and all without the expense of recruiting or the severity of conscription, was a labor of mercy and wisdom.


The first step in the direction of this result was taken within a year of the commencement of the war. On the 7th of April, 1862, the War Department authorized the chief medical officer in each city to employ as nurses, cooks, and hospital attendants any convalescent wounded or feeble men who could perform such duties, instead of giving them a discharge. In this, however, there was no germ of organization, but rather the contrary; the invalids thus occupied were useful indeed, but they ceased to be soldiers in fact and in spirit; and in too many instances they continued to be mere hangers-on of hospitals long after they were able to resume the musket. Not until nearly a year later did the War Department institute a measure which distinctly pointed to the idea of an Invalid or Veteran Reserve Corps. In General Orders, Numbers 69, Adjutant-General's Office, March 20, 1863, it was directed that the feeble and wounded men in hospitals who were unfit for field duty, but still not entirely disabled, should be organized into detachments under the charge of officers acting as military commanders. From these invalid detachments were detailed provost, hospital, and other guards, clerks, nurses, cooks, and other extra-duty men. For the first time in the war strictly military authority and system