In some places, where this element seemed likely for a time to predominate, the firmness and energy of these officers enforced the law and convinced the seditious that resistance was futile.
But the healthy influence exercised by them was not confined to combating and disarming the enemies of the Government in their districts. It was also manifested in the great moral force exerted by them and their subordinates throughout the country in maintaining the national cause and aiding in the formation and dissemination of a proper public sentiment regarding the recruitment of the loyal Army and the prosecution of the struggle of the integrity of the Union.
The conscription was not presented as a popular measure, but as one of stern necessity, and it was not be expected that the officers whose business it was to enforce it could escape the odium cast upon it by its opposers.
It was difficult to convince the drafted man, whose family depended on his labor for support, and who was unable to provide a substitute or pay commutation, that the law which forced him to enter the service as intended for his benefit, or that the Board of Enrollment had not done him injustice in refusing to exempt him.
The opponents of the measure were prompt to render pretended sympathy and encourage opposition by misrepresenting facts, magnifying cases of real hardship, or creating imaginary grievances where real ones were wanting.
The action of civil courts was invoked and the officers subjected to harassing litigation, and in many instances fines were imposed upon them for acts done in their official capacity, pursuant to the orders of superior and competent authority.
It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the satisfactory manner in which the duty has been discharged, notwithstanding the above-mentioned obstacles.
I am confined that there is no class of public servants to whom the country is more indebted for valuable services rendered than t the district provost-marshals and their associates (comprising the boards of enrollment), by whose efforts the Army of the Union which suppressed the rebellion was mainly recruited.
I have deemed it proper to allude to this subject, because it has been considered by the War Department that upon these officers brevet rank for meritorious services could not properly be bestowed. Their names appear in the register, Appendix, Document 34.
The exigencies of the service rendered it impracticable to state the operations of the Bureau in detail in the annual reports heretofore submitted.
With the return of peace, it is deemed appropriate and important that the statistical and other information of professional and historical value acquired by the Bureau should be preserved in permanent form, and with a view to this I submit the subjoined report.
In conclusion, I beg leave to remark that while I am aware that no bureau can claim special credit for faithful performance of duty, still it may be properly said that, in accomplishing the results before enumerated, this Bureau has the merit of having acted under extraordinary circumstances and difficulties, such as the vastness of the powers conferred on it, the peculiar character of the laws governing it, and, above all, the novelty in our country of the measure of conscription; and yet, without neglecting or evading any public duty, the rights of citizens have been duly considered and personal liberty