War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0614 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

deserters at the earliest practicable moment. The commissioners and surgeons were next appointed, and by making every possible exertion most of the boards of enrollment were fully organized early in May, 1863. The time consumed in making a careful selection of officers caused no delay in accomplishing the objects of the law. This period was industriously devoted to the preparation of a code of regulations, a without which the boards, if sooner organized, could have made no useful progress in their principal duties.

Devising the blank forms, which were indispensable to secure uniformity and efficiency in the novel and complicated business to be conducted by the Bureau, formed an important feature in the preparation of the regulations. A copy of these regulations, the same in their general features as originally adopted, but modified in details to meet changes in the law and the experience of the Bureau, is appended to this report. Although prepared in advance, for the execution of a measure entirely new and experimental, they have been found to provide well for the requirements of the service; and if it shall every become necessary hereafter to resume the business of the Bureau, it is thought that they will, with the other information accompanying this report, render it comparatively an easy task to revive what was not originated without great labor and difficulty. These regulations, and the orders subsequently issued, were perhaps more exacting as to the performance of the duties required, and in the observance of forms and details, than would have been necessary in a bureau composed of experienced commissioned officers, and charged only with duties of a purely military character. The appointees were generally taken from civil life. They knew that their appointments had been made mainly thnce; they were distant from headquarters, and with great powers, not clearly defined in or limited by law; they were, owing to the disturbed state of the country and the party divisions of the time, exposed to the temptations of undue and dangerous exercise of authority. In order that there should be no misunderstanding as to their duty and responsibility to the United States, and that they might be strengthened to bear up against local pressure and interest, a rigid obedience was required to rules and orders which exacted a systematic performance of duty, and which, by means of frequent reports and returns, made in compliance with them, kept the chief of the Bureau informed, in minute detail, of the management of each office. Decided advantages to the General Government resulted from this wholesome rigor. There are not many instances on record in which officers of this Bureau stepped out of their proper sphere of duty, or attempted to subordinate the public to local or private interests, and but few, if any, in which such attempts have not been defeated. The views expressed above as to the repressive influence of the strict regulations adopted are not intended to cast any reflection on the intentions, or depreciate the merits, of the officers of the Bureau, whose integrity and devotion I have already expressly acknowledged.

Organization of boards of enrollment.

For the performance of the duties required of them by law, and the regulations of the Bureau, the Board of Enrollment in each Congressional district was organized as follows, viz:

Three regular clerks were appointed. One of these, in addition to his other duties, acted as recorder of the Board. As the wants of the

a See Appendix, Doc. 37.