present these views and facts, because it is absolutely essential that they be properly weighed and considered when a war begins and before a system of bounties is inaugurated, for once involved in the system it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to escape from it, or even restrict the rapid growth of its evils.
There can be no cause so just or so beloved that war in its behalf will not be attended by desertion among its defenders. The extent of the evils is governed by circumstances, but is always directly affected by the relative leniency or severity with which the crime is treated. Our experience in this regard during the late war has been costly and extensive, and is worthy of special note.
Prior to the commencement of the war in April, 1861, the Army Regulations authorized a reward of $30 for the arrest and delivery of a deserter to an officer of the Army. It was then and is still the duty of every officer to arrest deserters, but the duty did not belong specially to any class of officers and the arrests made were generally by the police of cities for the reward offered. During the spring and summer of 1861 large bodies of volunteer troops were called into service, and desertion became frequent. Looking back by the light of experience, it would seem that this fact should have induced an increase of the reward offered or the adoption of other measures to check the evil; but, on the contrary, few arrests were made, tunishment was not increased, and an order was issued from the Adjutant-General's Office on the 7th of September, 1861, reducing the reward from $30 to $5, the latter amount to cover all the expenses of apprehension and delivery. This proved prohibitory to action, and the economy practiced was found in the end to have been expensive. The evil grew, and on the 7th of April, 1862, by General Orders, No. 36, from the Adjutant-General's Office, the duty of collecting stragglers and deserters was especially assigned to the military commanders of cities, but both their authority and means were so limited that little improvement resulted, notwithstanding that in June and July, 1862, general orders were published requiring and commanding all absentees to return under severe penalties, and calling upon the civil as well as the military authorities to contribute their services to this end.
On the 24th of September, 1862, a general order was issued appointing Simeon Draper, esq., Provost-Marshal-General, and authorizing various assistants, with a view to checking the evil from which the service was then seriously suffering. I have no data from which to determine the extent of this effort or its true results, but it is certain that the abuse was not removed.
Sections 5,6,7,24, and 26 of enrollment act a approved March 3, 1863, laid the foundation of a system for correcting the evil of desertion. It was made the duty of a provost-marshal-general in Washington to ascertain and communicate to a provost-marshal appointed in each Congressional district such facts connected with the desertion of the different men of that class as would be likely to facilitate their arrest, and the law required the provost-marshal to seek out, arrest, and return deserters. Any person procuring or enticing a soldier to desert, or harboring, concealing, giving employment to, or aiding in carrying him away was made liable to imprisonment and fine.
a See Appendix, Doc.35.