Section 21 of the act approved March 3, 1865, provided that, in addition to the other lawful penalties for the crime of desertion, all deserters who did not return within sixty days should be deemed to have relinquished their right of citizenship and their right to become citizens, and were disqualified from holding office under the United States. The same penalties were prescribed for all who might subsequently desert either from actual military service or to escape the draft.
The Articles of War prescribe the death penalty for the convicted deserter in time of war. The law on the subject in therefore sufficient.
The business in my office relating to deserters has formed a distinct branch, as heretofore shown in statement of the organization of the office. It received the earliest attention of the Bureau, an was continually looked after with special care. The report of the officer lately in immediate charge of it is in Appendix, Document 7.
On the 16th of July, the reward for apprehending a deserter was increased to $10, and in September, 1863, it was further increased to $30, at which it remained until March 11, 1865, when an order was issued by the Secretary of War discontinuing all rewards for the arrest of deserters, this order having, however, been since modified so as to allow the reward of $30 for the arrest of deserters from the Regular Army.
As required by orders, the various commanders of troops made to this office, from time to time, reports of the desertions from their commands. From these documents, which, however, are not entirely complete, it appears that 268, 530 desertions have taken place since the war commenced in 1861. But it of those embraced in this return were not deserters in fact, but men who, without the knowledge of their officers, became unavoidably absent from various causes-sickness, injuries, accidents, intentionally or unintentionally overstaying their furloughs, &c.- and, being reported to this office as deserters, went to swell the aggregate, notwithstanding that their absence was afterward satisfactorily accounted for. This aggregate is further increased by the fact that the same men deserted and were reported more than once.
In the war just closed there was too much marching and fighting to permit regimental and company commanders to make full and accurate returns, covering all points; but from the best data furnished, it is thought that the aggregate of desertions, 268,530, should be reduced 25 per cent. on the above account, leaving the actual desertions 201,397. This induces drafted men who deserted after being examined and held to service, but does not include the drafted men who failed to report in response to the draft.
It will be observed from the table a that of those reported as deserters, 92,095, or nearly two-fifths of all reported, deserted prior to April 1, 1863, when the duty of their arrest was assumed by this Bureau. It is known how many deserters were arrested between the beginning of the war and April 1, 1863. Since that date 75,909 have been arrested through the instrumentality of this Bureau, making an average of about 3,000 per month. Thus nearly two-thirds as many deserters have been arrested by this Bureau and returned to the service as have deserted since the Bureau was established. When it is remembered that some of these criminals joined the enemy and more went to foreign parts, it is fair to conclude that no large proportion remained with impunity within our jurisdiction. It is known,
a See Appendix, Doc.7.