organizing this Bureau, however, showed the indispensability of a military force of some kind for the efficient execution of the various provisions of the enrollment act.
A plan was therefore submitted by my letter of April 17, 1863, by which it was proposed, first, to retain the military services for garrison, hospital, and provost duty of that class of deserving officers and men who, from wounds received in action or disease contracted in the service, were unfit for further duty in the field, and who, would otherwise be discharged, but were still able to perform light duty; second, to bring back for like purpose those who had previously been discharged on similar grounds, were unfit for active service, and not liable to draft.
The necessity for the action taken on this plan was not limited to the wants of this Bureau. The drain caused by the war on the able-bodied men of the country had been so severe that an intelligent economy of the public strength demanded that some portion of the vast numbers of soldiers unfit for field service should be utilized for military purposes. To enlist or conscript disabled men, except under the extremest pressure of necessity, would have been cruelty and folly; but to keep in service experienced soldiers, who were simply disabled for the march; to relieve with them at least an equal number of able- bodies men, who could thus be sent to the front; to provide the Government with a reliable military police force, urgently needed in time of raids, riots, and the like, and to constitute a garrison force with unity of organization and purpose, and of high military esprit, and all this without the expense of recruitment or the severity of conscription, seemed to be a most desirable object. That the object was attained to an extent not at first even hoped for, the history of the Veteran Reserve Corps fully attests.
It is proper to state that prior to the organization of the corps the practice of discharging partially disabled soldiers had been somewhat limited, and that some of the invalids were required to perform light duties. Being, however, retained on the rolls of their respective companies, they weakened the Army, for, though absent in person, their places could not be filled by recruits, as they performed part of the authorized strength of the organization to which they belonged.
The plan of organization for the Invalid or Veteran Reserve Corps was announced in General Orders, No. 105, dated April 28, 1863 a The Provost-Marshal General was charged with the execution of the order, and the troops raised under it were placed under his control. Stringent measures were adopted with a view to admitting only such disabled officers of good habits as were well indorsed for good conduct in the field, and possessed of the industry, education, and intelligence necessary to make efficient officers and form an Honorable as well as useful corps.
Competent boards were instituted to examine the officers applying for admission, the question of disability being determined by medical men in the service of the Government. No applicant was examined for appointment until he had filled in this office satisfactory recommendations from his superiors in the field as to good character and behavior in active service.
There were three sources from which the material for the formation of the corps could be drawn: (1) Men still in the field who had been disabled by wounds or by disease contracted in the line of duty; (2) men absent from their colors in hospitals or convalescent camps, or
a See Appendix, Doc.23.