DOCUMENT Numbers 7. Report of "Deserters" Branch."
Washington, D. C., December 31, 1865.
Brigadier General JAMES B. FRY,
Provost-Marshal-General, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit my report the proceedings of the "Deserters" Branch" of your Bureau since its organization in the spring of 1863, and have prefixed a few pages about the arrest of deserters before its establishment.
The "paper work" of arresting deserters (to which this branch has been confined) has not been liable to many changes, and I have had but few improvements to suggest, considering that, as now constituted, the branch is in an effective condition. I have given a sketch of its working, which will suffice to reorganize it if needful, and which forms an index to its records.
Until September, 1861, arrests of deserters were made in conformity with section 152, Army Regulations, which offered $30 reward for the apprehension and delivery of a deserter to an officer of the Army at the most convenient post of recruiting station; that at that time General Orders, Numbers 73, substituted a reward of $5 instead of $30. This sum included all expenses, and but few deserters were arrested-these chiefly by citizens.
In April, 1862, General Orders, Numbers 36, Adjutant-General's Office, laid the duty of "collecting stragglers" and deserters on the military commanders of cities, nothing being ordered with regard to country districts. This was the first organized attempt to arrest and punish the many deserters from our volunteer forces then at large.
In June, General Order 61 called attention to the great number of officers absent on leave, and notified all such that they would be considered "absent without leave" unless found at their posts within fifteen days from the date of the order, or excused by the Adjutant-General on proper certificate of disability. Those still unfit for duty, but able to travel, were to report at Annapolis, or Camp Chase, Ohio, for examination and medical treatment, or discharge.
General Order 65 forbade commanding officers of companies or regiments to give "furloughs on any pretext whatever," as such furloughs would not relieve a soldier from the charge of desertion and the consequent penalty; and called upon military commanders to publish in some newspaper a notice requiring all soldiers in the vicinity, not on treatment in a U. S. hospital, to report without delay, on penalty of being considered deserters.
General Order 72 revoked all furloughs granted to paroled prisoners and ordered them to report without delay to certain specified rendezvous or be considered deserters and dealt with accordingly, and directed all commanding, mustering, and recruiting officers, and requested Governors of States, to make known the order as far as possible.
In July, General Order 78 called attention to the full medical facilities afforded to all soldiers in U. S. hospitals, and said that "the unauthorized removal of soldiers from under the control of the U. S. authorities by any agents whatever subjects them to loss of pay and other penalties of desertion."