War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0751 UNION AUTHORITIES.

Search Civil War Official Records

General Order 92 called upon all officers and soldiers absent without proper authority to return to duty before August 11, and prescribed a muster of each regiment and corps on the 18th of August, all absents from the same to be considered deserters; and further said:

The U. S.marshals in the respective districts, the mayor and chief of police in any town or city, the sheriff of the respective counties in each State, all postmasters and justices of the peace, are authorized to act as special provost-marshals to arrest any officer or private soldier fit for duty who may be found absent from his command without just cause, and convey him to the nearest military post or depot. The transportation, reasonable expenses of this duty, and $5 will be paid for each officer and solider so arrested and delivered.

By General Orders, No. 140 (September 24), there was in instituted a corps of provost-marshals, to be controlled by a provost- marshal-general, whose duty was to arrest, spies, &c. To perform this they were to call upon my available military force at hand, or to employ the assistance of citizens, constables, sheriffs, or police officers. Colonel S. Draper was made Provost-Marshal- General under this order. There are no available records to show how many deserters were arrested by this organization, but they were undoubtedly few.

The above shows the difficulties encountered, and the ineffectual remedies adopted before the establishment of your Bureau. With an army as large as ours, it has been found cheaper to have a regular system of provost-marshals throughout the country, by whose means at least two-thirds of the deserters have been returned to duty and their comrades deterred from following their example.

On the 3rd of March, 1863, the first enrollment act became law. It provided, inter alia, for the appointment of a provost-marshal fort every Congressional district, and a provost-marshal-general, who should furnish them with the name and residence of all deserters from the Army and Navy when reported to him by their commanding officers, and made in the duty of provost-marshals to arrest all such.

Under section 26 of this act the President, on the 10th of March, issued a proclamation pardoning all deserters who should voluntarily report before April 1. The number who returned is not on record.

On the 24th of March, 1863, General Orders, No. 72, required commanders of regiments, independent battalions, companies, and batteries, surgeons in charge of hospitals or detachments, and all persons in the military service controlling detached parties, to report on the last day of every month to the Provost-Marshal- General the names of all men of their command who had deserted during the previous month, or who had not been already reported. This report was to be made in the form of a descriptive list, setting forth, also their place of residence, and such available information as might lead to their arrest.

On the establishment of your Bureau, Major Chauncey McKeever was ordered to receive the reports called for by the above order and attended to all official correspondence relating to deserters. This branch was thus organized April 8, 1863, with a force of eight clerks.

The reports of deserters began to come in early in April. At first the originals were forwarded to the acting assistant provost-marshal-general of the States to which the regiments of the deserters belonged. But it was found after a few weeks" experience that this system was inadequate, and about the beginning of May the clerical force of the branch was increased, and a copy of the descriptive list of each deserter was sent to the provost-marshal of the district in which the