The President's proclamation of March 10 , 1865, did not met with the response anticipated. It was extensively published everywhere, and constant attention, was called to its provisions through the public by editorials and otherwise; still, only 1,755 availed themselves of it. At the expiration of the sixty days allowed for the voluntary return of deserters orders were issued to recommence their arrest; but as almost all deputies and special agents had before that time been discharged and the reward discontinued, but few arrests have since been made.
The large bounties given to volunteers have undoubtedly been an inducement to many to desert for the purpose of re-enlisting; but a still greater inducement has been the leniency with which the most culpable deserters, have been treated. Had the extreme penalty attached to desertion been invariably carried into execution bounty-jumping and desertion would not have reached such gigantic proportions. The time elapsing, too, between arrest and trial give the reckless and often skillful deserter opportunity to escape. In the case of desperate and well-known offenders, a speedy trial and short shrift would have exerted a salutary influence.
It is curious how the stories circulated by deserters gain credence. To palliate their crime they tell tales of hardships endured by them, and of barbarities practiced upon them by their officers; and, though generally false in every respect, these stories are retailed through the country by themselves and friends, exaggerated in every possible way, and believed by many. Being tied up by the thumbs, though not a severe punishment, sounds to those who suppose it means "hung up by the tugs" like a most barbarous proceeding. These stories would seem, from the reports of provost-marshals, to have been among the most serious obstacles to recruiting.
Of the deserters regained about 42 per cent, have been arrested by special officers, 33 per cent. by citizens, and 25 per cent. have voluntarily surrendered themselves, including those under the President's proclamations.
The work of this branch needed at the season of hardest labor (December, 1864), besides about fifteen copyists, a clerk for superintendent of the roll-room; one for examining and preparing reports from regiments" copyists keeping the list of work done by them; one for briefing the reports; one having charge of the files of reports; one having charge of the book in which the regimental reports and number of desertions therein reported are entered, and one to keep the "deserters-arrested" book, in which a summary of the monthly return of the provost-marshals is entered; besides which the current business required a chief clerk and two or there clerks to keep the letter brook, "letters- received" books, and indorsement book.
This force seems to have been necessary to do the work of this branch at a time when desertions reported averaged about 6,000 a month, and deserters arrested 4,000.
It is thought that no better suggestions can be made as to the mode of carrying on the bureau of deserters (if it should ever again be established), than to sketch the modus operandi which has been adopted, after two years" experience, as the best calculated to secure the prompt arrest of deserters.
Monthly returns are made by the "commandants of regiments, battalions not included in regiments, independent companies or batteries and detachments, surgeons in charge of hospitals and detachments, and all persons in the military service commanding or controlling