There are nineteen volumes of deserters arrested. In 1864 they were kept by States alphabetically, which was not as good for reference.
There are five volumes of records of the number of deserters reported.
Two volumes contain the record of the number of descriptive lists sent from this office to provost-marshals, and in one volume is entered date of receipt of the return of deserters arrested.
Letters of transmittal received with reports, and letters acknowledging receipt of descriptive lists sent to provost- marshals, are filed separately.
It has been suggested that on every man's descriptive list at enlistment there be entered such marks as he may have about him, to facilitate his identification in case he should desert. Such marks as many men have tattooed on their forearms and hands, birthmarks, scars, &c.,might be noted under "remarks" on every enlistment paper.
The miscellaneous business pertaining to the arrest of deserters (answering communications about exceptional cases, &c.) is conducted in strict accordance with the Adjutant-General's pamphlet of instructions.
The blank department has been under the control of the officer in charge of the "Deserters" Branch," and it may be well to give a sketch of its business.
As soon as the blanks are received from the Public Printer they are carefully counted, and a colored strip of paper inserted to mark every hundred, so that the number on hand can at any time be ascertained at a glance. They are then piled up and a record made of the exact number in an appropriate volume.
Provost-marshals make quarterly requisitions for the estimated number of blanks needed during the ensuing quarter, and such other requisitions from time to time as may prove necessary. These requisitions to through the acting assistant provost- marshal-general and are approved by them. They are filled as soon as received and then briefed and filed. An invoice is sent by mail at the same time with the blanks and a receipt from the provost-marshal to sign and return, which is then briefed and entered in the letters-received book and filed.
Attached to this report will be found two tabular statements, one of "deserters reported," from May, 1861, to December 31, 1865, and the other of "deserters arrested," from May, 1863, to December 31, 1865. They are both as correct as the records of the Bureau can make them.
Since the organization of this Bureau the desertions reported have been 278,644. This number is much too large. Many of those reported as deserters are not so in reality, but are men who became unavoidably absent from their commands by falling sick on the march, being injured in action without the knowledge of their officers,and reported "missing"and subsequently "deserted," and by intentionally or unintentionally overstaying their furloughs, &c. Most of this class afterward voluntarily reported, but having been placed in the "return of deserters" have swelled the aggregate.
It will be observed that 91,088 (or nearly two-fifths of those reported as deserters) deserted prior to the organization of this Bureau. It is not known how many of these were apprehended prior to that time.
The aggregate of arrests is 77, 181, an average of about 2,412 a month. Allowing 25 per cent. (which is a small estimate) for deserters reported who are not deserters in reality, it appears that the number of arrests made by the employes of this Bureau is nearly two-thirds of the number of desertions during the same period.