provided they can have assurance that unwilling persons similarly situated will be compelled to do likewise. Besides this, volunteers mostly choose to enter newly formed regiments, while drafted men can be sent to fill the old ones, wherein, man for man, they are quite doubly as valuable.
This subject received the early attention of the Congress which assembled in December, 1862. The following extracts from the remarks of distinguished Senators and Members of the House present correctly and forcibly the importance of the subject:
To fill the thinned ranks of our battalions we must again call upon the people. The immense numbers already summoned to the field, the scarcity and high rewards of labor, press upon all of us the conviction that the ranks of our wasted regiments cannot be filled again by the old system of volunteering. If volunteers will not respond to the call of the country, then we must resort to the involuntary system. (Senator Henry Wilson.)
Volunteers we cannot obtain and everything forbids that we should resort to the temporary expedient of calling out the militia. Such a call would waste the resources and absorb the energies and increase but little the military forces of the country. The needs of the Nation demand that we should rely not upon volunteering, nor upon calling forth the militia, but that we should fill the regiments now in the field, worn and wasted by disease and death, by enrolling and drafting the population of the country under the constitutional authority to raise and support armies. (Senator Henry Wilson.)
I agree with the Senator from Massachusetts that it is necessary to fill up the ranks of our army, and that it is necessary there should be a conscription bill. (Senator Richardson.)
Now, in regard to this conscription question, I will say, for myself, that I regretted much, when this war was first organized, that the conscription, rule did not obtain. I went from the extreme east to the extreme west of the loyal States. I found some districts where some bold leaders brought out all the young men and sent them or led them to the field. In order districts-- and they were the most numerous--the people made no movement toward the maintenance of the war, there were whole towns and cities, I may say, where no one volunteered to shoulder a musket and no one offered to lead them into the service. The whole business has been unequal and wrong from the first. The rule of conscription should have, been the rule to bring out men of all, classes and make it equal throughout the country; and therein the North has failed. (Senator McDougall.)
The necessity for a bill of the character of that under consideration has long existed. I think it would have been far better for the country if it had been enacted at the extra session in July, 1861. For a want of a general enrollment of the forces of the United States and a systematic calling out of those forces, we have experienced al the inconveniences of a volunteer system, with its enormous expense, ill discipline, and irregular efforts, and have depended upon spasmodic efforts of the people, elated or depressed by the varying fortunes of war or the rise or fall of popular favorites in the Army. I believe I hazard nothing in saying that we should have lost fewer men in the field and from disease and been much nearer the end of this destructive war had we earlier availed ourselves of the power conferred by the Constitution and at last proposed to be adopted by this bill. For short and irregular efforts no force can be better than a volunteer army. With brave and skillful officers and a short and active term of service, volunteer troops are highly efficient. But when a war is to last for years, as this will have done, however, soon we may see its termination, it must depend for its success upon regular and systematic forces. Thinned regiments must be filled up; otherwise we may have the spectacle of a vast array of troops upon paper, nominally representing an enormous force, while little but the shell of an organization remains. Such filling up is not possible to any degree under the volunteer system, as the Government has had occasion to know in this wfer to organize into regiments of their own forming, where they have a voice in the creation of their officers, and hence some hopes of immunity from the toils of war, or a blindness to many faults destructive to military discipline. The consequence is that, by means of discharges, sick-leaves, deaths, and the various accidents of war, it will in many cases take four or five regiments, if consolidated, to make one full one. Supernumerary officers are paid out of the public purse for services they are not called upon to perform, and new officers, lacking experience, are in charge of the new and, hence, full regiments, when the older and experienced officers would be more efficient and make more effective use of the new troops if they had the disciplining and leading of them.