Some discontent has arisen among the troops from a failure to pay them with regularity, particularly at posts and places distant from headquarters of the homes of the volunteers.
To detail an instructed and experienced quartermaster from headquarters for this service would frequently leave a post or important position unsupplied and the necessary routine neglected, and to send an officer new to the service and unacquainted with its duties would result in injury to the department, ruin to the officer, or loss to the soldier. Punctually is important in all the dealings of Government; it is particularly so with its Army. The troops should be paid every two months, and to insure its punctuality the pay-rolls should be prepared after each muster under the superintendence of an inspector and handed over to the officers of the Pay Department for payment.
The system in force in the U. S. Army might be adopted by adding thereto paymasters, with the rank of captain, requiring the senior paymaster in each district to make an estimate and receive funds for the whole of his district upon estimates made by the regimental quartermasters, who might pay their regiments from the funds receive for that purpose from the district paymaster, leaving the field and staff of the divisions and brigades and other floating accounts to be settled by the district paymaster.
The quartermasters unattached to regiments and acting as pay officers might be transferred to the Pay Department, and by their experience facilitate the adjustment of accounts and payments of troops at points where there are no regiments, the sick at general hospitals, and discharged soldiers. The need of this supervising power has caused large amounts of money to be twice paid to soldiers discharged for debility, necessity requiring in many cases payments to be made upon the statement of the soldier himself. Some dissatisfaction has been manifested by he creditors of this and the Subsistence Department from the want of punctuality in settling the debts contracted to be paid at the specified time, and this uncertainty of payment has caused exactions to be made and prices demanded of the Government officers greatly above the market rate, particularly at places distant from the capital, where credit is all important. This has been aggravated by the difficulty in preparing Treasury notes, the absence of facilities for transferring the funds, the trouble and responsibility of transmission, as well as the more pressing emergencies, or urgent solicitations of claimants, more convenient to headquarters.
To maintain an abundant and regular supply of provisions for the soldiers is the paramount duty of the commissary of subsistence, and to it everything else must be subordinate. To economize the public money and to justify expenditure and disbursement by well-authenticated accounts are important considerations, but even these must yield to the one great object of military administration-to keep the soldier in fighting condition at all times and under all circumstances.
Without system in the administration of this department the most fertile genius would prove powerless, and the most abundant resources insufficient; yet, so varying are the circumstances attending active warfare, so much influenced by the character of the operations, the resources and extend of the country, the disposition of the population, the confidence and credit in the Government, that far more reliance must be placed upon the intelligence, the ability, and the zeal of the commissary than upon any system established for general guidance. It is in availing himself of every expedient, in seizing every opportunity, in guarding against all risks and providing for all contingencies that the highest qualities of a good officer are put to the test. He must not rely on rumors or trust to probabilities; he must depend upon his own judgment and energy, and, by exerting all his foresight, skill, and decision, anticipate the wants of the troops in whatever position they may be placed.
The machinery, perfectly adapted to a season of peace and a country replete with resources, would entirely fail during a state of war with the ordinary source of supply stopped or diminished.
The returns of this department show that although its chief supply has been obtained within the Confederacy, heretofore considered insufficient to support its population, with an untiring, vigilant, and remorseless enemy surrounding and endeavoring by every means to starve as well as subjugate, we have had our Army well fed, and with an amount on hand so large as to place us beyond the reach for want for the ensuing campaign, and trusting in a kind Providence for our usual seasons and the preparations that are made throughout the Confederacy for the next crop, we need fear no coming want.