A Niter Bureau has also been organized, and under its able and indefatigable head, Major I. M. St. John, is doing good service. General Orders, No. 41, herewith communicated, was issued to facilitate the operations of the Bureau. * The production of niter is already 1,000 pounds a day, and there is good reason to think that it will reach 3,000 pounds a day and supply our consumption.
A map of a reconnaissance and Major St. John's report are herewith returned. + The Bureau has been directed to turn its attention to the mining of such materials as are required for the Army, and will do much to develop their production.
The act authorizing bands of partisan rangers has been carried into execution. Apprehending that the novelty of the organization, and the supposed freedom from control, would attract great numbers in the partisan corps, the Department adopted a rule requiring a recommendation from a general commanding a department before granting authority to raise partisans. Notwithstanding this restriction, there is reason to fear that the number of partisan corps greatly exceed the requirements of the service, and that they seriously impede recruiting for regiments of the line.
The precaution has been taken to require their organization to conform in all respects to that of other troops, and it will be only necessary to brigade such of them as are not needed for partisan service to make them in fact troops of the line, although nominally partisans. I recommend that this be authorized.
Since the adjournment of Congress our stock of arms has been largely increased by importation and capture. Our small-arms alone have increased from these sources not less than 80,000. Our supply of ammunition has also been increased by importation and manufacture, and, as already stated, we may except at no distant day that the active and methodical operations of the Niter Corps will supply our demand and make us independent of foreign importation.
I deem it unnecessary to say anything of the operations of the Army since the adjournment of Congress. The time has not arrived for their complete disclosure, but enough and patience of our troops.
It is to be regretted that we cannot reward such services as the something may be done to show our appreciation of them. Courage and skill cannot always command promotion. Happily for us they far exceed our means of reward, if confined to mere material benefits. It would, however, be doing our high-toned soldiers great injustice to suppose that rank and pay are their only incentives to exertion. I think that medals conferred as rewards for good conduct in the field cultivate the spirit which distinguishes the patriot soldier from the mercenary, and afford means of reward without injuring the Army by excessive promotion.
I recommend, therefore, that application be made for authority to confer medals upon such officers and men as distinguish themselves in battle.
A right to control the operations of our railroads to some extent is necessary to insure quick and safe transportation and to maintain the roads in a proper state of efficiency. The regular transportation of the roads is so much deranged by the movements of troops and munitions of war that a common head during the war is indispensable. I
*See VOL. I, this series, p. 1139.
+For report see p. 26.