OCTOBER 13, 1862.
The HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA:
I regret to find myself compelled to return without my signature, an act which originated in your body entitled "An act to reorganize and promote the efficiency of the Medical Department of the Provisional Army. " I entirely concur in the desire to accomplish the objects contemplated in the act, and have delayed its return in the hope that some additional legislation might obviate the difficulties that would embarrass the operation of the act in its present form.
The act seems to be based on the assumption that there exists a "Medical Department of the Provisional Army," and this fact is not only set forth in the title, but some of the provisions are so worded as to be inoperative by reason of this assumption. Thus the first section provides "that the rank, pay, and allowances of brigadier-general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States be, and the same are hereby, conferred on the Surgeon-General of the same. " There exists no such officer as the Surgeon-General of the Provisional Army. The plain intent, therefore, of Congress to confer the rank of brigadier-general in the Provisional Army on the Surgeon-General of the permanent Army would be defeated unless the language of this section be changed.
According to the provisions of the law as it now stands there is a Medical Department organized for the permanent Army under the act of the 26th of February, 1861, entitled "An act for the establishment and organization of a general staff for the Army of the Confederate States of America," the chief of which is styled the Surgeon-General. The only legislation providing for medical officers for provisional trop is the ninth section of the act of 6th of March, 1861, which enacts that when volunteers or militia are called into the service of the Confederate States in such numbers that the "officers of the Medical Department, which may be authorized by law for the regular service, are not sufficient for * * * furnishing them with the requisite medical attendance, it shall be lawful for the President to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Congress, as many additional officers of the said Department as the service may require, not exceeding * * * one surgeon and one assistant surgeon for each regiment, * * * to continue in service only so long as their services may be reburied in connection with the militia or volunteers. "
There is an act of 14th of August, 1861, on the same subject, but it confines the appointments authorized by it to such surgeons and assistant surgeons as may be necessary for the various hospitals.
The third and fourth sections of the act now returned to you permit and require the assignment of a number of surgeons and assistant surgeons to military departments, to divisions, to brigades, and to infantry and cavalry regiments largely in excess of the number allowed by the law just quoted, but no authority is given for the appointment of the increased number of medical officers, and it would be impracticable to execute the law unless by adopting the inadmissible construction that an authority to assign officers to duty implies an authority to appoint new officers. Such a construction would be the less justifiable in the present instance, because in the second section, in which new officers are authorized, the language of the act directs appointments to be made, but in the third and fourth sections the language is changed and assignments only are permitted.