part. Board, however, have been constituted for the examination of candidates and are required to hold their sessions in different parts of the Confederacy, so as to afford similar facilities of access to those at a distance from the Capital. Some sessions have been held and reports been made assigning the order or merit in which the successful candidates have passed. It is the purpose of the Department when these lists have been completed to make the appointments from them, and as justice and implied faith seem to demand, to give priorities in commission according to the reported grades of qualification. The engineer officers already appointed and acting have proved most efficient aids, as well in field operations as in local works and defenses. They have had, however, no special corps of men, but only such as when occasion were detailed for the special service. It may be well doubted whether a company or two in each brigade should not be specially devoted to engineering work and be exclusively commanded by engineer officers. Greater skill and efficiency could not fail to be attaso employed, while the inconveniences which often from the delay in special details and the occasional controversies arising between the officers in command of the detailed men and engineer officers guiding their operations would be avoided. In connection with such a corps a company of pioneers and pontoniers, armed only with revolvers and sabers, but carrying some effective tool, as an ax, a pick, or a spade, might be advantageously constituted under the command of an engineer officer. One detachment of them might precede each brigade in its march, smoothing the roads and bridging the small streams, while another should accompany the trains prepared to remove impediments or give prompt assistance in case of accidents. The celerity of army movements, on which often great results depend, would be sensibly increased by such an arrangement.
The officers for ordnance service, as far as appointments have been made, have rendered the distribution of munitions, and the supply of arms and artillery more regular and complete, and have at the same time promoted economy in consumption, care in preservation, and greater efficiency in their use.
The Signal Corps has been filled and organized and is now in effective operation. It justifies the expectations entertained of its utility and contributes materially to the dispatch of orders, the transmission of intelligence, and the general safety of the Army. The policy of organizing corps of partisan rangers has not been approved by experience. The permanency of their engagements and their consequent inability to disband and reassemble at call precludes their usefulness as mere guerrillas, while the comparative independence of their military relations and the peculiar rewards allowed them for captures induce much license and many irregularities. They have not infrequently excited more odium and done more damage with friends than enemies. The men composing them would be more useful in the regular organizations, and while the Department has been reluctant it avoids raising more and endeavors to persuade and promote the conversion of existing corps into similar bodies in the line of the Provisional Army. The principle now application to nearly all the regimental and company organizations, of promotion by seniority and of election in the lowest grade only, is believed to have given more satisfaction than did that of general election. A feeling of greater security and more professional pride is engendered and
19 R R-SERIES IV, VOL II