North Mississippi Governor Pettus' cavalry (thirteen companies) is absorbing those liable to conscript duty. West Tennessee and a large portion of Middle Tennessee (from which the larger portion of your army comes) are closed against the recovery of even your stragglers. So of parts of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas by the occupation of the enemy.
Acting under the instruction of the general in the original order organizing the bureau (based on the order of 8th of January from the War Department), I considered myself not only authorized but directed to embrace in the work of the bureau the enforcement of the conscript law. But from this letter of the Secretary it would seem that the Government's order of 8th of January was not understood by the general commanding the army or myself. My orders and instructions to the officers of this bureau and the field organization of the bureau were all submitted to the general and have been approved by him. I certainly supposed I was acting in strict compliance with my instructions and with the order of the War Department of January 8. In all cases I have given special instructions to my officers not to come into conflict with nor to interfere in any way with the officers orders, or organization of the Bureau organized by order at Richmond. And as far as I know this has not been done except in my special order by telegram to Lieutenant-Colonel Blake, at Knoxville, directing him to send forward the conscripts at that camp (which order was given by General Bragg's directions at a time when both he and myself thought Lieutenant-Colonel Blake was under his orders), and the order to Major Matthews placing him at Fayetteville, Ala., under his own application, he having reported to me, and I supposing he was at the time acting under General Bragg's orders. I have explained both of these cases to the War Department. A copy of my letter was read to the general.
In my instructions to the officers at work in the field I have said that certificates of exemption were subject to re-examination, and if they were found to have been granted in violation of the law they would be set aside. This has, I have no doubt, been done in many cases. From my knowledge of the loose and careless manner in which these exemptions were granted by State and Confederate officers, this became a necessity; else a very large number of able-bodied men would escape service altogether. In many cases these exemption papers were obtained by false representations of the parties exempted. In others by the natural sympathy of examining surgeons for friends of theirs, reluctant to go into the Army; while still another class were obtained by favoritism of enrolling officers. And in one case I have reason to believe from information which I received, though personally I know nothing of the facts, an enrolling officer or commandant of conscripts granted exemption papers for a consideration. In other cases a system of furlough after enrollment left the enrolled at home and at liberty to go or not into the Army, at the election of the party. In some counties in Central Alabama the country was full of enrolled and furloughed men, while the conscript camps were empty or nearly so. In one case I found a citizen enrolling officer, appointed by a captain, enrolling officer in the field, a drunken, worthless man. If my instructions to officers of this bureau, that these certificates of exemption were not conclusive, but were subject to re-examination, were wrong, then I see no end to the abuses and frauds upon the law, and I know not where the men are to come from to fill up our reduced armies, for the