the criminal disregard of law and orders by company and regimental officers, whether moved by corruption, complaisance, or recklessness, might be eminently useful.
To that end, however, the limited scope of the jurisdiction of this Bureau makes it desirable that, while consulting with and recommended to the authorities of conscription, he should be the direct representative of higher authority, and clothed by such authority with special powers and duties to procure arrests and prosecutions in concert with Confederate marshals and district attorneys.
There have not been waiting abundant evidences of irregularity and disobedience of orders, grossly criminal and mischievous, in the conduct of officers of the Army respecting substitutes. In practice, the remedies attempted to be applied by this Bureau have, by reason of its want of jurisdiction, generally proved unavailing. In all the case forwarded with evidence the quilt officers seem to have escaped with impunity by, or without, the rendering of some sort of defense or explanation.
Captain Davidson, commanding a battery of Virginia artillery, now it is believed in the region of Southwestern Virginia or East Tennessee, and Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn, commanding a regiment of Virginia partisan cavalry, are flagrant instances, among several not far behind them.
As to the remedy of vitiating the exemption thus irregularly obtained, that has been defeated by the unwillingness of the War Department and of this Bureau to make innocent parties suffer by the fault of offices representing the Government, though violating its orders.
All the limitations imposed on recruiting officers (such as to raise bodies of non-conscripts only) or on company and regimental officers as to the number and qualification of subsistence, or the mode of receiving them, have generally proved so far to be mere fetters of straw. But one remedy has ever appeared to this Bureau to offer any hope of practical effectiveness. The War Department has a right to regulate the terms and manner of receiving substitutes.
let none be presented anywhere but at once of the camps of conscript in the respective States and the examination be made there. If the substitute offered be for an unassigned conscript, let me exemption of the principal issue then and there; if for a member of a company or regiment, let it be suspended until the approval of the captain and regimental commander be obtained. Should this regulation be adopted, it ought to be very conspicuously and widely published, that ignorance of the law may no longer be pleaded. In all the cases occurring heretofore we have had to encounter the allegations of innocence by the principals, the efforts of lawyers, the public sympathy, and the active exertions of leading men in office and in influence, all thrown against the Government.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. W. LAY,
Lieut. Colonel and Asst. Adjt. Gen., Acting Chief of Bureau.
[JUNE 9, 1863. - For Davis to Brown, in relation to the organization of a regiment of non-conscripts for "local defense and special service," see Series I, VOL. LII, Part II, p. 492.]