To the Congress.
Gentlemen: I have had under consideration the bill entitled "An Act to authorize the appointment of an additional Assistant Surgeon to each regiment in the Army of the Confederate States," and feel so well convinced that the expenditure which it requires is unnecessary, and that the means can ill be spared in the present condition of the Treasury, that I am reluctantly compelled to return it for your reconsideration.
The medical and surgical force already provided by law, including the provision recently made for surgeons for hospitals, will require an expenditure of about two millions and a half of dollars. Power is already vested in me to employ temporarily the aid of physicians in hospitals, and you have appropriated $50,000 for that purpose. Discretion is also given to the Secretary of War, by the act of 26th February, 1861, to appoint as many assistant surgeons as the service may require; and the legislation on the entire subject is on the most liberal scale.
Yet the act now presented leaves me no discretion to limit the number of the additional assistant surgeons to be appointed. It orders an additional officer to the medical staff of each regiment, whether wanted or not; and thus requires an additional annual expenditure of seven hundred and thirty-two thousand dollars ($732,000).
I am aware that there have been causes of complaint in relation to neglect of our sick and wounded soldiers; but this, it is believed, arises not so much from an insufficiency in the number of the surgeons and assistant surgeons as from inattention or want of qualification, and I am endeavoring to apply the proper remedy by organizing a board of examiners, so as to ascertain who are the officers really to blame, and replace them by others more competent and efficient. I feel confident that, by this course, ample medical assistance would be secured for the troops without further expenditure. The surgeons and assistant surgeons, heretofore appointed, have in most instances received their commissions in consequence of the recommendations of the officers of the regiments to which they are attached. This was almost the only means of making selections in the sudden emergencies of the war,