Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/192

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164
Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

is soon to expire, and in order to secure their entry for a further term into service you have directed that furloughs be granted to them as far as compatible with the safety of the respective commands. If the bill in question becomes a law, it will at once be necessary to diminish the number of furloughs, which might otherwise be granted as inducement to reƫnlistments, and to that extent the attainment of this most desirable object must be obstructed. From the West and from the South, from many and important points urgent calls for reƫnforcement are received by the Department of War which it is not possible to satisfy. At this crisis, without any check or control by commanding generals, 5 per cent of their effective forces would be withdrawn under the provisions of this bill. With conflicts impending against an enemy greatly our superior in numbers, our safety is dependent on keeping in the field every effective man that can be furnished with a weapon; this bill, therefore, it seems to me, is most inopportunely presented.

If from these general objections we turn to the details of the bill, other considerations are presented which would alone prevent my giving it approval. This may be stated briefly as follows, viz.:

First. The furlough for disability is to be granted upon the surgeon's certificate, not of the vital necessity for leave of absence, but of the surgeon's opinion that the patient's "health would be improved by a temporary sojourn at home." It is plain that every man in the Army, to whose health camp life was thus believed to be detrimental, could at once demand a furlough under this provision.

Second. The colonel's power to grant a furlough on such a certificate as is above mentioned is without the check or control of higher authority, and is unlimited as to time and to number of cases.

Third. Any soldier that can get the certificate of any hospital surgeon can be sent home on furlough or discharged without the knowledge or consent of any of his officers, either company or regimental. The surgeon has only to certify that the soldier "is too remote from his commanding officer to procure his certificate for a furlough or discharge without inconvenience and delay."

When troops are in the field, it is always true of a soldier in