Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/288

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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

Extreme cases ought not to furnish a rule, yet some provision should be made to meet evils, even exceptional, in a matter so vitally affecting the safety of our troops. Tender consideration for worthless and incompetent officers is but another name for cruelty toward the brave men who fall sacrifices to these defects of their leaders. It is not difficult to devise a proper mode of obviating this evil. The law authorizes the refusal to promote officers who are found incompetent to fill vacancies, and the promotion of their juniors in their stead; but instances occur in which no officer remaining in a regiment is fit to be promoted to the grade of colonel, and no officer remaining in a company is competent to command it as captain. Legislation providing for the selection in such cases of competent officers from other regiments of the same State affords a ready remedy for this evil, as well as for the case when officers elected are found unfit for the positions to which they may be chosen. This selection can be made in such manner as may seem to Congress most advisable; but this or some other remedy is indispensable for filling numerous vacancies now existing.

While this deficiency of competent officers exists in some cases, there is a large excess in others. Numerous regiments and companies have been so reduced by the casualties of war, by sickness, and other causes as to be comparatively useless under the present organization. There are companies in the Army in which the number of officers exceeds that of privates present for duty, and regiments in which the number of such privates does not exceed that which is required for a single effective company. The cost of supporting the Army, already a very heavy burden on the resources of the country, is thus increased to an extravagant extent. But this is of secondary importance compared with the inefficiency which results from this condition of things. Some legislation which shall provide for the consolidation of companies and regiments when thus reduced in numbers, and where conscripts cannot be obtained from a State in sufficient numbers for filling the ranks, is of pressing necessity, and a deep sense of duty impels me to repeat that no consideration for the officers who may be unfortunately deprived of commands ought or can safely be permitted to obstruct this salutary reform.

It may be proper to remark that the necessity for this consoli-