Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/295

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First Congress.

assign officers to duty implies an authority to appoint new officers. Such construction would he the less justifiable in the present instance, because in the second section, in which new officers are authorized, the language of the act directs appointments to be made, but in the third and fourth sections the language is changed and assignments only are permitted.

There is another omission in the act which may give rise to pretension prejudicial to the service. In declaring the rank to which the several medical officers shall be entitled in the Provisional Army, including those of brigadier general, colonels, and lieutenant colonels, no express exclusion is made of their right to command troops, as has wisely been done in the law which regulates their rank in the Regular or Permanent Army. The officers of the medical corps have long evinced the desire to have some right of command of troops in certain contingencies, and this command ought either to be expressly forbidden or the cases in which it may be exercised ought to be distinctly defined.

The chief objection to the bill, however, remains to be stated. The fifth section is designed to effect a most humane and desirable object, but its provisions are inadequate to the end proposed. The purpose of Congress is evidently to provide some additional means for the care of the sick and wounded of armies in the field. At present after each battle the wounded are necessarily left in such temporary quarters as can be procured in the vicinity, but on the movement of the army most of the medical officers attached to it are compelled to follow, and the wounded are thus left with medical aid and attendance entirely insufficient for their relief.

The fifth section of the act provides for an infirmary corps of fifty men for each brigade, officered with one first and one second lieutenant, two sergeants, and two corporals, but no provision whatever is made for any additional medical officers, nor does the act provide for any control by medical officers over these infirmary corps, nor assign to these corps any fixed duties. Unless some provision be made on these points, the present deficiency of surgical aid will continue to exist, and the infirmary corps will necessarily follow the army to which they are attached when it moves after a battle, or, if left behind, will be subject to the orders only of their own officers, who are not medical men — or conflicts will arise between these officers and the medical officers.