operation would be to drop officers who have been carefully selected by reason of their superior capacity and qualifications, while retaining others of inferior merit and value.
The difficulty of furnishing supplies to the Army, owing to embarrassments in transportation, is greater now than it has been at any previous period of the war. This difficulty has prompted the selection for that duty of the best and most active and competent officers in the Quartermaster's and Commissary Departments, and such officers have within the last six months been in many instances withdrawn from the armies where their services were less important, and assigned to duty in purchasing, collecting, and forwarding supplies. This fact was, I feel confident, not known to Congress when the act was passed; and it could not have been intended to drop from service officers of special merit and retain others of inferior value. I am also satisfied, from the report made to me by the Secretary of War, that the number of officers who would be dropped under the provisions of this law is far less than is supposed; that their value as soldiers in the ranks would in no manner compensate for the loss of their services in their present positions. The total number of post and purchasing commissaries in the States east of the Mississippi River is but 212, of whom many are either over forty-five years of age, or otherwise exempt from the operations of the proposed law. The total number of quartermasters collecting taxes in kind is 96, and on post duty 223, including officers in charge of manufactories of clothing, shoes, harness, wagons, ambulances, &c. A number of them are over forty-five years of age, others would not be embraced by the terms of the act, others still have special qualifications for the superintendence of the important manufactures confided to their care.
Taken altogether, it is doubted whether the officers who would be dropped under the provisions of the bill would exceed 200 in number, of whom 50 would go into the ranks in two months, 50 in four months, and 50 more in six months. This scarcely appreciable addition to the force in the field would be dearly bought at the sacrifice of efficiency in the two branches of service on which the very existence of the Army depends. The terms of the act exempt from its operation those now on duty in the field, so that if it becomes a law it would not even be possible to avert the loss