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1865 March 18: Lincoln’s New Cabinet, Secretary of War’s Annual Report, Lincoln’s Proclamation Offering Pardon to Deserters

March 23, 2015

Following are several short articles on various topics.  They come from the March 18, 1865, issues of The Prescott Journal and The Polk County Press.

From The Polk County Press:

The New Cabinet.

The Cabinet question seems to have been settled for the present at least.  Secretary Usher [John P. Usher], as was anticipated, tendered his resignation to take effect on the first of May.  Hon. James Harlan, of Iowa, has been appointed and confirmed in his stead.

Mr. Harlan is emphatically a self-made man.  Ten years before he entered the United States Senate he graduated at Asbury University, Indiana.  His means were inadequate to defray his collegiate expenses, but he worked his way through by occupying the position of bell-ringer, and the movements of the students in their attendance upon chapel exercises, recitations, &c., were governed by the muscle of the man whose mind now has an important influence in shaping the course of the nation.  He was first elected to the Senate in 1854 and was re-elected in 1860, so that his present term would not have expired until 1867.

The Cabinet for Mr. Lincoln’s second term [Abraham Lincoln], as now organized, is as follows :

Secretary of State.—Wm. H. Seward, of New York.
Secretary of the Treasurer.—Hugh McCulloch, of Indiana.
Postmaster-General.—Wm. Dennison, of Ohio.
Secretary of War.—Edwin M. Stanton, of Pennsylvania.
Secretary of the Interior.—James Harlam [sic], of Iowa.
Attorney-General.—James Speed, of Kentucky.

PRESIDENT LINCOLN has issued a Proclamation to the effect that all deserters who shall within sixty days from date of the proclamation, viz :  on or before the 10th of May, 1865, return to the service or report to a Provost Marshal, shall be pardoned, on condition that they return to their regiment and companies, or to such other organizations as they may be assigned to, and serve the remainder of their original term of enlistment, and in addition thereto a period equal to the time lost by desertion.

In case they fail to report, they will be subject to the penalty fixed by a recent act of Congress which is as follows :  “All persons who have deserted the military or naval service of the United States, who shall not return to such service, or report themselves to a Provost Marshal within sixty days after the proclamation hereinafter mentioned, shall be deemed and taken to have voluntarily relinquished and forfeited their rights to become citizens, and such deserters shall be forever incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under the United States Government, or of exercising any rights of citizens thereof ;  and all persons who shall hereafter desert from the military or naval service, and all persons who, being duly enrolled, shall depart from the jurisdiction of the district in which he is enrolled, or go beyond the limits of the United States, with intent to avoid any draft into the military or naval service duly ordered, shall be liable to the penalties of this section.”

The Secretary of War.

The annual report of the Secretary of War was laid before Congress on the 30th.  Mr. Stanton says it was delayed in order to give Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] an opportunity to furnish a summary of his military operations ;  but the summary has not been rec’d, as the activity of the campaign in progress, demands his unceasing attention.  The Secretary says the military events of the past year have been officially published as they occurred and are as fully known in every branch of the government as throughout the civilized world.  They constitute a series of successful marches, sieges and battles, attesting the endurance and courage of the soldiers of the United States, and the gallantry and military skill of their commanders.

“The report of Provost Marshal-General Fry [James B. Fry] says, in reference to the re-enlistment of veterans, that during the Autumn of 1863, more than one hundred and thirty-six thousand soldiers, who would otherwise have been discharged, were secured for three years longer.  Organizations which would otherwise have been lost to the service, were preserved and experienced officers were retained in command.  This force has performed an essential part in the great campaign of 1864, and its importance to the country cannot be overestimated.  The result of recruitment in the rebel States is reported as unfavorable.

“The arrest of deserters and stragglers is continued with vigor, and 39,392 were arrested between October 1, 1863, and October 1, 1864.—The total number received from the establishment of the bureau to October 1, 1864, is 60,760.  The Veteran Reserve Corps, on October 1, 1864, consisted of 764 officers and 28,738 men.  The report of the Secretary gives a summary of reports of heads of several bureaus connected with the War Department, and concluded by saying the general exchange of prisoners effected under the instructions of the department, is in course of execution, and it is to be hoped that all our prisoners who are in the hands of the rebels, will soon be returned.”

From The Prescott Journal:

Report of the Secretary of War.

The annual report of Secretary STANTON was transmitted to Congress on the 1st, having been delayed with a view to getting Gen. GRANT’S report of military operations.  The activity of the campaign, however, has occupied the whole attention of the Lieut. General, and he has not yet made his report.  Mr. STANTON’S report is not yet published, and the only details given from it are as follows :  Over 135,000 veterans re-enlisted during the autumn of 1863 and the following winter.  Organizations which would have been lost to the service were preserved and recruited, and capable and experienced officers were retained in command.  The business of arresting deserters and stragglers is progressing actively, 39,382 having been arrested between October 1, 1863, and October 1, 1864, is 67,760.  The Veteran Reserve Corps on October 1, 1864, numbered 764 officers and 28,738 men.

The general exchange of prisoners effected under the instructions of this department, under Lieutenant General GRANT, is in course of execution, and it is hoped that all of our prisoners in the hands of rebels will soon be returned.  The furlough of thirty days is extended to them as they reach Annapolis.

In the Southwest.

The indications are that the rebels propose to evacuate all West Mississippi and make no effort to hold the country between Yazoo and Big Black rivers.  The line of the Central Mississippi  railroad is to be given up, which of course yields Jackson.  The Mobile and Ohio railroad is to be the new line, which it will be their endeavor to hold, while Brandon, about 15 miles cast of Jackson, will be the point at wich [sic] they will stand against any federal advance, on the railroad connecting at Jackson with the Central and running east to the Mobile and Ohio.  The last-named road is to be their great line of communication between DICK TAYLOR [Richard Taylor] in North Alabama and the rebel forces in tha [sic] southern portion of that State, while at the same time it will afford a covering for Selina and Montgomery.

FIENDISH BARBARISM.—The New York Tribune’s Wilmington correspondent, in describing the terrible condition of Union men then just released from rebel confinement, states that there is ground for believing that our men in rebel hospitals are inoculated by rebel surgeons with gangrene, and their arms and legs taken off.  Describing the appearance of the released prisoners as they come in he says :

Imagine a procession of a thousand human beings, walking in slow funeral lines through the streets of New York ;  their bodies wasted to skin and bone by starvation and disease ;  half covered with filthy rags which swarm with vermin ;  half of them without hats or shoes, their faces, hands, and whole persons so blackened by smoke and begrimmed by dirt that they could scarcely be distinguished from black men ;  tottering in almost infantile weakness, or supporting one another as they move mechanically along, scarcely seeming to realize or to care where they are going, and you have a faint idea of the released Union prisoners received here to-day.  And these are the best cases, sent forward first, probably to make a good impression.  I saw to-day stout-hearted men weep ;  I heard earnest men curse the doubly died villainy, the studied, fiendish malignity, that could so treat humanity.”

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