CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA,
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, February 9th, 1865.
Sir-In reply to the circular of the 7th instant, from your office, I have the honor to
submit the following report:
By recent instructions, the Superintendent of Conscription has (on the authority of the
War Department) directed that all disabled men detailed from the Army of Northern
Virginia, should be returned for such duty as they may be able to perform in the field.
Objections cannot reasonably be made to this, provided the men not found equal to any duty
in the field be returned to the same hospital from which they have been taken. But by
Circular No. 35,
PAGE 126 Southern Historical Society Papers.
of December 2, 1864, from the Bureau of Conscription, generals of reserves are directed
(on the authority of the War Department) to organize for certain local service "all
men found for light duty and not otherwise assigned and actually employed," which
deprives the Medical Department of the opportunity to replace with conscripts found for
light duty the detailed men relieved in the manner above stated, or to fill the
requirements arising from time to time for hospital attendants. The hospitals cannot be
properly conducted without a liberal allowance of white male attendants, and it is
recommended that Circular No. 35, of 1864, form the Bureau of Conscription, be modified so
as to permit either conscripts found for light duty, or reserves over forty-five years of
age, to be assigned as hospital attendants.
Under the authority of law (embodied in General Orders No. 69, of 1863, and No. 25, of
1864), soldiers sick or wounded, and likely to remain unfit for military duty for sixty
days, are furloughed.
It is undoubtedly humane to furlough these men, but the practice is wholly inconsistent
with preserving and maintaining an army. Many of the men are lost sight of, and never
return. It is recommended that the law be repealed. Furloughs should only be authorized by
orders to be granted as circumstances may demand.
Foreseeing the many and great difficulties to be encountered in procuring medical supplies
from foreign countries through the blockade, attention was given at an early day to the
establishment of medical laboratories, and the manufacture of medicines at Lincolnton,
North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Macon and Atlanta,
Georgia, and Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama. While these laboratories have been engaged
more especially in the manufacture of medicines, heretofore universally procured from
abroad, great attention has been given to the manufacture of indigenous remedies, which
are now administered by medical officers, in lieu of medicines of foreign origin, with
In the beginning of the war, the Department was compelled to depend entirely upon
purchasing agents, and contracts awarded to individuals for a supply of hospital
furniture, bedding, &c., and which contracts in a majority of cases were never filled.
It was then determined to assume direct control of the manufacture of these articles and
artisans were detailed from the ranks of the army, and, when practicable, disabled
soldiers were employed.
These employees of the laboratories, purveying depots and distilleries, are in a great
measure expert chemists, druggists and distillers and men of professional skill, whose
services are absolutely indispensable for the manufacture of medicines, hospital furniture
and alcoholic stimulants. It is therefore hoped that the Honorable Secretary will see the
necessity of these men being permanently attached to the Medical Department, as the
practice of constantly changing these employees is productive of delay and embarrassment
to the Department. It is also important that they should be
PAGE 127 Resources of the Confederacy in February, 1865.
exempt form all military duty, for if called out in an emergency, when the Purveyor is
called on to fill requisitions for the wounded, it is evident that suffering must ensue in
consequence of their absence. Medical supplies can only be prepared and put up by skilled
For the supply of alcoholic stimulants, the Department has been until recently dependent
upon contracts with individuals. It was ascertained that this mode by supply was
susceptible of gross fraud, for although expressly forbidden by the terms of the contract,
the contractors not only manufactured an excess over the quantity called for by the
contract, but frequently manufactured so indifferent and spurious an article that the
Department was obliged to reject it, thus leaving large quantities of whiskey in their
hands, which they readily disposed of at prices largely in advance of Government rates. At
the suggestion of this bureau, Congress at its last session granted authority to the
Surgeon-General to establish distilleries for the manufacture of alcoholic stimulants.
Accordingly they have been established at Salisbury, North Carolina, Columbia, South
Carolina, Macon, Georgia, and in Wilcox county, Alabama. The distilleries at Salisbury and
Columbia are manufacturing from two to five hundred gallons each of whisky and alcohol per
day. Those at Macon and in Wilcox county, Alabama, will be ready to commence operations in
two or three months, when all contracts for stimulants throughout the country will be
A large portion of the grain consumed by these distilleries is rendered useless for other
purposes, being damaged in transportation or from insecure storage, and turned over by the
Quartermasters to this Department. Thousands of bushels of grain are thus saved to the
Government and made available for army purposes. Arrangements have been perfected with the
Quartermaster's Department to supply the distillery at Salisbury with grain, thus avoiding
competition between the agents of the two Departments in the market. It is contemplated to
make similar arrangements with the Quartermaster-General to supply the distilleries in
Georgia and Alabama, so soon as they are ready to commence operations, and it is
recommended that instructions be given that officers to furnish the necessary grain when
notified by the Surgeon-General that he is ready to receive it.
The late Secretary of War gave orders to the Quartermaster's Department to furnish all the
bureaux of the War Department with cotton good sufficient to supply their wants. Estimates
were accordingly forwarded to the Quartermaster-General by this bureau, but as yet not a
yard has been furnished, and there seems to be no probability of obtaining a supply from
this source. Arrangements are now being perfected with a company in South Carolina to sell
to the Medical Department, on liberal terms, the entire product of their factory.
There is another subject of great importance, to which the atten-
PAGE 128 Southern Historical Society Papers.
tion of the Secretary of War is earnestly invited. The sick and wounded in the large
hospitals in or about the city, and at certain other places, are now subjected to intense
suffering, in consequence of the failure of the Quartermaster's Department to furnish
A serious difficulty in conducting the hospitals arises from the failure of the Commissary
Department to furnish the hospital funds. Very general complaint has been mad eon this
subject-one of importance, as without the hospital fund, it is impossible to supply the
sick and wounded with the necessary supplies. The hospitals have also been embarrassed by
the non-payment of the hospital attendants by the Quartermaster's Department.
Attention has been given recently to the importation of supplies through our lines on the
Mississippi river, and the gulf border of Mississippi and Alabama. Cotton is exchanged for
medical supplies, and in consequence of the recent disaster at Wilmington, it is believed
that this trade will constitute the chief source of supply. This Department had obtained
medicines in this manner through the energy of Surgeon Richard Potts, who has had
exclusive control of the importation of such articles as are most needed, until recent
orders from the War Department, taking entire control of transactions of this nature, has
impaired his usefulness, and put a stop in a measure to the supply. The Honorable
Secretary's attention is earnestly invited to the necessity of allowing Surgeon Potts
(located at Montgomery, Alabama), ample means for obtaining medical supplies in the manner
The department had on had, of some articles, a twelve months' supply, of others a limited
supply, but it allowed to retain its skilled employees at the various laboratories,
purveying depots and distilleries, and to import medicines freely through our lines in
Mississippi and Alabama, no fear need be entertained that the sick and wounded of the army
will suffer for the want of any of the essential articles of the supply table.