Friday, December 20, 2013

December 22, 1863 (Monday): Thirty-Five Day Furloughs for Reenlistment

General Seth Williams

Washington, D. C.:
    SIR: I have the honor herewith to transmit a copy of an order issued by me, designed to carry out, in this army, the orders and instructions of the War Department relative to the re-enlistment of veteran volunteers.
    It is not in my power, at the present moment, to say what number of men have re-enlisted or agreed to re-enlist prior to this date, but I place the number, approximately, at 10,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry.
    I do not consider that a greater number of men can be spared at present, although it is hoped that a considerable number will yet re-enlist; and, if so, they can be furloughed when the men about to leave return to duty.
   Under the discretion left to me in General Orders, No. 376, of the 21st ultimo, from the War Department, I have directed that individual furloughs be given, believing that this would be more acceptable to the men generally than an order to report to the superindtendents of the recruiting service, in their respective States, for furloughs and reorganization. When, however, three-fourths of a regiment or company re-enlist, the men will be allowed to go home in a body with their officerrs, and to take their arms with them.
    The period of the furlough has been fixed at thirty-five days, so as to allow the men, as far as practicable, thirty days within the limits of their States.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    GEO. G. MEADE,
    Major-General, Commanding.

December 21, 1863.
    1. With the exception hereinafter indicated, corps and other independent commanders are now authorized to grant individual furloughs for thirty-five days, which must cover the entire period of the soldier's absence from his company and regiment, to such men of their respective commands as may have, up to this date, re-enlisted, or having, since the issue of the circular from these headquarters dated December 17, 1863, signified their intention to do so, shall at once re-enlist as veteran volunteers, under the provisions of General Orders, Nos.191, 305, and 376, from the War Department.
    2. When three-fourths of the men of a regiment or company re-enlist, such portion of the regiment or company will be allowed to go home in a body, and take with it is arms and equipments. In all other cases, the arms and equipments of the men granted furloughs will be turned, in before leaving camp, to the division ordnance officer, by whom they will be transferred to the officer in charge of the ordnance depot, to be held subject to his call on the return of the men to duty. Three-fourths of a veteran regiment will be understood to mean three-fourths of the men belonging to it who are within the limits of this army, and not to include those absent as prisoners of war, in general hospitals, &c. When there are men in a veteran organization who do not come within the limits for re-enlistment, all men who have joined the army since July 1, 1863, excepted, and are yet willing to re-enlist, they will be permitted to go on furlough with the regiment, in case it goes in a body, and those only will be left behind who are within the limits and yet refuse to re-enlist, and the aforesaid men who have recently joined. The men willing to re-enlist will, of course, not be discharged and remustered till they come within the limits; that is,have less than one year to serve, but they will be required to affirm in writing, their intention to re-enlist, and such affirmation must be witnessed by two commissioned officers, and filed with the muster-rolls of the company to which they belong.
     3. Furloughs will not be granted in cases where three-fourths of a regiment or a company have agreed to re-enlist under the foregoing provisions until after corps commanders shall have sent to these headquarters, for the orders of the commanding general thereon, a statement showing the strength present with the army of such regiment or company, and the number of men who have re-enlisted or can re-enlist under the orders and instructions of the Wawr Department.
    4. When an organization may be broken up for the time being by the departure of the men going on furlough, corps commanders will transfer, temporarily, the officers and men who remain to other regiments and companies from the same State, or organize them into a battalion, as may be thought best.
    5. Every furlough granted under this order will have an indorsememt showing that the holder, as a veteran volunteer, is entitled to transportation to and from his home, as provided for by Paragraph 4, of Genereal Orders, No. 376, from the War Department. Corps commanders will make requisitions upon the chief quartermaster for transportation for the men of their commands who may be granted furloughs, and the chief quartermaster will make the necessary arrangements with the proper officer of his department at Washington to have all such men promptly forwarded to their homes.
    6. The necessities of the service will not admit of the granting of furloughs at present to a larger number of men than are embraced in this order. But the me not herein included, who may be entitled to re-enlist as veterans, will be granted a similar, furlough on the return to duty of the men now fruloughed.
    7. Corps and other independent commanders will report at the earliest moment practicable the number of men who have re-enlisted or may re-enlist in their respective commands, and who may receive furloughs under the provisions of this order.
     By command of Major-General Meade:

     Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 574.

The war was going well for the Union but this did not mean morale was such that soldiers who were eligible to leave service would automatically reenlist.  While the draft could provide numbers, it could not provide the cohesion and effectiveness of veteran troops.  To encourage them to reenlist, and to keep units intact, provision was made for 35 day furloughs where three fourths of a unit was willing to reenlist.  This serves also to illustrate the nature of the war once it became too cold and the weather too inhospitable for active campaigning.  Meade estimates here he will lose 10,000 men, but he would not have had work to employ them and it was as well to let these troops go home to see their families as opposed to keeping them underarms and having to feed and supply them. 

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