Correspondence to the Adjutant-General's Office, Bureau for Colored Troops from C.W. Foster
ADJT. GEN"S. OFFICE, BUREAU FOR COLORED TROOPS
October 20, 1864.
Adjutant-General U. S. Army:
Sir: The following report of the operations of this Bureau during the past year is respectfully submitted:
Since my last annual report the organization and recruitment of colored troops have steadily advanced; many new regiments have been mustered in and the older regiments, reduced by service, have been strengthened by volunteer enlistments and the assignment of drafted men and substitutes. On the 31st of October 1863, the date of my last annual report, there were, as shown by the official returns on file in this office, 58 regimental organizations, with a total strength of 37,707. According to the same data, there are at the present time in service, 140 regiments, including all arms, with a total strength of 101,950, divided as follows, viz:
|12 regiments of artillery (heavy)||12,226|
|8 batteries of artillery (light)||833|
|6 batteries of cavalry||5,605|
|121 regiments of infantry||88,286|
Increase in the number of regiments since October 31, 1863, 82; increase in the number of officers and men since October 31, 1863, 63,243.
This branch of the service has lost by battle, disease, discharge, and desertion, from the commencement of its organization to the present time, 33,139.
There have been transferred to the navy and other branches of the public service 1,624. Add to this number the number now in service, and it gives a total, officers and men, connected with the colored troops, from date of first organization to the present time, of 136,713.
There have been enlisted and mustered into service at the several rendezvous established in the rebel States in pursuance of act of Congress approved July 4, 1864, up to October 15, 1864, 2,510 colored recruits. These have been assigned to old regiments.
By direction of the Secretary of War, the designation of the regiments composing the Corps d"Afrique, in the Department of the Gulf has been changed to U. S. Colored Troops and the enlisted men of five of said regiments,, viz, Seventy-ninth, Eighty-third, Eighty-eighth, Eight-ninth, and Ninetieth, distributed among the remaining twenty-three regiments of that corps. The supernumerary officers have been mustered out of service subject, however, to examination, with a view of their reappointment in other colored regiments, under regulations established by Major-General Canby, subject to the approval of the Secretary of War.
This measure was absolutely demanded by the interests of the service, the colored regiments in that department, with but one or two exceptions, never having had a minimum number of enlisted men, as prescribed by law, while, as a general rule, they had the full number of officers allowed a maximum organization. A further consolidation of these regiments is now under consideration by Major General Canby, whose action in the matter will be brought to the notice of the Department at the proper time.
The excellence and utility of the system of competitive examinations of candidates for appointment as officers of colored troops, which was established by the Department a short time prior to my assignment to this Bureau, is further demonstrated by the experience of the past year.
Two thousand five hundred and sixty-eight candidates for appointments have during the year been examined, 978 of whom were rejected.
There have been appointed during the year 1,599 officers of all grades, not including a large number of provisional appointments made in the Southwest by department commanders and others, to whom authority to appoint officers has been delegated. In no instance of which I am informed have the officers of any regiment appointed form those examined behaved in the face of the enemy in any other than a creditable manner, and their commands are so far advanced in discipline and instruction as can reasonably be expected from their length of service.
A board or commission charged to award a just compensation to loyal owners in the state of Maryland whose slaves enlisted in the military service in the United States has been in session at Baltimore, Md, since December 1863. The whole number of claims presented to October 4, 1864, is 2,015, five of these being for men drafted.
Up to October 1, 1864, 244 of these claims had been passed upon by the commission; of these nine were rejected, and upon the remainder awards were made proportionate in each case to the term of service which the recruit had prior to enlistment owed to the claimant. Twenty-five of the accepted claims, amounting in the aggregate to $6,900, have been paid by the disbursing officer attached to this Bureau. Unpaid claims amounting to 447,800 are now on file in this office.
For a more detailed statement of the disbursements in connection with this board your attention is respectfully invited to the report of the disbursing officer, Capt. LeG. Benedict, assistant adjutant-general of volunteers, which is herewith.*
By the death of S. F. Streeter, esq., late president of this Board, the Government has lost a servant justly distinguished for his integrity and efficiency.
The board recently appointed by the Secretary of War to investigate similar claims arising in the State of Delaware, has commenced its sittings. Only eight claims have yet been presented.
Brig. Gen. L. Thomas, Adjutant-General of U. S. Army, who has superintended and directed the organization of nearly all the new regiments raised in the slave States and States in rebellion, will, it is presumed, make a detailed, report of his operations.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. W. FOSTER,
Assistant-Adjutant General of Volunteers
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series III, Volume 4. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.