To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled:
Congress having, by a resolution approved March 10, 1866, appropriated the sum of $15,000 for the reimbursement of certain expenditures made by me in endeavoring to discover missing soldiers of the armies of the United States, and to aid in the further prosecution of the search for such soldiers, I feel it my duty to make a brief report of the manner in which I have endeavored to accomplish that object:
During the last year of the war I became aware, from letters received from various parts of the country, that a very large number of our soldiers had disappeared from view without leaving behind them any visible trace or record. Whether they had fallen in battle, were lingering in rebel prisons, or perished in some other way, was only to be conjectured.
In the then painfully excited state of the public mind, any information respecting them would have afforded the most grateful relief to their families.
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In conducting this, I caused printed lists of all missing soldiers who had come to my knowledge to be posted in conspicuous places in all the towns and considerable villages in the county, requesting information from all who might be able to furnish any.
The number of persons about whom intelligence was solicited in this manner was something over 7,500; and I have reason to believe that valuable information was obtained by this method alone, and communicated to the families of nearly 5,000.
I shall not attempt to detail the various other methods by which I endeavored to gain intelligence of the lost, or to assist anxious inquirers by indicating the official sources to which they should apply; but it will afford some idea of the magnitude of the work undertaken to state that the letters of inquiry, and those giving information received up to the end of the year 1868, amounted to…63,182
According to the best estimate that can be formed, information which had been in no other way obtained has been gained by this search and transmitted to the families of over 22,000 men borne upon the rolls of the United States service as missing.
It is proper that I should acknowledge the important aid and encouragement which I received from the late lamented President Lincoln, from the present President of the United States, the general of the armies, and from your honorable bodies.
In regard to the funds appropriated by the resolution above quoted I would remark that the vouchers exhibited by me to members of the Senate and House of Representatives, of expenditures made by me prior to the passage of that resolution amounted to…$7,533 00
Amounting in all to $16,759 33
My own time and services have been cheerfully given.
It is now nearly four years since the cessation of active hostilities, and from the best information accessible to me I am led to believe that a large number, perhaps 40,000, once enlisted in our armies remain to this day unaccounted for. As there can be no motive for prolonged concealment, it is a reasonable presumption that those of whom no trace has yet been found have perished through the casualties and hardships of war. In most instances pay or bounty in some form must have been due their families at the time of their disappearance. It is well known that until recently the accounting officers of the treasury refused to settle with such families without evidence of the date of death. And if more favorable construction has been adopted, the question is still understood to be embarrassed by some degree of legal difficulty, and the impression has been widely disseminated that the heirs of a deceased soldier can recover nothing of the government until the time and manner of his death are fully shown.
With a view, therefore, of remedying any defect in the existing laws upon the subject, and of removing any uncertainty or propriety of adopting a resolution similar in substance to the following:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled, That hereafter all persons who served in the army or navy during the war for the suppression of the rebellion, and who are now borne upon the rolls of their respective commands as missing or unknown, and of whom no traces have yet been found, shall be considered as having died in the line of duty, and their legal heirs and representatives, upon proper proof of their being so recorded, shall be entitled to the bounties, back pay, and pension the same as if they had been otherwise accounted for.