December 3, 1864
We have received a communication from a member of the 2d West Virginia Cavalry regiment, in reference to the delay which has attended and is attending the mustering out and paying off of the greater part of that regiment. We understand from the communication that the remnants of seven companies of the regiment are now here, awaiting muster-out and pay, the other three companies having already been paid and sent to their homes. It certainly is a great misfortune both to the men themselves and to the service that soldiers whose times have long expired should be kept sitting around on the curb stones and steps of the Custom House and other rendezvouses, awaiting their dues. They naturally become dejected and acrimonious and criminative, and impart their own sense of injustice to all their friends, who see them thus trifled with and disappointed.
We know not whose fault it is that soldiers entitled to their discharge and pay are thus delayed and annoyed, but it is evident to every passer by that there is reprehensible dilatoriness somewhere. The communication to which we refer recites that the companies of the regiment detained were mustered into the service during the months of September and October, and a few in November, 1861, and consequently the last of them are detained nearly a month over their time, and the most of them three months. During this over-time of course the regiment has been of little or no service to the government, and the sole thought of them men from day to day has been to discuss the prospects of a speedy muster-out. It would seem as if long before this those who organize and perfect the regulations of the service should have hit upon some plan for facilitating the exit of men entitled to their discharge. It must be apparent to such persons that promptness in this respect is no less a sound policy than in any other business relation with mankind. It is a true policy for government officers to conscientiously so shape and execute the details of the service as to husband and not alienate the cordial feeling of all persons going out of the army. Not a little of our success in re enlisting depends upon preserving such a feeling.
The men to whom we have immediate reference in this notice complain to us that owing to their inability to get their pay, they are compelled to sell their vouchers at a discount in order to obtain the money needed by them. This is all wrong and impolitic. And it leads us to a general observation about the way matters have been going on in this department as regards the creditors of the government. If we are to believe all we hear it would seem as if this Military Department is absolutely not down on the books of the Quarter Master Generalís office at all. We are told that the Quartermasters here have been compelled from time to time to go into bank for accommodations in order to get money to pay their employees and thus keep them together. Their requisitions are to a very large extent unmet. How long this behind hand policy is to continue no one seems able to say. It is certain that the policy is a bad one, and that in the long run it is anything else than economical. Prompt payments here and elsewhere would induce active competition and low rates on the part of those who contract in any way with the agents of the War Department, but the opposite policy tends to drive off the best class of business men and let in those who expect to make their money by illegitimacies of some sort.
We intend these remarks to be an answer to a great many inquiries and communications of various kinds which have been on our file for weeks. We can not spend the time to write private answers. We presume that ere long there will be a disentanglement of the affairs of this department, and that the flow of greenbacks into it will then once more commence.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: December 1864