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In this series the reports will be arranged according to the campaigns and several theaters of operations (in the chronological order of events), and the Union reports of any event will, as a rule, be immediately followed by the Confederate accounts. The correspondence, etc., not embraced in the "reports" proper will follow (first Union and next Confederate) in chronological order.
The second series will contain the correspondence, orders, reports, and returns, Union and Confederate, relating to prisoners of war, and (so far as the military authorities were concerned) to state or political prisoners.
The third series will contain the correspondence, orders, reports, and returns of the Union authorities (embracing their correspondence with the Confederate officials) not relating specially to the subjects of the first and second series. It will set forth the annual and special reports of the Secretary of War, of the Generalin-Chief, and of the chiefs of the several staff corps and departments; the calls for troops, and the correspondence between the National and the several State authorities.
The fourth series will exhibit the correspondence, orders, reports, and returns of the Confederate authorities, similar to that indicated for the Union officials, as of the third series, but excluding the correspondence between the Union and Confederate authorities given in that series.
The first volume of the records was issued in the early fall of 1880. The act approved June 16, 1880, provided "for the printing and binding, under direction of the Secretary of War, of 10,000 copies of a compilation of the Official Records (Union and Confederate) of the War of the Rebellion, so far as the same may be ready for publication, during the fiscal year;" and that "of said number 7,000 copies shall be for the use of the House of Representatives, 2,000 copies for the use of the Senate, and 1,000 copies for the use of the Executive Departments." Under this act Colonel Scott proceeded to publish the first five volumes of the records.*
*All subsequent volumes have been distributed under the act approved August 7, 1882, which provides that:
"The volumes of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion shall be distributed as follows: One thousand copies to the Executive Departments, as now provided by law. One thousand copies for distribution by the Secretary of War among officers of the Army and contributors to the work. Eight thousand three hundred copies shall be sent by the Secretary of War to such libraries, organizations, and individuals as may be designated by the Senators, Representatives, and Delegates of the Forty-seventh Congress. Each Senator shall designate not exceeding twenty-six, and each Representative and Delegate not exceeding twenty-one, of such addresses, and the volumes shall be sent thereto from time to time as they are published, until the publication is completed. Senators, Representatives, and Delegates shall inform the Secretary of War in each case how many volumes of those heretofore published they have forwarded to such addresses. The remaining copies of the eleven thousand to be published, and all sets that may not be ordered to be distributed as provided herein, shall be sold by the Secretary of War for cost of publication with ten per cent. added thereto, and the proceeds of such sale shall be covered into the Treasury. If two or more sets of said volumes are ordered to the same address, the Secretary of War shall inform the Senators, Representatives, or Delegates who have designated the same, who thereupon may designate other libraries, organizations, or individuals. The Secretary of War shall report to the first session of the Forty-eighth Congress what volumes of the series heretofore published have not been furnished to such libraries, organizations, and individuals. He shall also inform distributees at whose instance the volumes are sent."
Colonel Scott died March 5, 1887. At his death some twenty-six books only had been issued, but he had compiled a large amount of matter for forthcoming volumes; consequently his name as compiler was retained in all the books up to and including Vol. XXXVI, although his successors had added largely to his compilations from new material found after his demise.
The Secretary of War, May 7, 1887, assigned Lieut. Col. H. M. Lazelle, Twenty-third U. S. Infantry, to duty as the successor of Colonel Scott. He had continued in charge about two years, when, in the act approved March 2, 1889, it was provided
That hereafter the preparation and publication of said records shall be conducted, under the Secretary of War, by a board of three persons, one of whom shall be an officer of the Army, and two civilian experts, to be appointed by the Secretary of War, the compensation of said civilian experts to be fixed by the Secretary of War.
The Secretary of War appointed Maj. George B. Davis, judge-advocate, U. S. Army, as the military member, and Leslie J. Perry, of Kansas, and Joseph W. Kirkley, of Maryland, as the civilian expert members of said board. The board assumed direction of the publication at the commencement of the fiscal year 1889, its first work beginning with Serial No. 36 of Vol. XXIV.
July 1, 1895, by direction of the Secretary of War, Maj. George W. Davis, Eleventh U. S. Infantry (subsequently lieutenant-colonel Fourteenth U. S. Infantry), relieved Maj. George B. Davis as the military member and president of the Board of Publication. Subsequently Col. Fred C. Ainsworth, Chief of the Record and Pension Office, War Department, was appointed the military member and president of the board, relieving Lieut. Col. George W. Davis June 1, 1898.
December 1, 1898, under the provision of the sundry civil act of July 1, 1898, relative to the War Records Office, the Board of Publication was dissolved, whereupon, by direction of the Secretary of War, the continuance of the work, beginning with Vol. VI, Series II, devolved on Colonel (now Brigadier-General) Ainsworth.
By operation of law (contained in "An act making appropriations for the legislative, executive, and judicial expenses of the Government for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1900," approved February 24, 1899), the War Records Office was merged into the Record and Pension Office, July 1, 1899, and since that date the work of publication has been conducted under the supervision of the chief of that office. Each volume includes a copious index, and for the further convenience of investigators there will be, in addition, a separate general index to the entire set.
Nothing is printed in these volumes except duly authenticated contemporaneous records of the war. The scope of the compiler's work is to decide upon and arrange the matter to be published; to correct and verify the orthography of the papers used, and, wherever deemed necessary, to add a foot-note of explanation.