Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

corps of topographical engineers shall be discontinued, and the officers of that corps transferred to the corps of engineers, or other corps or regiments, as the President sees fit.

The requirements of the service in my opinion do not, at this time, call for the additional number of officers to the engineer corps, whether of high or low degree, which is proposed ; nor do I believe they ever will be needed ; still, as other and better soldiers think otherwise, I shall not positively object to the proposition.

I am decidedly opposed, however, to the annihilation of the corps of topographical engineers, to build up the corps of engineers.

There are highly gifted men and highly educated men in each corps ; they are all prepared by their education at West Point for service in either of those corps, and in all the corps of the army. The officers of these corps are also equally distinguished for their service on the field of battle; then why should the officers of the one corpsthe bad, if there are any, as well as the good—be retained, while the good, as well as the bad, of the other corps, are given to the four winds of heaven?

There is no doubt that both of these corps have been swelled by partial legislation, from time to time, to an inordinate size; but whether the one or the other is the least useful or the least to be cherished by the nation, is yet to be determined.

We have, I believe, a very full knowledge of our seacoast, and we have batteries at every point heretofore considered as most exposed and important to be defended; while we lack information respecting the interior of our country. It is my opinion, therefore, that the services of the topographical engineers, in exploring the interior of our country from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, and developing its natural resources, (as has been exhibited in the recent surveys for a railroad to the Pacific,) are of more immediate national importance than the selection of sites for fortifications, and the erection of batteries on our seacoast, which may never be required.

I am, as you may perceive, opposed to studding our seacoast with fortifications by way of ornament; to expending millions of noney in erecting forts at points where there can be no inducement for an enemy to go, and who would not, if he could, occupy the country to be defended. Again, fortifications, however strong, can in a given time be reduced ; temporary batteries and other ordinary defences can be turned; but living men with stout hearts cannot be passed. To prevent the immediate rush of a fleet of vessels into a harbor for the purpose simply of plunder or the destruction of a town, I think that sunken hulks in the channel of the river will have all the effect of a fixed battery on shore.

In a war with any foreign power, the sooner matters are brought to an issue the better ; all we want is an open field and a fair fight.

With our means of transportation by railroad, steamboats, and other conveyances, we can bring to any point where the enemy may land, from five to ten men against one of any invading force; and if we cannot with that numerical superiority prevail over the foe, we deserve to be vanquished.

My opinion is, that instead of annihilating the one corps to enlarge

the other, the two corps, engineers and topographical engineers, should be consolidated; and that the corps of engineers, as now contemplated in the bill, be composed of officers selected from both corps ; leaving the remaining officers to be transferred to other regiments and corps as the President

may

direct. Section 4th proposes to reorganize the ordnance corps, and provides for one additional lieutenant colonel and four additional majors, and for the transfer of ordnance officers to other corps and regiments of

the army.

I cannot myself perceive the necessity of making so great an addition to the field officers of that corps; but as higher authorities think otherwise, and as no positive injury is to be done to any individual or corps, I have no objection to offer to this section as it now stands.

Section 5th provides that there shall be an additional number of general officers-one to be Adjutant General, and one to be Quartermaster General; and that there shall be one Commissary General, to be selected from the regiments or corps, and who shall receive the pay and allowances of a colonel.

In relation to the proposed accession to the number of general officers of the army, I have nothing to say; of the necessity or the propriety of that measure I leave others to judge. As this section of the bill, however, proposes virtually to destroy the office of Adjutant General, of Quartermaster General, as well as of Commissary General of Subsistence, and to bring to Washington from time to time, by detail, officers of the line of the army, to take charge of those bureaus or branches of the staff departments, I must be permitted to make a few remarks.

Now I cannot bring myself to believe that this change would be productive of much good to the service. The bureau system has worked well heretofore, and I think it may be made to operate better with proper pruning: I am of opinion that each department or branch of the military service should have a permanent chief at the city of Washington. Put back, if you please, all the subordinate officers of those departments in the line of the army, but let the chiefs remain. No matter what rank, pay, or emoluments are accorded to them, provided

you give them a permanent commission and a fixed position. But where is the present Commissary General of Subsistence to go? He belongs to no “regiment or corps,” but holds his office solely by virtue of his commission as Commissary General. Can it be that this veteran officer, Brigadier General George Gibson, who now and for nearly forty years has faithfully and with great economy administered the affairs of that department, and whom General Andrew Jackson, who was not prone to flatter, was wont to call “honest George Gibson,” is to be set adrift "upon the wide ocean of uncertainty," without a rudder or a compass, and with the bare prospect of a reef interposing (the retired list) to bring him up, and save him from destruction ? Cut off as many other officers as you please, myself among the rest ; but spare, I beseech you, “ honest George Gibson.”

As relates to the judge advocate of the army provided for in this bill, I am of opinion that that officer, who is charged with the revision of the proceedings of all general courts-martial, and is the adviser of

the Secretary of War in relation thereto, should be a man of high legal attainments, and withal eminent in the practice of the law.

Upon the remaining points in this section I have no remarks to make.

Upon the 6th section I have no remarks to make ; nor shall I interpose any objections to the 7th and 8th sections.

In regard to the 9th section of this bill, I propose to confine my remarks to the fourth and last paragraph thereof, which relates to the officers of the pay and medical departments of the army.

In this paragraph it is proposed to place twenty-seven paymasters, and ninety-four medical officers—forty-nine of whom rank either as lieutenant colonels or majors, and the rest as captains and first lieutenants—in juxtaposition with, and to reduce them to the level of, the rank and file of the army. The paymasters of the army are virtually the custodians of the military chest, and some of them have been more than once distinguished on the field of battle. The medical officers are likewise not without distinction. They are necessarily intellectual and highly educated men, or they could not pass the ordeal by which they are introduced into the army. Yet these officers are by this bill ostracised—virtually reduced to the ranks of the army. And why, it may well be asked, is this indignity offered?

The laws which confer rank upon the pay and medical officers of the army prohibit them from exercising " command in the line or other staff departments of the army." While, then, no officer of either the pay or medical departments can assume the command of troops or of a military post, when any other commissioned officer having military rank is present; they, on the other hand, cannot be commanded by any one but the commander of the post, the regiment, or troops with which they may be serving. It is also a settled principle of military service, that “all persons subject to martial law and not commissioned,” are “subordinate to any commissioned officer in the service, whether the latter be clothed with military rank or not.” (See paragraph 5, General Regulations for the Army, edition of 1841.)

I therefore suggest that the whole of this paragraph be stricken out, and that the following be substituted:

Officers of the pay and medical departments cannot exercise command except in their respective departments; but they shall take precedence according to their rank, on courts-martial, boards, and other military duty, not involving the command of troops. Should it happen that a post or command is left without a commissioned officer having military rank proper, then an officer of the staff, without such rank, will assume the temporary command; for, all persons subject to martial law, and not commissioned, must be subordinate to any commissioned officer, be his rank military rank, or rank assimilated thereto.

Section 10. To the provisions of this section, no objection can be advanced.

Touching the matter of the 11th section, I have nothing to offer.

In relation to the remaining sections of the bill, however, and which have for their object the creation of a retired list, I have to say, for the sake of humanity, and for my country's good, pass, I beseech you, the bill.

I avail myself of the occasion to repeat what I have said in my annual reports, that “in the event of new regiments being added to the present military establishment,” a corresponding increase of the medical department, in the proportion of one surgeon and two assistant surgeons to each additional regiment, will be required, and I respectfully submit herewith a projét of a section to accomplish that object. All of which is respectfully submitted.

TH. LAWSON,

Surgeon General. Hon. CHARLES J. FAULKNER,

Chairman Military Committee, H. R.

SECTION — And be it further enacted, That there be added to the medical department of the army four surgeons, and eight assistant surgeons, to be appointed according to existing laws.

OFFICE COMMISSARY GENERAL OF SUBSISTENCE,

Washington, January 22, 1855. Sir: In compliance with the wish of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives, after a careful examination of the provisions of House bill No. 615, I have the honor to present my views relative thereto.

It is with much diffidence that I approach the subject, and trust I may not be deemed intrusive in stating, briefly, my opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of the matters embraced in the bill, that no more than due weight may be given to my opinions.

I entered the army in 1808 as a captain of infantry, and served in that corps until 1815, (with an interval during which I acted as military agent in New Orleans,) and having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, was as such reduced. I was appointed Quartermaster General of the southern division of the army, under General Jackson, in 1816, and served as such until 1818; was then appointed Commissary General of the army, and have ever since served in that capacity.

With those branches of the army in which I have served, viz: the infantry, Quartermaster's department, and Subsistence department, I have a practical acquaintance; with the others, only that arising from professional associations.

I now proceed to the examination of the bill.

Sections 1st and 2d. I deem the increase of the army necessary, and these sections are calculated to give it in the best manner. I omit, however, in these remarks, as an exception, the paragraph“In order to furnish details for general staff duties, there shall be added to each regiment, &c., four captains and four first lieutenants.”

Section 3d. There is ample field for the services of the corps of topographical engineers in the survey and exploration of our vast and almost unknown country, and the information thus gained would be of incalculable value. How far the blending of the two corps of engineers into one would be beneficial, I am not prepared to say, but I cannot think the addition of a brigadier general necessary.

Section 4th. I see no reason for the increased rank given to a few officers of the corps of ordnance, and believe the transfer of the majority of the officers to other corps, and the performance of their duties by detail, would prove injurious to the service. There would not be the same amount of experience, and the officers detailed would not feel as great an interest in their duties.

Section 5th. I do not think the wants of the service require as many brigadier generals as are here named. The duties of Adjutant General and Inspectors General have been performed heretofore by colonels, and I believe would be equally as well by them as by brigadier generals.

Sections 5th and 6th. The remaining portion of this section and of section 6th have for their object the destruction of the present staff department of the army, viz: the Adjutant General, Quartermaster General, and Subsistence departments of the army, and causing the duties they now perform to be performed by officers temporarily taken from other branches of the service. Upon these, the administrative departments, every military man must admit, depends the very vitality of an army. Without their perfect administration, all its courage and discipline are of no avail. They call for all the knowledge and experience of their officers, and demand their entire devotion to their duties. Their duties are varied and manifold, and long acquaintance and familiarity with them are requisite in an officer. The system proposed would, it appears to me, consider their duties as light, and a perfect knowledge of them as but a secondary part of the knowledge of a regimental officer, and, presenting no inducement but a slight increase of pay to recompense him for the heavy responsibilities and arduous labors, would expect that officer to abandon the only path to promotion and distinction, and take upon himself the thankless and arduous duties of a staff officer.

The system now proposed retrogrades to one long since tried and proved defective.

The present staff departments were organized, because of that very deficiency, and have been modified and increased as the wants of the service required. They have been fully tried by the Florida and Mexican wars, and found to work well, and they are now well tested by the scattered condition of our army over our large and uninhabited country. Our troops are everywhere well supplied, and not a single case can be found in which, from not being supplied, they have suffered as the British troops are suffering in the Crimea, and that from the want of such organized departments.

The organization proposed is defective in not giving enough officers for the duties they are to perform. They require as many officers as they now have, and none can be spared, in my opinion; and yet these sections give twenty-three, instead of sixty-four. Here, I would respectfully state, there appears an inconsistency between the excepted paragraph of section 2d and the requirements of sections 4th and 5th: the former gives seventy-six additional captains for general staff duties;

« AnteriorContinua »