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these concomitants is a regular army of some size; which being admitted, its proper organization is a mere consequence. Respectfully submitted :
J. J. ABERT,
Colonel Corps Topographical Engineers. Hon. CHARLES JAMES FAULKNER,
Chairman Military Committee, Ho. of Reps.
January 22, 1855. SIR: Agreeably to the request of the Committee on Military Affairs, of the 19th instant, I proceed to state, as briefly as possible, my views relative to the bill reported by the Committee on Military Affairs of House of Representatives, for the “increase and better organization of the army.”
In doing this, I shall consider the provisions of this bill in connexion with those of a similar bill reported by the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, which I have also before me.
The increase of force proposed in the first section of the bill is of too pressing and obvious necessity to require any comment; but the manner of effecting this increase which is proposed in the Senate bill, (first and second sections,) appears to me preferable to the other. Whoever has visited an artillery garrison, or seen a considerable body of our artillery in the field, must have remarked that the greater part of them are distinguished from infantry only by their uniform. Their habitual drill and service is that of infantry; and even at the artillery school of practice which existed for several years at Fort Monroe, infantry exercises occupied the principal share of attention. This anomaly results in great measure from the organization of the artillery. It is arranged in regiments like infantry, and the force is too great a proportion of the whole army to be spared from the active duties of frontier and other service; but as they cannot all serve there in their appropriate arm, they are employed as infantry, and hence the necessity of having them all instructed so as to take turns in this service. If the corps of artillery were reduced to a strength which could be spared from the duties above referred to, the officers and men might be confined to the practice of their own arm, and be constantly employed and exercised in the use of artillery, either field or garrison-a service requiring much greater and much more difficult instruction than that of foot troops. The corps of artillery would not then, in time of war, be subject to the mortifications which they experienced in the late war with Mexico, of seeing volunteer artillery serving a field battery, whilst the regular artillery marched with muskets.
The increase of officers proposed in the second section of the House bill appears to me ill arranged. In expressing the object of the appointment of supernumerary captains and lieutenants of artillery, infantry and cavalry, “to furnish details for staff duties,” the proposition would seem to confine these details to those corps, at least by
implication. But there may be a great advantage and propriety, under some circumstances, in the selection of an engineer or ordnance officer for appointment on the staff. A greater objection appears to the addition of four supernumerary captains to each regiment. This would give seventy-six (76) supernumerary captains in the army to furnish details for staff duties, (besides the seventy-six lieutenants,) whilst all the staff officers required by the act to be taken from regiments or corps amount to only twenty-four, (24.) Supposing all those to be taken from the captains of regiments, (which would not be the case,) what will be the position of the remaining thirty-two captains having no companies? If the addition to provide for these details, or rather staff appointments, were made, as in the Senate bill, to the list of lieutenants, no such inconvenience would occur, as the lieutenants would be all attached to companies, and it is well known that at present there are rarely more than two, officers present with a company on service. When captains are taken for staff duties, their separation from their companies would probably be of considerable duration, and the lieutenant succeeding to the command would have the same interest as a captain in the welfare of his company. The excellent act of 1799 “for reorganizing the troops,” proposed that in such & case as the above, the officer next in grade to the one appointed on the staff should be actually promoted to the vacancy; but in case of the staff officer being replaced in his regiment, this arrangement would lead to the inconvenience of supernumerary majors, captains, &c. .
The organization of companies in the 2d section of the House bill seems to me too indefinite; and, although I speak with great diffidence on this subject, I should doubt the necessity of increasing 80 much the number of non-commissioned officers for a company of not more than one hundred privates.
In arranging a new organization for the army, one of the great principles to be attended to, as much as possible, seems to me to be that of simplifying the administration of the army, and reducing that service to the fewest heads. This principle might undoubtedly be applied more extensively than in either of the bills under consideration, without embarrassment, and probably with benefit, to the public service. Why should services of a like kind be performed by different sets of officers? At the same post, or in the same market, why should one officer be employed to purchase flour and other provisions for men, and another to procure oats and other food for horses, with all the complication of a separate set of accounts and vouchers for each of these objects, when a few additional lines and columns in a voucher or an abstract would effect the purpose? In practice, at nearly all the military posts, these services, as regards receiving and issuing supplies to the troops, are actually performed by the same individual, although he is subject to a double accountability to two different heads of departments.
In the scientific and constructing departments of the army this subdivision of administration and of duties has also been carried too far, and it is under this impression that I approve of the consolidation of the services of the corps of topographical engineers with the corps of
engineers, proposed in the 3d section of the bill. Their military duties are entirely similar, and should be conducted under the same general direction, as is well argued in the annual report of the Secretary of War.
The organization of the ordnance department, proposed in the 4th section of the bill, is that which, in its general features, I have always considered the best for our service, and I was accordingly opposed to that provision of the bill of 1838 by which lieutenants were attached permanently to the corps. The higher and important duties of the ordnance department demand continued study and reflection, aided by careful and laborious experiments, which require the attention of officers devoted to these investigations, and pursuing them through a long time, without danger of interruption by duties unconnected with them, or by transfer to posts where the necessary facilities do not exist, &c. Although I was one of the officers originally appointed in the ordnance corps, when it was reconstituted in 1832, I do not fear contradiction, or the imputation of improper motives, when I say that the very great improvements introduced into the armament and military supplies of the troops since that time have fully justified that measure, and shown the utility of a special corps of . officers for this service. But the inferior and routine duties of the ordnance department require nothing more than ordinary intelligence, care, and honesty, and the more important duties to which I have referred cannot generally employ a large number of officers. I consider it better, therefore, that the junior officers for this service should be taken from the regiments. The knowledge which regimental service would impart to them, with regard not only to military practice and administration, but with regard to the practical working and effects of arms and military equipments in the field, will be of great value in the performance of the special duties of the ordnance department; and the knowledge and experience in the construction and use of artillery, arms, and ammunition, which they may acquire in the performance of ordnance duties, will be of still greater value to them in the execution of their regimental duties; furnishing, in some measure—what the scattered condition of our troops now prevents their enjoying—the opportunity of practice which would be given by regimental or other schools of practice.
The only question in this connexion is as to the grade of the lowest permanent officers of ordnance. As their number is small and their duties alike, I think the proposition of having none lower than majors a good one. Officers appointed to these places will have had greater experience in command of troops, to qualify them for taking such command when it may fall to them, by virtue of the provisions of section 9.
The first lines of section 5 probably do not express what was intended, as they would have the effect of legislating out of office the general of engineers authorized by section three. If the wording of the corresponding section of the Senate bill be insufficient or objectionable, this section 5 may be made to read thus: “In addition to the number of brigadier generals now authorized by law, and the
brigadier general of engineers, there shall be seven brigadier generals, one of the brigadier generals to be Adjutant General,” &c.
The provisions of this section simplify, in some degree, the organization of the army, by reducing the number of officers devoted permanently to special duties. It is certainly true that the usual, and especially the routine, duties of any department, will be more readily performed, like any other business, by those long practised in the execution of them, but it appears to me that intelligence, a good professional education, and respectable business capacity, are sufficient, with moderate experience in details, for the performance of the administrative duties of the general staff, and that it is not necessary in this case to incur the inconvenience of complicating the system, and of separating a large number of officers entirely from service with troops.
Whilst there appears, therefore, to be no necessity for the organization of separate permanent corps for performing the duties of the several departments of the general staff, it is highly desirable to avoid the evils which are almost inseparable from this permanent organization. This is, I think, well accomplished by the arrangements proposed in section 5, which would not only offer all the present facilities of selecting competent officers for staff duties, but would afford the means of correcting errors of selection by replacing in the regiments officers who, whilst they may be well qualified for regimental duty, shall have been found deficient in administrative ability, or otherwise unsuited to their positions on the staff.
It may be said that the objections to special organization apply also to the corps of engineers, so far as relates to their succession to command. This is true to some extent; but their duties absolutely require training and constant practice, and the evil cannot be avoided in this case without incurring a greater one. All that can be done is to limit its extent as much as possible.
The provisions of sections 4, 5, and 6 are intimately connected with those of section 9, regulating rank and command; and the latter I consider among the most important sections of the bill, in promoting the harmony of the service, and preventing the scandalous and even hazardous quarrels (hazardous to the success of military operations) which have frequently occurred in our army.
Perhaps it may be said that these regulations for rank and command could be adopted without a reorganization of the army; but the consequence would be, that a young officer entering the ordnance corps at its foot, or appointed in the general staff, may attain the rank of major, lieutenant colonel, or colonel, without any experience or knowledge derived from active command of troops, and may by right of his rank be placed in a position to commando a detachment, or even an army in the field. This would lead to practical inconveniences which ought to be avoided, if possible. The evil consequences of a wellestablished and indisputable rule on the subject of rank and command are too frequently felt in the service to require further remark, and it is of the greatest importance that some definite rule on this subject shall be adopted. The simple principle that an officer shall have the right to command all those of inferior rank who are on duty with him
appears to be obviously proper. Admitting this, care must be taken that an officer having this right shall have had opportunity to qualify himself for exercising it without prejudice to the public interests. Hence the staff must be composed of officers of some experience in the service of troops; or else it must form a civil corps, like the medical and pay departments, ineligible to military command.
The rules of promotion laid down in section 7 of the bill are, I think, good. Those relative to the selection of general officers and of the Chief Engineer are the same that now exist by law. It would be difficult, and perhaps dangerous in our army, to extend the rule of selection very far; and the exception to the right of promotion, in case of disability or incompetency, may be sufficient to guard the service from the inconvenience of intrusting high and important duties to an officer of known inability to perform them. I think it important that the right of appointing majors of ordnance from the engineers, as well as the artillery, should be preserved, as in the Senate bill. Some of the duties of the ordnance department are so closely connected with those of the engineers, that it will be of great benefit to the service of both departments to have some of the ordnance officers practically acquainted with the details of engineering.
There may be a doubt about the propriety of the limitation put in section 9) on the President's right of assigning a brevet officer to command a senior brevet. There are cases, for instance, when a lieutenant may have the brevet of major senior to that of an old captain and brevet major; and it would seem unjust to prevent the commanding officer from availing himself of the experience or ability of the latter by placing him in command of a detachment; whilst, on the other hand, the proposed limitation would not prevent him from placing the lieutenant in command over a full major or captain having no brevet. The rule respecting the right of officers of the medical and pay de partments to command is expressed in the Senate bill in the terms of the present law on the subject; the addition made to it in the House bill seems to be unnecessary and inexpedient.
The increase of pay proposed in section 11 is obvioụsly just and proper. The present rates of pay were established in 1806; and it is only necessary to compare the cost of the necessaries of life and the ordinary rates of wages at that period and this, to be convinced of the propriety, and indeed necessity, of an increase in the compensation of officers. The principle, besides, is fully recognised by Congress, in advancing the salaries of nearly all other government officers.
The part of the first proviso which allows full pay to officers absent from duty on account of disease contracted in the line of duty” is too vague in its application, and will be liable to abuse. The third proviso, allowing service rations to general officers, seems to me eminently just and proper. The commanding general of the army, after forty years' service as a major general, and the most distinguished services, receives rather less pay now, I believe, than he did in 1815.
The provisions of the remaining sections, relative to a retired list, are of the utmost importance to the vigorous administration of the military force, by enabling the officers who have been worn out by age or infirmity to give place honorably to younger men fitted for