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Mr. Faulkner: General Scott, state to the committee any other changes which occur to you as proper in the bill.
General Scott: The duty of supplying clothing to the troops has for some twelve years been confided to the Quartermaster's department of the staff; it was formerly in the hands of a Commissary General of Purchases. It is proposed to transfer it to the commissariat, (Subsistence department,) to relieve the Quartermaster General, whose department is overburdened with that superadded duty; whereas the Commissariat of Subsistence, with a little aid from the line, would be fully competent to execute the extra duty.
There is a suggested change in the bill as originally submitted, that the words "in cases not provided for in the 98th article of war” be inserted in the 10th section, after the words, “the following rules shall regulate the command and rank officer.”
[Here follows 98th article of war.] This article was adopted in 1775—before the Declaration of Independence—and is a necessary part of the code regulating rank. I also suggested an addition to the end of the rule of rank prescribed in the bill to prevent a junior officer, by virtue of his brevet, being placed, by assignment of the President, above his senior by brevet. Nature does not more abhor a vacuum, than senior officers abhor being placed under the command of a junior.
Question by Mr. Faulkner: State your opinion of the importance of brevet appointments in the army.
Answer. I have always been looked upon in the army as a stickler for brevet rank. I am not a brevet officer at this time; I have been. I am persuaded that it gives to government the means of stimulating its officers to the highest deeds of valor and other distinguished conduct.
In a republican government there can be but few rewards for great services. Of these, the system of brevets may be regarded as the principal. It is wonderful how the hope of winning a brevet stirs the souls of young officers, and, indeed, of officers not so young. On the field, when about to engage the enemy, it is common to hear officers, in the act of drawing swords, exclaim, “Here goes for a brevet to-day.”
Under judicious legislation, such as this bill proposes, the rule governing brevet rank is so simplified that heart-burnings could scarcely ever be created by bestowing that reward on officers specially distinguishing themselves.
In commenting upon a section of the bill relative to service rations, General Scott said:
I had nothing to do with the provision in the bill relative to service rations. The Secretary of War inserted that without consultation with me. In 1839, by the permission of the Secretary, I prepared an amendment for the consideration of the Military Committee of the House, providing for an additional ration for every five years' service as a service ration, which amendment I handed to a member of that committee, who informed me that the committee had agreed to report it, but that the chairman would probably in the House) speak against and kill it.
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You, sir, (addressing Colonel Benton,) were the occupant then of & position which I believe you held for twenty years—that of chairman of the Military Committee of the Senate—and my amendment met with your approval.
When the friend in the House committee found that his chairman (a great economist) would oppose the amendment in the House, he induæd the committee to send for me to meet them, and to overcome the objection of the chairman. In discussing the proposition with him, he very gruffly demanded of me, “Have you not pay enough?” I replied, “Yes; strike the general officers out;' and it was done. Thus it is that all officers have since received the service ration except general officers.
The reason of the Secretary of War for placing in this bill generals on the same footing with other officers in respect to service rations, is this: If the bill should pass, general officers will be as liable as others to be placed on the retired list, and without service rations. A major general would receive, in the whole, less money than a colonel on the same list.
Mr. Faulkner called the attention of General Scott to that provision of the bill which related to the suspension of an officer's rations when absent from his post over a certain time, and requested his opinion upon it.
Remarks of General Scott in reply: It is difficult sometimes to get officers back to their regiments as promptly as is wished. Indeed, this difficulty, some years since, necessitated an order similar to the provision in the bill, from which the idea is borrowed. The bill gives an officer ample time, according to distance, to return to his duties. If his leave exceeds that time, it seems reasonable that his rations (not pay) should be stopped.
Question by Mr. Faulkner: State your opinion as to the expediency of a retired list for the army.
Answer. I think highly of it. We have some forty-odd officers hindered, by diseases, wounds, or premature old age, unfit for active duty. There are some who are from five to seventeen years my seniors : some of high rank, three as low as captain, and perhaps two as low as lieutenant. They are, nearly all, officers who have served most honorably, and continue to be gentlemen of high moral worth; but they impede promotions and the activity and efficiency of the service. Their retirement would greatly improve the army.
No injustice can be done any one, as there are two checks in the way. In the first place, the board for the examination of cases for retirement is a check; and in the next the Senate, which has the confirmation of the successors to the retired officers. We have, then, a double security against injustice.
I consider the additional section, limiting the time for placing officers on the retired list to one year, as very proper. The necessity for a renewal of the power to retire officers would hardly arise more than once in every fifteen years. Indeed, it would take fifteen or twenty years to accumulate a sufficient number of infirm officers to make it necessary to invoke Congress to renew the power of retiring them.
Question. State more in detail the views which caused you to differ from the Secretary of War as to the expediency of reducing the regiments of artillery.
Answer. In the conversation which I had with the Secretary, I regretted the proposed reduction of two regiments of artillery. We conversed freely on the subject, and differed; but finally, we so far approximated that he paid me the compliment to say that he had more confidence in my opinion, with reference to artillery, than he had in his own. In this connexion, let me say that the Secretary was bred in the infantry and cavalry, and was indeed an excellent officer in both. I was bred an artillerist, and on that account, I suppose, he deferred to my judgment on this point.
Our country has now nearly finished an excellent system of de fence on the Atlantic and Gulf seaboard by fortifications, on which a great amount of money has been expended, which all military men have become more persuaded are necessary. Each of these fortifications requires small garrisons in time of peace, to keep them in order and save them from dilapidation. The artillery should garrison these fortifications; but we have been obliged to withdraw and send the artillery into the Indian countries.
The artillery has made, in the field, excellent infantry and light infantry. Willing, then, as they have ever been, to do any duty, in peace and in war, which has been assigned them, why should they be deprived of the name in which they have gained distinction?
The cadets who excelled in artillery duty at West Point are made officers in the artillery, and are adapted to that duty, and also make excellent infantry. Seven-eighths of them are now engaged as infantry. In Mexico I often had occasion to witness their excellent conduct with both arms.
Its members have never said, when required to face Mexicans or Indians, “We cannot fight with muskets—we are artillerists."
The chance of returning to their position as artillerists in our permanent forts, so long as their name remains unchanged, cheers them wherever they are—in the swamps of Florida or wilds of Texas.
Mr. Thomas M. Howe, a member of the committee, called the attention of General Scott to that clause of the bill reducing the officers of the ordnance corps, and asked if it would not be doing injustice to those officers, who would, by virtue of a special act of Congress, be entitled to a captaincy after fourteen years' continuous service in that corps, and who, if this bill passed, by being transferred to other regiments, would lose their right to promotion under that act, and by that means be placed some ways behindhand in the line of promotion?
General Scott said: That promotion in the army was effected, more or less, by the stations of the different regiments or corps; that promotion was of course quicker in regiments which were posted at remote, exposed, and uncomfortable stations, where the mortality was greater. As an example in point, officers in the 6th infantry who graduated three or four years after officers in the 4th infantry, are now ahead of the latter in the line of promotion, for the reason that the 4th infantry had generally had pleasant stations, whilst the 6th were for the same time in distant and uncomfortable posts, resulting
in more deaths and resignations. The one made up in pleasantness of service, what the other gained by promotion in service of roughness and hardship.
It is true that, on account of stagnant promotion in the staff corps, Congress recently passed an act giving captaincies to lieutenants therein for fourteen years' service. There was the error, and not in this bill, rendering some of the staff officers liable to be transferred. That provision should have been general. If there was a necessity for it, its provisions, in fairness, should have been extended to the regiments. The officers of staff corps have very generally been engaged on the most pleasant duties, with higher pay and emoluments; while the captains and lieutenants of regiments have generally been at remote, uncomfortable, and unhealthy stations, thus gaining, by mortality and resignations, a quicker promotion.
Reverse the positions of these officers, and no doubt the captains and lieutenants of the staff corps would have performed every duty of the line as cheerfully, gallantly, and efficiently as their brothers. I know them well. They also are capable of braving every hardship and every danger; but those hardships and those dangers have, in fact, and from the circumstances, been actually and more generally met and overcome by the captains and lieutenants of the marching regiments.
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WASHINGTON CITY, January 2, 1855. SIR: I have been requested by the Secretary of War to present directly to you, as the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives, my views in relation to the several provisions of the bill reported by you on the 4th instant, for the increase and better organization, &c., of the army; and understanding that it is in accordance with your own wishes that I should do so, I most respectfully present the following remarks :
In relation to the 1st section of the bill, it is proper to observe that our army, spread, as it is, in small detachments over a territory embracing twenty-four degrees of latitude and fifty-seven degrees of longitude, is totally inadequate to the duties devolved upon it; it is in the actual performance of duties equal to those performed by any fifty thousand men in any other service in the world. Long, rapid, and expensive movements have continually to be made to make up for the want of numbers. Every man, therefore, proposed to be added by this section of the bill, will be required for the defence of our extensive frontiers; and in the event of serious Indian difficulties, a volunteer force will often be necessary in aid of the army even with that
I ascribe all the Indian wars which have taken place, since the conclusion of peace with Great Britain at Ghent, to the reduction of the army in 1821. When the difficulties first occurred in relation to our Dortheastern boundary, Mr. Adams was obliged to withdraw the greater part of two regiments from Florida and the Creek country. Had the force then withdrawn remained among, or near to, the southern Indians, we would, I believe, have avoided the Creek and Seminole wars, with all the heavy expenses attending them, and every Indian of those tribes have been long since west of the Mississippi.
As relates to the 2d section of the bill, the title of "cavalry” is the proper designation for all mounted corps; but in place of the four captains and four first lieutenants to each company of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, I would recommend that a first lieutenant be added to each company of cavalry and infantry, (there are now two first lieutenants to each company of artillery,) and that all the subordinate staff officers of every branch of the service be appointed from first lieutenants to serve in the staff for four years, unless removed by the President, or promoted to a captaincy, in which latter event the officer promoted should join his company. In what further relates to the organization of the companies, the only remark I would make is, to recommend that one of the two farriers, authorized to each company of cavalry, be a competent veterinary surgeon, and have additional pay as such.
In relation to the 3d section, I believe the service would be benefited by uniting the two corps of engineers; but I doubt whether the number of officers should be reduced. The labors of these corps have no relation to the number of the troops composing the army; but as our country, unlike the great States of Europe, whose measures of preparation and works of defence have been completed, has hardly yet begun to put itself in armor, or to make the surveys required for war, the officers of engineers should be numerous—fully as much so in peace as in war; for it is in peace only that permanent and durable works can be erected, or that scientific surveys can be faithfully made. But if the two corps be blended, and the proposed reduction be made, inasmuch as the officers of both corps have received equal advantages of education, and the officers of the topographical engineers are certainly equal in every respect to those of the engineers of construction, it is a matter of sheer justice that the officers be selected from both corps, and that the inefficient of both, if there are any such, be transferred to other corps of the army. More engineer soldiers are necessary. We will require at least sixty forts for the defence of our extensive maritime frontier in time of war; and those forts can be more cheaply kept in repair by the engineer soldiers, under the direction of engineer officers, than in any other mode that could be devised.
In relation to the 4th section, I would remark, that the labors of the ordnance, like those of the two corps of engineers, are as extensive and arduous in peace as in war; it is then that arms must be fabricated and every munition prepared, and that ordnance depots should be established on all the great avenues leading to the frontiers. As to the reduction of the officers of the corps I would prefer to say nothing; but as this is the only corps in which it is proposed to add a considerable number of field officers, the artillery and the staff should share in the promotion, or, what would be more just, officers of the staff, holding the rank provided for, should be transferred to that corps with their field rank.
As to the 5th section, I have to remark, that so far as regards the first class of officers, having a personal interest in the matter, I can