Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

and supplies by sea, around Cape Horn, or across the Isthmus through the territory of a foreign nation. Such a reliance would subject us to too much delay and expense, and expose our re-enforcements to too many casualties, of all kinds. A good road would be self-sustaining, and ultimately might, under judicious management, reimburse a portion of its first cost. It is reassuring to reflect that, if its great cost is evident, so the numerous benefits which would flow from the road are equally indisputable. Instead of repining at the necessity which demands the construction of three canals and a railroad to render our national defences efficient, the nation has great cause for self-gratulation at having occasion to construct so few-has great reason to be proud of that individual enterprise and energy, which, without national aid, has created so many thousand miles of commercial communications of the first order of completeness and efficiency, not only for the purposes of commerce, but also so admirably adapted for the military purposes of the government. The unstimulated efforts of peaceful citizens for peaceful ends have created for the United States a greater and more complete system of communications, well located and well suited for military purposes, than any created by the mightiest military nations led and stimulated by the mightiest warriors of any age of the world.

While so much has been done for the government by its citizens, and so much more is likely hereafter to be done by them, directly available for military purposes, the government has abundant cause of thankfulness that so little of consequence remains to be done by itself, and should proceed to the execution of its task with unhesitating alacrity.

The building of a great road from St. Louis to San Francisco consolidates the power of the United States; it mobilizes the power of the United States. Not only so, but it would speedily cause to be populated those numerous fertile valleys existing amid those wonderful mountain ranges which our maps erroneously represent as one vast area of desolation; it would thus seriously aid in providing hardy mountaineers not likely to assist at a surrender of the keys of the Golden Gate. From every reason that can be properly urged in favor of placing a country in a state of defence, your committee urge the early construction of a good and reliable road from the Missouri river to the bay of San Francisco.

It may be proper to say, before leaving the subject of coast defences on the Pacific, that your committee consider good defensive works on Puget sound and its tributary waters, and on the Rio Colorado, at the head of the Gulf of California, as indispensable to a successful defence of the immediate Pacific coast. Judicious measures calculated to secure permanent settlements in the fertile valleys of the Colorado of the west, and upon the waters of Puget sound, are also imperatively demanded by the military interests of this interesting ocean frontier. Those flank defences, supported by populations of respectable numbers, would, in the event of a large war, possess great value to the defenders of the coast on the Pacific ocean. Of similar value would be a railroad from Los Angelos, via the Tulare and San Joaquin valleys, to San Francisco, with a branch from a point a few miles east of San Francisco, along the banks of the Sacramento, and northerly as far as the configuration of the country will allow, and business and population would justify; such a road would greatly increase the defensive ability of California, by conferring on it the power to quickly assemble and transfer its forces to repel assaults; it would be second in importance only to the road to the Missouri river, and is well worthy of government aid should the people of that State decide to build it.

INCREASE OF ARMS.

6. The events of the late Russian and Austrian wars, as well as those of our own, reveal to us in a striking light the necessity of a decided increase of the capacity of the several navy yards, and the establishment of one upon the lakes; the establishment of a few firstclass arsenals of construction at points as safe from hostile approach as is the arsenal at Watervliet, and yet accessible by both boats and railroad alike from the interior, and from each of the several frontiers; a good national foundery, as securely located and as accessible as the arsenals of construction; another national armory, located as above described; a large increase in the number, quality, weight, and range of ordnance for arming forts and vessels; a large increase in the number, quality, and range of our rifles, muskets, carbines, and pistols; an increased capacity of arsenals of repair and of deposit. A marked increase in the weight and range of ordnance made for use in fortifications and on shipboard is particularly desirable, and, it is thought by many who have given the subject much attention, is easily attainable. If good twenty-inch guns can be fabricated, it is seriously doubted whether ships can be built which could sustain, for any considerable time, the concentrated fire of a large fort armed with them. Balls of a half ton weight, thrown with the proper velocity, several striking at the same moment, would probably soon destroy any vessel hitherto devised. Special experiments with this class of ordnance, and with improved projectiles, should be authorized by Congress. The knowledge which our officers on land and sea are now gaining relative to the power and value of the several classes of improved ordnance, specially qualifies them to pass upon the merits of rival guns and projectiles very intelligently. They have passed from the theories of the closet to the practical tests of the battle-field, and will return with matured opinions as to the actual value of the several leading features which distinguish the best of the new inventions. Solid progress has been made, and we must avail ourselves of it in all that we do hereafter. Not a gun should be made, nor a ship nor a fortitication built, but in strict accordance with the rules of the military art, as modified by the recent revelations of experience. All else is waste.

MILITARY AND NAVAL OFFICERS. 7. In addition to the construction of fortifications and ships and the accumulation of approved arms and of munitions of war, we must, to insure successful defence, secure an unfailing supply of scientific and thoroughly trained officers. In this respect it would be neither creditable nor safe to fall behind any other nation. The advantages flowing from placing fleets and armies under an intelligent direction need not be enumerated to an American Congress nor to the American people. The only question is, how large a number ought to be educated in the best manner for the naval and military service? This is a difficult question to answer. It may, however, safely be affirmed, in general terms, that twice as many as we have heretofore educated will be wanted hereafter. The casualties have to be taken into account. They cannot be avoided. We deplore the deaths and injuries and regret the resignations of accomplished and useful officers; the loss by resignation is, however, partially compensated by the consequent benefits to manufactures and commerce and by the formation of a valuable reserve. Nearly all officers who resign do so to enter the service of railroad and steamship companies or other important concerns, which enrich and strengthen the gov. ernment. In these resigned officers the United States possess a valuable reserve or surplus, from which to draw supplies of educated officers in times of war. The availability and military value of this reserve was demonstrated in the Mexican as well as in the present war. The moment their country needed their services, large numbers of these resigned officers came forward with alacrity to serve the country which had educated them for its military purposes. In their retirement many had organized and trained volunteer corps; when the war broke out they had acquired an influence which enabled them to easily organize large volunteer forces, which they promptly led to the field. As in the past it has ever been thus, it is reasonable to believe it will be so in the future. The frequency of resignation should not, therefore, deter us from adhering to our system, though this evil may call for preventives in certain possible contingencies.

Before leaving this subject of securing for the United States educated naval and military talent for the direction of our forces by sea. and land, your committee will take occasion to remark that the growing opinion in favor of allowing parents and guardians to educate young men of promising talents at the United States Military and Naval Academies, at their own expense, seems to be worthy of consideration. As now constituted, no citizen is permitted to educate his son or ward at these academies, however willing he may be to defray the entire expense, and that the pupil shall in all respects conform to all their rules and requirements, unless so fortunate as to ob. tain for him one of the few appointments allowed by law. An able corps of officers, of all grades, and of both arms of the service, is now being practically educated in the military art; their schooling is conducted in the field and on the sea in the actual presence of the enemy; their lessons are explained and demonstrated by frequent practical examples of the most varied and instructive character, well calculated to fit them to cope, should it ever become necessary, with the leaders of the armies of any nations. But, in the course of nature, these in a few years will have passed away, and year by year

H. Rep. Com. 86—2

should be succeeded by young men well qualified by a thorough preparatory training to take their places ; as now constituted, the two academies are unable to prepare the number which will be required by the future exigencies of the army and navy. They will be unable, inasmuch as commercial men, manufacturers, mechanical establishments, and railroads, as the business and wealth of the country expand, will make increasing demands upon educated talent ; and the better we prepare cadets for duty the sharper will be the competition against the government; the abler our officers the more attractive will be the inducements held out to them to exchange the public for private employment.

Severe legislative enactments will not remedy the evil, but an increased supply will. To this latter remedy must we resort if we would maintain the present high character of our officers for scientific military attainments. The committee, therefore, recommend that another military academy be established, to be located in the west, and another naval academy be established, to be located in the northeast, or that the capacity of the present establishments be enlarged, and that the President be directed to submit to the next Congress the best plans for the duplication or the enlargement of such institutions, together with estimates of cost ; and also that the President further report as to the expediency of opening to both classes of cadets, as well those who shall be appointed under the present system and those who may be educated at those institutions at the expense of their parents and guardians, the opportunity of obtaining commissions in the army and navy at the end of their academical career by requiring a certain standard of merit to entitle either to enter the service as officers.

8. To place the United States in a good condition of defence we must also constitute and maintain an army and navy entirely sufficient in numbers and excellence. in personnel and materiel, to command the respect of other nations-a respect based upon a consciousness of our being prepared to promptly punish wanton aggression.

Hitherto, instead of having an army respectable for its size, it had been made so unpopular (by artful appeals to our national dislike to maintain large fleets and armies) as to resist all efforts to increase our military strength to an extent equal to our actual wants, that traitors were able to commence, and actually did commence a rebellion at a time when the government had scarcely one thousand soldiers east of the Mississippi river, amid a population of more than twenty-five millions. Forts seemed to have been built for ornamental rather than useful purposes. The idea that one of the chief objects of establishing the Union was to insure domestic tranquility,'' had come to be considered a “glittering generality,” quite inconsistent with State rights. The stirring events and trials of the past twelve months have, at a cost of rivers of blood and a thousand millions of dollars, thoroughly dispelled these wretched but once popular delusions. We now clearly see how wise were the earnest recommendations of our military authorities. Had they been heeded in 1836, when the treasury was so full that Congress deemed it proper to di. vide a considerable portion of the public moneys among the several States, the present rebellion probably had not occurred. We should have had two forts where we now have one ; the cost of all would have been but about thirty-one million five hundred thousand dollars; their peace garrisons would have been five thousand nine hundred and forty soldiers; their war garrisons sixty-three thousand three hundred and ninety-one. With our forts garrisoned, traitors would have forborne from engaging in war ; but if otherwise, how readily could they have been seized. How small the cost of the defences; how small the cost of maintaining the garrisons, compared with our present expenditures.

To protect our immense interior territories against the numerous Indian tribes who roam over them is a work equal to the utmost efforts of our present regular forces, and more than they have hitherto been able properly to perform. An increase of the regular army to an extent adequate to the proper garrisoning of our frontier defences, under the revised estimates which have become necessary, is there. fore a military necessity which cannot be prudently overlooked nor neglected by Congress. On this point a careful estimate should be required from an able board of engineers of more than usual experience. The preservation of peace with foreign nations is not a greater blessing than the maintenance of domestic tranquillity; and the maintenance of a well appointed army and navy, suitable to our necessities and our means, will powerfully aid us in the preservation of both.

Similar views naturally present themselves in relation to a judicious increase of the navy, and a report thereon should be provided for at an early day; much of its present force is entirely temporary, and will disappear with the occasion which demanded its accumulation, leaving the nation with a navy quite inadequate to our wants.

Your committee have endeavored to show, at some length, that our frontier defences are defective, and should therefore be either improved or superseded, so as to afford protection of a character upon which we can rely. It has been urged that as our defences, compared with those of other nations, are respectable, and the great mass of our people ardently love peace, and therefore in this age of rapidly advancing civilization not likely to provoke enmities in the breasts of reasonable people to the extent of hostilities, why, in this time of heavy taxation, insist upon entering upon the work of constructing extensive and costly defences? Why insist upon our acting as though other nations were actuated only by a spirit of rapine and conquest ?

Your committee are not insensible to the ameliorating influences which advancing Christianity and civilization are steadily and beneficently working among the leading nations of our age. But prudence forbids us to be blind to the influences which ambition and commercial and manufacturing rivalry still exert upon the minds of those who control the great governments of the earth. What is the example set us by the enterprising and highly enlightened neighbor upon whose border we have recommended expensive works of defence? What mean the extensive and costly naval depots at Bermuda

« AnteriorContinua »