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PUBLISHED MONTHLY AT FIve dollars pER ANNUM-JNO. R. THOMPSON, EDITOR AND PROPRIEtor.
RICHMOND, FEBRUARY, 1851.
THE MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT
or never does it occur that even rational writers
Natures cynical and hyper-conservative may rail at things present, and sigh for the days that are past-but at this time when all things move with such lightning speed, it would
The military establishment of any country must be regarded as one of the necessary attendant expenses upon the existence of its government. It has its uses, and may have had its abuses. Of the latter class the incidents of history afford too many examples. Nevertheless, thus far be ridiculous to indulge in such fancies, and in the progress of the world, no nation has been still more so to attempt to propagate them. able to dispense with it. It may be that it can Prudence, however, should never be forgotnever be dispensed with, with safety, unless indeed ten, and while aught which tends to improvewe were to arrive at a millenium, or were to re-ment should be cherished, its features should lapse into barbarism. be closely criticised, that its errors may be discovered, before their effects doubly potent from the numerous facilities for extending information and ideas set forth as orthodox, become devel
It would require no great stretch of imagination to conceive such a relapse in regard to military affairs, however preposterous it might appear to indulge in gloomy prognostications re-oped by the injury which they have inflicted. specting the general civilisation of maukiud. We must expect that many will remain unIndeed, it may be that such a state is nearer than detected, and progressives, of one hundred is generally believed. For, until the various years heuce, may smile in derision at the fallapassions, interests, and prejudices, which have cies and misty prejudices of eighteen hundred been the causes of strife since the world began, and fifty. Au error in popular belief, which it is and which are inherent to humanity, have been to be anticipated will by that time, if not sooner, entirely obliterated by the progress of enlighten-be discerned and appreciated, is that of the dement, wars must still have place upon the recrease of warlike controversies, so often vaunted cords of history. And where is the man who by Proletaries of socialism, and peace-society can predict with anything like certainty the period orators. of such an acme of civilisation?
If the latter half of the nineteenth century afford as many instances of strife as the former,
the future reader of history will be at a loss to imagine that wars were not the all-engrossing occupation of the world during the epoch.
Self-gratulation is common to us all, and the vanity which is kept in check in individuals, by contact with others, has full scope in the world's society of nations. Flattery, which too gross might be revolting to the mind of an individual, will seldom be distasteful to the ravenous appetite of the masses. A writer, seeking temporary popularity, need never fear that he pours out too potent or too frequent libations at the shrine of
The philosopher may see in them many steps which will have been gained, for whatever evils wars may have inflicted, there never was, and never will be one devoid of beneficial effect.* Elements of discord, sufficient causes of na
public vanity. Bacchus-like, it glories in intox-tional strife exist yet, wanting only the proper ication and in maudlin gratitude repays the giver agent to bring them into action. The spindles of the feast by fulsome praise, perchance not of the Valkyrs, those mythological creations of less acceptable or less noisy than his own. Time, the great demonstrator of error, and history, the record of folly as well as of wisdom, may at length prove the mistakes of both. But seldom *1. Annual Message and accompanying Documents. 1849-50. Part 1. See Secretary of War's Report with Documents appertaining thereto.
Nations, has been one of Battle, not infrequently even *It would seem that the birth-day of the greatness of though it may have been one of present disaster, and humiliation. And it were a proper theme for the Philosoph
ical historian to trace out the beneficial effects to civilisation and the general weal of man and nations, that have followed from great wars and conquests.
The annals of all nations and races are teeming with
2. Report of “Board of Visiters" of the Military Acad-material for this most interesting, curious and instrucemy at West Point. Annual examination, June, 1850. Į tive chapter of the World's history.
our Teutonic forefathers, have not ceased spin- justice on the part of its officers by its subservienning the woof whereof all wars are woven. Be-cy to a civil power, conferred as it is in our own neath their ruthless and inexorable hands, the country by the hands of the people, while it is web of strife will grow, and clasp nations in its yet strong in those powers legally conferred for reshes, perhaps until the end of time and certain purposes, may well afford the security for things. It may be even then, that, as from their all objects required. Upon such an establishment, the force which we may find necessary for national defence in time of emergency, should be formed; not only because of the superior strength which it will possess over one which may lack its discipline, but for the security of our national honor. The exercise of honor, fortitude, cour
"Shall start the livid legions from their last,
The latent fires break out even now, and age, obedience, modesty and temperance, withlittle news of even an abortive warlike expedi-out which, as has been said by a prominent histion is sufficient to set a nation in a blaze. Li-torian, the glory of arms cannot be obtained, will berty is a cry which has not yet lost its force, and add to that glory, another not less honorable and is shouted at one time in sympathy with foreign glorious. The evils of war will in a great miserables, and again in favor of domestic slaves. measure be inflicted upon the legitimate objects Law and order, sacred national obligatious, and of it, and while the achievements and benefits of constitutional rights, spring up in opposition. success remain with the conquerors, benefits not Peaceful orators may declaim and use their less in magnitude may accrue to the vanquished. powers in pouring oil on the troubled waters, but warlike rhetoricians have never been wanting to inflame the spirit of a nation and that too with success, by their loud and deafening calls to Moreover, as has been said by a recent has characterised those of a regularly constituwriter, "It appears to be a law of nature, inter-ted army, but will necessarily partake of the napret or account for it how we please, that all the ture of the predatory incursions of a bygone age. great and ennobling virtues of humanity, cluster The majesty of regularly constituted authority round the sword. The moment a nation ceases which should be a characteristic of an army, the to be courageous, it ceases to respect itself, and physical representative of a nation's strength, of necessity becomes Epicurean, cringing, ser-will be wanting. Chiefs will govern by the convile, and base; which the Romans sought to ex-sent of their immediate followers and where so press by making valor and virtue synonymous."
But if military operations be conducted by persons or parties of men controlled by no governing power save their own interested views and caprices, they will not only lack the system which
History will support this assertion to the fullest extent, and as it is more than probable that wars will continue, unless we, like those nations who have fallen from an estate of national glory, should in our turn become "Epicurean, servile and base," it would seem that in our general progress, the military profession should not be neglected.
many fields for the exercise of vicious propensities are within view, interested motives of vicious men will but too often designate the person to whom that consent will be given. If the chiefs then obey the dictates of their followers, the state of barbarism in military matters will have been reached, and wars which might have been elements of improvement, become the arch-enemies of civilisation.*
In all which may benefit a nation, all which *The system of electing officers by the votes of private may render it formidable against foreign aggres-soldiers is as absurdly infeasable as vicious in operation. sion, all which gives ground, for a proper self- The Army is not a Commonwealth, and can never be so confidence and esteem in the hearts of a people, regarded. Soldiers do not enlist or volunteer in order to upon the glory of its arms, it should be fostered serve themselves, except it be to the extent of their pay, by the governing power of the nation. While and of following their own patriotic impulses. They are, not less than the officers, servants of the State, employed at the same time, all which tends to mitigate upon particular service by the People. those evils which follow in the train of war, and take from it the various opportunities which it affords for the exercise of evil passions of our nature, should be most carefully attended to.
It has been found that these various objects are secured by similar means. Discipline, which never yet detracted from the strength of banded men. has always been a preventive against outrages. An establishment regulated by fixed laws, and accustomed to obey them, secured from in
The army is a small part of the people-voluntarily isolated for the time being but with increased duties and obligations from those of the ordinary citizen--acting for the good of the whole, and paid for its services by the nation. Therefore if the system of popular elections is to be adopted, the people of the United States at large would constitute the proper electors, as they, and not the soldiers, are those to whom the services of officers are given. Such an election being out of the question, expediency manifestly demonstrates that the appointments should be
made as in the Regular establishment, by the elected agents of the people.
The military art in its broadest sense, is one of very great extent, and reaches every element of national existence, both moral and physical. It must ever vary with the circumstances of a nation, and its establishment should be so constituted that it may be exercised in perfect barmony with the civil organization. Our purpose is to glance at the military land establishment of the United States, and the state of the military art, either progressive or retrograde, in some of its details, as it at present exists amongst us.
The great strength of armies, like that of men and of nations is, confessedly, their moral power. In so far as this moral power can be cherished by the hand of government, it would seem to be most worthy of attention. It is true, that it is
In so far as improvements in the mere mechanical instruments of war are concerned, it may be believed that quite a sufficient degree of attention is given thereto, and that in this con-dependent upon many adventitious circumstannection progress in the profession is not wanting.ces, which spring up according to different posiIngenuity incited by cupidity, has caused the in- tions in which the army may be placed-and in vention of many contrivances, intended to facil- some respects varying as these may vary-but the itate destruction. great ground work of the moral force, which constitutes the fitness of the instrument for the service upon which it is to be employed, is permanent.
Governments constituted as that of the United States, seem to have arrived nearer perfection than others, if we admit the truth of Montesquieu's principle, viz. "that that government is the best which governs the least." In respect to military affairs it has been the constaint aim of
The subordinate civil officers of the Republic might with as much reason elect the heads of Departments and Pres-American legislators to keep the army of the naident of the United States, as that soldiers should elect their officers.
tion at a minimum standard. Fixed principle as this has become, it would be a useless task to advocate a change of policy-especially when so many arguments present themselves in favor of its continuance. Geographical position, and the course of events, have rendered the immediate services of a large body of troops in time of peace in a great degree unnecessary-and it now appears that the army is mainly to be regarded as the force necessary to maintain the petty wars of defence, waged from time to time against the Indian tribes on our extended frontiers. This is
"Machines of war," it has been said by an ordnance officer in a late work upon artillery, "have now reached a state which would seem to admit of little or no improvement." However this may be, and whatever effect mere mechanical inventions may have, they will never cause the great
Let it be established and understood that our armies shall elect the officers and commanders, and enact their own rules and ordinances, and we should, upon the first outbreak of hostilities, find masses of men with arms in their hands to a certain extent authorized by Law to protect their own special interests. A little color of law to the action of public servants for selfish ends, will go a great way, and will be sufficient authority for the estabment of dangerous precedents.
changes in the art of war which their inventors often claim as the consequence of their adoption. They are but mechanical, and as whatever may be the instrument of attack, in civilized warfare, the attack will be met by a defence as ingenious, they can never be trusted to, as principal elements of safety, useful as they may be as auxiliaries, and as being the proper and legitimate instruments of the times.
However much an officer holding office and command by the voice of his troops may be held responsible to the authorities of the General Government for his misdeeds, he will naturally look to his constituency for support. If they are strong enough, and willing to sup- a legitimate use of the force and so far as necesport him, he will, unless he be a man of uncommon patri- sary it should be so used. But to regard the otism, be tempted to set governmental authority at defiancet
The truer way therefore is, by making an officer depen- army as but the instrument for temporary service ent upon the Government, to hold him directly responsible of this nature would be an error of grave to that Government for his acts to superiors or inferiors, ene- magnitude.
mies or friends. His character as a public servant will be It is, has been, and must be the nucleus around thus ensured; and he can in no wise be a chief of men, or which to form the force of the country in times exercise authority but as the agent of his government. He must never be allowed to act as the agent and instrument of danger. As these may arise at any period, prudence would dictate that the nucleus should be such as to give its healthy tone to the mass to he formed upon it; that it should be in such positious that it may be easily commanded, and that
of his command.
* Vide page 19, “Elementary Treatise on Artillery and Infantry," by Lieut. C. P. Kingsbury, Ordnance Corps, U.S. Army, published by G. P. Putnam, New York, 1849. We would here call public attention to this excellent treatise, one which fully meets a desideratum and fur- it should be essentially the army of the American nishes a large amount of most valuable matter not hereto-republic. fore attainable in the English language.
Ideas such as these may be considered as an
To the Citizen Soldiery of the Republic this work is of tagonistic to the generally entertained opinion of especial value; and it would be a most judicious expen the efficiency of a volunteer force, speedily called diture of public money, were a large number of copies
of it purchased by Congress, and distributed among into the field upon emergency; and truly too. that portion of the military establishment. For, such force, unless formed upon a regularly
constituted base, is almost always deficient in citizens, they appear as gentlemen of leisure. many important elements. American history The cares of their profession are thrown aside, might well be referred to in support of the asser- and they naturally seek in the enjoyment of all tion, and despite the continued vaunts in favor of the comforts of civil life, a relief from the tedious the deeds of citizen soldiers put forth in the re- routine of garrison, or the arduous duties of field cords of popular historians, the bare and naked service. A ready remark may be made upon facts would but sustain it. Nevertheless, such a their idleness, by the incautious civilian, ignorant force must be the main numerical dependance of of the true life of the soldier, and who takes a our country; and as its substantial glories have single specimen, seen but once or twice as a type been, so they will be achieved, by this force, when of his class. The manners, the dress, and the properly constituted upon a regular base. A habit of the man are to some extent distinct from great obstacle to the organization and to the effi- those of the great mass of his fellow citizens, and ciency of the whole mass of the American army, they will not fail to draw down upon his profesis the jealousy existing between its different sion the animadversions of all those who may be branches. As it undoubtedly does exist between either envious or jealous of such as "strut en regulars and volunteers, and must be considered militaire." The officer is regarded as one of a an evil, its causes may well be deemed a subject class separate and distinct amongst the American for investigation and remark. people-privileged to the extent of his pay, and to that of wearing the livery of his government.
Some of them are to be found in the nature of the establishment, and in the very existence of That he has a certain pride in his profession is the regular army. The small numerical strength most true, and he certainly ought to have. That of the army, prevents its being known to the he is apt to consider that he is possessed of qualpeople in any other way than through the medium ifications for the performance of military duties, of the annua appropriation bills, when it is true which can only be acquired by experience and its existence becomes palpably apparent to the education, is very probable,-and, he may with legislators of the republic. Its services in time justice claim them. But he has no right, under of peace being confined to remote borders, and the existing state of things, to look upon himself efecting immediately a sparse and insignificant as separate from the mass of his fellow citizens, population, are lost sight of. The citizen of a either in interests or in honors; and to regard populous mart, or section of the country, may him as separated is a manifest injustice to both, very naturally ask the necessity of such a body on the part of the civilian. The appearances of men supported at public expense. He needs which cause the prejudices, on the one side and no support and no protection, and if his attention on the other, may be laid to the necessary isolabe called to the frontiers, he is ready with an tion of the soldier and to his education. answer, that "as our forefathers protected themselves, so may the pioneers of the present day."
The officers of the army are principally eléves of the Military Academy at West Point, and their education is purely military. As that education is commenced at an early age, and closely followed without interruption for four years, it follows that the earliest prejudices of the cadet are, from association, in favour of his profession.
Various objections have been urged against this institution, some with, and some without reason. Notwithstanding, the Academy has
Butlet misfortune to an infant settlement occur through Indian hostility, and public opinion is quick enough to condemn governmental authorities, and ask why a military force had not been at hand to guard against the contingency. The blame is apt in some degree to revert to the army, small as it is, and again the question is asked, "of what use is the military establishment since it ever fails to repress the outrages of ordinary flourished until this time, and since the late hossavages?" No heed is given to the fact that suf-tilities with Mexico, the cries against it have been ficient force could not be at hand from the nature in a measure stilled. The importance of miliof the establishment, for the subject is of such tary education has been acknowledged by the comparatively small importance, that investiga- American people, in spite of the self-confidence, tion and argument upon it are apt to be consid-in some cases amounting to arrogance, which ered unnecessary. The amount, therefore, makes many a man, without ordinary education, paid for the support of the army being remem- or the knowledge of the world, which is indisbered, and its services and use being but little pensable for the conduct of any great operation, known and less cared for, a prejudice must natu- believe himself fitted to take the place of a Naporally arise against those who are regarded as re-leon upon the arrival of a suitable crisis. But cipients of public money, uselessly expended. while men of such natures have been too apt to Again-whenever it chances that the more deny the usefulness of a military Academy, its prominent members of the profession, the offi- friends, in many cases, may have been no less arrocers, are thrown into the society of their fellow gant and presumptuous. They have appeared to