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Are not their fathers, mothers, and their own sons in civil life, and in common with them, are they not citizens of the same country enjoying the blessings of the same Government? Nurtured by this Government, taught to love and defend its flag, are they alone a large family connection most likely to prove false to the institutions which have placed us first among nations? Is death on the field of battle no evidence of love for one's country? Have the officers of our Army to-day no sense of duty ? In time of universal peace are those who continually expose their lives in Indian wars to open up to civilization the rich lands of the far West, actuated by no other motive than love of promotion? These questions to the reader are all pertinent in enabling him to penetrate the motive of the author. Whether or not he will concede to the Army a patriotism as bright and enduring as that which prevails in civil life, he no doubt will admit that as the man who uses a weapon is the best judge of its fitness, so a professional soldier should be the best judge of what constitutes a good military system.
In every civilized country success in war depends upon the organization and application of its military resources. The resources themselves consist of men, material, and money. Their organization is wholly within the province of the statesman. Under our Constitution Congress has the power to raise and support armies, and, subject to the supervision of the President, only professional soldiers should command them.
In time of war the civilian as much as the soldier is responsible for defeat and disaster. Battles are not lost alone on the field; they may be lost beneath the Dome of the Capitol, they may be lost in the Cab. inet, or they may be lost in the private office of the Secretary of War. Wherever they may be lost, it is the people who suffer and the soldiers who die, with the knowledge and the conviction that our military policy is a crime against life, a crime against property, and a crime against liberty. The author has availed himself of his privileges as a citizen to expose to our people a system which, if not abandoned, may sooner or later prove fatal. The time when some one should do this has arrived.
Up to the Mexican War there was little that was glorious in our military history.
In the Revolution, the Continentals or Regulars often displayed a valor deserving of victory, but which was snatched away by the misconduct of undisciplined troops.
In the War of 1812 the discipline and victories of the Navy alone saved the country from dishonor. On the land the historian of the Army was glad to slur over needless disasters, to dwell on the heroism in the open field displayed by the Regulars at Chippewa and Lundys Lane. The Mexican war was a succession of victories. The Volunteers as well as the Regulars were disciplined troops.
The Rebellion began with the defeat at Bull Run, but a multitude of subsequent battles again proved that the valor of disciplined American troops, be they Regulars or Volunteers, can not be excelled by the best armies of Europe.
No longer compelled to doubt the prowess of our armies, the time has come to ask what was the cause of defeats like those of Long Island, Camden, Queenstown, Bladensburg, and Bull Run. The people who, under the war powers of the Constitution, surrender their liberties and give up their lives and their property have a right to
know why our wars are unnecessarily prolonged. They have a right to know whether disasters have been brought about through the neglect and ignorance of Congress, which is intrusted with the power to raise and support armies, or through military incompetency. Leaving their representatives free to pay their own salaries, the people have a right to know whether they have devoted their time to studying the art of government. John Adams wrote the maxim that “The national defense is the cardinal duty of a statesman.”
War, it need scarcely be said, affects the life, liberty, and property of the individual citizen, and beyond that the life of the nation. On its issue necessarily depends the fate of governments and the happiness of millions of human beings, present and future.
From the known method of selecting generals in most of our wars, no one assumes that the title implies knowledge of the art of war. Conscious that our legislators make a merit of neglecting the national defense, shall they, too, like our generals, enjoy unearned titles, or the highest of all titles, that of statesman?
Foreign governments, surrounded by powerful neighbors, act on the theory that military commanders can be educated, no less than captains and lieutenants. The same theory is true of statesmen. eral does not so much regard the causes of war; his duty is to be familiar with military history and to know the details and principles upon which successful war is conducted.
The statesman, on the contrary, should study peace and the causes which tend to preserve or destroy it. History will teach him that peace ends in war and war again ends in peace. If the causes which terminate peace and produce war can not be removed, and if the legislator does not recognize and know how to create a powerful army, he ceases to be a statesman.
In the course of his labors the author has met with many discouragements. As a rule it has only been necessary to mention to his brother officers the words "military policy" to provoke the reply that “We have no military policy;" that everything is left to luck or to chance. While apparently true, this conclusion is nevertheless a mistake.
Laws whose operation have been the same in all our wars constitute a system, wise or unwise, safe or unsafe, according to their fruit. Contemplating the same results in the rebellion as in the Revolution and the war of 1812, it can not be denied that the impression has sunk deep into the Army that no change will ever be made for the better. There is ample reason for such a conviction. Ultimate success in all our wars has steeped the people in the delusion that our policy is correct and that any departure from it would be no less difficult than dangerous.
Again, our remoteness from powerful nations has led to another delusion—that we shall forever be free from foreign invasion. Within the present year (1880) a Senator of the United States, standing on the parapet of Fort Monroe and witnessing the firing of worthless smoothbore artillery, assured the author that we would not have another war in a century. No statesman would have made such a prediction. He would have recalled the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. He would have pointed to the British possession on the north, to Mexico on the west, and Spain on the south; he would not have forgotten the affair of the Virginius and the frequent complications on the Rio Grande as proof that at any moment we may be plunged into another foreign war. He would, furthermore, have condemned the useless ordnance before him, and would have declared that wisdom and economy demand that we should be ready for any war whenever and wherever it may occur.
He would not have stopped there; accepting the truth that the nation is governed best which is governed least, and that ours is a government of the people, he would nevertheless have told the Senator that the military policy of a republic should look more to the dangers of civil commotion than to the possibility of foreign invasion. He need not have referred to the forty years of anarchy and civil war which terminated in the establishment of the Roman Empire; he could have appealed to our own history and informed the Senator that in less than a century our peace had been disturbed by Shay's Rebellion, the Whisky Rebellion, the Great Rebellion, and more recently still the Railroad Riots of 1877. He could have informed the Senator that if our policy in foreign wars has been feeble and childish, at least half the expenditure and bloodshed has been borne by our enemies, while in civil commotion the loss of every dollar and the sacrifice of every life fall upon the citizens of the Republic.
He could have continued his lecture and told the Senator that as a nation we can afford to imitate the daily example of our citizens. The pioneer who seeks a home in the forest first builds a cabin, then a log house, and next a frame house. He does not accuse himself of extravagance. The cabin answered his purposes when he was poor and without family, but when his children multiplied he tore it down and put such material as was worth saving into the log house. This, too, satisfied his wants, but when he began to have neighbors, when roads were opened and friends and strangers began to visit him, he saw that he lacked room and, having become prosperous, he abandoned the log home and for comfort and appearance built a house and barn which excited the admiration of every passer-by.
Looking at the example of every pioneer, as well as the prosperous man of business, the statesman could have informed the Senator that the military policy of an agricultural nation of 3,000,000 people just emerging from the forest, was no policy for a nation extending from ocean to ocean and now numbering more than fifty millions. But bad as is our system it would be unpatriotic to attack it if at the same time no remedy could be suggested. In order that this work may not be misjudged we will first indicate to the reader the chief causes of weakness of our present system, and next will outline the system which ought to replace it.
The causes of the weakness are as follows:
First. The employment of militia and undisciplined troops commanded by generals and officers utterly ignorant of the military art.
Second. Short enlistments from three months to three years, instead of for or during the war.
Third. Reliance upon voluntary enlistments, instead of voluntary enlistments coupled with conscription.
Fourth. The intrusion of the States in military affairs and the consequent waging of all our wars on the theory that we are a confederacy instead of a nation.
Fifth. Confusing volunteers with militia and surrendering to the States the right to commission officers of volunteers the same as officers of militia.
a By the last census (1900), the population of the United States, exclusive of colonial possessions, Alaska, and Indian Territory, was 75,568,686.-EDITOR.
Sixth. The bounty a national consequence of voluntary enlistments.
Seventh. The failure to appreciate military education, and to distribute trained officers as battalion, regimental, and higher commanders in our volunteer armies.
Eighth. The want of territorial recruitment and regimental depots.
Ninth. The want of post-graduate schools to educate our officers in strategy and the higher principles of the art of war."
Tenth. The assumption of command by the Secretary of War.
First. In time of peace and war the military forces of the country to consist of
The Regular Army,
The Regular Army in time of peace to be organized on the expansive principle and in proportion to the population, not to exceed one thousand in one million.
The National Volunteers to be officered and supported by the Government, to be organized on the expansive principle and to consist in time of peace of one battalion of two hundred men to each Congressional district.
The Militia to be supported exclusively by the States and as a last resort to be used only as intended by the Constitution, namely, to execute the laws, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.
The author is well aware that in suggesting this system he will be accused of favoring centralization and strong government. This is a charge which he would neither covet nor deny. No soldier in battle ever witnessed the flight of an undisciplined army without wishing for a strong government, but a government no stronger than was designed by the fathers of the Republic.
Founded in the affections of the people, the Constitution in time of danger gives Congress absolute power to raise and support armies and to lay its hands upon every man and every dollar within the territory of the nation.
Recognizing, moreover, that the individual life is to be sacrificed to the life of a state, the same Constitution permits the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, giving to Congress and to the President power not only over life and property, but over the liberty of every citizen of the Republic. It is a popular delusion that armies make wars; the fact is wars inevitably make armies. No matter what the form of government, war, at the discretion of the rulers, means absolute despotism, the danger from which increases as the war is prolouged. Armies in time of peace have seldom if ever overthrown their governments, but in time of anarchy and war the people have often sought to dictate, and purchase peace at the expense of their liberty. If we would escape this danger we should make war with a strong arm. No foreign invader should ever be allowed a foothold on our soil. Recognizing, too, that under popular institutions the majority of the people create the government and that the majority will never revolt, it should be our policy to suppress every riot and stamp out every insurrection before it swells to rebellion. This means a strong government, but shall we find greater safety in one that is weaker?
Military resources are one thing and military strength another.
a These schools now exist.–EDITORS.
For military resistance, the strength of a government is the power it can wield on the field of battle. In the war of 1812 the strength of the Government at the battle of Bladensburg was measured by 6,000 militia; at Bull Run it was measured by 35,000 of the same kind of troops. In one case the capital fell into the hands of the enemy, while in the other our existence as a nation possibly depended upon the irresolution and supineness of a band of insurgents. At Gettysburg the wave of rebellion was resisted by 80,000 veteran troops; had we trusted to the same number of militia the capital would have been captured and the Government hopelessly destroyed. Unable to suppress in two years an insurrection which culminated in a great rebellion, the representatives of the people were forced to adopt conscription and to concentrate in the hands of the President all the war powers granted by the Constitution, whereupon weakness gave place to strength, but at the expense of a needless sacrifice of life and property
lf in time of rebellion our own Government grew more despotic as it grew stronger, it is not to be inferred that there is any necessary connection between despotism and military strength.
Twenty thousand regular troops at Bull Run would have routed the insurgents, settled the question of military resistance, and relieved us from the pain and suspense of four years of war.
China, the most despotic of Governments, has no military strength; numbering 400,000,000 people, she has been twice conquered by a few despised Tartars, and only a few years ago 20,000 English and French dictated peace at the walls of the capital. In Persia the Shah can lop off the heads of his subjects or wall them up alive at his pleasure, and yet it has been said that a single foreign battalion could overthrow his throne, while a brigade would starve in his dominions.
In seeking to avoid the dangers of weakness and despotism the author would not have it imagined that his work will produce immediate effect, or that his system will be adopted in five, ten, or even twenty years. Such a revolution in our military policy must be preceded by a change in popular sentiment.
Foreign governments for more than a hundred years have recognized us as a nation, but, strange to say, a fact patent to all the world, is as yet recognized by scarcely a majority of our people.
Our forefathers hated Great Britain because she repeatedly subverted the government of the colonies. A large portion of their descendants, confusing states rights with state sovereignty, look upon the General Government as equally hostile to the States. When this feeling is abandoned; when it is understood that the life of the State is bound up in the life of the nation; when it is appreciated that republicanism, State and national, guaranteed by the Constitution, is the natural bulwark against the two forms of despotism-absolute monarchy on the one side and absolute democracy on the other-then, and not till then, will the views of the author be accepted. Should his work be received unkindly he will at least have the satisfaction that he has sought to be true to the Republic, and that in view of its increasing grandeur he has endeavored to present a military system which, recognizing the opposition to large standing armies, will still be compatible with the safety, honor, and the liberty of our people.
E. U. Fort MONROE, VIRGINIA, 1880.