The location and general plans of works, by the provisions of Numbers 95, are to be made by the superior authority and knowledge of the commanding general, but I respectfully submit that information of what has received his approval should, in justice, be communicated to commanding officers, that the distinction should be made between what is done with his knowledge and sanction, and what is undertaken by subordinate engineers.
Meantime, under these orders, engineers apply for and receive details, employed them or keep them unemployed, without responsibility to the officers from whose commands details are drawn. Moreover, these orders forbid works, however necessary, to be undertaken by district or other commanders in contingencies, except by orders to and through and engineer officer, who, under ordinary circumstances, appears to be perfectly independent of such commanders. This is modified to some extent by Special Orders, Numbers 56, but action under that order appears to have led to difficulty, and the complaint that the engineer has been superseded, and the complaint has been sustained.
I opine it cannot be the intention of the orders to place district commanders or commanding officers under the order of the chief engineer or others of his corps, but I respectfully suggest that at present it gives to these officers, upon any occasion which may require special action, the power of obstructing and injuring the public service if any differences of opinions arise.
My action in causing the batteries at the southern end of Morris Island to be prepared for service, to oppose an enemy whose guns were mounted and in readiness to open fire, having been disapproved, and the disapproval being apparently based on the system of engineer operations at present existing, some of the features of which I have noticed, leads me to ask the following questions, which I respectfully beg may be answered, for present record and future reference.
1. Is the commanding officer of a district forbidden to avail himself of such works as he may know to be necessary for the defense of any point of his command, which he can provide by means at his disposal, unless these works are planned and erected by engineer officers?
2. Is the commanding officer of a district expected to yield his conviction of the necessities of the service within his command, and to be debarred the privilege of action thereon, to any officer of the engineer department even though such officer be his inferior in rank?
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
Our difficulty has been that these orders have not been given through my office, but given directly to Colonel Harris; I mean orders for works. I should have sent copy to district commander, of course.
Chief of Staff.
HDQRS. DEPT. SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA,
Charleston, S. C., June 30, 1863.
Respectfully referred to Lieutenant-Colonels Roman and Harris,