This, it is believed, is the best organization now existing. The number of field officers is less than under the old plan, and therefore much less expensive. Whether this organization may not advantageously be extended to the old Army, after the passage of a law providing for a retired list, is a question which may properly engage the attention of Congress. In making the selection of officers for the new regiments two courses only seemed to be open, viz, to make the appointments from the regular service by seniority or by selection. The first appeared liable to the objection that old, and in some instances inefficient, men would be promoted to places which ought to be filled by younger and more vigorous officers. The second was liable to the grave objection that favoritism might prejudice the claims of worthy officers.
After the fullest consideration it was determined, under the advice of the General-in-Chief, to appoint one-half of them from the Regular Army and the other half civil life. Of the civilians appointed as regimental commanders, all except one are either graduates of West Point or have before served with distinction in the field, and of the lieutenant-colonels, majors, captains, and first lieutenants a large proportion have been taken from the Regular Army and the volunteers now in service, while the second lieutenants have been mainly created by the promotion of meritorious sergeants from the regular service.
In view of the urgent necessity of the case, these preliminary steps to the augmentation of the regular service have been taken, and it now remains for Congress, should it sanction what has been commenced, to complete the work by such legislation as the subject may require.
A similar increase of the Army under like circumstances was made in 1812. At the close of the war, the force in the service being found too large and too costly for a peace establishment, a reduction was ordered to be made under the supervision of a board of officers specially organized for that purpose. At the close of the present struggle the reduction of the present force may be accomplished in like manner, if found then to be larger than the public necessities require. In making any such reduction, however, a just regard to the public interests would imperatively require that a force amply sufficient to protect all the public property, wherever it may be found, should be retained.
I cannot forbear to speak favorably of the volunteer system as a substitute for a cumbrous and dangerous standing army. It has heretofore by many been deemed unreliable and inefficient in a sudden emergency, but actual facts have proved the contrary. If it be urged that the enemies of order have gained some slight advantages at remote points by reason of the absence of a sufficient regular force, the unexampled rapidity of concentration of volunteers already witnessed is an ample refutation of the argument. A Government whose every citizen stands ready to march to its defense can never be overthrown, for none is so strong as that whose foundations rest immovably in the hearts of the people. The spectacle of more than a quarter of a milliushing to the field in defense of the Constitution must ever take rank among the most extraordinary facts of history. Its interest is vastly heightened by the lavish outpouring of States and individuals of voluntary contributions of money, reaching an aggregate thus far of more than ten millions of dollars.
But a few weeks since the men composing this great army were pursuing the avocations of peace. They gathered from the farm, from the workshop, from the factory, from the mine. The minister came from his pulpit, the merchant from his counting-room, the professor and student from the college, the teacher and pupil from the common schools.
20 R R-SERIES III, VOL I