important a measure that I have preferred to act slowly and with great care in its selection rather than take a false step and have to retrace it. I hope to be able very soon to recommend a model for your approval.
A plan for altering the muzzle-loading musket into efficient breechloaders has been devised by the master armorer at Springfield Armory, which appears to be superior to any other that I have seen. I have taken measures to have 5,000 muskets altered according to it, and will have some of them issued to troops for trial as soon as the alterations can be made.
The muskets of the prescribed pattern which have been turned in by the troops are being cleaned and repaired.
The number of Springfield muskets on hand and suitable for issue will reach nearly one million, while the number of foreign and captured muskets will exceed half a million. As none of the latter class will probably be required for issue, and as the care and preservation of them will be attended with considerable expense, they should be sold whenever suitable prices can be obtained for them. This recommendation will apply to other ordnance stores of a perishable nature, which are in excess of the wants of the department.
In my last annual report I called your attention to the danger of keeping large quantities of gunpowder at our arsenals, which are generally in the vicinity of closely populated districts, and recommended that a suitable site for a depot capable of storing at least 100,000 barrels of gunpowder should be acquired. The conclusion of the war has left this department with vast supplies of gunpowder and prepared ammunition on hand, all of which are entirely unfit for the purpose, thereby endangering the safety of the arsenals, and in some cases of private property in the vicinity. This evil cannon be corrected too soon, and I earnestly call your attention to the necessity of obtaining from Congress authority to purchase a suitable site for a powder depot.
In my annual estimate I have asked for an appropriation for the purchase of a site and the erection of magazines. Only so much powder as may be necessary to supply the current wants of the Army should be kept at the arsenals.
The military reserve at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., being a suitable position the Mississippi Valley, and a portion of it having some years ago been assigned to this department for the erection of powder magazines, I have taken measures to have three magazines capable of containing 5,000 barrels each erected on it, and two of them will be finished this fall.
In my last annual report I stated that, in pursuance of the provisions of the act of Congress approved April 19, 1864, possession had been taken of Rock Island for the purpose of building and maintaining thereon an arsenal for the construction, deposit, and repairs of arms and munitions of war. The United States has not yet acquired a title to the property which has been taken possession of. It is important that the provisions of the act of Congress above referred to should be carried into effect and a complete title to all of Rock Island acquired by the United States before any permanent buildings are commenced. I recommend that this be done with as little delay as practicable. Evidences of title to the land, of which possession has been taken, have been forwarded to you for examination by the Attorney-General, as is required by the act above referred to.