War of the Rebellion: Serial 128 Page 0290 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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stronger inducements are presented to all subordinate officers to improve and prepare themselves for higher positions. Still, in an army where a large proportion of the officers have had no previous military training or experience, due assurance cannot be felt of the competency of those on whom promotion may by this rule be cast. A provision against gross incompetency is indeed made by the authority conferred by act of Congress for the convening of a board to determine qualifications, but resort to this remedy is naturally odious and in practice it proves but little efficacious. It is not to be denied that promotion by seniority alone represses ambitious aspiration and the spirit of enterprise and daring which promotion by merit inspires. Some recognition of this and desire to avoid its effects have been manifested by the enactment of Congress allowing promotions to be made by the President in case of distinguished skill or valor, but save in the rare case where recommendation of extraordinary merit is given by the commanding general such appointments can only be made to a vacancy in the company, battalion, or regiment to which the party is attached. Besides, where promotion by seniority is the almost universal rule, the exercise of this appointing power becomes odious, is constructed into injustice to all the inferior officers of the special organization, and breeds discontent and dissension. In consequence it is very rarely exercised, and the injurious effects of promotion by seniority alone are not by this provision effectively counteracted. It is suggested that some beneficial effect in inspiriting to deeds of valor and the display of extraordinary merit would result from confining election to the lowest grade (the starting point on the road to honors) to those, if any in the company, who had been recommended by their commanders for distinguished skill and valor. This would not deprive the company of the privilege of election, but e choice among the most worthy. Still, the higher and more important grades would be supplied only be seniority, and with deference it is recommended that some mode be devised by the wisdom of Congress to have vacancies of that class more frequently the rewards of high deeds and superior qualifications. This is the more necessary, since the commissions of officers in the Provisional Army being dependent on the continuance of their organizations, some of the most valuable in the service have been thrown out by the dissolution or disbanding of their companies or regiments when, often through their own gallantry, too much reduced for service. Under the present system, however meritorious or efficient, there is no place for them in the line, and they can only be replaced in the Army by conscription as privates. This is scarce less just than impolitic. Some provision should be adopted by which such officers should retain their commissions, or the privilege of appointment to vacancies which they are eminently fitted to fill should be accorded them. The hardships to the officers in such cases, together with reluctance to lose their services, have sometimes induced generals in command, particularly in the most distant departments, to assign such officers temporarily to vacancies for which the officers entitled by seniority were known to be less competent, or to special duties. An embarrassment results. The officers in some cases after a long service find that they have lost their commissions by the previous disbanding of their commands and can neither be recognized nor receive their pay as officers. Some appropriation to meet such cases and provide compensation at least for the period of their actual service should be provided.

In this connection another interesting class of cases deserves passing notice. It has repeatedly happened that officers who have raised