The Business Men of the Army
John G. Rockwood in World To-Day
THE business transactions of the army play a part in warfare not less important than that of the field operations which are always followed by the public with eagerness, and the bureau work at Washington calls for ability not less eminent, though of somewhat different character, than that required in the personal leadership of an expedition.
The Secretary of War is the man whom the nation holds responsible for the welfare of her soldiers and for their efficiency as a fighting force. He is not necessarily a soldier—in fact, some of the most distinguished war secretaries have been civilians—and he is not ordinarily to be held accountable for the failure of an army in the field. But he is held to a high degree of care and diligence in providing that army with all physical things needful to its success. The secretary not only exercises legislative, executive and judicial functions in the government of the army, but he in effect supervises a large clothing store, a steamship line, a construction company, a big grocery business, a medical and hospital service, great gunshops and arsenals, a telegraph company, a bank, and vast engineering enterprises.
To assist the Secretary of War, there are two civilian officers : the Assistant Secretary of War, to whom certain classes of business are delegated from time to time, in which he exercises practically the same authority as the secretary, and the chief clerk, who is the immediate executive officer of the secretary in fiscal and other civic affairs. In addition, the law provides as expert military executives and advisers, ten general officers, besides the general staff corps. These are the business men of tne army. Each presides over a distinct department or bureau, assisted by subordinate officers and employes, military and civil.
The chief executive officer of the army is the Military Secretary. His office is the centre of the whole system. The essence of military efficiency is implicit obedience to orders, and means of immediate communication. The Military Secretary is at all times in touch with every part of the army ; his department is a fine machine for the receipt, record and despatch of correspondence, orders, regulations and military information in all forms. Most of the “paper work” passes through his hands or those of his assistants, and the personal records of officers and men from the time of the Revolution to the present, are filed in his bureau. The numerous reports which are necessary in order that the work of the army may come regularly under the scrutiny of superior officers, are forwarded to his office. One of the great undertakings of the Record and Pension Office, a branch of this bureau, besides its current business, has been the publication of the “Official Records of the Rebellion,” comprising 128 volumes, which constitute practically an official history of the Civil War.
One of the busiest men of the army is the Quartermaster-General. He either buys or manufactures all of the various articles required to clothe and uniform the army. The awarding of contracts and the inspection, 'delivery and issue of these goods constitute a work of some magnitude. In time of peace it is handled with no particular difficulty, but in war time there are often unforeseen demands to be met, as in the case of our late war, when for the first time American troops had to be -equipped for service in the tropics.
Of equal importance is adequate and systematic transportation. Railroad transportation is, in war time, a difficult and vexatious problem. The movement of hundreds of large and small bodies of troops from various points to various destinations, inevitably produces confusion if there be not the strictest system and the most complete arrangements. Contracts must be made, rates fixed, trains secured, arrangements perfected for the reception of troops and perhaps for temporary quarters at transfer points, and advices of these arrangements must be despatched promptly to all concerned. The Quartermaster’s Department also operates a fleet of twelve transports, and should war come, many more would have to be bought or leased. The need of this number of ships is found in the large number of troops quartered in the Philippine Islands. The service of regiments is apportioned between this country and the Philippines, so that some organizations may not be subjected to tropical service for an undue length of time, while others are enjoying service in the home land. As a consequence, there are frequent movements of troops and supplies.
The Quartermaster-General not only clothes and transports our troops, but he furnishes and maintains their quarters. The construction of dwellings and barracks, storehouses, hospitals, and post exchanges is under his direction, as is also the installation of water, sewer and electric light systems.
The importance of a high state of efficiency in this bureau can not be overestimated. An army to be effective must be properly clothed, properly quartered, and properly provided with transportation. There must be system in every detail of the department and harmony among its branches. Movements of troops and supplies must be made promptly. Many of the great victories that have made our history glorious might have been disastrous defeats if the Quartermaster-General of the Army had been tardy in executing an order or had forgotten some seemingly trifling detail.
The Commissary-General has a monopoly, so far as the work of supply is concerned, of the subsistence of this body of sixty thousand men.
He spent last year between five and six million dollars for our “boys in olive-drab.” And the grade of food he buys is good, for not only are our soldiers the best paid and best clothed of any in the world, but they are the best fed. The work of this bureau involves the buying of large quantities of meat, fish, cereals, vegetables, in fact, plain groceries and provisions of every kind. Storehouses are established in New York, Chicago, Kansas City and elsewhere, from which supplies are sent out upon requisition. Fresh beef is sent to Manila in refrigerator ships, so that the boys on the other side of the world may have palatable and nutritious food. Purchase and issue must of course be carried on with regularity and precision even in time of peace, and in time of war it calls for great diligence and resourcefulness to provide for constantly changing numbers and destinations. In addition to issuing the regular ration, the commissary department provides for sale to those who desire them, various delicacies and also miscellaneous articles such as buttons, brushes, combs, stationery, needles, soap, tobacco, etc., for the convenience of the soldiers.
Having provided an expedition with food, clothing, transportation and tents, the Secretary of War has still another vitally important subject to consider, and that is the preservation of the health of the army. In direct control of this is the Surgeon-General. Nowhere would the results of inefficiency or maladministration more certainly appear in case of war than in the medical deparN ment. The Surgeon-General is charged with caring for the sick and wounded, but of even greater importance are the preliminary measures to be taken to conserve the health and comfort of the expedition. If the adage about “An ounce of prevention” is applicable to anything, it is applicable to the situation of an army in the field. The congregation of thousands of men in an open country presents numberless problems of sanitation. If exposed to infection and contagion, an army may be rapidly depleted and the result to the campaign in that way may be more disastrous than a dozen battles. The purchase of medical and hospital supplies in adequate amounts and their prompt delivery and transportation ; the presence of a sufficient number of medical officers to minister to the sick and wounded ; the examination of camp sites in advance, with a view to ascertaining their healthfulness ; the analysis of drinking water and the discovery of facilities for drainage and sewerage—such things are of paramount importance. Medical men of the army must not only be good executive officers, but must be sedulous students of their profession, and much of their time is devoted to scientific research and experiments.
The Paymaster-General one year disbursed about $32,000,000 of government funds at points ranging from the coast of Maine to the Sulu Archipelago, in the payment of salaries. His work is, however, not simply that of paying stated salaries. It is complicated to a great degree by various allowances attaching to the pay of various grades, and their computation. For instance, officers are entitled to a certain number of rooms for their personal use at posts, but when on detached duty are allowed a certan sum in substitution therefor, and enlisted men traveling under orders are allowed a fixed amount— one dollar a day—for their subsistence. There are also extra-duty pay, pay of increased rank, and other provisions which furnish arithmetical tasks to the clerks of the PaymasterGeneral. There is in the pay department a sort of savings bank for enlisted men, an excellent system by which soldiers may deposit their savings and draw interest on them, and also an arrangement by which the soldiers may allot any part of their pay for dependent relatives. The private soldier in the American army draws $13 a month, besides his food and clothing, while the LieutenantGeneral draws $11,000 a year. In each case they are better paid than the soldiers of any other country in the world.
The weapons of war are furnished by the Chief of Ordnance. Most of them are made in the government armories and arsenals, but sonie are purchased from private manufacturers. The output comprises every article of ordnance, from a* cavalry saber to a great coast-defense gun. There are six manufacturing plants under the direction of the Chief of Ordnance, employing over five thousand men, and in these rifles, swords, bayonets, cartridge belts, field, mountain and siege artillery and their carriages, caissons, limbers and ammunition, as well as the ponderous coast defense guns and their carriages, barbette and disappearing, are made, assorted and distributed. An important function of the ordnance officers is the testing of weapons and ammunition, both those submitted by inventors, and those in current use, to determine questions concerning strength, velocities, deterioration, susceptibility to climatic conditions, et cetera. The head of this bureau is not only a manufacturer, purchasing agent and distributor, but also an expert in the designing and construction of weapons. In this inventive age the Chief of Ordnance must be alert and progressive, in order to keep the types of our weapons abreast of the times, and equal, if not superior, to those of foreign nations.
It is impossible for the Secretary of War to inspect annually in person every post and fortification in the LTnited States, so the law has provided a corps of personal representatives, at the head of which is the Inspector-General. This officer and his assistants inspect all military commands and stations, depots, armories, arsenals and public works of every kind pertaining to the army, and also money accounts of disbursing officers. The functions of this corps are important, for the observations of an indifferent officer are valuable hot only because a stranger is likely to discover defects not apparent to one who is accustomed to and is perhaps unconscious of them, but also because such an officer is not easily influenced by the liability of incurring the personal displeasure of superiors by reporting maladministration. In war time this corps is particularly valuable, as the danger of overlooking vital defects at such a time is great.
Necessarily in such an establishment there is a law department, and the department is presided over by the Judge-Advocate General, an officer who combines military knowledge and experience with legal learning. He is kept busy furnishing opinions to the Secretary of War upon legal questions constantly arising; amending the “Army Regulations”—a code of laws adopted for the government of the army in all its branches ; reviewing the proceedings of courtmartial and other military courts ; examining applications for clemency from military prisoners ; and drafting deeds, contracts and other legal instruments.
The preparation of plans for seacoast and inland defence, and the erection of fortifications, as well as engineer work in the field, are under -the control of the Chief of Engineers. His corps is composed of some 150 officers, skilled in engineering, and particularly in those branches of it which bear upon distinctly military matters. In time of war the engineers build bridges, construct earthworks, plant mines, etc., and in time of peace they are busy preparing for war. The elaborate scheme of coast defence evolved by the “Endicott Board” in 1883 has been gradually brought into existence and there are now modern fortifications at twentyone different points on our seaboard. But the system devised by that board is now, in view of changed methods and material of warfare, imperfect and insufficient, and a new board, known as the “Taft Board,” has rendered a report for the improvement and modernizing of the work originally planned so as to adapt it fully to present needs. The inventive genius of the age is nowhere better illustrated than in the progress of military inventions in the last twenty years.
The engineer bureau is also of immense importance to the commerce Of the country. The Federal government has jurisdiction over all navigable waters, and the Engineer Corps is the arm of the service charged with river and harbor improvement. Vast sums of money are expended every year in deepening and widening the channels of rivers, the construction of breakwaters, and similar engineering works. Most of the great office buildings of the Government at Washington have been erected under the supervision of the army engineers.
The signal appliances of modern warfare are many and marvelous, and constantly increasing in value ; and the Chief Signal Officer, like the Surgeon-General and the Chief of Ordnance, not only conducts a vast amount of current work but devotes much time to scientific research and experimentation. Electricity has invaded the military world as it has all other spheres of human activity, and the work of this bureau deals largely with its application. Thousands of miles of military cable, telegraph and telephone lines have been built and are now in operation in this country, Alaska and the Philippines. One of the wonders of modern warfare, to the layman, is the admirable system of fire control, by which the fire of the great seacoast guns is governed and the accuracy of the aim is scientifically predetermined. By means of the nicest measurements, facilities for observation, and instant electrical communication, the fire of a battery can be concentrated upon a fast approaching vessel with wonderful exactness. The purchase and installation of the manifold electric appliances and devices used does not, however, end the responsibility of the Chief Signal Officer, for their maintenance and repair calls for constant and skillful attention.
Besides the chiefs of bureaus enumerated, there is another body of officers concerned with the administration of the army, and that is the General Staff Corps. Its functions are principally advisory and its members do not ordinarily exercise çonv* mand. The corps is arranged in divisions, each charged with certain classes of business. The general staff considers all questions affecting the efficiency of the army; supervises inspections, military education and instruction, examinations for appointment and promotion, efficiency records, details and assignments; prepares plans for the national defence and for mobilization of the military forces, and collects military information all over the world. The immense value of this corps is that it furnishes the secretary with a body of the most experienced and capable officers in the army, to whom he may turn for expert advice.
Officers are detailed to the general staff on account of their efficiency and personal fitness, and serve for a period of four years unless sooner relieved. The greater part of the corps is stationed in Washington, but a number of officers are attached to the staffs of commanding officers throughout the country. One of the most valuable features of the general staff is its utility in co-ordinating the work of the bureaus. Before its creation each bureau, working independently, was often unaware of arrangements made by other bureaus, and frequently confusion and misunderstanding occurred, simply for want of a supervisory and co-ordinating agency. By general supervision of all, the work of each bureau is now better regulated.
At the head of the General Staff Corps is the Chief of Staff. The law provides that the office shall be filled by the selection of an officer not below the grade of brigadier-general, and that the appointee shall hold office for the term of four years or until the expiration of the administration under which he is appointed. To be appointed Chief of Staff is to receive what is really the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an officer, for though the one thus honored may not enjoy the coveted rank of lieutenant-general, or perchance even that of major-general, he is nevertheless the one who will wield the greatest influence in the administration of the army, and is the officer nearest to the Secretary of War.
The office of “Commanding General of the Army” was abolished at the time of the retirement of LieutenantGeneral Nelson A. Miles. The title has always been a misnomer, for the commanding general, in time of peace, did not exercise independent command, indeed, could not, under the character of the organization of the army and the War Department. The responsibilities of the Secretary of War are so interwoven with the internal administration of the army that the degree of initiative coveted by “Commanding Generals” was, and is, impracticable. Under the new law the chief officer of the army is just what his title implies, a chief of staff to the Secretary of War, the latter being the personal representative of the President, who is the constitutional commander-in-chief. With his functions explicitly defined by statute, the Chief of Staff is in position to render invaluable service by giving to the secretary the co-operation and advice of a master of the military profession.
The work of the bureaus is not all done in the big stone building in Washington. There is located simply the headquarters. Each bureau chief has a corps of assistants in the field. The country is divided geographically into divisions, and these are again divided into departments. A division is usually commanded by a major-general, and a department by a brigadier-general. Each of these commanding officers has a staff composed of officers of the staff departments, whose headquarters are in Washington. For instance, the commanding general of the Department of the East, comprising the New England and North Atlantic States, has at his headquarters in New York, an adjutant-general, a chief quartermaster, a chief commissary, a chief surgeon, a chief paymaster, a chief ordnance officer, and a chief signal officer. Representatives of these staff departments are also attached to each regiment, battalion and company, and the personnel of the bureau ranges in rank from the chief, usually a brigadier-general, down through all the grades to a non-commissioned officer, such as a commissary-sergeant.
It should not be supposed that a general at the head of an army corps engaged in field operations is not in need of the qualifications of a business man. He must have those qualities of leadership and executive ability which will insure the harmonious working of the representatives of these bureaus who compose his personal staff and look after their particular branches of supply and other duty for his army. But the work of supplying and supporting an army is quite as important as that of directing it, and its prompt and efficient execution is quite as creditable to the officer who, working at his desk unnoticed by the public except in case of scandal or abject failure, is unrewarded by the acclaim of a jubilant public, as is that of the officer in the field whose army he has faithfully supplied with the munitions of war, and who is lauded to the skies for the skillful wielding of a perfect weapon.