Today in History:

83 Series I Volume XLVI-II Serial 96 - Appomattox Campaign Part II



Camp before Petersburg, January 10, 1865.

Brigadier-General RAWLINS,

Chief of Staff, Armies of the United States:

I have the honor to submit for the consideration of the lieutenant-general the necessity for establishing general regulations for the organization of the artillery of our armies, defining its duties, its relations to other troops, the powers and functions of its officers providing for its government and administration, and for the force necessary to discharge its duties. I do this because of the many evils, which exist in this arm, not only affecting its own character and standing but injurious to the whole service. The absence of any such code, of any recognized head or central authority specially charged with its direction, and of established prescriptive rights and duties, are sufficient to account for the evils I refer to, and are my reasons for bringing the subject directly to the notice of the lieutenant-general. The want of a code of regulations would soon break down any branch of the service. Of the two special arms, the engineers have a chief of bureau and a special code, whilst its sister service, the artillery, has neither. In the case of neither of them, however, are there any comprehensive rules adapted to the existing condition of the service and providing for the relations of these arms to each of their and for their duties in large armies. It can, I think, be shown that as a consequence grave inconvenience and injury have resulted. I have here to deal specially with the artillery, but the same general principles as to organization and administration apply to both. If in an army the artillery consisted only of field batteries, serving as auxiliaries with other troops, the necessity would exist for a proper organization which would fix its position and relation to those troops and provide for the casualties and exigencies of service. The experience of our service proves this. A French six-gun batter is allowed 234 enlisted men; an English, about the same number: an American, but 147, a number barely sufficient to serve the "battery of maneuver" efficiently, leaving nothing for contingencies. As soon as the number of men is diminished by the casualties of battle, by sickness, details &c., the number of guns in each battery must be reduced, or men must be detailed from the infantry or cavalry to make good the losses. These men are not serviceable as artillerists; the frequently dislike the duty; and from the time the details are made a continued struggle is going on between regimental and battery commanders for their possession. This is but one of the more obvious evils to which even the field artillery is subjected, and which has had a bad effect upon its efficiency.

Field operations, however, involve other duties for the artillery. In marches near the enemy it is often desirable to occupy positions with guns for special purposes; to command fords, to cover the throwing and taking up of brigades, and for many other purposes for which it would be inconvenient and unadvisable to withdraw their batteries from the troops. Hence the necessity for a reserve of artillery, the batteries of which have labored under the same and oven greater inconveniences than those attached to the corps, as they have no troops upon which to call for details, the army corps furnishing men to their own batteries with reluctance. Butter in a large army, especially in offensive operations, there are still other duties to provide for: positions must be entrenched and occupied lines of field-works constructed, depots, important bridges, passes, &c., fortified, and all these require skilled labor and artillery.