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RY 4, 1858.-— Resolved, That the usual number of copies, and fifteen thousand addi-
1 8 58.
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR.
Washington, December 5, 1857. Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the condition and operations of the army during the past year.
The army consists of nineteen regiments, divided into ten of infantry, four of artillery, two of dragoons, two of cavalry, and one of mounted riflemen. The whole strength of the army, as posted, consists of about 17,984 men; and the actual strength, on the first of July last, was 15,764. In addition to the movements which the troops have been called on to make this year, which are set forth in a separate paper, prepared by the Adjutant General and herewith transmitted, this force is called upon to garrison 68 forts of a large and permanent character, so far, at least, as it is possible to supply men for the purpose ; and to occupy 70 posts less permanently established, where the presence of a force is absolutely required. The area over which these forts and posts are spread embraces a circuit of about 3,000,000 square miles, and requires a journey of many thousand miles to visit the principal ones of them.
The external boundary of our country, requiring throughout a more or less vigilant military supervision, is 11,000 miles in length, presenting every variety of climate and temperature, from the inclement cold of our Canada frontier to the tropical regions of southern Texas. But the occupation of this long line of frontier is a trifling difficulty in comparison with that of protecting the double line of Indian frontier, extending from the Lake of the Woods to the banks of the Rio Grande, on the east side of the Rocky mountains, and from beyond the river Oregon on the British frontier to the head of the Gulf of California, on the western slope of those mountains. Superadded to these lines, requiring to be occupied, are the great lines of intercommunication between the valley of the Mississippi and the Pacific ocean, which imperatively demand that protection whi’h only the United States troops can furnish. These lines are very long, and are now extremely important, whilst every year renders them more and more 80. From our western frontier of settlements to those of northern Oregon the distance is about 1,800 miles; from the same frontier to the settlements of California, via Salt Lake, is 1,800 miles; from the frontier of Arkansas, at Fort Smith, by Albuquerque or Santa Fé, to Fort Tejon, is about 1,700 miles; and from San Antonio, by El Paso, to San Diego, near the borders of the white settlements, is 1,400 miles; constituting an aggregate line of 6,700 miles which ought to be occupied, and which we pretend, in some sort, to keep open and defend.
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This simple statement of facts demonstrates, stronger than any arguments could do, the absolute necessity for an increase of the army.
The policy of our government, and the spirit of our people, are alike opposed to a large standing army, and very properly so; but if an army is needful at all, it should be organized in such manner as to answer the purposes for which it is required. Its numbers should correspond with the service it is intended to perform. If from any disproportion in this respect it stops short of efficiency, it becomes insignificant, and entails upon the country expenditures wholly incommensurate with any service it can render.
It will not be denied that an army, properly organized and of sufficient strength, constitutes at once the cheapest and most efficient means by which the indispensable services it is designed to perform can be secured by the government.
There is no substitute for an army; and to render it at once economical and efficient, adequate numbers are essential. If there is a higher duty than another devolved upon a well regulated government, it is to afford perfect protection to its citizens against outrage and personal violence; yet this great obligation is not performed by the government of the United States. For a large portion of the year, scarcely a week elapses without bringing to us intelligence of some Indian massacre, or outrage more shocking than death itself; and it most frequently happens that these acts go unpunished altogether, either from the want of troops for pursuit, or from their remoteness from the scenes of slaughter, which renders pursuit useless.
In former times, when the hardy pioneer was allured away from the line of white settlements by fertile lands alone, he scarcely ventured so far as to be beyond succor and protection from those he left behind. But far different is the state of things at present. Our Pacific settlements, with their great inducements of rich lands, salubrious climate, and fabulous mineral treasures, present to the inhabitants of the Atlantic States temptations to emigration which the privations of an intervening wilderness and desert, and continual danger from roving bands of savages hanging upon their march for many hundred miles together, cannot deter them from undertaking. This migration strengthens the natural ties between the Atlantic and Pacific States, and adds immensely to the defensive strength of that remote region. Justice and humanity alike demand protection for these emigrants at the hands of our government.
To render governmental protection to our vast frontier and emigration perfect, a very large augmentation of the army would not be re
uired. Five additional regiments would answer the purpose if properly posted.
It will be seen from a paper carefully prepared from reliable data by the Adjutant General, that no increase of our forces is so efficient, or near so cheap, as the augmentation of our regular army.
A line of posts running parallel with our frontier, but near to the Indians' usual habitations, placed at convenient distances and suitable positions, and occupied by infantry, would exercise a salutary restraint upon the tribes, who would feel that any foray by their warriors upon the white settlements would meet with prompt retaliation upon their own homes. In addition to this means of defence, there should be concentrated along our own frontier, at eligible points, large bodies of efficient horse, all or any portion of which could, upon the opening of spring and the first appearance of grass, march to punish aggression or repress any spirit of insubordination. These cantonments for cavalry should be established at points where corn and hay are abundant and cheap. The present is a favorable period for the choice of permanent locations, for the reason that upon a large portion of our northwest frontier, particularly, settlements have nearly reached the limits of cultivable lands, beyond which, while there are spots of rich soil and tolerable pasturage, they are not sufficient for extended settlement. Hence there is no likelihood of military stations being left, as heretofore, in the heart of a thickly populated country, after the lapse of a very few years. The posts selected in the manner now indicated would become useless only when the Indian tribes ceased to be formidable, or disappear altogether, for they would be upon the line of permanent frontier, which has now been reached.
The concentration of these large bodies of horse at eligible points upon our borders would have the best influence both upon the discipline and effectiveness of the corps. Throughout the winter, when field operations were impossible, the men could be perfectly drilled, and the horses would be put in complete order for the most active and arduous service in the earliest spring. This double line of defence would constitute a perfect protection to the settlements, in the first place, and would soon prove far the most economical system of frontier protection, because it would greatly diminish and cheapen the transportation of military stores and munitions of war, which is now the chief source of our most unsatisfactory frontier expenditure. The infantry stations would not necessarily be large, and supplies could be furnished them from convenient points at very moderate rates.
For these reasons, and many others which readily suggest themselves, I venture to submit to you the propriety of asking from Congress an increase of the army. I am strengthened in my convictions of its propriety from the recommendations of my predecessor, whose thorough knowledge of the army and its requirements give his opinions great weight, and from the recommmendations, also, of the general in chief.
The army has been very actively and constantly engaged in the performance of arduous and important duties. The Indian war in Florida claimed the attention of a strong force, composed mainly of the fifth infantry and fourth artillery, during the spring and early part of the summer. This war has been prosecuted with all the vigor which the character of the country and that of the enemy would admit of. The country is a perpetual succession of swamps and morasses, almost impenetrable, and the Indians partake rather of the nature of beasts of the chase than of men capable of resisting in fight a military power. Their only strength lies in a capacity to elude pursuit.
Exigent affairs in the west demanded the removal of those two regiments from Florida to the Territory of Kansas; but they have