Page images

been organized. As yet therefore it is but a very young establishment; but its advantages are beginning to be sensibly felt, and will every year be more highly appreciated. In a short time, the United States, though with a very small army, will be able to boast a much larger body of scientific and well educated officers, than any other country in the world.

Every traveller who ascends the Hudson should stop a few days at West Point, if it be only to view the natural beauties of the place. He cannot also fail to admire the neatness of the barracks, the pleasing appearance of the houses and gardens of the Professors, which are ranged along the table land at the foot of the mountain. But I think myself, that the little battalion, dressed in their neat well made grey uniform, and manæuvring in front with the utmost precision and regularity, must interest him more than any thing else, particularly when he reflects upon the matériel of which that battalion is composed."



By an act of March 2, 1821, the army of the United States is limited to: 6,000 men, four regiments of which are of artillery, and seven of infantry. Small detachments are kept in the different forts scattered along the vast frontier, for the purpose of keeping them in order, and preventing them from falling to decay. But there is no one place where an entire regiment is assembled; I believe, not even half a regiment. Such being the case, there is great room for improvement in the discipline and instruction of the privates ; for a certain number of men are necessary to perform any of even the more simple manoeuvres with a good effect. It is clear therefore, that the reduction of the army to its present low state was neither a liberal nor even an economical policy. Moreover, one of the best means of avoiding war is to be always prepared for it. It must indeed be acknowledged, that in all the Governments of Europe the people bear a very just and natural dislike to a large standing army; for the governor, whether called King or what not, can always employ it against the liberties of the nation. But this is not the case in the United States; for though the President is nominally commander in

chief, it is the people who in reality hold the reins of government; and if the President offended them, they would, after his four years were expired, deprive him of his office. Moreover the President could never prevail on the officers or troops, all of them stąunch republicans, to assist him in any attempt on the liberties of their fellow citizers; and I am sure that the mere hint of such an intenţion would be instantly fatal to any person whatsoever who proposed it. ., The Americans excuse their bad economy in reducing their military force, by saying: “In the event of a war we can trust to our Militia." Nowy the militia, and particularly that of the western States, is very formidable in defending a thickly wooded country, and forms a corps of excellent light troops ; but they never have been able, and they never can expect, to cope with regulars in the open field; for the superiority possessed by disciplined over undisciplined troops, is known to every one. The Americans should also consider, that the inore the Atlantic States are cleared and cultiyated, the less service can the Militia render, and the greater necessity is there for a respectable body of Regulars.

The Americans haye abandoned a great deal of the platoon exercise, which was useless and ridiculous ; and confine themselves to what is more essential,

The officers are very particular in making each · individual soldier a good marksman, by practising

a few at a time with ball cartridge at the target, Hence many of the soldiers attain uncommon accuracy; and I am certain a company of American infantry would fire at least three times as many effective shot, in a given time; as any European company. : The discipline is taken for the most part from the French. They use the same short quick step, follow the plan of wheeling by échelon of files on the reverse flank, &c. The sergeants carry the musket and bayonet-as great an improvement over the English Halberd, as that weapon is over the simple sword of the French.

The privates are remarkably well provided for. They are found in uniform and clothing by the government, and receive a pay of five dollars per month, besides their rations. The ration for each soldier is one pound and a quarter of meat, and eighteen ounces of flour per diem; and as he can never consume all the flour, nearly one-third of it' is exchanged for vegetables.

That corporal punishment should have been prohibited by act of Congress, was regretted by every American officer to whom I spoke upon the subject. It is true there is no corporal punishment in the French army; but then no unprejudiced person, after having seen the internal regulations and discipline of a French and English regiment, can fail to acknowledge that our system is far preferable. I do not mean to advocate our present

excess of punishment, for one of our ordinary regimental Court Martials can, and usually does, order the infliction of 300 lashes, and a General regimental Court Martial 700. Now even the first number is quite enormous ; and very few men indeed can endure the latter, which is nothing more or less than a most cruel and violent torture, equal to anything inflicted by the Spanish Inquisition. The back of a man after receiving three or four hundred, lashes is so dreadfully lacerated that nothing but surgical skill is able to prevent mortification. I myself am disposed to think the number of lashes should, even in extreme cases, be limited to 100. More than thirty or forty are rarely inflicted in the Navy, and this is amply sufficient, both as a punishment to the individual, and as an example to his comrades; for a man who has received so many lashes with a cat-o'-nine-tails on his bare back, will carry the marks of them with him to the grave.

I am not sufficiently acquainted with the system of the French Army to be able to state in what manner they punish a refractory soldier, when on a line of march, or in the field; but in the American army, the only punishment, which in such a case can be inflicted on the criminal, is to send him to the rear. This is no punishment at all to a man insensible of disgrace, and one is obliged to allow that such men exist in all armies. When the regiment arrives at its quarters, if there be no prison

« PreviousContinue »