“It is at last discovered that it is of more importance to teach the soldier to direct his piece with accuracy of aim, than to perform certain motions on parade with the precision of an automaton. The same idea is now infused into all the departments of military and naval science, and is a necessary result of the recent great improvements in the construction of arms. In short, the truth has at last become apparent that the old-fashioned system of random firing, though perhaps like the ‘charge of the six hundred’ at Balaklava, ’bien magnifique, n’est pas la guerre.’”
“It is of the utmost importance that we should apply this principle to the management of our sea-coast batteries, and give it a practical effect. The volunteers of our cities will constitute mainly, in time of war, the gunners of our forts and manipulators of our sea-coast guns. In time of war, they will probably be exercised in these duties. But it is most desirable that we should have at all times a body of gunners, practised in these exercises. The result would be, not only to give to our citizens, as well as citizen-soldiers, confidence in the defences provided for their security, but it would disseminate military knowledge, and an intelligent idea of the bearing and objects of the different defensive works. To carry out this idea, it would be desirable that there should be at each considerable seaport town, a sufficient garrison of artillery troops to aid in the instruction of the volunteers. In the present condition of the army this cannot be hoped; but perhaps it might, at least, be found practicable to detail an artillery officer or two for the purpose.”
The author has seen nothing since this chapter was written to induce him to change the views therein expressed with respect to the superior strategic importance of the line of Lake Champlain, both as a line of military operations, and as a line of defence. The mutual commercial interests of the United States and the Canadas render a war between the two countries less probable than formerly; nevertheless, such an event is by no means impossible, and common prudence should induce us to prepare in the best possible manner for such a contingency.
Since these chapters were written, several important changes have been made in our army organization. The rank of Lieutenant-General (at least, by brevet) has been revived, the staff, administrative corps, infantry and cavalry have been increased, and a company of engineer troops organized. But this company is mainly employed at West Point for instruction of the cadets in the several branches of military engineering, and thus serves to supply a deficiency long felt in the system of education at the Military Academy. The want, however, of troops of this arm for the construction, care, and preservation of our permanent fortifications, and for the general duties of field engineering, still remains to be supplied. Of all the arms of military organization, this one most requires instruction in time of peace; it cannot be supplied at the moment a war is declared.