Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/490

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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

own corps, and responsible to the head of the Department. Such a staff should be composed of a small body of officers, whose education, experience, activity, and special adaptation to their duties render them peculiarly competent to perform functions on which an army depends for its capacity to act with vigor. In Europe years of varied education in the schools, the cantonment, and the field fit the staff officer for his position, and a long experience in the lower grades is required before he is deemed competent to duty in a more important sphere. We are forced to make experimental appointments of officers unprepared by any previous training, and who can acquire only in actual service that experience which must serve in place of well-grounded instruction. It is scarcely possible to make this experience supply the defect of previous military education, otherwise than by the organization of the officers into one corps, responsible to one head, who can assign them to positions independent of the movements of general officers, and who, by judiciously varying the field or character of their duties, can give them larger opportunities for instruction and prevent their views being narrowed to the routine and usages of a single commander, himself, perhaps, without military education.

Hope of promotion, founded on their own merit and length of good service, is as necessary to the officers of the general staff as to those of the line, furnishing the best stimulus known to honorable exertion and zealous discharge of duty. This stimulus cannot exist unless the staff be organized into one corps, responsible to one chief, who, thus becoming intimately acquainted with the capacity and merits of each, is able properly to distribute the duties so as to secure the services of the right man in the right place, and to afford to each an opportunity for distinction. If, otherwise, each staff officer becomes dependent upon the particular commander with whom he is serving, no means of comparison exist between the relative merits of the officers. Each looks for promotion to the favor of his general, and rises in grade, not by his own relative merit, but by the patronage of his commander. A gallant and able commander, whose own promotion is exceptionally rapid by reason of his special merits, is thus enabled to lift to higher grades the officers of his staff to whom he has become attached by companionship in the field, although these officers may be far inferior in merit and length of service to others whose duties