Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/494

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

forces, so essential to success. Its effect is to create a staff for generals, not a general staff.

If a contest should arise between the quartermasters general, the commissaries general, or the chiefs of ordnance of Generals A and B, in any district of country for supplies or means of transportation, who is to determine between these rivals, each equal in authority and each dependent on a separate chief? How are the chiefs of those bureaus in Richmond to apportion the supplies in store according to the wants of the different armies without authority to exact from them reports and returns? If it be said that these officers would become temporarily responsible to the heads of departments, how is this responsibility to be enforced if the orders of the general and those of the chief of the department should conflict? If ordnance depots are provided at different points for different commands, how is the officer in charge of these depots to act if ordered by the chief of ordnance of a general in the field to make a different disposal of the stores from that ordered by the head of the department in Richmond?

If such a bill should become a law, in vain would the War Department seek to exact rigid obedience to law or orders from the irresponsible staff created under its provisions. In vain would it seek for the information necessary for its guidance, or attempt to change the relative strength of armies to meet the varying movements of the enemy. The staff officers could be made the ready and safe means of thwarting the Government in its orders for the removal of troops from one command to re├źnforce threatened positions in another, and could be easily rendered subservient to the natural but dangerous propensity of most commanders to retain all the troops under their own control for the safety of their own commands, without reference to more urgent needs at other points.

It is scarcely necessary to add to these considerations more than a bare allusion to the tendency of such bodies of officers, when dependent for their own promotion on the favor of the special chiefs, to resort to agencies less commendable than the zealous discharge of their legitimate duties for the attainment of their desires.

II. Another very objectionable feature of the bill proposed is its effect on the officers of the general staff other than those who may be selected as the favorites of commanding generals.