Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/470

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The War Department is especially ungenerous in its designation of the civilians who are engaged upon its engineering work. Perhaps in order to keep this numerous class in the background, as far from the public appreciation as possible, and thus to increase the prominence of the engineer officers, it is ordained that, with one or two exceptions, no civilian shall be known other than as an assistant in some shape or other. Upon the geographical surveys, the topographers have been classified as topographical assistants, and the meteorologists under the cumbersome head of meteorological assistants. Since the topographers, or, more properly, geographers, conducted the triangulation, planned the surveys, and made the maps, it is difficult to see to whom they rendered assistance. Certainly not, in general, to the army officers, whose names appear conspicuously upon the maps as "executive officers and field astronomers." Though a Humboldt, or a Petermann, or a Guyot, should tender his services to the War Department as a maker of maps, he would probably be doomed to go down to posterity as a "topographical assistant." As such the public would picture him, if it thought of him at all, as sharpening the pencils and carrying the note-books of his superior officer! To the scanty recognition of civil co-operation, and to the consequent half-hearted interest and support of the civilians, is largely due the discontinuance of the surveys in question. The prestige of the Engineer Corps, upheld by the good work of the civil engineers, would have carried them through any crisis, if the latter class had seriously cared to continue the partnership longer, and if the scientific world had approved of so unequal a distribution of rewards as prevailed there.

When a man is appointed a civil engineer in the navy there are a few of that profession employed at the several navy-yards throughout the country—he is entered upon the register under that name, he wears the imprint of his title upon his uniform, and, among his friends or in the witness-box, he has no difficulty in explaining his occupation. But in the army, or, rather, under the army, since he is not recognized as a component part of the organization, the position of the civil engineer is an exceedingly irregular one. There are several hundred civil engineers employed by the War Department upon the extensive river and harbor improvements constantly in progress. These are classed indiscriminately as assistant engineers, although they may have practical direction of the works upon which they are engaged. Sometimes their official mail comes to them addressed "U. S. Assistant Engineer," sometimes "Assistant U. S. Engineer," thus revealing a doubt or a carelessness even at headquarters concerning their appellation. As the officers of the army, by whom these things are regulated, are the greatest of sticklers in regard to their own rank, and there is no breach of military etiquette more serious than the mutilation of a title or the omission of a brevet, we would naturally expect from them greater consideration in their intercourse with civilians; and, if a man is a civil