During the Civil War
the demand for the services in the field of the most capable officers had, as was generally understood, been prejudicial to the interests of the military academy; and this continued some time after the close of the war, in consequence of the unusual increase of rank of those officers who were known to be fitted in all respects for the head of that institution.
This difficulty was increased by the very unreasonable notion that because the law had opened the academy to the line of the army, the superintendent must necessarily be taken from the line, and not from the corps of engineers, although the latter contained many officers of appropriate rank who had then added to their high scientific ability and attainments distinguished services in the field.
Even in the line, officers were not wanting of appropriate rank, character, ability, education, and experience to qualify them for the duties of superintendent.
For example, my immediate predecessor, Major-General Thomas H. Ruger
, then a colonel of infantry, was in all respects highly qualified for that office; and when I relieved him I found the academy in about the same state of efficiency which had characterized it before the war. There was, in fact, at that time little, if any, foundation for the assumption that the interests of the military academy required the assignment of any officer of higher rank than colonel to duty as superintendent of the academy.
Of course I did not know this before I went there, and it was a matter for the judgment of my superiors, whose duty, and not mine, it was to know the facts.
But General Sherman
had other reasons, some of them very cogent in his own estimation at least, for desiring my presence somewhere in the Eastern States
; and the West Point
‘detail’ was the only way in which that could readily be brought about.
He had just been restored, or was about to be, to the actual command of the