As Secretary of War
in the Cabinet
of President Pierce
, a position which he only accepted after repeated solicitation, he was an officer second to none who has ever administered that department in executive faculty and in benefits bestowed on the military service.
It was under his direction that George B. McClellan
(then a captain, afterwards general-in-chief and commander of the Army of the Potomac) was sent with a commission to the Crimea to observe military operations and to study the tactics and conditions of the European
armies their engaged, the result of which introduced many improvements.
There was nothing that came within his jurisdiction that he did not methodize and seek to extend to the widest range of utility.
Material changes were made in the model of arms.
Iron guncarriages were introduced and experiments made which led to the casting of heavy guns hollow, instead of boring them after the casting.
The army was increased by two regiments of cavalry and two of infantry.
Amongst his earnest recommendations were the revisions of army regulations; the increase of the medical corps; the introduction of light-infantry tactics; rifled muskets and balls; the
exploration of the western frontiers, and the maintenance of large garrisons for the defense of settlers against the Indians.
And there was no direction in which was not felt his comprehensive understanding and his diligent hand.
His efforts to obtain increased pay for officers and men, and pensions to their widows, betokened those liberal sentiments to the defenders of their country which he never lost opportunity to evince or express.
He refused to carry politics into the matter of clerical appointments, and in selecting a clerk was indifferent whether he was a Democrat or a Whig.
To get the best clerk was his sole thought, and while I am not prepared to condemn as spoilsmen those who seek agents in unison with their principles, I can readily recognize the simplicity and loftiness of a nature which pays no heed to considerations of partisan advantage.
The confidence which he inspired was indicated by the trust reposed in him by Congress to take charge of the appropriations made for the construction of the new Senate chamber and hall of Representatives, and of those also to locate the most eligible route for the railway to connect the Mississippi valley
with the Pacific coast
The administration of Franklin Pierce
closed in 1857, and it had presented the only instance in our history of a cabinet unchanged for four years in the individuals which composed it. None have filled the executive chair with more fidelity to public interests than Franklin Pierce
, and words with which his Secretary of War
eulogized him were worthily spoken by one to whom they were equally applicable: ‘Chivalrous, generous, amiable, true to his friends and his faith, frank and bold in his opinions, he never deceived any one.
And if treachery had ever come near him it would have stood abashed in the presence of his truth, his manliness and his confiding simplicity.’