Military commands for civilians.
--The military strength of a people, or of an army, depends on a combination of sundry essential requisites.
There must be sufficient number to constitute armies — hardihood and courage and obedience to command of the individual who become soldiers — and enough of arms.
munitions of war, supplies of provisions and money.
All these requisites, in their full measure, are of great importance.
The most short-sighted reasoner would pronounce that there would be scarcely a possibility for successful warfare if either one of these elements of military strength were entirely wanting.
Still necessary as are all of these and other mean-for military success, in some measure, there may be great deficiency in one, or even more than one, compensated by abundance in others Thus, the courage and devoted patriotism of an army, and its well-placed confidence in, and obedience to, the leaders, have, in many cases, served for the triumphant and glorious defence of a country, though with defective arms and supplies, and contending against far more numerous and well supplied enemies.
But there is one other requisite for military success which cannot be dispensed with, which must be possessed in no stinted measure, and which, if greatly deficient, must produce and ensure disaster or defeat, even if armies are every so numerous, brave, and well supplied with all physical means for warfare.
This all important and essential requisite, for every particular corps, whether a regiment, a brigade, a division, or an entire, army, is military capacity of the commander
for discharging the duties required, and his ability
for military command.
Without these, no success in military operations can be expected, or scarcely will be possible, unless by accident, or by the military preparations and field operations being really directed by some obscure but better qualified adviser and guide to the authorized commander and ostensible leader and director of the operations in question.
It is true that there have been excellent officers who afterwards became great and successful commanders of armies, and even in naval warfare, without training in military of naval science, and even without experience except when in command.
Illustrious examples have been presented in Cromwell
Beake, and Jackson
. It may be admitted that great natural talent for military command is even more edifications, and should be more highly estimated than either the scientific or practical training of an officer who is at all wanting in natural talent, or other requisite qualities for command.
Such cases of natural fitness for military operations and command when indicated in a civilian, or proved by the deeds of an inferior officer in service, should be carefully cherished, and put to use. --Such civilians may be safely appointed to military office.
And such officers, if of inferior grades, should be promoted to high positions, and if already of high rank, should be kept employed in some of the most important commands and services.
There are such officers and commanders, now in our service, who have well proved their right to marked distinction.
But such born military officers
and commanders have been but few, and the existence of any such should be considered (in advance of facts for proof) as exceptions, and rare exceptions, to the general and proper rule for appointments to office, viz: that previous instruction and practical training are essential for every man who is to be entrusted with high military command — whether of a regiment only, a brigade, or of an army.--The envy excuse for any departure from this rule, in appointing or promoting officers to high grades, is when there is an absolute deficiency of individuals even partially so qualified.
The most condemnable, inexcusable, and dangerous error which has been committed in the general direction of the war in which we are now engaged, (and for the best success in which we need to employ every element of military strength,) is the conferring of high military positions and commands on individuals who had no military training or experience, or in whom, at most, a mere West Point
education, followed by peaceful service as a subaltern, for a short time, and which ceased many years ago, is paraded by apologists as sufficient evidence of fitness for the command of a brigade.
There have been far too many of such appointments as Colonels
, the inducing motives of which may have been the political eminence of the appointees, or otherwise mere favor, but certainly not because of any military knowledge, or peculiar natural genius or fitness of the favored individuals — By possibility and rare chance, some one or more of these appointees may possess natural military talents unknown to themselves when they solicited such promotion, and certainly unsuspected by the appointing authorities, and may hereafter, if opportunity should offer, exhibit the military talents of a Cromwell or a Jackson; but the probability and the chances are a thousand to one, that in the far greater number of such cases, there will be found, on trial, as much want of capacity and of efficiency of such officers, as there was deficiency of wisdom and statesman like policy in their appointment.