From the Potomac.
[special Correspondence of the Dispatch.]
"Independent Scout Brusque," near Centreville. January 20th, 1862.
The weather, oh the weather!
Cold stormy weather, chilly winds morning through leafless tress, sweeping in boreal blasts along barren mountain and meadow; fitful showers drizzling destruction on the fair snow; thick fog stealthily looming up from the semi thawing earth; gurgling troubled streams swelling o'er dessicate fields; sad and timid stars lured by ‘ "the momentary blue sky;"’ struggling frowning clouds giving dismal glimpses of the pale sky moon; dying campfires emitting spasmodic sparks and a great gloomy silence prevailing all around are the chief features that marked my journey from our out-posts line to this my resting place this night.
Yet, let the sound ‘"to arms!"’ be given and this silence will be ruthlessly broken by shouts of joy; the cold and stormy weather braved, by our patriot army, and like the magic movement of the Roderick Dhu
men, vale, mountain and glen, will be alive with true men ‘"to do or die."’
It is singular to see what our army can do. The past few days' touring has taught me more of the spirit of endurance that nobly obtains with our men, than any previous experience I have had in this campaigning.--Encamped where the bird's-eye view finds them not, they are adapted now to all things.
Since the winter's advent, they have been better managed in all things appertaining to discipline, health, and condition.
They are, as a body of troops, in better circumstances than any I have had an opportunity of witnessing, and it has been mine to see the armies of Europe
in the field on more occasions than one.
This condition is owing to more causes than one: The material of our army, the like no history records, ‘"the choice of the land;"’ the cause for which they fight, the greatest gift and been of a nation, independence; the well organized condition and effectiveness, minus some exceptions, where influence overslaughed qualifications, of the Commissary Departments
; the character and bearing of our officers, minus a few gilt shoulder-strapped boys and petted parvenus, who are too ignorant to be officers in fact, and too lazy to be soldiers, even in fancy — our officers, who see an example worthy the most grateful emulation in our beloved and ‘ "peerless Beauregard
;"’ the admirable and antired tape system of our all-seeing Secretary of War
, Mr. Benjamin
, whose ruling spirit in the military menage,
is highly gratifying to our men and commanders, and whose correct course, irregardless of aura popularis,
has placed the War Office in that smooth working state it required, the country demands.
An old German writer says, let but the chief machinery be worked by strong muscle and good oil, and it lasts longer and given more satisfaction.
So let our departments be worked by honest men and efficient system, and our army will last longer and give more satisfaction.
With these, the leading causes, is our army in its present excellent condition, and by and by, when the ‘ "Committee of Investigation"’ shall have lopped off the fungi of commissaries and quartermasters, and when the Military Examining Board shall have rid us of the fungi — the gilt shoulder strap boys and parvenus — the first that practice a quest patriotism, that literally means plunder; and the second, a system of tactics that is ‘"dragooning," ’ we shall have arrived at the nearest stage of perfection ever known in the greatest of armies of modern ages.
That such committee and board will bring this about, I am credibly informed from the best authorities, and that a reformation is needed, particularly in the commissary departments of some regiments and battalions, I positively know.
Inefficient they are appointed by blind influence, and,
‘"On commence par etre dupt, on finit par etre fripon."’
These statements of our position are not from any ‘"flattering or splenetic quill." ’ I have seen and been with our army the past eight months, and I do not presume upon truth when I say I have visited every corps of this command from Leesburg
to Aquia, and have learned their sentiments and condition.
Passing this night in the headquarters near ‘"Camp Hollins,"’ the camp of Major Walton
's Artillery, I am placed in possession of the following extract of the report which was submitted in November last to our Congress, introduced by the Secretary of War
, Mr. Benjamin
It will interest your artillery readers and the army generally.
The act of Congress establishing the regular army provides for a corps of artillery with certain officers, and does not seem to contemplate the organization of field batteries into battalions or regiments.
In actual service it is known that it rarely if ever occurs that field batteries are used in organized battalions or regiments.
"The act 'to provides for the public defence,' while it authorizes the acceptance of volunteers as artillerists in companies, battalions, and regiments, and empowers the President
to unite them in such organizations when tendered in separate companies, does not require that he should do so, nor would the good of the service be at all promoted by such action on his part.
"If then the battery or single company be the best organization for artillery, as seems to be unquestionable, it results that under the present legislation the Executive
is without power to reward eminent services in that arm by promotion.
If we take for example, the battalion of Washington Artillery, which (being mustered into service as a battalion) happens to be commanded by a Major, it is found that Major J. B. Walton
, whose services have been conspicuous in that arm, and whose promotion has been recommended by his Generals
and is desired by the President
, is deprived of that substantial mark of approval for eminent services which is the cherished hope of the true soldier;
"The remedy seems to be the appointment of artillery officers of higher rank than is now permissible, and I would respectfully suggest that Congress permit the appointment of officers of artillery in the provisional army and in, the volunteer corps, not to exceed in number one Brigadier-General
for every twenty (20) batteries, one Colonel
for every ten (10) batteries, one Lieutenant-Colonel
for every six (6) batteries, and one Major
for every four (4) batteries, without reference to the number of batteries under the actual command of the officers so appointed.
This scheme is quite desirable, I believe, by the leading artillery companies.
From information I conclude that the commander of the Washington
Artillery Battalion, Maj. J. B. Walton
, who is now chief of artillery of this army, will be the first on the list of promotions to the highest rank named in the above extract.
Such a promotion is, alike merited by the metropolis of the South
, New Orleans, as well as by the battalion commanded by Major Walton
This, from all I learn, is the desire, nay, in fact, the request of the President
and the Chief Generals
of the army, who are not slow to recognize the services of a corps like the New Orleans Washington Artillery, brought to its efficiency by the military rule of its commander.
This corps has been a greater number of days ‘"on active service"’ than any other since June last; and since the 31st of July, save in one instance, (at Drainsville lately,) have alone as artillery been engaged with the enemy.
With their achievements on the 18th and their services on the 21st of July, the 11th and 25th of September, and their unbroken period of outpost duty and skirmishing, from July 8th to December 17th, they are justly entitled to the first consideration for the ‘"fron's share. "’
This is no more than just.
It serves as a proper impetus to the young cannoneers of this famous corps
--the cannoneers who in main are really and solely the representatives of the first blood of Louisiana
in the battalion, who from their early instruction
in discipline and light artillery-gun practice in New Orleans have built up a jealous and envious reputation for the battalion, who have perfected themselves by their own native intelligence and quick comprehension in the chief features of an artilleryman long before they saw Virginia
's war stained fields, or experienced the ‘"higher theories of West Point
. "’ This battalion contributed within a fraction of $1,600 for the Charleston
sufferers, and sent on this subscription.
But the night grows old, my lamp is weary, and my thoughts bound by the Judicious order ‘ "No, 98,"’ and I close for this time by saying the enemy is ‘"nowhere" ’ on our lines in any force, and we are only on the quit vive.