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Military engineering.

Charlottesville, Aug. 8, 1861.
To the Editors of the Dispatch:
I had, on a former occasion, the pleasure of sending you an article for insertion concerning the Garibaldi Legion. Being an Italian by birth, and then a naturalized American, and now a devoted citizen of this Confederacy, I felt it my duty to warn my own countrymen against enlisting in that Legion, and against fighting in favor of principles contrary to those that have procured the independence of Italy.

Deeply interested as I am in the cause of the Confederate States, I hope you will allow me to address you for the second time, submitting, first, that I had a military education in the Pyrotechnical Military School of Naples, which I entered a short time after Murat left that kingdom, and where, therefore, the French system of instruction continued for some time to prevail. From there, after a rigid examination, I passed to be a commissioned officer in the corps of the Topographical Engineer, and Etat-Major; and as the service of that corps was entirely my profession, and I understand, therefore, the great need that every well organized arm of a proportionate number of well sed officers in that branch, I see with regret that, while our adversaries of the North have resolved in Congress to increase the efficiency and number of the Topographical Engineers, nothing has been done on our side towards procuring for us the same advantage.

It would be too long here for me to demonstrate the necessity of such a corps. Our Generals, and certainly many of our instructed and well educated officers, have, when nothing else, read military history. They know what account Napoleon made of the military engineers; how indispensable he deemed the institution to be. They know not the opinion of foreigners upon the subject, but also that of the intelligent and learned American engineers. They have probably read the fine work of Captain H. Wager Halleck; they are probably acquainted with the report made by Captain McClelland on the Crimean war, of which he was an eye-witness, as sent there by the United States of America, in order to examine and report; they have seen the advantages that the French derived by a strict adherence to the technical rules of the science of the engineer, and the disadvantages that the English suffered on account of negligence towards that part of military science. They know, also, that the engineer is not obtained by a knowledge cheaply acquired, of a little of strategy or of field engineering. He must be thoroughly trained in all the sciences that regard his employment. The engineer, It is true, must be acquainted with strategy and temporary fortifications; but this knowledge alone would be too little for him. He could not with it fulfill one-half of his duties. There are some that inconsiderately, and perhaps presumptuously speak; throwing discredit on the science of the well educated engineer; they pretend to consider it, up to a certain extent, as superfluous and obsolete, but they cannot be sure of what they say; they think they are sustained by some mistaken opinions spread by injudicious persons, who inconsiderately viewed the operations before Sebastopol in 1854; but they have not taken the trouble of reading the remarks made by General Neil, in his journal of the siege of that place, nor those of Captain McClelland, or they would certainly have come back from their error.

I hope, then, that, although our experienced Generals are now too much occupied to think of this subject, our Congress at least will take it into consideration, and provide in time, that the Confederation might not be destitute of a good and efficient number of well-instructed topographical engineers, and not let our enemies acquire over us a superiority on that score. They will understand, I hope, not only that the engineer is to be educated, even in time of peace, in order to be thoroughly prepared and properly formed when the war breaks out, but that in time of peace also he has much to do, and among us in particular; for, when peace is made, shall we not have need, like any other civilized nation, of a system of permanent fortifications on our frontiers and the sea-coast?

But I have a few more words to say. What is the reason that, while our publishers and booksellers advertise for the sale of books of tactics, camp duty, hand-books for artillery, instruction for cavalry, &c., &c., they do not take the least trouble to publish any good and thorough book on fortification, mines, attack and defence, &c.? The only book that bears something of that title, is Buckholtz; but do they really think that the author intended to give any reasonable information on engineering? He only intended to make the infantry officers acquainted with the name of some works, and, at most, with constructing a single profile. But that is not in the least what we want; let them at least publish Mahanton fortification, with all its maps. And even that is not all. Can they not find any of the excellent French works, as Cormontaigne, St. Paul, D'Argon, or others; also, one on what is called in French, Defilement? Cannot those who own such works lend them to the publishers, who could thus confer a benefit on their own country and also on themselves; for, after all, these books would be bought with avidity not only by the officers of the army, but also by many who would like to study engineering? Books on strategy would also be needed. The country is to be served not only with material means, but also with the diffusion of knowledge.

Respectfully, yours,
A Native Italian, Now a Citizen of the Confederation.

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