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(ordinarily of the rank of captain or lieutenant), but these officers can be of but little utility in the line of their profession unless they can each be supplied with a small amount of funds to be used in the purchase and repair of instruments and for assistance in their field-work. No little embarrassment has been caused during the current year by the failure of the appropriation for surveys by these officers. They collect geographical and other information in their own reconnaissances and those of line officers on scouts and campaigns, and have at very little expense produced reports and maps of the highest utility, not only to the commanding generals, but to the public at large. This work is now almost entirely stopped by the failure of the appropriation and the consequent discharge of draughtsmen and other persons employed. Unless further appropriation is made a large mass of valuable material'in form of notes and sketches, now ready to be incorporated into reports and maps, must remain in its present useless form. It is earnestly hoped that the estimate for this work will receive favorable attention from Congress.
A consideration of actual methods and expenses of all surveys of a scientific character under the War and Interior Departments and the surveys of the Land Office, was referred at the last session of Congress (in the act providing for the sundry civil expenses of the government, approved June 20, 1878) to the National Academy of Sciences, with directions to report to Congress a plan for surveying and mapping the Territories of the United States on such general system as will secure the best results at the least possible cost. Subsequently, and at the request of the acting president of the National Academy of Sciences, I furnished to the academy a statement of the plans and wishes of the War Department in respect to these surveys, which was prepared by my direction by the Chief of Engineers, and will be found in the report of that officer. *
The Mississippi River. It is greatly to be hoped that the attention of Congress will continue to be given to the problem how best to improve the navigation of the Mississippi River. The importance of the subject can scarcely be overestimated, and the large expenditures now being made in the improvement of the mouth of the river gives it added prominence.
Improvement of South Pass of the Mississippi River. During the fiscal year the work of completing the jetties and auxiliary structures at South Pass and vicinity has been actively pursued by Mr. James B. Eads and associates, under the sanction of the acts of Congress approved March 3, 1875, and June 19, 1878.
An engineer officer has been on duty at Port Eads during the year, and his reports, called the seventh, eighth, and ninth “Reports upon the
* Appendix N N 3.
Improvement of South Pass," &c., have been forwarded to Congress for its information, and a limited number of each of these reports have been printed. From the tenth report, which is also an annual report for the year ending June 30, 1878, the following data are ascertained :
July 28, 1877, there was an available depth over the bar (at the seaends of the jetties) of 20.3 feet, and the least width of the 20-foot channel was 150 feet.
July 2 and 15, 1878, there was a practical channel of 21.9 feet and 22.3 feet, respectively, and the least width of the 21.9-foot channel in the first case and the 22-foot channel in the second case was 150 feet.
July 28, 1877, the distance between 22 feet in depth inside the shoalest cross-section and the same depth outside was 150 feet. July 15, 1878, the distance between the corresponding 24-foot curves was 150 feet. These depths and widths are with reference to the ascertained "average flood tide."
At the head of South Pass, near the beginning of the past fiscal year, there was a practicable channel 23 feet deep in its shoalest part. Just after the close of the same year a survey showed the existence of a practicable channel 21.7 feet deep, and the fluctuations in depth during the year have been between depths of 21 feet and 23 feet. The widths corresponding to these depths have been ample for the present needs of commerce.
The average flood tide,” which is the plane of reference for depths at the head of the passes, is that of a low stage of the river. At high water stages the actual depths are from 1 to 2 feet greater than the nominal ones given on the charts and in reports.
In January, 1878, a commission appointed by the Secretary of War, composed of Col. J. G. Barnard and Lieut. Col. H. G. Wright, Corps of Engineers, visited Port Eads for the purpose of ascertaining how faithfully Mr. Eads had conformed with the strict provisions of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1875, relating to the stability and general permanence of the works constructed by him to improve the navigation of South Pass. The inspecting officer had certified that on the 15th of December, 1877, "a channel 22 feet throughout a width of more than 200 feet, at its narrowest point, was obtained, from deeper water in South Pass, near the Head of Passes, through the jettied prolongation of South Pass to deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico.” It remained to be assured that the terms of the law had been faithfully complied with in other respects. The report of the commission which has been laid before Congress showed that the 22-foot channel was 200 feet wide, according to a survey made January 2, 1878, and that the law had been so far complied with as to authorize the payment of the second sum of $500,000 due from the United States to Mr. Eads, on the satisfactory proofs that a channel 22 feet deep and 200 feet wide everywhere had been obtained between the South Pass of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. I therefore transferred to Mr. Eads my warrant on the
Secretary of the Treasury for $500,000, as directed by the act of Con. gress of March 3, 1875.
The act of Congress approved June 19, 1878, provided as follows: SEC. 2. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized and directed to draw his warraut upon the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States in favor of James B. Eads, his assigns or legal representatives, for the sum of five hundred thousand dollars, so soon as the said Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, shall file with the said Secretary of War a relinquishment of all claim to the payment of five hundred thousand dollars provided by the hereinbefore recited act to be paid when a channel twenty-four feet in depth and not less than two hundred and fifty feet in width shall have been obtained. And the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and directed to pay to said Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, the suin for which said warrant is drawn.
SEC. 3. The Secretary of War is further hereby authorized and directed, upon his approval of the engineer's statement in this section mentioned, to draw his warrant upon the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States in favor of said James B. Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, monthly, for such sums, not exceeding in the aggregate the gross sum of five hundred thousand dollars, as he or they may require in the prosecution of the works authorized by said hereinbefore recited act, to pay for materials furnished, labor done, and expenditures incurred, from and after the passage of this act, in the construction of said works: Provided, That said Eads or his legal representatives shall file in the office of the Secretary of War, with each requisition made by him or them, a certified statement, which shall be made by the engineer officer provided for in said act, that the requisition is for the amount of work properly done, materials furnished, and expenditures incurred in the prosecution of the work: And provided, That said Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, shall file with the Secretary of War a relinquishment of all claim to the deferred payment of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars provided by the hereinbefore recited act to be paid when a channel twenty-four feet in depth and not less than two hundred and fifty feet in width shall have been maintained for twelve months consecutively: And provided further, That said Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, shall from time to time, as monthly installments of the remaining two hundred and fifty thousand dollars are paid, file with the Secretary of War a relinquislıment of like amounts, to be deducted from the payment of five hundred thousand dollars provided by the hereinbefore recited act to be paid when a channel twenty-six feet in depth and not less than three hundred feet in width shall have been obtained. And the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and directed to pay to said Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, the sums for which said warrants are drawn. All other payments to said James B. Eads, his lawful assigns or legal representatives, are to be made under and in pursuance of the provisions of the hereinbefore recited act; the whole of said act, except as the same is hereby expressly modified or amended, to have the same force and effect as if this act had not been passed.
In accordance with section two of the act, the required relinquishment was filed by Mr. Eads, and the third payment, amounting to $500,000, was made.
Certain technical questions arose as to the construction of section three, above quoted, and as to the rights of parties in the matter of relinquishment. These questions were referred to the Attorney-General and were adjusted pursuant to advices contained in his opinions. The engineer's statements, Mr. Eads’s requisitions, and the required relinquishment of $250,000, having been received, approved, and filed, three sev
eral payments have been made under said section, amounting in the aggregate to $85,386.24, for the months of June, July, and August, 1878.
The epidemic of yellow fever reached Port Earls about July 26, and, although its ravages did not begin during the last fiscal year, it is well to state that the fever became so severe about August 6, that it was thought necessary to suspend active operations at the jetties until the fever had disappeared. The earlier portion of the low-water season, during which the work of construction is most easily and economically conducted, has therefore been lost by Mr. Eads; anıl as it became necessary to allow those of the United States Engineer party under the inspecting officer who were not thoroughly acclimated to leave the vicinity, the regularity of detailed reports has been necessarily interrupted.
REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF ORDNANCE.
The report of the Chief of Ordnance gives a full history of the principal operations of the Ordnance Department during the year. The erection of buildings at the Rock Island Arsenal has been prosecuteil satisfactorily under the efficient supervision of Major Flagler. Ordnance depots have been established at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Fort Leavenworth, and Cheyenne.
Attention is called to the great importance of increasing the appropriation for the manufacture of small-arms. On the 1st of October there were in store as a reserve supply only 22,585 arms of the latest model. The moral effect of a large supply of these arms cannot be overestimated. To be prepared for immediate hostilities is regarded as a great power which must enter largely as an important factor in the determination of international questions which may or may not lead to war.
In accordance with the act of Congress approved November 21, 1877, a board of officers was convened, by order of the Secretary of War, for the purpose of recommending a magazine-gun for the military service. All persons interested in magazine-guns were invited to submit samples and appear in person. The report of the board is submitted with that of the Chief of Ordnance. It recommended the IIotchkiss gun, anıl, upon the recommendation of the Chief of Ordnance, the Secretary of War has approved the action of the board, and the expenditure under the law of twenty thousand dollars in its manufacture.
Attention is invited to the remarks of the Chief of Ordnance upon the subject of armament of fortifications.
The Chief of Ordnance is of the opinion that the present annual appropriation of two hundred thousand dollars for arming and equipping the militia is insufficient to provide the arms and equipments necessary to encourage new organizations and keep the organized forces in proper condition. He therefore recommends an increase of the annual appropriation. I suggest that the attention of Congress be invited to this important subject.
BUREAU OF MILITARY JUSTICE.
In my last annual report I invited attention to the recommendation of the Judge-Advocate-General, that additional legislation should fix, beyond question, a specific period of limitation to prosecutions in cases of desertion. The urgent importance of some wise legislation upon this subject, to which the Judge Advocate-General again adverts, continues to fully impress me.
A small Army, such as ours, manifestly needs all that strict disci. pline can do to supply, by the greatest efficiency, whatever may be lacking in numerical strength. To this end nothing is more essential than a good military code, set forth in plain and definite terms, so that, by its efficient execution, punishment may follow crime with certainty and effect.
Desertion strikes at the very root of military strength and discipline. It not only takes away from the ranks the numbers of those who abscond, but it tends to greatly demoralize those who remain, especially when they see crime attended by impunity.
Instances, doubtless, are sometimes found which naturally and strongly appeal to compassion in behalf of men who deserted long since, perhaps under circumstances of extenuation, and, having become useful citizens and heads of growing families, live in constant and painful dread of the consequences of their crime. For such, as for all similar cases, whether military or civil, the pardoning power is designed to afford all proper relief.
But, in this connection, paramount considerations of public policy must not be overlooked, and in fixing any absolute limit to legal prosecutions, extreme care ought to be taken not to designate such an insufficient period as might afford encouragement to crime by adding to that hope of impunity, which forms one of the most ordlinary inducements to crime, the expectation further held out of an early immunity from all penal consequences. Nor would it, in my opinion, be wise to encourage the hope that a deserter may, by secreting himself for a few years, escape punishment. It is agreed that the statute does not run while the accused may have been “beyond seas" or outside of the United States, but a serious difference of opinion exists as to whether the statute runs in favor of a deserter who has fled from his post of duty but remains within the jurisdiction. To say that the statute does not run in such a case would be to say that there shall be no limitation, since, by the very act of desertion, the soldier flees from his post. On the other hand, if we fix the limitation at two years, and consider the time as running from the date of the desertion, uuless the deserter flees the country, we undoubtedly encourage desertion. The subject is full of difficulty, but probably the best solution would be to fix the limitation at three years, and provide that the time shall not run while the accused shall have absented himself from the country, secreted himself, or for any other reason shall not have been amenable to justice within that period.