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REPORT OF BRIG. GEN. JOSEPH WHEELER, COMMANDING THE DEPARTMENT OF THE LAKES.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE LAKES,
The ADJUTANT-GENERAL UNITED STATES ARMY,
Washington, D. C.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of operations in this department during the period that it has been under my command:
Pursuant to orders from the Secretary of War, I assumed command of this department on June 25, 1900..
On July 19 I visited Fort Sheridan and made an inspection of the roops and post. The administration under Colonel Comba was highly creditable in all respects.
I respectfully recommend that the prison accommodations be materially enlarged. Since the discontinuance of the prison at Fort Leavenworth, convicts have been sent to Fort Sheridan and more room is needed. Confining convicted prisoners and soldiers awaiting trial together in the same compartments is objectionable, and if the prison is not enlarged some other plan should be adopted to promptly correct this evil.
In this connection I call attention to that portion of LieutenantColonel Hall's report upon military prisons which I incorporate and make a part of my own report, fully concurring in his recommendation, as follows:
There is another matter I desire to call attention to; it is an old one and has been frequently discussed in the past. It is that at certain posts in the Army there are many prisoners confined for long periods who are mixed in with garrison prisoners and guarded by the soldiers of the garrison. The offenses of these long-time prisoners are generally theft, desertion, and other serious offenses. Most of these men, as a rule, belong to the criminal class, and have a very pernicious effect upon young men just entering the service, whether these men are confined with them or whether they are guards over them. All thoughtful officers of much service have had this condition and things strongly brought before them and it should certainly be remedied.
In order to do this I would suggest that all military prisoners sentenced to more than one year's confinement be sent to the old Leavenworth military prison or some other suitable place, in order to prevent their coming in contact with soldiers.
There are some advantages in maintaining a general mess, but I do not think that they are equal to the disadvantages. The system was organized at a time when the entire Army was in garrison and when there was little movement or active duty for the troops. Under the conditions which now exist the general mess is not the best system of administration. I respectfully recommend that every company have its separate mess arrangements, so that when it goes into the field the cooking and messing facilities will be adapted to such service.
I visited and inspected the troops and post at Columbus Barracks August 14. I found the administration and discipline under Major Penney to be excellent.
Columbus Barracks is now used largely as a recruiting station and seems to be well adapted to that purpose, the permanent garrison being one company of the Second Infantry.
I found the water supply very inadequate-by no means sufficient to maintain a sanitary condition at the post. I recommend that
measures be immediately taken to give the post an adequate and constant supply of water.
I also recommend that the grounds be inclosed by a wall so arranged that it can not be scaled by intruders.
I visited Fort Thomas on August 15. The two battalions of the Second Infantry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Corliss, had but recently arrived at that post from Cuba. I found them in excellent condition. The administration and discipline of the post was also excellent.
On July 28 and August 12 two battalions of the Fifth Infantry reached Fort Sheridan from Cuba, and from the entire regiment two battalions, including nearly all of the battalion which had previously garrisoned the post, were dispatched to San Francisco, the dates of their departure being: Third Battalion, August 10; headquarters, band, and First Battalion, August 20.
During the same period two battalions of the Second Infantry reached Fort Thomas from Cuba, and two battalions of the regiment, including nearly all of the battalion which was the original garrison, were dispatched to San Francisco, the dates of their departure being: Second Battalion, August 14; headquarters, band, and Third Battalion, August 20.
I recommend that all troops which go beyond the seas be accompanied by competent dentists. This could be best accomplished by obtaining authority from Congress to employ the necessary number of dentists as contract surgeons are now employed; or, in the absence of legislation, they could be appointed and permitted to accompany the regiments so that the soldiers could have the benefit of their services, which could be paid for and charged to the soldier.
I respectfully recommend that as much time as possible be devoted to perfecting recruits in marksmanship. A soldier is of very little service who is not skillful in handling his rifle, and what is probably more important, when a soldier feels assured that he can hit an enemy it adds to his confidence in himself. If soldiers see casualties in their own ranks and have no assurance that their fire upon the enemy is effective the moral effect upon them is bad. In this connection I also call attention to the report of Lieut. Col. William P. Hall, assistant adjutantgeneral, and incorporate the following from his report and express my full approval of his recommendation:
In this connection I desire to call attention to the following general order issued by the department commander with a view of emphasizing the great importance and value of target practice to troops going to the division of the Philippines and probably into active service:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE LAKES,
I. In view of the fact that two battalions of the Second and Fifth Infantry are to be sent from the United States for active field service as soon as practicable, the commanding officers at posts in this department where parts of these organizations are stationed will use every effort to see that all enlisted men available for this service are given thorough instruction in pointing and aiming drills, mechanism and management of their rifles, and as much target practice as it is practicable to let them have. All officers of experience know how absolutely essential it is that a soldier in active service should be a good shot and thoroughly understand his rifle. A systematic and thorough course of pointing and aiming instruction supplemented by a few shots at each range, to enable the man to understand the peculiarities of his arm as to shooting, will generally result in making the recruit a fair shot. This result when attained will not only be an absolutely essential qualification to a soldier's efficiency,
but it will give him confidence in himself and his rifle, which always makes a brave man more resolute and generally makes a timid man forget his fears.
II. With this end in view, the commanding officers at stations garrisoned by the Second and Fifth Infantry will at once begin the above indicated course of instruction for all soldiers and recruits and continue them daily, Sundays excepted, for as many hours each day as is practicable until all men are properly instructed.
III. As soon as the battalions of the Second and Fifth Infantry arrive from Cuba their instruction will be commenced and prosecuted vigorously upon the same lines until all men destined for foreign service reach as high a degree of proficiency in handling their arms as is possible.
The commanding general of the department is confident that it is only necessary to call the attention of officers to this important matter in order to have the spirit of the foregoing directions cheerfully and intelligently complied with.
IV. A compliance with the provisions of this order must in no way delay action upon the requirements of General Orders, No. 90, Headquarters of the Army, July 7, 1900.
By command of Brigadier-General Wheeler:
W. P. HALL, Assistant Adjutant-General.
The officers at the various posts seem to have left nothing undone in their power to have recruits for foreign service instructed as much as possible. The fact, however, remains that at least four-fifths of the recruits from this department sent to foreign service have gone without any instructions in rifle practice and many of them without having rifles issued to them, and it is needless to say that these men are liable to be put in the line of battle before they know how to load and fire their rifles, aside from the fact that they have never been taught to hit the object at which they shoot. The consequences liable to occur from bringing such a class of men into an engagement are so serious that it is scarcely necessary to comment upon them. In case recruits of this character become engaged with disciplined and trained soldiers, the result must be terribly disastrous to our troops.
The long-range rifles with which armies are now equipped make it more than ever a vital necessity that soldiers should be good shots. When the effective range of rifles was 400 or 500 yards, it is easy to see how a lot of poor shots could do some execution. At the present time, with an effective range of from 1,200 to 1,700 yards, it is equally easy to see how a lot of poor shots could be killed by well-trained soldiers before their enemy could do them any damage.
I know from long experience in training soldiers to use their arms that this can not be done with the average recruit in less than two or three months, and its accomplishment in that length of time requires many hours' work each day by officers or noncommissioned officers who understand their business.
The remedy that I have to suggest is that no recruits be sent to the front from any depot until they have had two or three months' training in pointing and aiming drills and have fired at least 30 or 40 shots on the range in order to become acquainted with the peculiarities of their rifles. This will require a number of well-instructed officers and noncommissioned officers at each depot who should give special attention to this subject.
I respectfully recommend that a board of experienced officers be appointed to revise the course of instruction at the infantry and cavalry school. Some of the teachings are not adapted to present conditions. To illustrate: Young officers from the Military Academy and other schools are instructed and impressed with the importance during marches in active campaign of always having flankers on both sides of the road abreast of the leading files. In the Philippines I found that many officers regarded this rule as strictly as though it was a regulation. Such a system has proved to be unnecessary and very detrimental, retarding as it does the speed of a column's march. It was a useless precaution when troops were armed with guns used a third of a century ago, and with the present long-range guns there is no excuse whatever for its continuance. A better plan would be, when a column is marching in an enemy's country, for a noncommissioned officer and one private to form the advanced point. They should be followed by a column of files with intervals of about five to seven paces, the num
ber of files being determined by the size of the column. If an attack comes from the left, they have only to face the left and are in the best possible position for either attack or defense. If an attack comes from the right, in like manner they face the right and are then in an equally good position. And if an attack comes from both sides, which would not be at all probable, the officer in command of the leading company could promptly devise means to meet such an emergency. By this method the march would not be retarded, which I regard as a matter of the utmost importance. It cannot be said to be an exaggeration to assert that 10,000 men who can march 30 miles a day are nearly as valuable for military purposes as 20,000 who can only march 15 miles a day. Of course, when a large body of troops is on the march the usual method should be adhered to, of having detachments of cavalry on roads parallel, or nearly so, to the line of march. Cavalry detachments should also scout out upon roads which cross the one being traveled.
I also recommend that speed in marching be given consideration in all practice marches and in all marches in campaign. When a soldier carries a gun, 150 rounds of ammunition, blanket and canteen, and one day's rations it is of the utmost importance that this burden should rest upon him as short a time as possible. If a day's march is to be 15 miles and he makes it in five hours he then can throw off all his burden and has the balance of the day for rest. If the march is prolonged to nine or ten hours this burden is upon him for so much longer period and he reaches his destination too late for rest and preparation for the night, and the men who go on guard frequently have no rest whatever before entering upon their new duty. I have found from experience in the Philippines that a quickstep was not tiresome to the men, and upon making inquiry among officers and soldiers I learned that the plan I have suggested was quite satisfactory to them. Another advantage of this is that the troops become accustomed to and enabled to make rapid forced marches, which oftentimes is the main feature in a successful campaign. I discovered that by marching fifty-five minutes and resting five minutes troops could easily cover 3 miles an hour and sometimes they even exceeded that speed.
I think care should be taken to have light shoes with thin soles for small men. A very heavy man needs more leather between him and the ground than a light one, and in providing shoes for the Army this matter should be given careful consideration.
There are also attached hereto reports of the following staff officers of this department: The adjutant-general, the acting inspector-general, the judge-advocate, the chief quartermaster, the disbursing quartermaster, the chief commissary, the chief surgeon, the chief paymaster, the engineer officer, the ordnance officer, the signal officer, the inspector of small-arms practice.
The following are the officers who have served upon my staff during the period covered by this report:
Lieut. Col. W. P. Hall, assistant adjutant-general, U. S. A., adjutantgeneral.
Col. Simon Snyder, Nineteenth Infantry (joined July 25, 1900), acting inspector-general.
Maj. Eli L. Huggins, Sixth Cavalry (relieved July 24, 1900), acting inspector-general.
WAR 1900-VOL 1, PT III
Col. Thomas F. Barr, assistant judge-advocate-general, U. S. A., judge-advocate.
Col. James G. C. Lee, assistant quartermaster-general, U. S. A. (relieved July 16, 1900), chief quartermaster.
Lieut. Col. Edwin B. Atwood, deputy quartermaster - general, U. S. A. (joined July 16, 1900), chief quartermaster.
Maj. J. T. French, jr., quartermaster, U. S. Volunteers, assistant to the chief quartermaster.
Capt. R. L. Brown, assistant quartermaster, U. S. Volunteers, assistant to the chief quartermaster.
Maj. W. L. Alexander, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A., chief commissary.
Col. Albert Hartsuff, assistant surgeon-general, U. S. A., chief
Capt. Henry I. Raymond, assistant surgeon, U. S. A., attending surgeon and examiner of recruits.
Maj. Charles H. Whipple, paymaster, U. S. A., chief paymaster. Maj. Hugh R. Belknap, additional paymaster, U. S. Volunteers (relieved July 25, 1900).
Maj. Beecher B. Ray, additional paymaster, U. S. Volunteers (joined July 12, 1900).
All these officers have been highly efficient in the performance of their various duties.
REPORT OF BRIG. GEN. HENRY C. MERRIAM, COMMANDING THE
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Omaha, Nebr., August 1, 1900.
The ADJUTANT-GENERAL UNITED STATES ARMY,
Washington, D. C.
SIR: I have the honor to submit annual report of conditions and administration of this geographical department during the past year. The following organizations are now serving in the department: