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[EXTRACT FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR.]
Attention is invited to that part of the report of the Chief of Engi neers which refers to our sea-coast defenses. I fully concur in his view that we have too long neglected the question of providing for the safety of our harbors and maritime cities, our navy yards, and arsenals of supply in case of foreign war. It is to be hoped that such war is far distant, but we should impress ourselves with the fact that in these days wars often come suddenly and when least expected. If armies alone could prevent the destruction of maritime cities by hostile iron-clad fleets, or if the defenses could be improvised in a few weeks or months, the question of defense might perhaps be deferred; but armies without the aid of fortifications and their accessories are powerless against such fleets, and modern sea-coast defenses require many years for their construction.
I also invite attention to that part of the report of the Chief of Engineers which speaks of the needs of our torpedo system, and the importance of providing means for connecting our torpedo lines with the instruments used for firing them, which must be placed within our fortifications on shore. Such means exist only in a few of our harbors.
I concur also in his judgment respecting an increase of the strength of the Engineer Battalion to 520 men, the minimum number consistent with reasonable efficiency. As stated in my last annual report, the work of engineer troops is more technical than is required in any other part of the Army; and while this is so, they are regular soldiers, thoroughly instructed in infantry tactics, and are as available in an emergency as any other troops of the line for any duty that may be required of soldiers. On our torpedo service much will depend in future wars, and 520 men in training for that service, for all our coasts and all our harbors, seems but a small number, and the desire of the Chief of Engineers for an increase of 320 men above the 200 to which the battalion