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[EXTRACT FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR.]
WAR DEPARTMENT, November 19, 1878.
REPORT OF THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS.
The report of the Chief of Engineers states that work upon our seacoast defenses, owing to the lack of appropriations, has been limited to the care and preservation of the works. The system governing the construction of our works of defense was elaborated and adopted in 1869, the main features of which are the use of heavy earthen barbette batteries, protected by high traverses, and arranged for guns and mortars of large caliber, to be supplemented in the future by guns of the heaviest modern caliber, and of obstructions in the channels (mainly electrical torpedoes) to prevent vessels from running past the batteries.
The Chief of Engineers now recommends, in addition to completing the open batteries already partially constructed, the conversion of some of our casemated forts for the reception of guns of the largest caliber, behind armor-plates of iron.
The trials and experiments with the torpedo defense have continued at Willet's Point with satisfactory results.
The Battalion of Engineers, under the law reducing the Army, has been fixed at two hundred enlisted men. This number, in the opinion of the Chief of Engineers, is too small for the efficient performance of the duties required of them. If a war should occur with a maritime power, the want of trained soldiers to plant and operate our torpedo defenses would be seriously felt; and it is submitted whether the needs of this branch of the service may not justify a minimum organization for the battalion of not less than five hundred and twenty enlisted men. For the torpedo service alone that number is requisite. The duty requires an intelligence and training which cannot be supplied in an emergency. In the event of the increase of the battalion as recommended, considerable detachments therefrom can be advantageously employed in time of peace in the surveys under the Engineer Department, and especially in the surveys by the engineer officers on the staffs of divis ion and department commanders west of the Mississippi River.
The works of river and harbor improvement provided for by the act of August 14, 1876, were carried on during the fiscal year with satisfactory progress under the balances remaining of the appropriations contained in that and prior acts. Additional appropriations for river and harbor improvements were made by Congress in the act approved June 18, 1878, and as far as practicable the works provided for therein are in