January 8, 1846

Army of Observation


Corpus Christi, Texas

    December 17, 1845


Messrs. Editors. — The Washington Union of the 29th November last contains a letter from Paymaster General Towson, U. S. A., attempting to explain the charge of neglect, in not paying the troops here, made against his Department in my letter of the 31st October from this place.  The publication of that explanation is preceded by an editorial in the Union denying, by authority, other facts contained in my communication, casting unmerited censure on the writer, and assuming, most unreasonably, that the abuses exposed were charged against the Administration.  The Union assures the country that official reports represent the troops here as “disciplined, efficient and thoroughly equipped.”  It is deeply regretted that the National Intelligencer, in its fierce and uncompromising warfare on the Administration, should have used this letter as the basis of one of its attacks, thereby misdirecting the great mass of this army, knows and acknowledges that the Administration has acted with great promptness, decision and energy in all matters connected with it, and has won for itself golden opinions even from political opponents.  It is regretted still more that the Union, a little too sensitive, and from the high position of its informers a little credulous on this subject, should have been drawn into a defense of the Administration against charges never made, nor even entertained.  This is not the first instance that the Union has been thus led into error by the same means and for a like purpose; and a suggestion to its editor that other than patriotic motives may prompt the incorrect information he receives will, it is hoped, excite some suspicion in his mind that these attempts to shift responsibility from the Staff Departments of the army to the Administration are not without their motive.  If the errors and neglects of these Departments, when exposed, can be thus easily transferred to the Administration, may we not expect them to increase and multiply with a view to embarrass the Executive and his friends, and thereby pave the way to the succession of a certain high military functionary known to be a prominent whig aspirant?


The remarks of the Union have imposed upon me the unpleasant but easy duty of sustaining the positions of my letter of the 31st of October.  In doing so I will state facts which can be substantiated by the whole army, and I should have blushed under other circumstances to make disclosures so discreditable to particular branches of the service, and incidentally injurious to the whole.  But they have been forced upon me, and on the guilty heads be the consequences.  I emphatically assert, too, that the Administration (the Executive and Cabinet) is not responsible for these abuses, which have resulted from a neglect of the orders of the Executive, who in this matter has been ever prompt and decisive.



Paymaster General Towson gives a reason, such as it is, why Company “E,” 3d Artillery, commanded by Lieut. Bragg, was not paid at the end of two months; but he forgets or dodges the same company at the end of four months, when it was again mustered for pay; and he does not pretend to give any reason for not paying forty-five other companies – more than half this army – which, by his own showing, had two month’s pay due at the end of August, and which they did not receive until sometime in November!  Whether Lieut. Bragg wished or applied to have his company paid in New Orleans, is a matter in no way connected with the question.  On the 31st of October that company had six months pay due it, and no opportunity had been afforded Lieut. B. to have it paid for the four preceding months, though the laws regulat5ing the Paymaster General’s Department require that the arrearages shall never exceed two months.  Not even a hope was entertained here on the 31st October that payments would arrive the next day or even the next month.  We had reports as early as the 1st September, which were repeated weekly, that those officers were coming; but the cry of wolf had been so frequently raised and proved false, that no one thought of noticing it.  That report even was not in circulation on the 31st October.


Lieut. Bragg may have had, and probably did have reasons for not wishing his company paid in New Orleans, such, for instance as the limited time he had to remain there, (three days) during which he was necessarily very busy in changing his equipments and preparing for field instead of garrison service – he having been kept in ignorance as to his destination until he reached New Orleans.  Situated as his company was, in the midst of the city of New Orleans, surrounded by every temptation to dissipation, aster a sea voyage of more than twenty days, and without the usual garrison means of restraint, it would have been impossible for him to have effected this had his men been supplied with money, unless indeed they had been of different materials from the generality of soldiers.  But admitting Lt. B. did not apply for the payment of company, it is strange that the Paymaster in New Orleans did not know that pay was due it.  The newspapers of the country, and especially those of New Orleans, have noticed the departure of this company from Charleston before the end of June – a strong point in the Paymaster General’s defense – and consequently it must have been mustered for payment at sea.  This fact, too, was particularly known to the officers of the army in New Orleans, as orders were there awaiting Lieut. Bragg, to report o General Taylor for duty in Texas with the forces then concentrating for the purpose in that city.  This much of the Paymaster General’s letter then is entirely unsatisfactory.  Forty-six companies, more than half this army, the Paymaster General acknowledges were not, until November, paid for the months of July and August, though the pay was due on the 31st of the latter month.  Will Paymaster General Towson attribute this to Lieut. Bragg, or will he assume it himself?  Twenty-six of those companies were here at the time of muster, and the weather was fair and pleasant enough even for a Paymaster to have turned out.


Long before the arrival of a Paymaster here many of the officers of the army were destitute of the means of paying for their daily subsistence; and it was a frequent occurrence to see them with their _________ or certificates of pay due, searching through the camp for some more fortunate friend who would advance them the money to liquidate their bills for beard, servant-hire, washing, &c., &c. due to poor dependants more destitute, though not more needy than themselves!  Responsible names of commissioned officers can and will be given, if necessary, to vouch for this.  Some officers, myself among the number, had to expand public funds in our possession for these same purposes, notwithstanding the severe penalties pronounced against such a practice.  The funds have been replaced and we are prepared to defend the act under the imperative law of necessity.  What must have been the distress caused in the families of officers and soldiers left behind, and dependent for their daily support on remittances from their friends, I will not attempt to depict.  One instance of extreme necessity here may not be out of place.  An officer who had been dangerously ill for a length of time was advised by his medical attendant to quit the country, or he must die.  The commanding General promptly gave the necessary leave of absence, which was of no avail until the commander of the regiment to which the ___________ belonged, granted him permission to leave his certificate of pay due, and take the amount from his “company fund,” not required for immediate use.


The most cruel and criminal part of our story is yet to come.  From the time of the first arrival of troops in Texas (1st August) up to that of the arrival of Paymasters in November, many regular and honorable discharges were granted to soldiers — some on the expiration of their time of service; others on surgeon’s certificates of disability for service; and probably others on pension certificates given for injuries received when in the discharge of their duties.  These poor and destitute men, after serving their country honestly and faithfully, received the usual certificate from their company commander of the average of pay, &c., due them at the time of discharge, which Paymasters are required to cash on presentation; but in the __________ of these officers, many poor men had to submit to the operation of shaving before the means could be raised to return to their homes.  One who has ever been subjected to this performance under the hands of a __________ ___________, can well imagine ....


Source: The Daily Picayune, January 8, 1846, p. 1, col. 7.


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