March  17, 1846 Article 3


Mr. Black and the Army.


The following letter from Col. Hitchcock, of the army, and addressed to the Hon. Mr. Black, of South Carolina, has reference we presume, to the subjoined extract from Mr. Black’s report in the House of Representatives on the militia.  The complimentary strain of the latter portioa of the extract is well calculated to elicit the thanks of the officers of the army.


“ From superannuated officers,” says Mr. Black in his report, “the country can hope for but little of that efficiency which might be in keeping with the gallantry of their youth; and while the committee would be the last to deny to them the gratitude and care of the country for past services, yet experience teaches that the public safety forbids a reliance upon them in the hour of danger.  The subalterns are younger men, and, at a heavy cost, are scientific; but it must not be forgotten that entering the army in times of profound peace, many of them are encumbered with families, and all more or less enervated by the ease and luxury of a peace establishment.  They are but ill calculated for the active duties of the field, or for anything more than dull sergeants or men of mere routine.”


Here is Col. Hitchcock’s letter:

Camp Corpus Christi, March 8, 1846.

Dear Sir: I have recently had the pleasure to read your very able report in reference to the military, in which you take occasion to speak of the army, and cannot do justice to my own feelings without expressing the high appreciation I entertain of your distinguished talents, fairness and patriotism.  The very flattering picture you exhibit of the officers of the army, both old and young, cannot fail to be highly gratifying to the members of the profession, particularly those removed from the populous parts of the country and stationed at military posts among the Indians on the frontier.  It is fortunate that the army has so generous a friend in Congress as yourself, and pleasing, indeed, to reflect that the report on the militia, so complimentary to the regular service, was drawn up by one who has himself been a member of the army — though I think it is many years since you served with any part of it.  Your recollections of service are doubtless very vivid, and the facility with which you appear to have drawn the picture can only be explained by supposing that you referred to your own experience and sat for the picture yourself – if I may be excused for adopting the idea of a noble hand.


In order to aid your future efforts in defense of the army, it may not be amiss to say that the far greater portion of it has been in the field several successive years of late, and as duty is generally equalized as far as possible, one of two examples may be given simply for illustration. One of the regiments, now in this camp, has been under canvass, and very bad canvass, too, or in temporary huts erected by themselves, ever since 1840, excepting a period of twelve months at Jefferson Barracks, where, with the 4th Infantry – which, like other regiments, has itself been whole years under canvass – it was carried through an entire course of infantry military instructions under the direction of Col. Kearny, of the 1st Dragoons, who made, last season, an expedition to the Rocky Mountains with a portion of his fine regiment, himself an officer of the last war:  — but I presume you must have seen his report of that expedition.  More than half of the whole army has been over six months encamped at this place, having just passed through one of the most inclement winters ever known in this country, with a very slender supply of fuel and necessarily using the worst of water, sometimes even brackish, by which many have died and all have suffered.  “The ease and luxury” of this mode of life is not so easily understood at Washington City as at this place, and hence there is some misapprehension on the subject; but it is quite consoling to those of us who are suffering every privation incident to camp life, to feel that our services and sacrifices are appreciated in the capital of the country, and that generous men, like yourself, are willing to stand up in our defense.


I regret that I have not the means of making my acknowledgments extensively known, but possibly you might find or make an opportunity of exhibiting this letter in the House, as a feeble testimony of the feeling so naturally excited by your laudable endeavors to do justice to an entire class of men, generally so scattered over an extensive frontier as to be wholly dependant upon others for spreading accurate information in relation to them, and so exposed, as the army is, to ____________ from demagogues, often so destitute of honor and honesty themselves as to have all that is noble and virtuous in others.


I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. A. Hitchcock,

     Lt. Col. 3d Infantry.



To the Hon. J. A. Black,

     Of South Carolina; Washington City.


Source: The Daily Picayune, March 17, 1846, p. 2, col. 3.



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