Washington DC - War And Navy Departments
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
THE War Department has charge of the military service of the government, and is under the direction of the Secretary of War. It occupies the northern portion of the State, War, and Navy Building, with several divisions located elsewhere in Washington. It has been an executive department since 1789. The divisions are, the office of the Secretary of War, the Headquarters of the Army, the departments of the Adjutant-General, Inspector-General, Quartermaster -General, Commissary-General, Surgeon-General, and Paymaster-General ; the Corps of Engineers, the Ordnance Department, the Bureau of Military Justice, the Signal Office, the Bureau of War Records, etc. The department, in addition to the charge of military affairs, has the management and control of numerous matters that are not strictly warlike. Among the number are the manifold river and harbor improvements throughout the United States, the government explorations and geographical surveys, the various public works, the gathering and promulgation of the weather reports, and the national cemeteries and asylums. It is a vast establishment, requiring a host of workers and an enormous yearly expenditure to maintain it. In some recent years the disbursements have amounted to about fifty millions of dollars. Every year the army and its adjuncts require the expenditure of nearly $29,000,000, the salaries and expenses of the department amount to $2,400,000, and from ten to twenty millions are expended for public works.
The Secretary of War is a Cabinet minister, and receives $8,000 per year. He has a chief clerk with a salary of $2,500, a disbursing clerk with $2,000, a stenographer with $1,800, and three chiefs of divisions with $2,000 each. His office is provided with fifty-six clerks and numerous other employes. The chief clerk has the general superintendence, is in charge of the correspondence, and acts as a medium between the Secretary and the heads of the sub-departments. The several military bureaus have many employes, and are part of the army establishment, the chiefs being officers of the regular army.
The old War Department building, so familiar to thousands of soldiers of the volunteer army during the Rebellion, was demolished in 1879. It stood where the northern wing of the State, War, and Navy Building now stands, and had a history going back to President Monroe's time. It was a three-story brick structure with a huge portico of marble pillars, and in front of it were a number of grand old trees, among the largest and finest in Washington. When it was proposed to cut down these trees there was an earnest protest from army officers, but the new building required the space, and the woodman could not spare the axe."
In the present palatial building the department offices are all very spacious and magnificent. The apartments used by the Secretary of War are artistically decorated and richly furnished. They are in the second story, fronting on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Secretary sits at a handsomely carved mahogany desk, with his private secretary and his stenographer near at hand. In the early part of the day he receives members of Congress, the chiefs of the sub-departments, and those whose business renders an interview necessary. The afternoon is devoted to an examination of the reports and papers submitted to him for approval. It is his duty to make a careful study of the public business pertaining to the important department he controls, and to ascertain the most correct and efficient methods of doing it. No man, it is declared, can master the details of this department who does not give his nights, as well as his days, to their study ; and unless the details are mastered, a Secretary of War can never fully understand the questions he has to decide, or be competent to give proper advice to the President.
In one of the rooms of the Secretary's office is a collection of portraits of past Secretaries of War, and in other rooms are portraits D f famous soldiers and a series of well-painted battle-scenes. The office library is contained in a finely embellished room. It consists of 3,000 works of reference, and 15,000 miscellaneous works, which are freely circulated among army officers and the department employes. In addition to this library, the various sub-departments and bureaus all have special libraries, consisting of works treating of the matters they are occupied with, and many of these libraries are large and valuable.
The rooms used for the headquarters of the army are very handsomely furnished. They are occupied by the Lieutenant-General in command of the army, his aides-de-camp, and clerks. Here reports are daily received, and the numerous details appertaining to the supervision of the military force are attended to. The regular army consists of over two thousand commissioned officers, and 23,000 en-listed men, and is divided into twenty-five regiments of infantry, ten regiments of cavalry, and five regiments of artillery. Three hundred scouts, engaged in Indian warfare on the plains of the far West, are also part of the army organization. There are nine military departments throughout the United States. The pay of the Lieutenant-General is $11,000 per year. Major-generals receive $7,500, brigadier-generals $5,500, colonels $3,500, lieutenant-colonels $3,000, majors $2,500, captains from $1,800 to $2,000, and lieutenants from $1,400 to $1,600. After five years' service the pay of officers below the rank of general is increased from ten to forty per cent., according to length of service. All commissioned officers are retired from service on three-quarters pay when they reach the age of sixty-two. Enlisted men are paid from $13 to $21 per month.
In the army headquarters are portraits of the commanders-inchief, from Washington to Schofield. There have been eighteen commanders from 1775 to the present time, but Congress has conferred the full title of General on only three of them—Washington, Grant, and Sherman. General Washington received the honor a short time before his death, in 1799, when he was placed in command of the army, in expectation of a war with France ; and in 1866 Congress revived the title as a special honor for General Grant. When General Sherman became commander he also received the title. Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott was commander from June, 1841, to November, 1861, and General William T. Sherman from March, 1869, to November, 1883. These were the longest terms of service.
The department of the Adjutant-General is a very busy place. Here are five hundred lerks and other employes, for whose salaries the sum 0f $691,000 is annually appropriated. Two hundred of the clerks are constantly engaged in preparing reports to expedite the settlement of pension claims. The muster-rolls and papers relating to enlistments and discharges are kept in this department. The Adjutant-General publishes the orders in regard to military affairs, issues commissions, and has charge of the army discipline. There are four assistant adjutants-general.
Another large and important department is that of the Quartermaster-General, which provides the means of transportation by land and water 0f troops and the materials of war. It furnishes horses for the artillery and cavalry, and all the clothing, tents, camp and garrison equipage for the army ; builds barracks, hospitals, store-houses, bridges, etc., and also has charge of the eighty-one national cemeteries in various parts of the country, in which soldiers are buried. It yearly expends from ten to fifteen millions of dollars.
The Paymaster-General is charged with paying the army and the military academy. He has an office force of fifty persons, and annually disburses 0ver thirteen millions of dollars.
The Bureau of War Records has published seven volumes 0f records of the Civil War, and has other volumes in course of preparation. Records of the Union army, from 1861 to 1865, have been gathered from all sources with diligent and persevering labor, and a great collection of records of the Confederate service has also come into the possession of the bureau. Search is constantly being made throughout the Southern States by special agents, for original documents relating to the war, and frequently very valuable Confederate papers are discovered.
Carefully preserved in the Bureau of Military Justice are a number of relics of the Lincoln assassination. They include the pistol with which the President was shot, the fatal bullet, flattened by contact with his skull, the bowie-knife that the assassin brandished, and the hat he wore, and other articles associated with the historic event. The bureau is under the supervision 0f the Judge-Advocate-General, and has charge of the proceedings of courts-martial and courts of inquiry, and furnishes reports on various matters submitted to it by the Secretary of War.
The department of the Surgeon-General is very extensive, and his offices are full of industrious workers. He has over four hundred clerks, the majority of whom are engaged upon matters concerning the settlement of pension applications. Besides having the care of the health of the army the medical and hospital department the Surgeon-General has possession of the enormous collection of records relating to the' disability and the death of soldiers, from the first organization of the army of the United States to the present time, and from these records are compiled the reports used by the Commissioner of Pensions in determining the merits of claims for pensions. There are nearly nineteen thousand volumes of hospital registers, classified and indexed ; and thousands of volumes of records containing the names of deceased soldiers, as well as an immense collection of documents pertaining to the medical and surgical history of every war that this country has known. The records of the Civil War are very complete. They were begun during its progress, and were continued afterward for a number of years, requiring in their compilation remarkable patience, perseverance, and skillful application to details. The registers in the possession of the Surgeon-General contain the names of more than seven millions of sick, wounded, and deceased soldiers, and nearly half the names are arranged in convenient form for every-day reference.
The record and pension division of the Surgeon-General's department is located in the historic building on Tenth Street, formerly known as Ford's Theatre, and now as the Army Medical Museum. In this building President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, on the evening of April 14, 1865. The government took the building for its present purpose at the suggestion of the late Surgeon-General Joseph K. Barnes, who founded the Army Medical Museum, and began the great Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, three volumes of which have been published. On the second floor is the library of the department, which is considered to be the largest and best collection of medical works in the world. In the cases are over fifty thousand volumes and nearly seventy thou-sand pamphlets, some of them very ancient. They are in many languages, and constitute a thorough history of medicine and surgery, from the earliest times. The library can be used gratuitously by physicians, and is much resorted to, many physicians coming from distant parts of the country to consult its rare and precious books.
On the third floor is the Army Medical Museum, an institution which has no counterpart in Europe or America. It has obtained great celebrity, and is visited by thousands of people every year. Visitors are freely allowed to inspect its immense collections, and in one recent year the names of 13,250 people were registered. The museum contains thorough illustrations 0f the diseases 0f armies, of the casualties of battle, and of military surgery. The illustrations comprise over twenty thousand specimens taken from life, and arranged in systematic series. It is a very interesting exhibition, even to the non-professional, and furnishes many instructive 0bject-lessons. The display of surgical instruments and appliances is very large, and includes the ancient as well as the modern ; and there is a large collection of models of barracks, ambulances, railroad cars for the sick and wounded, etc. The anatomical divisions are full and finely arranged. A great deal of pains is taken with the museum, and yearly its unsurpassed collections are considerably increased.
In Winder's Building, on Seventeenth Street, opposite the State, War, and Navy Building, is the Ordnance Museum, which contains a large, novel, and interesting exhibit of military articles, including many relics of the Civil War. Here the instruments of war can be studied to advantage, and much useful information readily obtained. The collections of arms comprise everything known to America, with considerable of foreign manufacture, and fully illustrate the various stages of advancement.
The Signal Office, better known as the Weather Bureau," is located on G Street northwest. It occupies a brick edifice, which is conspicuous by reason of the numerous appliances its roof, used for registering the velocity of the wind, for ascertaining the rain-fall, etc. This bureau is in charge of a chief signal officer, who is a brigadier-general of the regular army. He has several officers of the army as assistants, a chief clerk, a force of scientific experts, draughtsmen, and others, together with many clerks, copyists, messengers, etc. Throughout the United States there are three hundred and seventy-six signal stations, in charge of nineteen officers and five hundred men 0f the signal corps of the army, and each station is provided with the best instruments for the " weather service " for 0bserving and accurately recording the constant variations of the weather. From 0ne hundred and thirty-nine of these stations telegraphic reports are sent daily to Washington ; the others report by mail.
The Signal Office receives reports from the trained observers three times in every twenty-four hours at 7 A. M., 3 P. M., and at midnight. These reports contain full particulars of the weather in the different districts. Seventeen stations in Canada, one in St. Johns, Newfoundland, and one in another part of British America, send re-ports ; and, in the seasons of tropical storms, reportS by telegraph are daily received from six stations in the West Indies. Over three hundred voluntary observers also send reports by mail. The lines of the regular telegraph companies are used, and besides, various military and sea-coast telegraph lines owned by the government. The reports from all the stations in the United States, Canada, and the West Indies, which give telegraphic service, are received inside of thirty minutes, Washington time. The first synchronous weather reports were made on the first of November, 1870, and since then the service has reached a high state of perfection. The display of cautionary signals at American ports was begun in October, 1871.
Washington by means of a secret code, a few figures conveying a large amount of information. A " translator" takes the telegrams in hand and carefully reads them off to eight clerks, each of whom has a special weather map before him, on which he marks the particular readings he has been instructed to take. Afterward these eight maps are combined in one general map, which will fully represent all the phases of the weather in the United States and Canada at the hour the reports were sent. This map is closely studied by the assistant signal officer detailed for the purpose, the assistants alternating in the work, each one serving thirty days at a time, the " storm-centre" is located, the probable course of storms determined, and finally the "weather indications" are made up for the East and West, the North and South, and given to the agent of the associated press for transmission to the newspapers of the country.
The completed weather map, which is the finest of the kind issued in the world, is lithographed by the Signal Office, and copies of it are distributed every morning in the sections easily reached from Washington. In order that the map may have a more extended circulation, certain parties in prominent cities east, west, and south are also charged with its publication by authority of the War Department, and the daily " plan of make-up" is telegraphed to them by an efficient system, which enables them to issue an exact copy of the map printed in Washington. Thus it is possible to obtain a weather map hundreds of miles from the Signal Office, by noon of the day of its date.
A large amount of meteorological work is done by the Signal Office, and its records are very precise and voluminous. It publishes a magazine called The Monthly Weather Review, which contains papers on meteorology by eminent scientists, and much valuable in-formation for those interested in "the weather."
The United States Barracks (formerly known as the Arsenal) are situated on a tract of sixty-nine acres in the southerly part of Washington, at Greenleaf Point, where the waters of the Anacostia flow into the Potomac River. This military station was established in 1803. The grounds are finely laid out.
A SHORT distance from Washington, on the Rock Creek road, is the Soldiers' Home, a most beautiful sylvan retreat where the aged and invalid soldiers of the regular army can pass their days in peace and comfort. There are few finer rural estates in the land, and it is often called "the Central Park of Washington," as it is constantly open to the public, and over its five hundred acres of beautifully diversified hill and dale, every one can wander at will, enjoying the charming views and attractive surroundings. Within the grounds there are seven miles of drives on broad, well-made roads, shaded in summer by gigantic oaks with luxuriant leafage ; and there are lakes with swans, long stretches of meadow-lands, handsome arbors perched on hills, whence can be obtained delightful prospects of the country for several miles ; ornate villas, statuary, and various adornments. It is, indeed, a pleasing spot, with plentiful means for peaceful enjoyment, and, doubtless, many a " weary pilgrim on life's devious course," as he strolls through these grounds almost envies the superannuated warriors their privilege of residing here.
The Soldiers' Home was founded in 1851, not long after the Mexican War, and was suggested by Gen. Winfield Scott. Congress appropriated $118,719, the balance remaining of the sum General Scott had obtained from the City of Mexico as indemnity for the violation of the truce, for a fund to establish the institution, and the fund was further augmented by levying a tax of twelve cents a month on the pay of the enlisted men of the regular army. The money received by the government from fines, forfeitures of pay, etc., of the soldiers was also devoted to the purpose. At present the fund amounts to over $800,000, and the yearly receipts from all sources are nearly $150,000. The government also holds more than one million dollars accruing from forfeitures of pay of deserters from the army, and from the money of deceased soldiers which has remained unclaimed for three years, and as soon as the complicated army accounts can be adjusted, this great sum will be turned over to the Home. Soldiers of the regular army who have served faithfully for twenty years, or who have been disabled in service, are entitled to a residence in the Home for the remainder of their lives. There are over six hundred inmates, who are not subject to any strict regulations, but are well fed and clothed, tenderly cared for while sick, and who spend their time in a very comfortable, pleasant manner. The institution is directed by a superintendent and various officials, and is under the supervision of a board of high army officers, at the head of which is the Lieutenant-General of the Army.
The main building is of white marble, and has a frontage of two hundred feet, with a wing of sixty feet, and a tall central tower. It is two stories in height, and is fashioned after the Norman order of architecture. On the grounds are several elegant marble cottages, occupied by the officials ; a pretty church of Seneca stone ; a capacious hospital building with wide piazzas, from which charming views of Washington and the Potomac can be had; a fine library building, well stocked with books and periodicals, and numerous other structures. On the brow of one of the hills stands a bronze statue of General Scott by Launt Thompson, erected in 1874 at a cost of $18,000. The entire estate is enclosed by a low stone wall, surmounted by a small iron fence of handsome design. Fifty acres are under cultivation, and fine crops of fruits and vegetables are raised.
Near the main building is a large cottage used by the Presidents of the United States as a summer residence. It is surrounded by noble trees, and has a very attractive appearance. Buchanan was the first President to pass the summer here, and Lincoln, Johnson, Hayes, and Arthur have lived on this grand estate.
THE NAVY DEPARTMENT 1s directed by the Secretary of the Navy, who is a member of the Cabinet, and is required to execute the commands of the President in regard to the naval establishment. Like the other Cabinet ministers, his compensation is $8,000 per year. He has a chief clerk at a salary of $2,500, a disbursing clerk at $2,250, a stenographer at $i,600, and other clerks and employes whose total salaries amount to $40,000 per year. The department occupies the eastern portion of the State, War, and Navy Building, and has finely embellished suites of rooms. The Secretary's office is decorated in Greek style, and furnished very handsomely. During the customary business hours the Secretary is to be found at his desk attending to the many affairs with which he is charged, receiving callers, and listening to reports from the different bureaus of the department. These bureaus are as follows : Yards and Docks, Navigation, Ordnance, Provision and Clothing, Medicine and Surgery, Construction and Repairs, Equipment and Recruiting, and Steam Engineering. Each bureau is in charge of a high officer of the navy, and is provided with a numerous force of officials and employes.
At present the navy consists of thirty-seven cruising war-vessels, " creditable in their appearance, well adapted for ordinary naval exercises, and useful for displaying the national flag upon the seas and in the harbors of the commercial world." But they are of low speed and mostly built of wood, and gradually will be replaced by new iron or steel ships, constructed in the very best manner. There are also numerous steamers and small craft, and thirteen monitors, or armored vessels, mostly laid up since their use in the Civil War, but kept in good condition. In the service at sea and on shore there are over eighteen hundred naval officers, and there are also over three hundred officers on the retired list. The seamen number over seven thousand, and the apprentices 950. The marine corps has 2,077 officers and enlisted men. The pay of the Admiral of the Navy is $13,000 per year, and of the Vice-Admiral, $9,000. Rear-admirals are paid $6,000, commodores S5,000, captains S4,500, commanders $3,500, and lieutenant-commanders from $2,800 to S3,000. Lieu-tenants are paid from $2,000 to $2,600, and masters from $1,800 to $2,000. The pay of seamen is $258, and of ordinary seamen $210. Over seven million dollars are annually paid to the naval force.
The maintenance of the Navy Department requires the yearly expenditure of from fifteen to twenty million dollars, the amount de-pending very much on the construction of new vessels. Provisions for the navy cost $2,200,000 per year; coal and various articles of equipment, $1,000,000, and the expenses of the bureaus of the department are $250,000.
The hydrographic office, under the direction of the Bureau of Navigation, supplies the navy with charts, its surveying work covering all the navigable waters of the globe, with the exception of those of the United States, which are surveyed and chartered by the United States Coast Survey, a bureau of the Treasury Department. It publishes a series of charts for the benefit of navigators, and also numerous volumes of sailing directions, and other information of great value to those whose business is on the mighty deep. A large force of draughtsmen, engravers, and copper-plate printers is employed in producing the charts and volumes. One of the largest chart printing-presses in the world is to be found in this office.
In 1855 the Bureau of Navigation began the publication of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, which is regarded as a standard authority, both here and in Europe. It is published three years in advance of the time for which it is required. An able staff of scientists devote themselves to the difficult labor of making the computations. The first part of the work is designed for the use of navigators, and is adapted to the meridian of Greenwich. It contains ephemerides of the sun, moon, principal planets, and fixed stars. The second part is for the use of astronomers on land, for surveyors and scientific men generally, and is adapted to the meridian of Washington.
The Bureau of Yards and Docks has charge of the navy yards throughout the United States. There are eight of these yards, the principal one being at Brooklyn, New York. They have great docks, workshops, and store-houses, and the most approved machinery for constructing and repairing ships, and for the manufacture of ordnance, cordage, and all naval equipments. The yard in Washington was established in 1804, and for many years some of the best ships in the navy were constructed in it. Of late, however, it has been chiefly used for the manufacture of naval supplies. Here are manufactured all the chain cables and anchors used in the navy, and all the ordnance, such as rifles, breech-loading guns, howitzers and boat-guns, and many other articles entering into the construction and equipment of vessels of war. The yard is situated at the termination of Eighth Street east, about a mile from the Capitol, and covers nearly twenty-eight acres. It lies on the banks of the Anacostia River, and has a fine water frontage. It is in charge of a commodore, who has a staff of naval officers as assistants. Visitors will find numerous objects of interest in the yard. The work-shops, museum, laboratory, monitors and ships of war can be inspected. The museum contains many naval relics, and a large collection of arms, torpedoes, and maritime appliances.
The extensive Marine Barracks are situated on Eighth Street, a short distance from the navy yard. They were constructed at a cost of $350,000, and are the headquarters of the marine corps, which is an adjunct to the naval force.
LOCATED on the hill where General Braddock's troops encamped in 1755, is the United States Naval Observatory, or, as it is also called, the National Observatory.' It is on the government reservation of nineteen acres bounded by Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth streets and the Potomac River, and stands about ninety-six feet above tide-water. The structure is surmounted by a large dome, and has two wings. The observatory is in charge of the Bureau of Navigation, and its superintendent is a rear-admiral of the navy. It was established in 1842, and now ranks among the foremost observatories in the world. Here is the great twenty-six inch equatorial telescope, one of the largest and most powerful ever constructed. It was mounted in 1873, and cost $47,000. It rests upon a solid foundation of masonry deeply imbedded in the earth, and, with its base, weighs six tons. The dome in which it is placed is forty-one feet in diameter, and forty feet in height. The observatory has also a nine and one-half inch equatorial telescope, set in a dome twenty-three feet in diameter, and twenty feet high. These far-reaching instruments are used for much of the difficult and important astronomical work for which this observatory is famous. A transit circle, with an object-glass of 8.22 inches, is used for observations of the sun and moon, and some of the planets. The best apparatus is to be found in the observatory, and from month to month a large amount of labor is performed in the way of astronomical researches and computations.