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STATE OF RHODE ISLAND,
Providence, Dec. 31st, 1877.
His Excellency Chas. C. Van Zandt,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief :
In accordance with custom for several years, I herewith present the Annual Report of my department for the past year, covering an abstract of the Active Militia, which is required by law to be transmitted through you to the General Assembly.
I also respectfully present some considerations which appear at this time to be especially important, in view of the experience of the past few years and the extraordinary incidents occurring therein.
I have the honor to be, sir,
Your Obedient Servant,
The condition of the Militia in general shows a continued improvement; a very creditable exhibit, in view of the general depression of business and the increased difficulty resulting therefrom in sustaining the company organizations where the amount received from the State is not sufficient to meet all their necessary expenses.
THE NEED OF RE-ORGANIZATION.
Notwithstanding the fact that some amendment of the Militia Law has been a subject of discussion to a greater or less extent at the January Session of our General Assembly for several years past, (at three of which entirely new systems were considered,) and although the present law, has been in operation but three years, I do not consider an apology necessary for recommending the appointment of a commission for the purpose of again submitting a further revision of the militia law for the consideration of the General Assembly at its present session. It may not be out of place, however, to state a few reasons for making the recommendation.
My annual reports since the adoption of this law, have clearly and distinetly set forth that it was intended as a temporary measure and was so presented and argued by members of the Assembly at the time of its passage. I did not anticipate at such an early period so radical a change as is now desired, but the “Railroad Riots" in July last, which swept over a large section of our country so disastrously, aroused the people to the great necessity of bringing the militia to the highest attainable point of efficiency. I might present a very large number of quotations on this subject from the leading journals of the day, but will merely make an extract from the Providence Journal, of August 13th, 1877.
“The people of the United States have a prejudice against the existence of a large standing army, and although the lesson of the great strike will prevent any such folly, or worse, as proposed by the Democratic party, in a reduction of the present force, it is not likely that Congress will consent to the formation of a force of one hundred thousand men, which would be necessary to make such riots impossible in the future. Our main dependence for the present, at least, must be upon our citizen soldiery, and to make them effective, they must be increased and more thoroughly exercised in the East, as well as created in the West. The miserable failure of some of the militia companies should not operate aginst the system. It simply shows that there was a lack of training and of esprit du corps, which comes from long existence and powerful organization. An increase in the number of drills, musters, and all that goes to make sol. diers, is necessary to the perfection of the militia, and the public must be prepared to pay higher for its citizen soldiery than it has done. It is both unjust and unwise to expect that they will bear all the burden and costs themselves. They cannot be made thoroughly efficient without more opportunity for training than they are now able to obtain, and the community whom they are depended upon to protect in times of crisis must pay for it.
A sufficient regular army for all extraordinary emergencies is out of the question at present, and States happily do not yet need a regular force of their own men who are nothing but soldiers. A citizen soldiery with all its defects is our only defence against internal disorders, and we should use every effort to increase its efficiency. The scenes of the last few weeks have demonstrated that service in the militia is not merely playing soldier, and should remove all stigma of ridicule that may attach to it in the minds of the unthinking."
The above certainly represents the general state of public feeling, and the action of the National House of Representatives in circumscribing and endeavoring to cut down the regular army, should serve to stimulate the several states to better provide for the wants and increase the efficiency of their militia.
Our uniformed militia, as organized and acting under the law, is arranged in one division of two brigades, which are divided into small battalions, of which there is one battalion of six, three of four, one of three and one of two companies of Infantry, together with one battalion of Light Artillery, composed of two Light Batteries of four guns each, and one battalion of Cavalry having three companies. In addition thereto, (not attached to the line,) there are three organizations acting as Infantry, one of which is composed of three companies and the other two are single companies.
The aggregate number of officers and men composing the uniformed militia is 2042; of this number 1531 (not including bands) were present