To the President of the United States.
Sir: I beg leave to submit the following for your consideration:
Appointments of general officers of the Army are made by selection.
Our present organization dates from 1821, when Major General Brown was General-in-chief. Down to 1861 there were three appointments to this grade. General Brown died in 1829; Scott and Gaines were the brigadiers, with the brevets of major general, but Brevet Major General Macomb, colonel of engineers, was selected as Brown's successor. Macomb died in 1841, and was succeeded by Scott. In 1846 an additional major general was authorized; the, brigadier generals (Gaines and Wool) were passed over and Brevet Brigadier General Taylor, colonel 6th Infantry, received the appointment.
It will thus be seen that, down to the beginning of the civil war, the brigadier generals were not considered as having a right to promotion to the grade of major general; brevet rank (an acknowledgment that the grade had been already earned in battle) constituted an equally good claim.
From 1861 to the close of the civil war 156 commissions of major general were issued. They were given, as a matter of course, to the commanders of army corps, to many division commanders of infantry and cavalry, and, in some cases, to men without command. They were given for infantry service, for cavalry service, and for engineer service; to regulars, to volunteers, and to civilians; but not one single commission of that grade was given for artillery service. Nor, I may add, has any commission of general officer, except by brevet, been conferred in the Regular Army from 1821 to this time upon an artillery officer as such. Early in the war all promotion in the field artillery, or for artillery service, beyond the grade of captain, was practically forbidden in orders. No advancement therefore could be obtained by artillery officers except by leaving the artillery. As a consequence, artillery brigades, fully as important as those of cavalry and infantry, were usually commanded in battle by captains -- sometimes by lieutenants. The higher officers, chiefs of artillery of large armies -- whose commands are in all armies equivalent to those of army corps, involving the same duties, responsibilities, and dangers -- were systematically refused the corresponding rank and pay, and were compelled to defray the additional expenses their position imposed from their private resources. My own expenses during the four years of the war that I was performing the duties of a major general equaled the pay and allowances of that grade; I only received those of colonel or brigadier general. Promotion elsewhere was withheld from me, as from other experienced artillery officers, avowedly because our services in the artillery were necessary to the Army. And since the war artillery service has been ignored in the promotions that have been made. Worse than this, artillery officers who during the war left their arm to obtain advancement were rewarded, at the peace, by promotion to higher rank in the other arms, and when the Army was reduced in 1870, were transferred to the artillery with their new rank and placed over the heads (in the artillery) of their seniors in service, who were their artillery commanders in war. But for this I would now be the ranking officer in the artillery. All this is degrading to the arm, unjust, and destructive of the best interests of the service as well as of equality of rights among Army officers.
I desire to bring this matter to the attention of the President now,
fol the time is rapidly approaching when it will be too late to give such
official recognition to the service of the artillery in the late war as
has been given to all other arms. Justice in this matter has been withheld
until the number of officers whose service was distinctively in the artillery
has become very small. As one of those officers I submit my claim to the
next vacancy, whether of brigadier or major general. I have served with
troops for over forty-two years. In the Mexican and late civil wars my
service was exclusively with the artillery, in which arm I have in battle
exercised every command from that of a lieutenant to major general. During
the whole civil war, after the battle of Bull Run, my command was that
of a major general. My brevets for battle service antedate every grade
I have received in my regiment from captain up. I am now a major general
by brevet, and,
with the exception of one officer (Colonel King),
(Retired) the senior officer of the line of the Army, senior in length
of service, not in rank, for I have been overslaughed by a crowd of younger
men. I am also the senior in service of every general officer except Major
General McDowell. I am now liable to be retired at any moment in order
to make way for another junior, and the time cannot be distant when years
and the effect of long service will make that retirement a necessity. Before
that time comes I ask, in justice to myself and my arm, that my services
be considered and recognized, unless they are found to be inferior in character
or value to those of other officers who have not already received
substantial promotion as the reward of their war service.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HENRY J. HUNT,
Brevet Mahor General, Colonel 5th Atrillery.