Thursday, August 4, 2011

Officer's Petition to Replace "Old and Disabled Officers"

Fall of Mexico City
On September 24, 1847 U. S. Army officers serving in Mexico signed a petition asking for the "passage of a law providing for the retirement of old and disabled officers."  The document was "signed by almost every member of the old regiments serving" in Mexico.

The petition to the 30th Congress read,

We, the undersigned, officers of the army, most respectfully represent to your honorable bodies, that, in consequence or age, infirmity, and other causes, many of the officers of the army are permanently unfitted for active duty in the field, and that their places are supplied, and their duties were formed by their juniors, to the great injury of the service, and to the prejudice of the younger officers of the army, we would most respectfully urge, that faithful servants, having spent all the best years of their lives in the service of their country, are entitled to an honorable competence on their retiring from active service; and we respectfully express the opinion that the pay proper, as proposed, some years since, by Major General Macomb, and recently renewed by the Adjutant General, is not such a competence. For the purpose, therefore, of rendering the army more efficient of doing justice, both to those who remain in, and to those who may retire from the service, we respectfully petition ---
1st. That officers of the army, who, in the opinion of a board of officers, approved by the President of the United States, may, from age, infirmity, or other causes, become permanently unfitted for duty in the field, shall retire from active service in the army.
2d. That officers who have faithfully served their country for thirty years may have the privilege of retiring from active service in the army.
3d. That all officers so retiring from active service in the army, shall, during their natural lives, receive the pay proper of their respective rank and the service rations to which they may be entitled at the time of their retiring.
4th.That the places or officers so retiring shall be filled by regular promotion of the officer next in rank; and the officers so promoted receiving only the allowances of the higher grade to which they shall be promoted.
Your petitioners entertain the belief that the enactment of a law, founded on the foregoing principles, will not only be beneficial to individual officers, but will essentially tend to the usefulness and efficiency of the army; and they therefore solicit its passage. [1]
This petition addressed the problem of promotion that infested the peacetime army. Unfortunately, Congress appears to have done nothing to address the issue.  The reduction of the size of the army after the war meant that fewer promotions and, more importantly, pay increases, would be awarded.  This economic hardship forced many young officers to resign while their older superiors did little but collect their pay and gather dust.  Among those who resigned were Jackson, McClellan, Rosencrans, and Sherman.   

Special thanks to Betsy R. Miller for locating this document.

[1] Petition of Officers of the United States Army in Mexico, December 20, 1847, 30th Congress, 1st Session, "The passage of a law providing for the retirement of old and disabled officers." 


Betsy R. Miller said...

Thank you for the shout-out, Allen!

Unknown said...

McClellan number 2??? He was a terrible general. Also, Jackson would have clearly given first place to Lee, as did every other military expert of that time, north, south and even European.