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BY W. S. W. R, 



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At the present time the subject ^^^f th(^%rank *aii3 pre- 
cedence which exist, or should exist,- •^amotig" the officers of 
different vocations employed in th^ military servj*c?^.pf't;he 
country, is interesting to all in the' army and navy of the 
United States. Gentlemen of intelligence have directed at- 
tention to the different questions involved, and entertain 
opposite opinions upon many points. It is desirable that 
these differences of opinion should be set at rest; while 
they are agitated, they lead, perhaps, to unkindness of 
feeling, for which there is really no occasion. It seems to 
be generally agreed that these differences should be fairly 
presented and referred to the National Legislature for con- 
sideration and decision. It is presumed all are desirous of a 
decision which will be in accordance with the interests of 
the country, and justice to individuals ; and it is hoped no 
one seeks peculiar advantage or favour to the injury of his 
associates in the public service. 

The writer designs to present his views on the subject in 
connexion with the navy, of which he is an humble member. 
Whether erroneous or true, his opinions are honestly enter- 
tained, and he hopes his expression of them will prove 
inoffensive. His remarks will be based on pamphlets which 
have been circulated among members of Congress, entitled 
as follows : — 

No. 1. Bemarhs on Relative Ranh in the Navy. 8vo. pp. 8. 
(Attributed to a justly esteemed and accomplished com- 

No. 2. Assimilated Ranh in the Navy. A reply to an Ap- 
peal hy Ninian Pinhney, Surgeon U. S. N, to the Congress of 
the United States, relative to the ranh of Surgeons and Pursers. 

^ 4 

By ag'imior sm^ffidsi^ 8vo. pp^,^^. (Attributed to a passed- 

Jhe following extract from tlie\roceedings of Congress, 
^^|l^|jM||tld ii^die'^^^NatiiMial Intelligencer," will be con- 

• Thursday, July 18, 1850. 

Mr. Evans, of Maryland, from the committee on Military Affairs, re- 
ported the following resolution, which was agreed to : 

Resolved, That the President of the United States be and he is hereby 
requested to communicate to this House his views of the rules and regu- 
lations which should be established by law upon the following subjects, viz.: 

The gradations of rank for the officers and non-commissioned officers of 
the militfii'y staff and th^^ ,li6e :of the army. 

The order of succeseif^n: tfg , command among the officers and non-commis- 
sioned ofaG(?rs of -the ^army. . , . 

The ordei* of ''precedenc'S. tetwe«n the officers of the non-military staff of 
the army and the officers of the' army having staff or lineal rank. 

The extent to which officers and non-commissioned officers of the staff in 
the army shall be subject to the command of officers and non-commissioned 
officers of the line of the army. 

The gradations of ranh for the sea officers and petty officers of the navy. 

The order of precedence between the sea officers and the engineers and 
civil officers of the navy. 

The extent to which the civil officers and engineers of the navy shall be 
subject to the command of the sea officers of the navy. 

The relative rank of the officers of the army and of the navy. 

The order of precedence between the non-military staff officers of the army 
and the engineers and ci\'il officers of the navy. . ■■> •, • <; u ,- , 

Precision, in the use of terms, is essential to perspicuity ; 
no law can be explicit, if stated in words of uncertain 
meaning. The language of the resolution quoted above 
seems to the writer defective in this respect. But as these 

* The following appeared in the ** North American and United States Gazette," 
Philadelphia, August 2, 1860. It is, in part, the cause of printing the present obser- 

House of Representatives of the U. S. 
August 1, 1860. 
To the Editors of the North American and U. S. Gazette : — Gentlemen — In your paper 
of Monday, a correspondent, " R," in an article expressed in good temper, makes 
some remarks upon a resolution passed by the House of Representatives of the 
United States, upon my motion. 

He appears to think the part relating to the naval service not altogether pre- 
cise ; though he acknowledges that it may seem hypercriticism to say so. 

I have taken pains to make the resolution specific ; and I send you a copy, in order 
that it may be criticised by the profession. 

I invite comment upon it before action by the President of the United States ; as 
by that action I desire all questions of rank, command and precedence, to be finally 
settled. Very respectfully, 

Alexander Evans. 

terms are commonly employed by officers in the navy, Mi. 
Evans cannot be held justly amenable for their use; never 
theless, in the opinion of the writer, they are erroneous. 

The term "sea officers,'' it is presumed, means officers. of 
the line in the navy ; all officers who serve at sea in the 
navy might be designated as " sea officers/' without violating 
the use of language. • -^^ : ; . 

The term "jpetty officers' is u^dd in the navy to designate 
those who are selected, from amongst the ship's crew, to 
serve as boatswains', gunners', carpenters', and sail-makers' 
mates; captains of tops, quartermasters, quarter-gunners, 
&c., &c. Their appointments exist only during the continu- 
ance of the cruise, and are frequently revoked by the com- 
mander for misbehaviour ; the petty officers thus " dis-rated" 
are stationed among the seamen, and are not otherwise dis- 
tinguished from the rest of the crew. " Petty officers' in the 
navy, in a degree, correspond with the " non-commissioned 
officers" in the army : they have neither commissions nor 
warrants ; their appointments are not permanent, but depend 
upon period of enlistment, and pleasure of the captain. 

The class of "warrant officers" includes masters, midship- 
men and passed-midshipmen, boatswains, gunners, carpen- 
ters, sail-makers, and masters' mates. 

The term "forivard officers" embraces boatswains, gunners, 
carpenters, sail-makers, masters' mates, &c. It might be 
a question whether the term "petty officers," used in the 
resolution, is designed to apply exclusively to the grades of 
"warrant officers" last named, or whether it is designed to 
include all officers of every description, except " commission- 
officers." The exact object of this part of the resolution is 
not made clear, by reference to the legal definition of the 
term "petty officers." The law says, "All officers, not hold- 
ing commissions or warrants, or who are not entitled to 
them, except such as are temporarily appointed to the duties 
of a commissioned or warrant officer, are deemed petty 

The term " civil" cannot be very properly applied to any 
grade or grades of officers, included in a military organiza- 
tion, and subject to military laws and military tribunals. 
The term " civil" is more legitimately applied to officers of a 

* An act for the better government of the Navy. Sec. 1, Art. 33. Approved April 
23, 1800. 

civil government, including the various officials appointed 
for the administration of civil laws, such as judges, marshals, 
sheriffs, constables, &c. The only officers connected with 
the navy, to whom the term "civil" may be legitimately 
applied, are those who are not amenable to miHtary laws and 
courts ; including navy agents, naval storekeepers, &c. 

From the position of the word " engineers" in the resolu- 
tion, it may be inferred that its author did not regard them 
as belonging either to the class of " sea officers" or to the 
class of " civil officers." Yet it may be suggested that offi- 
cers who manage the machinery of a steamer at sea, may be 
designated " sea officers" with as much propriety, in the com- 
mon use of language, as those officers who manage the 
machinery of a sailing ship. 

To illustrate the importance of the precise use of language 
in legislation, the following sentences are quoted from a 
printed pamphlet, addressed by Commander L. M. Golds- 
borough, to the Secretary of the Navy, (Hon. J. Y. Mason,) 
Washington City, January 27, 1848, on the question of assimi- 
lated rank. " In the Act of February 7, 1815, the President 
is authorized to create a Board of Commissioners, to be con- 
stituted of three officers of the navy, whose i-anh shall not 
be below a post captain. Does not this carry with it the 
necessary implication that rank has already been fixed, and 
has become a matter of legal right ?" A negative answer to 
the question was maintained in the following terms : 

"It is suggested that legislators are not all skilled in philology, and do 
not always use such words as will best convey their meaning. The design 
and purpose of this portion of the Act would have been attained, and as 
clearly understood, had the framer of the law substituted the word grade for 
the word rank, which words are not exactly synonymous in their acceptation. 
If the Act had read, * the Board shall consist of three officers of the Navy, 
whose grade shall not be below a post captain,^ what effect would it have 
had on the constitution of said Board ? and what would have been its effect 
on the argument of our opponents ? If we were to say the military branch 
of the navy [the line of the navy] is composed of three grades or degrees^ 
namely, the grade of captains, the grade of commanders, and the grade of 
lieutenants, and that the officers of these respective grades ranked, that is, 
were placed in order, or arrangement, or precedence, with each other, accord- 
ing to number or date of commission, and that the grade of captains ranked 
before the grade of commanders, and the latter ranked before the grade of 
lieutenants, we should be clearly understood. 

"As the intention of the law is not varied by the substitution of a word, 
it cannot be inevitably inferred that rank was fixed by law, as the term is 

understood by our opponents. We might even suppose the word class sub- 
stituted for ra7ik in the law, and still perceive that the intention of the Act 
could not be misconstrued, namely, that the Board would be constituted of 
three post captains ; consequently, although we contend that the Executive 
has a constitutional right to declare that surgeons and pursers shall have 
•assimilated rank with post captains, it would not follow that he could 
legally regard surgeons and pursers as members of the grade or class of cap- 
tains, and therefore be authorized to substitute surgeons and pursers for cap- 
tains, as Navy Commissioners. The premises are false — such argument is 

It may be urged in reply, that the above is a merely verbal 
hypercriticism, because the terms are understood in the navy. 
But it may also be rejoined that these terms do not carry the 
same uniform meaning to all persons in the navy ; and for 
this reason they lead to erroneous inferences as to the intent 
of law, and give rise to useless discussions, differences, dis- 
agreements, and even contests. It is desirable that in legis- 
lation, synonymous terms should be avoided ; as far as prac- 
ticable, only exactly defined words should be employed in 
stating a law. A word or term always represents an idea ; 
if the term is false in its application, it will give rise to 
erroneous impressions. 

The language of the resolution, which applies to the several 
classes in the army, is quite precise. The reason for this 
difference of precision in the use of terms, which may be 
considered technical, is, that there is really no systematic 
arrangement of the grades of officers of the navy into classes, 
in accordance with the nature of their respective functions. 
If such an arrangement were devised, it would probably be 
found there would be no proper use for the terms " sea offi- 
cers" and "civil officers;" that all officers included in the 
naval organization would be embraced, as in the case of the 
army, in the two grand divisions of officers of the line, and 
officers of the staff corps, which would comprise the corps of 
medical officers, chaplains, pursers, engineers, &c., &c. 


In this connexion, it may be entertaining if not instruc- 
tive to define some of the terms used by writers on military 

An Army, is a body of men armed and trained to fight the 
enemies of the country on land, either in defence or aggres- 


A Navy, is a body of men armed and trained in ships to 
fight the enemy on the seas. 

Military Men. — All men who are necessary to complete a 
military organization, whether for an army or navy, are 
military men, because they are governed by military laws. 
The military character of men of an army or navy, is not 
dependent upon the nature of their duties ; but grows out of 
the military manner or fashion according to which their 
duties are performed. In an army or navy, every man acts 
according to military regulation ; he eats, drinks, sleeps, 
dresses, and moves his body; he takes medicine even, sub- 
mits to surgical treatment when necessary; worships God, 
dies and is buried, all according to military rule. A military 
spirit and manner extend through every department and 
^ramification of every well-constituted military community, 
of which no member can be, correctly speaking, a civil officer, 
or civilian. The 60th article of war provides that " all per- 
sons whatsoever, serving with the armies of the United States 
in the field, though not enlisted soldiers, are to be subject to 
orders according to the rules and discipline of war." 

Military Law, — A rule established by the Legislature to 
govern members of the military organizations of the country. 

Martial Law, — Is no law, but the arbitrarj^ exercise of 
power by military men over citizens without regard to civil 
laws, either statute or common. There is a wide distinction 
drawn between military law and martial law. There are 
times when public danger warrants a resort to rigorous and 
summary methods not recognised in civil law; and then 
military chiefs are sustained in suspending the operation of 
civil law and substituting their own will, and arbitrary enact- 
ments for it. 

Military Command, — Aright to enforce obedience is neces- 
sary to constitute legal authority, civil or military, to direct 
the actions of others. Military command consists essentially 
in a legal right to exact obedience, under the penalties pro- 
vided by military laws. In this view, any act whatever, the 
performance of which can be rightfully compelled by military 
law, is a military act : washing, cooking, sweeping, scrubbing, 
horse-shoeing, surveying land, building houses, erecting forts, 
are as much military acts, when their performance can be 
enforced by military laws, as charging and firing cannons or 
muskets in the face of an enemy. Splicing a rope, washing 


decks, and painting, setting and taking in sail, are daily acts 
both in merchant vessels and ships-of-war ; on board the 
former, they are civil acts, because the order or command to 
execute them is sustained only by the civil law ; but on board 
of the latter, it can be enforced only by military law, and 
thus commonplace acts of civil life are converted into mili- 
tary duties and performances. In this sense, military com- 
mand and naval command are synonymous, although the 
former term by custom is commonly restricted to an army 
on shore, the military character of the navy not being gene- 
rally perceived. In common parlance, the navy is not in- 
cluded as a branch of " the military profession;" nevertheless, 
it is essentially a military service, and should be so considered 
always by legislators. 

Military Discipline, — The practical observance of the re- 
quirements of military laws, rules, and regulations ; and this 
implies a prompt obedience of the lawful commands of supe- 
riors in authority, and due respect to all, according to their 
grade and rank. To discipline — to train or educate members 
of a military community to the practical observance of mili- 
tary laws, rules, and regulations. r 

Rank. — A line of men placed abreast. 

*^ Fierce, fiery warriors fight upon the clouds, 
In ranks and squadrons, and right form of war." 

" I have seen the cannon 
When it has blown his ranks into the air/* ' ' 


^^ But with a pace more sober and more slow, 
And twenty, rank in rank, they rode a-row." 


A. row, a range of subordination; class, order; degree of 
dignity, eminence, or excellence ; dignity, high place : lie is 
a man of rank. To Rank. — To place abreast ; to range in 
a particular class; to arrange methodically; to be ranged, 
to be placed ; to take precedence of in a range of subardina- 
tion. Qrade^ a degree, a step ; in military parlance, those 
whose commissions are of the same tenor constitute a grade, 
as the grade of captains, the grade of lieutenants, the grade 
of surgeons, the grade of engineers, &c. The word rank is 
frequently used synonymously with the word grade ; but the 
propriety of the practice is questionable. 

Some few line officers entertain exaggerated, indefinite no« 


tions of rank, resembling somewhat the ancient Sandwich 
Island conception of the " taboo," to infringe which was to 
peril life and soul. " I hold my rank dearer than life itself," 
said a respectable lieutenant, " and were any purser in the 
navy to offer to sign an official report above me, I would 
cleave him to the chin with my cutlass. I could 'never suffer 
my rank to be outraged in that way ; I would rather die." 

Those who view rank as something sacred, as a little 
household god, whose shrine is self, may be admired for the 
poetic, one might venture to say. Quixotic, devotion they 
pay it ; but in this view, like the " taboo" of the savage, it is 
an illusion which should be dispelled. The term rank, has 
a definite signification in military language. 

Ranh is the relative position of the members of a military 
community to each other ; it means nothing more nor less. 

It should be carefully borne in mind that rmik and com- 
mand, that is, authority to command are not synonymous 
terms. When an officer is placed under arrest for trial, he 
is deprived of his authority to command, but his rank, that is, 
his relative position, is not affected. 

The efficient existence of the army or navy, is derived from 
two distinct sources. Congress creates the grades of officers 
and privates, but the authority to command them is reserved, 
by the Constitution, to the President of the United States, 
who is commander-in-chief of the land and sea forces. An 
officer, therefore, depends on Congress for his grade and rank ; 
and on the President for authority to command or obey ; his 
rank being merely the measure of the quantity or amount of 
power to command which the President may properly give 
him. An officer, while on furlough or leave of absence, has 
no authority to command; the force of his commission is dor- 
mant until brought into activity by command or order of the 
Executive : but his i^ank is not affected. If rank and grade 
iilone conferred a right to command, the senior captain in 
the navy could control the whole service, and be able to veto 
and frustrate the commands of the Secretary of the Navy. 

The line of an army consists of a body of men whose essen- 
tial duty is to fight the enemy on land. 

The line of a navy consists of a body of men whose essen- 
tial duty is to fight the enemy on the sea. 

Linecd rank is the relative position of the members of the 
line of an army, or navy. 

Full lineal rank, — Lineal rank may be restricted to one 


branch of the line, to the cavalry, to the artillery, or to the 
infantry, but when it determines the relative position of an 
officer equally in all branches of the line, it is termed /t/7Z 
lineal rank. 

Staff is literally a stick, or support. The term is used 
to designate any body of officers permanently charged with 
specific and peculiar duties which bear upon the condition, or 
rather upon the successful operation of the army in general. 
The Etat-Majm- of the French, or Staff of the English, is a 
modern invention, and had its origin in the necessity, which 
experience taught, of bestowing a minute and undivided at- 
tention upon certain objects which are intimately connected 
with military success.* The importance of military recon- 
naissances, and of the selection of sites for encampments, &c., 
gave birth to the corps of military surveyors, entitled the 
corps of topographical engineers; from the great impor- 
tance of properly constructed forts, redoubts, bridges, &c., 
sprang the corps of military architects, named the corps of 
engineers, including companies of engineer-soldiers or sap- 
pers, miners, and pontonniers, who are, in fact, lahouring 
military mechanics of the engineer corps. In a word, the 
invention of determinate staff corps was merely extending 
into military operations, the system of division of vocations 
and employments, which has happily and beneficially influ- 
enced the various arts and, consequently, the condition of 
society under the control of civil law. Why this system, 
which is successful in civil life, and in the army, should not 
be extended by law into the navy, is a question not easy 
to answer. 

Staff Duties. — The physical wants of the line of an army 
are to be provided for; its members must be fed, clothed, paid, 
and when sick or wounded, taken care of; they must have 
barracks, tents, teams, and means of transportation ; arms and 
ammunition; fortifications are to be built and surveys to be 
made, &c. The persons who discharge the duties connected 
with these various matters must be subject to military laws 
and regulations. They are arranged into corps, and are 
termed staff corps, because they are essential to the existence 
of the line, and their duties are named staff duties, none of 
which belong strictly to line command. 

The following table exhibits the names of the several staff 

* Dumas. Precis des Ev^nemens Militaires. Tome II., p. 430. Paris, 1817. 


corps of the army of the United States, and the number of 
commissioned officers in each, November 28, 1849. 


Commissioned oflficers. 

Adjutant-General's Department, - 14 

Inspector-General's Department, - 2 

Judge- Advocate of the Army, - - 1 

General Staff. <( Quartermaster-General's Department, 43 

Commissary-General's Department, - 8 

Medical Department, - - - 95 

Pay Department, - - - - 28 

Corps of Engineers, - - 43 

Corps of Topographical Engineers, - - - - 36 

Ordnance Department, 37 

Military Store-keepers, 

LINE oi^jTp AMX,n 
2 Regiments of Dragoons, r^- •*H?i- /'nnj-t 
1 " Mounted Riflemen, 

4 * " Artillery, «; .) j^; -mh 

8 " Infantry, » "^o l*>'ft/!o«* 



- 17 


i:\ji) M> 

!'Kj[f> .HM^ 

- 70 


- 35 


- 208 

fit-. - 

- 272 

■-v. '585 

The officiality of the army, after deducting 25 i^fiB liold 
commissions both in the staff and in the line, and also the 
17 military store-keepers, consists of 870 officers, of whom 
very nearly one-third belong exclusively to the staffi This 
fact shows the importance of the staff to the army ; without 
it, the line would be worthless. 

The Adjutant- General s Department embraces the detail of 
officers, roster of service, records of enlistments and dis- 
charges of men, of the distribution of the army, &c. This 
staff corps consists of 1 Adjutant-General, 1 Assistant Adju- 
tant^General (Lieut. Colonel), 4 Assistant Adjutants-General 
(Majors by brevet), 8 Assistant Adjutants-General (Captains 
by brevet) . 

The duties of the Inspector-GeneraVs Department are con- 


fined to the examination and inspection of the official conduct 
of the army. 

The Judge-Advocate is the military law officer of the army. 

The QuarterTnasier-GenerdUs Dejpartment has in charge all 
that relates to clothing, equipment, quarters, transportation, 
&c., of troops in garrison or- in the field. This staff corps 
consists of 1 Quartermaster-General, 2 Assistant Quarter- 
masters-General, 2 Deputy Quartermasters-General, 7 Quar- 
termasters, and 31 Assistant Quartermasters. 

The Commissary- GeneraCs Department is charged with all 
that relates to supplying subsistence to the army. The corps 
consists of 1 Commissary-General, 1 Assistant Commissary- 
General, 2 Commissaries (Majors), 4 Commissaries (Captains). 

The Medical Department is charged with all that relates to 
medicine and surgery in the army. This staff corps con- 
sists of 1 Surgeon-General, 22 Surgeons (Majors), and 72 
Assistant Surgeons (Captains and First Lieutenants). 

The Pay Department is charged with paying the troops. 
This staff corps consists of 1 Paymaster-General, 2 Deputy 
Paymasters-General, 25 Paymasters (Majors). 

The Corps of Engineers is charged with the construction 
of forts, barracks, &c. They are, in fact, military architects. 
This staff corps consists of 1 Colonel, 2 Lieutenant-Colonels, 
4 Majors, 12 Captains, 12 First and 12 Second Lieutenants. 

The Corps of Topographical Engineers has charge of all 
surveys. Its members are land and harhcnir surveyors, fen- 
military pmposes. This corps consists of 1 Colonel, 1 Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel, 4 Majors, 10 Captains, 10 First and 10 Second 

The Ordnance Department has charge of all that relates 
to the supply and preservation of arms and ammunition, 
arsenals, magazines, &c. This corps consists of 1 Colonel, 1 
Lieutenant-Colonel, 4 Majors, 13 Captains, 12 First, and 6 
Second Lieutenants. 

As there are several grades in each of these staff-corps, 
and a range of subordination in each, the relative position of 
their members respectively is designated by rank, as in the 

Staff-ranh is the relative position of members of a staff-corps 
to each other ; but staff-rank in one corps does not necessarily 
designate the relative position of the officer to members of 
other staff-corps, or to officers of the line. 


Assimilated rank is the relative position of members of 
staff corps to officers of the line, and to officers of different 

As authority to command is not inherent to rank of any 
description, but originates exclusively from the instructions 
or orders of the Commander-in-chief of the army, that is, 
the President, assimilated rank cannot confer a right to 
command in the line. A colonel of engineers cannot com- 
mand a major in the line, nor a medical officer, who may be 
a major or captain in assimilated rank. 

Consuls enjoy assimilated rank as captains in the navy ; ^ 
but the possession of this kind of rank does not confer upon 
them any right to command junior captains, commanders or 
lieutenants ; nor have those officers in the navy any right 
to command a consul. But it serves to regulate points of 
etiquette, precedence, &c., on occasions of ceremony between 
consuls and officers of the navy on foreign stations. 

The effect of assimilated rank may require further illus- 
tration. A captain in the line commands a company, every 
member of which is bound to obey his orders : without such 
obedience, the functions of the office of captain in the line 
could not be performed. An assistant-surgeon, who has 
assimilated rank as a captain, has no authority in virtue of 
his assimilated rank to command in the line : he cannot act 
as captain and direct the duties of the company under any 
circumstances whatever ; not being of the military profession, 
technically speaking, not in the line of succession in the 
grade of captains by the rule of seniority, or any other rule, 
he can never occupy a position to discharge the official duties 
of a captain. The right of the medical officer to command 
is limited to the immediate control and dirt^ction of those of 
the company who are in need of medical attention, and such 
persons are bound to obey him; and he is properly responsible 
for all that relates to the care and management of the sick 
and wounded of the company, as well as the attendants 
upon them. From the nature of the case, he must have this 
degree of authority in order to discharge the duties of 
medical officer, and tlierefore his official commission confers 
it upon him. His assimilated rank adds nothing to the 
measure of his authority, which he derives exclusively from 
his commission. But his assimilated rank, as a captain, 
entitles him, in his official and social relations with mem- 


bers of the military community, to receive the same signs 
of respect, which are conventional, as a captain in the 
line ; and on occasions of ceremony, such as military reviews, 
parades, marches, funerals, &c., and also, when serving as a 
member of a military council, or as a member of a board of 
survey, or a military court, his assimilated rank entitles him 
to take a place among those of the grade of captains, which 
is determined by the dates of their several commissions as 
captains, the earliest date taking precedence. Assimilated 
rank, no matter how high a grade it may attain, does not 
confer authority to command those possessing Ihwal rank in 
any grade, not even in the lowest ; but those of an inferior 
lineal rank have no authority to command those possessed 
of assimilated rank of a higher grade ; that is, cadets, second 
lieutenants, first lieutenants of the line cannot rightfully 
command or take precedence of those who have assimilated 
rank as captains. Nor can those who have liTieal rank as 
captains take precedence and command of those whose 
assimilated rank as captains is of older date, especially when 
in the presence of a common superior — a major of the line, 
for example. Hence it is that assimilated rank is a con- 
servative, or protective rank ; without it, the officers of the 
medical, or any staff department of an army, might be made 
subordinate even to privates, and find no redress in law for 
such indignity. 

Relative rank is the relative position of the several grades 
and degrees of rank of the army and navy compared with 
each other : and also, perhaps, with those of the " revenue 
marine." It is generally conceded, for example, that the 
grade of lieutenants in the navy is on a level with the grade 
of captains in the army ; therefore, the relative rank of cap- 
tains in the army and lieutenants in the navy is the same, 
the oldest commission taking precedence. But relative rank 
implies no right to command, either in the army or in the 

Precedence is merely priority of position resulting from 

The leading principles of the English system of precedence 
are based upon primogeniture and seniority. Priority of 
birth, and dates of patents and commissions, determine the 
precedence which individuals of the same rank take amongst 
each other, and thus the station and degree of each are 


ascertained by means whicli rarely admit of controversy or 
doubt. In England, we find that in the church and in the 
law, in the civil and military service of the country, rank 
and precedence generally, but not always, accompany power. 

During the last one hundred and fifty years, especially, 
the aristrocratic spirit of British society has presented a well- 
defined and ascertained character. " From this source have 
sprung a variety of arrangements connected with court cere- - 
monial, as well as with the intercourse of private society^ 
which are mingled with, but in some respects quite distvn&t' 
from tJie duties, privileges, and powers of those who are en- ' 
gaged in the public service. For example, though each rank 
in the peerage commands, according to a certain graduated 
scale, the respect of society, while it gratifies the ambition of 
its possessor and his family, yet no one member of the House 
of Lords possessess, in his political or judicial capacity, any ' 
greater amount of power than his brethren; the vote of a' 
Duke reckons no more than the vote of a Viscount or Baron."* 

Like the army, the navy consists ^ fi^i though vM^ ^i^. ^ 
namje, of a line, and staff : <^ > . ^^>^1^ ^f ^^ odioll .olqitiirzj 'mX 

The line of the navy consists 0^^'i>'f ':)vrtofj.ioiq -k* h 

Captains, . . ^y^y^vxv<\^'^^\'^rrvf\- m 

Commanders, . 97 > 492 Commissioned Officers. 

Lieutenants, . . 327) cVi' ' 

Masters, 't '^'^ mM)rH^l^!h?te oift pf 'J\MTy\ 
Passed Midshipmen, 268 C 451 Warrant Officers. 
Midshipmen, ^^^ ,i^^(lQ2ty>}^ 

The staff* corps of the navy in fact, though not in name, 
are — 

A hydrogi-aphic corps (detailed from the line). 

Captain, JiiU. . 1 ^ 

Lieutenants j ' . 5 > 17 

Passed Midshipmen, 11 ) 

An ordnance corps (detailed from the line) . 
Captain, . i{?»fhn 1 ) 

Commanders, . 2^11 ,^^^ 

Lieutenants, . . 8) r 'h> *-->*"^ 

Dodd's Manual of Dignities, &c. London, 15^4. 


A corps of Steam Ungineers. 
Engineer-in-chief, . 1 

Chief Engineers, . 8 

First Assis't Engineers, 8 )> 68 
Second " " 1 

Third " " 3 

A Medical corps. 

Surgeons, . . 68 ^ 
Passed Assis't Surgeons, 37 v 148 
Assistant Surgeons, 43 ) 
A corps of Parsers, . . 64 

The duties of pursers include those of the offices of quar- 
termaster, commissary, and paymaster, in the army. 
A corps of Chaplains, . 24 

A corps of Professors of Mathematics, 12, of which number 
7 are serving in the hydrographic corps. 

A Marine corps: its duties are military, properly speaking, 
and it has a line and staff within itself. But as it is not a 
constituent of the line of the navy, it is cited here among 
the staff corps of the naval service. 


The aggregate of the line is 943, of which number at least 
28 are employed on staff duty. 

Exclusive of the marine corps, the corps of naval construc- 
tors, and those attached to the bureaus of Construction, and of 
Yards and Docks ; and those on duty in connexion with the 
coast survey, the Naval Academy, the Mexican boundary, the 
inspection of provisions and clothing, the construction of mail 
steamers, nautical almanac, &c., an aggregate of about 50 ; — 
exclusive of all these, there are 344 officers belonging to the 
staff corps, or employed on staff duty, a number equal to 
mxyre than one-third of the whjle line. 


The medical officers and pursers together count 212 com- 


Colonel, . 


(Staff Majors), 


Majors, . 


First Lieutenants, . 



Second Lieutenants, 

. 23 


missions, a number equal to nearly one-half of the whole of 
the line commissions in the navy ; and equal to on^fourtli of 
the whole of the commission and warrant line officers. The 
medical officers and pursers have been especially prominent 
in urging the establishment of an assimilated rank; and it 
is believed, the members of other staff corps also desire that 
they should be included in it. They ask to be placed on a 
footing with the staff corps of the army. 

Very soon after the close of the war with England, — ^when 
the value of medical services was strongly impressed upon 
the mind of officers of the navy generally, — the medical offi- 
cers asked to be assigned a definite rank. Their petition 
was sustained by the opinion of the Secretary of the Navy 
(B. W. Crowninshield), by the Board of Navy Commis- 
sioners, in official communications, dated January, 1817, and 
addressed to the naval committee of the Senate. In May, 
1816, nine captains signed an address to the Secretary of 
the Navy, in which they say, " We consider the medical 
department of such great importance to the navy of our 
country, that no reasonable measures ought to be omitted 
which could have a tendency to retain in the service the 
professional ability of those gentlemen who, by their experi- 
ence, knowledge, zeal, and humanity, have procured the 
esteem and confidence of those with whom they have been 
associated ; and we also beg leave to express our belief that 
no reasonable inducements would be objected to by Congress 
to procure for those who are engaged in a perilous service, 
and who are constantly exposed to the diseases of all cli- 
mates, the best medical aid which the country affords. To 
effect this, it must be obvious that the ranh and pecuniary 
emolument ought to bear some proportion to what gentlemen 
of professional eminence would be entitled in private life." 
In December, 1816, four captains addressed the Secretary of 
the Navy on the same subject. They say : " We have heard 
with pleasure that it is the intention of the medical officers of 
the navy to address a respectful memorial to you, requesting 
that measures might be taken by the Department to procure 
for them a definite ranh in the service, an increase of pay, and 
the establishment by law of the rank of hospital surgeon." 

When these memorials were presented, there were but 
thirty captains in the navy ; and if, to the thirteen signers 
of these addresses, the three navy commissioners who ap- 


proved of their object be added, it is fair to infer that they 
represented the general opinion of the navy on the subject. 

A code of regulations prepared by the Board of navy 
commissioners, published in 1818, and commonly called the 
" Blue Book," has^ a chapter on " Rank and Command ;" but 
it applies exclusively to the line of the navy. 

In December, 1833, the Hon. Levi Woodbury being Secre- 
tary of the Navy, the President of the United States sub- 
mitted to Congress, for its action, a code of " Regulations for 
the Navy of the United States," prepared by a " Board of 
Revision," in conformity to an act passed May 19, 1832. 
The fourth article of that code provides an "assimilated 
rank" for surgeons, pursers, and other staff officers. This 
code is marked by confusion and incongruities, and did not 
receive the sanction of Congress. 

In 1841, another code was prepared and printed, but was 
not formally promulgated, not having the sanction of Con- 
gress. The fourth article of this code provides an assimi- 
lated rank for officers of the staff with the line. 

In 1843, still another code was prepared, having the same 
feature, but was never sanctioned by Congress. 

Mr. Upshur was sensible of the great importance of this 
subject. In his report as Secretary of the Navy, of Decem- 
ber, 1841, he said : " The evils resulting from the want of a 
proper naval code are of the most serious character, and will, 
if not remedied, ultimately ruin the naval service of our 
country. What can be expected of a community of men, 
living together under circumstances tending to a constant 
excitement and collisions, with no fixed law to govern them, 
and where even rank and station are imperfectly defined ? 
The necessary consequence of such a state of things must be, 
disputes, contests, disorder, and confusion. Sometimes un- 
authorized power will be assumed, and at other times lawful 
authority will be disobeyed. It is impossible that a whole- 
some discipline can prevail in this uncertain condition of 
official rank and authority." 

In his annual report, November, 1843, the Secretary of 
the Navy (the Hon. David Henshaw) said : " The medical 
department of the naval service requires talent, education, 
and moral worth, properly to fill it, of as high order as in 
other branches of that service ; but the surgeons and assistant 
surgeons have no military rank. A modification of the law, 
by which medical officers in the naval service shall be en- 


titled to rank in a manner similar to that prescribed in the 
army, might be beneficially made." 

The Hon. J. Y. Mason, in his report as Secretary of the 
Navy, November, 1844, says : " Great anxiety is felt by 
many of the surgeons and assistant surgeons, and of the 
pursers in the navy, to have allowed them an assimilated 
rank 5 the corresponding officers in the army enjoy it. Without 
^detriment to the service. I respectfully recommend the 
subject to consideration." 

In the year 1844, certain officers of the line — "commis- 
sioned officers of the United States Navy" — addressed a me- 
morial to the naval committees of Congress, in which they 
assent that an assimilated rank should be established for 
medical officers, but object to assimilated rank as commander 
being assigned to surgeons until after their commissions shall 
have attained an age of twenty years. Those memorialists 
also express an opinion, that the claim to serve as members 
of courts-martial, convened for the trial of medical officers, as 
proposed by the medical corps, " ought to be granted." 

In the year 1846, the Honourable Secretary of the Navy 
issued the following : — 

"General Order. 

" Surgeons of the fleet, and Surgeons of more than twelve years, will rank 
with Commanders; 

" Surgeons of less than twelve years with Lieutenants ; 

" Passed-assistant Surgeons, next after Lieutenants ; 

" Assistant Surgeons, not passed, next after Masters. 

" Commanding and Executive officers, of whatever grade, when on duty, 
will take precedence over all medical officers. 

" This order confers no authority to exercise military command, and no 
additional right to quarters. 

♦'Navy Department, August 31, 1846." 

Subsequently the following order was issued : — 

"General Order. 

" Pursers of more than twelve years will rank with Commanders ; 

" Pursers of less than twelve years, with Lieutenants ; 

" Pursers will rank with Surgeons according to date of commission ; 

" Commanding and Executive officers, of whatever grade, when on duty, 
will take precedence of all Pursers. 

" This order confers no authority to exercise military command, and no 
additional right to quarters. 

"J. Y. Mason. 
"Navy Department, May 27, 1847;" 


In January 1848, about sixty or seventy officers of the 
line assembled in the city of Washington, for the purpose 
of procuring the revocation of those orders, on the alleged 
ground of illegality : two or three members of Congress were 
present at their meeting by special invitation. A committee 
from the body waited upon the Secretary of the Navy : one of 
the consequences of the interview was a formal protest drawn 
up by a member of the bar, and presented by " L. M. Golds- 
borough, Commander U. S. Navy, in helvalf of the sea officers 
concurring in the sentiments of this commuyiication, inclicding 

This paper was subsequently printed, and circulated among 
officers of the line. Its positions were examined and proved 
to be untenable by Walter Jones.* 

This combined effort to annul these general orders of the 
Executive failed. 

In the sequel several acts in violation of these orders will 
be considered. 


The author of the pamphlet marked No. 1, sets out with 
a general statement of the duties which devolve upon the 
line of the navy, which he denominates the "military 
branch." The writer has italicised some words in the fol- 
lowing quotations, which are taken in regular succession. 

" To build and equip armed cruisers,* to organize and discipline 
crews, and so to conduct the command on its distant mission, as to 
subserve the purposes of its creation, form the especial duty of the 
military branch. The entire management of the vessel, her internal 
police, her acts of aggression or forbearance, her safety in storms, her 
manoeuvring in battle, in short, all that concerns the honour and 
reputation of the country that is represented by this floating frag- 
ment of itself, are confided within certain limits to this class." 

Our author has certainly passed over the existence of the 
corps of seven " naval constructors," or he would not in- 
clude ship-building and naval architecture among the duties 
of line officers in the navy. He is perhaps not aware that 
sixty-six per cent, of the construction and equipment of a 

* Observations on certain objections to the general orders of the Secretary 
of the Navy, conferring assimilated rank on the Surgeons and Pursers of the 
Navy. By Walter Jones; 8vo. pp. 11; Washington, 1848. 


ship of war, belong to the province of the naval architect, and 
consequently, some of the " honour and reputation" gained 
by " this floating fragment" to the country depends upon the 
professional skill of the naval constructor ;* and something 
is also due to the manufacturer of ordnance, and ordnance 

If measured by the expenditure of money they involve, 
the duties of " constructors" is of the first importance in the 
naval service ; and we all know, if there were no ships, there 
would be neither sailors, nor navy. A fortress, when com- 
pleted, endures for years ; but our floating castles, constructed 
at an expense, often, of five or six hundred thousand -dollars 
each, are totally worn out in twelve or fifteen years, unless 
kept in repair at an expense which exceeds their original 
cost. In building and repairing one ship, the cost of mate- 
rial and labour expended under the immediate control of the 
naval constructor, who is necessarily the chief mechanic at 
a building-yard, is equal to no less than sixty-six per cent, 
of the cost of the entire vessel, including the armament and 

The plans of our ships are devised by naval constructors ; 
and their efliciency is consequently dependent on their skill. 
Through ignorance of construction, our most gallant officers 
and men might be sacrificed ; for they could not correct the 
evils flowing from a badly planned ship, more readily than 
could the officers of a garrison remedy those arising from a 
badly chosen site and a badly built fort, which they were 
charged to defend. 

Naval architecture is a branch of mechanics which line 
officers in the navy cannot reasonably be expected to under- 
stand, at least not sufficiently well to render it advantageous 
for the government to employ them in planning and building 
ships; should they be thus employed, they would cease to be 
" officers proper" of the navy, and it is believed they would be- 

readinesa for 

* The ratio of responsibility for putting a ship 

of war in 

active service is as follows : — 

Construction, .... 


Equipment, .... 


Ordnance, . ". 


Provisions and clothing, . 


Hydrography, .... 




come at best very indifferent and very expensive naval con- 
structors. Men who devote themselves to one branch of 
study exclusively, are presumed to become more skilful in it, 
than those whose pursuits direct their attention to many 
subjects ; yet naval constructors are not in fact included, in 
the organization of the navy, and are not held responsible by 
its laws or tribunals. They have neither commission, nor 
relative position in the service. 

Thirty years ago, naval architecture had declined to such 
an extent in Great Britain, as may be seen by reference to 
the reports of the House of Commons, that a school of naval 
architecture was established, in which pupils were educated 
at great expense to the government. Though long kept 
back, those persons now hold high and responsible places. 
In the French marine, the first class pupils of the Polytech- 
nique school are sent to the dock-yards to become engineers, 
where they have a suitable rank, but no military control. 
In the Danish, Swedish, and Russian navies, naval con- 
structors have a similar position. 

"Frequently still more serious cases and responsibilities, inciden- 
tally connected with the profession, devolve on the naval commander. 
He may negotiate treaties, decide delicate questions of international 
law, involving important commercial interests, and is sometimes 
called upon to assume the office of umpire between contending States, 
or contending parties in the same state." — Pamphlet No. 1. 

Had our author cited some instances to support these 
assertions, it might be admitted that no li^ie officer should 
command a vessel of war who is not a competent naval 
architect, diplomatist, and international jurist. Although 
he may never be called upon " to decide delicate questions," 
a knowledge of international law may be important to pro- 
tect him from transgressing it. In his " brief and compre- 
hensive view," our author has omitted the somewhat, though 
not entirely obsolete duty of a naval officer, which imposed 
upon him the superintendence of hospital buildings, hospital 
poHce, grounds, &c. 

" Such is a brief and comprehensive view of the arduous and com- 
plicated duties of a naval officer. It is very obvious that a prompt and 
energetic performance of such duties demands the recognition of rank 
and authority. To insure obedience and subordination, to inspire 


confidence and respect^ and to establish that species of unity and 
concert of sentiment and action that is needful in enterprises of great 
pith, rank and authority are essential principles.'' — Pamphlet No, 1. 

From these data, he concludes, ranh, that is, relative posi- 
tion in authority, should enure to the line officers of the 
navy, and should not enure to staff officers in tile navy. 
Nothing is necessary "to inspire confidence and respect," 
towards them(?) : his words are, in another place, " there 
certainly seems^ to be no ground of absolute necessity why 
any peculiar share of rank or authority should be bestowed 
upon" them. 

" Let us now turn to the civil branch. They derive their designa- 
tion from the complexion of their functions, which are eminently of 
the civil kind, as contradistinguished from the military. This branch 
consists of surgeons and accounting officers, styled pursers. We 
will begin with a consideration of the medical corps." — Pamphlet 
No, 1. 

There are no civil duties discharged under coercion of mili- 
tary law ; civilians cannot form part of a military community ; 
there is no " civil hraiiclf in an army or a navy. The word 
is falsely applied; consequently, false ideas are conveyed, 
and false opinions are begotten and preserved. [This view 
has already been presented under the heads of "Military 
Men" and Military Command," page 8.] 

The staff of the navy, as already indicated, " consists" of 
more than two corps ; the liiie requires more help than is 
afforded by the pay, subsistence, and clothing department, 
and the medical department [page 16]. The functions of 
physicians and of accountants in a navy are less " eminently 
of the civil kind" than deciding " delicate questions of inter- 
national law;" or "assuming" the office of umpire between 
contending States," or negotiating "treaties;" or (to descend 
in the scale) building ships, reefing top-sails in storms, "holy- 
stoning decks," "scouring bright-work," or supervising the 
laundry operations of a ship's crew ; all of which are reckoned 
among "the arduous and complicated duties of a naval officer," 
i. e., o/ the line, who should possess, if our author is correct 
in his "comprehensive view," a Caleb Quotum-like capability 
in turning his hand to anything, and be really a self-suffi- 


cient, buoyant fao-iotmn of the nation. The duties of line 
officers of the army in comparison sink into insignificance. 

" It is evidently a high moral duty, as well as enlightened policy, 
which teaches a government to watch tenderly and carefully over the 
physical comfort and well-being of those employed in military service. 
The crews of our vessels, using the term in the enlarged sense, which 
includes officers, are exposed to every vicissitude of climate, all the 
casualties of sea-life, and all the hazards of war, which can impair 
health and endanger existence. To satisfy undeniable claims on its 
care, and preserve unimpaired, as far as possible, the forces that 
may be employed, the government engages the services of medical 
men, commanding by a liberal compensation the highest degree of 
talent and attainment. 

"It is in this wise and humane policy alone that this particular 
institution originates. It is manifest from the very purposes of its 
creation, and the functions it fulfils, that the connexion of this corps 
with the navy is incidental, and not direct ; that it is an adjunct or 
auxiliary.^ It holds an honourable position and serves a valuable 
end. But these facts do not alter its essential character ; it remains, 
notwithstanding, what we have termed it, an adjunct or an auxiliary, 
and, in a military point of view, is wholly subordinate. The great 
objects to which the navy is directed do not come within the sphere of 
its action ; it takes no part in the purposes of offence or defence ; it 
has no voice in the councils which shape and control the public duties 
of the vessel. Its dealings are with the sick, ivho are generally few 
in number, and, for the time being, excused from duty, and not with 
the well, who, each in his appropriate place, are engaged in the active 
concerns of the ship." — Pamphlet No, 1. 

Merely a benevolent moral sense has taught the govern- 
ment " to watch tenderly" over the comfort of the line officers 
and crews of our vessels ; and through this tenderness of the 
government they enjoy the luxury of competent physicians, 
free of charge. The statesmen who have legislated for, and 
controlled the navy since its establishment, were moved only 
in a feeling of pure, humane, and generous benevolence to 
create "this particular institution" for the liiie, being fully 

* Commander Goldsborough puts forth the same kind of argument in the 
paper previously alluded to. The language of his pamphlet is — " Its [the 
navy] great aims and objects are military, and the conduct, control, and 
management of it was designed to be, and must of necessity be, absolutely 
military. As a mere appendage and auxiliary in the carrying out of this 
scheme, parties engaged in the pursuits of civil life are resorted to." 

This pamphlet seems to be a text-book, from which many crude notions 
are borrowed, and urged rather by dint of repeated assertion than argument. 


aware that sound health and physical capability constitute 
a very small element of the personal strength and courage 
which, with proper knowledge, are supposed to constitute 
military efficiency by land or sea. They are, no doubt, 
fully aware, " this particular institution" of humanity is not 
a necessary constituent of military organization; Ijecause the 
sick are ^'generally few in number," and "excused from 
duty," not for their own sake, or that of the service, but in 
courtesy to the members of "this particular institution." 

But our author, nevertheless, would think the navy de- 
ficient in an essential particular, were the medical staff 
struck out of its organization ; he would perceive that me- 
dical officers take an active and essential "part in the 
purposes of offence or defence," where the members of the 
line, officers, and privates, are prostrate in considerable pro- 
portion, from disease or wounds while in close proximity of 
an enemy ; and then, too, he would imagine that " this par- 
ticular institution" ought to have an important "voice in 
the councils which shape and control the public duties of 
the vessel," and, in a " military 23oint of view," it should not 
be " ivliolly subordinate." 

Medical officers are directly and not incidentally con- 
nected with the navy ; they are not merely adjuncts or 
auxiliaries, but as essential to its organization as any grade 
in it. If not necessarj^, why incur the expense of a medical 
staff? if necessary, why characterize it as a mere incidental 
adjunct or auxiliary? Medical officers, equally with all 
others in a" cruiser, " are exposed to every vicissitude of 
climate, all the casualties of sea-life, and all the hazards of 
war, which can impair health and endanger existence." 
The medical officer participates in the chances of life and 
death which fall to all alike, except during the prevalence 
of malignant, contagious, and epidemic diseases, when he 
and the attendants upon the sick incur greater hazards of 
life than others. During the excitement of battle, the 
efficient exercise of his profession requires a calm, fearless, 
steadiness of purpose, amidst the din and confusion which pre- 
vail ; there is no part of the vessel, or of the field of action, 
however exposed, where he may not be called to discharge 
the functions of his office. It is common to assign him to a 
place of as little exposure as possible, not through motives 
of care for him, but for the benefit, comfort, and security 


of those who may require his assistance. As well might 
our author disparage the powder magazine, and insist that 
it is a mere " adjunct or auxiliary/' because its place is as 
Becure from fire and destruction as the ingenuity of the naval 
constructor and ordnance officer can contrive it. 

" It has been shown that rank and authority are conferred on the 
military class, because of the absolute necessity of the case ; be- 
cause order and subordination imperatively demand it ; because the 
great purposes, for which a navy is built, cannot be carried into 
effect without their aid. But it cannot be urged that the same 
reasons apply to the class under consideration. Except so far as to 
regulate the mutual relations of the members of this corps, there cer- 
tainly seems to be no ground of absolute necessity, why any peculiar 
share of rank or authority should be bestowed upon it." — Pamphlet 

m. 1. 

It is admitted that the objects for which a navy is cre- 
ated, cannot be attained without the "aid" of officers of 
the line, or without defining "the mutual relations" which 
should subsist among them; but it is not admitted that 
officers of the line are capable of obtaining those objects 
without "the aid" of the' stafi" corps in the navy, and there- 
fore it is "urged that the same reasons apply" to every 
stafi" corps, for conferring rank and authority on them, 
and for defining "the mutual relations of the members" 
of each staff corps, not only to each other, but also to 
those of the line. Both staff rank and assimilated rank are 
necessary : staff rank to define clearly the mutual relations 
in command and in obedience of the members of each staff 
corps ; assimilated rank, to define the relations between the 
members of one staff corps and the members of other staff 
corps, and between members of the staff corps and members 
of the line. 

" The surgeon stands in a single attitude towards the service. The 
sick and the wounded are consigned to his charge, and it is manifest 
that there is no military position he could hold, and no authority he 
could tvield, which would render his arm more expert in amputating a 
limb, or his brain more cunning in detecting a disease and applying a 
remedy. The control he exercises over his patients, is a moral, and 
not a military control, and no law of the land could either enhance 
or lessen it. The relation is one of kindness and skill on one hand, 
and confidence and gratitude on the other." — Pamphlet No. 1. 

Every officer stands in a single attitude towards the ser- 


vice, which attitude Is defined by the limits of his duty. 
The sick and wounded are not released from the operation 
of military law as a consequence of their disabled condition, 
though excused from their ordinary duties ; their obligations 
to obey are simply transferred from those whom they usually 
obey, to the surgeon who exercises a military control over 
them, and over the various attendants upon them, because 
his commands can be enforced, when necessary, only by mili- 
tary law. His moral influence over the sick and wounded 
is very much enhanced by, if not entirely dependent upon, 
the military position he occupies. If the surgeon were 
placed on a level with boatswains' mates, it is not probable 
he would possess authority, moral or military, sufficient to 
control the sick or the attendants upon them. His skill in 
amputating a limb, and his brain-cunning in detecting dis- 
ease, could not impart to him the moral influence derived 
from his commission in the navy; and without this kind of 
moral influence, it is believed, no surgeon could command a 
large military or naval hospital. " To insure obedience and 
subordination, to inspire confidence and respect," military 
rank is as necessary for surgeons tod other staff officers as 
for gentlemen of the line. 

" We now arrive at the remaining class to be considered, called 
pursers. To insure convenience, system, and accountability in the 
current expenses of this establishment, this corps of officers was 
created. They formerly acted under a warrant given by the Presi- 
dent alone, but in order to enable the government to make careful 
selections, and to exact bonds for the faithful discharge of their trust, 
the law of 1812 made them commissioned officers. Their duties are 
purely mercantile; they lie with the finances of the vessel and the 
victualling department. They negotiate bills of exchange, disburse 
public moneys, purchase and expend provisions, and, at stated periods, 
render exact accounts to the Treasury Department. Their functions 
are limited to these acts, and they have no other connexion with the 
navy ; their trust and office do not blend, except incidentally, with its 
leading objects and purposes, and hence, like the surgeons, they do 
not rise above the condition of valuable auxiliaries.''' — Pamphlet iVb. 1. 

" The duty of a purser during battle, is to supervise the passing of 
powder on the lower deck, while the surgeon and his assistants care 
for the wounded in the cock-pit." — Pamplet No. 2. 

The pursers are not merely auxiliaries in the navy ; they 
constitute an essential part of its organization. \Yithout 
pay and subsistence, without the disbursement of public 


moneys, a cruiser could not be at sea. The functions of 
pursers, as described above, are of great importance to the 
navy, both in their " mercantile" aspect, and in serving the 
battery, during battle, with powder, which seems rather to 
be the function of a military than a " civil" officer. But the 
purely military duty of a purser is not always restricted to 
the supervision of passing powder; in some instances, at 
least, he commands the " fourth division," sometimes called 
"the berth-deck division," as entirely as line lieutenants 
command the other " divisions" of the crew, governing its 
supplies, parading and mustering it, and last, not least, 
leading it when called to board the enemy. 

" The system now established for the disbursements of money and 
supplies in the navy, is satisfactory in its results. The purchases 
are made on fair competition, and the duty of distributing on ship- 
board, and of accounting to the department by the pursers, is per- 
formed with great regularity and accuracy. The limited number of 
pursers in the navy has made it indispensable to require of the com- 
manding officers of the smaller vessels the performance of the duty of 
pursers ; and it has happened, from unavoidable causes sometimes, in 
the prosecution of active operations against the enemy, that the com- 
mander was separated from his vessel and her stores. While there 
has not been a case in which any suspicion of misapplication of public 
property could attach to an officer doing duty as purser, there is no 
doubt that officers thus situated have had to meet losses by being 
held to account for all the stores received, to the delivery of which 
they could not attend without neglect of the paramount duty as com- 
mander of the vessel. I am entirely satisfied that it is injurious to 
the service, and unjust to the officers, to impose on them the duties 
of purser. The appointment of twelve assistant pursers, with a salary 
of one thousand dollars, which is now allowed by law to a commo- 
dore's secretary, will supersede the necessity of so employing the 

That functions of purser must be performed, is admitted ; 
and that they cannot be efficiently performed by line officers, 
while at the same time their peculiar duties devolve upon 
them, is also admitted. The duties of purser are indispen- 
sable; therefore they are not merely auxiliary, and not 
necessarily of an inferior character, as our authors assert. 
" Then," in the language of Walter Jones, " if they have 
succeeded in establishing this relation of superic/)^ and inferior 

* Report of the Secretary of the Navy (J. Y. Mason), December 6, 1847. 


in rank between the two classes of officers, is not the conse- 
quence inevitable that militai^y rank, howsoever differing in 
degree, is common to both classes ? But the proof of this 
intrinsic and indelible superiority in the rank of the one, 
and inferiority in the rank of the other, seems to be quite 
fanciful ; it consists of an argument drawn from the general 
policy and reasons of State, which induce nations to build, 
man, and arm a navy. The one set of officers is destined to 
accomplish ' the great aims and objects of a navy,' which 
are said to be purely and exclusively military ; whilst the 
other set is said to be a mere appendage, and only auxiliary 
to those ' great aims and objects/ Neither law nor depart- 
mental regulation has adopted this conclusion, whatever 
force it may claim from reasons of State. The whole* navy 
itself, with all its constituents, material and moral, is but in 
the nature of auxiliary means to an end ; auxiliary to the 
very motives and reasons of State that dictated its creation. 
There is nothing in the nature or reason of things — nothing 
in positive law or arbitrary regulation — that enables us to 
lay our finger on any one of the constituents, material or 
moral, of a navy, and to say this is a principal means, that 
but auxiliary. Neither the mere gradations in the ranks of 
officers, nor the greater or less importance or efficiency of 
auxiliary means, are sufficient to impress on any one set of 
means, the character of principal, and on another, the char 
racter of auxiliary T 

No part which is essential to the efficient action of a 
machine is auxiliary. To claim that the hands and face of 
a clock are principal parts, or parts proper, because they are 
most conspicuous and prominent, and essential in indicating 
time to the observer, and that the pendulum, or weight, or 
wheels are merely auxiliary parts of the instrument, would 
not be more absurdly incorrect, than the notion that the 
navy consists of a principal and auxiliary parts. Each part 
is essential in obtaining an end which is a result of the 
united action of separate parts. It should not be forgotten 
that the hands of a clock depend entirely for motion upon 
the weight, pendulum, and wheels, concealed from common 
observation ; like the hands of a clock upon its wheels, the 
line of a military establishment is dependent on the staff for 
its efficient movement, which, when crowned with brilliant 
results, exclusively attracts common admiration : the names 


of the hands of the machine are generally known, but com- 
paratively few are aware that the wheels have distinctive 

" The general conclusions we derive from a candid consideration of 
these facts may be thus stated : that rank and authority are given by 
the government exclusively to carry into effect its own purposes, and 
that they are not given as marks of personal distinction, except so 
far as they are needful to accomplish the objects in view. They are 
given in military institutions, to the military class, as indispensable 
means of performing its duties, and on the other hand they are not 
given to the civil branch, because the peculiar functions of that 
branch in nowise depend on them." — Pamphlet JVo. 1. 

The U7ie has rank and authority as the necessary means 
to accompli-sh the purposes of the government, is a proposi- 
tion freely admitted ; but that the staff does not possess rank 
or authority, and that neither rank nor authority is a neces- 
sary means to obtain the objects of its creation, constitute a 
proposition which is utterly denied. In the army, all the 
military architects, constituting the " corps of engineers," all 
the military surveyors of land and harbours, constituting the 
" corps of topographical engineers," are reckoned in the staff: 
each corps is composed of several grades [page 13] subordi- 
nate to each other, and every officer in those grades has a 
rank, and the degree of authority commensurate with it. 
The same is generally true of those divisions of the staff 
which constitute the " Quartermaster s department," and the 
"Commissary's department," [page 13] of which the duties 
of both are discharged in the navy by pursers. But our 
author denies his own assertion in a subsequent paragraph. 

" It would be vain to attempt to trace the origin of rank to any 
well-defined law. Our general system is borrowed from British rule, 
and we have embodied the British ideas of rank, so far as they were 
applicable. The order of rank existing with us before the period of 
executive interruptions [see General Orders, page 20] is derived from 
naval custom or usage from time immemorial; it enters into every 
rule of discipline, and is acted upon in the daily and familiar routine 
of duty in every ship afloat. It is anterior to any laws that have 
been passed on the subject, but so far as a principle so manifest and 
so familiar to naval life could be strengthened, it is confirmed and 
fortified by a variety of legal enactments. In the laws distributing 
prize-money, the leading idea was to proportion the shares to the 


grade^ and accordingly, that to the surgeons and pursers fall a smaller 
share than to lieutenants^ and that in the order of enumeration, they 
occupy an inferior place." — Pamphlet No. 1. 

" A law of Congress, entitled an act for the better government of 
the navy, approved April 23, 1800, provided for the distribution of 
prize-money according to the rank of officers in the 6avy and marine 
corps. Article 1st, provides for the proportion of commanders of fleets 
and squadrons, and commanders of single ships. Article 2d, provides 
for sea-lieutenants, captains of marines, and sailing-masters. 

" Article 3d, provides for chaplains, lieutenants of marines, sur- 
geons, pursers, boatswains, gunners, carpenters, and masters' mates. 
In each of these cases, the order in which the different grades are 
enumerated, and the amount of prize-money conceded, is indicative of 
the rank of the officer specified. Being a law of Congress fully ap- 
proved, it is as much a supreme law, as any other portion of the 
existing naval code, of which it forms a part ; is in full force, and can 
only be repealed by the passage and approval of another act." — Pam- 
phlet No, 2. 

The object of these arguments is to show, not that sur- 
geons and pursers have neither rank nor authority, as at first 
asserted by the author of Pamphlet No. 1 ; but to demon- 
strate that the rank and authority of surgeons and pursers 
are inferior to the rank of officers of the line : " so that/' to 
use the language of Walter Jones, " the lowest grade of the 
last is superior to, and entitled to command, the highest grade 
of the others. Then, if they have succeeded in establishing 
this relation of superior and inferior in rank between the 
two classes of officers, is not the consequence in,evitable that 
military ranh, howsoever differing in degree, is common to 
both classes ?" 

Both our authors are inaccurate in their reference to that 
part of the law relating to the distribution of prize-money : 
it is in the following words : — 

" Section 6, Art. 2. To sea-lieutenants, captains of marines, and 
sailing-masters, ^z^o-twentieths ; but where there is a captain of ma- 
rines, without a lieutenant of marines, these officers shall be entitled 
to two-twentieths and one-third of a twentieth, which third, in such 
case, shall be deducted from the share of the officers mentioned in 
Article No. 3, of this section. 

"3. To chaplains, lieutenants of marines, surgeons, pursers, boat- 
swains, gunners, carpenters, and masters' mates, ^wo-twentieths. 

"4. To midshipmen, surgeons' mates, captains' clerks, school- 
masters, boatswains' mates, gunners' mates, carpenters' mates, ships' 


stewards, sail-makers, masters-at-arms, armorers, cockswains, and 
coopers, three-twentieths and an half." 

The rank and degree of authority of the officers cannot 
be deduced from the order in which the several grades are 
named in this act, nor from the fractional share of the ag- 
gregate of prize-money to be distributed to each class formed 
in the several articles of the law. It will not be admitted 
that sailing-masters, who are warrant officers, are of a supe- 
rior grade, and have a right to exercise authority over 
chaplains, lieutenants of marines, surgeons, and pursers, 
who are commissioned officers, because sailing-masters are 
named in the second article, and those commissioned officers 
are named in the third article, for prize-money. Nor will 
it be admitted that boatswains, who are warrant officers, are 
superior in rank and therefore have a right to command 
surgeons' mates, [assistant surgeons,] who are commissioned, 
simply because, in this act, the former are classed in the 
third article, and the latter in the fourth article, for a share 
of prize-money. No pretensions to superiority or equality 
can be sustained by this portion of law ; their absurdity must 
be apparent to every officer of reflection and experience. 

The following report by Commodore John Kodgers, Presi- 
dent of the Board of Navy Commissioners, is pertinent to 
this point, and to the whole subject under consideration : — , 

" Navy Commissioners' Ofl&ce, 

Washington, January 23, 1817. 

" Sir: — In conformity with a request made in your letter of yester- 
day, the Commissioners of the Navy present to your consideration 
their opinions on the petition of the Surgeons of the Navy, referred 
to you by the Naval Committee. 

^^ It seems to be just that, inasmuch as the duties and responsi- 
bility of navy surgeons call for an equal degree of professional 
knowledge, as well as of respectability of character, with those of the 
army, they should be put on the same footing, with respect to rank, 
pay, and emoluments. 

" The commissioners are further of opinion that the navy surgeons, 
as regards their rank in relation to each other, as well as with the 
surgeons of the army, ought to take rank according to the dates of 
their commissions. 

" The commissioners cannot perceive the justice of the complaint 
of the petitioners, ' that in consequence of their being classed, in the 
distribution of prize-money, with persons with whom they do not 


and cannot associate, the respect to which the profession is entitled 
has been considerably diminished in our public service.' This classi- 
fication is merely to specify the sum to which surgeons are entitled 
in the distribution of prize-money, and neither involves any general 
idea of equality, nor imposes any necessity of associating with in- 

" With great respect, 

" Sir, your obedient servant, 

"John Rodgers.* 
"Hon. B. W. Crowninshield, Secretary of the NavyJ' 

The views of our authors are not sustained by the opinion 
of the Navy Commissioners of 1817, all of whom were pro- 
bably in the navy when the law in question was enacted, 
and were likely to know, therefore, the intentions of the act. 
Had it been designed to indicate the rank of officers, it is not 
probable they would have recommended, in the face of it, the 
establishment of rank for surgeons. 

" Again, in acts passed in 1794 and 1797, providing for an in- 
creased naval armament, in the pay bill of 1835, and in the Navy 
Register, printed annually since 1815, the same order of enumera- 
tion, so far as it respects the two branches of the service, has been 
always scrupulously observed." — Pamphlet No. 1. 

In the law of 1794, surgeons are named in Section 2 ; and 
in Section 3, the midshipmen are named after the sail-makers 
and carpenters, and the same sequence of nomination occurs 
in the act of 1797. In the act of 1835, assistant surgeons 
are named hefore surgeons, professors of mathematics before 
sailing-masters, and midshipmen hefoi^e clerks, boatswains, 
&c. The order in which the grades are named in the " Navy- 
Register" is not in conformity with the order of nomination, 
either in the law relating to prize-money, or any other of 
the acts cited; the arrangement of the Navy Register is dis- 
cretionary, and not prescribed by law, and has no authority. 
Therefore, the degree of rank or authority of officers, whether 
of the line or of the staff, cannot be inferred from either, or 
all conjointly. 

Commander Goldsborough, in his pamphlet, labours to 
infer the existence of rank from the law of February 7, 1815, 
which provides for the creation of a Board of Navy Commis- 

* American State Papers. Vol. Naval Affairs, p. 443. 


sioners. " The second section of that act," he says, "directs 
the said Board of Commissioners, by and with the consent 
of the Secretary of the Navy, to prepare rules and regu- 
lations. One of the specific purposes of these rules and 
regulations was to ' secure responsibility in the subordinate 
officers and agents.' " Under authority of this act the code, 
known as the " Commissioners' Rules and Regulations," was 
devised and promulgated. " In the same code will be found," 
says Commander Goldsborough, " a distinct chapter under the 
head of ^rank and command.' The commission officers are 
divided into ranks and denominations. A specific provision 
fixes the order in which officers shall take precedence and 
command. The regulations in regard to surgeons, pursers, 
secretaries, chaplains, and other non-ccmhatants^ imply inferi- 
ority of rank and subordination in authority." This was 
written January 27, 1848. 

The Commissioners' rules on this point are of no weight or 
authority in law. 

On the 29th December, 1819, twenty months after the 
Commissioners' rules were laid before Congress, the Hon. 
Secretary of the Navy, Smith Thompson, informed the Pre- 
sident of the Senate that these rules " are at variance with 
existing laws^^ and stated in what particulars. In the same 
letter he says : — " So far as the rules relate to the subjects 
ujpon loliicTi they were to he prepared, as specified in the Act 
aforesaid, they may he binding and operative, without any 
further legislative provision. But it will be perceived, from 
an examination of the rules and regulations that many of 
them relate to subjects not enumerated, or coming within the 
purview of the act under which they were prepared ; in which 
cases they have not the force and effect of laws, and further 
legislative provision is necessary to give them such effect." 
It appears that these rules were revised and again brought 
to the notice of the Senate, January 11th, 1821, by the Hon. 
Smith Thompson ; he refers to his former report of Dec. 29, 
1819, and says of these revised rules, "although 7iot [now?] 
directly at variance with existing laws, may nevertheless re- 
quire the saiiction of a law in order to justify their enforce- 

In 1841, long before the question of rank was so zealously 

* American State Papers, Vol. Naval Affairs. 


discussed, Mr. Upsliur gave his opinion that the Commis- 
sioners' code was not sanctioned by law. He thus expressed 
himself: — 

"By the act of Congress, approved 23d April, 1800, certain 
general rules and regulations were enacted, embracing the most pro- 
minent and important subjects relating to the service. These are 
still in force ; but although they are of a character to apply to the 
navy, in whatever condition it may be placed, and were deemed alto- 
gether sufficient for it in its then infant state, they are too few in 
number, and enter too little into details to answer their purpose at 
the present day. Acting upon this idea, the Board of Navy Com- 
missioners, soon after its establishment in 1815, compiled ' Rules, 
Regulations, and Instructions for the Naval Service of the United 
States,' with the consent of the Secretary of the Navy, in obedience 
to an act of Congress, passed Tth February, 1815, entitled ' An act to 
alter and amend the several acts for establishing a Navy Department, 
by adding thereto a Board of Commissioners.' This compilation, 
commonly called the Blue Book, is still practically/ in force, and, 
together with the act of 1800, constitutes the only system of rules 
and regulations for the government of the navy. 

"By the act establishing the Board of Navy Commissioners, it is 
provided *that the said Board of Commissioners, by and with the 
consent of the Secretary of the Navy, be and are hereby authorized 
to prepare such rules and regulations as shall be necessary for se- 
curing an uniformity in the several classes of vessels and their equip- 
ments, and for repairing and refitting them, and for securing respon- 
sibility in the subordinate officers and agents ; which regulations, when 
approved by the President of the United States, shall be respected 
and obeyed, until altered and revoked by the same authority ; and 
the said rules and regulations, thus prepared and approved, shall be 
laid before Congress at their next session.' Whether or not the Blue 
Book (which derives its authority from this law alone), was ever ap- 
proved by the President of the United States, or laid before Congress, 
I have no means of ascertaining.* The probability is that it was not 
approved, as the book itself contains no evidence upon the subject. 
But, even if both these formalities were observed, it is altogether 
clear, to my mind, that the commissioners acted without authority in 
prescribing many of the rules and regulations contained in the book. 

" The obvious intention of the act of Congress is to make the Navy 
Commissioners the ministerial agents of the Secretary of the Navy, 
for certain purposes. He has no authority to employ any other agents 
for those purposes. Among other things, it is their duty, under the 
second section of the act, ^ by and with the consent of the Secretary 

* These rules were communicated to Congress by President Monroe, April 
20, 1818. See American State Papers. Vol. Naval Affairs. 


of the Navy, to prepare such rules and regulations as shall be neces- 
sary' in the execution of the specific duties therein assigned to them, 
and for ' securing responsibility in the subordinate officers and agents' 
employed in those duties. There is nothing in the terms of the act, and 
nothing in its plain purpose and intention, to authorize the commis- 
sioners to prepare a general code of rules and regulations for the 
government of the navy. They were strictly confined to the purposes 
mentioned in the act ; to wit : ' securing an uniformity in the several 
classes of vessels and their equipments, and repairing and refitting 
them.' For these purposes, and no other, they had authority to pre- 
pare, by and with the consent of the Secretary of the Navy, such 
rules and regulations as they might deem proper ; and, as a necessary 
incident to this authority, to prepare additional rules for securing 
responsibility in their subordinate agents. 

" That this is the true meaning of the act of Congress is so appa- 
rent, that I deem it wholly unnecessary to enter into a more critical 
examination in order to prove it. 

" But the Blue Book is not confined to these objects. It contains 
a great variety of rules and regulations, applying to every department 
of naval duty, and to every officer and man connected with the naval 
service. It is designed as a general code of rules and regulations for 
the government of the navy, and, as such, is universally received and 
daily acted on. 

" Under this code, thus questionable in its authority, and altogether 
insufficient in itself, the navy has been governed for twenty-three 
years ! There is, in truth, no law upon the subject ; no obligatory 
rule whatever, except what is found in the act of 1800 ; and that is 
altogether imperfect and inadequate."* 

The inference is inevitable, that by legislative enactment, 
direct or indirect, medical officers and pursers have no mili- 
tary position assigned them in the navy. Their position is 
uncertain, and can be made to vary in diiFerent vessels, in 
accordance with the various opinions entertained by com- 
manders on the subject. In other words, the position they 
occupy, relatively to the line, is dependent on the courtesy 
of those with whom they may be associated on duty. The 
following paragraph is in corroboration of this assertion : — 

" We will now state in precise terms what we conceive to be the 
true position of the surgeons and pursers, as derived directly from 
naval usage, and sanctioned indirectly by legal enactments. On 
board of a ship of war, the surgeon and purser, in respect to subor- 

* Report of the Secretary of the Navy (A. P. Upshur). December 
4, 1841. 


dinatioiij are inferior to the commanding and executive officers ; in 
respect to certain matters of ceremonial and etiquette, they occupy 
intermediate ground between lieutenants and midshipmen, and in 
respect to social privileges, are on a level with all ; but they exercise 
no military autJiority exceipt over their respective assistants." — Pam- 
phlet, No. 1. 

If surgeons and pursers occupied a definite position, based 
even upon unquestioned and unquestionable usage, that po- 
sition would be so familiarly known to our author, that he 
could not have avoided stating it in positive terms; his 
language would show that he had no doubts in his mind 
upon the subject. But his words imply clearly that the 
" position of the surgeons and pursers" is a matter of opinion, 
and that in 7iis opinion, or in other words, he cc/nceives '^ the 
true position" to be, &c., thus intimating he has a vague 
notion of the existence of positions which are not true. 

The term "executive officer," is of recent application in 
the navy, to the senior or " first lieutenant" of a ship ; but it 
has no legal or official existence :* recurrence to this point 
will be necessary in the sequel. 

The opinion of our author is, that the surgeon and purser 
in a ship are officially inferior to the commander and first 
lieutenant only ; ceremonially, they are inferior to all others 
except midshipmen ; socially equal to all, and that they do 
exercise military authority over their respective assistants, 
for, to use the words of our author on another page, " what 
other than military authority can exist in military institutions, 
we are totally at a loss to conjectured 

" The absolute necessity of their subordination to the commanding 
officer is too apparent to waste a remark upon, but some have enter- 
tained doubts whether their subjection to the executive lieutenant is 
equally clear. On this point we will briefly remark, that the execu- 
tive lieutenant stands in such a relation to the ship, that the purposes 
of order and discipline would be utterly defeated if the civil corps 
were allowed to impugn his authority." — Pamphlet, No. 1. 

The duties of "first lieutenant" of a ship in the navy of 
the United States are very nearly if not exactly the same 
as in the British navy, in which he is sometimes charac- 
terized as the Heutenant. 

* See Appendix. Letter of Commodore . 


But the office of first lieutenant or executive officer is not 
known in the laws or regulations of either the navy of 
England or of the United States. In fact, even the " Blue 
Book," or " Commissioners' Eegulations" does not recognise 
any difference whatever in the duties of lieutenants. With 
our author, it should be received as authority. According 
to the " Blue Book," there is no such office as that of " first 
lieutenant," as described by our author. Under the head 
" Of the lieutenant," is the following article (22), from which 
it may be inferred the commissioners did not contemplate 
that any lieutenant was to be charged with special duties, 
and be, on this account, excused from keeping a regular 
watch : — 

" 22. In the absence of the captain, the senior lieutenant on board 
the ship is to be responsible for everything done on board. He is to 
see every part of the duty as punctually performed as if the captain 
were present. He may put under arrest any officer, whose conduct 
he shall think so reprehensible as to require it, and he may confine 
such men as he may think deserving of punishment ; but neither he, 
nor any other lieutenant who may become commanding officer, is to 
release an officer from his arrest, nor to release or punish any man 
who has been confined — for this is done by the captain only ; unless 
he be absent from the ship with leave from the Secretary of the Navy, 
or from his commanding officer, in which case it is to be done only by 
the senior lieutenant commanding the ship in the captain's absence."* 

In this case he ceases to be lieutenant, and becomes 
virtually captain for the time being ; for the time, all the 
functions and responsibilities of captain devolve upon him. 

But suppose there is a first lieutenant by law : — Our author 
says, " It would be a difficult task to convey to one, not fami- 
liar with naval life, an adequate idea of the variety, extent, 
and responsibility, of the duties of a first lieutenant." " The 
first lieutenant is the deputy of the officer in command. 
Though the office of lieutenant is less responsible, yet it is 
far more laborious than that of the captain. He practises a 
general supervision of the whole ship, and attends particu- 

* Rules, Eegulations, and Instructions for the Naval Service of the United 
States, prepared by the Board of Navy Commissioners of the United States, 
with the consent of the Secretary of the Navy, in accordance with an act of 
Congress, passed Feb. 7, 1815, entitled '^An act to alter and amend the 
several acts for establishing a Navy Department, by adding thereto a Board 
of Commissioners." Printed by E. de Krafft, AVashington City, 1818. 


larly to proper cleanliness and regularity throughout the 
vessel. For this purpose, he inspects every part of her, once 
a day at least, and reports her condition to the captain. 
Besides this, his duties, as they are strictly practical, involve 
considerable labour ; as, for example, in stationing the men 
when the ship is commissioned ; in exercising them at the 
guns ; in regulating the expenditures of certain public stores ; 
in taking the immediate command when coming to an an- 
chor or getting under weigh ; in granting leaves of absence 
when the ship is in port," &c.* 

" Among his duties are the maintenance of the police and discipHne 
of the vessel, the preservation of cleanliness and decorum in every 
department^ the enforcement of the general laws of the service, and 
of the internal regulations, which are peculiar to the vessel ; and over 
all his acts the commander exercises a supervisory care. Now, it 
seems to be a very preposterous proposition, which would announce 
that the civil corps were above his control — that if he orders the drum 
beat to quarters, the purser and surgeon could pause to ascertain 
whose commands were thus proclaimed, before the one repaired to 
the cockpit, and the other to the wardroom ; that if summoned to 
the quarter-deck to attend general muster, divine service, or any 
more special duty, the authority from which these orders emanated 
could be safely repudiated and set at naught. It seems, in short, 
absurd to suppose that there could exist, consistently with the well- 
being of the service, such an anomaly, as a class of officers at once 
amenable to the laws and discipline of the ship, and free from the 
authority and control of the very functionary appointed to enforce 
law and discipline. Examples like those cited above might be multi- 
plied ad infinitum (?), but we have said enough to show that no 
reasonable doubts can be entertained on this head ; if there are 
doubts, they are of recent origin — they are the offspring of modern 
pretension, and are disavowed by the uniform practice and experience 
of the service." — Pamphlet, No. 1. 

Under the head of " Regulations for the promotion of dis- 
cipline, cleanliness, &c.," the Blue Book provides (Article 23) 
that each lieutenant shall be responsible, not only for the 
necessary supplies, and '' everything relating to the conduct of 
the men who constitute the division under his command," in- 
cluding morality, decorum, professional knowledge, and obe- 
dience, but also for the conduct, &c., of masters' mates and 

* A Manual of Dignities, Privilege, and Precedence. By Charles K. 
Dodd, Esq. London, 1844. .aiacaiawua 


midshipmen. And under the same head (Articles 18, 19), 
most of the duties claimed above for the first lieutenant are 
assigned to the captain. But our author does not seem to 
recognise any difference in authority between the captain 
and the first lieutenant : he seems to regard them as coequal 
in the right to command. He will find it difiicult to cite a 
statute which clearly shows that the first, or senior lieu- 
tenant, is " appointed to enforce law and discipline." It is 
believed a great deal is here assumed for the first lieutenant 
which captains, generally, will not be disposed to allow. 

The first lieutenant is the deputy of the captain ; but, as 
such, he has no authority to originate commands, except so 
far as may relate to petty details involved in the execution 
of the orders of his superior ; and he has no legal right to 
inflict punishment, in conformity to his own judgment or 
pleasure, even if his commands be disobeyed, by officer or pri- 
vate, while executing the instructions of the captain. The 
origin of authority or command in a ship is lodged in the 
captain exclusively ; and he alone has the right to hold any 
person responsible for their acts, either within the limits of 
his own legal power in cases of minor faults or offences, or 
through the agency of a military tribunal, in cases of grave 
import. Whenever the deputy inflicts punishment of any 
kind, without the special command of the captain, he is 
guilty of assumption of a power which the captain himself 
cannot legally delegate to him. This is the theory, and 
such is the law ; they are not altered by the fact that, for 
the sake of his own convenience and comfort, or other con- 
sideration, the captain does occasionally permit the first lieu- 
tenant to exercise the power of punishment, which is, accord- 
ing to the letter and spirit of the law, restricted to himself 
alone. The practice of delegating authority to the first 
lieutenant is daily becoming less frequent than it was some 
years since ; and, in conformity to law, the first lieutenant, 
like others, submits to the decision of the captain all cases 
which, in his opinion, require the coercive interference of 
authority or law. 

If the first lieutenant has an independent right to order 
the ship's company " to quarters," by beat of drum or other- 
wise, by a slightly increased assumption of power, he might 
also engage the ship in battle. If he has legal authority to 
order general musters of the crew, and divine service ) to 


place the ship in battle array, and to " enforce law and dis- 
cipline ;" to make and take in sail ; to come to anchor or to 
get under weigh ; if his duty is to do any one or all of these 
things, independently, it may be respectfully asked, what 
power, what authority are left to the captain ? and what are 
his peculiar duties ? Surely not merely to supervise the 
acts of the first lieutenant. When the drum beats to 
quarters, the command thus proclaimed, is presumed to be 
that of the captain, communicated through the agency of 
his deputy, the first lieutenant; and such, also, is the pre- 
sumption when general musters, divine service, etc., are 
ordered. But, if this notion be incorrect, and the captain 
remains tranquilly in his cabin while the drum-beat pro- 
claims the first lieutenanfs commands to quarters, by what 
law is his authority, thus impugned, to be enforced? 

The idea seems to exist in the mind of our author, that a 
first lieutenant cannot discharge the functions of his office 
without possessing a legal right of unlimited control over 
every person and everything in the ship ; yet it is presumed, 
were he to review the premises laid down by himself, he 
would modify very considerably his own conclusions. 

The purser has special charge of a large amount of public 
property of various kinds in the ship, to be expended in the 
public service. He guaranties the proper expenditure of this 
property and moneys intrusted to his keeping, not only by 
considerations for his character, like other gentlemen, but 
also by pecuniary bonds. He is really responsible for public 
property and moneys to the government alone, which holds 
him to account in an office of the Treasury Department. 
Besides the security derived from bondsmen, various checks 
are thrown upon his expenditures. He is required to submit 
proof that every article and every dollar have been properly 
expended. Under the head of pay, the proof is found in indi- 
vidual acknowledgments of the amounts paid; and under 
other heads, the signature of the captain in approval is suf- 
ficient to vouch for the propriety of an expenditure. But 
neither the first nor any other lieutenant can give him an 
available voucher. Even the " requisitions" for clothing, &c., 
furnished to the men, though signed by the lieutenants for 
their respective divisions, are not "vouchers" without the 
approving signature of the captain. The purser cannot law- 
fully expend any article of public property without the tes- 


timony of the captain; but the necessity of the captain's 
evidence of the propriety of his act, does not imply that he 
is responsible to the captain; and he certainly cannot be 
held responsible by the first lieutenant, who is not even com- 
petent to give him a voucher. The captain has a right to 
order expenditures by the purser, but always according to 
certain forms, even in cases where the expenditure is directed 
in opposition to the rules of the Navy or Treasury Depart- 
ments ; and it is compliance with those forms by the cap- 
tain, who thus becomes responsible for irregular expendi- 
tures, that the responsibility of the purser to the government 
is cancelled. But the first lieutenant possesses no such right. 
Having no power to direct or vouch for expenditures by the 
purser, it is at least fanciful to suppose he should have con- 
trol over public property in the purser's trust, or over the 
purser himself as to this matter. For the interests of the 
government and of the public service, it seems sufficient that 
the purser is subordinate to the captain exclusively. What is 
true in the case of the purser, is also true of the clerks and 
subordinates in his department, who should be bound to 
obey him in all things not inconsistent with law. 

The department of the surgeon does not require the inter- 
ference or control of the first lieutenant in any respect what- 
ever. The government reposes trust and confidence in the 
surgeon to perform the peculiar functions of his office, and 
has provided a mode of punishing him for delinquency in his 
duties, and has also established his. responsibility for conduct 
and expenditures in his department, not to the first lieu- 
tenant or captain, but to an administrative office of the 
government. In the treatment of the sick or wounded, in 
regulating the police measures of the place in which they 
repose, or in directing the acts of subordinate attendants 
upon them, he requires neither instruction nor advice from 
the first lieutenant, or any other officer of the line. He is 
competent to command all in his own department ; no con- 
trol of the first lieutenant over his acts could possibly assist 
him, or benefit the service. 

The right to exact obedience from a medical officer is not 
essential to obtain his professional services. If such right 
were essential, it would be absolutely necessary to assign 
medical officers the most inferior position in a ship or camp ; 
even below a side-boy or the youngest drummer-boy, for he, 

from disease or wounds, may have occasion to command the 
professional services of the physician. Military law has 
wisely provided a manner of compelling the medical officer 
to serve a side-boy or drummer-boy, as well as the commo- 
dore or general ; the latter can secure the punishment of the 
recusant medical officer under a charge of " disobedience of 
orders," but the former can attain the same redress under a 
charge of "neglect of duty." Therefore, the only reason 
assigned for making an exception to the precedence of assi- 
milated rank, in favour of first lieutenants, or of officers 
of the line while in command, or " commanding officers," 
namely, that the officer temporarily in command, without 
reference to grade or degree of lineal rank, should have pre- 
cedence, so that he may be able to exact the services of the 
staff officer, through a charge of disobedience before a court- 
martial, is inconclusive, if not fallacious; for the medical 
officer, who should disregard the request of a private, or of 
an officer junior or inferior in rank, could be as effectually 
punished for "neglect of duty," as for "disobedience of 

All that relates to the preservation of health, as well as 
all that relates to the cure of disease, should be under the 
control of the surgeon, who should be held responsible for 
his acts and the advice he may give. " The nature of the 
causes which act on health are not correctly understood by 
the generality of mankind ; and it is scarcely to be expected 
that those who comman.d armies (or ships of war) — ^who 
dedicate their time to perfect the tactics of troops, in antici- 
pation of the effect which arises from tactic in the conflict 
of battle; or, that those who administer government, and 
who, to manage with dexterity, devote their time and study 
to find out the propensities and passions of those who hold 
the strings of the national purse, which is the omnipotent en- 
gine in all national operations, can or will take the trouble 
to penetrate deeply into the study of an abstruse science, like 
that of health. The study of health is a study of value ; but 
it is not accompanied with the external splendour or political 
distinction which men covet. It requires great labour and 
some talent, to attain even the first principles of knowledge 
that relate to it ; and as correct knowledge is attained with 
difficulty, those who possess power, not submitting to be in- 
structed by those who have no power, except what arises 


from force of reason, follow their fancies, consequently err 
in the course which they pursue."* 

The application of Medical Science to the preservation of 
health has already lessened the hazard of life of those who 
frequent the seas. Of this there is abundant proof in the 
decreasing rate of mortality in the British Navy of late 
years. In 1779, the deaths were 1 in 8, annually; in 1811, 
1 in 32, and in 1836, 1 in 72. In the first years of the 
American Eevolutionary war 6064 men, mostly affected 
with fever and scurvy, were sent ashore from the channel 
fleet in the course of four months ; and on another occasion, 
2500 were brought into port, after a ten weeks' cruise. In 
the present day scurvy is almost unknown. It is said the 
gallant Lord Nelson, by precautionary measures, " kept the 
crew of the vessel he commanded in such perfect health as 
not to have lost a man by death in three years, and this too 
on the West India Station !" It is the province of the medi- 
cal officer to suggest measures for preserving the health of 
seamen ; it belongs to the commanding officer to give them 
due efiect.f 

The following brief history exhibits not an uncommon 
instance of the unfortunate effects of the exercise of power, 
and of influence of station over subjects which have not 
engaged careful study. Physicians can readily understand 
the bearing of the instances now brought forward upon the 
question under consideration ; and it is hoped they will en- 
deavour, in their intercourse with legislators in all parts of 
the country, to make them comprehend the value of medical 
science, properly applied in the public service. 

The U. S. ship Macedonian was fitted out at Boston in 
February and March, and sailed April 2d, 1822. She 
arrived at Havana on the 28 th of the same month, and, 
in consequence of the crew being diminished and enfeebled 
by deaths and disease, returned to Norfolk in August fol- 

A court of inquiry to investigate the circumstances which 
induced the captain to abandon the cruise, assembled at 
Charleston, Massachusetts, October 7th, 1822. The court 

* Jackson's Formation, Discipline, and Economy of Armies. London, 

f See, Ballingairs Military Surgery. London, 1844. 

consisted of Captains John Rodgers, Isaac Chauncey, and 
Charles Morris. 

The following summary is drawn from the testimony ad- 
duced before this court.* 

The frigate Macedonian sailed from Boston, April 2d5 
1822, and arrived at Havana on the 28th, and while she 
remained there that place " was reported to be remarkahly 
JieaWiyr Prior to sailing, the hold of the ship had been 
" sufficiently cleansed" and whitewashed ; and when care- 
fully examined at Norfolk, after the return of the vessel, 
it was found " there was not more dirt than usual in the 

On the voyage out many of the men suffered from " ca- 
tarrhal attacks," consequent upon a severe storm. " In the 
course of ten days after, there was a visible improvement in 
the health of the crew ; they continued to be better, their 
colds passed off, and when the ship arrived at Havana, there 
were from 18 to 20 sick," and none of them " were confined 
to their hammocks," and in the opinion of the assistant sur- 
geon, the crew were healthy. The ration of water was not 
restricted ; but the orders of the captain prevented a suffi- 
ciency of clothing for the purposes of cleanliness from being 
supplied to the men; and from the oOth of April until 
June 29 th, a period of two months, they were without 
both tea and sugar, and .were not permitted to have any, 
because they were " a little in debt" to the purser. They 
were allowed to sleep in the open air on deck during their 
watches at night. x 

While at Havana, the temperature of the air on the gun* 
deck was from 82° to 86°, and in the hold, it was supposed 
by one witness to be as high as 110° : the assistant surgeon 
testifies that it was so hot below, that he could not sleep in 
his room in the cockpit. The ship " did not get much air 
with her head to the wind," and was not hove up broadside 
to it, except for a short time, or a few days. " The breeze 
commenced generally in the morning, and continued till 
sunset," and at night it was calm, or nearly so. 

* Minutes of the Proceedings of the Court of Inquiry ordered by the Secre- 
tary of the Navy on the application of Captain James Biddle, begun and held 
at the Navy Yard in Charlestown, State of Massachusetts, on Monday, the 
seventh day of October, 1822. Printed by order of the Navy Department, 
from the Official Record. Davies & Force, Washington City. 1822. 


The ship was kept clean, but was damp between decks. 

Between the 28th April and 7th May, the captain ordered 
water to be let into the ship and pumped out daily; but being 
informed by some English officers that in the British navy, 
there was a standing order against letting water into their 
vessels at the port of Havana, he discontinued the practice. 
The water here " was very filthy and offensive to the smell ; 
there was a gelatinous substance on the chain cable when 
hove in," which appeared to be very offensive, and therefore 
the assistant surgeon advised that the chain should be washed 
before being stowed below. 

While in port the men were exercised at the great guns 
every afternoon at first, but subsequently, " immediately after 
breakfast," for three-quarters of an hour. A boat-race took 
place in the harbour, in which some of the men were em- 
ployed: "the man who was first attacked and died," says 
Dr. Chase in his testimony, " had been in a boal^race in the 
harbour the day before." 

The berth-deck was capable of accommodating comfortably, 
probably 200 men at most. By order of the captain, not 
less than 340 men were compelled to sleep " for two or three 
nights" on this berth-deck, with the air-ports closed, in order 
to punish some person or persons unhnown, who had cut a 
gun's breaching ; a most criminal act as all naval men know. 
This pimisliment (?) occurred before the appearance of the 
epidemic fever on board. 

It appears that, between April 2d and September 5th, a 
period of five months, of the 376 souls on board, 101 died, 
including 4 commissioned and 7 warrant officers, and among 
them was Dr. Cadle, the surgeon of the ship. During the 
illness of Dr. Chase, the assistant surgeon, when the sick 
were without medical advice, 35 of them died. 

The captain, who is represented to have been always 
solicitous for the health of the ship's company, attributed 
this sickness (yellow fever) and its frightful mortality, to a 
foul condition of the hold of the ship, and not to any, or a 
combination, of all the circumstances above related. At a 
muster of the crew at Havana he stated this opinion, and 
charged the officers of the navy yard at Boston with being 
the cause of the evil, through neglect to cleanse the hold 
properly, when fitting out the ship. The effect of the pro- 
mulgation of his views caused great despondency among the 


men, who reasonably believed that an unavoidable source of 
disease and death was in the ship. 

The members of this court give their opinion that the 
cause of the disease was sudden transition from a low to an 
elevated temperature; to remaining long at Havana, and 
letting water into the hold while there ; and permitting the 
men to sleep about the decks. " The want of additional 
clothing, of tea and sugar, and the despondency of the crew, 
which have been enumerated by the medical officers, in the 
opinions they have given, would not, in the opinion of this 
court, have produced in themselves any considerable injury 
to the health of the crew." 

It does not appear that the captain was officially censured. 
The illegal mode of punishment resorted to by him is not 
even alluded to in the opinion of the court. 

All the orders of the captain were intended, no one 
who knew him will doubt, for the benefit of the ship's com- 
pany, and even the illegal punishment was designed for the 
best. But the propriety of orders cannot always be esta- 
blished, simply on the ground that their intention was good. 
Although designing to do the best, a hundred lives were 
sacrificed, through a want of knowledge of the laws of life 
and health in him who self-sufficiently arrogated it, and 
exercised unHmited power. Had the captain been required 
by law to be governed by the opinion of the surgeon in all 
things relating to health, he would not have perpetrated so 
many acts directly in opposition to the most familiar laws of 
hygiene. Had a competent surgeon been associated with 
him, possessing rank enough to give official authority to his 
opinions, it may be safely conjectured there would have been 
no epidemic fever on board the Macedonian while at Havana, 
which at the time was remarkably healthy. It is stated that 
her cleanliness contrasted favourably with the condition of 
English and French ships of war in the harbour, on board of 
which, it is presumed, no disease prevailed, because it is not 
mentioned. Further, the conclusions of the court would 
have been different, had it included surgeons among its 
members. It laboured to establish a foregone opinion of the 
captain, that a foul condition of the hold of the ship was 
sufficient to account for the prevalence of malignant fever in 
the vessel, and, consequently, to censure those who supervised 
her outfit at Boston. The whole investigation depended for 


its successful results on a competent knowledge of the causes 
which influence health and life ; yet the government pre- 
sumed that this knowledge was possessed in a sufiicient 
degree by captains, and thus it virtually preferred the opi- 
nions of men on an intricate professional subject who had 
never studied it, to the opinions of those whose vocation re- 
quired them to be acquainted with it. The policy was surely 
bad, for men should not be held either officially or morally 
responsible, when required to utter opinions on matters which 
their profession does not embrace. Who would not rather 
trust a vessel to the guidance of even an imperfectly educated 
seaman on the ocean, than to the control of the most learned 
jurist who had never been out of sight of land ? 

The history of the blockading squadron in the Gulf of 
Mexico, during the summer of 1846, leads to a suspicion that 
the prevalence of scurvy, on board the frigate Earitan 
especially, was in a measure due to contempt of medical 
opinion at Washington. The newspapers of the time cen- 
sured the medical officers of the squadron. The New York 
Morning Express, of November 28, contains the following 
article : — 

" The last number of the London Medical Times, in an article on 
the reappearance of the scurvy, and alluding to its having been on 
board the Raritan, Potomac, and Falmouth, while operating in the 
Gulf, says, ' the American nation should demand the dismissal of the 
medical staff connected with' our naval service." 

But it is clearly shown, in the report of Dr. Foltz on the 
subject, published in " The American Journal of the Medi- 
cal Sciences," for January, 1848, that the censure is not 
merited. Among the causes of disease on board of the Raritan 
was imperfect ventilation, attributable entirely to the archi- 
tectural plan upon which the vessel was built; but the modi- 
fications of certain internal arrangements, recommended by 
the surgeon, to remedy this defect in part, were not ap- 

Though not printed, other instances might be adduced in 
corroboration of the inferences deducible from the case of 
the Macedonian above related. 

The writer has been told that the steam-engineers in the 
navy are often embarrassed through interference in the 
engine-room by such of the line lieutenants as are very im- 



perfectly acquainted with the theory and working of steam- 
engines. On board of a steamer, no other than an engineer 
should be permitted to meddle in the details of a working 
engine ; he alone should be held responsible for the condi- 
tion of the machine. In the English navy, the chief engi- 
neer is responsible for the condition of the engine room, and 
for the decorum of assistant engineers and stokers, all of 
whom are under his immediate control. 

" We mean that fundamental law, which looks exclusively to the 
most efficient means of accomplishing the purposes of the govern- 
ment, and which accordingly confers rank and authority not relatively 
to individual ambition, but relatively to this end. It does not pause to 
question the personal wishes of surgeons and pursers, but places them 
in subjection to the executive lieutenant, because the purposes of the 
law and discipline require it — it does not sink them below this level, 
and place them under the orders of the other lieutenants, because the 
purposes of the law and discipline do not require it." — Pamphlet JVo. 1. 

It has been shown, the law does not discriminate between 
lieutenants in a ship by assigning a different kind of duty 
and a wider range of power to the senior or first lieutenant. 
The act of 1800, the only law of unquestioned authority in 
the navy, is silent on the subject ; the section which distri- 
butes prize-money does not assign a greater share to the 
senior lieutenant than to others ; and if the mode of reasoning 
adopted by our authors be admitted, the rank and, conse- 
quently, the authority and duties of all lieutenants are alike. 
Therefore, to attain "the purposes of the government" in 
establishing a navy, surgeons and pursers should be placed 
below all lieutenants, although "the purposes of law and 
discipline do not require it." The questioned and question- 
able code of commissioners' regulations sustains this view, as 
already shown. The only printed regulations of the Navy 
Department which recognise an " executive officer" or " first 
lieutenant," are the General Orders (page 20), which our 
author terms "executive interruptions," and more than 
intimates his opinion that they are based on an unconstitu- 
tional assumption of power. 

But the practice now is to call the senior lieutenant in a 
ship, "executive officer," to excuse him from keeping watch, 
and require of him laborious duties, which, in strict accord- 
ance with the letter of the law, devolve upon the captain ; 


but the arrangement which gives him a deputy, relieves him 
from the necessity of attending to details. Whether there is 
an absolute necessity in the navy for the office of " first lieu- 
tenant," or " executive officer," beyond the provision (quoted 
above from the " Blue Book") which makes the senior lieu- 
tenant in a ship "commanding officer," during any brief or 
temporary absence of the captain, is a question upon which 
there may be a difference of opinion. Though the ques- 
tion is debatable, it is not the writer's design to discuss 
it ; but, if absolutely necessary, or even simply expedient, 
it would be well if the office were recognised by law, because 
it would render the duties of " executive officer" uniform in 
all ships, which is not now the case, some captains delegating 
less and others more of his duty to the senior lieutenant. 

It is not admitted, nevertheless, that there is any conclu- 
sive reason for placing surgeons and pursers in subjection to 
the executive lieutenant ; the assertion to the contrary not- 
withstanding that "the purposes of the law and discipline 
require it." It is enough to "place them in subjection" to 
the captain for all purposes of naval discipline and efficiency. 

"If the imperative necessity of this inferiority of station, in all 
that relates to military matters, really exists on what pretext are 
pursers and surgeons banding together to escape from it and rise 
above it, without first pointing out the means of obviating the necessity 
itself ? Why are they straining every nerve and using every influence 
in their inordinate desire for power and place, when they cannot ac- 
complish their end, without breaking through those salutary restraints 
which the experience of the navies throughout the world have imposed ? 
It is surely incumbent upon them to show that some public good can 
be achieved, apart from individual aggrandizement, before they seek 
to change the old beacons that have hitherto successfully guided us : 
they ought to make it manifest beyond all doubt, that the harmony 
and efficiency of the service will be ultimately improved, or that some 
other attainable general benefit is expected to follow, before they 
attempt a revolution in the habits, opinions, usages, and rights, that 
have always prevailed, a revolution that arrays one class against the 
other in angry strife and discord, and opens hourly new questions of 
dispute di}aoui precedence and authority.'' — Pamphlet, No. 1. 

No "imperative necessity" "really exists" for confining 
surgeons and pursers to the "inferiority of station" indi- 
cated by our author ; it would be absurd to attempt to obvi- 
ate that which has no palpable existence. " The experience 


of the navies throughout the world" is no doubt very great, 
and embraces a strong body of evidence of one kind or 
another on many points; but as that experience has been 
acquired under hereditary governments, autocratic or mo- 
narchial, its weight of authority is not perfectly applicable 
in fashioning the institutions of a republic, even if that evi- 
dence were in detail before us. It is believed the national 
legislature is sufficiently apt in comprehending the broad 
principles of republican government ; and it will never con- 
sent to incorporate any other than their spirit in republican 
institutions, whether civil or military. While conferring 
upon its various functionaries all power that is clearly need- 
ful to the discharge of their duties, Congress will not confide 
unlimited power to any. If the staff corps are "banding 
together" for any purpose, it is not to escape from the per- 
formance of any act within the limits of duty, but to over- 
come the depressing influence of those whose- acts have long 
exhibited, what seems to be " inordinate desire for power and 
place ;" and to break through " restraints" which are neither 
useful nor salutary to the public service. Although, in the 
opinion of our author, the experience of the navies of the 
world may have sanctified those " restraints," they are fast 
yielding, in those very navies, to the increasing intelligence 
of the people, and the power they are exercising over thrones, 
and even over despotism. But even the example of those 
navies, so confidently referred to, is against the conclusion 
our author has endeavoured to establish, namely, that rank 
and authority " are not given to the civil branch :" for in the 
navy of Great Britain surgeons and pursers have a defined 
rank and authority. In a joint letter addressed in March 
last to the Hon. William Ballard Preston, lately Secretary 
of the Navy, more than 140 gentlemen of the line invite 
attention to this fact; and indicate rather than express 
an opinion, that the General Orders assimilating rank should 
be revoked, although they say " we" were willing " to extend 
every mark of courtesy to a most deserving body of our 
brother officers." The communication alluded to has been 
placed before the naval committees of Congress. 

Our author thinks no " public good" can result from the 
establishment of assimilated rank. Whatever tends to pre- 
serve peace and harmony in a community, or to protect its 
members in their property and character, or to guard them 


against the exercise of illegal force or power, is a public good ; 
and in this sense alone, the establishment of an assimilated 
rank by law would be a public good in the navy, because it 
would probably set at rest, in practice at least, all differences 
of opinion on precedence. But in a more special point of 
view, the writer believes an assimilated rank for surgeons in 
the navy would be beneficial to the service. The language 
of a British author who died in 1827, in the 77th year of 
his age, expresses clear notions on the subject. " The rank 
accorded to the medical officer does not injure or even inter- 
fere with the military. Rank is of no intrinsic value in 
itself to a man of science ; but the opinion connected with 
the rank makes an impression on the soldier, which aids 
materially in giving force to medical authority, and conse- 
quently to medical utility. The soldier is accustomed to 
view things superficially, to estimate and judge by the exte- 
rior only ; for, as he is not permitted to reason and resolve 
to principle, the science of the medical art is less regarded 
by him, than the authority of the rank under which it is 
applied to him. For this reason we venture to assert, that 
if the medical officer stand in what may be called a degraded 
rank in military estimation, the usefulness of the medical 
art will lose much of its value as applied to a military sub- 
ject. The matter now under view is of some consequence to 
the interests of the army; and it is not, it is presumed, 
beneath the dignity of the higher powers of the state to 
consider it, if it be held to be a national concern to arrange 
the various departments of the army on a basis of justice 
and truth. Those who hold high official stations, and parti- 
cularly those who wield the sword, are strongly disposed to 
depress men of science; and, among others, the medical 
department (which is a department of science), has been 
degraded of late years, at least debarred from rising to a 
rank suitable to its importance. But, be this as it may, the 
history of our most brilliant campaigns will not permit our 
most celebrated generals to say that nothing is due to the 
medical staff, where that staff is permitted to act according to 
its judgment. The latter periods of the Peninsular war bear 
irrefragable testimony to medical value."* 

* Jackson on the Formation, Discipline, and Economy of Armies. Lon- 
don, 1845. 


Even in civil life, a certain position in society, or the in- 
signia of it, consisting chiefly of dress and equipage, seem to 
be necessary to give authority to the advice of the physician. 
This is so well understood that even pretenders, it is believed, 
are indebted for extensive practice in large cities, to visiting 
their patients in a showy four-wheeled vehicle, drawn by a pair 
of horses, driven by a coachman in livery, instead of going 
their daily rounds in an unpretending gig. The science of 
medicine is rarely pursued successfully as a business with- 
out a considerable money-capital. Physicians have seldom 
walked into a lucrative practice. People do not expect to 
find one possessed of ihe wisdom and skill of a Sir Astley 
Cooper, or a Physick, or a Dupuytren, in a coat out at the 
elbows, trudging by the wayside in hob-nailed shoes ; no 
stranger would confide in a physician who should present 
himself at the bedside unshaven, in soiled linen, coarsely and 
shabbily attired. The physician's advice is often valuable, 
and followed in proportion to the amount invested in his 
clothing, furniture, and " turn out," because they create a 
sort of visible authority which few patients fail to respect, 
and which still fewer are capable of justly appreciating. If, 
then, social position be necessary to give weight to the 
practitioner's advice, even among the intelligent and affluent, 
it may be conjectured, for analogous reasons, that the use- 
fulness of a surgeon in a military community will bear some 
proportion to the degree of his rank, which is to him there, 
what social style and equipage are in private life. 

Whatever tends to assist the surgeon, in the application of 
medical science to the preservation of health, and the cure of 
disease in the navy, also tends to increase the efficiency of 
the public service. This in itself is a public good. 

" Let us now consider the other circumstances of inferiority, those 
which concern ceremonial and etiquette. As everything has its ap- 
propriate use, the formal observances of ceremony in military institu- 
tions are not without their value. They were appointed, not to gratify 
individual pride, though such may be an « incidental consequence, but 
in part to serve as the distinguishing quality or badge of rank, and in 
part to invest state occasions with a certain degree of sober dignity 
and decorum. They constitute, in a general way, the ' pomp and cir- 
cumstance' which forms the prestige of the service, and thus captivate 
and impose on the imagination^ and produce a happy moral influence. 
So far as they are regarded as the insignia of the rank, it is evident 


that the civil class can claim no honours beyond those which belong to 
the rank they hold with any more reason than ^they could claim the 
uniform, or any other outward and visible token of a higher grade : 
so far as they relate to public parades or festive occasions, we see no 
sound reasons for assigning them an inferior place." — Pamphlet 
No. 1. 

The meaning of our author seems to he^ that the ob- 
servances of ceremony in military institutions belong alone 
to rank, and as the " pomp and circumstance" they constitute 
form the prestige of the service, which captivates and im- 
poses on the imagination, thus producing a happy moral 
influence over subordinates, it should be restricted to it. He 
has told us, in another place, rank has not been given to the 
staff corps, consequently they require none of the insignia to 
designate what they do not possess ; he truly says, " the civil 
class can claim no honours beyond those which belong to the 
rank they hold." 

The uniform dress given to the members of military com- 
munities was devised " not to gratify individual pride, though 
such may be an incidental consequence," but as a mark to 
characterize the grade to which each belongs. To borrow 
the terms used by naturalists in classification, for illustration ; 
— in the military kingdom, the hrancli navy is designated 
by peculiar buttons ; the family of ofiicers is characterized by 
swords at the side ; the tribe of commission officers, is known 
by epaulets on the shoulders, and the several genera of this 
trihe may be recognised by some characteristic difference in 
material, form, size, or ornament of the epaulets. Such is 
briefly the long-existing system of military badges, which 
indicate to all members of the military community the kind 
of ceremonial of respect with which the presence of each is 
to be acknowledged. For this reason, these badges are 
equally important to all, whether of the line or staff. After 
the general orders which confer assimilated rank were pro- 
mulgated, distinctive epaulets were added to the uniform 
of medical officers and pursers, so that, still to borrow natural 
history terms, the badges they wear clearly mark them as of 
the trihe of commission officers ; of the genus commander or 
lieutenant ; species surgeon or purser, &c. But some gentle- 
men of the line, supposing, perhaps, that epaulets served to 
gratify individual pride in medical officers and pursers, rather 
than any other purpose ; and believing too, that the multi- 


plication of these ornaments in the service tended to lessen 
the " pomp and circumstance," which captivated and imposed 
on the imagination when they were worn only in the line, re- 
quested the Secretary of the Navy, they might be excused 
from wearing them any longer, suggesting indirectly that 
epaulets should be thereafter worn only by lieutenants of the 
line, medical officers, and pursers. The following extract 
from a communication signed " An Old Captain," published 
in the "National Intelligencer" at the time, is a graphic 
picture of what was conjectured would be the effect of this 
innovation, and is also indicative of the kind of feeling which 
existed on the subject. 

" If these borrowed plumes be indispensable to non-combatants and 
inferior officers, if they are necessary to maintain their dignity and 
respectability in the navy, let them retain them by all means ; and if 
they cannot be respected without them, I would even allow them to 
put one additional epaulet on each shoulder for every ten years' 
service ; yes, they might cover their neck and shoulders as thickly 
with gold bullion as any New Zealand chief ever was with boar's teeth, 
if it would add dignity to the man, or skill to his profession. But at 
the same time that non-combatants and inferior officers of the navy are 
exalted, pray relieve the veterans of high rank from the pains and 
penalties imposed upon them by the annihilation of ancient and well- 
understood insignia of rank. It is no small matter or imaginary 
grievance to the captain of a man-of-war to be summoned on deck a half 
a dozen times a day to receive the captain of another ship, and when 
the visiter appears on deck, it is discovered that, instead of a captain, 
a junior lieutenant not out of his teens, or a doctor or purser, stands 
at the gangway, dumbfounded; and, if a .man of real worth and 
merit, mortified in the extreme that he should have been the cause of 
such unmerited parade and formality. All who have been thus duped 
retire from the deck in no very pleasant mood with themselves or any 
body else. Just then, and perhaps while descanting upon the absur- 
dity of the complained of innovations, a message is again received from 
the quarter-deck that Captain somebody is coming alongside. Well, 
it is said, a burnt child dreads the fire ; and, like the fable of the 
shepherd boy and the wolf, the officers so often duped by these decep- 
tive insignia remain quietly at their dinner or vocation below, till, lo ! 
a midshipman in a state of great trepidation, bawls out, as he descends 
the ladder. Captain is on deck. The captain, unless he hap- 
pens to be a very considerate gentleman, of great equanimity of temper, 
rushes on deck, in no very amiable mood, to receive and apologize to 
his visiter for the cold and disrespectful reception given him, and, in 
due time, if not on the spot, the first lieutenant gets it from the cap- 
tain, the officer of the deck from the first lieutenant, the midshipman 


from the officer of the deck, and, like as not, the poor quartermaster 
gets a dozen lashes on his hare hack^ with a cat-o'-nine-tails, and all 
because non-combatants and lieutenants of the navy now-a-days cannot 
maintain their dignity and respectability without being bedecked with 
two epaulets." 

Both the formal request, and this very excellent jeu- 
d^esprit, failed to effect their purpose : of course no quarter- 
master would be flogged for not distinguishing between the 
several kinds of epaulets. Yet, it might be well to con- 
sider whether the prayer of the petitioners should not be 
granted so far, at least, as to give a much more simple uni- 
form to the higher grades, both of the line and staff", than at 
present prescribed. It may be safely conjectured that no 
surgeon or purser of years is pleased to wear a showy uni- 
form, however strenuously he might contend, on principle, 
to have assigned him a uniform dress, corresponding in 
its badges with those with whom he may be assimilated in 

A recent pamphlet, entitled " A Few Thoughts upon Rank 
in the Navy,"* attributed to a junior lieutenant, refers to 
uniform in the following manner : 

" Dress is one of those adventitious aids which, like etiquette, is 
found in military life to be an available means of increasing respect 
for authority. For any other purpose than to give weight to his offi- 
cial position, the man who should walk in our puhlie thoroughfares in 
the garh of a navy lieutenant, would be justly looked upon as a har- 
lequin. It is the end above, which gives any dignity or respectability 
to the custom of covering our necessary clothing with patches of gold 
lace and stripes of bullion. Now in practice, it has always been found 
necessary to vary the dress of officers to whom different degrees of 
power have been delegated, so that the governed may know at a 
glance the character of the personage who challenges their obedience, 
and may pay those outward marks of deference due to the office. 
The mind of man, it would seem, can conceive no object for which a 
surgeon or purser need invest himself with these trappings, cumber- 
some in themselves, not beautiful to the eye, and, apart from their 
uses, the most absurd things imaginable. If the thing were stated 
for the first time to a gentleman not conversant with naval affairs, 
that civil officers wore all the outward badges of military rank, it 
would excite the greatest possible wonder. Slost persons, however, 
even in the navy, say that this is a small matter, and we will not 
dwell long upon it." 

* 8vo. pp. 18. Philadelphia, 1850. 


After stating the dates of changes made in naval uniform 
since 1830, the author continues : 

" But these same ghttering badges of militai«v authority now 
seemed to have charms for the civilians of the navy. This was sufl&- 
cient — an order from the Navy Department bestows all which is 
asked, and we now see the captain who, in 1815, captured the Cyane 
and Levant, side hy side with the youth who yesterday left one of our 
medical schools, alike rejoicing^ in their brilliant pair of swabs. 
Indeed, so absurd has become the appearance presented by the array 
of non-combatant military insignia, that some of our veterans have 
applied for leave to dispense with their epaulets altogether, and have 
got rid of some of their lace. If they succeed in the alteration which 
they wish, of course none of us can submit to the degradation of 
epaulets. Now how utterly puerile and unmanly all this seems. 
What we aver is, that there is no position in which a surgeon or 
purser in the navy can be placed^ where there will be any occasion 
for him to be clad in any other dress than that which the President 
of the United States wears in the city of "Washington. Their duties 
are purely civil — they have not one single iota of military authority 
which requires the factitious aid of dress, and will be always just as 
much respected in a black coat as in a lieutenant's uniform. The 
truth of this is evident from the circumstance, that the chaplains 
always wear blacky and are always treated [therefore ?] with the 
greatest consideration. We hear no complaints from them — on the 
contrary, they bear willing ivitness to the urbanity and courtesy with 
which they have been treated by officers. And this, too, without 
uniform^ or rank ; for no general order has yet ennobled them." 

* Navy Uniform Kegulation. — " Chaplain's Coat. — To be of dark blue 
cloth, with rolling-collar of black velvet, in other respects like the undress 
coat of the lieutenants." 1841. 

" Chaplains shall wear a black coat, with black velvet collar and the navy 
button now in use. (They need not, however, provide themselves with new 
coats until those they now have are worn out.) While performing religious 
services on the Sabbath, or on other occasions, on board vessels of war or at 
yards and shore stations, they shall wear the black silk gown usually worn 
by clergymen.^' January 20, 1844. 

^^ The Regulation of the 20th January, 1844, prescribing a uniform for 
chaplains in the navy, is so modified, that, in performing divine service, the 
chaplain may, in his discretion, wear a black gown, a plain black coat, or the 
uniform coat prescribed by that regulation." April 23, 1844. 

" All commissioned officers in the navy may wear a double-breasted blue 
frock-coat with rolling-collar, nine buttons on each side, and the usual num- 
ber of buttons on the cuffs and folds and shoulder-straps, according to their 
respective grades." 

Some chaplains avail themselves of this permission. 


To this is added the following, in a note : — 

" By the present uniform the most ridiculous mistakes are liahie 
to occuvj as seven different grades of officers wear epaulets, without 
sufficient distinction in other parts of the dress to prevent confusion. 
If it be said, that in giving lieutenants two epaulets, we follow the 
fashion of the English navy, we reply that by continuing the old style 
of one only, we should have followed the example of the Spanish ; 
and if foreign precedents are necessary, we consider the Spaniard 
as good authority in matters of dress and etiquette, as are the English 
in sound conservative views of naval discipline and efficiency." 

This is a tolerably fair spegimen of " A Few Thoughts upon 
Kank in the Navy," which is noticed simply to render the 
literary history of this controversy more complete. As the 
pamphlet urges views similar to those presented in pamphlet 
No. 1, it does not seem necessary to occupy space with any 
additional quotations from it; This gentleman strongly 
deprecates the idea of admitting to seats in a court-martial, 
gentlemen "whose business, and only business, it is to 
heal the sick ;" rather than see this, he says, " we trust the 
American navy may be disbanded," &c. 

It is seemingly incongruous to bedeck a physician in epau- 
lets ; but this ornament or badge is really not less in har- 
mony with the peaceful and benevolent nature of medical 
science, than the sword, gold embroidery, gold lace, cocked 
hat, and navy buttons, which have been long worn by medical 
officers in the navy, as well as in the army, without exciting 
condemnatory remarks by military men. The incongruity dis- 
appears, in a measure at least, on learning that such badges are 
not imposed on medical officers because they are physicians, 
but because they are members of a military community, and 
therefore required to conform to its fashions and laws. The 
same is true of military chaplains, who by the regulations on 
the subject, not very long since, wore hlite coats, with navy 
buttons. One who could treat indecorously a chaplain, 
knowing his office, might be suspected of being capable of 
impoliteness towards ladies : both are alike entitled to special 
respect on the ground that good breeding has determined, 
they cannot either give or reciprocate an affront under any 



" The object of this paper has been rather to discuss general prin- 
ciples than to descend into details. We will there^re forbear noticing 
more particularly the practical inconveniences and unhappy contro- 
versies into which the recent regulations have plunged us. It is 
believed these rules of assimilation [page 20], pernicious in them- 
selves, have been productive of more serious evils from the latitude 
with which they have been construed. It is thought they never con- 
templated an officer's being tried for disrespect to the surgeon as his 
superior, or a purser declining to superintend the passing of powder, 
his usual office at quarters, or of any other of the equally novel and 
startling events that have of late interrupted the harmony of the 
service. There is every reason to believe that notwithstanding mili- 
tary authority is denied in explicit terms to the class for whose benefit 
those regulations were framed, it has been ingeniously sought so to 
interpret them as to favour the claim to the exercise of authority of 
some kind, though what' other than military authority can exist in 
military institutions we are totally at a loss to conjecture. It is a 
general conviction, that the present combined, and systematic, and 
zealous efforts of the civil class are directed to objects more substan- 
tial" and positive than the empty honours of ceremony and etiquette ; 
to meet and defeat their purposes we have endeavoured to show that 
they already possess all the rank and authority that are needful for 
the effectual discharge of their duties, or that the convenience or ne- 
cessities of the service require." — Pamphlet No. 1. 

" The assertion that no difficulty has thus far been occasioned by 
the assimilation of rank is an error, as many cases which have 
occurred abroad will prove. We know at least of one instance which 
occurred in the gulf squadron, and are aware of a court-martial in 
the Pacific^ which found an acting master guilty of disrespect to his 
superior officer^ when said claim to superiority ivas based upon the 
assimilation of rank,'' — Pamphlet No. 2. 

The writer has reason to believe that the " acting master," 
found guilty by a court-martial for disrespect to a surgeon, is 
the author of Pamphlet No. 2, and, therefore, he has strong 
grounds for being " aware" of the case. The court was con- 
stituted of li7ie officers exclusively, and the accused is also of 
the line. It is presumed, therefore, if there was any dispo- 
sition to favour either the surgeon or acting master in the 
court, the accused would have been most likely to benefit by 
it. The author of the above paragraph does not question 
the justice of the decision or the sentence to be reprimanded 
and dismissed the squadron, but complains of the rule under 
which the verdict was found. The evidence of disrespect 


must have been very conclusive, or our author would have 
appealed. To unprejudiced minds it will most probably 
appear that this case alone is a cogent argument in behalf of 
the General Order conferring assimilated rank. The infe- 
rence is clear, that in the opinion of our author, a staff officer 
could not be subject to " disrespect," were it not for assimila- 
tion of rank ; and in this opinion he is probably correct, be- 
cause the solely unquestioned statute in the navy (the act of 
1800) provides penalty only for disrespect to a "superior 
officer;" and if the General Order had not defined it, the 
court might have dismissed the charge, on the ground that 
the statute does not explicitly assign any rank to surgeons, and 
therefore the superiority of the surgeon could not be ascer- 
tained. As far as this case bears upon the assertion of our 
authors, that assimilation of rank causes inconvenience, it is 
against their opinion ; and the finding of the court, as well 
as approval of it, and execution of the sentence by the com- 
mander-in-chief of the squadron, is conclusive evidence that 
all line officers in the navy do not agree with them in the 
notion that the "General Orders" (p. 20) are illegal. 

All the other cases of " practical inconvenience" resulting 
from assimilated rank, referred to by the several pamph- 
leteers, are similar in character. In fact the disagreements 
in question are not attributable to assimilated rank, as sup- 
posed ; but to reluctance on the part, of certain line officers 
to fairly construe the General Orders conferring it, or to yield 
obedience to them in accordance with a plain construction. 
The fact that legal authority is sometimes openly resisted, is 
not a conclusive reason for the abrogation of law and 

All the cases brought forward to prove the " practical in- 
convenience" of assimilated rank, will be found, on fair 
examination, to have been cases of disobedience of the 
General Orders of the Secretary of the Navy, which cannot 
be palliated by alleging, directly or indirectly, that these 
orders could not be obeyed without palpable injury to public 
interests, connected with the naval service. Allegations of 
such a character are at once negatived, by the undeniable 
fact, that in all cases in which those General Orders have 
been obeyed in spirit and to the letter, the public good has 
in no respect suffered. 

In opposition may be arrayed the declaration of a number 


of highly respectable line officers that the assimilated rank 
given has been " at the expense of the discipline and harmony 
of the service, and of the rights of officers who entered the 
service long before them." This declaration is made jointly 
by 25 captains, 43 commanders, and 79 lieutenants. These 
gentlemen have signed a general letter, dated, " Philadelphia, 
March, 1850," and addressed "To the Hon. Wm. Ballard 
Preston, Secretary of the Navy," in which they ask attention 
"to the ensuing remarks and subjoined communication."* 
The whole is printed, and has been in the hands of members 
of the naval committees of both Houses of Congress. It con- 
sists almost entirely of assertions; it contains no statement 
or argument which has not been fairly controverted in a 
printed " reply ."f Therefore the writer proposes to examine 
how far it should be regarded as testimony, to prove that 
assimilated rank is " at the expense of discipline." 

Of the 68 captains in the navy, 25 have their names ap- 
pended as vouching for this statement; but of the 25 no less 
than 12 have not been at sea since the orders in question 
were issued. Of these 12, one has not been at sea since 1807, 
and only one of them since 1845, the year prior to the Gene- 
ral Order of August 31, 1846. 

Of 97 commanders, the names of 43 vouch for the state- 
ment; but of these 15 have not been at sea since the General 
Order was promulgated. 

Of 327 lieutenants, 79 have their names appended to the 
letter; of this number 10 have not been at sea since 1846, 
and 14 are on what may be regarded as staff duty. 

It is believed that many line officers have declined signing 
the paper. 

In all probability, those gentlemen who have not been 
attached to sea-going vessels since 1845 have not had an oppor- 
tunity to know, from their own observation, anything on this 
point; and added the influence of their names at the request of 
their friends, upon whom they of course relied. Therefore the 
testimonials of at least 37 of the 147 would be ruled out in 
a court of law. But if no one of these witnesses was ques- 

* Assimilated Rank in the Navy, its Injurious Operation upon the Dis- 
cipline, Harmony, and General Good of the Naval Service. 8vo. pp. 13. 

-f- Reply to a pamphlet on the subject of " Assimilated Rank," referred to 
in a memorial submitted to the Secretary by sundry line officers of the navy, 
dated March, 1850. 


tioned as to his competency to testify, still they detail no 
case in corroboration of their statement, that assimilated rank 
is at the expense of the discipline of the service. They allude 
to one case, and to only one under the General Orders, which 
they characterize as " vague, indefinite, and impracticable" — 
"involving a military solecism without parallel, as recently 
exhibited in the squadron on the coast of Africa." 

This case was simply one of disobedience on the part of a 
lieutenant who refused to yield precedence to a purser who 
was his senior, in accordance with the General Order, both 
being of a mixed board, appointed to inspect provisions^ a duty 
more german to the staff than to the line. Had the lieu- 
tenant signed the report of the board heloio the purser, it is 
difiicult to conjecture in what manner the discipline of the 
service, or the public good, could have been impaired. The 
Secretary of the Navy, to whom the case was referred, had 
" no doubt that Lieutenant Keid assumed a precedence over 
Purser Heiskell directly in contravention of the regulation."* 

The case of Purser F , which occurred in the Pacific, 

is of a similar character : he complains that the General Order 
of May 27, 1847, was disregarded in not giving him due pre- 
cedence, in orders assigning him to duty on mixed boards for 
the inspection of provisions, &c. 

Under a notion that obedience to the General Order is im- 
practicable, the commodore avoided compliance with it. He 
argued the subject in kindly terms, and shows he has given 
some attention to the principles of military organization. 
He recognises "regular officers of the line;" but alludes to 
the staff under the name of " non-combatants,"-)- a term which 
seems to be inappropriate to designate those who supervise 
the supply of powder from the magazine to the battery during 

Philologists might find amusement in tracing the origin of 
this term in the navy of the United States. It is not sanc- 
tioned by use in the Queen's Regulations (1844), nor in the 
Commissioners Regulations (1818). To designate as a noiv- 
combatant any member of a military organization, the very 
purpose of which is battle, seems inconsistent ; if members of 

* See Appendix. Letter of Honourable J. Y. Mason to Commodore 

f See Appendix. Correspondence between Commodore and Purser 

S F . 


the line of an army or navy were officially recognised as com- 
batants, it might be conjectured it was not difficult to invent 
the name of non-combatants for the staff, but, as previously 
indicated, there are staff officers who do not necessarily en- 
gage in personal conflict, whose services are nevertheless 
indispensable to success in the field. There were combatants 
in the Olympic games who fought for a prize ; but they were 
not military men. The word combat conveys the idea of 
dealing blows reciprocally between two individuals or a 
limited number of individuals, who are styled combatants. 
The members of a universal Peace Society should be literally 
non-combatants; but there is no analogy between them and 
the architects, who erect forts or bridges ; or surveyors, who 
plot-out ground for camps or battle-fields, for the use of sol- 
diers. Technically, there are no such terms in military 
science as combatant and non-combatant. The ancient 
Board of Navy Commissioners, in an official report, dated 
January, 1821, in answer to a question by a naval committee 
of Congress, whether the marine corps could be economically 
reorganized, say, it is "properly a military question, and as 
they have never turned their attention to subjects of that na- 
ture^ they do not feel themselves competent to form a satis- 
factory opinion upon it."* It is probable, however, that 
military technology not being generally understood in the 
navy previous to that time, was really the cause of inventing 
the term non-combatant, the use of which might be dispensed 
with, simply because it may serve as the basis of invidious 

The commodore says truly, "no such rank or grade as 
executive officers is known to the law; every officer, what- 
ever may be his grade or rank in the navy, charged with 
the performance of any particular duty, becomes an ^execu- 
tive officer,' while he is executing the orders of a superior." 
The inference from the whole argument is that the operation 
of assimilated rank should not be impeded by an exception in 
favour of " commanding and executive officers" which was in- 
serted, it is said, as a compromise to the views of the line, 
and designed to apply to those officers, only on board of the 
vessels to which they are attached, but when detached on 
any special duty, such as courts, processions, or mixed boards, 

* American State Papers. Vol. Naval Affairs, p. 684. 


ceasing to be for the time, " commanding and executive offi- 
cers," their precedence would be determined by their lineal 
rank and the assimilated rank of the staff-officers associated 
with them in a procession, on a board, or on a court. Under 
this construction there would be little difficulty in complying 
with the order, the interpretation of which would have been 
less doubtful, had the words " to exercise military command," 
in the last paragraph, read, to exercise command in the line of 
the navy. 

The " one instance which occurred in the Gulf Squadron," 
referred to by the author of Pamphlet No. 2, if the writer is not 
mistaken in the allusion, had no direct reference to assimilated 
rank, although the contrary is currently asserted. A difficulty 
or misunderstanding did occur between an eminent surgeon 

and the captain of the frigate , while attached to the 

Gulf Squadron in 1846-7. The writer is authorized to quote 
from a letter, dated January 18th, 1848, addressed by the 
surgeon to a member of the Naval Committee of the House 
of Representatives. He says : " The fact is, sir, that my dif- 
ficulty with the late captain of the , was totally un- 
connected with the question of rank ; though I have good 
reason to believe that he has laboured to favour that version 
of the story as the one that can be told with least discredit 
to himself 

" I charged Captain officially (as it was my duty 

to do), with attempting to exercise capricious cruelty towards 
the sick of the ship. I conceive I have fully established my 
charge, and I have left it with the proofs, on record. Cap- 
tain 's charges against me were retaliatory ^ and un- 
supported by any testimony but his own word. They were 
dismissed by the Secretary of the Navy, and do not stand 
against me. The Secretary, moreover, by a formal act, re- 
lieved my character from all imputed censure, and restored 
me, with honour, to my position in the squadron. 

"Having consented, for the sake of peace and for the 
credit of the service, that no public investigation of this dis- 
reputable business should take place, I feel that it does not 
become me to agitate it anew, nor shall I do so, except in 
self-defence. I deposited at the time, in the Navy Depart- 
ment, a narrative of the facts as they occurred, with docu- 
mentary proofs sufficient to sustain it : and those papers are 
of course easily accessible." 



It is true that prior to the difficulty above referred to, the 
surgeon was assigned a position in a procession not in accord- 
ance with the General Order ; but the commodore, to whom 
the surgeon afterwards mentioned the fact, seemed to think 
the slight thus put upon him was " accidental and not inten- 
tional," and, therefore, the discussion was dropped, with a 
promise that it should be a subject of conversation with the 
captain who acted as marshal or master of ceremonies on the 

A recent case of difference of opinion on the true meaning 
of the General Orders, (page 20,) is referred to in the " com- 
munication" subjoined, to the general letter of officers of the 
line, in the following words : 

" The author of this pamphlet,* on the first page speaks of the 
issue which has recently arisen on this question of rank, between a 
commander and a surgeon, which caused the reference by the Navy 
Department to the Attorney-General. That commander's plea is on 
file in the Department, and it will show how unauthorized is the idea 
conveyed, that any influence was sought to be used afiecting the 
'• free and unbiassed exercise' of the surgeon's ^ own deliberate judg- 
ment' serving on the Board alluded to. Nor has anything of the 
kind ever occurred in the navy to justify, in the slightest degree, his 
indignant eloquence about ' striking a fatal blow at one of the most 
important and vital principles of law and justice.' There is no dispo- 
sition to have ^ united judgment' merged and swallowed up in the one 
man principle, which is justly execrated as the root and most bitter 
fruit of rank despotism. The author of this 'Appeal' could not have 
conversed with the eminent surgeon who served on the Board in ques- 
tion, he could never have received from him any grounds for these 

These sentences suggest a suspicion that all the 147 sign- 
ers of the letter did not examine this " subjoined communi- 
cation" before appending their names, because it is not 
probable that some of them would not have discovered that 
Dr. Pinkney does not put forth any one of the ideas thus 
attributed to him. His words, fairly interpreted, do not 
admit of the construction given them by the author of the 
" subjoined communication." They are as follows : 

* An Appeal to the Congress of the United States, concerning the Relative 
Rank of the Medical Officers and Pursers of the Navy. By Ninian Pinkney, 
Surgeon U. S. N. February, 1850. 8vo. pp. 10. George McGregor. Bal- 
timore, 1850. 


" Now, it will scarcely be denied, that the orders issued, conferred 
a relative rank that was to be enjoyed somewhere, at some time; that 
it was more than an unmeaning mockery, a mere empty shadow, for 
otherwise it would have been vain and useless to have inserted a clause, 
requiring the medical officer and purser to yield precedence to the 
commanding and executive officer. Why restrict the exercise of the 
right, if there be no place or time in which it could be exercised or 
enjoyed ? Is it not perfectly clear, that from this ver^ clause, that 
the claim to precedence must depend upon date of commission on all 
occasions not specified as prohibited by the regulations ? If not, then 
the regulation is an absolute nullity. By our construction, this rela- 
tive rank is to be enjoyed on all occasions, except w^hen the medical 
officer and purser are called to do duty under the special command of 
the ' commanding and executive officer' of the ship, post, or station, 
to which said officers are attached. Who commands upon a board of 
discipline ? Do not all sit as equals ; their rank being alone deter- 
mined by date of commission ? Must not each member, by the very 
nature of the duties to be discharged, be left to the free and un- 
biassed exercise of his own deliberate Judgment f A board resembles 
somewhat the juries of our land. Each interest is represented. The 
highest and most influential, in official dignity and power, can speak 
and act with no more authority, in the settlement of the question to 
be adjudicated, than the most insignificant of his official associates. 
For one moment, recognise the existence of ' commanding and execu- 
tive officers' upon boards thus constituted, and you strike a fatal blow 
at one of the most important and vital principles of law and justice. 
Let independent action cease to be the ruling element, and the beauty 
and true glory of the system vanish. The united judgment would 
be merged and swallowed up in the one-man principle, which is justly 
execrated as the root and most bitter fruit of rank despotism. If the 
medical officer and purser were not permitted to enjoy the benefit 
of rank upon such a board as that convened for the Naval School at 
Annapolis, I would like to know how they could claim it on courts- 
martial, surveys, and visits of ceremony ; and, if not in any of these, 
where ? The fact is, upon such a construction of the regulation, they 
would be effectually shut out, on all occasions, and at all times. This 
would be indeed a taunting mockery. For what is rank, when it be- 
comes a contraband thing, proscribed upon every spot, where it could 
be practically enjoyed?" 

Those gentlemen have given a special application to Dr. 
Pinkney's general argument, in which there is nothing to 
justify the assertion that an "idea is conveyed, that any in- 
fluence was sought to be used affecting the free and unbiassed 
exercise of the surgeon's own deliberate judgment.'^ They 
have totally misconceived the statement of Dr. Pinkney; 
they would not intentionally misrepresent him. 


In the autumn of 1849, a mixed board was assembled at 
Washington to devise rules for the Naval Academy at An- 
napolis. The board consisted of a captain, three comman- 
ders, a professor of mathematics, and a surgeon. The whole 
proceedings of the board were conducted in a spirit of entire 
kindness ; every member of the board evincing a zealous 
desire to accomplish satisfactorily the duty assigned it. 
There was no assumption on the part of any gentleman pre- 

There was a difference of opinion between Commander 

U and Surgeon R , as to precedence in signing the 

report of the board. 

Commander U first argued that the signatures should 

be placed in the same sequence in which the members were 
named in the precept of the board. 

Surgeon R was ready to agree to this, provided there 

were any evidence that the precept had been drawn in view 
of the question raised. 

Commander U next claimed precedence on the ground 

that he was a " commanding ofl&cer." 

Surgeon K objected that unless he could show he sat 

as a member, in virtue of his having been detailed from a 
command, the ground could not be admitted, because as a 
member of the board, he could not exercise authority as a 
commanding officer. 

This difference of opinion was discussed, it is believed, in 
kind feeling; at any rate there was no manifestation to 
warrant a contrary impression. It was agreed to present 
the report without the signatures of those two gentlemen, 
and to refer the question for decision to the Hon. Secretary 
of the Navy, as an " amicable suit," in the following terms : 

" Under the General Order from the Department, dated 
August 31, 1846 [page 20], which assigns an assimilated 
rank to medical officers. Commander U raises the ques- 
tion of precedence with Surgeon R in signing the report 

of a mixed board. 

" The present commission of Commander U , is dated 

February 27, 1847; that of Surgeon R , April 4, 1831, 

and, consequently, his assimilated rank as commander, dates 
from April 4, 1843, 

" The question raised is, which name is entitled to prece- 

It was agreed this question should be submitted without 
argument on either side. It was simply one of construction ; 
what is the true import of the General Order of August 31, 

Commander U filed a plea, in which he raises an ad- 
ditional issue, namely, as to the legality of the order itself. 

His plea sets forth, first, " That no departmental regulation 
can deprive" him of his " rank as established and confirmed 
by immemorial usage since the first organization of the navy ; 
that the department (for example) might, with the same 
propriety, and with equal justice, make" him " rank, after 
twelve years' service, with the junior post-captain, or a lieu- 
tenant, after a like term, to rank with commanders." 

Second, " That the regulation of the department merely 
states that surgeons and pursers of twelve years' standing 
shall rank with commanders. In no act or regulation is it 
stated that a surgeon or purser can in any event or under 
any circumstances take precedence of a commander. The 
regulations, by giving them assimilated rank with comman- 
ders, places them above lieutenants, but not above comman- 

In the first argument, it is assumed that the efiect of assi- 
milated rank, is to infringe lineal rank ; and as lineal rank 
has been established, the department has no authority to 
interfere with it by regulation or otherwise. 

The same point was brought forward and argued by Com- 
mander Goldsborough in 1848. "Walter Jones has shown 
that the question of executive authority in the premises has 
been settled, and is not open to discussion. He says : — 

" For the nature and extent of the discretionary authority, purely 
incidental to, and inseparable from, the executive power, and not all 
dependent on any special legislation to regulate and direct the subor- 
dinate departments, both civil and military, in all the details of their 
administration, and the reasons of public policy and necessity, on 
which such authority rests, have all undergone judicial investigation 
the most careful and thorough, and have all received the impress of 
the highest judicial sanctions known to our jurisprudence. 

" These judicial precedents have settled the nature and extent of 
this discretionary authority, not only as being incidental to ' the Exe- 
cutive power,' vested in the President himself, but as being alike inci- 
dental and necessary to the administration of the subordinate depart- 
ments, by their respective heads, the Secretary of the Navy among 


others, and without any special authority or direction, either from the 
President or Congress. 

" Let us, in the first place, examine the nature and extent of the 
discretionary authority conceded by these decisions to the heads of 
the Executive Departments, such as the Secretaries of War and 
Navy ; not as being derived from any special or direct sanction from 
superior authority, either executive or legislative, but as a merely in- 
cidental authority, inherent in the ofiice of a head of department. 
Then the Secretary of the Navy was held entirely competent to ap- 
point one of the regularly salaried clerks of the Department to per- 
form the duties of paymaster of the Navy Pension fund, and to allow 
him an extra salary for such extra service ; and in answer to the 
objection that there was no law authorizing the appointment of such 
paymaster, the Court said, ' The head of a Department is not bound 
to show a statutory provision for every authority exercised by him. 
No government could be administered on such principles. To attempt 
to regulate by law the minute movements of the complicated machine 
of government, would evince unpardonable ignorance on the subject.' 
(McDaniels' case, 7 Pet. Rep. 14. Fillebrown's case, ibid. 30.) 

" So in General Ripley's case, (ibid. 25) the Secretary of War was 
held competent, of his own authority, and at his mere discretion, to 
assign a Brigadier-General of the Army, the extra duty of making 
certain disbursements (a Paymaster's duty) ; of preparing plans of 
fortifications (an Engineer's duty); and of forwarding supplies of 
provisions for troops (a Commissary's duty) ; and to allow him extra 
pay for the same. * The amount of compensation for military ser- 
vices,' said the Court, 'may depend in some degree on the regulations 
of the War Department.' But the gallant General failed to establish 
his set-ofi" merely because he had not produced ' either regulations of 
the War Department or instructions from the President,' imposing on 
him the duty and authorizing him to expect extra compensation for 
the performance of it. 

" The authority sanctioned in those cases, though the circumstances 
on which it acted were not precisely the same as in the present case, 
must be held by the strictest analogy, not a whit less in quality or 
degree than the authority exercised by the Secretary of the Navy, 
w^ith the President's sanction, in the present case. 

*'But if that were at all doubtful, into what insignificance does the 
order now in question dwindle, before the wide sweep of discretionary 
authority, we might say of Executive legislation, apparent in the 
successive volumes of Army regulations issued from the War Depart- 
ment at difi"erent times, from the year 1813 to 1825 ; and especially 
in the regulations of 1821 and 1825. Yet the Supreme Court say, 
in General Gratiot's case (4 How. 117, 118), that the Court has re- 
peatedly decided that these regulations have the force of law ; and 
that the particular regulation, then in question, is as obligatory as any 
of the rest. That was Article 67, Section 888, in the regulations of 


1825 ; which, resting merely on executive authority and discretion, 
superadded to the legally defined duties of the Colonel of the Engi- 
neer corps (duties exclusively military in all their aspects and rela- 
tions), the laborious duties of a civil engineer in superintending the 
execution of roads, canals, &c., carried on at the expense, and for the 
exclusive profit of private individuals and corporations. It might, 
perhaps, be inferred, with great show of reason, that if these offices 
of civil life could be imposed on military officers, at the discretion of 
the Executive, so might military functions be assigned, at the like 
discretion, to the civil staff of the army or navy ; and, consequently, 
military rank imparted to them."* 

If the General Order of August 31, 1846, is illegal, the 
question of precedence is of course solved, and medical offi- 
cers are left without a position relatively to the line. Then, 
too, the General Order of May 27, 1847 (page 20), which 
assigns an assimilated rank to pursers, as well as the General 
Order of August 14th, 1846,f which creates a grade of mas- 
ters in the line of promotion, are null and void. 

The plea claims that Kneal rank in the navy was esta- 
blished and confirmed by immemorial usage, and implies that, 
therefore, assimilated rank cannot be established by regula- 

Our common law is said to be derived from Great Britain. 
To be available in law, a custom must be sanctioned by gene- 
ral consent, and be undisputed for a very long period — cer- 
tainly of not less than twenty years. Next, if it exists, its 
legality must be established ; for, if it is not a good custom, 
it ought to be no longer used. A usage or custom to be 
immemorial in England must " have been used so long, that 
the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. So that if 

* Observations on Certain Objections to the General Order of the Secre- 
tary of the Navy, conferring Assimilated Rank on the Surgeons and Pursers 
of the Navy. By Walter Jones. Washington: 1848. 

f '^ General Order. — Vacancies in the grade of masters may he filled by 
the oldest passed-midshipmen who are worthy of advancement. 

"The fitness of the senior passed-midshipmen for advancement may be 
established by an examination, or by the records of the Department, or by 
the testimony of the ofiicers under whom they have served, or in such other 
manner as may be deemed proper. Those who may be found not suited to 
be advanced, may be placed on furlough or dropped from the list. 

" The masters thus appointed will receive regular warrants, and will also 
remain in the line of promotion. 

" George Bancroft. 

" Navy Department, August 14, 1846." 


any one can show the beginning of it, it is no good custom 
[in law]. For which reason no custom can prevail against 
an express act of parliament, since the statute itself is a 
proof of a time when such custom did not exist." " Now 
time of memory hath been long ago ascertained by the law 
to commence from the beginning of the reign of Eichard the 
First ; and any custom may be destroyed by evidence of non- 
existence in any part of the long period from that time to 
the present.'"^ 

On these principles immemorial usage in the navy of the 
United States, cannot be established on this point, because 
the statutes exhibit the origin of the navy itself Besides, 
if it is pretended that the existence of lineal rank is neces- 
sarily exclusive of assimilated rank and was established by 
custom, it has already been shown that the custom has been 
disputed since 1816 at least, and is, therefore, not a good 
custom. Indeed, the fact that the captain makes regulations 
peculiar to the ship he commands for the cruise, precludes 
the existence of almost any custom common to the entire 

But, even if it be demonstrated that lineal rank in the 
navy exists, both by law and usage, it is not a conclusive 
argument against the establishment of assimilated rank by 
act of the executive or legislative power. It is not admitted 
that any usage is paramount to legislative authority : change 
may be made either because it is clearly right, or simply be- 
cause it is expedient. 

Even if customs in the English navy were admitted to be 
indisputable authority in ours, those customs cannot be 
traced back to the reign of Eichard I. Prior to the reign of 
Charles II., (1660,) " no state, ancient or modern, had, before 
that time, made a complete separation between the naval 
and military services." " Great fleets had been entrusted to 
the direction of Eupert and Monk; Eupert, who was re- 
nowned chiefly as a hot and daring cavalry oflicer; and 
Monk, when he wanted his ship to tack to larboard, moved 
the mirth of his crew by calling out, ' Wheel to the left.' "f 
About this period, in the reign of Charles II. a line was 
drawn, which may be regarded as the origin of the British 
navy. But even then, the English government not only 

* Blackstone^s Commentaries. The reign of Eichard I. began about the 
year 1189. f Macaulay's History of England. 


continued to distribute high naval commands among lands- 
men, but selected for such commands landsmen who, even 
on land, could not safely have been put in any important 
trust. "In 1666, John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, at seven- 
teen years of age, volunteered to serve at sea against the 
Dutch. He passed six weeks on board, diverting himself as 
well as he could, in the society of some young libertines of 
rank, and then returned home to take command of a troop of 
horse. After this, he was never on the water till the year 1772, 
when he again joined the fleet, and was almost immediately 
appointed captain of a ship of eighty-four guns, reputed the 
finest in the navy."* It was impossible to trust the working 
of a ship to such novices, and, therefore, the direction of 
navigation was given to the master. This gave rise to 
wrangling ; and the captain, confident in proportion to his 
ignorance, treated the master with lordly contempt. In 
those days, w^hen naval usage began, the officers were un- 
couth in deportment. " There was roughness in their very 
good-nature ; and their talk, where it was not made up of 
nautical phrases, was too commonly made up of oaths and 
curses. Such were the chiefs in w^hose rude school were 
formed those sturdy warriors from whom Smollet, in the next 
age, drew Lieutenant Bowling and Admiral Trunion. But 
it does not appear there was in the service of any of the 
Stuarts, a single naval officer such as, according to the no- 
tions of our times, a naval officer ought to be, that is to say, 
a man versed in the theory and practice of his calling, and 
steeled against all the dangers of battle and tempest, yet of 
cultivated mind and polished manners. There were gentle- 
men and there were seamen in the navy of Charles II. But 
the seamen were not gentlemen, and the gentlemen were not 
seamen. "f 

From that period to the present, the manner of doing 
almost everything in the English navy has changed, and 
there has been a steady, though slow, improvement in the 
condition of all in the service, partaking somewhat of the 
nature of the condition of affairs on shore. The spirit of the 
age is in favour of amelioration and improvement every- 
where, and as intelligence becomes more universal on land, 
it will extend its influence over nautical affairs, and nothing 

* Macaulay's History of England. f Ibid. 

can be preserved, simply because it is a custom or usage, 
unless it can be demonstrated to be intrinsically right and 

To show the impropriety of the orders in question, it is 
asserted, in the first part of the plea, that to make a com- 
mander after twelve years' service rank with the junior cap- 
tain, or to make a lieutenant after twelve years' service rank 
with a commander, would be as proper and just as to assimi- 
late in rank with commanders, surgeons, and pursers, after 
twelve years' date of commission. 

In a military organization the lineal grades of captain, 
commander, and lieutenant, cannot be classed with each 
other; they are necessarily successive in authority, and there- 
fore, cannot be assimilated. Their mutual relations are de- 
termined by their lineal rank. It would be supererogatory 
at least, to confer assimilated rank on officers whose lineal 
rank already establishes their positions relatively to each 
other. There can be no necessity for classing in the same 
rank commanders and captains, or lieutenants and com- 
manders; or assistant-surgeons and surgeons, because staff 
rank determines the mutual relations of the latter. But it 
is not a consequence, therefore, that it is either unjust or im- 
proper to confer an assimilated rank on staff officers whose 
grade and date of commission do not define their position 
relatively to line officers, i J)" >{ nootrto iuM^/ta 

In the second plea, CommaTlder U ^ ' contends that the 
General Order (page 20), by giving surgeons " assimilated 
rank with commanders, places them ahove lieutenants, but 
not above commanders." If this construction be admitted 
here, then the same Order, which assimilates in rank " sur- 
geons of less than twelve years with lieutenants," places 
them above masters, but not above lieutenants, and virtually 
gives them the same assimilated rank as passed assistant 
surgeons, who are placed by the General Order, " next after 
lieutenants." In a word, his reading of the Order seems to 
be thus : Surgeons of the fleet and surgeons of more than 
twelve years will rank "next after commanders; surgeons of 
less than twelve years, next after lieutenants ; passed assis- 
tant surgeons, iwxt after lieutenants ; or, surgeons of less than 
twelve years, and passed assistant surgeons will rank next 
after lieutenants, which is surely not the import the author 
of the order designed to convey. 


The construction of the writer is that the words, " Sur- 
geons of the fleet and surgeons of more than twelve years, 
will rank with commanders," mean, they shall rank with 
commanders according to date of commission under all cir- 
cumstances, except where a commander is in legal command 
of a vessel, a post or station to which the surgeon is attached 
for duty, in which case the commander has precedence with- 
out regard to date. On mixed boards, surveys, and courts, 
no officer is, in fact, in command ; the authority of the pre- 
siding officer being limited to directing the order of busi- 
ness, &c. 

No additional remark is necessary to reply to the argu- 
ments recently advanced at Norfolk.* 

No one will fail to perceive that the Department, over- 
looking the General Order, through inadvertence, in draw- 
ing the precept for the board, was the remote cause of the 
question of precedence being raised by the commander and 
surgeon on that occasion. Had the Secretary promptly de- 
cided the question, the controversy would have been ended ; 
but being left open, it provoked argument and fostered a no- 
tion that the Department itself was indifferent whether its 
own order was obeyed or not, and it possibly encouraged 
those gentlemen who are opposed to placing the staff corps 
in the navy on any other footing than that of courtesy of 
the line, to make a second united effort to procure an un- 
conditional revocation of the orders in question. 

It has now been shown, in the opinion of the writer, that 
all the cases of alleged difficulty and inconvenience have 
arisen, not from assimilated rank in the navy, but from diffe- 
rent modes of construing the orders which confer it, by staff* 
officers and those of the line. 

But the joint letter of the line officers states that assimi- 
lated rank in the army does not work well, and to sustain 
this statement, the last annual report (1849) of the Secre- 
tary of "War is incorrectly construed and referred to : the 
report reads thus : — 

" Another inconvenience resulting to the service is the anomalous 
position of officers holding staff commissions which confer rank. These 
officers are not considered by established usage as eligible to the com- 
mand of troops, unless specially assigned, whilst at the same time 

* See Appendix. 

they claim exemption from the orders of their juniors in the line who 
succeed to such commands. This state of things is calculated to in- 
jure the service, by a suspension, for the time being, of the functions 
of staff officers in cases where a junior line officer exercises the com- 
mand. To obviate which it is suggested that a law be enacted re- 
quiring officers of the general staff, serving with troops, to execute 
according to their respective duties, all orders, emanating from the 
senior officer of the line which may relate to the discipline, police, 
and good order of his command, and for which he alone is respon- 

The joint "communication" says, "These officers, [he goes 
on to state], though not eligible by usage to command troops, 
unless specially assigned, have claimed exemption from the 
orders of their sufperhrs [the Secretary says, juniors in the 
line'] who succeed to such commands." 

A little examination of the extract from the report of 
the Secretary of War shows that " officers holding staff com- 
missions which confer rank," mai/ he assigned to the com- 
mand of troops, by order of the President or Secretary of 
War, but that those officers do not usually assume command 
in the line, although thej may be of a higher grade or of a 
senior date to a line officer present in command, but they 
are unwilling that their legal rank should be suspended in 
effect, whenever, by accident or otherwise, a detachment 
from the army in which they serve falls under the command 
of a line officer who is below the grade of the line, to which 
the command of such detachment or post may rightfully 
belong. It may be a debatable question, whether the expe- 
dient suggested by the Secretary is just to staff officers, or 
whether, if it be just to make their rank dependent on a 
contingency of service, the plan proposed will remedy the 
inconvenience complained of The Department may have a 
remedy without sacrificing the rank of the general staff, 
simply by respecting that rank when it details officers for de- 
tachments, always placing in command an officer of the line 
of sufficient grade and rank to remove every plea for insubor- 
dination by those staff officers it may associate with him. 
If a captain of the line be assigned to command a post, let 
the staff officers selected to serve under him be of an infe- 
rior grade or junior rank in the grade of captain. Respect 
for rank in the line always prevents the Department from 

* Report of the Secretary of War. November 30, 1849. 


requiring seniors of the line to serve under a junior : it is 
conjectured that a major of infantry, or of artillery is never 
required to serve under the command of a captain of ca- 
valry, although that captain, in the opinion of the Depart- 
ment, were in every respect better qualified to command for 
the special service, than any major or lieutenant-colonel in 
the army. It may be presumption in the writer to suppose 
that the assimilated rank of staff officers should be as much 
respected in the Department as full lineal rank; and that 
no description of rank in a military organization should be 
contingent upon circumstances. 

Among the general objections to assimilated rank in the 
navy, the following statement is made in the joint communi- 
cation of line officers, which is quoted with approbation by 
the author of "A Few Thoughts upon Rank in the Navy;" 
but its relevancy to the subject is not clearly perceived by 
the writer. 

" From the Resolution passed in July, 1777, that surgeons should 
receive the pay of the lieutenants of the ships to which they respec- 
tively belonged, and from the Act of March 30th, 1812, making 
pursers commissioned officers, the condition of both has been steadily 
ameliorated. The establishment of medical hoards of examination, 
by which the corps chooses its own members ; the creation of the 
grade of fleet surgeons ; that of passed assistant surgeons ; an in- 
crease of pay in 1828, seven years before the general navy pay bill 
was passed, when it was again largely augmented," kc. &c. 

Were the gentlemen familiar with the general condition 
of medical education in the country, it is believed, they 
would perceive that all the benefits from the establishment 
of medical boards of examination accrue to themselves and 
the service, although the incidental effect is undoubtedly to 
increase the professional competency and respectability of 
the medical corps. But the estabhshment of these boards 
is due mainly to the enlightened efforts of the late Hon. 
Samuel L. Southard, while Secretary of the Navy. The 
following extracts are from his report on a naval peace esta- 
blishment, January 24, 1824. 

" No portion of the present system requires more amendment than 
the surgical department, in reference as well to the manner of admis- 
sion into it as the government and payment of it. No one ought to 


be appointed surgeon's mate until after a satisfactory examination, 
proving his competency, and no mate to be made a surgeon, until he 
has, by sufficient service and another examination, proved that he is 
worthy of promotion." * * * * "This system, 

while it renders justice to those who have performed duty, will, it is 
hoped, induce zeal in acquiring science, and secure the active and 
entire services of skilful men, on whom so much of the comfort and 
success of the navy depend. Guided by the reasoning applicable to 
the case, and by experiments made elsewhere, it is believed that a 
large saving may be effected by detailing one or more intelligent sur- 
geons to purchase the medical stores and supplies, direct such as are 
fitted for the size of the vessel, and the nature and length of the voy- 
age, and guard against ignorance and extravagance in that depart- 

But prior to this period, the Hon. Smith Thompson, in 
December, 1819, recommended an increase of pay, and an 
establishment of grades for medical officers. He said : — 

" Whether the compensation now allowed is sufficient to call into 
the service talents and learning which its importance demands, is re- 
spectfully submitted. A division of these officers into classes, accord- 
ing to the rate of the vessel in which they shall serve, it is thought 
would be beneficial, and is suggested for consideration; and this 
would afford a just standard by which to regulate their pay. The 
designation of some officer to be placed at the head of this class of 
officers, and who should have the immediate superintendence of this 
branch of the service, under regulations for that purpose to be esta- 
blished, it is believed, would contribute much to the benefit of the ser- 
vice, "f 

This may be regarded as the history of the circumstances 
which laid the foundation of the system of medical boards 
of examination ; the several grades in the medical corps, and 
last, the creation of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. 
But in what manner these facts form an objection to the 
establishment of an assimilated rank for medical officers in 
the navy, is not perceived by the writer. 

Another general argument against assimilated rank is the 
slow rate of promotion in the line. It is urged, for instance, 
that it is unjust to assimilate a surgeon or a purser, after 
twelve years' service, in rank with a commander, because an 
individual serves in the line say ten years as midshipman, 

* American State Papers. Vol. Naval Affairs. f Ibid, 


and twenty years as a lieutenant, before attaining the lineal 
grade of commander. Under this view it was proposed by 
certain line officers, as previously stated (page 20), that no 
surgeon should attain the assimilated rank of commander 
until twenty years after the date of his commission. If as- 
similated rank conferred authority to command in the line, 
or in any manner interfered with promotion in the line, the 
argument would have force. But if instead of twelve years, 
a purser were required to serve forty years before attaining 
assimilated rank as commander, such an arrangement would 
not accelerate promotion in the line ; nor would promotion in 
the line be retarded, if the purser were appointed at once with 
assimilated rank, even as captain. For the sake of illustrar 
tion an extreme case is suggested. Suppose, circumstances 
demand such increase in the grades of captain and commander 
as to require, by the rule of seniority, the promotion of the 
junior lieutenant in the navy and several of the older passed- 
midshipmen to the latter grade. It would be unavailing to 
urge against such promotion that, as the majority of cap- 
tains are advanced in life and have been thirty-five years 
in the navy, it would be unjust to them to promote to the 
grade of commander, gentlemen who have been only ten 
years in the service. And supposing, too, that at the time 
of this extraordinary demand for officers in the higher grades, 
surgeons attained assimilated rank of commander after being 
twenty years in the navy, it would be absurd to argue, it 
would be unjust to them, to advance any gentleman of only 
ten years' service to the lineal rank of commander. 

If assimilated rank as commander may be conferred on staff 
officers after twenty, or even thirty years' service, without 
injury to those possessed of lineal rank, it may be conferred 
at any period, even from the hour of appointment. 

The author of "A Few Thoughts upon Rank in the Navy" 
objects to the admission of assistant surgeons to the ward- 
room mess on similar grounds. He says, "About the year 
1844, an order was issued, that assistant surgeons were to be 
considered thereafter ward-room officers; thus putting a 
marked slight upon the whole of that deserving grade of 
officers, the passed-midshipmen, who, after serving a hard 
apprenticesliip of ten and twelve years, were thrust coolly back, 
to make way for a new-fledged medical graduate." 

The condition of assistant surgeons in the British navy 


has, within a few years, attracted attention of the medical 
profession in England. The resistance of the admiralty to 
the measures proposed in behalf of medical officers has ren- 
dered it so difficult to fill the grade of assistant surgeons that 
it has been proposed to lower the standard of professional 
qualifications for admission into that grade. It is believed, 
such a course would not be generally approved in the navy 
of the United States. 

The writer has endeavoured to show : 

1. There are, in fact, no civil officers in the navy, or in 
any other military organization. 

2. A navy may be divided into a line and staff , like an 

3. The staff" officers in the navy of the United States have 
no position relatively to the line, by law. 

4. An assimilated rank may be advantageously established 
in the navy. 

5. The office of executive officer, which is believed to be 
proper, does not exist, but should be estabUshed by law. 

6. It is not necessary for the sake of naval discipline, or 
the public good, that staff* officers should be in all things sub- 
ordinate to such executive officer. 

7. None but clearly understood terms of specific and ap- 
propriate meaning should be employed in legislation upon 
the subject. 

8. The difficulties which have been attributed to the Ge- 
neral Orders, conferring an assimilated rank in the navy, 
are, in fact, due either to a misconstruction of those orders, 
or to a disinclination to observe them, by officers of the line. 


Those unacquainted with the details of military organiza- 
tion, may smile at a controversy on a question which seems 
to involve, merely the position of a name signed to a joint 
report. But it is deemed worthy of consideration, even in 
certain civil acts of the government, as may be inferred from 
the following extract from an official document : 

" It is the practice of European governments, in drawing up their 
treaties with each other, to vary the order of naming the parties, and 
that of the signatures of the plenipotentiaries, in the counterparts of 
the same treaty, so that each party is j&rst named, and its plenipoten- 


tiary signs first, in the copy possessed and furnished by itself. And, 
in treaties drawn up between parties using different language^, and 
executed in both, each party is first named, and its plenipotentiary 
signs first, in the copy executed in his own language. This practice 
having, on several occasions, been accidentally or inadvertently omit- 
ted to be observed by the United States, the omission was followed by 
a disposition in the negotiators of certain Royal European govern- 
ments to question its applicability to treaties between them and the 
United States. It became, therefore, proper to insist upon it, as 
was accordingly done with effect. As it is understood to involve a 
principle, it is to be considered as a standing instruction to the diplo- 
matic agents of the United States to adhere to this practice, called 
' alternate,^ in all cases where they shall have occasion to sign, in their 
public capacity, any treaty, convention, or other document, with the 
plenipotentiaries of other powers." 

The following incident is pertinent to this point : — 

" In 1844, the Hawaaian government issued a proclamation, esta- 
blishing a code of etiquette, in which the following order of prece- 
dence was assigned the representatives of their respective nations : — 
1. United States; 2. Great Britain; 3. France. Although some 
such arrangement was necessary in so jealous a community, its grave 
formality had rather a burlesque air ; but the British government has 
imparted dignity to it by the following protest : — 

" ' With regard to the code of etiquette and diplomatic precedence, 
promulgated in July, 1844, her majesty's government regret the 
charge or act which gives a fixed and permanent preference to the 
United States over Great Britain, upon the plea of the prior recogni- 
tion of the Sandwich Islands by the United States, and require that 
this clause be forthwith cancelled. 

" ' Her majesty's government further declares, that the Commis- 
sioner of the United States unless he be expressly designated in his com- 
mission as charg^ d'affaires, is entitled to no precedence whatever over 
the British Consul-General at the Hawaaian Islands, under the regu- 
lations of the Congress of Vienna, whether the commissioner be enti- 
tled diplomatic commissioner or not. And I am commanded to insist 
that the question of precedence between the British and United States 
agent, shall, unless such agent be accredited charg^ d'affaires, be 
determined by priority of presentation only.' "* 

But the subject of assimilated rank embraces more than 
the precedence of a signature to a report. 

* Wandering Sketches of People and Things in South America, Polynesia, 
California, and other places visited, during a cruise on board of the U. S. 
ships Levant, Portsmouth, and Savannah. By Wm. Maxwell Wood, M. D., 
Surgeon U. S. Navy. Carey & Hart. Philadelphia, 1849. 


The staff of the army has been given somewhat in detail, 
(page 13,) and the nature of its duties has been described. 
A comparison with the navy in this respect is invited. 

It may be asked in what do the duties of the quartermas- 
ter's department, — which embraces 1 brigadier-general, 2 
colonels, 2 lieutenani>colonels, 7 majors, and 31 captains, by 
assimilated rank; of the commissariat, which includes 1 
colonel, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 2 majors, and 4 captains; of 
the pay department, consisting of 1 colonel, 1 lieutenants 
colonel, and 25 majors, — differ in a military point of view, or 
in the nature of their respective duties, from the corps of 
pursers in the navy, whose official functions embrace all 
those of the three army departments ? Or, what is to be 
found in the nature of the duties of military architects and 
military surveyors, all based on scientific principles daily ap- 
plied in civil life, which renders those officers more military 
than physicians employed in military service ? The nature 
of the duties of engineers and topographical engineers is not 
less eminently civil than that of the duties of medical men. 
The engineers repair the damaged walls of a fort ; the sur- 
geons repair the injured health and limbs of the soldiers to 
defend it : the topographical engineers survey and plot-out 
camp-grounds and battle-fields; the surgeons judge of the 
healthiness of the sites in the one case, and economise life in 
the other, by saving from death those who, without medical 
aid, would perish of their wounds. A confidence in the pre- 
sence of a competent medical staff, must contribute something 
to the moral support of the line, when on the battle-field. 
The object of the functions of all is a military result. Then 
why should an assimilated rank be freely accorded to those, 
and be given reluctantly to these : is it because the duties 
of the one are more palpable, more physical than those of 
the other class, and therefore more manifest to common 
observation ? 

It seems to be now conceded by the naval line, that an 
assimilated rank will be established ; therefore the contro- 
versy is reduced to the question, what degrees of assimilated 
rank shall be allowed to the several staff-grades in the navy ? 
On this question opinions are various. Those who contend 
for absolute supremacy of the line, believe that assimilated 
rank should be of the very lowest degree possible, to be 
above the grade of midshipmen ; while others are willing to 


concede as high a position as may be consistent with effi- 
ciency. There are many who, while they would cheerfully 
yield to medical officers the degrees of assimilated rank 
asked, object to pursers being placed on a level with them in 
this respect : and some have opposed the wishes of the medi- 
cal corps, chiefly on the ground that whatever may be 
granted to medical officers is sure to be obtained afterwards 
by the pursers also, and, therefore, to defeat the latter, it is 
deemed sound policy to oppose the claims of medical officers ; 
and there are some who can perceive that a controversy set 
up between the two corps on their respective pretensions, 
would be advantageous to the wishes of the opponents of 
both. The labour or difficulty of separating the opposing 
arguments from mere invidious assertions and conflicting 
prejudices, the earnest expression of which is in some mea- 
sure due rather to the desire for victory in the controversy, 
than the positive value set upon the object in dispute, espe- 
cially by the line, has been an obstacle to the demonstration 
of the truth, and consequently to the settlement of all points 
really involved in the discussion. 

The medical officers, after having from time to time sub- 
mitted the subject for discussion to the navy and to Congress, 
since 1816, without a final decision, have brought it to the 
notice of their professional brethren, and in the language of 
one of the pamphlets, have " excited the sons of Galen, from 
one end of the Union to the other." In this they have imi- 
tated the medical officers of the British navy, who finding 
the admiralty (a body resembling the ancient Board of Navy 
Commissioners,) disregarded the order in council, of January 
23, 1805, which says, "the rank, pay, and designation, shall 
be the same for the medical officers of both land and sea 
forces," have brought the voice of the medical profession of 
England to their support. And sooner or later the effect 
will be seen. 

For the details of assimilated rank in the British navy the 
joint "communication" of the line refers to the Queen's Re- 
gulations of 1844. The arrangement there is as follows: 

" The director-general of the medical department of the navy, to rank 
mth but after commodores. 

" Medical inspectors of hospitals and fleets, to rank with but after 
captains under three years' seniority. 


" Deputy medical inspectors of hospitals and fleets, to rank with but 
after commanders. 

" Surgeons, to rank with but after lieutenants. 
"Assistant-surgeons, to rank with but after mates." 

The line of tlie British navy, as a general rule, is filled 
from titled and aristocratic families ; and the staff chiefly, if 
not entirely, from the families of merchants and tradespeople. 
It is therefore probable that more or less of the caste feelings 
and prejudices of civil life are carried into the military ser- 
vice, and for this reason, the assimilated rank has been placed 
as low as possible, consistent with efficiency. An effort is 
being made to elevate the rank of assistant surgeons; and it 
will succeed, or the standard of medical qualifications will be 
reduced. Without a change in this respect vacancies in the 
grades of medical officers cannot be filled, unless the rank 
and condition of assistant surgeons in the British navy be 

Since the above was in type, "The Lancet," London, 
August 10, 1850, has been received. Under the head 
" Naval Assistant Surgeons" is the following : — " We publish 
the first instalment that is to be paid to the naval assistant 
surgeons, and we hope soon to be able to announce the 
liquidation of their claims in full. The position of the 
assistant surgeons, now serving, will be considerably im- 
proved ; but the best men of the schools will not enter the 
service till all probationary, alias ' apprenticeship,' time be 

" Circular No. 65, (Rank and Position of Assistant Sur- 
geons,) Admiralty, July 17, 1850," addressed "to all Flag- 
officers and Commanding-officers of H. M. ships and vessels," 
is published in the Lancet. This order divides assistant 
surgeons of the royal navy into two classes. The first class 
consists of those who have completed three years' service, 
and have been examined and approved for promotion ; it 
corresponds with the class of passed-assistant-surgeons in 
the navy of the United States, except that the latter serve 
five years prior to examination. The second class comprises 
all those who have not completed three years' service. 
Those of the first class rank next to naval instructors and 
mess with the ward-room officers, and are allowed cabins 
when the space on board will admit. Therefore, according 
to the Queen's Regulations, passed-assistant-surgeons in the 


royal navy rank with but after lieutenants, and not after 
" mates," as heretofore. 

The example afforded in the Queens' Regulations should 
not be a rule for the arrangement of our naval service. To 
imitate a foreign nation in any particular is an acknowledg- 
ment, so far, of the superiority of the nation imitated. 

The medical officers of the navy ask to be placed on a level 
with medical officers of the army of the United States. The 
medical corps of the army consists of the following grades : 

Colonel, Surgeon-General.* 

Major, Surgeons. 

Captain, Assistant-surgeons of 5 years' standing. 

First Lieutenant, Assistant-surgeons. 

The grades of the navy which correspond in relative rank 
with the above, are captain, commander, lieutenant, and 

A clear definition of the position, each individual of a mili- 
tary organization is to occupy relatively to others, is essential 
to successful and harmonious operation. It is the basis of 

To explain or illustrate the form of a law, to establish an 
assimilated rank for the several staff corps in the navy, the 
following is submitted as a suggestion for consideration. 

The officers of the navy of the United States shall be 
divided into a line and staff. 

The line shall be of the undermentioned denominations, 
and shall rank and take precedence in the following order : 
Captains, commanders, lieutenants, masters, &c., naming all 
grades of the line in proper order of succession. Right to 
command in the line shall be restricted to the, abovfe. grades, 
and in the order named. i'ld oi need -ind 

The staff shall consist of corps of the undermentiolied de- 
nominations, and shall take precedence in the following order 
— medical corps, and others to be named in a proper sequence. 

Assimilated rank of staff officers shall determine their 
subordination to officers of the line. 
! Assimilated rank of the medical staff shall be as follows: 

Hospital and fleet surgeons shall rank as captains from 
date of appointment. 

* The present surgeon-general holds the brevet rank of brigadier-general ; 
but this belongs to him as a personal distinction, and does not pertain to his 
office as chief of a staff department. 

Surgeons shall rank as commanders, passed assistant sur- 
geons shall rank as lieutenants, and assistant surgeons shall 
rank as masters. But the assimilated rank thus established 
shall not confer a right to exercise command in the line of 
the naval service under any circumstances whatever. Pre- 
cedence between staff officers and officers of the line, as well 
as between officers of the same grade, shall be determined 
by the dates of their respective commissions. 

In a similar manner the assimilated rank of the corps of 
pursers, of chaplains, of engineers, &c., should be defined in 

It is believed a law framed in the above manner would 
place the medical staff of the navy on a footing with the 
medical staff of the army, and at the same time render it 
impossible for any member of the medical staff to legally 
interfere in the duties of line officers, or take away any just 
and necessary right to command. While officers seek assimi- 
lated rank, they do not desire to escape from proper subordi- 
nation to line officers in command; but they claim that 
assimilated rank shall be operative on all mixed boards, sur- 
veys, courts, processions, &c., according to date of commis- 
sion. If the knowledge of a surgeon, for example, renders 
him necessary in the constitution of a mixed board, for a 
special purpose, his military position should not be proscribed 
because he is a physician ; but he should be presiding officer 
on such board if his commission be older than that of the 
other officers associated with him on the board, no matter 
whether they be of the line or staff. 

In conclusion, the writer begs to assure the gentlemen 
whose remarks he has freely and fully quoted, that his object 
has been to bring fairly into view the various arguments on 
both sides of the question. Even in his attempts to contro- 
vert their opinions and views, which he believes are sincerely 
entertained, he disclaims all intention of discourtesy or un- 
kindness towards them or those who think with them. He 
desires a decision which shall be in its provisions satisfactory 
to all reasonable and reflecting men, and at the same time 
conducive to the general discipline and efficiency of the naval 
service. If he has fallen into error of opinion or judgment, 
on any point, he will cheerfully, when it is demonstrated, 
amend or recant, as the case may require. 

An appendix has been added, containing several papers at 


length, in order that the whole subject might be fairly before 
the reader, and that he may see that those referred to in the 
text have been truly represented. 

Finally, the writer begs, in taking leave of the subject, 
to adopt the sentiments of the concluding paragraph of 
Pamphlet No. 1. The author says : — " We cannot conclude 
without expressing a hope that what we have felt it our 
duty to say will not be taken in an unkind spirit by the 
class whose rights and aims we have so freely discussed. 
We are closely allied with many of them by long and 
eventful associations, full of those kindly sentiments and 
touching memories that dangers and hardships and the 
varied adventures of naval life, shared in common, are apt 
to inspire, and we are sure they will unite with us in the 
hope that, irrespective of our conflicting opinions and claims, 
the question of assimilated rank will be decided on the broad 
ground of equity and public utility." 

Philadelphia, SejpUm'ber, 1850. 




a *>U ilkW O: 

"Com. Wm. C. Bolton, 

Commanding TJ. S. Squadron, 
Coast of Africa. 

" Sir : Your despatch, No. 36, of the 30th December, 1847, with 
its enclosures, has been received and considered. 

" The question raised by Lieutenant Reid, and the disposition made 
of it, have alike excited my surprise. The terms of the general order 
are explicit, and admit of no doubtful interpretation — and the con- 
clusion at which you arrived, as well as the reasons given, admit of 
no other interpretation, than that you did not deem it expedient to 
enforce the general order of the Department. 

" It is not possible to conceive a case in which the propriety of the 
order could be more apparent. In an inspection of provisions, a 
Sea Lieutenant claims precedence over a Purser of older standing 
in the service according to date of commission. 

" There was no right of military command claimed by the Purser, 
and, if necessary, orders to the few men employed could as well have 
been given by the Lieutenant as a junior, as if he were the senior 
member of the board. 

" The Department has no doubt that Lieutenant Reid assumed a 
precedence over Purser Heiskell, directly in contravention of the 
regulation ; and on all future occasions, you will be pleased to execute 
the order according to its letter and spirit. 

" I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 



At a meeting of the American Medical Association held at Balti- 
more, May 4, 1848, Dr. Cohen, of Baltimore, presented the follow- 
ing resolutions, which were adopted : 

Resolved, That the American Medical Association regards with 
pride and satisfaction the services rendered, and the position main- 


tained by that portion of their profession associated with the Military 
Department of the country ; and, in consideration of the severe and 
arduous duties which the medical officers have performed — the risks 
and dangers to which they have been exposed, in the performance of 
those duties, during a period of warfare, and in an unhealthy climate 
— it is deemed just and proper, by this Association, that their ser- 
vices should receive from the Government an acknowledgment cor- 
responding to that awarded their brother officers. 

Resolved, That the members of this body hereby express their grati- 
fication with the position recently assigned the medical officers of the 
Navy; and that their influence will be used to sustain their Naval 
brethren in a position, alike due to them and the profession of which 
they are members. 

JResolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the 
Secretaries of War and of the Navy, through the Chiefs of the Medi- 
cal Department of each service, and to the Chairman of the Military 
and Naval Committees in each House of Congress. 

The following letter from the Secretary of the Navy was received 
after the adjournment of the Association : 

" Navy Department, May 10, 1848. 

" Gentlemen : 

" I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 
5th instant, enclosing a copy of resolutions adopted by the ' Ameri- 
can Medical Association,' at its late annual session in Baltimore. 

"Appreciating the valuable services of the Medical Officers of the 
Navy, it gives me great pleasure to place on the records of the De- 
partment, the just and kind notice taken of them, by so enlightened 
and respectable a body of their fellow-citizens as the ^American Medi- 
cal Association.' 

" I am, very respectfully, 

" Your obedient servant, 
^ M .„...,.....,^T i„ "J. Y. Mason. 

"Messrs. Alfred Stille:— H. J. Bowditch, 

*' Secretaries ' American Medical Association.' " 

At the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society, 
in Philadelphia, April 17, 1850, Dr. Jackson presented a series of reso- 
lutions relative to the assimilated rank of Medical officers in the Navy 
which was granted in 1846 by order of the Secretary of the Navy. 
In the Army, it is granted by a law of Congress. Many officers of 
the line in the Navy are now attempting to degrade Medical officers 
by depriving them of that assimilated rank. The following resolutions 
were adopted, and ordered to be forwarded to the War and Navy 
Departments, and to the Chairman of the War and Navy Committees 
in both Houses of Congress. 

Resolved, That the State Medical Society of Pennsylvania cannot 


regard with indifference the condition and position assigned to memhers 
of the profession, who are included in the military organizations of the 
country ; and, therefore, regards with satisfaction the law which con- 
firms the assimilated rank of Medical officers in the Army, previously 
conferred by the regulations of the War Department. 

Resolved, That the members of the State Medical Society of Penn- 
sylvania approve of the General Order issued by the Secretary of the 
Navy, August 31st, 1846, which assigns to Medical officers in the 
Navy an assimilated rank ; and that their influence will be used to 
sustain their naval brethren in a position alike due to them and to 
the profession of which they are members. 

Resolved, That inasmuch as the Medical officers of the Army have 
been assigned an assimilated rank by law, it is right and proper that 
the Medical officers of the Navy should also be assigned a definite 
rank by act of Congress, and this body, therefore, respectfully and 
earnestly invites the attention of the Senate and House of Represen- 
tatives of the United States to the subject. 

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the 
Secretaries of War, and of the Navy, through the chiefs of the Medical 
Department of each service ; and to the Chairman of the Military and 
Naval Committees in each House of Congress. 


At the Third Annual Meeting, held at Cincinnati, May, 1850. 

Dr. M'Guire, of Va., offered the following Preamble and Resolu- 
tions, which were unanimously adopted. 

Whereas, in every properly organized community governed by 
military laws, every member of it should possess a recognised position ; 
as no military organization can be efficient and complete without in- 
cluding a corps of competent surgeons ; as the value of their services 
depends in a great measure upon the degree of respect accorded to 
them : the common interests of our country and of our profession 
demand, that the legal position of medical men in the army and navy, 
should be such as will secure them due consideration by their military 
associates, independently of a contingent courtesy ; and as efforts are 
now being made to deprive medical officers in the navy of the relative 
position or assimilated rank conferred by a General Order of the Navy 
Department, it concerns the honour of the whole profession, to assist 
its members in the navy to obtain and secure an assimilated rank by 
law. Therefore, 

Resolved, That the American Medical Association is gratified by 
the legislation of Congress which has conferred military rank on 
medical officers of the army, as it places them on an equality with 
officers of the several staff departments, and thus gives them a posi- 
tion to which the importance and dignity of the profession they repre- 
sent entitles them ; and it is earnestly desired that Congress, in its 


present session, will extend the same privileges and immunities to 
medical officers in the navy. 

Resolved^ That the members of the American Medical Association 
will exert their influence to sustain the just pretensions of their bre- 
thren to an assimilated rank in the military organizations of the coun- 
try ; and they would view with feelings of deep mortification a propo- 
sition from any source to deprive the medical officers of the army of 
any of the privileges or powers secured to them by the act of Congress 
approved 11th February, 1847, a law which confers upon them a pro- 
tective or conservative rank, and enables them to discharge their 
duties more effectually. 

Resolved^ That the members of the American Medical Association 
hear with regret that several naval commanders have disregarded the 
General Orders of the Navy Department, which place medical officers 
on an equality of rights and privileges, (except military command) 
with other officers in the navy ; and they consider such resistance 
of the authority of the Secretary of the Navy an assumption which 
cannot be sanctioned by enlightened men of the present age, and 
should at once be put down by public opinion and by the authority of 
the government. 

Resolved^ That a definite position or assimilated rank, not inferior 
to that possessed by the medical staff of the army, should be assigned 
by law to medical ofl^cers in the navy, and therefore that the attention 
of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States be, 
and is hereby invited to the subject. 

Resolved, That copies of these resolutions be transmitted to the 
Secretaries of War and of the Navy, through the Chiefs of the Medical 
Department of each service and the presiding officer of the Senate and 
House of Representatives of the United States. 

At the annual meeting of the Medical Society of New Jersey, held 
at New Brunswick, May 14th, 1850, the following Preamble and 
Resolutions were adopted, viz. : — 

Whereas, it is a manifest duty, that organized medical bodies should 
exercise a proper influence for the protection of the rights of such 
regular members of the Profession as are necessarily detached from 
the great body of their brethren ; and, whereas, many of the medical 
officers included in the military organizations of the country are 
placed in this condition ; and whereas, we have heard with regret, 
that there is a disposition on the part of a portion of the naval service, 
to deprive medical men connected with that Department of the bene- 
fits arising from an assimilated rank, conferred by a General Order of 
a late Secretary of the Navy. Therefore be it 

Resolved, That the "New Jersey State Medical Society" regards 
with much pleasure the successful efforts of the "Navy Boards," in 
raising the standard of literary and medical knowledge, for an admis- 
sion to their ranks. 


I Resolved^ That this Society is also much pleased to learn, that in 
their system of examinations the Diplomas of the schools (which are 
now but too easily obtained) are wholly disregarded ; and that the 
moral character of the candidate, and his scientific and professional 
attainments, are his only passports to the medical corps of the navy. 

Resolved, That this Society cannot look with indifierence on any 
attempt to depress or degrade a whole class of public officers, belong- 
ing to a liberal profession, and so indispensable in the proper organi- 
zation of the navy of their country. 

Resolved, That as a well-defined "Assimilated Rank" has been 
assigned to medical officers of the Army, by an act of Congress, dated 
Feb. 11th, 1847, this Society cannot believe, that an invidious dis- 
tinction will be made between the Medical Departments of the Public 
service ; but that the National Legislature will protect the Surgeons 
and Assistant Surgeons in their just claims to a Nominal Rank, or a 
social position, as respectable among the other grades of the Navy, as 
the Medical Staff of the Army now enjoy bi/ law, in relation to their 
brethren of the Line, in that service. 

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to the 
Secretary of the Navy, through the Chief of the Medical Department ; 
and also that a copy be forwarded to the chairman of the Naval Com- 
mittee, in each house of Congress. 

W. PiERSON, M.D., Rec. Sec. of Med. Soc. N. Jersey. 

' New Brunswick, N. J., May 14th, 1850. 

,\ At the semi-annual meeting of the Erie County Medical Society in 
the State of New York, held in the city of Buffalo, June 12, 1850, 
it was, on motion of Dr. Austin Flint, 

Resolved, That this Society recommend to the members of the 
medical profession of this county, for their signatures, the memorial 
to Congress in behalf of the medical officers of the navy, praying for 
an assimilated rank, believing that the action on the part of the 
National Legislature asked for, is due, not only to the Medical 
Department of the navy, but to the character of the medical profession 

Resolved, That this resolution be published, and that copies be 
transmitted to the representatives in Congress from this district, and 
to the Senators from this State. 
From the regular minutes. 

John S. Trowbridge, Sec'y. 

The following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted 
by the " Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland," at its Con- 
vention, held June 5, 1850 : 

Whereas, Success in the medical profession requires intelligence, 
sound morality, and competent knowledge of the principles of medi- 


cine, as well as liberal education : and whereas, humanity and 
patriotism alike demand that all our fellow-citizens who serve the 
republic in the army and navy should be, when sick or wounded, 
accompanied by physicians as well instructed as any our country 
affords: therefore, 

Resolved, That the critical examination of candidates for admission 
into the medical departments of the army and navy tends to the im- 
provement of medical education, and to secure competent medical 
officers in the military service of the country. 

Resolved, That properly qualified members of the medical profes- 
sion are socially the equals of members of any branch of the army 
and navy, and therefore should be assigned by law a respectable posi- 
tion in every military community. 

Resolved, That the "Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Mary- 
land" regards with approbation the law of the United States which 
confers military rank upon medical officers of the army, because it 
secures them an equality of rights and privileges with officers of other 
staff departments. 

Resolved, That the " Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Mary- 
land" earnestly recommend that a similar law be enacted by Congress 
to place officers of the medical department of the navy on an equality 
of rights and privileges with other officers of this branch of the 
national defence. 

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Faculty be, and is hereby, 
directed to transmit, immediately, copies of these resolutions, properly 
signed by the officers of the Faculty, to the Secretaries of War and 
of the Navy, through the Chiefs of the Medical Department of each 
service at Washington, and to the President of the Senate, and 
Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, in 
order that the attention of Congress may be invited to the subject. 
From the minutes. 

Wm. H. Davis, Sec'y. 


S F . 

" United States Ship , 

« Monterey, October 21st, 1848. 


" It has occurred to me, that you may have overlooked the exist- 
ence of a General Order of the Navy Department, dated May 27, 
1847, conferring certain rank on Pursers, as your order of this 
date placing me on a survey, (which has been promptly and cheer- 
fully obeyed) appears to me to conflict with it. 

"I do not consider this a proper occasion to express any opinion as 
to the expediency of the order of the Secretary of the Navy. He 
has thought proper to issue it, and I respectfully submit the subject 


for your consideration, requesting you to take such action in it as you 
may deem best. 

"Very respectfully, &c., 

Commodore , 

*< Commanding United States Naval forces, 
"Pacific Ocean." 

«S F , 

"Purser, U.S.N. 

"United States Ship , 

"San Francisco, August 17th, 1849. 

" Sir : 

"I had hoped ere this to have received an answer to my communi- 
cation to you of the 21st October last, a duplicate of which is here- 
with enclosed. 

"In again calling your attention to the subject of it, I beg leave to 
remark that the General Order of the Navy Department, of 27th 
May, 1847, conferring rank on Pursers, has been as entirely disre- 
garded on board this ship since I have been attached to her, as if it 
had never been issued. 

"Very respectfully, &c., 

" Commodore , 

"Commanding United States Naval forces, 
"Pacific Ocean." 

S F , 

"Purser, U. S. N, 



San Francisco, August 18th, 1849. 
Sir: — Your letter of yesterday's date, inclosing a duplicate of 
yours to me of the 21st of October, 1848, and asking my reply 
thereto, is received. 

I have not unintentionally deferred answering your first appeal : on 
the contrary, I have several times taken up the circular of the 27th 
of May, 1847, to which your letter refers, but, for the life of me, such 
is its ambiguity that I am unable to give to it any practical con- 
struction conformable with well-established military principles, one 
of the most stable of which is, so far as my experience goes, that 
non-combatants never command regular officers of the line under any 
circumstances whatever. If there is anything clearly expressed in 
the circular in question, it is that the assimilated rank conferred 
thereby does not carry authority/ to exercise military command, nor 
give additional right to quarters. 

In my judgment, then, all that the circular of May 27th, 1847, 
confers on non-combatants in the navy is the assimilation of rank in 
society when off duty, and such I am informed (unofficially) was the 
decision of the late Secretary, Judge Mason, when applied to by 


Purser B ^, serving on the Portsmouth station ; any other con- 
struction given to the rule would be productive of endless confusion in 
actual service ; an officer's rank and privileges would come and go as 
often as he stepped in or out of a boat, or from one ship to another 
in the same squadron. 

The circular speaks of "commanding and executive officers:'' ^'no 
such rank or grade as executive officers is known to the law — every 
officer, whatever may be his grade or rank in the navy, charged with 
the performance of any particular duty, becomes an " executive offi- 
cer" while he is executing the orders of a superior. At the date of 

your original letter, October 21st, 1848, Mr. J W , one of 

the senior Pursers in the navy, then attached to the Lexington store- 
ship, by the assimilated rank, ranked second in this squadron, and 

above Commander S , one of the senior commanders of tho 

navy, and according to the construction claimed by some of the non- 

combatants^ Purser W would take precedence of all commanders 

and lieutenants in the squadron, except his immediate commanding 
officer, a lieutenant nearly one hundred from the head of the list, and 
the first lieutenant of the Lexington, one of the juniors of his grade ; 
this would be the case in any assemblage of officers that might have 
been required on board the Lexington. Thus you w^ould see the senior 
commander in the squadron ranked by a purser, while that purser 
would be ranked by the junior lieutenant in the navy. Again, a 
midshipman sent in charge of a boat, to carry surveying officers from 
one ship to another, or on any other duty, is an " executive officer,'' 
and according to the letter of the circular under consideration, he 

would rank Purser W , but Purser W would rank all other 

officers of the squadron that might happen to be in one of the Lexing- 
ton's boats ; and here again another difficulty arises in attempting to 
carry out your construction of the circular, as rank and command 
would then be governed more by the boat or particular vessel, than 
by commission or length of service in the navy, for commanding offi- 
cers^ as well as executive officers, are merely temporary and accidental 
positions^ varying and changing from day to day, and from hour to 

^' The captain of a ship is her " commanding officer" when on board ; the 
moment he goes over the ship's side, if but for an hour, the officer next 
in rank becomes the '^ commanding officer" and it might be a second 
lieutenant in the absence of the first, who with other officers were 
holding a survey, which convened w^hile the captain and first lieutenant 
were on board, at the head of which survey the senior purser, accord- 
ing to assimilated rank, would claim to preside ; the moment the cap- 
tain and first lieutenant leave the ship, the second lieutenant, or officer 
of the line next in rank, becomes the commanding^ and executive officer 
too, of that vessel, and although he may have been the junior member 
and a purser the senior on the survey while the captain was on board, 
as soon as the captain leaves, the junior member rides over the senior, 


but drops back again, possibly three or four times in the course of one 
forenoon. Apply the rule as construed by yourself and some other 
non-combatants, to surveys, courts-martial, and any other mixed ser- 
vice, and nothing but strife and confusion can possibly grow out of it. 
I shall submit the case to the Honourable Secretary of the Navy, 
and ask his construction of the rule. 
Very respectfully. 

Your obedient servant, 

Commander-in-Cliief U. S. Naval Forces, Pacific Ocean. 

It has been noticed already that the commodore recognises 
the existence of " ojficers of the line" in the navy, and de- 
signates the staff of the navy by the term " non-combatants." 
The existence of a " medical staff/' by name, was recognised 
by the Honourable Levi "Woodbury, as Secretary of the Navy, 
in March, 1832. At that time, he promulgated " Rules of 
the Navy Department regulating the civil administration of 
the Navy of the United States," which was a compilation 
^'from the various orders, circulars, regulations, and de- 
cisions," which were found " dispersed over the records and 
files of" the Department. Chapter xlvi., p. 41, of this com- 
pilation, commonly known as the "Red Book," is headed 
" Medical Staff," and embraces certain rules for the gui- 
dance of medical ofiicers in the navy, dated 1821, 1823, 
1829, (fee. This precedent, it is presumed, might be sufficient 
to authorise the use of the term staff, in place of that of 

The General Order does not mean, in fact, to exclude 
pursers from miliiary command, if the writer's definition of 
the term (page 8) be correct, but to exclude them entirely 
from command in the line, which they do not require, except 
only in case of being placed in charge of a division of the 
crew, or when supervising the supply of powder during 
battle, from the magazine to the battery. 

The notion of the commodore that the assimilated rank 
conferred on pursers is only operative in " society when off 
duty," is untenable. However observant officers, when off 
duty, might be of the rules prescribed by the Navy Depart- 
ment for social intercourse, it is not probable their authority 
would be acknowledged by society, either at home or abroad. 
If he means to confine his application of the word " society" in 



this instance, to officers of the navy exclusively, his notion 
is equally untenable, because there is not an absolute neces- 
sity for the Navy Department, to issue General Orders to go- 
vern the unofficial acts of officers : when they are off duty or 
unemployed, they, like citizens generally, conduct themselves 
by the commonly received rules of politeness and courtesy. 
It is not presumed, he understands that assimilated rank, is 
operative among officers, only during their social intercourse 
at mess-table, &c. j/ua.:- o 

The writer is gratified to find the commodore sustains 
his opinion, that there is " no such rank or grade as execu- 
tive officer known to the law," and that there can be but one 
commanding officer or officer in command on board ship. 
The commodore's illustrations show that the term "com- 
manding officer," in the General Order, was designed to de- 
signate the officer left in command during the temporary 
absence of the captain ; and that no other exception should 
have been made in the operation of assimilated rank. 

It is an error to suppose that officers may act in two ca- 
pacities at the same instant of time. While a senior or first 
lieutenant of a ship is serving as a member of a court, or 
of a board of survey, he does not act as first lieutenant ; but 
simply as a member of the court or survey, although he re- 
sumes his duties as first lieutenant while said court or survey 
is not in session. While acting as a member of a court, his 
position relatively to other members of the same court is de- 
termined by their lineal, or assimilated rank, as the case 
may be, compared with his own, the office of first-lieutenant 
being merged, for the time, in that of member of the court. 

Illustrations of the principle may be found in civil life. 
A citizen may be president of one society or board, vice-pre- 
sident of a second, secretary of a third, and member of a 
fourth ; but he cannot be recognized as president in but one 
of the four. The same member of Congress may occupy 
two or more official posts, and hold a relative position in 
each : he may be chairman of a standing committee, and 
member of one or two other committees, but his relative 
position as chairman in one committee does not affect his 
position as a member in the others, or prevent him from 
acting as presiding officer in " committee of the whole," 
either of the Senate or House. 



Navy Yard, , July 29, 1850. 

Sir : — The pursers and surgeons wlio claimed precedence of certain 
sea-officers, on the formation of a procession on the 25th inst., at this 
yard, having been required by you to state their ground for such 
claim in writing, with the view to sending them to the Navy Depart- 
ment, it occurs to the undersigned that it is right and proper that 
their reasons for objecting to the pretension of those officers should 
also be set forth. We therefore beg leave respectfully to say, that 
we were there on duty as commanding and executive officers, and did 
not contest, nor was there occasion for contesting the legality of the 
orders issued by Messrs. Bancroft and Mason. These two orders 
expressly state that " all commanding and executive officers, of what- 
ever grade, when on duty, will take precedence over all medical 
officers and pursers," and that "surgeons and pursers" of more than 
twelve years will rank with "commanders:" but they do not say 
they shall in any event take precedence of " commanders," command- 
ing or executive officers. In the event of a commanding or executive 
officer being called to the performance of duty, such as taking part in 
the recent ceremonies, it cannot be justly contended that they are 
therefore to be deprived of their rights and privileges as such. Yet 
those officers of the medical and purser's corps have so construed the 
orders as to exempt themselves from a compliance with their terms as 
above cited. It may not be inappropriate to cite here a case. For 
instance: a necessity for the service of a ship arises, whose com- 
mander or executive officer may be absent from her "on duty," can 
it be imagined that the secretaries who gave those two general orders 
designed that any of the officers attached to such ship should be 
exempted from the obligation to obey the order of his commanding or 
executive officer, or that such commanding or executive officer should 
give an order to one who ranked him ? We feel assured that such 
an effect of any general order could never have been contemplated. 

In addition to the foregoing, we beg leave to say, that we do not 
recognize the right of any individual, nor of any other power than 
Congress, to deprive us of the rank, which has been conferred 
upon us by the joint action of that body and the President of the 
United States, by every act classifying officers from the Conti- 
nental Congress of 1776, down to the present time. We therefore 
deny the right of any surgeon or purser in the Navy to take rank or 
precedence of a commander under any circumstances whatever. 
We have the honour to be, respectfully. 

Your obedient servants. 

Signed, , Comm'der. 

, Comm'der. 

, Comm'der. 

Com. , Com'g Navy Yard . 


In addition to what has been previously advanced, on the 
construction of the General Orders, it may be remarked here, 
that the words "all commanding and executive officers, of 
whatever grade, when on duty, will take precedence over all 
medical officers and pursers," are susceptible of a different 
meaning from that given above. The import of this part of 
the order is that, while an officer is acting as " commanding 
officer" during the temporary absence of the captain, he will 
have precedence precisely as if he were, in fact, a captain 
without reference to his grade; and also, while an officer 
is acting as "executive officer," he will have precedence 
without regard to his grade, which, while he so acts, is 
merged in the office of executive officer. But it is not sup- 
posed to mean, gentlemen can be " commanding officers" in 
a procession, even in the presence of a common superior, 
or that the functions of "executive officer" of a ship are 
carried into a funeral procession, and, therefore, such officer 
may claim precedence. It seems to the writer, that the 
design of this part of the order was to give precedence of 
staff-officers, without reference to their seniority, to any lineal 
officer while actually in command of a vessel to which said 
staff-officers are attached for duty, for the very purpose of 
meeting the case suggested above. 

The term "commanding officer" in the General Order is 
applicable only to one temporarily in command. The com- 
modore sustains this construction. He virtually contends 
that a midshipman, placed temporarily in command of a boat 
to convey, for instance, a party of staff-officers on shore to 
participate in a procession, is, for the time, both an executive 
and a commanding officer ; and under the extensive construc- 
tion of the term in the above letter, the same midshipman 
would be entitled, in a procession, to precedence of the senior 
staff-officer of the service. 

It is a mistake to suppose that "' commanding and execu- 
tive officers" can take part in a ceremonial procession; 
the moment they leave the precincts within which they 
are "commanding and executive officers" their functions 
cease. The executive officer of a ship, for example, is 
not executive officer of any other ship or vessel on board 
of which he may visit. The functions of executive officer 
are not transferable in the same individual from place to 
place, or from ship to shore, wherever he may go. If a first 


lieutenant or executive officer has any rank other than that 
of his lineal grade, it is purely a " local rank," and is operar 
tive exclusively in the vessel to wliiQh^Ji.e"J3 att^cKed, and 
then only in the line of the duties of the office. 

The above remarks, and the iRttot"' upoii wMcch •:ghey,are 
made, show the importance of stating all orders and laws in 
such terms as are susceptible of one meaning only. The 
gentlemen who sign the letter are doubtlessly sincere in their 
views, and, therefore, are entitled to commendation for their 
attempts to sustain them. 


Extract from the Report of Eon. J. Y. Mason, Secretary of the 
Navy. December 6, 1847. 

" During the past season, I regret to state, sickness has prevailed 
with much violence in the Gulf Squadron, and at the places occupied 
by our naval forces along the coast. Many valuable officers and men 
have fallen under the ravages of fever. But it is a source of great 
satisfaction, that the number of deaths has been small in proportion 
to the number of cases of yellow fever, and of fever of other malig- 
nant type. No class of officers has suffered greater proportionate 
loss, than the medical corps of the Navy. Their heroic devotion to 
their professional duties has received, as it deserved, the warm and 
grateful commendation of their commanding officer ; and while their 
skill and their attention rescued from death an unprecedentedly large 
proportion of their patients, the anxiety and exposure, incident to 
their arduous duty, left them without the strength to resist the disease 
when themselves attacked. Some of the most accomplished of their 
highly meritorious corps have fallen victims to the disease of the 
season." i««'Ai^'I ■.'' 

' "/ " " United States Flag Ship Germantown, 

"«f>v "Vera Cruz, September 6th, 1847. 

" Sir, — I am again called upon to announce to the Department, 
the death of another valuable officer of the Squadron : Passed- Assist- 
ant- Surgeon J. Howard Smith, breathed his last yesterday evening 
at the Naval Hospital. 

'' The death of this and the other medical officers, may in part, be 
ascribed to the extraordinary anxiety and labour to which they were 
subjected in their attendance upon the sick; worn out in body, though 
not in zeal and courage, they had not sufficient strength to bear up 
against the effects oi disease when it came upon them. 

"Doctor Smith was attached to the steamer 'Spitfire,' and volun- 
teered with Doctor Hastings, of the 'Mississippi,' to take charge of 
the sick at the Hospital, when Dr. Thornly was taken with the fever. 

"Words cannot express my feelings, on seeing these devoted men 

stricken down as they have been by the epidemic, from the fatal 
malignancy of which their pwn incessant labours and watching, by 
night and by day,^ Jl8^fV3.T5avGd so many. 

"As a proof of the noble self-devotion of Doctor Hastings, an 
exam bid wcrijij ' <ilso^' the character of his lamented companion Dr. 
Smith, I 'subjoin' an extr'act from the ' Sick Report' of the 31st ult. 
"I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, 
"Your obedient servant, 

"M. C. Pekry, 

"Commanding Home Squadron. 
" To Hon. John Y. Mason, 

"Secretary of the Navy, Washington." 


^' Maryland^ Set, 

" At a session of the General Assembly of Maryland, begun and 
held at the city of Annapolis, on the last Monday of December, being 
the thirty-first day of the said month, in the year of our Lord one 
thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, and ended the tenth day of 
March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty. 

" His Excellency, Philip F. Thomas, Esquire, Governor. 

" Among others, the following resolution was adopted, to wit : 

"By the Senate, February 25th, 1850. 
" Whereas, responsive to an order of the Senate of the 7th day of 
January, 1850, calling for copies of letters on file in the Navy De- 
partment at Washington, relative to the gallant and meritorious con- 
duct of Commander Franklin Buchanan and Surgeon Ninian Pinkney, 
of the United States Navy, in the late Mexican war ; the following 
copies of letters have been received from the Honourable Secretary 
of the Navy : 

" Navy Department, February 18, 1848. 

" Sir : — Your letter of the 15th instant, reporting your arrival 
with the U. S. Ship Germantown, in the Chesapeake Bay, on your 
way to Norfolk, has been received. It gives me great pleasure to say 
that you have served in command of the Germantown to the entire 
satisfaction of the Department. 

" It also gives me great pleasure to enclose to you a copy of a 
letter from Commodore Perry, of the 11th ultimo, which is placed on 
the files of the Department. Commander Charles Lowndes will be 
ordered to relieve you. On his reporting, you will regard yourself as 
detached from the command of the Germantown, with a leave of 
absence for three months, at the expiration of Wiich you will report 
to the Department. 

" I am respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Y. Mason. 

"Commander Franklin Buchanan, 
_■ "Comd'g. U. S. Ship Germantown, Norfolk, Va. 


"Navy Yard, Vera Cruz, January 11, 1848. 
" Sir : — The return of Commander Franklin Buchanan to the 
United States, and his probable detachment from my command, gives 
me an opportunity of testifying to the Department, the high opinion 
I entertain of the merits of that excellent officer. Setting an exam- 
ple in his own person of promptitude, cheerfulness, and obedience in 
the execution of all orders, he exacts the same qualities from those 
under him, and I do him no more than justice in saying that for 
courage, energy, and judgment he has not, in my opinion, a superior 
in the service. Commander Buchanan has headed detachments from 
his own ship in the expeditions to Tuspan and Tobasco, and was 
among the most forward on all occasions of duty and gallantry. 
" I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, 
" Your obedient servant, 

"M. C. Perry, 

"Commanding Home Squadron. 
"Hon. J. Y. Mason, '. ^ ^ 

"Secretary of the Navy, Washington. /"^ ." 

" Navy Yard, Vera Cruz, January 14, 1848. 
" Sir : — I have great pleasure in expressing to the Department the 
high opinion I entertain of the professional skill and valuable service 
of Surgeon Ninian Pinkney, who has relieved Surgeon McClenahan, 
in the Germantown. I was particularly indebted to Dr. Pinkney for 
his exertions and attention to the sick and wounded in the expedition 
to Tobasco ; and I am happy to say that he deservedly enjoys the 
respect and confidence of every officer and man in the squadron. 
" I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, 
" Your obedient servant, 

"M. C. Perry, 

" Commanding Home Squadron. 
" Hon. J. Y. Mason, 

"Secretary of the Navy, Washington. 

" And, whereas. The General Assembly of Maryland are satisfied 
from these testimonials and other high sources of information, of the 
gallant and meritorious conduct of those officers in their official posi- 
tions; Therefore, 

'''Resolved unanimously hy the O-enerdl Assembly of Maryland, 
That the State of Maryland entertains a just appreciation of the 
gallant and meritorious conduct of the above-named officers, in the 
late Mexican war, and that the thanks of the State of Maryland be 
and they are hereby tendered to them for said conduct. 

*' Resolved, That the Governor be respectfully requested to forward 
copies of the resolutions to each of the above-named officers. 

" Copy of the Governor's letter accompanying the above resolu- 
tions : 


*' State Department, 

Annapolis, June 3d, 1850. 

" Sir : — I have the honour herewith to forward to you the accom- 
panying preamble and resolutions of the General Assembly of Mary- 
land, passed at the December session, 1849, expressive of its high 
appreciation of your gallantry and meritorious conduct in the late 
war with Mexico. 

" I avail myself of the occasion to assure you of my most cordial 
concurrence in the sentiments contained in these resolutions. 
" I have the honour to be, with high consideration, 
" Your obedient servant, 

" Philip F. Thomas. 

"Commander Feanklin Buchanan, U. S. N. 


An exposition of the unjust and injurious relations of the United 
States Naval Medical Corps. By a member. 8vo., pp. 22. John 
Murphy, Baltimore, 1842. 

An inquiry into the necessity and general principles of re-organiza- 
tion of the United States Navy, with an examination of the true 
sources of subordination. By an observer. John Murphy, Balti- 
more, 1842. 

Hints on the Re-organization of the Navy, including an examina- 
tion of the claims of its civil officers to an equality of rights. Wiley 
& Putnam, New York, 1845. 

Change for " Hints on the Re-organization of the Navy." Thomas 
Smith, Printer, New York 1845. 

A reply to " Hints on the Re-organization of the Navy." Febru- 
ary, 1845. 

Examination of " A reply to ' Hints on the Re-organization of the 
Navy.' " Wiley & Putnam, New York, 1845. 

Letter by Commander L. M. Goldsborough, " In behalf of the sea- 
officers concurring in the sentiments of this communica^tion, including 
himself," addressed to the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, 27th Janu- 
ary, 1848. 

An examination of the legality of the General Orders, which confer 
assimilated rank on officers of the civil branch of the United States 
Navy. By a Surgeon. Philadelphia, 1848. 

Observations on certain objections to the General Order of the 
Secretary of the Navy, conferring assimilated rank on the surgeons 
and pursers of the Navy. By Walter Jones. Washington 1848. 

An appeal to the Congress of the United States, poncerning the 
relative rank of the medical officers and pursers of the navy. By 
Ninian Pinkney, Surgeon U. S. N. Baltimore, February, 1850. 

Assimilated rank in the navy. A reply to an appeal, by Ninian 
Pinkney, Surgeon U. S. N., to the Congress of the United States, 
relative to the rank of surgeons and pursers. By a junior sea-officer. 


Assimilated rank in the navy, its injurious operation upon the dis- 
cipline, harmony, and general good of the naval service. 

Reply to a pamphlet on the subject of "Assimilated Rank," re- 
ferred to in a memorial submitted to the Secretary by sundry line- 
officers of the navy. March, 1850. 

Remarks on relative rank in the navy. 

A few thoughts upon rank in the navy. Philadelphia, 1850. 

The "Southern Literary Messenger" for 1843 and 1846; the 
"Medical Examiner" and the "Medical News" for 1843, contain 
articles bearing on the subject. 

A memorial was addressed to Congress by the medical 
officers of the navy, December, 1844, praying for an assimi- 
lated rank. 

In January, 1848, the pursers of the navy presented a 
memorial to Congress, on the subject of assimilated rank, 
from which the following is an extract : 


"There are few officers on whose fidelity and skill the public 
interests depend more than on the Pursers. The office requires great 
industry, care, and experience. Without these, neither their cha- 
racter nor the public interests can be safe. Their responsibility, in 
taking care of the public property and keeping and disbursing large 
sums of money, is great. They are a substitute for, and perform the 
duties of, several officers in the army, as will be seen by the accom- 
panying documents ; they give large bonds of $25,000 for the faith- 
ful performance of their duties; they have not before them any 
higher rank to which time and correct conduct may carry them ; 
they must, like other officers, hold themselves in readiness for absence 
from home, and cannot enter, at any time, with any hope of success, 
into other employments from which profit may arise ; they are associ- 
ated, both at home and abroad, with other naval officers, and subjected 
to the proper and necessary expenses of such associations ; their 
responsibility is pecuniary. They are subjected to the rules and 
regulations of the service, and must obey as others do, or meet the 
penalty of disobedience. But they do not deal, ordinarily and offi- 
cially, in the management and care of our yards and ships, nor with 
the conflicts of battle, although they are sometimes thus employed ; 
and there are some illustrious instances in which they have acquired 
high honour, by mingling in these as voluntary aids in hours of 
danger. The duties of a Purser are peculiar and complicated; no 
young and inexperienced man can perform them without hazard to 
himself and the public interests ; they require a proper apprenticeship. 
With adequate capacity and acquirements, it is true that they may be 



discharged on a limited scale (and in small vessels) by those who are 
not trained; but intrust them to the inexperienced, and the conse- 
quences may be eminently cause of regret. 

"A Purser performs, in all situations *in service,' the duties of 
three distinct grades in the army ; viz. : Paymaster, Quartermaster, 
and Commissary ;* they have upon their shoulders not only the re- 
sponsibility, but the positive duties of them all. It may certainly 
with great truth be said, that in the army there is no corresponding 
rank with a Purser in the navy ; for it is really the case that Pursers 
have no rank at all, with regard to their comparative duties. How- 
ever, it becomes only necessary to put the following plain questions : 

" 1st. Are not the duties of a paymaster confined strictly to paying 
every two months, or at other periods, the officers, non-commissioned 
officers, and privates of his district: and is not that duty, as con- 
nected with the naval branch of the service, performed by a Purser, 
wherever he may be stationed ? 

"2d. Does not the duty of a commissary of subsistence consist 
exclusively in the receipt and expenditure of provisions ? and is not 
this another duty which devolves upon a Purser ? 

" 3d. Who is the officer in the army appointed to receive and issue 
the public clothing? is it not the Quartermaster? and is not that 
duty performed by a Purser in the navy ? 

"The Committee believe that there has seldom, in this or any 
other country, been a more correct and valuable class of officers." 

P. S. Certain captains disregard, or are ignorant of the provisions of the law which 
re-organized the Navy Department in 1842. They countermand the orders of the 
chiefs of bureaus, or modify them to suit their own special views, with as much 
self-possession, as if the 5th sect, of the law, approved August 31, 1842, did not 
exist. Space here does not permit an exhibition of the spirit of grandeur which 
characterizes certain recent circulars and orders which have appeared in different 
squadrons, not only in defiance of law and good sense, but also of courtesy to supe- 
rior officers, namely, the chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and the chief 
of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing. Example in obedience is far more efficient 
in military organization than precept. Let the Department look to it. 


In naming the several codes of regulations, page 19, the writer over- 
looked the ^' Naval Regulations, issued by command of the President of the 
United States of America, January 25, 1802," and the "Red Book" of 
1832. The code of 1802 rested solely on the authority of the President. 
Some of its provisions are incorporated in the Blue Book of 1818; but it is 
chiefly remarkable for the imperfection of its language. 

Page 22, line 8 from top, for "is," read "are." 

Page 26, line 15 from top, erase the comma after the word ^^officers.'^ 

* All these officers have rank. 


Resolution of Mr. Evans, - - - - - - 4 

Letter of Mr. Evans, note, ----- 4 

The terms sea-officers, petty-officers, warrant-officers, forward-officers, 

civil-officers, considered, - - - - - - 5 

Military terms, ------- 7 

Military men, military law, martial law, military command, defined, - 8 

Military discipline and rank, defined, - - , - 9 

Staflf, and staff duties defined, - - - - - - 11 

Staff of the army of the United States, - - - - 12 

Staff rank defined, - - - - - - - 13 

Assimilated rank defined, - - - - - . - 14 

Relative rank, and precedence defined, . - - - 15 

Division of the navy into a line and staff, - - - 16 

History of the application for assimilated rank, - - - 17 

Codes of naval regulations, .-.-., 19 

General orders conferring assimilated rank, - - - - 20 

Objections to assimilated rank examined, - - - - 21 

Extract from the law of 1800 relative to prize-money, - - 32 

Navy Commissioners* letter on rank of surgeons and prize-money, - 33 

Blue Book, not authority in law, - - - - - 35 

Office of first lieutenant or executive officer, - - - 38 

Mortality on board of the Macedonian, - - - - 45 

Steam-engineers, -------49 

Assimilated rank, public advantage of, - - - - 52 

Uniform-dress, - - - - - - - 55 

Practical inconvenience of assimilated rank considered, - - 60 

The term non-combatant, ------ 63 

Alleged case of difficulty in the Gulf squadron, - - - 65 

Misconstruction of Dr. Pinkney's statement, - - - 66 
Question of precedence on the Board for devising rules for the Naval 

Academy, - - - - - -- -68 

Legality of General Orders considered, - - - - 69 


Immemorial usage, - - - -- - -.-71 

Origin of naval usage, ------ 72 

Staff rank should be respected in the Department, - - - 76 

Establishment of naval medical boards, - - - - 77 

Length of service in the line, not an argument against assimilated rank, 78 

Precedence of diplomatists, - - - - - - 80 

Rank of medical staff in the British navy, - - - 83 

Rank recently conferred on passed-assistant-surgeons of the Royal navy, 84 

Form of a law for establishing assimilated rank, - - - 85 


Letter of Hon. J. Y. Mason, Secretary of the Navy, to Commodore 

Bolton, - - - - - - - • . 89 

Opinions of the medical profession, - - - - 89' 

Resolutions of the American Medical Association, 1848, - - 90 

'' " " " 1850, - 91 
^^ of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society. - .90 

" of the Medical Society of New Jersey, - - 92 

" of the Erie County Medical Society, New York, - - 93 

" of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, 93 

Letters of Purser S — — F , . . - - - 94 

Letter of Commodore , ----- 96 

The ^' Red Book," 97 

Comments upon the letter of Commodore , - - 97 

Norfolk plea, ------- 99 

Comments upon the Norfolk plea, - - - - 100 

Services of the naval medical staff in the Mexican war, - - 101 
Proceedings of the Legislature of Maryland relative to Commander 

Buchanan and Surgeon Pinkney, ----- 102 

List of pamphlets on assimilated rank, - - -' - 104 

Duties and position of pursers, ----- 105 

Errata, - - 106 

Table of contents, ------- 107 



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