To his Excellency WILLIAM SMITH,
Governor and Commander in Chief
The annual return of the militia of the state which I have now the honour to lay before you, is as accurate as it can be made from the imperfect and sometimes almost incomprehensible materials from which it has to be made up. The aggregate strength of the militia as exhibited by the brigade returns is undoubtedly much below the actual force-exceeding that of 1846 only 655 men,. although the Alexandria regiment numbering 1052 men has been added. No efforts of this department can overcome the negligence or incapacity'of many of the adjutants, whose duty it is to make the regimental returns.
As required by law, I report the following named delinquent general officers; it is a standing list annually, viz:
Brigadier general William Lambert, 2d brigade-return not made in time and grossly inaccurate.
Brigadier general John C. Crump, 8th brigade-no return at all.
Brigadier general Isaac Booth, 20th brigade-return inaccurate.
Brigadier general J. J. Jackson, 23d brigade-same.
In addition to these, the return of Gen'l Wallace of the 5th brigade was inaccurate in additions, and altogether not such an one as might be expected from the superior qualifications and experience of that officer.
As regards the four officers first named amendment seems hopeless; and it is difficult to ~ive why' tbo:e who will not, or cannot make their returns correct1y and in proper time, should continue to hold commissions, to the detriment of the service and the exclusion of others who might at least might do better.
If any recommendations of mine in regard to the militia law be entitled to consideration, I will only refer to former reports without repeating them here. But as a general revisal is now I suppose at hand, permit me to suggest the expediency of assembling at Richmond, during the coming season of the general assembly, a board consisting of eight or ten best qualified officers, and committing to them the revision of the militia laws--subject of course to the approval of the legislature.
The inspection of the guard and armory was entirely satisfactory. Both are in the best condition, (except the necessary repairs to building and steps1) and exhibit superior ability, fidelity and attention on the part of the commanding officer. I do not mention repairs to buildings, that subject coming within the duty of the annual committee of the legislature. But why should not this efficient and respectable corps, raised and supported by the state for state purposes, be denominated the state guard, instead of the public guard? The designation seems far more appropriate, and it has been w~l earned by the orderly and soldier like conduct of the present corps.
I beg leave to recommend to your consideration the propriety, if not necessity, of relieving the captain of the guard from the onerous duties of superintendent of public edifices. The command of the guard and superintendence of the armory establishment, impose fully as much service as can reasonably be required of one officer ; and although it is within my own knowledge that the present incumbent has exerted himself to the utmost to meet every requirement, yet the duties are incompatible--harassiug in their nature, and cannot possibly be all well performed by one man. The public edifices are now of an extent and importance to require the services of a distinct officer, and I believe it would be a saving of money to the state.
Permit me to ask your attention to that part of my last report relating to a sale of part of the iron ordnance at the annory, which I still think it is decidedly for the public interest to effect if possible ; and to the providing without further delay, a stock of cannon balls and of shells for tnortars and howitzers for the purposes there mentioned.
Among the accoutrements stored at the armory, are a number of holsters capped with bear-skin which are moth-eaten, and so rendered unlit for service. althoutth the other parts are perfectly good. I recommend that Capt. Dimmock be authorized to substitute these moth-eaten caps with leather, which upon consultation with him I am satisfied can be done at the armory at a very inconsiderable expense.
I ought not to close this report without a reference to the Virginia military institute. It cannot be necessary here to speak of the merits of this academy, already so advantageously known throughout the state, and progressively rising in the public favor; but it is necessary that its wants should be made known and supplied. Although it might not originally have been contemplated by the general assembly to establish so large a school as it has become, yet it would be absurd to suppose it was intended that the course of instruction should be imperfect in any of the branches required by law to be taught, however limited the number of cadets might be.
The extraordinary ability, zeal and assiduity of the superintendent, have commanded the most triumphant success; the corps of cadets has in consquence increased to its present number, as the superiority of that system of education has been demonstrated; and the annual applications for admission exceeded the means of accommodation which partly through the limited appropriations, but chiefly out of the tuition fees of the pay cadets, the board of visitors have been enabled to provide for them. More than $6000 have been realized to the state in buildings, upon the labour of the professors; and yet there is not room for as many as desire to enter, paying their own expenses. Six classes of cadets have graduated since the foundation of the institute, and gone forth to the business of life--many as instructors and teachers, and many of them are now officers of the army in Mexico-wherever they are, and howsoever employed, doing hotiour to the institution and the state. It may indeed be safely affirmed, that not one of them has ever in the remotest degree discredited his diploma. The Virginia regiment of volunteers in Mexico, distinguished for discipline and efficiency, numbers in its line of company officers some of these graduates, and I have been assured by an officer of the regiment, that next to the field officers, their superiority as tacticians and soldiers is acknowledged by all. None it is presumed, can doubt that the brilliant successes of our army are due in no small degree t6 the United States military academy at West Point, which may be considered the parent, as it is the model of the Virginia military institute. The experiment of the state in its establishment having been so eminently successful, and the demands of her people for the admission of their sons exceeding the means of accommodation, not to speak of the benevolent provision for the education of the meritorious poor, and of the incalculable advantages flowing through it in the multiplication of teachers for primary schools and academies; and moreover, that it is the only military academy of known reputation besides West Point, justice and wisdom seem to require that its deficiencies be at once ascertained and supplied, so that the institution shall want none of the requisites for complete scientific and military education.
The professorship established during the past year, is deficient in the requisite philosophical and chemical apparatus-that should be supplied without delay.
An ordnance and quarter-master sergeant, (in one person,) as I have repeatedly heretofore stated, is indispensable. He might he enlisted in the guard and paid as part of it, but detached for that service. It would be a very small addition to the expense of the guard, and a much more reasonable charge upon it than the expense of the interior guard of the penitentiary, which is most strangely, and as I think unreasonably, charged upon the appropriation for its support.
The want of a hospital, as the board of visitors have also several times reported, is still severely felt and that should be provided for without delay.
A large hall is requiste for general examinations and for professional lectures to the entire corps of cadets. And some provision should be made for improving the public grounds, and the walks and roadways passing through them.
If the legislature should think proper (as is sometimes done in regard to other public institutions at a distance from the seat of governement) to appoint a committee of their own body to visit and inspect the institute, they would I am sure, be satisfied of the importance of making it complete in all its parts. It is very desirable also to have the corps of cadets occasionally before the legislative body at Richmond. All portions of the state are represented in it. In no other way can the legislature form so correct an estimate of the vast importance of the institution, which though yet in its infancy, is advancing with giant strides, only impeded by want of means which the ample resources of the state can well supply.
The board of visitors have from time to time stated most of the deficiencies I have mentioned, and it may seem somewhat out of the line of my duty to refer to them in this report. But the institute must be regarded as the most important part of the military establishment of the state, whence scientific and military instruction is to be widely diffused throughout her borders, and by which her militia is to be made effective if it should ever again be called into active service. It is not only a nursery of accomplished soldiers, but of civil and military engineers, the value of whose services in time to come it would be difficult even to conjecture now, but which must and will immeasurably exceed any amount of pecuniary expenditure which is or can be required for it. It is a noble institution-an honour and an ornament to the state, destined to confer incalculable benefits upon her youth, and to repay a thousand fold all that has been or shall be done for it.
I have the honour to be,
Your ob'dt ser'vt,
WM. H. RICHARDSON, Adj. Gen'l.
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