Military Legislation and Events In 1862


Chapter X  Pages: 105-108

The first measure dealing with military matters passed in 1862 (1) made it manifest that Congress had awakened to the necessity for Government control of telegraph lines and railways, (2) and it wisely took occasion to exercise to the limit the war powers vested in it by the Constitution. A fortnight later $150,000 were appropriated for the defenses of Washington, and one section of this law of February 13th forbade the acceptance of volunteers or militia "on any terms or conditions confining their services to the limits of any state or territory " (3)__thus preventing a repetition of the inability to utilize troops outside of their own jurisdiction, such as happened in the preceding year. (4)

On April 16th the Medical Corps of the Army received a much-needed increase, (5) and a month later a distinctly faulty measure (6) was passed which permitted any medical inspector to discharge men for disability, actual or alleged, on his own certificate but without the approval of his superiors. The next important law (7) provided for the appointment of additional medical officers in the volunteer service_ part of which was admirable in that it insured the best of medical attention to the sick and wounded, but the other part placed a premium on suffering by failing to set a proper standard for the assistant surgeons to be appointed by the state governors. (8)

On July 2, 1862, an important measure was approved. It was entitled "An Act Donating public lands to the several States and Territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts," * and is generally known as "the Morrill act." It provided in Section 4 that the interest on all moneys derived from the sales of land authorized by this act "shall be inviolably appropriated by each the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts." The inclusion of military instruction was rendered necessary by the dearth of officers in the Union armies__a shortage which had already made itself strongly felt and one that West Point was quite inadequate to overcome. The law in question founded the system of military schools, which was given further extension by subseq2uent Congressional legislation* and which has spread all over the United States.

The Act of July 5th permitted the President to appoint not more than forty Major Generals nor more than two hundred Brigadier Generals, and appropriated $7,500,000 so as to allow $25 "to be paid immediately after enlistment to every soldier of the regular and volunteer forces hereafter enlisted, during the continuance of the existing war." (9) The next act (10) dealt with pensions, and three days later several important measures were approved, of which only three concern us here. One of these was designed "to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels." (11) The second, which defined the pay and emoluments of certain officers of the Army, provided that the president might retire any officer who had been in service for 45 years or who had reached the age of sixty-two. (12) The third, (13) as Upton says, (14) "reads like a chapter from the Journal of the Continental Congress during darkest days of the Revolution." To analyze this measure in detail would serve no useful purpose; suffice to say that it demonstrated that every lesson of the past had been cast to the winds. The President was empowered to call out militia for service "not exceeding nine months"; this militia was to be organized in the same manner as the volunteers in other words, the officers to be appointed by the States; 100,000 volunteers, in addition to the 1,000,000 already uin service, (15) could be called out for nine months, with a bonus of one month's pay and a bounty of $25. In order to get men to join the Regular Army, volunteers could be accepted for twelve months and were to be given a bounty of $50 (16), this greater inducement being necessary to offset the very natural inclination of men to join the volunteers, where the term of service was shorter and the discipline less severe. Certain other provisions were made, (17) the most important being for the creation of army corps (18) which, obviously, ought to have been instituted at the outbreak of war.

Aside from the statutory acts, there were three resolutions passed that year worthy of passing notice. One of these wisely provided

"That whenever military operations may require the presence of two or more officers of the same grade in the same field or department, the President may assign the command of the forces in such field or department, without regard to seniority of rank," (19)

thus establishing the principle of selection. Another granted a premium of $2 to any one producing a recruit accepted for the Regular Army, (20) and the last appropriated $10,000 for the preparation of "medals of honor" to "be presented, in the name of Congress, to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities." (21) This constituted the creation of the "American Victoria Cross" (22)__an order of which our average citizen is even to-day colossally ignorant.

"Save the one law authorizing the president to seize the railroads and telegraphs, the military legislation of 1862, as compared with that of 1861.shows little or no increase of wisdom. Congress had not yet discovered the value of military training. It exercised the power to support armies, but the power to raise them it conferred on the governors. To its mind the volunteer and state systems meant one and the same thing. The idea still prevailed that the Union could be saved by the voluntary service of its citizens. Patriotism, notwithstanding the lesson of Bull Run, was esteemed above discipline. There was no need of careful instruction. The war would soon be over; and strong in this delusion the views of Congress, more than a year after the fall of Fort Sumter, found expression in a law which, could the President have executed it, would again have entrusted the destiny of the nation to raw troops raised by the States for the brief period of nine and twelve months." (23)


1. Act approved January 31, 1862.

2. "That the president of the United States, when in his judgment the public safety may require it, be, and he is hereby authorized to take possession of any or all the telegraph lines in the United States, their offices and appurtenances; to take possession of any or all the railroad lines in the United States, their offices, shops, buildings, and all their appendages and appurtenances; to prescribe rules and regulations for the holding, using, and maintaining of the aforesaid telegraph and railroad place under military control all the officers, agents, and that they shall be considered as a post road and a part of the military establishment of the United States, subject to all the restrictions imposed by the rules and articles of war...."__Callan, p. 492.

3. "SEC. 3. That no volunteers or militia from any state or territory shall be mustered into the service of the United States on any terms or conditions confing their service to the limits of said state or territory, or their vicinities, beyond the number of ten thousand in the state of Missouri, and four thousand five hundred in the state of Maryland, heretofore authorized by the President of the United States, or secretary of war, to be raised in said states."__Callan, p. 495.

4. See above, page 95.

5. Act of April 16, 1862.__Callan, ppl. 501-503.

6. Act of May 14, 1862._Ibid, pp. 503-504.

7. Act of July 2, 1862.__See Callan, p. 509.

8. Section one authorized the appointment by the president of 40 surgeons and 120 assistant surgeons of volunteers, who were to be examined by a medical board convened by the Secretary of War. it further forbade the filling of vacancies in those grades except "on the ground of merit only." Section 2 abolished brigade surgeons and placed all surgeons of volunteers under the supervision of the Surgeon-General.

Section 3 permitted the appointment of an additional assistant surgeon in each volunteer regiment, but specified no examination for proper qualification. The list was thus opened to every incompetent, and it was not until they had been weeded out that this evil was checked.'

9. Callan, pp. 509-510.

10. Approved July 14, 1862.

11. Callan, pp. 519-523.

12. Section 12. Ibid, p. 528.

13. "An act to amend the Act calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion, approved February twenty-eighth, seventeen hundred and ninety-five, and the Act amendatory thereof, and for other purposes."__Callan, pp. 531-535.

14. The Military Policy of the United States, p. 434.

15. See above, pages 98 and 605.

16. Sections one, two, three and four.

17. For the appointment of a Judge-Advocate-General and a similar

officer for each field army, for the trial for minor offenses by a field-officer, etc. Sections 5,6 and 7.

A new organization was also given to the cavalry by Section II.

18. Section 9.

19. Resolution 25, approved April 4, 1862.__Callan, p. 539.

20. Resolution 37, Approved June 21, 1862.__Ibid.

21. Resolution 52, approved July 12, 1862.__Callan, p. 540.

22. Compare Mulholland, The Military order of the Congress Medal of Honor legion of the United States, pp. 50-51.

The Victoria Cross was created by Royal edict on January 29, 1856.'

23. Upton, p.436.


Website: The History
Article Name: Military Legislation and Events In 1862
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Military Unpreparedness of the United States- A History of American Land Forces from Colonial Times until June 1, 1915. By Frederic Louis Huidekoper; Publisher: The Macmillan Company-New York 1916
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