Right Man at the Right Time?
As the new year of 1812 started, it became shockingly apparent to Congress that, with war with Britain clearly approaching, the armed forces of the United States were unprepared for any conflict. The small Navy, only 16 ships, was vastly inferior to the 400 ship British Navy, already tested against the French. U.S. seamen were well trained. The Army, by contrast, was far from combat ready. Its 7,000 men and officers were scattered in small installations from Fort Mackinac to Florida; from New Orleans to New England. Thanks to Secretary Eustis, arms and equipment were obsolete and in poor condition. Almost every unit was understrength. Regiments were commanded by Revolutionary War veterans over sixty years of age. Senior officers had little training for commanding large forces; no force of any size had been assembled since Anthony Wayne's Legion fought Indians in Ohio. With most installations manned by companysize garrisons, there had been little opportunity or reason to schedule battalion or regimental training. Both staff control and logistic supply were inadequate. Training was lax and varied from unit to unit.
On January 11, a worried Congress increased the size of the Army by ten regiments of infantry, two of artillery, and one of light dragoons. In addition to prescribed officers and men, each artillery regiment included forty cadets; each infantry regiment, ten; and the single dragoon regiment, twenty-four. Had this law been implemented by Eustis appointing young men to fill the cadet spaces, facilities at West Point would have not been unable to house, feed, or educate the additional cadets.
The law was little more than a paper exercise. Recruits would not volunteer for the five-year term, and few regiments were activated. Eustis did appoint a few cadets who were assigned directly to units, not to the Military Academy.
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Publication information: Book title: To the Point:The United States Military Academy, 1802-1902. Contributors: George S. Pappas - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 61.