Continental Monthly , Vol. 6, No. 1, July, 1864 Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

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Excerpt SECOND PAPER. Having, in the preceding paper, described the general organization of an army, we proceed to give a succinct account of some of the principal staff departments, in their relations to the troops. Army organization—notwithstanding the world has always been engaged in military enterprises—is of comparatively recent institution. Many of the principles of existing military systems date no farther back than to Frederic the Great, of Prussia, and many were originated by Napoleon. Staff departments, particularly, as now constituted, are of late origin. The staff organization is undergoing constant changes. Its most improved form is to be found in France and Prussia. Our own staff system is of a composite, and, in some respects, heterogeneous character—not having been, constructed on any regular plan, but built up by gradual accretions and imitations of European features, from the time of our Revolution till the present. It has, however, worked with great vigor and efficiency. The staff of any commander is usually spoken of in two classes—the departmental and the personal—the latter including the aides-de-camp, who pertain more particularly to the person of the commander, while the former belong to the organization. Of the departmental staff, the assistant adjutant-generals and assistant inspector-generals are denominated the 'general staff,' because their functions extend through all branches of the organization, while the other officers are confined exclusively to their own departments. The chief of staff is a recent French imitation. The first officer assigned in that capacity was General Marcy, on the staff of General McClellan, in the fall of 1861. Previous to that time the officers of the adjutant-general's department—on account of their intimate relations with commanding officers, as their official organs and the mediums through which all orders were transmitted—had occupied it. The duties of these officers, however, being chiefly of a bureau character, allowing them little opportunity for active external supervision, it has been deemed necessary to select for heads of the staffs, officers particularly qualified to assist the commander in devising strategical plans, organizing, and moving troops, etc.; competent to oversee and direct the proceedings of the various staff departments; untrammelled with any exclusive routine of duty, and able in any emergency, when the commander may be absent, to give necessary orders. For these reasons, although the innovation has not been sanctioned by any law, or any standing rule of the War Department, and although its propriety is discussed by many, the custom of assigning officers as chiefs of staff has become universal, and will probably be permanent. The extent and character of their duties depend, however, upon themselves, being regulated by no orders, and the high responsibilities attached to the position in France have not thus far been assumed by the officers occupying it here. In the French service, the chief of staff is the actual as well as the nominal head of the organization; he supervises all its operations; he is the alter ego of the commander....
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