The man-of-war's-man is only an American for the time being, for the dregs of all countries seem to get into our service. The character of the men now obtained is somewhat improved over former years, but there is still much room for improvement. This description of a sailor answered well enough for their time, because the then sailing vessels were directed by the officers: sailors were wanted more for their strength than intelligence. The guns were not instruments of precision, it was mere chance if they hit anything with the shot, except at short range. Would such men do for a modern man-of-war? Most emphatically, no. The improvement most needed in our seamen is not in bravery or fortitude, but in character and general intelligence. The vessels themselves are instruments of precision; while the cannon now carried are delicately sighted and carefully ranged, heavy in caliber and few in number, which makes it essential that no ammunition should be wasted. Neither could a drunken, stupid man be in any way entrusted with the management of guns, their machinery, or the machinery that propels the vessel; to say nothing of the improved small arms, electrical apparatus and torpedo gear.
Quoting again the words of Admiral Ryder, R. N., "A man-of-war's man of to-day is not a mere seaman, but a trained warrior. He is an accomplished artillerist, a skilled rifleman, a trained swordsman, a practical electrician, an experienced machinist, and a superior torpedoist, rolled into one."
In order to properly discuss the subject of the essay it will be well to define what is meant by the term Seamen, how they are obtained at present, and who compose that class in our navy.
Fifty years ago the answer could have been more readily given than now. Then, men-of-war consisted entirely of sailing vessels; now, sailing vessels are the exception. The crew of a monitor without any sails are considered seamen in the eye of the law, as much as the crew of a training ship with only sail power, though it is evident that there is a wide difference in their duties. Strange as it may seem to a non-professional, classed among seamen are landsmen. On board of a man-of-war, all enlisted persons, except marines, come under the general head of seamen. In law, the definition of a seaman is "Any person whose employment is necessary, or whose service is useful, in the navigation of a vessel."
Section 1417, U.S. Revised Statutes, provides that the number of persons who may "at one time be enlisted into the navy of the United States, including seamen, ordinary seamen, landsmen, mechanics, firemen and coal-heavers, and including seven hundred and fifty apprentices and boys, hereby authorized to be enlisted annually, shall not exceed eight thousand two hundred and fifty." They can be classified as follows:
Those who man the guns, handle the sails, steer the ship, and man the boats, which would include : Petty officers, captains of the different parts of the ship, gunner's mates, quarter gunners, boatswain's mates, coxswains, quartermasters, seamen.
Carpenters, machinists, boilermakers, painters, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, sail-makers.
3d. Firemen and Coal-heavers.
4th. Cooks, Stewards, and attendants.
The questions to be discussed in this essay are understood to be limited to: 1st. Sailors; 2d. Mechanics; 3d. Firemen and Coal heavers.
At present, these men are obtained by enlistment. The recruit being required to be sound physically, between certain ages, and to be able to reef, furl and steer, for the rate of seamen. Firemen and coal-heavers to be competent for these rates. Machinists, blacksmiths, boilermakers and coppersmiths, may be enlisted as such; but all other petty officers are enlisted as seamen or landsmen, except a petty officer holds three continuous honorable discharges as such, in which case he is enlisted as a petty officer.
Seamen enlisted in this way cannot be called trained seamen, in the sense that they owe their training to the United States Navy. A very few of those who thus enlist were apprentices; these are trained seamen, and as I understand the problem, the question refers only to retaining these.
Why so few re-enlist, we must suppose, is because the inducements are not great enough. Let us inquire what these inducements are. Appended will be found the "Shipping Articles." The first, that for an apprentice; the second, for a recruit of age.
The only inducements here held out are the amount of wages the recruit is to receive, and that if he re-enlist under a continuous-service certificate he will receive one dollar a month additional pay for each re-enlistment of three years. It does not tell him that this certificate is a matter of regulation, not law, and its terms may be changed or the whole thing done away with at the convenience of a single person. He is, however, to obey all laws and regulations then in force and that may be established during his term of service. Are these laws and regulations read at once to the recruit? Or does he have a copy given him that he may ponder over them at his leisure before enlistment? I think no one can reply in the affirmative. It is true, on board of men-of-war it is required that certain extracts of laws governing the navy are to be hung up on the berth deck, and the "Articles for the government of the Navy" are read on the quarter-deck at muster, once a month. These, however, relate to penalties rather than to privileges.
But suppose that he is told all. Let us examine what are his inducements.
- Pay, as stated on Shipping Articles.
- Honorable Discharge. Sec. 1429, U. S. Revised Statutes: "It shall be the duty of every commanding officer of a vessel, on returning from a cruise, and immediately on his arrival in port, to forward to the Secretary of the Navy a list of the names of such of the crew who enlisted for three years, in his opinion, on being discharged, are entitled to an honorable discharge as a testimonial of fidelity and obedience; and he shall grant the same to the persons so designated." Sec. 1573, ib.: "If any seaman, ordinary seaman, landsman, fireman, coal-heaver, or boy, being honorably discharged, shall re-enlist for three years, within three months thereafter, he shall, on presenting his honorable discharge, or accounting in a satisfactory manner for its loss, be entitled to pay, during the said three months, equal to that to which he would have been entitled if he had been employed in actual service."
- Pension, for wounds or disability in line of duty. Sec. 4693, Rev. Stat.: "The persons entitled as beneficiaries under the preceding section (4692) are as follows: First. Any officer of the army, including regulars, volunteers, and militia, or any officer in the navy or marine corps, or any enlisted man, however employed, in the military or naval service of the United States, or in its marine corps, whether regularly mustered or not, disabled by reason of any wound or injury received, or disease contracted, while in the service of the United States and in the line of duty." Sec. 4695, ib.: "The pension for total disability shall be as follows, namely : . . . . and for all other persons whose rank or office is not mentioned in this section, eight dollars per month." . . . See also Sees. 4756 and 4757, ib.
- Pension to Widow and Minor Children. Sec. 4702, ib. : "If any person embraced within the provisions of sections 4692 and 4693 has died since the 4th day of March, 1861, or hereafter dies, by reason of any wound, injury, or disease, which under the conditions and limitation of such sections would have entitled him to an invalid pension had he been disabled, his widow, or if there be no widow, or in case of her death without payment to her of any part of the pension hereinafter mentioned, his child or children, under sixteen years of age, shall be entitled to receive the same pension as the husband or father would have been entitled to had he been totally disabled, to commence from the death of the husband or father, to continue to the widow during widowhood, and to his child or children, until they severally attain the age of sixteen years, and no longer; and if the widow remarry, the child or children shall be entitled from the date of remarriage."
- May be Warrant Officers. Sec. 14 17, Rev. Stat.: "In the appointment of warrant officers in the naval service of the United States, preference shall be given to men who have been honorably discharged upon the expiration of an enlistment as an apprentice or boy, to serve during minority, and re-enlisted within three months after such discharge, to serve during a term of three or more years." See also Sec. 1407, ib.
- Buried in National Cemeteries,
II.—By Regulations of Secretary of the Navy, which can BE changed or rescinded AT THE SECRETARY'S WILL.
(a) Continuous-Service Certificates. Pars. 18, 19 and 20, page 100, Navy Regulations: "All men who enlist for three years, except officers' cooks, stewards and servants, will receive, upon the expiration of their enlistments, if they shall so elect, continuous-service certificates in lieu of the ordinary or honorable discharges. All persons holding continuous-service certificates will be entitled to receive for each continuous re-enlistment for three years, within three months from the date of their discharge, one dollar per month in addition to the pay prescribed for their several ratings; but a person failing to re-enlist within three months from the date of his discharge will cease to derive any advantage from his previous continuous enlistments." "The continuous-service certificates will embrace all the advantages of the honorable discharge in cases where persons are recommended for the same, and must always show, in the column for the purpose, whether or not the person is entitled to an honorable discharge."
(b) Good- Conduct Badges. Par. 22, page 101, U. S. Navy Reg.: "Any enlisted man holding a continuous-service certificate, who is distinguished for obedience and sobriety, and is proficient in seamanship or gunnery, shall receive upon the expiration of his enlistment a good-conduct badge; after he has received three such badges, under three consecutive re-enlistments, within three months from the date of his discharge, he shall, if qualified, be enlisted as a petty officer and hold a petty officer's rating during subsequent continuous re-enlistments; and shall not be reduced to a lower rating except by sentence of a court-martial."
(c) Rewards. Section 1, Par, 22, U. S. Navy Reg: "The following directions will be observed by all Commanding Officers of vessels in respect to good-conduct classes, badges, and discharges; to granting liberty on shore to ships' companies, and to the allowance of liberty-money."
- When a vessel is fitted for sea, and has her crew on board, her Commanding Officer will at once commence to designate her crew, in the order of good conduct, in four classes, viz., 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th.
- This classification of the crew should be governed at its commencement by the possession on the part of the men of honorable discharges, medals of honor, continuous-service certificates, good-conduct badges, good-conduct discharges, and any other reliable information that can be obtained by reference to the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, or from other sources, as to the previous character of the men.
- As the cruise progresses, such changes should be made in the classes as may be warranted by the conduct of the men, either for the better or for the worse; the general character of the men is to have its due weight, and proper consideration is to be shown to such men as have been noted for acts of gallantry during war or previous service, or during the cruise.
- The surest way to make men contented on shipboard, and attached to the service, is to make them feel that our ships of war are their homes, and to make it apparent to them that their interests will be well cared for while they remain in the Navy.
- The-men should also be made aware that their good conduct will entitle them to every practical indulgence.
- First-class-conduct men should be allowed such recreations as may be compatible with the demands of duty and with the exigencies of foreign service; and an appropriate distinction should be made between them and the rest of the crew; but this distinction should not be so marked as to excite discontent among the ship's company.
- First-class-conduct men should be allowed to go on shore very frequently, in ports where the ship lies convenient to the landing, and where granting liberty is unobjectionable. In such instances a portion of them might be sent on shore daily, after the work and exercises are ended, to return on board by 10 P.M.; but, on any special occasion, to have leave until a later hour.
- In addition to this evening-leave, first-class-conduct men may also have, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, liberty on shore for twenty-four hours twice a month; and, if out of debt, may also, with the approval of the Commanding Officer, draw from the Pay Officer one-third of their monthly pay, per month, while in port.
- Second-class-conduct men may be allowed, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, liberty on shore for twenty-four hours, once a month; and, if out of debt, may also, with the approval of the Commanding Officer, draw from the Pay Officer one-fourth of their monthly pay, per month, while in port.
- Third-class-conduct men may be allowed, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, liberty on shore once in six weeks for twenty-four hours; and, if out of debt, may also, with the approval of the Commanding Officer, draw from the Pay Officer one-fifth of their monthly pay, per month, while in port.
- Fourth-class-conduct men may be allowed, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, liberty on shore for twenty-four hours once in two months; and, if out of debt, may also, with the approval of the Commanding Officer, draw from the Pay Officer one-fifth of their monthly pay, per month, while in port.
- In ports the unhealthiness of which may render it unadvisable to send the crew on shore on liberty, such indulgence is not to be granted; and in any case, in a foreign port, the permission of the proper local authorities must first be obtained: otherwise, unless the exigencies of the service shall prevent the granting of liberty to the crew, no one of the ship's company shall be deprived of liberty on shore for more than three months, except he be confined under sentence of court-martial, or under arrest for trial by court-martial.
XVI. The requisite qualifications for first-class-conduct men are as follows; Strict attention to duty, implicit and ready obedience to orders, sobriety, alacrity, courageous conduct, neatness of person and of dress, quiet and respectful demeanor, and general usefulness. This classification will be irrespective of rating.
XVII. Second, third and fourth-class conduct men will be designated from
their exhibition, in a less degree, of the qualities enumerated in paragraph
XVI, or from their want of them or of any of them.
XVIII. A separate conduct-report will be kept for boys; and when boys are sent on shore on liberty they will be put under the charge of a Petty Officer, or of a Non-commissioned Officer of Marines.
XIX. At the end of a cruise, first-class-conduct men will receive their good conduct badges before being discharged. The badge will be presented by the Commanding Officer at a special or at a general muster.
XX. Good-conduct badges are to be worn at general musters and on occasions of ceremony.
XXI. Second-class-conduct men may receive a good-conduct discharge if they have been but slightly behind the first-class requirements, and if they have shown a commendable desire to make up for any remissness in conduct; but they are not to receive a good-conduct badge. A good-conduct discharge will be of advantage as a recommendation on re-entering the service or in seeking other employment.
(d) May become Seaman Gunners.
Navy Department, Washington, May 28, 1881.
General Order No. 272.
With the view to the further development of the training system, the following additional regulations will be put in force:
I. Apprentices who have been discharged with a continuous-service certificate as seamen, and who shall re-enlist for five years within three months after such discharge, may be admitted to the gunnery school for instruction in gunnery.
II. The gunnery school will be established on board such vessel or vessels connected with the training station as may be hereafter designated, and will be termed the Gunnery Ship. To be eligible for admission into this school, the candidate must be over twenty-one years of age and not over twenty-five. His record of conduct must be unexceptionable. He must pass a first-class examination as seaman, be able to read and write fluently, and be familiar with ordinary broadside drill.
The course in gunnery shall last at least six months, and shall include progressive instruction at the different duties and stations of gun-numbers in the various crew formations adopted for general service—the duties of the gun-captain; construction and storage of magazines and shell-rooms; names and uses of the various kinds of projectiles, fuses, primers, etc., and of all the implements used in ordinary service work by the gunner's gang. In addition to proficiency in practical work, the candidate for a certificate must show his ability to station and exercise an uninstructed gun crew, and obtain a certain degree of excellence in target firing.
In small-arms he must know the use and care of such small-arms or machine guns as are supplied to the general service, with the principles of ordinary formations and manual of small-arms.
The course of instruction will also include broadswords, boxing and fencing, and the use of the diving apparatus (elective), and practical drill in laying out and handling torpedoes.
III. Seamen who have successfully passed through the prescribed course, will be given certificates as seamen gunners, and a pay of twenty-four dollars ($24) per month.
IV. Seamen gunners will be eligible to the rates of coxswains, captains of the tops, etc., at the current rates of pay. They will be deprived of their certificates as seamen gunners only by sentence of a general or summary court-martial.
V. Every ship carrying heavy guns will be allowed one (1) seaman gunner to each two (2) broadside guns, and one (1) to each pivot gun, as gun-captain.
VI. Commanders of vessels returning from a cruise, and having seamen apprentices on board, will, immediately upon their arrival in a port of the United States, prepare and forward to the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting a list of such apprentices as may be eligible for admission into the gunnery school.
VII. The Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting will grant all seamen apprentices returning from a cruise the usual leave of absence, and at the expiration of their leave, those who have been recommended will be ordered to the officer commanding the training station for instruction.
VIII. Seamen apprentices who have returned from a cruise, and who have not attained their majority, will, after the expiration of their leave, be sent to the training school to serve out their unexpired terms of enlistment. When there, those properly qualified will follow a course to prepare them for subsequent admission to the gunnery school. Those who have more than six months to serve will be liable to transfer to cruising vessels.
IX. It is contemplated to have the positions of all gunnery petty officers filled, in time, exclusively by selection from among those who hold seamen gunner's certificates, and to require candidates for warrants as boatswain or gunner to hold certificates as seamen gunners.
William H. Hunt,
Secretary of the Navy.
Navy Department, Washington, December 16, 1881.
General Order No. 281.
General Order No. 272 is modified as follows:
Apprentices who have re-enlisted under continuous-service certificates for three years may be admitted to the gunnery ship for instruction, subject to the conditions of paragraph II in the said Order. When they shall have successfully passed the prescribed course they will receive certificates as seamen gunners, and pay at the rate of $26.50 per month.
The pay of seamen gunners who re-enlist for three years will be $33.50 per month in addition to the longevity allowance due to the continuous-service certificate, provided, that the seaman gunner shall pass a satisfactory examination (on board the gunnery ship if practicable), and shall have received, during his service afloat, the favorable report of his commanding officer.
No seaman gunner shall receive the increased pay of $33.50 until he has served, as such, at least two years on board a sea-going vessel.
Seamen gunners may be required to perform the duties of any petty officer, with the pay of that rating, if higher than their own.
Such portions of General Order No. 272 as are not affected by this Order will remain in force.
William H. Hunt,
Secretary of the Navy.
To have persons remain in any employment it must be made to their interest to do so. It is idle to suppose that a mechanic or laborer will not seek the highest wages, though he leaves an employer with whom he has worked for years. So in the navy, while in war times, as a matter of sentiment, men may serve their country for nothing, in times of peace no such sentiment exists, and only those remain in the navy who cannot better themselves elsewhere. In our rich country there are few persons who cannot earn a dollar a day on shore, yet there are very few men on board ship who are paid this much. The historic reply of an old man-of-war's-man when being reproached by his commanding officer for drunkenness, "that the cardinal virtues of human nature were not to be expected at $20 per month," contains the very essence of the discussion on this point. Those on shore have all the freedom from restraint they desire, while those in the navy are always under constraint and supervision. Indeed, when given liberty on shore, they are not only subject to the civil law but to the military law, "All offences committed by persons belonging to the navy on shore shall be punished as if they had been committed at sea." A person who enlists in the navy for a term of years gives up home, friends and associations for that time; he severs for awhile his tenderest ties, and in most cases is separated by thousands of miles from those who are most dear to him. In addition, he subjects himself to the unnatural confinement on board ship. If he is so unfortunate as to be in debt, he is virtually a prisoner for this time. The discomforts of ship life cannot be understood by those who live on shore, or at best have made but a passage at sea in the luxurious steamers of the day.
"There is no title perhaps so monstrously abused in popular language and notions as that of sailor. To go on board of a ship and assist in making a passage across the ocean, and then to unload her and come back again, is very far from making a man a sailor. He is more of a travelling stevedore than a sailor. To sign the books of a passenger steamer and make a voyage in her from port to port, where the highest duties are to wash off the filth of emigrant passengers, does not make a sailor either. Going out on the banks of Newfoundland in a schooner to drop anchor and fish for cod, is not making a man a sailor. He is about as far from being a sailor as the cod are from being meat. Oystering and clamming are very useful vocations, but one may pursue them many years with credit and yet never become a sailor—very far from it. "A man may track a tow-path of a canal all his life and even then not become a sailor. Even a three or four years' cruise round the world in a whaler does not make a sailor; it makes a very hardy, courageous fellow, but he is far from being a sailor still. Steamboat-men, on tugs, steamboats, or our Sound steamers, are not sailors, though they sometimes assume the title for its honor, and claim a usurped privilege, which is theft. Men may live on the water or near the water, or travel over it in long voyages or on pleasant excursions, and yet be no nearer the mark of a sailor than any other traveler or lounger."
A workman or mechanic on shore works only during the limited hours of the day; a sailor's day has no end. He stands watch day and night; never by any chance, at sea, has more than eight hours' sleep out of the twenty-four. He is liable to be, and often is, disturbed of this rest to go on deck in stormy weather and work all the night long in rain, snow, sleet and hail, with seas washing over him. When such a night's work is over he has no comfortable bed to go to nor a dry, warm room to rest in. Even Sunday, a day of repose for those on shore, is but little different from other days on board ship. The saying is very true
"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able;
On the seventh, holystone decks and scour the cable."
"Their lives are a perpetual combat with danger in every form; danger from accidents, if they go aloft or if they go below; danger from shipwreck, from storm, from a faulty ship; danger from air, fire, and water; danger from disease; danger from battle; danger from boat service—a service full of peril always; danger from collision; and danger everywhere."
It may be asked why the Training System has not supplied the navy with the required number of trained men? As early as 1840, an attempt was made to enter apprentices and thus get a better class of men for the navy. But want of system, want of encouragement, soon brought it to an untimely end. Again, in 1863, the matter was revived, under a most excellent system of regulations and management; but the inducement held out that a certain number would be appointed cadet midshipmen caused many to enter to compete for this prize, but, when disappointed in this, they either got discharged, through the influence of friends, or deserted, or remained discontented through their term of apprenticeship and never re-enlisted. Besides these difficulties, there was, for some unknown reason, much opposition to the system and boys, on the part of many of the older officers, and in consequence their position was uncomfortable in the service generally.
In 1875, Rear Admiral Shufeldt, then captain, became Chief of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, under whose cognizance this branch of the service came. He, besides being a man of great intelligence and perseverance, is a great philanthropist and humanitarian. Under his able administration the apprentice system was revived, and through his energy and perseverance in a few years there were more than 1000 on the books, and a fleet which formed a large part of our navy was constituted for them. The whole condition of the sailor was so much improved that desertions in less than two years fell from 1203 to 669, or about one-half, and punishments became very much less. And, for the first time in the history of the navy, men were classified and given privileges according to their conduct. (See Navy Regulations already quoted.) An attempt was also made to give uniformity in punishments. His successors have continued his work, except in one important particular, namely, laying up the ships in winter, and then having schools to give the apprentices a foundation for an education. This may be the reason so few of these apprentices re-enlist on completion of their apprenticeship. Be this as it may, one is brought to believe that something is still wanting to make the service desirable. Just how many re-enlist I am unable to say, because no statistics are published; but in the ships I have lately served, out of the 300 men only four had been apprentices.
Now there can be no doubt that the navy must be supplied with trained men, and, in a degree, educated men. It also seems evident that these men must be trained and educated from boys. If little attention is paid to the education, and the boys had a reasonable expectation to receive instruction, then the government is at fault.
Section 1417, Revised Statutes, says: "Provided, that in the appointment of Warrant Officers in the naval service of the United States preference shall be given to men who have been honorably discharged upon the expiration of an enlistment as an apprentice or boy to serve during minority, and re-enlisted within three months after such discharge to serve during the term of three or more years." This act passed Congress in 1879. If a single appointment has been made as boatswain, gunner, sail-maker or carpenter in accordance with law, the Navy Register fails to show it. I have known commanding officers to recommend deserving apprentices to be given facilities to prepare for examinations to these grades, and nothing was done. And to-day no commanding officer can give an assurance to any one under his command that they will have an opportunity of competing for such a prize. In other words, there is no standard which an enlisted man may attain which will enable him to be a warranted officer in the navy.
First then, no adequate opportunity is offered to obtain a proper education, and, secondly, if in spite of obstruction such an education is acquired, no assurance is given of the promised reward. A sober, intelligent man does not continue in a service which offers no hope for promotion.
There are an average of 8000 enlisted men in the navy. To keep this number up, there are (taking an average of a number of years as shown by the reports of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting) annually enlisted over 5000. Now as the term of enlistment is only three years, this number should not reach more than 3000. The casualties to make such an extraordinary enlistment necessary are made up from those whose terms of service have expired, from desertions, from deaths, and from discharges by request. The losses from death do not average more than five in a thousand.
Very few of these enlistments are of those who have served an apprenticeship. In 1879, of the 5 119 who enlisted, only 620 were honorably discharged men. In 1881, of 5270 enlistments, only 434 re-enlisted under honorable discharges. The data furnished by the various reports of the Navy Department are so meager that it is almost impossible to estimate the waste of the navy. In the British navy the waste is about 13 per cent.; that is, to keep up an average of 18,000 seamen requires an annual addition of 2400 or 2500 persons; while in our navy, to keep up 8000 requires more than twice that number, or nearer 50 per cent. This is enormous, and renders it difficult to have our ships at all efficient in crews.
The English Training System is a great success, their navy being supplied entirely from it, and for two reasons. The first is, that the class who are entered are bettered in their lot by going into the navy, and secondly, a faithful service until 38 years of age is rewarded by a comfortable pension to retire upon. Like with us, all enlistments are voluntary; as their system has been successful, it would be wise to study it, and if possible, improve upon it. Commander F.E. Chadwick's most excellent report on this subject, made in 1879, and published by Congress in 1880, Ex. Doc. 50, gives a most complete and interesting account of this system. The most striking contrast with ours is in the matter of education. I am constrained to think this neglect on our part is the chief reason why our system has had so little success.
I would recommend the following inducements for retaining trained seamen in the navy, and system of rewards for long and faithful service.
- Opportunity to become warrant officers.
- Opportunity to become seamen gunners.
- To be made permanent petty officers.
- Commutation in reducing enlistment terms of service for good behavior.
- Honorable discharges, continuous-service certificates, medals, and bounty for re-enlistment.
- An outfit on each re-enlistment.
- Government savings bank.
- Uniformity of privileges, indulgences and punishments.
- Pension for disability received in line of duty.
- Pension to widows and minor children.
- Pension after twenty-one years' service after attaining majority.
- Employment in life-saving service.
- To be enlisted for special service on receiving ships.
- Preference given for employment in navy yards and stations. In giving directions for cooking a hare, a certain cookery book says it is necessary first to catch the hare. So in this discussion. I propose first to catch the seaman.
Opportunity to become Warrant Officers.
From the description given of a sailor's life, it is evident that an essential to contentment on board ship is to have few ties on shore. Apprentices should be enlisted between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. They should serve in the training squadron until eighteen, and then sent to cruisers to serve until twenty-one. In order that they may hold their own on board of cruising vessels, they should be sent in detachments of not less than fifty. While in the training fleet they should serve one-half of each year at sea; the other half should be spent at the headquarters of the training service. The time not spent at sea should be devoted to instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, the foundation of learning; and such drills and practical work as may be required to fit a lad for the service.
There should be a machine and carpenter shops at the station as well as a rigging and sail loft. Should an apprentice be found capable of being farther advanced in his studies, every aid and encouragement should be given him. Should it be ascertained that an apprentice has an aptitude for a machinist, carpenter, or sail-maker or boatswain, his bent in these directions should be developed by additional opportunities in these shops. When they are sent to sea at eighteen, full particulars should be sent with them of any specialty they may have, and their commanding officer be directed to encourage and aid them.
Competent schoolmasters or junior officers should be sent with every detachment, and those apprentices who wish to continue their studies should have the opportunity.
If possible, boys from our cities whose parents are dead and the children of poor people should only be enlisted. These lads would be so much better off in the navy than they were before that they would be more attached to it than lads from the country or the intractable sons of parents well to do. In two years a lad of very ordinary capacity could be taught to read, write and cipher, so that they would require to know very little to commence their naval career. To supply the waste of the navy it will be necessary to have one thousand enlisted annually for the next ten years, and then a reduction of one hundred per year till the number of enlistments is reduced to five hundred per year.
In enlisting apprentices, not only have lads been taken from the seaports, but from the interior, even from Western country—boys from farms, boys from printing offices, and boys who were intractable at home. Altogether they made a fine lot; they did not lack intelligence, they generally behaved well on board ship, and in fact were in every way desirable as part of a ship's company. But the confinement was irksome to them. When they had served their time (many did not wait that long) they were paid off, with honorable discharges, medals and commendation; but what inducement had they for re-enlistment? Their commanding officer could only say, I will do what I can for you; he could not assure them of anything. He could not say to the boy, You have done so well on board or during your term of service, that I will see that you have an opportunity to compete for a warrant officer or even seaman gunner, because there is absolutely no standard laid down which would entitle them to compete for these honors. The commanding officer can recommend, and that is all, and perhaps never receive any notice of the communication.
I happened to serve on board of a ship, the major part of whose crew, about seventy, were apprentices enlisted when Rear-Admiral Shufeldt was Chief of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting. They had served about two years on board of a training ship. They were as fine a body of young men as one could wish to see; well developed, intelligent, and out of debt—bags full of clothes; they went at once to their stations, and that part of the ship's company was organized. They served on board this ship until reaching majority, about three years. They gave great satisfaction. On the expiration of their enlistments a few, I think four, were recommended by their commanding officer to be given facilities to become instructed at one of the navy yards in the duties of sail-maker, gunner and boatswain, that they might have an opportunity to become warrant officers. Nothing was done for them, and I very much doubt if there are any of this lot of seventy in the service to-day. How simple it would be for the Government to appoint annually, after a competitive examination, according to prescribed forms and upon specified subjects, a certain number of warrant officers from those who had served as apprentices, and stop making such appointments from outside of the navy. The law says preference shall be given to these men, and the whole machinery of the examination and appointment is under the control of the Department. It would be better if there was an act of Congress directing the Department to make a certain number of these appointments annually, appointees to be selected according to merit from all entitled to compete.
A board of officers could be assembled to draw up regulations, specifying, first, the requirements of those who will be allowed to compete for these positions; secondly, the character of the examination to be passed; and, thirdly, the facilities to be given to acquire the knowledge.
The law says, that to be entitled to such a warrant, the candidate must re-enlist for three years, within three months from the date of his discharge as an apprentice. My plan would be to first classify the apprentices according to the year in which their terms expire; for instance, the class of 1885 would be composed of those entitled to discharge during that year; then establish a standard which must be attained to entitle one to be a candidate. Then, having selected the candidates, let them be sent to navy yards, torpedo station, gunnery ship and experimental battery for instruction. They could work while being instructed, and thus the Government would have some return.
For boatswain, carpenter and sail-maker, two years would probably be enough to spend at the navy yard. For gunner, this time could be divided between the Washington navy yard, torpedo station and experimental battery. At the expiration of this time let them be examined competitively, those who pass the required examination to be arranged in order of merit, and the vacancies in the warrant officers filled thus with acting appointments. Those who fail to pass, or for whom there are no vacancies, to be returned to the service.
Such a course would introduce a reform in the navy much to be desired.
In this connection I may be permitted to give my views upon the necessity of having warrant officers on board our ships. Warrant officers are the connection between the commissioned officers and the crew; they are leading men. It might happen that among the crew sent to a ship there were none qualified for boatswain's mate, gunner's mate, carpenter's mate or sail-maker's mate; the presence of corresponding warrant officers would be invaluable in fitting out the ship, or in any emergency. It has been said that warrant officers, with all the vices of sailors, wish all the privileges of commissioned officers, and that they are not diligent in the performance of their duties. If commanding officers do their duty this would not be the case, and this state of affairs can easily be rectified.
There are now on the active list 45 boatswains, 39 gunners, 51 carpenters, 32 sail-makers. On the basis of thirty-five ships in commission, with sail as well as steam power, there should be 70 of each grade; one-half at sea at one time. If this number be gradually reached, say by ten appointments a year, the limit above would never be exceeded, and could not be reached in ten years. Then the waste would be sufficient to keep up a demand at this rate.
Firemen and Coal-Heavers.
Such apprentices as evince a desire to become firemen and show a skill in handling machinery, should be given an opportunity, on re-enlisting after attaining their majority, to be taught the duties of firemen. They could first be sent to the shops in our navy yards and taught to fire boilers on shore, the different parts of the boilers and engines, and their connection. After a year's experience they should be sent to steamers for instruction in their duties. The best vessels for this purpose would be those that are constantly under steam, such as dispatch and transport steamers and monitors. They should be well paid, and receive an additional pay on each re-enlistment, and should be eligible to promotion to machinists, boilermakers and coppersmiths, and be given the preference for such positions. These men are of the most valuable and necessary on board ship, and their life when under steam is a laborious one and trying to the health.
Coal-heavers should be enlisted as now. Their duties are such as require robust men, and do not call for any great degree of intelligence.
Apprentices should not be required to serve as coal-heavers or firemen, except in cases of emergency, because this kind of work for growing lads would be very injurious to their health. The great heat to which they are exposed when on watch, and the great change in temperature to which they are exposed when off duty, are such that only men of very strong constitutions can stand them.
General orders Nos. 272 and 281 would be quite sufficient if they provided for instruction in torpedoes, such as charging, connecting and exploding them, and a course in practical electricity; and if they were carried out. Although both of these orders were issued in 1881, I feel quite safe in saying there is no gunnery ship in the service to-day, and that these orders have never been carried out. There are several steam sloops of war available for this purpose; one of these, with a tender sufficiently large to mount a couple of guns (like the Standish now in use at the Naval Academy), should be immediately commissioned, and the entire crew, exclusive of firemen, coal-heavers, marines and attendants, should be composed of re-enlisted apprentices, or those who may have a short time to serve and intend to compete for seaman gunners. An addition to the terms of the order should be that all petty officers should be appointed from seaman gunners, when they are available.
Permanent Petty Officers.
Navy Department, Washington, November 21, 1884.
General Order No. 327.
From and after January 1, 1885, the form of honorable discharge from the naval service, authorized by Section 1427, Revised Statutes of the United States, will be the "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate." All men (except officers' cooks, stewards and servants enlisted for special service) now serving under enlistments for three years, or who may hereafter enlist for that period, shall receive an "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate" at the expiration of their terms of enlistment, upon the recommendation of their commanding officers.
Any man holding an "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate," who re-enlists for three years, within three months from the date of his last discharge, shall receive an increase of one dollar per month to the pay prescribed for the rating in which he serves, for each consecutive re-enlistment, in addition to the "honorable discharge money."
Any man holding an "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate," who fails to re-enlist within three months from date of last discharge, will derive no further advantages there from.
The Department directs that the records of conduct and professional qualifications on the "Enlistment Records" shall be a verification of the recommendations for "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate," and hereafter only those shall be recommended who obtain, during their terms of enlistment, a general average of four.
In order that commanding officers of vessels upon which men complete their terms of enlistment shall be informed as to the previous merit of said men, the original "Enlistment Record" (Form 12), which accompanies an enlisted man upon his first transfer, will hereafter be carefully preserved and accompany him upon all subsequent transfers, until his term of enlistment has been completed. This form has been amended so as to show the record of conduct as averaged by the commanding officer of the vessel for the period for which the man has served under his command. The final averages will be made by the officer under whom the man is serving at the time his enlistment expires, when about to be discharged. These "Enlistment Records" must be forwarded to the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting.
In addition to the above requirements, enlisted men must serve at least two years and nine months of their terms of enlistment in order to receive an "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate," except in extraordinary cases, which will be provided for by the Department as they may occur.
When any man holding an "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate" shall fail to receive a recommendation for its renewal upon the expiration of his term of enlistment, the words "not entitled to Honorable Discharge" shall be written on the line below the last entry. Men so discharged will receive no further pecuniary benefit from their "Honorable Discharge and Continuous-Service Certificate," and entries of a re-enlistment or subsequent service must not be noted thereon.
"Good-Conduct Badges" are special distinctions for fidelity, zeal and obedience, and will not be granted for the first term of enlistment under "Continuous Service." At the expiration of subsequent re-enlistments for three years, within three months from date of discharge, men who hold "Honorable Discharges and Continuous-Service Certificates," have obtained a general average of four and five-tenths (4.5) on their "Conduct Records," and are recommended by their commanding officers, will be entitled to and receive said badges. The first badge will be a medal, as hitherto. Subsequent badges to be clasps, with the name of the vessel from which given engraved thereon, to be worn on ribbon above medal. When any enlisted man shall have received three such badges, under consecutive re-enlistments as above, he shall be enlisted as a petty officer in the rating in which he is best qualified to serve, and shall continue to hold a petty officer's rating during subsequent continuous re-enlistments, and shall not be reduced to a lower rating except by sentence of Court-Martial.
Paragraphs 18 and 20, page 100, and paragraph 22, page 101, U. S. Navy Regulations, are hereby annulled.
William E. Chandler,
Secretary of the Navy.
The above General Order is very good so far as it goes. In my opinion, it should go further. It should prescribe the requirements of every grade of petty officer, and none should be appointed that could not attain the standard. In addition, any petty officer who was discharged as such, at the expiration of any enlistment, should have a preference for the same billet on a re-enlistment. Permanent petty officers should hold such appointments from the Secretary of the Navy or Chief of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, in the same manner that non-commissioned officers of the Marine Corps hold their appointments from the Colonel Commandant.
I know of no particular rule or regulation setting forth the requirements of petty officers; in consequence, a petty officer in one ship may have quite a different standard to reach than the same rate in another ship. This should be rectified and a uniform standard adopted for each rate.
Commutation in Reducing Enlistment by Good Behavior.
Seamen are enlisted for three years. I would propose, that for every year of good behavior one month be taken off; so that a three years' enlistment might be reduced three months, and in twenty-one years' enlistment it would only make that many months. This gratuity, in my opinion, would be a great inducement to good men to remain in the service, besides being a substantial reward for good behavior. The comfort of every one on board ship is so much enhanced by the good conduct of the crew that every reasonable inducement should be given to attain this desired end. While I do not wish for a moment to name penitentiaries and men-of-war in the same category, still there is one similar element, that of restraint. Now, in all prisons this commutation is in vogue, with most beneficial results. It is the hope, the ray of light, to the forlorn convict, and makes him obedient when punishment had failed to do so. The loss to the Government would be nothing compared with the gain of having good men in the service.
Honorable Discharges, Continuous-Service Certificates, Medals, and Bounty for Re-enlistment.
Under this head, honorable discharges and bounty for re-enlistment are provided for by law, as heretofore quoted. It would be much better if the law covered all. An honorable discharge must be given to those who deserve it as a testimonial of fidelity and obedience, upon the recommendation of the commanding officer.
The question of what is meant by fidelity and obedience is very puzzling. One commanding officer may, and does, say, for example, that drunkenness on shore should not interfere with this discharge, while another has the contrary opinion; so that a drunkard from one ship will get such a discharge and the same man from another would not. Again, the law is silent as to his professional qualifications, so that as long as a man behaves himself, even though he be dull and stupid, he is entitled to this reward.
The continuous-service certificate which, unfortunately, is only regulation, and liable to be discontinued, or altered for better or worse, is faulty, in that marks therein given are given by the commanding officer when a transfer or discharge is made, and need not be from any record that may have been kept. The officer of division should be required to mark the men of his division at least monthly. These marks, if approved, should be published to the crew, and the average of them should be given in case of transfer or discharge. In conduct, the mark should be given by the executive officer. This would warn a man who was behindhand to improve, and would show those who did well that their efforts were appreciated. Besides, it would give all concerned an opportunity to appeal and have any errors corrected. Let the crew see they are being dealt with fairly and openly, and I feel sure it will be a great inducement for them to remain in the service.
Outfit on each Re-enlistment.
Soldiers and marines receive not only an outfit on enlisting, but a yearly allowance of clothing. Why should seamen not have the same? Surely they are as much entitled to it as the marine who serves with them. The seaman should be given it as an act of justice to him. It has been estimated that this outfit will cost about fifty dollars ($50). At present, a man who enlists in the navy is at once this much in debt to the Government, and by regulation, a seaman in debt cannot have leave or liberty. Fifty dollars represents about three months' pay, so for that time the man is a prisoner, which is certainly not right or fair. If it is not deemed advisable to give this outright, it might be charged against the recruit at the rate of two ($2) dollars per month till all is paid. If the man deserted, the Government would lose its balance. I believe that many of the desertions now are the result of this confinement on board while getting out of debt. It certainly gives much dissatisfaction. I firmly believe that the granting of this outfit will be a great inducement to seamen to remain in the service.
Government Savings Bank.
In our army the soldiers are given four per cent, for their savings. An Act of Congress was passed for this purpose in 1872. Section 1305, Revised Statutes, is as follows: "Any enlisted man of the army may deposit his savings, in sums not less than five dollars, with any Army Paymaster, who shall furnish him a deposit book, in which shall be entered the name of the paymaster and of the soldier, and the amount, date and place of such deposit. The money so deposited shall be accounted for in the same manner as other public funds, and shall pass to the credit of the appropriation for the pay of the army, and shall not be subject to forfeiture by sentence of court-martial, but shall be forfeited for desertion, and shall not be permitted to be paid until final payment on discharge, or to the heirs or representative of a deceased soldier, and that such deposit be exempt from liability for such soldier's debts. Provided, that the Government shall be liable for the amount deposited to the person so depositing the same."
Section 1306. "For any sum not less than fifty dollars so deposited for the period of six months, or longer, the soldier on his final discharge shall be paid interest at the rate of four per centum per annum."
Section 1307. "The system of deposits herein established shall be carried into execution under such regulations as may be established by the Secretary of War."
"The Secretary of War commends this system of banking in the highest terms, and states that it has been the means in a marked degree of decreasing desertion, and thereby increasing the tone and
morale of the army. The system is also in operation in the British Navy with like gratifying results."
A seaman has no opportunity to invest his savings during the period of his enlistment. Frequently on a foreign station, he could not invest if he would. The consequence is, as a rule, he squanders his hard-earned wages in riotous living, when he gets an opportunity on shore. It would be a simple matter at the end of every quarter for a seaman to deposit with the paymaster his savings. The paymaster could enter the amount in a column for the purpose in the quarterly returns, and add the interest every quarter. At the expiration of the term of enlistment the man could be paid principal and interest, or if he desired to re-enlist, his savings might be transferred to his new account on re-entering. By so doing, a man after twenty-one years service might have enough laid by to make his old age reputable and comfortable. A great fault with sailors is their reckless extravagance. Such a Savings Bank system would tend in a great degree to cure this evil. A matter so simple, and which has elsewhere been tried with such good results, certainly should have a trial in our navy.
Uniformity of Privileges and Punishments.
I have already given the system of rewards to, privileges of, and grading of a ship's company as now authorized in the navy. There can be no question but that this has been an immense benefit to the service and reflects great credit upon its originators. Unfortunately, it is simply regulation, not law, and may be changed at any time for the worse, as well as for the better, and even as regulation it is not fully carried out.
The defects of this system are, that while a high standard is required for the first grade, so high as to be barely attainable, the arrangement of the other grades or the qualifications for them are left to the commanding officer. This latter defect is a very serious one, and confirms the old yarn of "different ships, different rules." Instead of a sailor being justified by saying that in the last ship such rules were observed and he expected the same to hold in his present ship, he finds to the contrary; and that whatever he may have been taught as proper in the last ship does not of necessity mean the same now. Much discontent arises from this. A board of competent officers should be appointed to devise a uniform system of rewards and indulgences, and a uniform system of qualifications for the various conduct grades. These, after the approval of the Secretary of the Navy, should become law.
The Navy Regulations of 1876 described the punishments that a commanding officer might inflict, and suggested a list of offences and punishments therefore, as follows
For the purpose of promoting good order and discipline in the Navy, and to secure uniformity in awarding punishments, the following schedule of offences, with proportionate and appropriate punishments, will be adopted in all vessels of the Navy as applicable for infliction by Commanding Officers of vessels, without resort to summary or to general courts-martial:
- Solitary confinement, 5 days or less; no irons; bread and water.
- Solitary confinement, 3 days or less; no irons; bread and water.
- Solitary confinement, 7 days or less; no irons; full rations.
- Solitary confinement, 5 days or less; no irons; full rations.
- Solitary confinement, 3 days or less; no irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 10 days or less; double irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 5 days or less; double irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 3 days or less; double irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 10 days or less; single irons or without irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 5 days or less; single irons or without irons; full rations.
- Confinement, 3 days or less; single irons or without irons; full rations.
- Confinement, overnight; single irons or without irons; full rations.
- Reduction of any rating established by himself.
- Deprivation of liberty on shore.
- Extra duties.
List of offences suggestive of such as may be punished by order of Commanding Officers of vessels:
No. 1. Absence without leave…N
No, 2. Leaving boat or working-party…N
No. 3. Making false charges against any of the crew, if made by Petty Officer or other person rated by Commander…M
No, 4. If by Petty Officer, or other person not rated by Commander…O
No. 5. Lying…O
No. 6. Answering for another man at watch-muster, at quarters, or in a boat…O
No. 7. Being habitually dirty or slovenly. (As a reformatory measure in such cases, besides the punishment, frequent inspections of the person and clothing by Officer of Division or Deck, or by Master-at-Arms or Ship's Corporal, should be made until the habit is reformed. The Marine Officer or Non-commissioned Officer of Marines shall make these inspections with the marines)…O
No. 8. Not being in proper uniform (frequent inspections also)…O
No. 9. Neglecting to carry out orders…O
No. 10. Disobedience of orders…A to L
No. 11. Drunk at sea or on duty…M or O
No. 12. Returning from leave drunk…none
No. 13. Occasionally drunk…M or O. Confinement until sober, as a precautionary measure, in these cases.
No. 14. Smuggling liquor…A
No. 15. Trafficking in liquor…A
No. i6. Neglect of ordinary duty, or negligently performing it…M or O
No. 17. Not answering muster at watch or quarters…M or O
No. 18. Malingering…M or O
No. 19. Inattention to duty (frequent inspections also)…M or O
No. 20. Gambling…A, M, or O
No. 21. Misbehavior at Divine service…A, M, or O
No. 22. Making noise on deck, aloft, or at quarters…A to L
No. 23. Spitting on deck, either below or from aloft…O
No. 24. Sleeping in tops or in boats, whether top or boat keeper or not…O
No. 25. Getting in or out of ports…O
No. 26. Throwing things overboard from improper places…O
No. 27. Not making or not having clothes or hats made in time…O
No. 28. Carelessness about clothes-bag, or going to it without permission…O
No. 29. Leaving clothes about…O
No. 30. Hanging hammocks or clothes in improper places…O
No. 31. Washing hammocks or clothes in improper places…O
No. 32. Washing hammocks or clothes badly or at improper times…O
No. 33. Lashing hammocks badly (frequent inspections also)…O
No. 34. Untidiness as to hammock or bag (frequent inspections also)…O
No. 35. Cursing others, or using obscene language…A or B
No. 36. Striking inferiors or equals…A or B
No. 37. Fighting…A or B
No. 38. Quarreling with words or using provoking language…F to L
No. 39. Smoking out of hours or in improper places…F to L
No. 40. Having lights after hours…F to L
No. 41. Negligently letting fall or lowering anything from aloft…O
No. 42. Using knife or marline-spike aloft without good lanyard…O
No. 43. Carelessness with respect to arms (frequent inspection)…O
No. 44. Not keeping arms clean (frequent inspection)…O
In all cases in which extra duty is imposed as a punishment it should be as nearly as possible of the kind of duty that has been neglected, if awarded for neglect of duty; and, if awarded for other offences, it shall be of such nature as will most tend to correct them and prevent their repetition.
Aggravated cases in the preceding list of offences can, of course, be referred to summary courts-martial, or to general courts-martial, at the discretion of Commanders of vessels, to whom alone the law confides the power to inflict punishment, or to cause it to be inflicted, on board vessels of the Navy, by the exercise of their own authority.
If these had the authority of law, or were mandatory instead of suggestive, they might have been beneficial to the service, but in their present yielding form they are virtually void. The navy is not to be governed by suggestions, but by commands. I do not mean to be understood as approving this code, on the contrary I think it very faulty, but had it the force of law one could be reconciled to it.
In my opinion the punishments, in most cases, are disproportioned to the offences. For example, absence without leave, and leaving a boat or working party, offences nearly akin to desertion, are punished only by deprivation of leave on shore, and it may happen there is no opportunity to give leave. So also making false charges, lying, being dirty and slovenly, being drunk, spitting on decks, are punished alike by extra duties. While smoking out of hours, or in improper places, by confinement in irons, single or double, not exceeding ten days.
With all due respect, I must say that nothing could be more absurd or more unjust. Can it be possible that it is a more serious matter to smoke out of hours than to lie, to get drunk and therefore be unfit for duty? Surely a system of morals founded upon such ideas would ruin any community, and why not a man-of-war? Again, making a noise on deck, aloft, or at quarters is to be punished by confinement, solitary, on bread and water for five days or less, or confinement with or without irons for ten days or less. If such regulations were read over to thinking men they would never enlist unless driven to do so by desperate circumstances. Would any man enlist were he told that if he made a noise on board ship he would be imprisoned on bread and water, or in irons? I admit that noise is detrimental to a successful drill or exercise, but I cannot say or believe that it is criminal, or that it is more immoral than to deceive, to lie, or to get drunk, or so great a breach of discipline.
I do not believe this code is strictly carried out on any vessel of war now in commission. It should be revised by a Board of Officers, and, if then approved, become law. There should be an absolute uniformity in punishments for offences, as the privileges and rewards are so dependent upon them. There are many officers in the navy who look upon drunkenness as natural to a sailor, and therefore should not be severely dealt with. Indeed, I have heard some say that they never knew a good seaman who was not a drunkard. There are others who look upon this as one of the worst crimes, and think no punishment too severe. And so with many other misdemeanors. Yet these commanders are both sincere in their convictions. With such a state of affairs is it to be wondered that so few good men, trained seamen, re-enlist? Manifestly, then, one great inducement would be a uniform system of rewards and punishments. It would be better to have a law enacted; but in the absence of a law, a peremptory regulation established by the Secretary of the Navy could be drawn up to remedy these defects.
Pensions for Disability, Occurring in Line of Duty.
If the law were amended so that these pensions should be graded according to the rate held by the seaman at the time his disability occurred—the present law places the best man on the same footing with the poorest—it would be a desirable improvement.
Pensions to Widows.
The sections of the Revised Statutes already quoted place the highest pension to a widow at eight ($8) dollars. No amount of good service of the husband can make it more. No matter if he is a first-class petty officer or an ordinary seaman, his widow's pension is the same. This should, in justice, be changed, so that the widows may receive pensions according to the rate held by, and the merits of, their deceased husbands. It seems to me that a board of officers might devise an equitable scheme which, no doubt, would receive the approval of Congress and the President. Let a man see that merit will be considered and he will not only be more contented, but will strive to be meritorious.
Rewards for Long and Faithful Service.
Pensions for twenty-one years Service after Majority.
Every seaman who serves twenty-one years continuously, as such, after reaching the age of twenty-one, should receive a pension according to his merits.
- First-class Petty Officers entitled to be enlisted as such, and who have complete good-conduct badges and honorable discharges, one ($1.00) dollar per day.
- First-class Petty Officers, entitled to be enlisted as such and who have not less than half the good-conduct badges, and all the honorable discharges, and all other Petty Officers who are entitled to be enlisted as such, and who hold complete good-conduct badges and honorable discharges, seventy-five (75c.) cents per day.
- Other Petty Officers, who are honorably discharged on the completion of twenty -one years continuous service, after majority, and seamen who are honorably discharged after this service, fifty (50c.) cents a day.
The age of an apprentice, sixteen, which is as old as one can enter, would, with his service as apprentice, five years, and twenty-one years after, make twenty-six years of continuous service to the United States. These are the best years of his life. During this quarter of a century of service he will have had no opportunities to make friends on shore, or to seize any opportunity to make a living outside of the navy. He will be forty-two years of age, and will be much broken by his service afloat. It will be some time before he can find something to do to help to support him. He will naturally want to marry and have a home; unless he has this help from the Government he will not be able to do so. I do not think it at all unreasonable after a quarter of a century's service at sea, away from home, on a small pay, that the Government should be asked to pay these moderate pensions. Besides, the standard is high, that it seems very little to give for so much worth, so much value received.
Can it be doubted that this will be a greater inducement than anything else? When a man realizes that he can be provided for life, will he not strive to do well, and will not more remain in the service than do now? At present the seaman has little opportunity to better himself in the navy, no way of providing for his old age except to go to an asylum, so he very naturally leaves and tries something else. He tries the merchant service, where he can get to be an officer. He tries steam-boating or yachting, which pay better, in which he has a more comfortable time, and which give prospects of advancement. Or he tries a shore life. Men of spirit, intelligence and ambition are what we want in the navy; they are a necessity. The honor of the flag is entrusted to them. But such men are not to be had without paying for them. England gives similar pensions, but at an earlier age, at the age of thirty-eight (38). The scheme works well there, and I believe this proposed, though not so liberal as theirs, will give good results in our navy. The minor details would have to be considered by a board, but the essential points would be as I have given under the headings (1), (2), (3).
The cost of this plan would not be great. Suppose that an average of one hundred (100) men receive this benefit annually, at an average of seventy-five (75) cents per day; in one year this would amount to about $27,000; in twenty-one years, at this rate, to about $500,000; but the tables of life insurance companies their death rates would show that of 100 men who reach forty-two years of age, not more than one-half would reach sixty-two (62), or be benefited twenty-one years. So to commence, the sum required would be small, and at the end of thirty years from now about $300,000 would be required, which would probably be the maximum.
I venture to say, that if a million dollars of the prize fund were set aside for this, and the interest, when not required, be allowed to accumulate, and be again put on interest, it would suffice to meet the expense. No one could be benefited for years to come, because the present training system has not been in force twenty years, and very few apprentices have re-enlisted under continuous service certificates.
Employment in Life-Saving Service after Discharge from the Navy. Preference for Employment on Board of Receiving Ships, at Navy Yards and Stations.
The right to have such employment can hardly be disputed. That the men would be well suited and qualified for the duties is unquestionable also. If, then, when the trained seamen received their discharges, would register their names to be so employed, and be notified when vacancies occur, I think good men would be secured with very little trouble. And a sailor would see another inducement to remain in the service the required time and perform his duties well.
It is very desirable that the cooking of the ration for the men on board ship should be improved, and many consider that with a little better dietary men would be induced to remain. I think the ship's cooks should be trained for their duties. This has been frequently recommended, and it is difficult to see why nothing has been done. It could readily be managed on board the receiving ships. The navy ration is the best in the world; let it be well prepared and there will be no cause for complaint.
I have heard men say that they were always glad to get away from the receiving ships because they were uncomfortable and not well treated. According to their representations, they seem to have been regarded, while on receiving ships, as purely objects of prey. If these complaints are true, then it would be an inducement for men to remain in the service to have changes and reforms in the manner of conducting the affairs of these vessels.
The question how to employ men at this stage of their enlistment is a difficult one, for several reasons:
- The ships are usually moored head and stern, and in ports where it would be impossible to fire shots from their guns; and their guns are antiquated, so that to drill the men at the guns is of no practical use.
- The sails are unbent, and as a rule but few spars aloft, so no exercise of the sails or spars is practicable.
- To drill with small arms, howitzers or swords is generally not practicable on board, and as (I believe) only one receiving ship is moored alongside a wharf, it is not convenient to send them on shore for this purpose.
- Even were it possible to do all these things, there are generally so few officers attached to the ships that it would not be practicable. I would remedy this by having enough officers on duty. Then all receiving ships should be moored alongside the navy yards, and a suitable drill and play ground be provided near them. Under the present regime recruits cannot be given liberty. If they had grounds where they could play ball, pitch quoits, and other games, they would be more contented. Besides, there should be reading rooms and what would correspond to a canteen in the army. A small monthly subscription from the seamen would pay for the papers and periodicals, and the canteen no doubt would be self-supporting. If the canteen were abused, punish the offenders and the abuses would soon correct themselves. Make the receiving ships desirable homes for the seamen, and they will not hesitate to re -enlist because of the fear of being uncomfortable and uncared for while awaiting transfer to a seagoing vessel. The customs, privileges, duties and punishments should be alike on all these ships.
The introduction of steam, the improvements in ordnance, the use of torpedoes, and the changes from wood to iron and steel for construction, have necessitated great changes in the requirements and character of the seamen. It is evident that laws, regulations and customs governing an illiterate and generally depraved set of men must be changed when trained seamen of intelligence and education are to be dealt with. A seaman who cannot read and write is of little use now in the service.
I have endeavored to show what the character of the naval sailor was. I have contrasted this with what is required of the seaman of the present day. I have shown some of the evils of the laws and regulations now in force, and have tried to show how they could be improved for the benefit of the seamen. I have named many inducements that might be tried to retain trained seamen in the Navy, as well as rewards to be given them for long and faithful service. All of these are reasonable, only a few require legislation. I feel sure Congress will be glad to pass these acts to do justice to their country's defenders. A Board of Officers should be ordered to devise new regulations and laws suitable to the times. We must educate our men. Our ships have changed, so must the character of our crews. Let it be made to the interest of trained seamen to remain in the Navy, by proper treatment while they remain, and by holding out such rewards as I have indicated for long and faithful service, and the time will soon come when the American man-of-war man will be the pride of his countrymen and the admiration of the world.