No. 415.
Mr. Stoughton to Mr. Evarts.

No. 63.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward to you herewith military dispatch No. 21, of Lieut. F. Y. Greene, military attaché of this legation.

I have the honor, &c.,

[Inclosure in Mr. Stoughton’s No. 63.]
No. 21.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to orders received some months since from the War Department, I shall take my departure on the 29th of December, and expect to reach Washington about the 28th of January.

In view of my departure, I notified the commandant of the imperial headquarters of my desire to take leave of the Emperor at the last Sunday morning inspection, but at that inspection that official informed me that the Emperor would receive me at the Winter Palace. I accordingly presented myself there this morning and had a short interview with the Emperor, whose manner was most cordial. I endeavored to express my thanks for all the courtesy and assistance I had received from Russian officers of every grade during my stay in Russia. The Emperor was good enough to say that he regretted my departure; that I left a good impression (un très-bon souvenir) behind me in Russia, and to make one or two other complimentary remarks. He also gave me his photograph and autograph as a souvenir.

In the anteroom I met several members of the imperial family, including the Grand Duke Constantino (high admiral of the navy), who all took leave of me with kind expressions of regret, &c.

Yesterday I presented myself at the palace of the Grand Duke Nicholas, late commander-in-chief of the army in Bulgaria, and at the offices of the minister of war, and chief of the general staff, and took leave of those officials.

In conclusion I ask permission to express my thanks and appreciation of the uniform courtesy, consideration, and assistance that have been shown to me throughout the whole time that I have been attached to the legation by the Hon. Mr. Stoughton, United States minister to Russia, and by his predecessor, the Hon. Mr. Boker.

I inclose herewith some notes concerning the general duties and position of military attachés in Europe, which may possibly be of service upon a future occasion, in the event of officers being sent abroad.

I have the honor, &c.,

First Lieutenant Engineers, U. S. Military Attaché.

The Hon. Secretary of State,
(Through the United States Minister to Russia.)

[Page 907]
[Inclosure to military dispatch No. 21.]

Memorandum concerning the position and duties of military attachés.

Each of the great nations of Europe keeps permanently attached to its embassies and legations, at the principal foreign capitals, one or more military officers, as follows:

  • British embassies at—
    • Paris.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • Berlin.—One officer of the army.
    • Vienna.—One officer of the army.
    • St. Petersburg.—One officer of the army.
    • Rome.—One officer of the navy.
    • Washington.—One officer of the navy.
  • French embassies at—
    • Berlin.—Two officers of the army.
    • Vienna.—Two officers of the army.
    • St. Petersburg.—One officer of the army.
    • Rome.—One officer of the army.
    • London.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • Madrid.—One officer of the army.
  • German embassies at—
    • Paris.—Two officers of the army.
    • Vienna.—One officer of the army.
    • St. Petersburg.—One officer of the army.
    • Rome.—One officer of the army.
    • London.—One officer of the army.
    • Madrid.—One officer of the army.
  • Russian embassies at—
    • Paris.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • Berlin.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • Vienna.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • Rome.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.
    • London.—One officer of the army. Two officers of the navy.
  • Austrian embassies at—
    • Paris.—One officer of the army.
    • Berlin.—One officer of the army.
    • St. Petersburg.—One officer of the army.
    • Rome.—One officer of the army.
    • London.—One officer of the navy.
    • Constantinople.—One officer of the army.
  • Italian embassies at—
    • Paris.—One officer of the army.
    • Berlin.—One officer of the army.
    • Vienna.—One officer of the army.
    • London.—One officer of the army. One officer of the navy.

These officers are known as “military (or naval) attachés.”

In addition to the above the Emperor of Russia sends one of his aides-de-camp of the rank of major-general, or colonel, as military plenipotentiary attached to the person of the Emperor of Germany, and another to the Emperor of Austria, and these courtesies are returned in the same manner by the two latter emperors.

The military attachés vary in rank from major-general to captain. The naval attachés from rear-admiral to lieutenant. They are usually chosen from among the officers of the general staff (état major), although sometimes from the artillery or engineers. In the English service the military attaché, if of the rank of general, takes precedence of all the embassy, except the ambassador; if below the rank of general, of all except the ambassador and first secretary. In the other services he takes precedence according to his own rank and the assimilated rank of the secretaries.

In the English service the correspondence of the military attachés is forwarded through the ambassador and foreign office. In other services it is communicated direct to the minister of war at home, and in the Russian service even the chiefs of bureaus (engineers, artillery, &c.,) correspond directly with the military attachés abroad without submitting their communications to the minister of war.

The military attaché is, of course, in general terms subject to the ambassador, but he is never called upon for ordinary office work or service of any kind other than that pertaining directly to his military duties. As a general rule he has his own office apart from the embassy. AH the privileges and courtesies extended to the diplomatic corps as a body are also extended to the military attachés, besides a great many invitations to purely military affairs, reviews, parades, military dinners, &c., in which the diplomats, properly speaking, are not supposed to be interested.

[Page 908]

The duties of these officers, in general terms, are to keep their own governments always informed of the course of military affairs and the military strength of the countries to which they are accredited. For this purpose they are (usually) furnished, by courtesy, copies of all orders published by the minister of war, or by the chiefs of the bureaus of that ministry; they are invited, as part of the suite of the emperor or commander-in-chief, to reviews, to annual maneuvers and camps, to certain drills, and inspections, &c. They subscribe to the military newspapers and periodicals, and they have, of course, a wide acquaintance among the army officers in the capitals where they are stationed.

From all these sources they keep themselves constantly informed upon military affairs, and promptly transmit to their own governments any changes in the organization, strength, armament, &c., of the army. They also keep the ambassador informed in general of these changes, and are expected to be sufficiently familiar with the military system of the country where they are stationed to be able to state at any time its resources in men and arms in a military emergency. Their reports in detail are sent home to the minister of war, and by him referred to the general staff (état major). In the five great military nations, Germany, France, Russia, Austria, and Italy, there is a section of the general staff (usually known as that of “foreign statistics”) whose special duty it is to arrange and classify these reports of the military attaches in connection with data received from other sources on the same subject; so that the general staff is always in a condition to know with considerable exactitude the military resources of neighboring nations. The valuable service which this section of the Prussian staff rendered to their army in 1864, 1866, and 1870 is well known, and it is also well known that the French entered into the war of 1870 in great ignorance of the military strength of their enemy, principally because Marshal Le Boeuf, the minister of war, refused to credit the valuable reports of Baron Stoffel, the military attaché in Berlin, which reports were subsequently completely verified by the facts.

Besides the military attachés (who are always invited to the maneuvers), each of the great military nations sends to each of the others, upon invitation, two or three officers usually of the infantry, artillery, or cavalry, to witness the maneuvers which take place in the summer or autumn of each year, usually lasting about six weeks. These officers are lodged, fed, and mounted at the camp at the expense of the government to which they are accredited, and accompany the emperor or commander-in-chief throughout the whole time of the maneuvers, after which they return at once to their own countries.

Thus the military attaché permanently stationed at the embassies, and familiar with the language and all the details of the military organization, keep their governments constantly informed of the course of military affairs, while the officers sent especially for the maneuvers have an opportunity of seeing the practical exercises of the troops in camp, of observing the appearance of the men, their arms, equipments, &c., and at once returning to their own countries to explain in person the result of their observations and to corroborate, modify, or amplify the report of the military attachés.

At the outbreak of war extra officers (of friendly nations) are usually sent to the army in the field for the express purpose of witnessing the campaign. Thus in the recent war there were four German and three Austrian officers with the Russian army, five or six English officers with the Turkish.

The practice of our own government in this matter of obtaining military information has been of a very different nature. We have never had any permanent military attachés, and until the recent war in Turkey no military attachés of any kind; but from our earliest history we have been in the habit of sending from time to time “military commissions,” composed of two or three officers (the first of which, if I am not mistaken, was during Mr. Jefferson’s Presidency). The best known of these was the commission composed of Colonel Delafield of the engineers, Major Mordecai of the ordnance, and Captain McClellan of the cavalry, which visited Europe in 1855 and 1856, and whose reports upon fortifications, artillery, and army organization became standard authorities with all United States military officers, and so continue till now, except in so far as they have been modified by the changes which have taken place in the last twenty years.

But besides this commission numerous others have been sent from time to time to collect information concerning the fortifications, concerning questions of civil engineering, of torpedoes, of artillery and ordnance, of army organization.

All of these commissions have had a special technical object, have usually visited more than one country, have been presented to the military authorities by the United States legation or consulates, have made their notes, then returned home at once, and there composed their reports, which were submitted to the chiefs of the department, or to the Adjutant-General and deposited among their archives, usually being also published.

No statistical bureau or section concerning foreign military affairs exists in our War Department. At the beginning of the recent war in Turkey, three officers were sent abroad to observe and report its progress and collect other military information; [Page 909] these officers did not form a commission hut were appointed military attaché to the United States legations in Russia, Turkey, and Austria. Their instructions from the Secretary of State were to forward all their correspondence through the ministers of their legations and the State Department. At the conclusion of the war they were all three recalled. As I had the honor to be selected to be attached to the legation in Russia, and as from various circumstances my facilities for observation in the field and at the legation have been greater than those of the other two officers, I have ventured before returning to America to submit these notes upon the subject of military attaches in general, which, although a novelty in our service, is a custom of long established usage in Europe.

I also venture to say a few words as to the propriety of keeping permanent military attachés at the United States legations, as is urged by a number of Army officers.

Not only our military organization but our military policy in general is fundamentally different from that now pursued by every nation in Europe of the same importance as our own—thanks to our having weak nations on two sides and broad oceans on the other two, and thus being secure from any sudden attack. From this fortunate geographical situation it results that information concerning the strength of European armies has the same interest for us but no more than other statistical information, such as population, public debt, revenue expenditure, &c. But in Europe it is far different. The strength of the German army, for example, is, to France, Austria, and Russia, not a matter of mere statistical interest, but a question of vital importance upon which perhaps the safety of the nation may depend. Hence, the necessity of having a trained officer constantly on the spot to take cognizance of everything that occurs affecting the military strength of a neighboring nation.

This state of affairs not existing for us, the prime necessity for these officers has also no existence. There still remains, however, the secondary object of keeping up with the times in the technical part of the military profession. Our infantry musket, for instance, is probably as good as any in the world, but our artillery, both field and siege, is inferior in every respect, to that of every great nation and is at least fifteen years behind the age, i. e., it is of the same quality as that in common use fifteen years ago, and vastly inferior to that in present use, in range, in accuracy, in penetration, in mobility, in every essential quality. The reason of this (I hasten to say lest I should be misunderstood as making improper criticisms) is not due to our ignorance of what foreign nations are armed with, since the Ordnance Bureau has kept itself well informed of this by means of the commissions which it has sent abroad, but to the fact that Congress has not thought it necessary to appropriate the money requisite for providing our service with artillery equal to that of foreign nations. Yet I believe the last board of ordnance officers which visited Europe for the purpose of inspecting artillery was in 1873 or 1874; since that date every great nation on the Continent has completely changed its system of field artillery, and by this change has nearly doubled its range and general efficiency.* Were an officer properly qualified to report on these matters, stationed permanently in Berlin or Paris to take note of these changes, I feel sure that he would collect a great deal of information of the greatest utility to our service.

The leading military nations of to-day are Germany and France, and the great naval nation, I need hardly say, is England. The military system of the whole of Continental Europe is based upon that of Germany devised by King William, Count Roon, and Count Moltke between 1859 and 1864, and perfected by the experience of the wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870. All the other nations have adopted this system (i. e., universal military service for short terms, peace and war footings, mobilization, active army with its eisatz, reserve or landwehr, militia or landsturm, &c.), with only such modifications as their national characteristics demanded. It is, therefore, at Berlin that the system can behest studied, not only in organization, but also in armament, equipment, &c. The Russian and Austrian armies bear a great resemblance to, and have borrowed much from, the Prussian; and the points of dissimilarity are abundantly explained in the numerous German military periodicals published at Berlin.

The military literature which until twenty years ago was so nearly monopolized by France, has now passed very largely to Germany, and is very abundant at Berlin, and also at Vienna. The French military periodicals, as well as those of Belgium and Switzerland, published in the French language, are, however, still numerous, and contain a vast amount of useful military information.

It therefore seems to me that if an officer of the Adjutant-General’s, the Engineer, or Ordnance Departments were stationed in Berlin as military attaché to the United [Page 910] States legation, and another at Paris in the same capacity, and an officer of the navy at London, they would be able to furnish our military service an amount of military information of very great utility, more than the equivalent of their expenses, and would avoid the necessity of a great many of the special commissions. Such an officer’s usefulness, however, would he reduced almost to nothing if he were not able to speak and write fluently in the French language, and read German with the aid of a dictionary. The knowledge gained through an interpreter is very expensive and usually untrustworthy.

I do not think that there is any necessity of having an officer permanently in Russia, except in case others were sent to Germany and France, as a matter of courtesy, in view of the friendly spirit Russia has always shown to our country. The military is the predominant class in Russia, and that an officer would be cordially received and welcomed here I am able positively to state; and he would be able to gather a good deal of useful information here, although it would be somewhat in duplicate of that from Berlin. Fluency in French and a smattering of German would answer all his purposes in the matter of languages.

I do not think that an officer in Austria or Italy would be of any real service.

The pay of an officer of the rank of captain or higher is quite sufficient for his support as a military attaché in any of the capitals of Europe—if unmarried. He would need a certain contingent fund, not large in amount, for the purchase of military periodicals, maps, stationery, office rent, &c.

A married officer below the grade of general in our service would find his pay totally inadequate to his expenses, unless he lived in such a way as to lower the dignity of his government in the eyes of his colleagues. If he had means independent of his pay he would find the post a most agreeable one, provided he was familiar with the language of the country to which he was accredited.

To recapitulate, I respectfully submit as the result of my experience during the eighteen months that I have been engaged upon my present duties, that an officer of the Army stationed in Berlin, as a military attaché to the United States legation, another in Paris in the same capacity, and an officer of the Navy in London would be able to collect and report to the government a great deal of military information of the highest value.

Respectfully submitted.

First Lieutenant Engineers, Military Attaché.
  1. The last nation to change its field artillery was Russia, and the change is not yet completely effected. I shall submit to the proper authorities upon my return complete working drawings of the new system in all its details, together with comparative tabular statements of the difference between the old and the new systems. I have cited the question of artillery as merely one of a number of examples that could be given of the usefulness of a few officers permanently stationed in Europe.