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Special Message

January 20, 1875

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

In my annual message of December 1, 1873, while inviting general attention to all the recommendations made by the Secretary of War, your special consideration was invited to "the importance of preparing for war in time of peace by providing proper armament for our seacoast defenses. Proper armament is of vastly more importance than fortifications. The latter can be supplied very speedily for temporary purposes when needed; the former can not."

These views gain increased strength and pertinence as the years roll by, and I have now again the honor to call special attention to the condition of the "armament of our fortifications" and the absolute necessity for immediate provision by Congress for the procurement of heavy cannon. The large expenditures required to supply the number of guns for our forts is the strongest argument that can be adduced for a liberal annual appropriation for their gradual accumulation. In time of war such preparations can not be made; cannon can not be purchased in open market nor manufactured at short notice; they must be the product of years of experience and labor.

I herewith inclose copies of a report of the Chief of Ordnance and of a board of ordnance officers on the trial of an 8-inch rifle converted from a 10-inch smoothbore, which shows very conclusively an economical means of utilizing these useless smoothbores and making them into 8-inch rifles, capable of piercing 7 inches of iron. The 1,294 10-inch Rodman guns should, in my opinion, be so utilized, and the appropriation requested by the Chief of Ordnance of $250,000 to commence these conversions is urgently recommended.

While convinced of the economy and necessity of these conversions, the determination of the best and most economical method of providing guns of still larger caliber should no longer be delayed. The experience of other nations, based on the new conditions of defense brought prominently forward by the introduction of ironclads into every navy afloat, demands heavier metal and rifle guns of not less than 12 inches in caliber. These enormous masses, hurling a shot of 700 pounds, can alone meet many of the requirements of the national defenses. They must be provided, and experiments on a large scale can alone give the data necessary for the determination of the question. A suitable proving ground, with all the facilities and conveniences referred to by the Chief of Ordnance, with a liberal annual appropriation, is an undoubted necessity. The guns now ready for trial can not be experimented with without funds, and the estimate of $250,000 for the purpose is deemed reasonable and is strongly recommended.

The constant appeals for legislation on the "armament of fortifications" ought no longer to be disregarded if Congress desires in peace to prepare the important material without which future wars must inevitably lead to disaster.

This subject is submitted with the hope that the consideration it deserves may be given it at the present session.


Ulysses S. Grant, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/204123

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