1-056 To Major General Edward W. Nichols, February 3, 1912

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 3, 1912

To Major General Edward W. Nichols

February 3, 1912 Boston, Massachusetts

My dear General:-

I received your letter of January 31st this morning and was naturally very much interested in what you had to tell me about your interviews with Generals Wood and Carter. I appreciate very much the effort you have made to have me detailed as Commandant—in any event your display of interest in me will go far towards bettering my status with the War Department.1

When I answered your first letter I felt that there was not much chance that the authorities in Washington would agree to starting me on a fresh term of detached service. Because of the fact that the congressional resolutions refer to “regimental” duty I, personally, am done some injustice.2 I was on detached service on two occasions when the duty was more trying than that in actual campaign. In 1905 I was ordered down to the Texas border to map 2000 square miles from a horse’s back, with water about once every thirty miles. I labored out there for a number of months with the thermometer varying from 100 to 130 degrees, and at least a month of the time without even a tent; but that is not considered as regimental service. However, I realize that I am but a very small cog in the wheel and have no right to feel that I am not receiving everything that is due me.3

Mrs. Marshall will feel much outraged when I tell her that we must pack up again before May 1st. We just unpacked last September; and the previous February I reported for duty at Madison Barracks, unpacked, and four weeks later was ordered to Texas, leaving her to crate things up again. I think a few peaceful, housekeeping years in Lexington would appeal to her more than all the glories of war.

With kindest regards from Mrs. Coles and Mrs. Marshall, believe me,

Very respectfully yours,

G. C. Marshall, Jr.

Document Copy Text Source: Alumni File, Virginia Military Institute Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.

1. Major General Leonard Wood was army chief of staff; Major General William H. Carter was commander of the “Mobile Army Division” (formerly called the “Maneuver Division”). Nichols told Marshall that his name was on a list that the War Department had prepared, at the Senate’s insistence, of officers with considerable detached service and little troop duty. Although “the intimation was very strong that it would be very doubtful,” Nichols thought both Wood and Carter “disposed . . . to do anything that they can for us. . . . I want you to know that the board [of Visitors, V.M.I.] has applied for your services here, and if we can’t secure you it is not our fault. I shall send in a list of officers in the order of our preference, and your name will head the list. Both Gens. Carter and Wood know of you, and spoke of you in the highest terms." (Nichols to Marshall, January 31, 1912, VMI/RG 2.)

2. The congressional resolutions were written into law in the army appropriation bill for 1913, approved August 24, 1912, and published by the War Department as General Orders, No. 32, September 18, 1912. The law provided that, in peacetime, any army officer below the rank of major who had not been “actually present for duty for at least two of the last preceding six years” with troops of his branch, would not be permitted to remain detached for any duty. Moreover, any superior officer who permitted such detached duty forfeited from his own pay the pay and allowances due the detached officer. This law quickly became known as the “Manchu law." Many officers were pleased with this “revolution." One cavalryman wrote: “What is a Manchu in our service? He may be described as an officer with a penchant for revolving chair work and an aversion for troop duty, and who in pursuance of that policy rarely does any actual troop duty. The first orders for the eviction of the Manchus from Washington was synchronous with the revolution expelling the then reigning family from the throne of what is now the newest republic [China]. Hence, the designation `Manchu.’” (H.R.H. [Captain Howard R. Hickok, Fifteenth Cavalry, one of Marshall’s classmates at the Staff College in 1907-8], “The Manchus,” Journal of the United States Cavalry Association 23 [January 1913]: 697.)

3. The War Department rejected the Institute’s request because of Marshall’s “excessive detached service of which he has had 5_ years out of the past six and for which he is now under orders to return to duty with his arm." (TAG to Nichols, March 21, 1912, VMI/Alumni File.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 70-71.

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