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To Brigadier General William H. Cocke
January 31, 1929 Fort Benning, Georgia
My dear Cocke,
During the fall and recently I have been asked to review chapters of a book being written by General John McA. Palmer, Retired. He is under contract, I think to the Atlantic Monthly for the serial rights, and to some publisher for the book rights. In it he traces the course of our military policy from its inception with Washington’s proposal for a “well regulated militia.” He has uncovered some very astonishing facts as a result of a prolonged study of documents in the Congressional Library, and discloses for the first time what actually was Washington’s plan and how it was thwarted by state jealousies and later entirely diverted by John C. Calhoun’s policy. He further carries the evolution, if it can be called such, of this plan through the vicissitudes of our military and political history to the present day.
The book, in a large measure, presents a summary of the actions of the leading figures and indicates quite clearly their relation to what actually transpired. Washington, Von Steuben, Jefferson, Calhoun, Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Lee, McClellan, Jackson, and Grant are presented in considerable detail and in a most striking manner. He covers the initial development of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War in a most pronounced fashion, showing in an entirely new light the dilemma of Mr. Lincoln and the failure of the War Department and regular army to furnish him with the proper policy. In contrast he gives a most delightful and critical outline of Jefferson Davis’ policy and the reasons which lead to its adoption. In connection with this last, he sketches the career of Stonewall Jackson at the V.M.I. and later, and the employment of the V.M.I. cadets in the first training of the Confederate Army for Bull Run, as a demonstration of how the policy should have been met on the northern side. As a consequence, the V.M.I. comes in for considerable and complimentary reference.
Palmer is the most exact and painstaking military student in the army today. He has one of the best brains in the army and is probably among the four or five most cultivated officers. He was largely the author of the present National Defense Act and is given full credit for this by Senator Wadsworth in his introduction to a recently published book by Palmer, “Statesmanship in War." The thought occurred to me that possibly Palmer might be a desirable person to make the principal address at your next graduation exercises. Naturally I have mentioned nothing of this to him, merely submitting it to you as a suggestion.
I am sending some pecans to Mrs. Cocke. I hope she is not overworking in her self-imposed duties at Lexington and in the remodeling of your place on the James.
With warm regards to you both,
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
P.S. Is there any chance of your visiting me this spring?
Document Copy Text Source: Alumni File, Virginia Military Institute Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter signed.
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. 340-341.