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two paymasters in the department constantly, but hereafter one active man will be able to attend to all the work. The troops have been promptly paid by the paymasters in person,
, save in a few instances where payments have been made by check sent by messenger or by express.
The Treasury Department has very recently appointed and constituted one of the local banks a depositary. This fact will greatly facilitate the safe keeping of public moneys.
This branch of the service has been a very important one during nearly the whole year. In August the engineer officer was made president of the board of public works, a civil office, and in that capacity he was the principal executive agent of the department commander in carrying forward the road work to which had been allotted some $581,000 for all purposes connected with roads, public buildings, lighthouse engineering, and harbor works; and special allotments by the Secretary of War of $950,000 additional for roads from funds which Congress had placed at the disposal of the President. As there was no organized plan for handling so vast a sum, nor sufficient organized personnel, all had to be created or procured and in preparation alone a great work was necessary.
On the 1st of May the engineer officer was relieved from so much of this burden as related to the work which was being paid for from civil revenues, but he was not relieved from responsibility connected with the work accomplished with funds allotted by the Secretary of War. This work still continues under the military supervision of the department commander and existing contracts can not be completed until about March 1 proximo.
Some progress has been made in collecting data for topographical maps of the country, but no such progress as was hoped for. The reason for this is that the officers and noncommissioned officers with the troops, who should make the reconnoissance and surveys for a progress map, have been almost unremittingly employed in connection with relief work and then elections and usual indispensable duty with troops.
The need is very great for a complete survey of the island. There has never been a survey made that responds to the requirements, and the best existing maps are known to contain certain very gross errors.
The Coast and Geodetic Survey has been at work in Porto Rico for a part of the winter, but so far none of their results have been published save two or three harbor charts.
Capt. William V. Judson has been the department engineer for just about a year. He has shown marked ability as an organizer, administrator, and as an engineer.
ARMS AND EQUIPMENT.
There is little of importance to note respecting ordnance service and operations. The depot here has been of considerable use and has adequate storage and office accommodations.
The principal functions of the employees consist in cleaning, repairing, and packing ordnance stores and property. The climate is severe on all machines, tools, and apparatus, and the rifles, carbines, pistols,
and sabers suffer much from rust. All posts save two are directly on the seacoast, so there is the added detriment of the salt air to increase tendency to oxidation of iron and steel. The constant rubbing by the soldiers removes the bluing and bronzing of rifle barrels, etc., and the rifling of small arms is to some degree injured by the constant cleaning necessary to prevent rusting.
During the year a mounted battalion of Porto Rican troops was armed and equipped from the depot.
The body of local troops known as the insular police of Porto Rico is equipped with arms belonging to the United States. The principal articles in the possession of this organization are 509 Springfield rifles and 455 Colt revolvers. A full list of the arms and equipments in possession of this local police has been forwarded with a statement of all the facts and circumstances connected with the issue of these articles. I have recommended that these arms and equipments be turned over to the government of the island and the value charged against the appropriation for arming and equipping the militia.
A report has recently been forwarded on the quantity, kind, quality, and stability of the powder that is on hand in the magazines.
In case the force of troops in the department should be largely decreased, the ordnance depot would probably be discontinued, as the necessity for it would no longer exist.
All the guns of position and their mounts are in good condition.
The work of the signal service has been confined almost exclusively to the repair, maintenance, and operation of the military telegraph.
The duty has been well done and messages have been promptly forwarded at all times save during the period following the August hurrican when every wire and about half the poles on the island were down.
The number of towns in which telegraph stations exist is 20 and there are 6 telephone stations in addition, while Vieques Island is reached by heliograph. During the year 11 telegraph offices were closed as a measure of economy.
The number of offices maintained by Spain was 33, and there has been constant complaint on the part of the people in unconnected towns because the United States has not done as well for them as Spain did.
At the beginning of the fiscal year the length of wires in use was 1,240 kilometers, while now this length has been reduced to 772 kilometers, and there are of telephone wires 178 kilometers.
Telephones are unsatisfactory because the sender of the message usually speaks no other language than Spanish while the receiver usually speaks no other than English.
During the year the number of Signal Corps soldiers has been reduced from 67 to about 10. The only officer of the corps now in the department is Major Glassford.
The enlisted men of the corps are so scattered that it has been found impracticable to subsist them in messes. Each man now receives 75 cents per day in lieu of rations, and quarters are hired for them.
After the line was destroyed in 1898 it was reconstructed by the army at military expense, and during the year the United States has expended on the installation for poles and other material over $10.500,