“She asked for men, and up he spoke, my handsome and hearty Sam,
“I'll die for the dear old Union, if she'll take me as I am ”:
And if a better man than he there's mother that can show,
From Maine to Minnesota, then let the people know.
Many facts bearing upon the subject of this sketch have been already presented in the opening chapter, but much more remains to be told, and the reader will pardon me, I trust, for now injecting a little bit of personal history to illustrate what thousands of young men were doing at that time, and had been doing for months, as it leads up directly to the theme about to be considered.
After I had obtained the reluctant consent of my father to enlist,--my mother never gave hers,--the next step hecessary was to make selection of the organization with which to identify my fortunes.
I well remember the to me eventful August evening when that decision to enlist was arrived at. The Union army, then under McClellan
, had been driven from before Richmond
in the disastrous Peninsular campaign
, and now the Rebel
army, under General Lee
, was marching on Washington
had issued a call for three
hundred thousand three-years' volunteers.
One evening, shortly after this call was made, I met three of my former school-mates and neighbors in the chief village of the town I then called home, and, after a brief discussion of the outlook, one of the quartette challenged, or “stumped,” the others to enlist.. The challenge was promptly accepted all around, and hands were shaken to bind the agreement.
I will add in passing, that three of the four stood by that agreement; the fourth was induced by increased wages to remain with his employer, although he entered the service later in the war, and bears a shell scar on his face to attest his honorable service.
After the decision had been reached, not to be revoked on my part as I fully determined, I returned to my home, and either that night or the next morning informed my father of the resolution I had taken.
Instead of interposing an emphatic objection, as he had done the previous year, he said, in substance, “Well, you know I do not want you to go, but it is very evident that a great many more must go, and if you have fully determined upon it I shall not object.”
Having already determined upon the arm of the service which I should enter, accompanied by three other acquaintances of the same opinion, two of them the school-fellows mentioned, I started for Cambridge
, with a view of seeing Captain Porter
, who was then at home recruiting for the First Massachusetts Battery, which he commanded, and enlisting with him, as there were at least two men in his company who were fellow-townsmen.
But we were much disappointed when the Captain
informed us that his company was now recruited to the number required.
However, we directed our steps back to Boston
without delay, and there, in the second story of the Old State House
, enlisted in a new organization then rapidly filling.
Here is a copy of a certificate, still in my possession, which I was to present on enlisting.
It tells its own story.
|State of||TOWN of|
|in the State of||aged||years,|
|and by occupation a||Do hereby Acknowledge to have|
|volunteered this|| day of||18|
|to serve as a Soldier in the Army of the United States of America, for the period of three years, unless sooner discharged by proper authority: Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing, as are, or may be, established by law for volunteers.
|I,|| do solemnly swear, that I will bear|
|true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War.|
|Sworn and subscribed to, at|
|this||day of 18|
|I certify, on honor, That I have carefully examined the above named Volunteer, agreeably to the General Regulations of the Army, and that in my opinion he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity, which would, in any way, disqualify him from performing the duties of a soldier.|
|I certify, on honor, That I have minutely inspected the Volunteer, ___________________ previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that, to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and that, in accepting him as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able-bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the recruiting service.
This soldier has _______ eyes, _______ hair, _______ complexion, is _______ feet _______ inches high.|
How often in later years did the disappointment I experienced at not obtaining membership in the company I at first decided upon recur to me, and how grateful I always felt for the fate which thus controlled my enlistment.
For the lot of a recruit in an old company was, at the best, not an enviable one, and sometimes was made very disagreeable for him. He stood in much the same relation to the veterans of his company that the Freshman in college does to the Sophomores, or did when hazing was the rule and not the exception.
It is to be remembered that he was utterly devoid of experience in everything which goes to make up the soldier, the details of camping, cooking, drilling, marching, fighting, etc., which put him at a disadvantage on all occasions.
For this reason he easily became the butt of a large number of his company — not all, for there were some men who were ever ready to extend sympathy and furnish information to him, when they saw it was needed, and did what they could to raise him to the same general plane occupied by the old members.
But many of the veterans seemed to forget how they themselves obtained their army education little by little, and so ofttimes bore down on recruits with great severity.
In the later years of the war, when large bounties were being paid by town, city, and State governments, to encourage enlistments, these recruits were often addressed as “bounty-jumpers” by the evil disposed among the old members.
But that term was a misnomer, unless these men proved later that they were deserving of it, for a bounty-jumper was a man — I hate to call him one-who enlisted only
to get the bounty, and deserted at the earliest opportunity.
Recruits, it should be said, as a class, stood the abuse which was heaped upon them with much greater serenity of temper than they should have done, and, indeed, so anxious were they to win favor with the veterans, and to earn the right to be called and pass for old soldiers,
that they generally bore indignities without turning upon their assailants, The term “recruit” in the mouth of a veteran was a very reproachful one, but after one good brush with the enemy it was dropped, if the new men behaved well under fire.
In fact, those who abused the recruits most were themselves, as a rule, the most unreliable in action and the greatest shirks when on camp duty.
A wood detail.|
When a detail made up of recruits and veterans was sent with the wagons for wood, the recruits would be patted on the back by their wily associates, and cajoled into doing most of the chopping, and then challenged to lift the heaviest end of the logs into the wagons, which they seldom refused to do. In the artillery, it usually fell to their lot to care for the spare and used — up horses, not from any intention of imposing upon them, but because cannoneers and drivers had their regular tasks to perform, and all recruits entering the artillery began as spare men, and worked up from the position of private to that of the highest private — a cannoneer.
They always came to camp “flush” with money, and received every encouragement from the bummers of the company to spend it freely; if they did not do this, they were in a degree ostracised, and their lot made much harder.
When their boxes of goodies arrived from home, the lion's share went to the old hands.
If the recruit did not give it to them, the meanest of them would steal it when he was away on detail.
Then, all sorts of games were played on recruits by men who liked nothing so well as a practical joke.
I recall the case of a young man in my own company who had just arrived, and, having been to the quartermaster for his outfit of clothing and equipments, was asked by one of the practical jokers why he did not get his umbrella.
“Do they furnish an umbrella?”
“Why, certainly,” said his persecutor, unblushingly.
“It's just like that fraud of a quartermaster to jew a recruit out of a part of his outfit, to sell for his own benefit.
Go back and demand
your umbrella of him, and a good one too!”
And the poor beguiled recruit returned to the quartermaster in high dudgeon at the imagined attempt to swindle him, only to find, after a little breeze, that he had been victimized by one of the practical jokers of the camp.
There were at least two kinds of recruits to be found in every squad that arrived in camp.
One of these classes was made up of modest, straightforward men, who accepted their new situation with its deprivations gracefully, and brought no sugar-plums to camp with which to ease their entrance into stern life on government fare and the hardships of government service.
They wore the government clothing as it was furnished them, from the unshapely, uncomely forage cap to the shoddy, inelastic sock.
It mattered naught to them that the limited stock of the quartermaster furnished nothing that fitted them.
They accepted what he tendered cheerfully, believing it to be all right, and seemed as happy and as much at ease in a wilderness of
overcoat and breeches as others did who had been artistically renovated by the company tailor.
But they were none the less ludicrous and unsoldierly sights to look upon
Recruits in uniform.|
in such rigs, and after a while would see themselves as others saw them, and “spruce up” somewhat.
These men drew their army rations to the full, not slighting the “salt horse,” which I have intimated was rarely taken by old soldiers.
They found no fault when detailed for fatigue duty, were always ready to learn, and in every way seemed anxious only to do the proper thing to be done, hoping by such a course to win a speedy and easy ascent to the plane of importance occupied by the veterans; and this course undoubtedly did much to give them caste in the eyes of the latter.
Unlike these men in many particulars was the other class of recruits.
This latter class was not modest or retiring in demeanor.
Its members came to camp in a uniform calculated to provoke impertinent remarks from the old vets.
Their caps were from the store of a professional hatter, and the numbers and emblem on the crown were of silver and gilt instead of homely brass.
Their clothing was generally
The pantaloons in particular were not only made to fit well, but were of the finest material obtainable, much unlike the government shoddy which covered the old veteran, and through whose meshes peas of ordinary calibre would almost rattle.
Then, their boots!
such masterpieces of elegance and extravagance!
Of the cavalry pattern, reaching above the knee, almost doing away with the necessity for pantaloons, sometimes of plain grained leather, sometimes of enamelled, elaborately stitched and stamped, but always seeming to mark their occupant as a man of note and distinction among his comrades.
They seemed a sort of fortification about their owner, protecting him from too close contact with his vulgar surroundings.
Alas! it never required more than one day's hard march in these dashing appendages to humble their possessor so much that he would evacuate in as good order as possible when camp was reached, if not compelled to before.
Their underwear was such as the common herd did not use in service.
Their shirts were “boiled,” that is, white ones, or, if woollen, were of some “loud” checkered pattern, only less conspicuous than the flag which they had sworn to defend.
In brief, their general make — up would have stamped them as military “dudes,” had such a class of creatures been then extant.
Of course, it was their privilege to wear whatever did not conflict with Army Regulations, but I am giving the impressions they made on the minds of the old soldiers.
As for government rations, they scoffed at them so long as there was a dollar of bounty left, and a sutler within reach of camp to spend it with.
But when the treasury was exhausted they were disconsolate indeed, and wished that the wicked war was over, with all their hearts.
On fatigue duty they were useless at first, and the old soldiers made their lot an unhappy one; but by dint of bulldozing and an abundance of hard service, most of them got their
fine sentimental notions pretty well knocked out before they had been many weeks in camp.
The sergeants into whose hands they were put for instruction did not spare them, keeping them hard at work until the recall from drill.
It was fun in the artillery to see one of these dainty men, on his first arrival, put in charge of a pair of spare horses, -spare enough, too, usually;. It was expected of him that he would groom, feed, and water them.
As it often happened that such a man had had no experience in the care of horses, he would naturally approach the subject with a good deal of awe. When the Watering Call
blew, therefore, and the bridles and horses were pointed out to him by the sergeant, the fun began.
A spare man and spare horses,|
Taking the bridle, he would look first at it, then at the horse, as if in doubt which end of him to put it on. In going to water, the drivers always bridled the horse which they rode, and led the other by the halter.
But our unfledged soldier seemed innocent of all proper information.
For the first day or two he would lead
his charges; then, as his courage grew with acquaintance, he would finally mount the near one, and, with his legs crooked up like a V, cling for dear life until he got his lesson learned in this direction.
But all the time that he was getting initiated he was a ridiculous object to observers.
The drilling of raw recruits of both the classes mentioned was no small part of the trials that fell to the lot of billeted officers, for they got hold of some of the crookedest sticks to make straight military men of that the country-or, rather, countries
Not the least among the obstacles in the way of making good soldiers of them was
the fact that the recruits of 1864-5, in particular, included many who could neither speak nor understand a word of English
In referring to the disastrous battle of Reams Station, not long since, the late General Hancock
told me that the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment had received an accession of about two hundred German recruits only two or three days before the battle, not one of whom could understand the orders of their commanding officers.
Drilling the awkward squad.|
be easily imagined how much time and patience would be required to mould such subjects as those into intelligent, reliable soldiery.
But outside of this class there were scores of men that spoke English who would “hay-foot” every time when they should “straw-foot.”
They were incorrigibles in almost every military respect.
Whenever they were out with a squad — usually the “awkward squad” --for drill, they made business lively enough for the sergeant in charge.
When they stood in the rear rank their loftiest ambition seemed to be to walk up the backs of their file-leaders, and then they would insist that it was the file-leaders who were out of step.
Members of the much abused front rank often
had occasion to wish that the regulation thirteen inches from breast to back might be extended to as many feet; but when the march was backward in line, these front rank men would get square with their persecutors in the rear.
To see such men attempt to change step while marching was no mean show.
I can think of nothing more apt to compare it with than the game of Hop Scotch, in which the player hops first on one foot, then on both; or to the blue jay, which, in uttering one of its notes, jumps up and down on the limb; and if such a squad under full headway were surprised with a sudden command to halt, they went all to pieces.
It was no easy task to align them, for each man had a line of his own, and they would crane their heads out to see the buttons on the breast of the second man, to such an extent that the sergeant might have exclaimed, with the Irish sergeant under like circumstances, “O be-gorra, what a bint row!
Come out here, lads, and take a look at yoursels!”
The awkward squad excelled equally in the infantry manual-of-arms.
Indeed, they displayed more real individuality here, I think, than in the marchings, probably because it was the more noticeable.
At a “shoulder” their muskets pointed at all angles, from forty-five degrees to a vertical.
In the attempt to change to a “carry,” a part of them would drop their muskets.
At an “order,” no two of the butts reached the ground together, and if a man could not always drop his musket on his own
toe he was a pretty correct shot with it on the toe of his neighbor.
But, with all their awkwardness and slowness at becoming acquainted with a soldier's duties, the recruits of the earlier years in time of need behaved manfully.
They made a poor exhibition on dress parade, but could generally be counted on when more serious work was in hand.
Sometimes, when they made an unusually poor display on drill or parade, they were punished-unjustly it may have been, for what
they could not help — by being subjected to the knapsack drill, of which I have already spoken.
It was a prudential circumstance that the war came to an end when it did, for the quality of the material that was sent to the army in 1864 and 1865 was for the most part of no credit or value to any arm of the service.
The period of enlistments from promptings of patriotism had gone by, and the man who entered the army solely from mercenary motives was of little or no assistance to that army when it was in need of valiant men, so that the chief burden and responsibility of the closing wrestle for the mastery necessarily fell largely on the shoulders of the men who bared their breasts for the first time in 1861, ‘62, and ‘63.
I have thus far spoken of a recruit in the usual sense of a man enlisted to fill a vacancy in an organization already in the field.
But this seems the proper connection in which to say something of the experiences of men who enlisted with original regiments, and went out with the same in ‘61 and ‘62.
In many respects, their education was obtained under as great adversity as fell to the lot of recruits.
respects, I think their lot was harder.
They knew absolutely nothing of war. They were stirred by patriotic impulse to enlist and crush out treason, and hurl back at once in the teeth of the enemy the charge of cowardice and accept their challenge to the arbitrament of war. These patriots planned just two moves for the execution of this desire: first, to enlist — to join some company or regiment; second, to have that regiment transferred at once to the immediate front of the Rebels
, where they could fight it out and settle the troubles without delay.
Their intense fervor to do something right away
to humble the haughty enemy, made them utterly unmindful that they must first go to school and learn the art of war from its very beginnings, and right at that point their sorrows began.
I think the greatest cross they bore consisted in being compelled to settle down in home camp, as some regiments
did for months, waiting to be sent off. Here they were in sight of home in many cases, yet outside of its comforts to a large extent; soldiers, yet out of danger; bidding their friends a tender adieu to-day, because they are to leave them --perhaps forever — to-morrow.
But the morrow comes, and finds them still in camp.
Yes, there were soldiers who bade their friends a long good-by in the morning, and started for camp expecting that very noon or afternoon to leave for the tented field, but who at night returned again to spend a few hours more at the homestead, as the departure of the regiment had been unexpectedly deferred.
The soldiers underwent a great deal of wear and tear from false alarms of this kind, owing to various reasons.
Sometimes the regiment failed to depart because it was not full; sometimes it was awaiting its field officers; sometimes complete equipments were not to be had; sometimes it was delayed to join an expedition not yet ready; and thus, in one way or other, the men and their friends were kept long on the tiptoe of expectation.
Whenever a rumor became prevalent that the regiment was surely going to leave on a certain day near at hand, straightway there was an exodus from carp for home, some obtaining a furlough, but more going without one, to take another touching leave all around, for the dozenth time perhaps.
Many of those who lived too far away to be sure of returning in time, remained in camp, and telegraphed friends to meet them at some large centre, as they passed through on the specified day, which of course the friends faithfully tried to do, and succeeded if the regiment set forth as rumored.
I said that many soldiers went home without
There was a camp guard hemming in every rendezvous for troops, with which I was familiar; but no sentinel could see a man cross his beat if he did not look at him
, and this few of them did. Indeed, many of the sentinels themselves, as soon as they were posted and the relieving squad were out of sight, stuck their inverted muskets into the ground and
decamped, either for their two hours or for the day, and took their chances of being brought to answer for it. The fact is, the men of ‘61 and ‘62 wanted to go to war
, and, whether they left the camp with or without leave, they were sure to return to it. This fact was quite generally understood by their superiors.
This home camp life seems interesting to look back upon.
Hundreds of men did not spend one day in six in camp.
They came often enough to have it known that they had not deserted, and then flitted again, but other hundreds conscientiously remained.
The company streets on every pleasant day were radiant with the costumes of “fair women, and brave men” --to be
. On such a day a young man sauntering along the parade, or winding in and out of the various company streets, the willing prisoner of one or more interesting young women — his sisters, perhaps, or somebody else's — walked, the envy of the men who had no such friends to enliven their camp life, or whose friends were too far away to visit them.
If these latter men secured an introduction to such a party, it tempered their loneliness somewhat.
And if such a party entered a tent, and joined in the social round, it made a merry gathering while they tarried.
But there were other promenaders whose passing aroused no emotions of envy.
The husband and father attended by the loving wife and mother, whose brow had already begun to wear that sober aspect arising from a forecasting of the future, seeing, possibly, in the contingencies of war, herself a widow, her children fatherless — dependent on her own unaided hands for all of this world's comforts, which must be provided for the helplessness of childhood and youth.
The husband, too, leading his boy or girl by the hand as he walks, is not unmindful of the risks he has assumed or the comforts he must sacrifice.
But his hand is on the plough, and he will not turn back.
Another interesting party often to be seen in the company street comprised a father, mother, and son, perhaps an only
boy, who had volunteered for the war. Their reluctance at the step which he had taken was manifested by turns in their looks, words, and acts.
But while he remained in the State
, they must be with him as much as possible.
See that carpet-bag
which the mother opens as they take a seat on the straw in the son's tent!
Notice the solicitude which she betrays as she takes out one comfort or convenience after another — the socks for cold weather, the woollens to ward off fever and ague, the medicine to antidote foul water, the little roll of bandages which — may he never have occasion for; the dozen other comforts that he ought to be provided with, including some goodies which he had better take along if the regiment should chance to go in a day or two.
And so she loads him up--God bless her!--utterly unmindful that the government has already provided him with more than he can carry very far with his unaided strength.
Then, the camps were full of pedlers of “Yankee notions,” which soldiers were supposed to stand in need of. I shall refer to some of these in another connection.
The lesson of submission to higher military authority was a hard one for free, honest American citizens to learn, and, while learning it, they chafed tremendously.
It was difficult for them to realize the difference between men with
shoulder-straps and without
them; in fact, they would not
realize it for a long time.
When the straps crowned the shoulders of social inferiors, submission to such authority was at times degrading indeed.
I have already touched upon this subject.
But the most judicious code of military discipline, even if administered by an accomplished officer of estimable character, would have met with vigorous opposition, for a time, from these impetuous and hitherto untrammelled American citizens.
Fortunately for them, perhaps, but unfortunately for the service, the line officers were men of their own selection, their neighbors and friends, who had met them as equals on all occasions.
But now, if such
an officer attempted to enforce the authority conferred by his rank, in the interest of better drill or discipline, he was at once charged by his late equals with “showing off his authority,” “putting on airs,” “feeling above his fellows” ; and letters written home advertised him as a “miniature tyrant,” etc., which made his position a very uncomfortable one to hold for a time.
But this condition of affairs wore away soon after troops left the State
, when the necessity for rigid discipline became apparent to every man. And when the private soldier saw that his captain was held responsible by the colonel for uncleanly quarters or arms, or unsoldierly and ill disciplined men, the colonel in turn being held to accountability by his
next superior, the growls grew less frequent or were aimed at the government rather than the captain, and the growlers began to settle down and accept the inevitable, taking lessons in something new every day.
It will be readily seen, I think, that the men composing the earliest regiments and batteries had also their trials to endure, and they were many; for not only they but their superiors were learning by rough experience the art of war. They were, in a sense, “achieving greatness,” while the recruits had “greatness thrust upon them,” often at short notice.
Furthermore, recruits from the latter part of 1862 forward went out with a knowledge of much which they must undergo in the line of hardship and privation, which the first rallies had to learn by actual experience.
And while it may be said that it took more courage for men to go with the stern facts of actual war confronting them than when its realities were unknown to them, yet it is also true that many of these later enlistments were made under the advantage of pecuniary and other inducements, without which many would not have been made.
For patriotism unstimulated by hope of reward saw high-water mark in 1861, and rapidly receded in succeeding years, so that whereas men enlisted in 1861 and early in ‘62 because they wanted to go, and without hope of reward, later in ‘62 towns
and individuals began to offer bounties to stimulate lagging enlistments, varying in amount from $10 to $300; and increased in ‘63 and ‘64 until, by the addition of State bounties, a recruit, enlisting for a year, received in the fall of ‘64 from $700 to $1000 in some instances.
It was this large bounty which led old veterans to haze recruits in many ways.
Of course, there was no justification for their doing it, only as the recruits in some instances provoked it.
There was a song composed during the war, entitled the “Raw recruit,” sung to the tune of “Abraham's Daughter,” which I am wholly unable to recall, but a snatch of the first verse, or its parody, ran about as follows:--I'm a raw recruit, with a bran‘--new suit, Nine hundred dollars bounty, And I've come down from Darbytown To fight for Oxford County
The name of the town and county were varied to suit the circumstances.
In 1863 a draft was ordered to fill the ranks of the army, as volunteers did not come for-
ward rapidly enough to meet the exigencies of the service.
Men of means, if drafted, hired a substitute, as allowed by law, to go in their stead, when patriotism failed to set them in motion.
Many of these substitutes did good service, while others became deserters immediately after enlisting.
Conscription was never
more unpopular than when enforced upon American citizens at this time.
Here is a suggestive extract from a rhyme of that period, entitled