“His coat was e'er so much too short, ”
His pants a mile too wide,
And when he marched could not keep step
However much he tried.
Forty-two dollars was the sum allowed by the government to clothe tile private soldier for the space of year.
The articles included in his outfit were a cap or hat (usually the former), blouse, overcoat, dress coat, trousers, shirts, drawers, socks, shoes, a woollen and a rubber blanket.
This was the wardrobe of the infantry
. It should be said, however, that many regiments never drew a dress coat after leaving the state, the blouse serving as the substitute for that garment.
had the same except that a jacket took the place of the dress coat, boots that of shoes, and their trousers had a re-enforce
, that is, an extra thickness of cloth extending from the upper part of the seat down the inside of both legs, for greater durability in the service required of these branches in the saddle.
This outfit was not sufficient to last the year through, for various reasons, and so the quartermaster supplied duplicates of the garments when needed.
But whatever was drawn from him beyond the amount allowed by the government was charged to the individual, and deducted from his
pay at the end of the year.
If, however, a man was so fortunate as not to overdraw his allowance, which rarely happened, he received the balance in cash.
The infantry made way with a large amount of clothing.
Much of it was thrown away on the march.
A soldier burdened with a musket, from forty to eighty rounds of ammunition, according to circumstances; a haversack stuffed plump as a pillow, but not so soft, with three days rations; a canteen of water, a woollen and rubber blanket, and a half shelter tent, would be likely to take just what more he was obliged to. So, with the opening of the spring campaign, away would go all extra clothing.
A choice was made between the dress coat and blouse, for one of these must go. Then some men took their overcoat and left their blanket.
In brief, when a campaign was fairly under way the average infantryman's wardrobe was what he had on. Only that and nothing more.
At the first start from camp many would burden themselves with much more than the above, but after a few miles tramp the roadside would be sprinkled with the cast-away articles.
There seemed to be a difference between Eastern and Western troops in this respect, for reasons which I will not attempt now to analyze, for Grant
says (Memoirs, vol.
II., pp. 190-191):--
“I saw scattered along the road, from Culpeper
to Germania Ford, wagon-loads of new blankets and overcoats thrown away by the troops to lighten their knapsacks; an improvidence I had never witnessed before.”
It was a way the Army of the Potomac had of getting into light marching order.
When the infantry were ordered in on a charge, they always left their knapsacks behind them, which they might or might not see again.
And whenever they were surprised and compelled to fall back hastily, they were likely to throw aside everything that impeded their progress except musket and ammunition.
Then, in the heat of battle, again there was a dispensing with all encumbrances that would impair
For these and other reasons, the governmental allowances would not have been at all adequate to cover the losses in clothing.
Recognizing this fact, the government supplied new articles gratis for everything lost in action, the quartermaster being required to make out a list of all such articles, and to certify that they were so lost, before new ones could be obtained.
But the men who did garrison duty were not exempt from long clothing bills more than were those who were active at the front.
I have in mind the heavy artillerymen who garrisoned the forts around Washington
They were in receipt of visits at all hours in the day from the most distinguished of military and civil guests, and on this account were not only obliged to be efficient in drill but showy on parade.
Hence their clothing had always to be of the best.
No patched or untidy garments were tolerated.
In the spring of 1864, twenty-four thousand of these men were despatched as reenforcements to the Army of the
In heavy marching order.|
Potomac, and a fine lot of men they were.
They were soldiers, for the most part, who had enlisted early in the war, and, having had so safe — or, as the boys used to say, “soft” --and easy a time of it in the forts, had re-enlisted, only to be soon relieved of garrison duty and sent to the front as infantry.
But while they were veterans in service in point of time, yet, so far as the real hardships of war were concerned, they were simply recruits.
I shall never forget that muggy, muddy morning of the 18th of May, when, standing by the roadside
near what was known as the “Brown House,” at Spottsylvania
, I saw this fine-looking lot of soldiers go by. Their uniforms and equipments all seemed new. Among the regiments was the First Maine Heavy Artillery.
“What regiment is this?”
was inquired at the head of the column by bystanders.
“First Maine,” was the reply.
After the columns had marched by a while, some one would again ask what regiment it was, only to find it still the First Maine.
It numbered over two thousand strong, and, never having lost any men in battles and hard campaigning, its ranks were full.
The strength of these regiments struck the Army of the Potomac with surprise.
A single regiment larger than one of their own brigades!
These men had started from Washington
with knapsacks that were immense in their proportions, and had clung to them manfully the first day or two out, but this morning in question, which was of the sultriest kind, was taxing them beyond endurance, as they plunged along in the mire marching up to the front; and their course could have been followed by the well stuffed knapsacks — or “bureaus,” as some of the old vets called them — that sprinkled the roadside.
It seemed rather sad to see a man step out of the ranks, unsling his knapsack, seat himself for a moment to overhaul its contents, transfer to his pocket some little keepsake, then, rising, and casting one despairing look at it, hurry on after the column.
Many would not even open their knapsacks, but, giving them a toss, would leave them to fate, and sternly resume their march.
It was the second in the list of sacrifices that active campaigning required of them.
Their first was made in cutting loose from their comfortable quarters and accumulated conveniences in the forts, which they had so recently left.
The knapsack, haversack, canteen, and shelter-tent, like the arms, were government property, for which the commanding
officer of a company was responsible.
At the end of a soldier's term of service, they were to be turned in or properly accounted for.
An army officer who was reputed to have been of high and hasty temper, who certainly seemed to have been capable of rash and inconsiderate remarks, was once overheard to say of soldiers that they were nothing but cattle, and deserved to be treated only as such.
In the short sketch here submitted on the subject of Army Cattle, I do not include the variety above referred to, but rather the quadrupedal kind that furnished food for them.
In the sketch on Army Rations I named fresh beef as one of the articles furnished, but I gave no particulars as to just how
the army was supplied with it. This I will now endeavor to do.
When there came an active demand for fresh and salt meat to feed the soldiers and sailors, at once the price advanced, and Northern farmers turned their attention more extensively to grazing.
Of course, the great mass of the cattle were raised in the West
, but yet even rugged New England
contributed no inconsiderable quantity to swell the total.
These were sent by hundreds and thousands on rail and shipboard to the various armies.
On their arrival, they were put in a corral
. Here they were subject, like all supplies, to the disposition of the commissary-general
of the army, who, through his subordinates, supplied them to the various organizations upon the presentation of a requisition, signed by the commanding officer
of a regiment or other body of troops, certifying to the number of rations of meat required.
When the army was investing Petersburg
, the cattle were in corral near City Point
On the 16th of September, 1864, the Rebels
having learned through their scouts that this corral was but slightly guarded, and that by
making a wide detour in the rear of our lines the chances were good for them to add a few rations of fresh beef to the bacon and corn-meal
diet of the Rebel
army, a strong force of cavalry under Wade Hampton
made the attempt, capturing twenty-five hundred beeves and four hundred prisoners, and getting off with them before our cavalry could intervene.
The beeves were a blessing to them, far more precious and valuable than as many Union prisoners would have been; for they already had more prisoners than they could or would feed.
As for us, I do not remember that fresh meat was any the scarcer on account of this raid, for the North
, with its abundance, was bountifully supplying the government with whatever was needed, and the loss of a few hundred cattle could scarcely cause even a temporary inconvenience.
Had the army been on the march, away from its base of supplies, the loss might have been felt more severely.
Whenever the army made a move its supply of fresh meat went along too. Who had charge of it?
Men were detailed for the business from the various regiments, who acted both as butchers and drovers, and were excused from all other duty.
When a halt was made for the night, some of the steers would be slaughtered, and the meat furnished to the troops upon presentation of the proper requisitions by quartermasters.
The butcher killed his victims with a rifle.
The killing was not always done at night.
It often took place in the morning or forenoon, and the men received their rations in time to cook for dinner.
The manner in which these cattle were taken along was rather interesting.
One might very naturally suppose that they would be driven along the road just as they are driven in any neighborhood; but such was not exactly the case.
The troops and trains must use the roads, and so the cattle must needs travel elsewhere, which they did. Every herd had a steer that was used both as a pack animal and a leader.
As a pack animal he bore the equipments and cooking utensils
of the drovers.
He was as docile as an old cow or horse, and could be led or called fully as readily.
By day he was preceded in his lead by the herdsman in charge, on horseback, while other herdsmen brought up the rear.
It was necessary to keep the herd along with the troops for two reasons-safety and convenience; and, as they could not
Leading the herd.|
use the road, they skirted the fields and woods, only a short remove from the highways, and picked their way as best they could.
By night one of the herdsmen went ahead of the herd on foot, making a gentle hallooing sound which the sagacious steer on lead steadily followed, and was in turn faithfully followed by the rest of the herd.
The herdsman's course lay sometimes through the open, but often through the woods, which made the hallooing sound necessary as a guide to keep the herd from straying.
They kept nearer the road at night than in the day, partly for safety's sake, and partly to take advantage of the light from huge camp-fires which detachments of cavalry, that preceded
the army, kindled at intervals to light the way, making them nearer together in woods and swamps than elsewhere.
Even then these drovers often had a thorny and difficult path to travel in picking their way through underbrush and brambles.
Such a herd got its living off the country in the summer, but not in the winter.
It was a sad sight to see these animals, which followed the army so patiently, sacrificed
The last steer.|
one after the other until but a half-dozen were left.
When the number had been reduced to this extent, they seemed to realize the fate in store for them, and it often took the butcher some time before he could succeed in facing one long enough to shoot him. His aim was at the curl of the hair between the eyes, and they would avert their lowered heads whenever he raised his rifle, until, at last, his quick eye brought them to the ground.
From the manner in which I have spoken of these herds, it may be inferred that there was a common herd for the whole army; but such was not the case.
The same system prevailed here as elsewhere.
For example, when the army entered the Wilderness
with three days rations of hard
bread, and three days rations of meat in their haversacks, the fresh meat to accompany the other three days rations, which they had stowed in their knapsacks, was driven along in division herds.
The remainder of the meat ration which they required to last them for the sixteen days during which it was expected the army would be away from a base of supplies was driven as corps herds.
In addition to these there was
a general or army herd to fall back upon when necessary to supply the corps herds, but this was always at the base of supplies.
Probably from eight to ten thousand head of cattle accompanied the army across the Rapidan
, when it entered upon the Wilderness Campaign
The Army horse.|
I have already stated that the horse was the sole reliance of the artillery and cavalry, and have given the reasons why the mule was a failure in either branch.
I have also stated that the mule replaced him, for the most part, in the wagontrains, six mules being substituted for four horses.
I did not state that in the ambulance train the horses were retained because they were the steadier.
But I wish now to refer more particularly to their conduct in action and on duty generally.
First, then, I will come directly to the point by saying that the horse was a hero in action.
That horses under fire behaved far better than men did under a similar exposure would naturally be expected, for men knew what and whom to fear, whereas a horse, when hit by a bullet, if he could get loose, was fully as likely to run towards the enemy as from him. But not every horse would run or make a fuss when wounded.
It depended partly upon the horse and partly upon the character and location of the wound.
I have seen bullets buried in the neck or rump of steadynerved horses without causing them to show more than a little temporary uneasiness.
The best illustration of the fortitude
of horse-flesh that I ever witnessed occurred on the 25th of August, 1864, at Ream's Station on the Weldon Railroad.
In this battle the fifty-seven or eight horses belonging to my company stood out in bold relief, a sightly target for the bullets of Rebel sharpshooters, who, from a woods and cornfield in our front, improved their opportunity to the full.
Their object was to kill off our horses, and then, by charg ing, take the guns, if possible.
It was painfully interesting to note the manner in which our brave limber-horses-those which drew the gunssuccumbed to the bullets of the enemy.
They stood harnessed in teams of six.
A peculiar dull thud indicated that the bullet had penetated some fleshy part of the animal, sounding much as a pebble does when thrown into the mud. The result of such wounds was to make the horse start for a moment or so, but finally he would settle down as if it was something to be endured without making a fuss, and thus he would remain until struck again.
I remember having had my eye on one horse at the very moment when a bullet entered his neck, but the wound had no other effect upon him than to make him shake his head as if pestered by a fly. Some of the horses would go down when hit by the first bullet and after lying quiet awhile would struggle to their feet again only to receive additional wounds.
Just before the close of this battle, while our gallant General Hancock
was riding along endeavoring by his own personal fearlessness to rally his retreating troops, his horse received a bullet in the neck, from the effects of which he fell forward, dismounting the general, and appearing as if dead.
Believing such to be the case, Hancock
mounted another horse; but within five minutes the fallen brute arose, shook himself, was at once remounted by the general, and survived the war many years.
When a bullet struck the bone of a horse's leg in the lower part, it made a hollow snapping sound and took him off his feet.
I saw one pole-horse shot thus, fracturing the
Down he went at once, but all encumbered as he was with harness and limber, he soon scrambled up and stood on three legs until a bullet hit him vitally.
It seemed sad to see a single horse left standing, with his five companions all lying dead or dying around him, himself the object of a concentrated fire until the fatal shot finally laid him low. I saw one such brute struck by the seventh bullet before he fell for the last time.
Several received as many as five
Real “horse sense.”
bullets, and it was thought by some that they would average that number apiece.
They were certainly very thoroughly riddled, and long before the serious fighting of the day occurred but two of the thirty-one nearest the enemy remained standing.
These two had been struck but not vitally, and survived some time longer.
We took but four of our fifty-seven horses from that ill-starred fray.
But, aside from their wonderful heroism
,--for I can find no better name for it,--they exhibited in many ways that sagacity for which the animal is famous.
I have already referred to the readiness with which they responded to many of the bugle-calls used on drill.
In the cavalry service they knew their places as well as did their riders, and it was a frequent occurrence to see a horse, when his rider had been dismounted
by some means, resume his place in line or column without him, seemingly not wishing to be left behind.
This quality was often illustrated when a poor, crippled, or generally usedup beast, which had been turned out to die, would attempt to hobble along in his misery and join a column as it passed.
Captain W. S. Davis
, a member of General Griffin
's staff of the Fifth Corps, rode a horse which had the very singular but horse-sensible habit of sitting down on his haunches, like a dog, after his rider had dismounted.
One morning he was missing, and nothing was seen of him for months; but one night, after the corps had encamped, some of the men, who knew the horse, in looking off towards the horizon, saw against the sky a silhouette of a horse sitting down.
It was at once declared to be the missing brute, and Captain Davis
, on being informed, recovered his eccentric but highly prized animal.