wise counsels of later statesmanship.
The chain of earthworks around Petersburg
was fifty miles in extent; being an effort, which proved futile in its ultimate issue, to make the inanimate soil, however “sacred,” supply the absence of flesh and blood.
In the campaign of 1864 the necessity of still further utilizing the limited forces of the army loomed up as of prime consideration; It was also noticed that a great part of the fighting fell on the pickets; that these troops were time and again pushed in on the main body, and that, as a general thing, being unable to resist the slightest exhibition of force in their front, they roused the line when driven in, and caused the greatest trouble and annoyance.
Up to this time picket and outpost duty of all kinds was performed by details drawn haphazard from the various companies of the regiments constituting a brigade; a single regiment or even company being rarely sent as a body on this kind of service.
These promiscuous details were usually placed under officers with whom they were as utterly unacquainted as each man was with his right and left file.
As a natural consequence, the details failed to act in the presence of the enemy as a compact, confident body; for if there is any one thing more than any other that is well calculated to destroy the efficiency of a soldier, it is the suspicion that his comrades are going to give way. It is equally a confessed fact that, when satisfied of the courage and fidelity of one another, men who will fight at all will fight till overcome by hostile numbers.
This was the state of things that presented itself to the leaders of the army in 1864.
In the sharp economy of war, the use of works was a fixed fact and acknowledged advantage.
Some improvement must now be made in the character of the troops who did the outpost duty.
To remedy the inefficiency of the “details,” and form a picket line that on sudden occasions might do the work of a line of battle; in short, by discipline and association, to render a small body of troops equal in strength and effectiveness to twice or even thrice their number-this was the problem, the solution of which was of no small labor to General Lee
To accomplish such results no plan of organization presented itself in the formation of either army.
The only thing known among military men that would in any degree approach the formation indicated, was the embodiment of a regiment for each division, after the manner of the Zouave
regiments of the French
There, as is known, to each division of the army is attached a corps, who act, as Kinglake
aptly puts it, as “the spike-head of the division,” being used either to push in, or else to ward off attack.