contemptuous as was Topsy when Miss Ophelia undertook to chastise her. A system of light punishments, rigidly administered according to the prescribed military forms, had more weight with them than any amount of angry severity.
To make them feel as remote as possible from the plantation, this was essential.
By adhering to this, and constantly appealing to their pride as soldiers and their sense of duty, we were able to maintain a high standard of discipline,--so, at least, the inspecting officers said,--and to get rid, almost entirely, of the more degrading class of punishments,--standing on barrels, tying up by the thumbs, and the ball and chain.
In all ways we had to educate their self-respect.
For instance, at first they disliked to obey their own non-commissioned officers.
“I don't want him to play de white man ober me,” was a sincere objection.
They had been so impressed with a sense of inferiority that the distinction extended to the very principles of honor.
“I ain't got colored-man principles,” said Corporal London Simmons
, indignantly defending himself from some charge before me. “I'se got white-gemman principles.
I'se do my best.
If Cap'n tell me to take a man, s'pose de man be as big as a house, I'll clam hold on him till I die, inception [excepting] I'm sick.”
But it was plain that this feeling was a bequest of slavery, which military life would wear off. We impressed it upon them that they did not obey their officers because they were white, but because they were their officers, just as the Captain
must obey me, and I the General
; that we were all subject to military law, and protected by it in turn.
Then we taught them to take pride in having good material for non-commissioned officers among themselves, and in obeying them.