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[29] and when, on June 17, the consent of the government was obtained for raising ten more regiments, they were organized with the same energy which had already given Massachusetts an unquestioned superiority in promptness of organization at the outbreak of the war.


Viii. The early major-generals.

On May 16, 1861, before any battle had taken place, the United States government began its appointment of major-generals of volunteers; and as all three of the appointments of that date were from civil life,1 and as two of these were from Massachusetts, the seniority thus established had an important and not always a favorable bearing on the position of Massachusetts in the war. The senior officer of the three, Gen. John A. Dix, had in early life served for sixteen years in the regular army and had risen to the rank of captain, but General Banks and General Butler had had only the slight experience of the muster field, such as that then was, and had wholly missed the valuable discipline of the lower grades of command. The mistake—as was pointed out freely by such acute foreign observers as Count Gurowski and Comte de Paris2—was not in making them officers, but in putting them at once at the top of the ladder. Intended as a compliment, it was in reality a doubtful advantage. One must have been in military service, perhaps, to know how new a sphere of life it is for a civilian, even for a militia man, and how formidable is the difficulty of being placed at one stroke where one must give orders as a master, instead of learning as an apprentice. For it is to be observed that if a man placed suddenly in high command does not know the rudiments of his trade at first, he has a very difficult task in learning them; he cannot easily ask questions of his subordinates, and, if he does, cannot get them impartially answered; he must often hold his tongue, accept the attitude of omniscience and remain ignorant. Unfortunately, his ignorance may have to be measured at last by the human lives it costs to teach him. A civilian, when placed in the ranks, or even made a line or field officer, can at least ask

1 The next one was that of Gen. David Hunter (August 13), and the next that of Gen. E. A. Hitchcock (Feb. 10, 1862), both these being West Point graduates.

2 The latter describes them as ‘the improvised generals.’ (Civil War in America (translation), I, 165.)

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