I. The outbreak of the war.
The outbreak of the Civil War
, and the Eastern States
generally, not only in an unarmed but in a very unwarlike condition.
The old outdoor habits of a rural community—riding, hunting and outdoor adventure—had almost passed away, while the modern substitutes in the way of physical exercise were only just being introduced.
The intercollegiate athletic contests had just begun, there had been two or three rowing matches, no football games; it was rarely that villages met to compete at base ball.
The militia had been until within a few years at a low ebb; it had indeed been lately organized into regiments, but these larger organizations were still almost nominal.
As a rule, the higher an officer, the less his military knowledge,—the major usually knew less than the captain, the colonel less than the major, the brigadier-general still less, and the major-general sometimes less than any of them.
The higher officers were often appointed on merely political grounds, or because they would entertain the others at their houses.
Stories were rife as to the blunders of these officers, of their marching the regiment up a high wall before they could remember how to stop them, or of their bewildering their command by the order (suggested by a mischievous adjutant) ‘Two or three paces backward, march!’
Even such as it was, the militia furnished the nucleus of the Massachusetts
contingent, largely filled the roster of its early officers, and, by the promptness of its three months service, did much for the actual saving of the nation.
Some of the regiments were ordered out three successive times and responded promptly every time.
But it must not be for a moment supposed that the State
militia of 1861 resembled at all in order and efficiency the highly organized militia of to-day; and the more flattering the titles of its officers the less prepared they usually were to assume any responsibility requiring military knowledge.
Without the line officers of the Massachusetts