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[39]

Another problem early presented to Governor Andrew was that of promotion from the ranks. It seems now incredible that this should ever have presented itself as a problem, or that there should have been any hesitation in such promotions; but those who recall that period will well remember to have heard the view expressed that the English army, not the French, should be in this respect our model, and that a little antecedent superiority of social position was essential, at least in the city regiments. After the fearful losses in battle of one of the best Massachusetts regiments, General (then colonel) Devens said to its commander, ‘Colonel, the sooner you get this blue-blood notion out of your head the better for yourself and your regiment.’1 Many letters were received in Boston from sergeants in various regiments, complaining of the appointment over their heads—or the threatened appointment—of inexperienced civilians;2 and it was fortunate that the strongly democratic spirit of Governor Andrew settled so promptly the policy of the State for all but the colored regiments, where the reluctance of the general government itself limited the promotions to a very few.3 As a matter of fact, during 1861 and 1862 there were four hundred and sixty-three second lieutenants taken from enlisted men to supply vacancies in regiments, while the officers taken from civil life for that purpose were four captains, nine first lieutenants and thirty-five second lieutenants. It is claimed by Adjutant-General Schouler that ‘in a majority of these cases the appointments have been made at the earnest request of the field officers of the regiments in which they were commissioned, and in all cases for the good of the service.’4 It is possible that this last assertion may have been premature; the principle was a bad one, and the practice soon disappeared almost wholly except among the colored regiments.5

1 General Devens himself narrated this to the writer.

2 See Putnam's Co. A, 25th Mass. (pp. 126, 127), for illustrations of this.

3 Chaplain Harrison of the 54th was the first Massachusetts officer so commissioned (Sept. 8, 1863); but he was not allowed the privileges of an officer on the United States transport which took him South until another Massachusetts officer had offered to surrender to him his state-room, for the sake of establishing the principle.

4 Adjutant-General's report, January, 1863, p. 463.

5 That the objection to promotion was more than a matter of personal preference was seen in one of the most noted Boston regiments in. the case of one first sergeant, a young man of fine appearance, of the highest character, a college graduate and the son of a clergyman, whose promotion was resisted by some of his superior officers on the express ground that, although he was an excellent first sergeant, yet a man once in the ranks should remain there. He afterwards rose by successive appointments to be captain in his own regiment. The writer has reason to think that this was one of the cases which led Governor Andrew to the strong attitude he took upon the subject in his letter of Nov. 1, 1861 (Adjutant-General's report, January, 1862, p. 72).

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