Organization of the Army.
Camp of the Reg't La. Volunteers, Deep Creek, Jan. 1st, 1862.
In a recent paper of Nov. 19th, an article appeared on the re-organization of our Army.
The views therein expressed coincided with those of the humble individual who now addresses you, for the purpose of submitting to your consideration a paper, which, if unworthy of publication, may, at least, afford amusement, and perchance suggest ideas to some of the able writers whose productions adorn the pages of your most influential journal.
The first portion, you will perceive, is but a peg, on which to hang an argument; should it be deemed unworthy of the space it would occupy, consign it to the flames; should the latter portion not meet with approval, let the argument follow the peg.
Who is Anon?
Many of us have been troubled, in our early days, to discover the identity of this gifted writer, whose literary effusions have, from time to time excited our admiration.
Some of my early associates, it is true, who thought themselves shrewder than the rest, asserted that he had no identity; and that ‘"Anon"’ was a ‘"nom de plume,
"’ used by writers too modest to make themselves known; or who, not being able to fix upon a father, were therefore anonymous, and used the abbreviation ‘"Anon"’ in lieu of a less doubtful patronymic.
The first assertion I summarily disposed of, by triumphantly demonstrating that it was altogether unlikely that all modest writers should have hit on the same ‘" nom de plume;
"’ the last I treated as a malicious insinuation, too base for notice, against my favorite author.
This morning, while walking through the woods of Warwick
, I met with signal and pleasant proof of the justice of my conclusions as to the individual in question, I had unthinkingly turned off the narrow bridle path that leads to James river
, when I was suddenly confronted by a man of singular yet venerable aspect, who accosted me with politeness, and in a conversation which ensued, astonished me no less with his vast general information, than with his pleasing variety of style.
My new acquaintance appeared to become pleased with me as our intercourse progressed; this I perceived, and as I was equally well pleased with him, I produced from my wallet, a bottle of ‘"Baumgartner's best,"’ which I always carry with me for medicinal purposes.
My companion, perceiving this, informed me that although he abhorred liquor, he was compelled to use it in small quantities, for the benefit of his health, and that he would therefore, feel greatly obliged to me for a drink.
Order the influence of Dr. Baumgartner
's great specific, he became quite communicative; and as the treatment progressed, his manner became almost affectionate, while his confidence was so much increased, that after exacting from me a promise, that I would give him three hours start before making known the fact of his presence, he informed me that he was the celebrated Mr. Anon
After I had somewhat recovered from my astonishment, he went on to tell me that, although he had been basely slandered by an ignorant, curious, and unthinking public, his pedigree was as free from stain as his character from reproach; that he was between three and four hundred years old; and that although his long life had been one of untiring industry, such was his natural timidity that he had ever shrunk from being publicly known as an author.
It would be tedious for me to enumerate all the works of which he assured me that he was the author; but I cannot forbear mentioning the deep feeling with which he spoke of parties who, knowing his distaste for notoriety, had taken to themselves the credit of some of his best works.
He complained bitterly of one Albert Smith
, who had robbed him of the just credit due him for his celebrated ‘"Address to a Mummy,"’ and said that the baseness of Junius
in affixing his name to certain letters which he was paid to make public was only exceeded by the treachery of a Scotch barrister, with a halting gait, whom he met with in the ruins of Melrose Abbey
, and who so won upon him by his pleasing address that he confided to him for publication his original manuscripts of the Waverly Novels
Much as I was pleased with the modesty and apparent worth of my entertainer, and with all my self-gratulation on the soundness of my early views as to his personal identity, I did not forget that it was my bounden duty to satisfy myself as to the correctness of his political views before suffering him to depart.
In answer to my interrogatories on this subject he informed me that he was a good Southern man, and as such, had written a paper containing facts and suggestions which he hoped would be found worthy of the able and patriotic men to whom are confided the destinies of our beloved country.
So interested had I become in this conversation that time passed away unnoticed, until my companion, declaring that he must visit a neighboring camp, thrust a manuscript into my hand and took a hasty leave of me, remarking that, should any profit accrue from the publication, I could settle with him at a future time, as he proposed to spend the winter of 1980 in New Orleans, at which time he would be happy to renew our acquaintance.
What passed from the time of his departure until evening I know not; but certain it is, that I awoke from a deep sleep as the sun was about to disappear for the night, and, looking upon the events of the day as some remarkable dream, I was about to return to camp without further thought, when my attention was attracted by a folded manuscript lying by the side of my now empty bottle.
On my return to camp I opened the manuscript, and found it to read as follows:
Organized in a few short months, the army of the South
, is a source of pride to ourselves and of wonder to foreign nations.
Since March last, 400,000 men have taken the field in defence of their homes.
They have met the enemy at many points, and have signally defeated him in nearly every engagement.--The campaign is now nearly over, and it is hardly likely that any important results will arise from the movements of the contending armies before spring.
In the meantime, the enemy is adopting energetic measures to improve the discipline and increase the efficiency of their army.--Shall we not do the same?
I answer yes; and to effect this, let it be our task to lay bare the defects of the volunteer system, and that of our legislators to provide the remedy.
Nearly all the company officers of our army are men of little military experience, some of them of little education.
They owe their elections in many cases to the fact of their previous popularity in the communities wherein they resided; in others, to the ostentatious display of a small amount of military knowledge before these who had none; while others again, have been elected to fill the places of resigned officers, through a popularity gained among the men by neglecting their duties as officers or non-commissioned officers of the company.
Even under these disadvantages, the enthusiasm of the young and gentle blood of the country, has enabled them to bear for a time with the hardships, privations, and laborious military duties, incidental to an active campaign.
This cannot long continue, for many of these men have now learned enough of military matters to unfold to them the utter incompetency of their officers.
They have discovered, too, that their officers, although nominally in command, are in many respects their servants; for, say they, if that First Lieutenant
punishes me for my faults or crimes, or falls to screen me from the consequences of them, he shall never get my vote for captain and so down to the Fourth Corporal.
The least efficient is the most pension.
Then being the case, the men are not
control, whether in camp or on the march.
Men on a reconnaissance, after waiting an hour or so, and seeing no enemy, have been known to disperse through the country in search of provisions, or to return to camp in such numbers as to diminish the force by nearly one-half.
There is scarcely one of them but will acknowledge the evils, nay the danger, of this and similar misconduct; yet such is, and ever will be, the shortsightedness of young men, that they will in nine cases out of ten favor the lenient body who, without knowledge to impart, has not energy sufficient to keep his men together, or repress marauding.
In some divisions of the army, few of the company officers understand the principles of the school of the soldier; few of the companies have been instructed in skirmishing drill, and still fewer in bayonet exercise.
The importance of these matters is plain to all intelligent officers; yet, strange to say, except in rare cases, they make no effort to acquire themselves, or to impart to their men the knowledge sufficient to inspire them with confidence in themselves, or to induce them with the belief that they will be well handled on the field of battle.
Under these circumstances, is it to be wondered at that men feel the degradation of serving under officers whose incapacity is rivalled by the ever-lowering tone or ‘"morale"’ of the men?
I would, therefore, respectfully suggest that Congress devise some means of removing incompetent officers, and of rewarding those who, move by an exalted patriotism, strive to perform the whole duty of a soldier.
What may be the fate of this paper I know not, nor whether praise or censure may be awarded to its author.
I care little, provided the effect be beneficial, firmly believing that my duty to my country can be best discharged by speaking thus plainly, and trusting that the wisdom of our legislators may enable us to take the field next spring in greater strength and efficiency than ever.
It may be urged, with some show of truth, that the language of my sylvan acquaintance is too severe; but it should be remembered that he speaks not of individuals, but in condemnation of a system.
All of which is respectfully submitted by your constant reader and ardent admirer,