the fact that the recruits of 1864-5, in particular, included many who could neither speak nor understand a word of English
In referring to the disastrous battle of Reams Station, not long since, the late General Hancock
told me that the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment had received an accession of about two hundred German recruits only two or three days before the battle, not one of whom could understand the orders of their commanding officers.
Drilling the awkward squad.|
be easily imagined how much time and patience would be required to mould such subjects as those into intelligent, reliable soldiery.
But outside of this class there were scores of men that spoke English who would “hay-foot” every time when they should “straw-foot.”
They were incorrigibles in almost every military respect.
Whenever they were out with a squad — usually the “awkward squad” --for drill, they made business lively enough for the sergeant in charge.
When they stood in the rear rank their loftiest ambition seemed to be to walk up the backs of their file-leaders, and then they would insist that it was the file-leaders who were out of step.
Members of the much abused front rank often