War preparations in the North.
Jacob D. Cox, Major-General, U. S. V., Ex-Governor of Ohio, Ex-Secretary of the Interior.
The awkward squad.|
The wonderful outburst of national feeling in the North
in the spring of 1861 has always been a thrilling and almost supernatural thing to those who participated in it. The classic myth that the resistless terror which sometimes unaccountably seized upon an army was the work of the god Pan might seem to have its counterpart in the work of a national divinity rousing a whole people, not to terror, but to a sublime enthusiasm of self-devotion.
To picture it as a whole is impossible.
A new generation can only approximate a knowledge of the feelings of that time by studying in detail some separate scenes of the drama that had a continent for its stage.
The writer can only tell what happened under his eye. The like was happening everywhere from Maine
What is told is simply a type of the rest.
On Friday, the twelfth day of April, 1861, the Senate of Ohio was in session, trying to go on in the ordinary routine of business, but with a sense of anxiety and strain which was caused by the troubled condition of national
The passage of “ordinances of secession” by one after another of the Southern States
, and even the assembling of a provisional Confederate government at Montgomery
, had not wholly destroyed the hope that some peaceful way out of our troubles would be found; yet the gathering of an army on the sands opposite Fort Sumter
was really war, and if a hostile gun were fired, we knew it would mean the end of all effort at arrangement.
Hoping almost against hope that blood would not be shed, and that the pageant of military array and of a secession government would pass by, we tried to give our thoughts to business; but there was no heart in it, and the “morning hour” lagged, for we could not work in earnest, and we were unwilling to adjourn.
Suddenly a senator came in from the lobby in an excited way, and, catching the chairman's eye, exclaimed, “Mr. President
, the telegraph announces that the secessionists are bombarding Fort Sumter
There was a solemn and painful hush, but it was broken in a moment by a woman's shrill voice from the spectators' seats, crying, “Glory to God!”
It startled every one, almost as if the enemy were in the midst.
But it was the voice of a radical friend of the slave, Abby Kelly Foster
, who, after a lifetime of public agitation, believed that only through blood could his freedom be won, and who had shouted the fierce cry of joy that the question had been submitted to the decision of the sword.
With most of us, the gloomy thought that civil war had begun in our own land overshadowed everything else; this seemed too great a price to pay for any good,--a scourge to be borne only in preference to yielding what was to us the very groundwork of our republicanism, the right to enforce a fair interpretation of the Constitution
through the election of President
The next day we learned that Major Anderson
had surrendered, and the telegraphic news from all the Northern States
showed plain evidence of a popular outburst of loyalty to the Union
, following a brief moment of dismay.
That was the period when the flag-The Flag
-flew out to the wind from every housetop in our great cities, and when, in New York, wildly excited crowds marched the streets demanding that the suspected or the lukewarm should show the symbol of nationality as a committal to the country's cause.
He that is not for us is against us, was the deep, instinctive feeling.
Judge Thomas M. Key
chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was the recognized leader of the Democratic party in the Senate, and at an early hour moved an adjournment to the following Tuesday
, in order, as he said, that the senators might have the opportunity to go home and consult their constituents in the perilous crisis of public affairs.
No objection was made to the adjournment, and the representatives took a similar recess.
All were in a state of most anxious suspense,--the Republicans to know what initiative the Administration at Washington
would take, and the Democrats to determine what course they should follow if the President
should call for troops to put down the insurrection.
Before we met again, Mr. Lincoln
's proclamation and call for 75,000 men for three months service had been issued, and the great mass of the people of the North
, forgetting all party distinctions, answered with an enthusiasm that swept politicians off their feet.
When we met again on Tuesday morning, Judge Key
, taking my arm and pacing the floor outside the railing, broke out impetuously, “Mr. Cox
, the people have gone stark mad!”--“I knew they would if a blow were struck against the flag,” said I, reminding him of some previous conversations we had had on the subject.
He, with most of the politicians of the day, partly by sympathy with the overwhelming current of public opinion, and partly by the reaction of their own hearts against the theories which had encouraged the secessionists, determined to support the war measures of the Government
and to make no factious opposition to such State legislation as might be necessary to sustain the Federal Administration
The attitude of Mr. Key
is only a type of many others, and marks one of the most striking features of the time.
On the 8th of January the usual Democratic convention and celebration of the battle of New Orleans
had taken place, and a series of resolutions had been passed, in which, professing to speak in the name of “200,000 Democrats of Ohio
,” the convention had very significantly intimated that this vast organization of men would be found in the way of any attempt to put down secession until the demands of the South
in respect to slavery were complied with.
A few days afterward I was returning to Columbus
from my home in Trumbull county
, and meeting upon the railway train with David Tod
, then an active Democratic politician, but afterward one of our loyal “war governors,” the conversation turned on the action of the convention which had just adjourned.
and I were personal friends and neighbors, and I freely expressed my surprise that the convention should have committed itself to what must be interpreted as a threat of insurrection in the North
, if the Administration should, in opposing secession by force, follow the example of Andrew Jackson
, in whose honor they had assembled.
He rather vehemently reasserted the substance of the resolution, saying that we Republicans would find the 200,000 Ohio Democrats in front of us, if we attempted to cross the Ohio River
My answer was, “We will give up the contest if we cannot carry your 200,000 over the heads of you leaders.”
The result proved how hollow the party assertions had been, or, perhaps, I should say, how superficial was the hold of such doctrines upon the mass of men in a great political organization.
At the first shot from Beauregard
's guns in Charleston Harbor
these men crowded to the recruiting stations to enlist for the defense of the national flag and the national union.
It was a popular torrent which no leaders could resist; but many of these should be credited with the same patriotic impulse, and it made them nobly oblivious of party consistency.
A few days after the surrender of Sumter
, Stephen A. Douglas
passed through Columbus
on his way to Washington
, and, in response to the calls of a spontaneous gathering of people, spoke to them from the window of his bedroom in the hotel.
There had been no thought for any of the common surroundings of a public meeting.
There were no torches, no music.
A dark mass of men filled full the dimly lit street, and called for Douglas
with an earnestness of tone wholly different from the enthusiasm of common political gatherings.
He came half-dressed to his window and, without any light near him, spoke solemnly to the people upon the terrible crisis which had come upon the nation.
Men of all parties were there: his own followers to get some light as to their duty; the Breckinridge Democrats
ready, most of them, repentantly to follow a Northern leader now that their Southern associates were in armed opposition to the Government
; the Republicans eager to know whether so potent an influence was to be unreservedly on the side of the nation.
I remember well the serious solicitude with which I listened to his opening sentences as I leaned against the railing of the State House
park, trying in vain to see more than a dim outline of the man as he stood at the unlighted window.
His deep, sonorous tones rolled down through the darkness from above us, an earnest, measured voice, the more solemn the more impressive, because we could not see the speaker, and it came to us literally as “a voice in the night,”--the night of our country's unspeakable trial.
There was no uncertainty in his tone; the Union
must be preserved and the insurrection must be crushed; he pledged his hearty support to Mr. Lincoln
's administration in doing this; other questions must stand aside till the national authority should be everywhere recognized.
I do not think we greatly cheered him,--it was, rather, a deep Amen that went up from the crowd.
We went home breathing more freely in the assurance we now felt that, for a time at least, no organized opposition to the Federal Government
and its policy of coercion could be formidable in the North
Yet the situation hung upon us like a nightmare.
and I were lodging together at the time, our wives being kept at home by family cares, and when we reached our sitting-room, after an evening session of the Senate, we often found ourselves involuntarily groaning, “Civil war in our
The shame, the folly, the outrage, seemed too great to believe, and we half hoped to wake from it as
from a dream.
Among the painful remembrances of those days is the ever-present weight at the heart which never left me till I found relief in the active duties of camp life at the close of the month.
I went about my duties (and I am sure most of those with whom I associated did the same) with the half-choking sense of a grief I dared not think of: like one who is
dragging himself to the ordinary labors of life from some terrible and recent bereavement.
We talked of our personal duty, and though both Garfield
and myself had young families, we were agreed that our activity in the organization and support of the Republican party made the duty of supporting the Government
by military service come peculiarly home to us. He was, for the moment, somewhat trammeled by his half-clerical position, but he very soon cut the knot.
My own path seemed unmistakably plain.
He, more careful for his friend than for himself, urged upon me his doubts whether my physical strength was equal to the strain that would be put upon it. “I,” said he, “am big and strong, and if my relations to the church and the college can be loosened, I shall have no excuse for not enlisting; but you are slender and
will break down.”
It is true I then looked slender for a man six feet high; yet I had confidence in the elasticity of my constitution, and the result justified me, while it also showed how liable one is to mistake in such things.
found that he had a tendency to weakness of the alimentary system, which broke him down on every campaign in which he served, and led to his retiring from the army at the close of 1863.
My own health, on the other hand, was strengthened by outdoor life and exposure, and I served to the end with growing physical vigor.
When Mr. Lincoln
issued his first call for troops, the existing laws made it necessary that these should be fully organized and officered by the several States.
Then, the treasury was in no condition to bear the burden of war expenditures, and, till Congress could assemble, the President
was forced to rely on the States for means to equip and transport their own men. This threw upon the governors and legislatures of the loyal States responsibilities of a kind wholly unprecedented.
A long period of profound peace had made every military organization seem almost farcical.
A few independent companies formed the merest shadow of an army, and the State
militia proper was only a nominal thing.
It happened, however, that I held a commission as brigadier in this State militia, and my intimacy with Governor Dennison
led him to call upon me for such assistance as I could render in the first enrollment and organization of the Ohio
Arranging to be called to the Senate chamber
when my vote might be needed, I gave my time chiefly to such military matters as the governor appointed.
Although, as I have said, my military commission had been a nominal thing, and in fact I had never worn a uniform, I had not wholly neglected theoretic preparation for such work.
For some years, the possibility of a war of secession had been one of the things which were forced upon the thoughts of reflecting people, and I had given some careful study to such books of tactics and of strategy as were within easy reach.
I had especially been led to read military history with critical care, and had carried away many valuable ideas from that most useful means of military education.
I had, therefore, some notion of the work before us, and could approach its problems with less loss of time, at least, than if I had been wholly ignorant.
My commission as brigadier-general in the Ohio
quota in national service was dated the 23d of April.
Just about the same time Captain George B. McClellan
was requested by Governor Dennison
to come to Columbus
for consultation, and, by the governor's request, I met him at the railway station and took him to the State House
I think Mr. Lars Anderson
(brother of Major Robert Anderson
) and Mr. L'Hommedieu
were with him. The intimation had been given me that he would probably be made major-general of the Ohio
contingent, and this, naturally, made me scan him closely.
He was rather under the medium height, but muscularly formed, with broad shoulders and a well-poised head, active and graceful in motion.
His whole appearance was quiet and modest, but when drawn out he showed no lack of confidence in himself.
He was dressed in a plain traveling dress and wore a narrow-rimmed soft felt hat. In short, he seemed
what he was, a railway superintendent in his business clothes.
At the time, his name was a good deal associated with Beauregard
's, and they were spoken of as young men of similar standing in the engineer corps of the army, and great things were expected of them both because of their scientific knowledge of their profession, though McClellan
had been in civil life for some years.
's report on the Crimean war was one of the few important memoirs our old army had produced, and was valuable enough to give a just reputation for comprehensive understanding of military organization, and the promise of ability to conduct the operations of an army.
I was present at the interview which the governor had with him. The destitution of the State
of everything like military material and equipment was very plainly put, and the magnitude of the task of building up a small army out of nothing was not blinked.
The governor spoke of the embarrassment he felt at every step from the lack of practical military experience in his staff, and of his desire to have some one on whom he could properly throw the details of military work.
showed that he fully understood the difficulties there would be before him, and said no man could wholly master them at once, although he had confidence that if a few weeks' time for preparation were given, he would be able to put the Ohio
division into reasonable form for taking the field.
The command was then formally tendered and accepted.
All of us who were present felt that the selection was one full of promise and hope, and that the governor had done the wisest thing practicable at the time.
The next morning McClellan
requested me to accompany him to the State arsenal, to see what arms and material might be there.
We found a few boxes of smooth-bore muskets which had once been issued to militia companies and had been returned rusted and damaged.
No belts, cartridge-boxes, or other accouterments were with them.
There were two or three smooth-bore brass field-pieces, 6-pounders, which had been honey-combed by firing salutes, and of which the vents had been worn out, bushed, and worn out again.
In a heap in one corner lay a confused pile of mildewed harness which had been once used for artillery horses, but was now not worth carrying away.
There had for many years been no money appropriated to buy military material or even to protect the little the State
had. The Federal Government had occasionally distributed some arms which were in the hands of the independent uniformed militia, and the arsenal was simply an empty store-house.
It did not take long to complete our inspection.
At the door, as we were leaving the building, McClellan
turned, and, looking back into its emptiness, remarked, half humorously and half sadly, “A fine stock of munitions on which to begin a great war!”
We went back to the State House
where a room was assigned us, and we sat down to work.
The first task was to make out detailed schedules and estimates of what would be needed to equip ten thousand men for the field.
This was a unit which could be used by the governor and Legislature in estimating the appropriations needed then or subsequently.
Intervals in this labor were used in discussing the general situation and plans of campaign.
Before the close of the week McClellan
drew up a paper embodying his own
views, and forwarded it to Lieutenant-General Scott
He read it to me, and my recollection of it is that he suggested two principal lines of movement in the West
: one to move eastward by the Kanawha Valley
with a heavy column to cooperate with an army in front of Washington
; the other to march directly southward and to open the Valley of the Mississippi
's answer was appreciative and flattering, without distinctly approving his plan, and I have never doubted that the paper prepared the way for his appointment in the regular army, which followed at an early day.3
But in trying to give a connected idea of the first military organization of the State
, I have outrun some incidents of those days which are worth recollection.
From the hour the call for troops was published, enlistments began, and recruits were parading the streets continually.
At the capitol
the restless impulse to be doing something military seized even upon the members of the Legislature, and a good many of them assembled every evening upon the east terrace of the State House
to be drilled in marching and facing by one or two of their own number who had some knowledge of company tactics.
Most of the uniformed independent companies in the cities of the State
immediately tendered their services and began to recruit their numbers to the hundred men required for acceptance.
There was no time to procure uniforms, nor was it desirable; for these companies had chosen their own, and would have to change it for that of the United States
as soon as this could be furnished.
For some days companies could be seen marching and drilling, of which part would be uniformed in some gaudy style such as is apt to prevail in holiday parades in time of peace, while another part would be dressed in the ordinary working garb of citizens of all degrees.
The uniformed files would also be armed and accoutered, the others would be without arms or equipments, and as awkward a squad as could well be imagined.
The material, however, was magnificent and soon began to take shape.
The fancy uniforms were left at home, and some approximation to a simple and useful costume was made.
The recent popular outburst in Italy
furnished a useful idea, and the “Garibaldi
uniform” of a red flannel
shirt with broad falling collar, with blue trousers held by a leathern waist-belt, and a soft felt hat for the head, was extensively copied and served an excellent purpose.
It could be made by the wives and sisters at home, and was all the more acceptable for that.
The spring was opening and a heavy coat would not be much needed, so that with some sort of overcoat and a good blanket in an improvised knapsack, the new company was not badly provided.
The warm scarlet color reflected from their enthusiastic faces as they stood in line made a picture that never failed to impress the mustering officers with the splendid character of the men.
The officering of these new troops was a difficult and delicate task, and, so far as company officers were concerned, there seemed no better way at the beginning than to let the enlisted men elect their own, as was in fact done.
In most cases where entirely new companies were raised, it had been by the
enthusiastic efforts of some energetic volunteers who were naturally made the commissioned officers.
But not always.
There were numerous examples of self-denial by men who remained in the ranks after expending much labor and money in recruiting, modestly refusing the honors, and giving way to some one supposed to have military knowledge or experience.
The war in Mexico
in 1846-7 had been our latest conflict with a civilized people, and to have served in it was a sure passport to confidence.
It had often been a service more in name than in fact; but the young volunteers felt so deeply their own ignorance that they were ready to yield to any pretense of superior knowledge, and generously to trust themselves to any one who would offer to lead them.
Hosts of charlatans and incompetents were thus put into responsible places at
the beginning, but the sifting work went on fast after the troops were once in the field.
The election of field-officers, however, ought not to have been allowed.
Companies were necessarily regimented together of which each could have little personal knowledge of the officers of the others; intrigue and demagogy soon came into play, and almost fatal mistakes were made in selection.
The evil worked its cure, but the ill effects of it were long visible.
The immediate need of troops to protect Washington
caused most of the uniformed companies to be united into the first two regiments, which were quickly dispatched to the East
These off, companies began to stream in from all parts of the State
On their first arrival they were quartered wherever shelter could be had, as there were no tents or sheds to make a camp for them.
Going to my evening work at the State House
, as I crossed the rotunda I saw a company marching in by the south door, and another disposing itself for the night upon the marble pavement near the east entrance; as I passed on to the north hall, I saw another that had come a little earlier holding a prayer-meeting, the stone arches echoing with the excited supplications of some one who was borne out of himself by the terrible pressure of events around him, while, mingling with his pathetic, beseeching tones as he prayed for his country, came the shrill notes of the fife and the thundering din of the ubiquitous bass-drum from the company marching in on the other side.
In the Senate chamber
a company was quartered, and the senators were supplying them with paper and pens with which “the boys” were writing their farewells to mothers and sweethearts, whom they hardly dared hope they should see again.
A similar scene was going on in the Representatives' hall
, another in the Supreme Court-room.
In the executive office sat the governor, the unwonted noises, when the door was opened, breaking in on the quiet, businesslike air of the room,--he meanwhile dictating dispatches, indicating answers to others, receiving committees of citizens, giving directions to officers of companies and regiments, accommodating himself to the willful democracy of our institutions which insists upon seeing the man in chief command, and will not take its answer from a subordinate, until in the small hours of the night the noises were hushed, and after a brief hour of effective, undisturbed work upon the matters of chief importance, he could leave the glare of his gas-lighted office and seek a few hours' rest, only to renew his wearing labors on the morrow.
On the streets the excitement was of a rougher if not more intense character.
A minority of unthinking partisans could not understand the strength and sweep of the great popular movement, and would sometimes venture to speak out their sympathy with the rebellion, or their sneers at some party friend who had enlisted.
In the boiling temper of the time the quick answer was a blow; and it was one of the common incidents of the day for those who came into the State House
to tell of a knock-down that had occurred here or there, when this popular punishment had been administered to some indiscreet “rebel-sympathizer.”
Various duties brought young army officers of the regular service to the State
capital, and others sought a brief leave of absence to come and offer
their services to the governor of their native State.
had planted himself firmly on the theory that the regular army must be the principal reliance for severe work, and that the volunteers could only be auxiliaries around this solid nucleus which would show them the way to perform their duty, and take the brunt of every encounter.
The young regulars who asked leave to accept commissions in State regiments were therefore refused, and were ordered to their own subaltern positions and posts.
There can be no doubt that the true policy would have been to encourage the whole of this younger class to enter at once the volunteer service.
They would have been field-officers in the new regiments, and would have impressed discipline and system upon the organization from the beginning.
The Confederates really profited by having no regular army.
They gave to the officers who left our service, it is true, commissions in their so-called “provisional” army, to encourage them to expect permanent military positions if the war should end in the independence of the South
; but this was only a nominal organization, and their real army was made up (as ours turned out practically to be) from the regiments of State volunteers.
Less than a year afterward we changed our policy, but it was then too late to induce many of the regular officers to take regimental positions in the volunteer troops.
I hesitate to declare that this was not, after all, for the best; for, although the organization of our army would have been more rapidly perfected, there are other considerations which have much weight.
The army would not have been the popular thing it was, its close identification with the people's movement would have been weakened, and it, perhaps, would not so readily have melted again into the mass of the nation at the close of the war.
On the 29th of April I was ordered by McClellan
to proceed next morning to Camp Dennison
, near Cincinnati
, where he had fixed the site for a permanent camp of instruction.
I took with me one full regiment and half of another.
The day was a fair one, and when about noon our railway train reached the camping ground, it seemed an excellent place for our work.
The drawback was that the land was planted in wheat and corn, instead of being meadow or pasture land.
(later the well-known general) met us as McClellan
's engineer officer, coming from Cincinnati
with a trainload of lumber.
With his compass and chain, and by the help of a small detail of men, he soon laid off the two regimental camps, and the general lines of the whole encampment for a dozen regiments.
The men of the regiments shouldered the pine boards, and carried them up to the lines of the company streets which were close to the hills skirting the valley, and which opened into the parade and drill ground along the railway.
Vigorous work housed all the men before night, and it was well that it did so, for the weather changed in the evening, a cold rain came on, and the next morning was a chill and dreary one.
My own headquarters were in a little brick school-house of one story, and with a single aide (my only staff-officer) we bestowed ourselves for the night in the little spaces between the pupils' desks and the teacher's pulpit.
The windy, cheerless night was a long one, but gave place at last to a fickle, changeable day of drifting showers and occasional sunshine, and we were
roused by our first reveille in camp.. A breakfast was made from some cooked provisions brought with us, and we resumed the duty of organizing and instructing the camp.
With the vigorous outdoor life and the full physical and mental employment, the depression which had weighed upon me since the news of the guns at Sumter
passed away, never to return.
New battalions arrived from day to day, the cantonments were built by themselves, like the first, and the business of instruction and drill was systematized.
The men were not yet armed, so there was no temptation to begin too soon with the manual of the musket, and they were kept industriously employed in marching in single line, by file, in changing direction, in forming column of fours from double line, etc., before their guns were put into their hands.
Each regiment was treated as a separate camp with its own chain of sentinels, and the officers of the guard were constantly busy inspecting the sentinels on post and teaching guard and picket duty theoretically to the reliefs off duty.
Schools were established in each regiment for field and staff as well as for company officers, and Hardee
was in the hands of everybody who could procure a copy.
One of the proofs of the unprecedented scale of our war preparation is found in the fact that the supply of the authorized Tactics
was soon exhausted, making it difficult to get the means of instruction in the company schools.
The arriving regiments sometimes had their first taste of camp life under circumstances well calculated to dampen their ardor.
The 4th Ohio, under Colonel Lorin Andrews
, president of Kenyon College, came just before a thunderstorm one evening, and the bivouac that night was as rough a one as his men were likely to experience for many a day. They made shelter by placing boards from the fence-tops to the ground, but the fields were level and soon became a mire under the pouring rain, so that they were a queer-looking lot when they crawled out in the morning.
The sun was then shining bright, however, and they had better cover for their heads by the next night.
The 7th Ohio, which was recruited in Cleveland
and on the “Western reserve,” sent a party in advance to build some of their huts, and though they too came in a rain-storm, they were less uncomfortable than some of the others.
In the course of a fortnight all the regiments of the Ohio
contingent were in the camp, except the two that had been hurried to Washington
They were organized into three brigades.
The brigadiers, besides myself, were Generals J. H. Bates
and Newton Schleich
. General Bates
, who was the senior, and as such assumed command of the camp in McClellan
's absence, was a graduate of West Point
who had served some years in the regular army, but had resigned and adopted the profession of law. General Schleich
was a Democratic senator, who had been in the State
militia, and had been one of the drill-masters of the Legislative Squad
, which had drilled upon the Capitol
had intended to make his own headquarters in the camp; but the convenience of attending to official business in Cincinnati
kept him in the city.
His purpose was to make the brigade organizations permanent, and to take them as a division to the field when they were a little prepared for the work.
Like many other good plans, it failed to be carried out. I was the only one of the brigadiers who remained in the service after
the first enlistment for ninety days, and it was my fate to take the field with new regiments, only one of which had been in my brigade in camp.
After General Bates
's arrival my own hut was built on the slope of the hillside behind my brigade, close under the wooded ridge, and here for the next six weeks was my home.
The morning brought its hour of business correspondence relating to the command; then came the drill, when the parade ground was full of marching companies and squads.
Officers' drill followed, with sword exercise and pistol practice, and the evening was allotted to schools of theoretic tactics, outpost duty, and the like.
The first fortnight in camp was the hardest for the troops.
The plowed fields became deep with mud which nothing could remove till steady good weather should allow them to be packed hard under the continued tramp of thousands of men. The organization of camp-kitchens had to be learned by the hardest experience also, and the men who had some aptitude for cooking had to be found by a slow process of natural selection, during which many an unpalatable meal had to be eaten.
A disagreeable bit of information soon came to us in the proof that more than half the men had never had the contagious diseases of infancy.
The measles broke out, and we had to organize a camp-hospital at once.
A large barn near by was taken for this purpose, and the surgeons had their hands full of cases, which, however trivial they might seem at home, were here aggravated into dangerous illness by the unwonted surroundings, and the impossibility of securing the needed protection from exposure.
The good women of Cincinnati
took promptly in hand the task of providing nurses for the sick and proper diet and delicacies for hospital use. The Sisters of Charity, under the lead of Sister Anthony, a noble woman, came out in force, and their black
robes harmonized picturesquely with the military surroundings, as they flitted about under the rough timber framing of the old barn, carrying comfort and hope from one rude couch to another.
As to supplies, hardly a man in a regiment knew how to make out a requisition for rations or for clothing, and, easy as it is to rail at “red-tape,” the necessity of keeping a check upon embezzlement and wastefulness justified the staff-bureaus at Washington
in insisting upon regular vouchers to support the quartermasters' and commissaries' accounts.
But here, too, men were gradually found who had special talent for the work.
Where everybody had to learn a new business, it would have been miraculous if grave errors had not frequently occurred.
Looking back at it, the wonder is that the blunders and mishaps had not been tenfold more numerous than they were.
By the middle of May the confusion had given way to reasonable system, but we now were obliged to meet the embarrassments of reorganization for three years, under the President
's second call for troops (May 3d). In every company some discontented spirits wanted to go home, and, to avoid the odium of going alone, they became mischief-makers, seeking to prevent the whole company from reenlisting.
The growing discipline was relaxed or lost in the solicitations, the electioneering, the speech-making, and the other common arts of persuasion.
In spite of all these discouragements, however, the daily drills
and instruction went on with some approach to regularity, and our raw volunteers began to look more like soldiers.
Captain Gordon Granger
, of the regular army, came to muster the reenlisted regiments into the three-years service, and as he stood at the right of the 4th Ohio, looking down the line of a thousand stalwart men, all in their Garibaldi
shirts (for we had not yet got our uniforms), he turned to me and exclaimed, “My God!
That such men should be food for powder!”
It certainly was a display of manliness and intelligence such as had hardly ever been seen in the ranks of an army.
There were in camp at that time, three if not four companies in different regiments that were wholly made up of under-graduates of colleges, who had enlisted together, their officers being their tutors and professors.
And where there was not so striking evidence as this of the enlistment of the best of our youth, every company could still show that it was largely recruited from the best nurtured and most promising young men of the community.
had been in the South-west when the secession movement began, and had seen the formation of military companies everywhere, and the incessant drilling which had been going on all winter;
while we, in a strange condition of political paralysis, had been doing nothing.
His information was eagerly sought by us all, and he lost no opportunity of impressing upon us the fact that the South
was nearly six months ahead of us in organization and preparation.
He did not conceal his belief that we were likely to find the war a much longer and more serious piece of business than was commonly expected, and that, unless we pushed hard our drilling and instruction, we should find ourselves at a disadvantage in our earlier encounters.
What he said had a good effect in making officers and men take more willingly to the laborious routine of the parade ground and the regimental school; for such opinions as his soon ran through a camp, and they were commented upon by the enlisted men quite as earnestly as among the officers.
Still, hope kept the upper hand, and I believe that three-fourths of us still cherished the belief that a single campaign would end the war.
Though most of our men were native Ohioans, we had in camp two regiments made up of other material.
The 9th Ohio was recruited from the Germans of Cincinnati
, and was commanded by Colonel Robert McCook
In camp, the drilling of the regiment fell almost completely into the hands of the adjutant, Lieutenant August Willich
(afterward a general of division), and McCook
, who humorously exaggerated his own lack of military knowledge, used to say that he was only “clerk for a thousand Dutchmen,” so
completely did the care of equipping and providing for his regiment engross his time and labor.
The 10th Ohio was an Irish regiment, also from Cincinnati
, and its men were proud to call themselves the “Bloody Tinth.”
The brilliant Lytle
was its commander, and his control over them, even in the beginning of their service and near the city of their home, showed that they had fallen into competent hands.
It happened, of course, that the guardhouse pretty frequently contained representatives of the 10th, who, on the short furloughs that were allowed them, took a parting glass too many with their friends in the city, and came to camp boisterously drunk.
But the men of the regiment got it into their heads that the 13th, which lay just opposite them across the railroad, took a malicious pleasure in filling the guard-house with the Irishmen.
Some threats had been made that they would go over and “clean out” the 13th, and one fine evening these came to a head.
I suddenly got orders from General Bates
to form my brigade and march them at once between the 10th and 13th to prevent a collision that seemed imminent.
The long-roll was beaten as if the drummers realized the full importance of the first opportunity to sound that warlike signal.
We marched by the moonlight into the space between the belligerent regiments; but Lytle
already had got his own men under control, and the less mercurial 13th were not disposed to be aggressive, so that we were soon dismissed, with a compliment for our promptness.
The six weeks of our stay in Camp Dennison
seem like months in the retrospect, so full were they crowded with new experiences.
The change came in an unexpected way. The initiative taken by the Confederates
in West Virginia
had to be met by prompt action, and McClellan
was forced to drop his own plans and meet the exigency.
The organization and equipment of the regiments for the three-years service was still incomplete, and the brigades were broken up, to take across the Ohio
the regiments best prepared to go. This was discouraging to a brigade commander, for, even with veteran troops, acquaintanceship between the officer and his command is a necessary condition of confidence and a most important element of strength.
My own assignment to the Great
Kanawha district was one I had every reason to be content with, except that for several months I felt the disadvantage I suffered from having command of troops which I had never seen till we met in the field.