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XIV. some inventions and devices of the war.

That “necessity is the mother of invention” nothing can more clearly and fully demonstrate than war. I will devote this chapter to presenting some facts from the last war which illustrate this maxim. As soon as the tocsin of war had sounded, and men were summoned to take the field, a demand was

A torpedo.

at once made, on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line, for a new class of materials — the materials of war, for which there had been no demand of consequence for nearly fifty years. The arms, such as they were, had been largely sent South before the outbreak. But they were somewhat old-fashioned, and, now that there was a demand for new arms, inventive genius was stimulated to produce better ones. It always has been true, and always will be, that the manufactured products for which there is an extensive demand are the articles which invention will improve upon until they arrive as near perfection as it is possible for the work of human hands to be. Such was the case with the materials of warfare. Invention was stimulated in various directions, but its products appeared most numerous, perhaps, in the changes which the arms, ammunition, and ordnance underwent in their better adaptation to the needs of the hour. [270]

The few muskets remaining in the hands of the government in 1861 were used to equip the troops who left first for the seat of war. Then manufacturing began on an immense scale. The government workshops could not produce a tithe of what were wanted, even though running night and day; and so private enterprise was called in to supplement the need. As one illustration, Grover & Baker of Roxbury turned their extensive sewing-machine workshop into a rifle-manufactory, which employed several hundred hands, and this was only one of a large number in that section. Alger, of South Boston, poured the immense molten masses of his cupolas into the moulds of cannon, and his massive steam-hammers pounded out and welded the ponderous shafts of gunboats and monitors. The descendants of Paul Revere diverted a part of their yellow metal from the mills which rolled it into sheathing for government ships, to the founding of brass twelve-pounders, or Napoleons, as they were called; and many a Rebel was laid low by shrapnel or canister hurled through the muzzle of guns on which was plainly stamped “Revere Copper Co., Canton, Mass.” Plain smooth-bore Springfield muskets soon became Springfield rifles, and directly the process of rifling was applied to cannon of various calibres. Then, muzzle-loading rifles became breech-loading; and from a breech-loader for a single cartridge the capacity was increased, until some of the cavalry regiments that took the field in 1864 went equipped with Henry's sixteen-shooters, a breech-loading rifle, which the Rebels said the Yanks loaded in the morning and fired all day.

I met at Chattanooga, Tenn., recently, Captain Fort, of the old First Georgia Regulars, a Confederate regiment of distinguished service. In referring to these repeating rifles, he said that his first encounter with them was near Olustee, Fla. While he was skirmishing with a Massachusetts regiment (the Fortieth), he found them hard to move, as they seemed to load with marvellous speed, and never to have their [271] fire drawn. Determined to see what sort of fire-arms were opposed to him, he ordered his men to concentrate their fire on a single skirmisher. They did so and laid him low, and afterwards secured his repeating rifle — I think a Spencer's seven or eight shooter — which they carried along, as a great curiosity, for some time afterward.

In the navy Invention made equally rapid strides. When the war broke cut, the available vessels were mainly a few ships-of-the-line, frigates and screw steamers; but these could be of little service in such a warfare as was evidently on hand, a warfare which must be carried on in rivers, and

A gunboat.

bays, and coastwise generally, where such clumsy and deepdraught vessels could not be used. So sloops-of-war, gunboats, mortar-boats, double-enders, and iron-clads came to the front, and the larger old-fashioned craft were used mainly as receiving ships. But with the increase in range and calibre of naval armament came a seeking by Invention for something less vulnerable to their power, and after the encounter of the little “Yankee cheese box,” so called, and the Rebel Ram “Virginia,” the question of what should constitute the main reliance of the navy was definitely settled, and monitors became the idols of the hour. These facts are all matters of well written history, and I refer to them now only to illustrate the truth of the maxim with which I began the chapter. [272]

I wish now to give it still further emphasis by citing some illustrations which the historian has neglected for “nobler game.” Some of the inventions which I shall refer to were impractical, and had only a brief existence. Of course your small inventor and would-be benefactor to his kind clearly foresaw that men who were about to cut loose from the amenities of civil life would be likely to spend money freely in providing themselves before their departure with every-

A mortar boat.

thing portable that might have a tendency to ameliorate the condition of soldier life. With an eye single to this idea these inventors took the field.

One of the first products of their genius which I recall was a combination knife-fork-and-spoon arrangement, which was peddled through the state camping-grounds in great numbers and variety. Of course every man must have one. So much convenience in so small a compass must be taken advantage of. It was a sort of soldier's trinity, which they all thought that they understood and appreciated. But I doubt [273] whether this invention, on the average, ever got beyond the first camp in active service.

I still have in my possession the remnants of a waterfilterer in which I invested after enlistment. There was a metallic mouth-piece at one end of a small gutta-percha tube, which latter was about fifteen inches long. At the other end of the tube was a suction-chamber, an inch long by a half-inch in diameter, with the end perforated, and containing a piece of bocking as a filter. Midway of the tubing was an air-chamber. The tubing long since dried

A double-turreted Monitor.

and crumbled away from the metal. It is possible that I used this instrument half a dozen times, though I do not recall a single instance, and on breaking camp just before the Gettysburg Campaign, I sent it, with some other effects, northward.

I remember another filterer, somewhat simpler. It consisted of the same kind of mouth-piece, with rubber tubing attached to a small conical piece of pumice-stone, through which the water was filtered. Neither of these was ever of any practical value.

I have spoken of the rapid improvements made in arms. This improvement extended to all classes of fire-arms alike. Revolvers were no exception, and Colt's revolver, which monopolized the field for some time, was soon crowded in the race by Smith and Wesson, Remington, and others. Thousands of them were sold monthly, and the newly [274] fledged soldier who did not possess a revolver, either by his own purchase, or as a present from solicitous relatives, or admiring friends, or enthusiastic business associates, was something of a curiosity. Of course a present of this kind necessitated an outfit of special ammunition, and such was at once procured. But the personal armory of many heroes was not even then complete, and a dirk knife — a real “Arkansaw toothpick” --was no unusual sight to be seen hanging from the belt of some of the incipient but blood-thirsty warriors. The little town of Ashby in Massachusetts, at one of its earliest war-meetings, voted “that each volunteer shall be provided, with a revolver, a bowie-knife, and a Bible, and shall also receive ten dollars in money.” The thought did not appear to find lodgement in the brain of the average soldier or his friends that by the time the government had provided him with what arms, ammunition, and equipments it was thought necessary for him to have, he would then be loaded with about all he could bear, without adding a personal armory and magazine. Nor did he realize that which afterwards in his experience must have come upon him with convincing force, that by the time he had done his duty faithfully and well with the arms which the government had placed in his hands there would be little opportunity or need, even if his ambition still held out, to fall back on his personal arsenal for further supplies. Members of the later regiments got their eyes open to this fact either through correspondence with men at the front, or by having been associated with others who had seen service. But the troops of ‘61 and ‘62 took out hundreds of revolvers only to lose them, give them away, or throw them away; and as many regiments were forbidden by their colonels to wear them, a large number were sent back to the North. Revolvers were probably cheaper in Virginia, in those years, than in any other state in the Union.

There was another invention that must have been sufficiently [275] popular to have paid the manufacturer a fair rate on his investment, and that was the steel-armor enterprise. There were a good many men who were anxious to be heroes, but they were particular. They preferred to be live heroes. They were willing to go to war and fight as never man fought before, if they could only be insured against bodily harm. They were not willing to assume all the risks which an enlistment involved, without securing something in the shape of a drawback. Well, the iron tailors saw and appreciated the situation and sufferings of this class of men, and came to the rescue with a vest of steel armor, worth, as I remember it, about a dozen dollars, and greaves. The latter, I think, did not find so ready a market as the vests, which were comparatively common. These iron-clad warriors admitted that when panoplied for the fight their sensations were much as they might be if they were dressed up in an old-fashioned air-tight stove; still, with all the discomforts of this casing, they felt a little safer with it on than off in battle, and they reasoned that it was the right and duty of every man to adopt all honorable measures to assure his safety in the line of duty. This seemed solid reasoning, surely; but, in spite of it all, a large number of these vests never saw Rebeldom. Their owners were subjected to such a storm of ridicule that they could not bear up under it. It was a stale yet common joke to remind them that in action these vests must be worn behind. Then, too, the ownership of one of them was taken as evidence of faint-heartedness. Of this the owner was often reminded; so that when it came to the packing of the knapsack for departure, the vest, taking as it did considerable space, and adding no small weight to his already too heavy burden, was in many cases left behind. The officers, whose opportunity to take baggage along was greater, clung to them longest; but I think that they were quite generally abandoned with the first important reduction made in the luggage. [276]

One of the first supposed-to-be useful, if not ornamental stupidities, which some of the earlier troops took to themselves by order, was the Havelock. True, its invention antedated the time of which I speak. It was a foreign conception, and derived its name from an English general who distinguished himself in the war in India, where they were worn in 1857. It was a simple covering of white linen for the cap, _ with a cape depending for the protection of the neck from the sun. They may have been very essential to the comfort of the troops in the Eastern climate, but, while whole regiments went South with them, if one of these articles survived active service three months I have yet to hear of it.

Then there were fancy patent-leather

A Havelock.

haversacks, with two or three compartments for the assortment of rations, which Uncle Sam was expected to furnish. But those who invested in them were somewhat disgusted at a little later stage of their service, when they were ordered to throw away all such “high-toned” trappings and adopt the regulation pattern of painted cloth. This was a bag about a foot square, with a broad strap for the shoulder, into which soldiers soon learned to bundle all their food and table fur-

A haversack and dipper.

niture, which, I think I have elsewhere stated, after a day's hard march were always found in such a delightful hodgepodge.

Now and then an invention was to be found which was a real convenience. I still have in my possession such a one, an article which, when not in use, is a compact roll eight and [277] one-half inches long and two inches in diameter, and designed to hold pens, ink, and paper. Unrolled, it makes a little tablet of the length given and five and one-half inches wide, which was my writing-desk when no better was to be had.

The Turkish fez, with pendent tassel, was seen on the heads of some soldiers. Zouave regiments wore them. They did very well to lie around camp in, and in a degree marked their owner as a somewhat conspicuous man among his fellows, but they were not tolerated on line; few of them ever survived the first three months campaigning.

And this recalls the large number of the soldiers of ‘62 who did not wear the forage cap furnished by the government. They bought the “McClellan cap,” so called, at the hatters' instead, which in most cases faded out in a month. This the government caps did not do, with all their awkward appearance. They

A Zouave.

may have been coarse and unfashionable to the eye, but the colors would stand. Nearly every man embellished his cap with the number or letter of his company and regiment and the appropriate emblem. For infantry this emblem is a bugle, for artillery two crossed cannons, and for cavalry two crossed sabres.

One other item occurs to me, not entirely germane to the chapter, yet interesting enough to warrant its insertion. This was the great care exercised to have all equipments prominently marked with the regiment, company, and State to which the owner belonged. For example, on the back of the knapsack of every man in a regiment appeared in large lettering something like this: Co. B, 33d New York Regiment; [278] or, if it was light artillery, this, 10th Mass. Battery. Nor did the advertising stop here, for the haversacks and canteens were often similarly labelled, and yet, at the time, it seemed necessary to somebody that it should be done. At any rate, nobody found any fault with it; and if it had been thought desirable that each article of apparel should be similarly placarded, there would have been a general acquiescence on the part of the untutored citizen soldiery, who were in the best of humor, and with Pope (Alexander not John) seemed to agree that “Whatever is is right.” But how many of these loudly marked equipments survived the strife? Perhaps not one. The knapsack may have been thrown aside in the first battle, and a simple roll composed of the woollen and rubber blanket substituted for it. The haversacks and canteens were soon lost, and new ones took their place; and they lasted just as long and were just as safe as if conspicuously marked. One of the comical sights of the service was to see Rebel prisoners brought in having strapped on their backs knapsacks bearing just such labelling as that which I have quoted. Of course, these were trophies which they had either taken from prisoners or had picked up on some battlefield or in the wake of the Union army, and appropriated to their own use.

Light-artillerymen went to the front decorated with brass scales on their shoulders, but, finding an utter absence of such ornaments on the persons of soldiers who had been in action, and feeling sensitive about being known as recruits, these decorations soon disappeared. Theoretically, they were worn to ward off the blows of a sabre aimed by cavalrymen at the head; practically, it is doubtful whether they ever served such a purpose.

A Spencer rifle

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