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CAPT. CHARLES KING,
AUTHOR OF "the COLONEL'S DAUGHTER," ETC.
L. R. HAMERSLY & CO.
1 89 I.
Copyright, 1891, by L. R. Hamersly & Co.
The Adjutant ii
The Ordnance Officer 34
At West Point 61
The Telephone as an Adjunct to the National Guard . . 113
Militia Inspections 132
Militia Camps of Instruction 147
Sham Battles 161
The Advantages of One's Own Workshop 180
How we elected the Mayor of Oglethorp 198
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Odd experiences fall to the lot of every soldier. Even
the subaltern who has spent the quarter of a century
since the great surrender in plodding around after a
platoon — and such has been the stagnation of promotion
that the case is by no means imaginary — can tell of
queer times in the reconstruction days; of cheerful badi-
nage with mobs of women in the Brooklyn " Whisky
War" when the troops were sent down to help the mar-
shals break up illicit distilleries ; of rural hospitalities
as they tramped through Pennsylvania during the big
strike of '77; of perilous days on the Indian frontier;
even of out-of-the-way sensations in out-of-the-way gar-
risons; but, take it all in all, a junior in the line is apt
to find life more or less monotonous. To break this he
might well be tempted to try other duty ; but it is cer-
tain that, were it all to be done over again with the view
of seeking the path wherein life might be most placidly
enjoyed, nothing Would tempt the present writer to quit
the shelter of his tactical two yards from the rear rank
for any staff position, unaccompanied by rank and emol-
ument, the army could offer. Indeed, but for certain
experiences gained, characters encountered, and scenes
visited, " Mr. X." would be inclined to think he had made
a big mistake in ever allowing himself to be assigned to
other than troop duty, and nothing but the fact that he
had been mercifully endowed with the faculty of seeing
the humorous side of a scrape enabled him to get through
some of those hereinafter referred to without an attack of
nervous prostration. That he escaped that blow entirely
is due to the consummate good luck which enabled him
to steer clear of the one military maelstrom which would
have swamped him utterly: He never had to be post
quartermaster; though the mere fact of his having been
ordered to temporarily take charge of the office of a sick
comrade nearly resulted in his being proclaimed a felon.
The trouble now is that, on looking over these
sketches, — many of them written years ago, — Mr. X. is
confronted with the fact that they fall far short of making
those old-time " Trials" half as whimsical as they seem
to him. With the best intentions in the world, and a
readiness to undertake any duty or responsibility his
superiors might unload on him, it must be seen that his
capacity for getting into snarls and tangles was simply
illimitable. The smallest item of rashness was cock-
sure to develop into a mammoth of consequences when
least expected. Who could have predicted that, when
the judge-advocate of the court signed the memorandum
receipt for stationery handed him by" the quartermaster's
clerk at Jackson Barracks in '72, he was bringing upon
himself a direful communication to reach him two years
later when he lay wounded and helpless in far-away Ari-
zona, and to say that his pay would be stopped if he did
not immediately proceed to account for the following
quartermaster's property, for which he was responsible,
— to wit :
Mr. X. remembered that inkstand well. He had been
the aide-de-camp who overhauled some of the bids for
Stationery, and this particular inkstand was a blown-glass
affair, about one inch in height, one and one-half inches
across the base, and of a capacity of perhaps one-quarter
thimble. They were furnished at a price of something
in the neighborhood of six cents a gross, and were such
a nuisance that the post quartermaster had determined
to get rid of them at all hazards. So he unloaded one
or more on every board or court that met at the barracks,
and dropped the same number from his papers. Here,
of course, is where the trouble comes in. One can " ex-
pend" pens, ink, paper, etc., but cannot so get rid of what
is only an inkstand in name. That must be taken up on
regular papers and accounted for monthly, — at least it
had to be in '72-74. The fact that this particular ink-
stand was expended before the court was sworn — at the
expense of a vagrant cat on a neighboring wall — has no
bearing on the case. Mr. X. never thought of the brittle
little box as a factor of possible magnitude in his future,
but it seems the Quartermaster's Department at Wash-
ington got riled at him for not making out a dollar's
worth of papers for a mill's worth of goods, — thought
him recalcitrant when he wasn't thinking of that business
at all, but chasing Apaches for all he was worth, and so
in his hour of need the blow fell. Fortunately there
was a department commander to interpose betwixt him
and the deluge.
And then, talking of department commanders, who
would have supposed that, when the genial and kindly
chief of the Missouri, one stormy March morning in ''j6,
absolutely forbade Mr. X.'s attempting to proceed from
head-quarters to a Western post with his wife and child,
and declared, " Never mind your leave expiring to-
morrow ; we'll fix that here," that Mr. X. was piling up
trouble again? We got to Riley a day late. Four
months afterwards, X. and his regiment — cut off from
all communication — were far up on the Rosebud, in
Montana. For two weeks he had had no news from the
dear ones at the distant Kansas post : the last news was
bad. His heart was full of anxiety, yet leaped with
eagerness when the word was passed that Jack Crawford,
" the Poet Scout," had made a daring ride of it all by
himself, had come out from Fetterman to join our scouts,
and had brought the mail. " Anything for me, Jack ?"
pleaded X., breaking in upon the group of letter-reading
officers. " Yes ! One !" An official letter, big and por-
tentous. An announcement that, for absence without
leave for one day, Mr. X.'s pay would be stopped accord-
ingly. Only this and nothing more. No telegram, no
backward mail, — no consideration for the fellows cut off
in the Indian country. Nothing to do but grin and bear
it, and swear until the campaign was well-nigh over.
Then X. got reported absent without leave, and had his
pay stopped while actually traveling on duty with the
general to whom he had been assigned as aide-de-camp.
He had to go down in his pockets and pay for a raft of
signal property he had never seen nor heard of, because
he was ass enough to receipt to a fellow up in the Black
Hills, who subsequently wrote that the names given some
of the items were wrong, and he begged to submit the
proper names. X. took up the "proper names" on his
papers, and confidingly wrote to the chief signal officer of
the mistake and said he would drop the old names from
his return. The chief signal officer (as represented by the
lamented Howgate) responded forthwith that there could
be no possible objection to Mr. X.'s taking up the new
names ; indeed, he would be expected to ; but as to drop-
ping the old ones, he would do nothing of the kind — nor
did he — until paid for.
And then there was that matter of But here!
The next thing Mr. X. knows he will be telling what is
is in the pages that follow, to which the soldier reader —
no one else could wade through them — is respectfully
TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Just when our staff duties began is perhaps a mat-
ter of no importance. Major Sanger's comprehensive
essay on " The Duties of Staff-Officers" had not then
been written, but we had known that accomplished
officer when he himself was adjutant, and had unhesi-
tatingly adopted his system as one worthy of imitation.
That was a great many years ago ; orders, regulations,
customs of service, and the tactics of the three arms
have undergone important changes ; but so long as
human nature remains as it is and has been since crea-
tion, so long will there be mistakes in the best-regulated
families and stumbling-blocks for the most level-headed
officials, civil or military.
In the course of ten years it was our luck to encounter
experiences varied if not valuable. We had been adju-
tant for a dozen different C. O.'s in every section of the
country; aide-de-camp to more than one pair of stars ;
had acted as head of all kinds of bureaus, as adjutant
and inspector-general, engineer, judge-advocate, military
secretary, ordnance and signal officer, quartermaster,
commissary, even as chaplain and surgeon, and with the
profound conviction that our own shortcomings were
many, there is grafted in our inner consciousness the be-
lief that were a man possessed of the energy and snap
12 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
of Sanger himself, the " paper knowledge" of Leonard
Hay, the legal acumen of Gardner, the patience of Wil-
helm, the reticence of Horace Porter, the energy of
Nickerson, the courtesy of Audenreid, the buried pen
of " Perfect" Bliss, and the imperturbability of " Bob"
Williams, yet would he find at some time or other a com-
bination of circumstances against which no experience
could make him armor-proof, and of which the linesman
pur et simple has no conception whatsoever.
We all know what the adjutant should be, — a soldier
in everything, in carriage, form, voice, and manner, the
soul of parade and guard-mounting, the reliable authority
on tactics and regulations, the patient student of general
orders, the rigid scrutinizer of returns and rolls, the
scholarly man of the subalterns, the faithful adherent
and executive in spirit and in letter of the commanding
officer. We all know how easy it is to formulate rules
and regulations for his guidance on all matters of duty
and routine in garrison, — we all know just what day the
regimental return should reach Washington, the post
return department head-quarters, the company papers the
adjutant's office, but until we have tried to "run" the
head-quarters of a frontier post and of a cavalry regiment
in the heart of the Indian country, and the height of
Indian campaigning, we have not, and Sanger had not,
the faintest conception of the trials of staff-officers as
exemplified in the case of the adjutant.
Fancy, if you can, a regiment Situated just as we were
on the 1st day of June, 187- Six of the twelve compa-
nies scouting about on the Southern plains, the other six
waiting for their turn, the colonel and adjutant off on
leave, the lieutenant-colonel and quartermaster "running
THE ADJUTANT. 1 3
the regiment," and all of a sudden a big Indian war
breaks out far to the north, and head-quarters with ten
companies are hurried off to re-enforce another depart-
ment, and from that day to the 15th of November not a
glimpse do we catch of desks or papers. Colonel, adju-
tant, and everybody is in the field in active pursuit of a
still more active foe, and not a return has been made in
all those months. Winter setting in, we are ordered to
a post near the railway, and the colonel hands the adju-
tant a bundle of letters, all harping upon the same string.
The adjutant-general of the army informs the com-
manding officer, in the final communication of his series,
that the returns of the regiment for the months of May,
June, July, August, September, etc., have not been re-
ceived. " Your attention has been repeatedly called to
the neglect," etc. (We got them in a bunch at the end
of the campaign, but, being happily cut off from all mail
communication during the summer, were spared the con-
secutive infliction of letter after letter at the time.) " You
will at once render the required returns, with such expla-
nation as you may be able to give," etc. And with the
official expression of the proper amount of astonishment
and indignation at such apparent disregard of instruc-
tions, the adjutant-general winds up with the customary
information that he is the obedient servant of the colonel
whom he has been flagellating.
Opening the next series, we find a similar array of
monthly remonstrances from the adjutant-general of
the department from which we were sent in June. " For
temporary service in the Department of the " was
the language of the order by which we were hurried
away, and though every vestige of the regiment is now
14 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
far removed from his jurisdiction, the commanding offi-
cer of our former field is jealously tenacious of his rights
over us, and he too demands reports and returns, ex-
presses his censure of our negligence in fitting terms,
and, being debarred from remonstrating with our new
department commander for our illegal detention, now
that the war is over, takes it out in rasping our colonel.
Then the adjutant-general of the Department of the
, whom we have been " re-enforcing," takes his in-
nings, and though one would suppose that his knowledge
of our long isolation among the hostiles and separation
from all baggage would prompt him to consideration, he
bowls us over as remorselessly as the others.
Finally, the adjutant-general of the division delivers
his fire,, and to all appearances it would seem as though
not the faintest realization of our actual condition had
been vouchsafed to any one of these amiable autocrats,
but that from the hazy distance of Washington or Chi-
cago, through fragrant clouds of Havana smoke, from
the sitting-point of easy office-chairs, those gentlemen,
gazing dreamily over roof and spire, beheld us in unin-
terrupted possession of our desks and retained papers,
and with certainly nothing better to do than make out
new ones. We haven't had time to unpack an inkstand ;
the mud of the Yellowstone is clinging to our horses'
fetlocks ; but the colonel unloads a trunkful of papers,
and, with a brisk, " There, Mr. X., get all this straightened
out as quick as possible," goes off to set his own house
in order, and when he reappears it is with a draft of an
order showing what he means to do towards straighten
ing out the regiment. There is no question but that it
needs it. For years past it has been little else than an
THE ADJUTANT. 1$
agglomeration of companies ; every captain has run his
machine to suit himself; no two company commanders
adopted the same system ; drills, except by company
mounted, were unknown ; and of the forms of parade,
the intricacies of battalion movements, the nicer " points"
of sentinel duty, the command was in absolute ignorance.
Four hundred recruits had joined, and the confusion was
chaotic ; but we had a new colonel, he had a new adjutant,
both meant business, and the grind began.
Reveille, 5.30 A.M. Breakfast immediately after. Stables,
6 A.M. Sick-call and fatigue, 7.30. Boots and saddles for
morning parade, 8 a.m. (mounted and in full dress).
Adjutant's call, 8.20. Guard-mounting (mounted) imme-
diately after parade. Drill-call (battalion drill, mounted),
10.15. Recall, 11.45. Dinner, 12 m. Squad drill of
recruits, 1.15 to 2.15 p.m. Company drill (dismounted),
2.30 to 3.30 P.M. Stables, 4 to 5.15. Retreat and evening
dress-parade (dismounted), sunset. Recitations of officers,
Monday evening ; of non-commissioned officers, Tues-
days and Fridays. Tattoo, 9 p.m.
Now, the colonel meant to have things vigorously car-
ried out, and started in himself by receiving the reveille
reports in person, one officer superintending the roll-call
of each company, and the adjutant that of the band
and non-commissioned staff. Then everybody — colonel,
major, adjutant, quartermaster, and band — went to stables
morning and evening ; and it may be stated that there
was some growling among the company officers at least,
arising from the fact that their unoccupied hours were
few. But we are portraying experiences in the adjutant's
duties merely, and therefore return to him.
The duties of this functionary outside of his office
1 6 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
began at first call for reveille, when he sleepily arose
and arrayed himself in stable-dress; made his way
through the darkness to the band-quarters, some four
hundred yards away; watched the roll-call of his " wind-
jammers ;" then hunted up the colonel on parade, reported
to him, and between reveille and stables had time to
swallow a cup of coffee, and then see to it that the
orderly trumpeter sounded stable-call sharp on time. It
happened once or twice that those graceless young imps,
the regimental trumpeters, would delay the call to give
the men or themselves more time at breakfast, and the
colonel ruled that the adjutant was responsible. Some-
body had to be, and why not the adjutant ?
From his office then the adjutant tramped down to the
stables in the creek valley, six hundred yards away, and
gave his attention to the grooming of his thirty-odd
elderly grays, the " mount" of the musicians and non-com-
missioned staff, and on completion of this duty he returned
to the office in time to see sick-call sounded, start the
clerks at their work, then hurry to his quarters for the
change from his strongly-scented stable-rig to bath, then
full-dress uniform, and his own breakfast before the sound
of " boots and saddles" at eight should summon him to
the saddle. Morning parade over, all other officers except
the old and new officers of the day had time to get home
and throw off helmet and double-breasted coats ; the
adjutant, however, had to hold on for a long guard-
mounting and a passage in review at walk and trot before
he could do likewise. It was generally 9.15 to 9.30
before ceremonies were over ; then he had barely time to
change to "undress," rush to the office, and find his desk
loaded down with papers of every kind, when drill-call
THE ADJUTANT. 1/
would sound, and from then until noon he and his horse
would be in a lather in the rapid movements required of
them at battalion drill. From i to 2 he, with most of
the other officers, had to attend recruit drill ; and, pro-
vided he was willing to give up all idea of lunch or din-
ner, the hours unoccupied by out-door duties in which he
could hope to straighten out those papers were from 2 to
4 P.M., at which latter hour he was again summoned to
With seven months' returns of every kind in arrears,
with his desk littered with the routine papers of the day,
with more than two hours' work in getting the morning
reports, sick reports, ration returns, and requisitions for
forage, straw, salt, etc., to fit into one another; with all
the passes, applications for boards of survey, extra duty
men, hospital cooks and attendants, fatigue details, letters
to officers requiring explanation why, etc., endorsements
on a hundred different papers, company returns to be
scrutinized, colonel's letters to head-quarters of the de-
partment, and the adjutant-general's orders, details,
countersigns, etc., etc., the adjutant had far more than
enough to fill every moment of those two hours without
that hideous incubus of seven months' papers in arrears.
The first thing that occurred to him was to ask the colonel
for more clerks, — he only had three ; the last thing that
occurred to him was to ask the colonel for more time.
If the truth be told, the adjutant was as intent on the
" setting up" of the six companies on duty at head-
quarters as was the colonel himself, and thought papers
a somewhat secondary consideration to getting the men
(and officers) up to a thorough tactical proficiency ; he
did not want to be excused from a single military duty.
1 8 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
It was gall and wormwood to his soul to mark the
slouchy carriage of the men, their clumsy salute, and
the utter lack of steadiness in their ranks. It was ex-
asperating to see the blunders of the non-commissioned
officers for the first week of guard-mounting, and with
all- his might he started in to straighten things out. His
theory was, that in order to get the men up to the stand-
ard the non-commissioned officers must be thoroughly
instructed, but the colonel held the captains responsible
for this, and, as bad luck would have it, every captain
had individual ideas of his own to instil into the minds
of his sergeants, as a consequence of which six totally
different systems prevailed ; each captain thought his the
best, and was fiercely jealous of anything that savored
The colonel required weekly reports from his company
commanders of the proficiency of their non-commis-
sioned officers, and established a system of marks by
which he could judge of their relative merit. This
seemed all right to the one West Pointer among the cap-
tains, was looked upon as a nuisance by some of the
others, and absolutely denounced by one of the very best
company commanders in the regiment, on the ground
that " it reflected on the intelligence and faithfulness of
the captain to require a report from him." It was simply
marvelous to see into how many meanings the simple
language of the tactics could be distorted, and how ob-
stinately the adherent of each particular interpretation
maintained the correctness of his theory. The recita-
tions of the officers to the colonel had developed the
fact that, as a rule, the higher the rank the less the
knowledge of the subject ; but then, as Captain Canker
THE ADJUTANT. I9
remarked, " These West Pointers retain their school-boy
habits, while we men who were educated in the school
of war itself are not accustomed to this sort of nursery
talk." And, as for the men, it may be said that in the
saddle they didn't do badly, but when it came to foot-
parades, guard-mounts and the like, " It was d d
dough-boy work, and they hadn't 'listed in the cavalry
for such." However, the colonel was bound to have
dismounted parades, and the adjutant was bound to help
him. It was ordered that for dismounted duty the sabre
should not be worn, and the command should appear
armed with the carbine alone.
The first evening dress-parade was as chock-full of
errors as it could well be. Nothing could induce the
guides to quit their positions in ranks and come out on
the line. Captains Canker and Curbit in the right wing
looked daggers at the adjutant (who finally had to drag
the bewildered first sergeants where they belonged), then
dressed their companies to the wrong flank. Captain
Hunger faced along the line instead of to the front as he
aligned his men (and never could be brought to do it
any other way afterwards), and Captain Snaffle savagely
ordered a marker to " get out of the way of his com-
pany," to the great perplexity of that functionary, who
had been ordered by the adjutant not to budge until
the command " guides posts !" In opening ranks. Cap-
tain Canker, whose company was on the extreme right,
almost refused to dress up on line with his lieutenant,
who commanded the first platoon, and was heard ex-
pressing deep indignation at the idea of a lieutenant,
if he was adjutant, being permitted to give orders on
parade to his superior officers. The "present arms"
20 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
was fair, except that only half the officers (the younger
half) executed the first motion at the command, " Pre-
sent!" The manual was worried through after a fashion,
and then the adjutant came marching in to receive
the reports. As he glanced along the line to see
what the first sergeants looked like, he was struck by
the variety. The first sergeant of the first company,
armed with the carbine, was standing at an order on the
extreme right ; the second company's sergeant, armed
with a sabre, was standing at a carry; the third com-
pany's sergeant was resting the point of his sabre on the
ground, like the officers; fourth company, sabre at a
carry ; fifth company, sabre point down ; sixth company,
sabre point up. The adjutant made mental note of it
and of the intricacies that followed. At the command
" First sergeants r one of the down-pointed sabres came
up, but the others and the carbine on the right remained
immovable. At ''To the front and centre/" five of the
sergeants stepped to the front, some one, some two yards,
but the man on the right held his ground. In response
to a sharp " What are you waiting for, sergeant of first
company?" from the adjutant, he shambled out (and sub-
sequently explained that he was waiting for the com-
mand " March !"), but so perturbed in spirit that he forgot
the result of the company roll-call. At ''Report.'" the
six officials expressed themselves as follows :
" Company ' O,' present or accounted for. Sir''
" Company ' R,' all present or accounted for."
^' ' T' company, present or accounted for, Sir."
" ' U' company, all present, Sir."
" Sir ! two privates are absent."
" * X' company, all are present, sir."
THE ADJUTANT. 21
Not one of them had hit on the right form.
At " First sergeants to your posts /" every blessed one
of those sergeants faced outwards, and when they finally
retook their positions in line two of them did so by turn-
ing round and backing into position, one by facing to
the left about, and only two by marching through their
interval to the required yard and then executing the
And yet that night, when the colonel announced at
officers' recitation that the adjutant had criticisms to
make at the expense of all the first sergeants, four of the
captains were ready to bet that theirs had made no mis-
take, and the junior captain announced that he had spent
an hour instructing his sergeant that day, and knew his
couldn't have gone wrong.
The adjutant, being given the floor, proceeded to state
his case, but it was a characteristic of officers' recitation
in the — tli that no man was allowed to express his views
uninterrupted. There were always six or eight who burst
into the most carefully-prepared opinion and complicated
affairs to the uttermost ; consequently, long before the
discussion which ensued on the very first issue was
half over, tattoo sounded and the convention adjourned
without decision, but the adjutant's "points" were
1st. The men being armed with the carbine, the first
sergeants should have been similarly equipped. The
tactics clearly indicate such intention in paragraph 1129
(dress-parade, dismounted). Here the captains to a man
opposed him. No cavalry first sergeant was ever intended
to carry a carbine, and the eventual decision of the colonel
sustained the captains. In all subsequent parades of the
22 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
— th the first sergeants marched with drawn sabre on the
right of a line of carbines*
2d. No first sergeant should drop the point of his sabre
at "Order arms!" only officers and non-commissioned
staff-officers being mentioned in paragraph 1075.
3d. At " To the front and centre!" all first sergeants
should step two yards to front and face to centre.
4th. At ''Report!" nothing but the language of the tac-
tics, and exactly that, should be employed, as, for instance :
" Company ' A' present, or accounted for." Or,
" Company ' A,' two privates absent."
(" Well, that's just what Sergeants Finnegan, Bran-
nigan, O'Grady, etc., said," was here heard from several
5 th. At " To your posts !" not a man should stir, but wait
for " March !" before facing outwards. Captains Curbit
and Munger thought such tactics simply ridiculous. If
the sergeants were not to move until "March !" returning
to their posts, they should not budge until "March !",
when coming to the front. and centre. The adjutant
retorted with some asperity that he was not there to
defend the tactics, — no man suffered more on their
account than he did, — but he proposed to carry them out
to the letter, whether nonsensical or not. Here Captain
Snaffle sailed into the adjutant with, " You talk about
sticking to tactics, and yesterday morning, by Jinks ! you
* mounted' my best sergeant for not facing his platoon
when wheeling marching in review at guard-mounting!"
" Of course I did," says the adjutant. " We've ham-
mered that point flat long ago. Look at paragraph 278,
' Cavalry Tactics.' "
* Eventually changed "by order."
THE ADJUTANT. 23
" I don't care," says Snaffle. " General Coach decided
that sergeants should not face their platoons, and they
were all drilled so until you became adjutant."
" True enough ; but the colonel, not the lieutenant-
colonel, commands us now, and that isn't the only point
changed by the pageful."
Then another captain concludes it time to give Aw dig.
He and the adjutant have been pretty close friends, but
it is a case of company commanders vs. the staff, and
though in his innermost heart he agrees with the latter on
all points thus far, he sees that the adjutant stands alone,
and so has the political sense to join the heavy majority.
" Well, ril tell you what you do in violation of tactics
X. : you march the guard in review at undress guard-
(Chorus of captains : " Yes, I was just going to speak
of that," etc.)
To which the sorely-assailed exponent of the modern
customs of service responds that in the first place the
adjutant is apt to do pretty much as the officer of the day
directs in the matter of marching in review, but, to come
down to a matter of fact, there had not been an undress
guard-mounting since their arrival.
" Mr. X.," says the captain, oracularly, " it has been
undress guard-mounting every day this week."
The adjutant begins to see the drift of his argument,
so he questions, —
" The weather has been bright and clear, has it not ?"
" We have had the band out every day, and it has
played for everything, including a long inspection and
' troop,' has it not ?"
24 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" Very true."
" The officer of the day directed the guard to be marched
in review, didn't he ?"
"Then how was it undress guard-mounting, and why
shouldn't we march in review?"
" Because the men ivore overcoats /"
Somehow or other in the dead silence that follows this
announcement the captain becomes conscious of the fact
that the donning of a winter uniform in these high lati-
tudes does not necessarily prohibit the observance of the
forms and ceremonies included in the tactics, and adds, —
" At least, that's always been my idea of undress
But the snickering of some of the juniors and the
ominous silence of his adherents of the moment before
induce the captain to believe he had put his foot in it.
Finally, it was decided by the colonel that in order to
insure a thorough and uniform system of instruction of
the non-commissioned officers on all " points" in the cere-
monies, duties of guards, sentinels, and the like, the non-
commissioned officers of the garrison should assemble
one night a week and be " lectured" by the adjutant, who
would decide all questions on which there might be a
variance of opinion and instruction among the men.
This proved a success. Within a fortnight the parades
and guard-mountings, so far as the sergeants and cor-
porals were concerned, went off without a flaw. It is
true that there was deep-rooted and openly-expressed
objection on the part of several of the company com-
manders, who appeared to regard their sergeants as a
species of personal property over whom no one else
THE ADJUTANT. 2$
ought to have any jurisdiction ; and some of them went
so far as to declare that they could have nothing more to
do with the recitations of their men if such interference
was to be tolerated ; but one of the most uncompro-
misingly jealous of these gentlemen, having availed
himself of the colonel's hint that he would be glad to
have any of the officers visit the adjutant's school, and
having sat a silent but deeply-interested listener to all
that transpired through two evenings, fairly took the
adjutant's breath away by accosting him with —
" I've been a determined opposer of yours, X., in all
this matter, but I say to you that this ends my last ob-
jection. It's a capital thing, and I shall take occasion
to say to every other company commander what I think
And he did, and, whether owing to this fact or not,
things began to work smoothly. There was always a
crowd to see guard-mounting, and eager, critical eyes to
watch those six details as they came dancing out in
double time. The utmost pride began to be manifested
by the non-commissioned officers in the sharp, soldierly
style in which the ceremony was conducted, and from
the moment the call sounded to the last notes of the
band after marching in review the strongest rivalry was
visible between the companies, and almost every bright
morning the chevron-wearers of the garrison, to a man,
could be seen grouped about the barrack side of the
parade closely watching every move and fiercely anathe-
matizing the faintest display of awkwardness on the part
of their comrades.
■^•Finally, our guard-mounting began to be a source of
pride to everybody, and visiting officers were always
26 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
hauled out to see it. Occasionally there would be some
" soi-disanf authority on tactics from another post who
had to have his say if he belonged to the regiment ; and
as the adjutant never had an instant of time to devote to
discussion, he generally succeeded in impressing every-
body with the idea that he was an ill-tempered brute at
" Say, X.," said one of these gentry one bright morning
as the adjutant was hurrying through the knot of offi-
cers always grouped about the office after guard-mount-
ing, " hold on a moment ; I want to ask you something.
Won't detain you a minute."
" Blaze away, then, captain ; I have no spare time,"
" Well," and here the critic threw open his blouse,
inserted his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat,
and glanced impressively round upon the listening group,
" what I want to remark is this : you run a very fair
guard-mounting here, — I'll admit that; I don't know
that I ever saw anything much better" (he had never
seen more than a dozen files mounted in his life, and
our guard comprised forty-eight men), — " but you don't
have enough variety about it ; you do the same thing
over and over again. Now, at our post," etc., etc.
"Very probably you do introduce varieties at your
post, captain, but where do you find them in the tactics?"
" Well, Mr. X., you might make some little changes :
for instance, after your guard passes the officer of the
day it always wheels into line to the left and then ' fours
right,' you know. Now, we make all manner of pretty
changes there." (Chorus of " Yes, that's so. I've won-
dered you didn't think of that.") And the critical cap-
tain smiles patronizingly on the adjutant, who had been
THE ADJUTANT. 27
mounting guards long before this interrogator had
stepped into his first commission.
The adjutant is certainly testy and snappish : " Just
look in your tactics, and you'll possibly be able to grasp
the reason why we don't indulge in varieties on that
point," and brushes past.
Gradually they grew to let the staff alone where mat-
ters of that description were concerned, but all the time,
day after day, innumerable points were coming up, in
which the universal custom was to sling metaphorical
bricks at the adjutant, as though he were to blame.
Who ever served at a post where the head-quarters clock
was not the fruitful if undeserving source of half the
lates and absences of the garrison ? What officer of the
day who hurries out at the last moment buckling his
waist-belt on the run does not calumniate the adjutant
and declare he had purposely set that clock ahead ten
minutes, when but a moment before the old officer of
the day was swearing over guard-mounting's being ten
minutes behind time and he was in a hurry to get to
town ? And then the band at parade ! Even as Captain
Curbit was assailing the adj utant after dismissal of parade
over the slow time played in marching out, swearing
that a three-legged stool couldn't keep step to such a
grind, would not Captain Snafifie rush up like an explo-
sion with " Look here, X. ! By Jinks ! there wasn't a man
in my company could keep step marching in; it was
fast enough for double time" ? and with the strains of the
" Inman Line" or " Northern Route" still ringing in our
ears, would not Canker, or some other gifted critic who
could not tell Stabat Mater from " Taps," inquire when,
by George ! that band was ever going to play anything
28 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
but " Marching through Georgia" ? Was there ever an
adjutant who did not think at some time or other that
the meanest part of his duty was in running the band ?
Was there ever a band that did not contain among its
talented musicians some irreclaimable devotees to Bac-
chus ? And, as a rule, are not the bandsmen apt to
be the most fractious and unruly set in the garrison ?
Music, that hath charms to soothe the savage breast, by
some strange freak of nature develops an unhallowed
taste for beer and a distaste for discipline among its
chosen disciples, and rare indeed are the instances when
the guard-house is not graced by the presence of some
prominent instrumentalist, usually the snare-drummer.
Yet such was our adjutant's zeal, and so thorough the
understanding between himself and his charges, that for
two wonderful months not a member of his band had
been absent from roll-call or duty, not a man had been
noticeably under the influence of liquor, and, as the colo-
nel himself remarked, his horses were better groomed
and cared for than those of the companies. But colonels
cannot always be with us, and the adjutant who has
thoroughly and faithfully served his chief finds himself
suddenly thrown some day under the second in com-
mand, who is rarely, if ever, thoroughly en rapport with
the colonel. Within a week from the date of the latter's
complimentary allusion to the discipline of the band,
and during his temporary absence as witness before a
court, the command devolves upon the next in rank at
the post, and the adjutant, entering the office with his
hands full of papers, is confronted by the sight of this
latter functionary excitedly tramping up and down the
room and haranguing a knot of a dozen officers in a
THE ADJUTANT. 29
manner suggestive of lively indignation. Suddenly the
ad interim commander turns upon him with, —
" Yes, sir ; and the remark applies equally to you, sir.
Your band is utterly demoralized, by George ! — utterly
demoralized, sir. This morning my breakfast was half an
hour late, and, when I sent into the kitchen to hurry it up,
there was my cook, sir, sitting on your bass-drummer's
lap." And the senior officer glares upon the subaltern
as though he were the medium through which the atten-
tions of the goddess of the kitchen had been alienated
from their proper object. Both the adjutant and the by-
standers may and probably do consider that perhaps the
charge of demoralization might be more aptly applied
to the cook than the band, but they have the profound
sagacity to keep such opinions to themselves until they
get out of ear-shot of the office.
But all this time those back returns still hang fire.
Companies " P" and " R" have been hurried out on a
midwinter's chase after the fleetest of Plain warriors,
and are away up among the snows of the Big Horn
Mountains. Their returns are not in, and the regi-
mental papers cannot be finished until they are. De-
partment and division adjutant-generals again assail us
with mandates to furnish those papers at once. The
adjutant writes imploringly to the captains of " P" and
" R," and in the course of a month those gentlemen
reply by inquiring indignantly how in the name of Jack
Frost we expect them to make out returns with the
thermometer thirty degrees below zero, and all papers
three hundred miles away. " You come out here and
catch these Cheyennes, and we'll only be too [adjec-
tived] glad to come in there and make out papers."
30 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
The adjutant has hunted the regiment high and low for
more clerks, but every captain needs his own, no more
are to had, and now the thoroughly wretched subaltern
is sitting up until two and three in the morning working
at those papers himself. In cheerful appreciation of his
clerical labors a general court-martial is convened at the
post, and the adjutant is assigned to duty as judge-advo-
cate. Why this should be so passes all comprehension,
but in nine out of ten cases when a court is ordered to
meet at the head-quarters of a regiment, the discriminat-
ing officials of the general commanding saddle the work
of that court on the shoulders of the adjutant. It is bad
enough in the infantry, but when it comes to the cavalry
it is worse than imposition.
The adjutant is getting, possibly, three or four hours
of broken and troubled sleep now, and many a morning
finds him dispensing with breakfast altogether. His
three clerks are working diligently, when suddenly the
enlistment of the first and best — the only reliable one
among them — expires, and he takes his final statements
and a good character with him on his way to a situa-
tion where he can get ten times the pay for one-half the
At last " P" and " R" return from their winter cam-
paign, and by dint of vigorous spurring from head-quar-
ters are induced to send in the needed returns in the
course of a fortnight, and just as the adjutant places in
the hands of his two remaining assistants a carefully-
completed original of all the required papers, with instruc-
tions to work night and day to copy them, " up comes
an order" which sends the colonel hurrying Eastward
to take command of troops assembling to suppress riots
THE ADJUTANT. 3 1
consequent on railway strikes, and the colonel directs
the adjutant to leave all and not follow but accompany
him on first train. The captain left in command prom-
ises to see that the clerks work on those returns and
mail them to the adjutant as fast as completed. In the
course of a fortnight, as they don't come, the latter first
writes, then telegraphs, and finally extorts a reply from
the official pretty much as follows:
"Dear X., — Both clerks got on a drunk soon after
you left, and raised merry Hades. Put them in guard -
house to sober off, and then set them to work under
sentinel. They got the sentry drunk too, and he and
Peck went off to town together and haven't been heard
of since. Schmidt (the other clerk) swears he don't
know where your ' originals' are ; says he thinks Peck
built a fire of them when he was crazy drunk.
" Yours, in haste,
The delights of civilization, the luxuries of " palatial
hotels," the feting of grateful citizens who have wel-
comed the Regulars right royally (as the only reliable
protection against mob violence), are all forgotten ; the
unhappy adjutant obtains immediate authority to hasten
back to the frontier, and there, at head-quarters, he finds
complete confirmation of Curbit's letter and his own
fears. With only one clerk left, he goes drearily to work
to repair damages ; all has to be done over again, but,
by dint of ceaseless effort, he succeeds in the course of
two weeks in making up most of the large array of
missing papers. He is only two or three months be-
32 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER,
hind, and things are beginning to brighten, when the
war-cloud that has been hovering over the Northwest
for the last month spreads and gathers strength ; an
Indian band, small but plucky, bidding defiance to the
troops of the Pacific slope, is making a dash across the
continent to gain a refuge among the sympathetic red
men of the eastern plains. We have been back from
"riot duty" just three weeks when one evening our
colonel receives a telegram directing him to proceed by
first train to a station in the far West, thence by stage to
the Wind River Valley, there to organize a command to
march to the very heart of the continent, the vicinity of
the wild park of the Yellowstone, the entire regiment to
follow him by rail and forced marches. The colonel
hands it to his staff-officer with the simple remark, "You
and I start at once," and the adjutant, eagerly welcoming
the prospect of field-service, and almost savagely gleeful
at the arrival of such admirable excuse for shortcomings
in the regimental office, hurries off to make his prepara-
tions for the ensuing campaign.
Once again it is November before we return to head-
quarters, desks, and papers, and once more seven
months' returns are in arrears, once again the same
grind commences and new complications arise. But,
Merciful Powers ! the pages of the United Service are all
too limited for the recital of half the features, exasperat-
ing or comical, that go to make up the experiences of
the adjutant of a cavalry regiment on the "frontier,"
Looking over Sanger's " Duties of Staff-Officers," and
accepting as gospel truth his theories, drifting back over
the tide of time to boyish days in the seaboard case-
mate, where we youngsters were wont to hear him ex-
THE ADJUTANT. 33
pound on military duties generally, recalling the hopes
and ambitions in his case so fully realized, we find our-
selves wondering, /«r excmple, just what he would have
said in his own vigorous English had his lot been cast
in the cavalry and his carefully-prepared papers in the
34 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER.
Not the officer de jure, the blessed possessor of a com-
mission in that gilt-edged array of scientists, the Ord-
nance Department, but the unhappy de facto ordnance
officer who is detailed to perform the duties of that
exalted station, but by no means to participate in any
of the comforts, elegancies, agremens, etc., appertaining
thereto. Just the same abstruse and incomprehensible
reasoning to which we alluded in a previous article
(The Adjutant) as impelling the department commander
(through his assistant adjutant-general) to select the
hardest-worked man in a garrison and make him judge-
advocate of a general court, just that identical hang-for-
a-sheep-as-a-lamb style of argument picked us out when
adjutant and plunged us into an abyss of misery that,
could it have been foreseen, would have led to our resig-
nation on the spot.
We were away up near the Platte when it began, so
easily, so innocently, yet insidiously, as every other
diabolism begins, that no human soul could have fore-
told the sequel. " Mr. X.," said the colonel, one bright
June afternoon, " we march early day after to-morrow,
and the quartermaster wants arms for his teamsters;
then we've got to arm these scouts, — yes, and mount
them ; there's Bill and Louis Sans something and Sioux
Pete, and — well, a whole raft of 'era. We've got to fit
'em all out."
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 35
Mr. X. replied that he had nothing but the arms and
horse equipments of the non-commissioned staff and
band, all in use, but added, with a wisdom beyond his
years, " However, colonel, the quartermaster is in at the
fort now ; all these men are on his papers, and they are
with him drawing rations. Why can't he draw arms,
equipments, and all that right there ? The commanding
officer will issue on your order as district commander.l'
"So he could," says the colonel, reflectively; "but he
says he'd rather you'd do it."
" Undoubtedly," replies Mr. X. " There isn't an officer
in the army or out of it that wouldn't ; it's like the best
place to have a boil. But I want to get those regimental
returns started as soon as we get in."
" You won't, then. I ordered every kind of desk and
paper left back at Cheyenne ; we're stripped for action.
Tell you what : you just issue orders appointing yourself
ordnance officer of the Black Hills column, and get a
regular outfit of what we need. That'll fix it." And,
with the cheerful consciousness of having done his whole
duty and relieved himself of a burden, the colonel turns
in for a nap.
Mr. X. obeyed orders, issued the order signed by him-
self as acting assistant adjutant-general, then made a
modest computation of what would be needed. Next day
at breakfast time he showed it to the colonel, who cheer-
ily remarked, " Oh, didn't I tell you ? I fixed all that.
We're going to have a rousing campaign, and we've got
to have an abundant supply. It'll all be out this after-
noon, invoiced to me, but you sign the receipts. Then
bust into it and equip everybody soon as you can.
Here's the two doctors, and some more scouts ; and old
36 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Stamper, the paymaster, he's going, too, and Plodder and
Hoofit, of the infantry. Fit 'em all out."
Mr. X.'s appetite for his breakfast left him suddenly.
" In for a penny, in for a pound," quoth he.
Not until 4 P.M. did " the stuff" arrive at camp, and to
X.'s unutterable horror three huge wagon-loads of bales
and boxes were dumped around his tent and a brace of
receipts, longer even than his face, were presented for his
" You don't mean this is all for me ?" he gasped.
" Thim's the orders," was the comprehensive reply,
and as scouts, teamsters, doctors, and " doughboys" had
been waiting for hours for the promised equipment,
Mr. X. had no alternative. With a few strokes of the
pen he took the plunge into a purgatory which, begin-
ning with the summer of the Centennial year, has held
him in torment ever since, and only a merciful Providence
can tell when he may hope for release.
Just then the colonel rode into camp. " Issued those
things yet, X. ? I want you to write some dispatches."
" Here are the things, sir," said X., with a gulp,
" only just come, but I'll write dispatches from now till —
well, if you'll only hand that mountain of misery to
" There ain't another man, X. You'll have to do it.
The clerk can write the letters."
It is now 4.45 ; there are some twenty-odd parties
waiting for supplies. X. hurriedly summons a soldier,
whom the colonel designates as the proper man to assist
him as clerk, and pitches in. X. takes the memoranda in
his note-book, and the clerk hands out the items. Rifles
to the teamsters, rifles and revolvers to wagon-masters,
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 37
arms and horse equipments to the doctors and officers
who are to " go along," ammunition to everybody. The
number on each arm is carefully noted opposite each
man's name. It is dark when they are supplied, and,
meantime, X., being adjutant, has had to go off to guard-
mounting and to obey two summonses from the colonel,
Mr. Plodder, of the infantry, obligingly supplying his
place in his absence.
Suddenly Captain Snafifle appears. " X., why the mis-
chief didn't you let me know you were issuing ordnance ?
I haven't a decent lariat or side-line left in my com-
"There, X., don't you see?" says the colonel, trium-
phantly ; " I told you we'd want all these things. Now,
I've no doubt most of the other companies are in the
It won't do for X. to say that the time that should have
been attended to was the ten days we lay alongside a big
ordnance depot at Cheyenne, where each captain could
have supplied his company, and he well-nigh bites his
tongue in two in his endeavor to hold it in.
Now, as adjutant, X. issues orders to the company
commanders to draw at once from the ordnance officer
of the Black Hills column such articles as may be abso-
lutely necessary to equip his company, by order of the
colonel, and sends it round through the dimly-lighted
camp. Snaffle's first sergeant promptly appears with the
following: "Wanted, 38 lariats, 27 side-lines, 12 halters
and straps, 8 curb-bridles, 15 saddle-blankets, 4 saddles
complete," and behind him follow six soldiers, who dump
an indistinguishable mass of " truck" in front of the
38 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
*' What's all this, sergeant ?"
" Worn-out stuff, sir, the captain said I was to turn in
to the adjutant and get his receipt."
X. springs to his feet with an expletive. " Where is
the captain ?"
" Gone away to the fort, sir ; him and the colonel rode
in together half an hour ago."
It is now 9 P.M. We are to march at four in the morn-
ing. The orderly sent around with the order comes back
saying he " could only find one captain, Stand ; the rest
were all up at the post saying good-by, and the first
sergeants and men had all turned in."
" I'll give you the new stores because I'm ordered to,"
says X. to the sergeant ; " but as for taking charge of all
your unserviceable truck, it can't be done." And the
sergeant and his party go off laden with the new and the
old, just as Captain Stand himself appears with his ser-
geant and a heavily-laden party. Their wants are the
same as Snaffle's, and it takes another half-hour to dis-
pose of them, in a similar manner, only Stand says he's
going right in to the colonel himself and get X. ordered
to receive his unserviceable stuff. " It can't be taken
along," he says, not illogically.
He does go, and when he gets back to camp at mid-
night he brings a scrawl from the colonel to poor X.
bidding him receipt to all the company commanders for
their " unserviceable stores." With the view of possibly
mitigating his adjutant's woes, he adds, " A mere memo-
randum will do." Do ! Of course it will, — quite as
much damage as an official receipt.
We are to march at 4 a.m., as has been said before ;
at 3.30 on the following morning the vicinity of the
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 39
adjutant's tent looks like a junk-shop. He himself has
had just thirty minutes' sleep, during which time he had
a sentry over the piles of boxes and the litters of rope
and leather. He is unrefreshed and even more aggrieved,
for all the stuff is not in. Companies " O" and " S," whose
captains had protracted their leave-taking until near re-
veille, are still to be heard from.
The colonel emerges from his tent brisk and cheery.
" Great Caesar's ghost, X. ! What have you got here ?"
" Haven't had time to find out yet. There's more to
come, sir," is the adjutant's mournful response; and at
the moment, as everybody else is snatching a hurried
breakfast, the delegations from " O" and " S" arrive with
their demands and contributions, and the notes of the
" general" have sounded and tents been struck ere the
adjutant has settled their hash, — he has had none of his
" Sound ' boots and saddles,' " says the colonel, once
more appearing. " You will go with the advance-guard,
X. Of course you want to map the country towards the
" Of course I want to, colonel ; but " And, im-
petuously it must be said, poor X. sets forth that here's
enough ordnance to stop his pay for ten years if it isn't
The colonel checks him impressively. " Now, my dear
young friend, don't get agitated. I've seen a heap more
service than you have. You needn't trouble yourself a
bit. Simply write an order to the commanding officer at
the fort to receipt to you for the whole thing. Then make
out your pencil memoranda, call upon the quartermaster
for wagons, send your clerk in with it. There's the thing
40 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
in a nutshell. Now, first write an order for Captain
Munger with ' P' company to remain here at camp,"
It sounded soothing as — but this is no place for the
poetic. Let us see how it worked. The " pencil memo-
randa" and orders were soon made out, but not before
the colonel with his command had started. The quarter-
master was called upon for three wagons to carry
the things back to the fort. " Three wagons ! Good
God ! X., I've got to leave stores behind as it is ! I'm
just going after the colonel now hard as I can to tell him."
" Then say for me that all my ordnance is here on the
open prairie without a guard, and I can't leave it until he
sends relief!" shouts poor X., in desperation, while Pepper,
the clerk, stands holding their horses. In twenty minutes
the quartermaster is back, black in the face with wrath.
" Why in perdition," he wants to know, " did X. get so
much d — d stuff?" and then, with much interspersion of
profanity, tells him that he is ordered to unload two
wagons, send all the ordnance back to the storehouse in
charge of Pepper, who was to return at once with the
wagons, reload, and be sure and get to camp that night.
"As for you, X., he says, ' Come on.' "
The adjutant hands the orders and memoranda over to
Pepper, bids him do his best, and, putting spurs to his
horse, after a hard ride rejoins the colonel. The latter
is savage about something, and receives him with, " I've
needed you a dozen times here. You ought to have had
that ordnance business finished last night."
That night we camp at Rawhide Butte, twenty-five
miles away, and after dark in comes Pepper. " Did you
get receipts ?"
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 4 1
" I did for the new stuff, sir ; but for all that load of
old truck the ordnance-sergeant wouldn't take it, sir ;
said he had positive orders not to."
" Did you show him the orders of the district com-
" Yes, sir ; but he said he'd have to wait till the com-
manding officer got up, — that'd be eight or nine o'clock, —
an' my orders from the quartermaster was to come right
back wid the wagons, sir, an' "
" And didn't you bring the unserviceable with you ?"
says X., sepulchrally.
" No, sir. I couldn't, sir : the quartermaster said I was
to get right back and load up his things or they'd be
stolen ; and them was his wagons, so I had to leave the
stuff at the storehouse."
" Inside or outside?"
" Well, sir, outside, a'course ; the sergeant he was mad
at bein' waked up at that hour, and "
" That will do, Pepper." And X. turns away to have
it out with the quartermaster.
To cut short that initial experience, it is needless to
say that when the count of that junk was made by the
officials at the fort there was a shortage of articles, the
money value of which (new) amounted to ;^S72.33, and
X., through subsequent wanderings, never found out
what became of them.
We hunted Indians awhile along the base of the Black
Hills. Then came tidings which brought us in to Fet-
terman, where vast accessions of officers, recruits, and
horses joined and marched Big Hornwards with us. A
new colonel had taken command, and to meet the emer-
gency ordnance stores had been ordered by telegraph
42 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
from department head-quarters, and Mr. X. woke one
morning to find himself responsible for three hundred
more bridles, saddles, and halters, five hundred more
blankets, side-lines, lariats, etc., besides one hundred re-
volvers and no end of ammunition.
" Mount all the infantry recruits," said the colonel.
Then came innumerable new doctors, scouts, teamsters,
wagon-masters. " Supply them all," was the order.
We reached Goose Creek, at the head-waters of the
Tongue, and there was General Crook, with a large com-
mand, only waiting for our coming to launch forth and
give battle to the hostiles over on the Rosebud, forty
miles away. All one day was spent in getting ready,
and our adjutant ordnance officer did not have time to
call his soul his own.
" Get out your boxes," was the order. " Every officer
of the three regiments is to go mounted. Give to each a
saddle, bridle, blanket, lariat, pistol, — anything he wants,
— and take his mem. receipt." And while X. was doing
it, and writing orders for his colonel between times, and
trying to scribble some few brief lines to the anxious
ones far away in Eastern homes, there came a host of
company commanders from other cavalry regiments,
hungry for new equipments, correspondingly eager to
get rid of the old. X. appeals to the adjutant-general
of the entire command.
" Fit 'em out all you can," says that energetic official.
"We just want to get this crowd into fighting shape
quick, and then we'll waltz over to the Rosebud and get.
blood by the bucketful." So more boxes are hacked to
pieces, and for hours officers and men of three regiments
of cavalry are going away to distant bivouacs laden with
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 43
new equipments and coming back bowed down with junk.
It is not improbable that on that August afternoon X.
receipted for a thousand pieces of old rope as so many
unserviceable lariats. He and Pepper were well-nigh
distracted. Even the newspaper correspondents — some
of them — had to be provided with saddles or blankets.
Even the scouts who for years past had been proud of
their old calibre 50's came in with authority to swap
them for new 45's, "temporarily, of course," said the
order; but who that ever knew a frontiersman would bet
a bean on X.'s chances of getting those 45's back "after
the battl».was over" ?
(He didn't. It may as well be told here. Some scouts
were discharged on the Yellowstone when X. was in the
Black Hills. Some deserted in the Black Hills when X.
was on the Yellowstone. Some, like California Joe, Blue
Peter, and one other reprobate, shot one another to death
in private rows over poker, and nobody ever could find
their arms. One, and one only, was killed in manly,
open attack on the foe, and for three months what became
of his gun was a mystery ; then it was found in posses-
sion of a discharged soldier, who had bought it from —
but this, as the novelists say, is anticipating.)
A glorious morning was the 5th of August, and a fine
array the Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition pre-
sented as, stripped for combat, it sallied forth to battle.
Late the night before, X. had sought the adjutant-general
again. " I've got about forty thousand dollars' worth
of ordnance left yet, sir; I must have a guard for it.
Excuse my mentioning such a trifle ; but even that
amount would make a serious hole in my stipend."
"Why, hang it all, X., just bundle it into the wagons.
44 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
They are all to be left here. We won't be gone six days.
We're just going to have one rousing old rattler of a
tussle with these hostyles, and then we'll come back
here and straighten out. Don't you see?"
It was alluring, of course, but not so reassuring. How-
ever, an order was obtained that the ordnance stores
should be stowed in wagons designated for the purpose.
All the wagon-masters, teamsters, some doctors, etc.,
were to remain behind ; but as adjutant of his regiment it
wasn't to be expected that Mr. X. could hang back, even
to guard that incubus of ordnance stores, when his regi-
ment was going into action. The command started out
buoyantly, with four days' rations in the haversacks, and
enough to make up ten days in all on the pack-mules.
X. went with them, and never set eyes on that ordnance
again witil ten zveeks after, when what was left of it was
trundled into his camp in the Black Hills.
It seems that we did not find the Indians over on the
Rosebud. They were a little farther on by the time we
got there, and a good deal farther on by the time we got'
to the next place. They led us a dance of eighteen
hundred miles that summer and fall, and many a time
did X. find himself wondering how it fared with that ord-
nance. By the ist of September he was responsible for
property scattered all over that portion of the continent
bounded by the Missouri, the Platte, and the Rockies.
Eventually these four or five hundred wagons moved
round from the Big Horn by way of Reno, Fetterman,
Laramie, and Hat Creek to the Hills, where they met
us. Meantime, whenever a teamster lost his lariat, or
wanted side-lines or a halter, or perchance a blanket or
two, as the nights were growing colder, all he had to do
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 45
was to go and help himself. Everything had been boxed
up at the last moment at Goose Creek, but there wasn't
an unopened box when they got to the Hills. Of course
the tacit and honorable understanding which obtains
among these gentry provided that they were to return
these things; but as some got drunk and were left
behind at Reno, and others got drunk and were dis-
charged at Fetterman, and others got drunk and killed
somebody at Laramie, they did not all remember such a
trifle, and the same may be said of their arms.
When the Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition
reached the northern Black Hills in September, about
one-third of its horses were gone, left dead with ex-
haustion and starvation on the bleak prairies. As a rule,
the saddle and " kit" was abandoned at the same time, as
there were no wagons to put them in. When we started
from the Belle Fourche to march southward, the general
had succeeded in hiring a motley array of miners' teams
to carry along rations, wounded officers, sick soldiers,
and a beggarly batch of Indian prisoners.
One morning, as the horses were still dropping by
scores, X. came suddenly upon a holocaust of saddles,
bridles, and other cavalry equipments. A sergeant and
some men had heaped them in a huge pyramid and were
working hard to make them burn. "What does this
mean ?" said he.
" Quartermaster's orders," said the sergeant. " Aban-
doned property ; somebody ordered it fired, sir."
X. thought of his tempting stores so many hundred
miles away, and a bright thought struck him ; he had seen
an empty wagon a short distance back, and hailing the
driver, asked him where he was bound. " Damfino," said
46 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
the Black-Hiller. " Quartermaster hired me yesterday
on the Whitewood and told me to come along ; but I
reckon he's clean forgot me. I ain't had a thing to do."
In ten minutes X. had that wagon loaded up with every
kind of horse equipment except blankets ; none of them
had been left, for the nights were frosty and our men were
suffering keenly. An old cavalry officer hailed him on
seeing his occupation to inquire what he was doing.
" Taking it up," said X. " There's no telling how short
I'll be at the end of this campaign."
" Well," said the veteran, " go ahead if it's to cover a
shortage ; but if you think that by picking up and turn-
ing in a few dozen saddles the ordnance people will let
you off a few dozen side-lines, you're 'way off". If you
were to save them a million dollars' worth of property in
ten years' service and come out short a nickel on your
own account, they'd grind it out of you ; that's my ex-
However, the wagon-load went far to balance the deficit
on the Platte, and X. was enabled to take up and turn in
some thirty-seven curb-bridles at Red Cloud later on ;
but then teamsters had no special use for curb-bridles,
and of all the items which had been stored in the wagons
at Goose Creek, curb-bridles seemed to be the only one
upon which heavy drafts had not been made.
Now, the question was, how to recover those missing
articles. At Goose Creek, by the directions of the ad-
jutant-general, the stores had been placed in charge of
the wagon-master of the train. X. sent for him and he
came, — an entirely new man. " Where's ?" *' Him ?
oh ! he was discharged at Reno. Leastwise I've been
told so. I didn't come in charge of this train till they
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 47
got to Laramie." That hope proved delusive. Next day
X. tried the chief quartermaster. He was all courtesy
and business, would do anything. X. suggested inspect-
ing the five hundred odd teamsters and taking away
every new side-line, lariat, etc. It started in one corral,
and an irate regimental quartermaster had it stopped in
no time. " He'd got those things himself at Fetterman."
By the time the inspectors got to the other corrals nothing
was to be found, old or new. Next day came orders to
prepare for a new campaign or scout, and once again X.
spent two days reissuing to the cavalry and receiving
their used-up stuff by order. This scout amounted to
nothing and was soon over, and, once in at Red Cloud,
X. obtained authority to turn in all the stores appertain-
ing to the Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition.
Several wagon-loads were duly transferred at the maga-
zine, and with all this burden off his mind X. gleefully
looked at his memoranda only to find himself deep in
the mire as ever, for, scattered all over the vast fields of
our operations, were quantities of arms, horse equip-
ments, etc., issued to officers, scouts, guides, teamsters,
and the like, and no end of blankets, side-lines, lariats, and
picket-pins, for which he had no vouchers whatsoever.
Mr. Plodder, of the infantry, who had obligingly assisted
him the opening night on the Platte, volunteered an ex-
planation which in very small degree accounted for the
shortage in the matter of lariats. " You see, X., so many
men came along who wanted a ' halter shank' that night,
and if those rope things weren't halter shanks I didn't
know what they were," This was by no means consol-
atory, though a number of cavalry officers appeared to
derive an immense amount of fun therefrom.
48 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
The expedition broke up at Red Cloud and scattered
all over the department. With some six companies of
the regiment, X. marched into a big post on the Union
Pacific. The colonel was East on leave, the major was
in command and only waiting for the return of some
other field-officers to go on leave himself. An old colonel
of cavalry was in command of the post when we arrived,
and he was only waiting for our coming to take his de-
parture on the six months' leave then burning in his
pocket. War Department orders had made post com-
manders the ordnance officers of their posts, and as such
the old colonel informed our major that all the papers
were made out and he was ready to transfer at once.
His family were all in New York to sail on the steamer
of a certain date, and he must be there to meet them.
Our major explained that he too was expecting leave
every day, that his colonel would soon be back, etc., but
after some skirmising a result was arrived at satisfactory
to them both. Mr. X. was hereby appointed ordnance
officer of the post, and would relieve Colonel Blank at
once. Now, X. knew very well that War Department
orders made post commanders alone the parties respon-
sible for ordnance and ordnance stores. " But," said the
major, " the colonel will take charge as soon as he
arrives, and, as you see, it is absolutely necessary for
Colonel Blank to get away at once." The order was
issued, and then came the transfer. In less than a fort-
night X. had receipted for a whole arsenal.
In an ordinary wooden building, surrounded by equally
inflammable quartermaster's and commissary storehouses,
were piled tier on tier of boxes containing equipments,
infantry and cavalry, of every possible description.
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 49
Another room of the same size was equally full of arms
" The building is absolutely unfit for the purpose," said
X.'s predecessor. " It has been condemned by a board
of survey, and I have represented the great exposure and
risk in having so many valuable stores in such a place,
but all to no purpose." Everything was in as good order
as such a jam could be in a building not more than sixty
by twenty-five ; and the colonel, in turning over, said to
X., " You will find our old ordnance-sergeant one of the
most faithful men that ever lived. His word is truth
Just how or why so large an accumulation of stores
had been sent to this particular post there was no time to
explain. Our own colonel came back in a fortnight. X.
informed him of the situation, showed him the huge array
of stores, daily augmented by fresh arrivals from Rock
Island ; the colonel pronounced it an imposition, said
that if it were intended to make a supply depot of the
fort he would insist on having a regular ordnance officer
stationed there, and would write at once and make appli-
cation ; which he probably did, for the ordnance officer
arrived seventeen months afterwards. " Meantime, Mr.
X.," said he, "you will continue in charge."
This is how X. came to be running an arsenal and
adjutant's office at one and the same time. We have
seen something of how the latter worked ; now for the
It became apparent within a few days that the ordnance
storehouse of Fort was intended as a depot of supply
for the entire department of the Platte and a good deal
outside of it. How very much easier, simpler, more sys-
c d 5
50 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
tematic it was for the commanding officer at Rock Island,
with his array of instructed clerks and packers, to ship
in bulk, three or four hundred at a time, the various kinds
of ordnance stores that might be required on the frontier
to the central post of that department ! What mattered
it to the ordnance department that the labor of unpacking
and repacking, distribution, and the infinite clerical labor
required should fall upon one already overworked cavalry
subaltern and one faithful old sergeant ? What mattered
it that half the stores thus shipped had to be sent back
in smaller lots over much of the road they had traveled
in supplying the requisitions from interior posts, thus
doubling the cost of transportation ? Yet this is exactly
what did occur, and for eighteen months the whole work
of supplying that large and most needy department fell
upon the shoulders of that old sergeant, for never a bit
of help did we get except an occasional man to assist in
packing or unloading.
All the troops of General Crook's command had been
for months in the field, and without exception had to be
resupplied company by company. Every day of the week
brought requisitions from department head-quarters " to
be filled from the stores at Fort ." Every week
brought new loads of supplies from Rock Island, and, not-
withstanding the fact that we were constantly shipping,
by the end of December our storehouse was overflowing.
In the item of ammunition there were over six hundred
thousand rounds, and the colonel, alarmed at having such
a prospective volcano in our midst, ordered it removed
to the magazine.
Being built for the convenience of the post, this maga-
zine had been located exactly a mile and a half away
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 5 I
and out on the open prairie. It was a brick shell, with
a light roof and heavy door, evidently designed to oppose
little resistance to an explosion from within or "pros-
pectors" from without, but while it might be unsafe, the
adjutant (acting ordnance officer) was glad to have addi-
tional room in the storehouses, where now there were in
the neighborhood of a thousand sets of infantry and
cavalry equipments. The colonel ordered a guard for
the magazine, but after a week of suffering through
bleak, wintry, freezing nights the men looked so piteous
at the detail for magazine-guard that he took it off. Then
it was robbed. A party of citizens from the neighboring
town sallied forth one bitter cold night and helped them-
selves to what they could carry. X. tracked them through
the snow back to town on the following day, and after
some detective work succeeded in securing the arrest of
one of the parties who had a lot of the stolen property
in his cellar. He was nabbed by the United States mar-
shal and duly tried before a jury of his peers. Just how
many of that intelligent jury were concerned in the rob-
bery itself is impossible to say, but the verdict was not
guilty ; and it may be parenthetically remarked that the
verdict of every jury in that enlightened borough in every
case where a civilian was arraigned for crimes against the
life or property of Uncle Sam's retainers, were it stealing
a pistol, running off a horse, or murdering a soldier in
cold blood, the verdict was similarly " not guilty."
The guard was again placed over the magazine, duly
supplied with a " banked" tent and abundant fuel ; then,
to make room in the storehouses at the post, we moved
some of the arms down to the magazine and were about
straightening out the storehouses a second time when the
52 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
troops commenced drifting in from Mackenzie's winter
raid against the Cheyennes, and each command as it
arrived deposited a wagon-load or more of used-up
saddles, halters, side-lines, lariats, etc., and demanded
receipts. In less than three weeks the east storeroom
looked like ten junk-shops rolled into one.
Meantime, we got into a row with the depot quarter-
master. It usually happened that his wagons arrived
with a load of ordnance just as " boots and saddles" was
sounding for battalion drill, and the teamsters would
come to X. for his receipts just as that much badgered
ordnance officer, in his capacity as adjutant, was riding
forth to form the line. " Mr. X.," said the quartermaster,
"you keep my men waiting there day after day for
several hours, and it's got to be stopped." X. tells him
by all means to stop it, which doesn't satisfy the quarter-
master somehow, and he writes officially to the colonel
commanding to complain that his ordnance officer is
neglecting his business and obstructing the public service
by detaining quartermaster teams. The colonel knows
perfectly well that his adjutant is "on the jump" from
daybreak until — well, he doesn't begin to know how long,
but all the morning at any rate, yet he summons him to
hear what the quartermaster's complaints are. X. sug-
gests that a good way out of it would be to relieve him
from duty as an ordnance officer and put some one in
who could devote twenty hours out of twenty-four to the
matter. The colonel again concludes that it is an impo-
sition, and decides to write another letter requesting the
detail of a regular ordnance officer, X. meantime to re-
main in charge and do the best he can.
All this time there is that back business of the Bier
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 53
Horn expedition to settle up, and X. is writing letters all
over the country to officers who were connected there-
with, in the desperately hopeless undertaking of getting
possession of or receipts for the arms and equipments
issued during the campaign to all manner of people, who
were not to be found at Red Cloud and Laramie when we
dissolved. It was a fortune in postage-stamps and time,
but month by month the accountability was lessened,
and X. began to feel vaguely encouraged. One day it
transpired that a discharged soldier had a new calibre 45
rifle. He was overhauled and questioned as to how he
obtained it, and frankly stated that he had bought it from
Pepper. This was a bombshell in the camp. Next it
transpired that Pepper had forged his colonel's name to
an application for his (Pepper's) discharge, on the ground
of habitual intemperance, and Pepper, who had been
under guard, was remanded to closer confinement, with a
sentinel to accompany every movement of his outside
the guard-house. Next, Pepper skipped away from the
sentinel, and from that time to this has succeeded in
evading recapture. The sentinel was tried by general
court, but proved that he fired seven shots at the retreating
form of Pepper, who could run like a deer, and the court
Then, in the dead of night, some miscreants ran a
wagon up to the storehouses, effected an entrance into the
quartermaster's shanty and broke through the partition
between that and the ordnance-rooms, and loaded up
with such things as they could lay hands on. They
were evidently in search of ammunition, and evidently
too disturbed and hurried in their search, for they mis-
took boxes of picket-pins for metallic cartridges, and
54 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
hauled off several boxes of those useless pegs. It was
some comfort to X. to reflect how they must have sworn
when they discovered their blunder. " Where was your
sentinel ?" we hear some " stalwart" exclaim. Bless your
heart, sir, he was right there, if his statement could be
believed ; but then, you see, he was guarding a huge
coal-shed, a commissary storehouse, two quartermaster's
storehouses, a saddler's shop, and some few loads of hay,
and the night was dark as pitch. " He didn't see nor
hear nuthin'." Neither did the other two.
Boards of survey were running, three or four at a time,
all that winter. They relieved X. So did the depart-
ment commander, and so eventually did the ordnance
department; but not without a kick or two.
Once X. was ordered to " take up" again certain items
which a board of survey had recommended that he be
authorized, and that the department commander had
authorized him, to drop, because, said the chief of ord-
nance, it is not shown that the responsible officer exer-
cised proper vigilance to prevent loss. This was em-
barrassing, but eventually the bureau yielded the point,
" under the circumstances," and the items remained
Spring came, so did the summer of 'j'j, and all this
time stores were coming too, and, in smaller parcels,
going day after day, but no sign of relief was manifest.
In July the great railroad riots took place, and the colo-
nel was ordered eastward by first train to assume com-
mand of the troops collecting at an important point, and
the colonel ordered his adjutant to go with him. So,
with parting injunctions to the faithful old sergeant to
take charge in his absence, and have Captain Curbit sign
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 55
all invoices "for Lieutenant X.," the ordnance officer
turned his back on more than a fortune in stores, rushed
off with his chief, and was gone three weeks. Returning
and finding everything working smoothly, thanks to the
ceaseless care and attention of his invaluable ally, the
sergeant, he returned to his work of straightening out
the Big Horn papers, when again came telegraphic
orders sending colonel and everybody into the far North-
west, by first train, after the Nez Perces. Once more
the spectacle was presented of the ordnance officer
abandoning his thousands and thousands of dollars'
worth of stores in obedience to his orders, trusting
everything to Providence and that crown-jewel of a ser-
geant, and this time he was gone three months. How
could a man in the Yellowstone Park be held responsi-
ble for property in Southern Wyoming? "He should
have transferred it before starting," your critic says. My
pragmatical friend, it took a month to transfer that
property when the transfer was made, and Mr. X. was
ordered to leave " on first train." "Then he oughtn't to
have been appointed in the first place." That is precisely
our opinion. Moreover, we thought from beginning to
end of that business that the ordnance department, in
establishing that great magazine in the centre of the
scene of Indian operations in ''j'S, should have decorated
it with one of its own officers and a squad of assistants
to back him.
Of course there were some comical features in our
experience. One of the liveliest cavalrymen in the de-
partment was the gallant captain of the gray troop of
the Second Cavalry. He and his men were always out
scouting somewhere, and it so happened that in the
56 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
summer of 1877 he had a mixed armament of Colt's and
Smith & Wesson revolvers in his troop. A short time
previous, X. had been ordered to send him five thousand
rounds of Coifs revolver ball-cartridges, and did so.
One blissful June morning the telegraph operator at the
post darted in to X. with a dispatch from the chief ord-
nance officer at Omaha. " Captain Egan reports that
the cartridges you sent him will not fit his pistols.
What's the matter?" Ten minutes after came another
from " Teddy" himself: " Cannot use the cartridges; all
too long." Then in came the colonel with a dispatch
from department head-quarters, and a perturbed expres-
sion on his face. " Mr. X., what is the matter with the
cartridges sent Captain Egan? The adjutant-general is
after us with a sharp stick."
X. meantime has summoned the ordnance-sergeant, and
that veteran glances over the papers and explains the
matter in a dozen words, ",He's been trying to use
Colt's revolver cartridges in his Smith & Wessons, sir,"
and so it proved. The " revolver ball-cartridge" is made
to fit both the Colt and the Smith & Wesson, whereas
the " Colt's revolver ball-cartridge" can be used only in
the Colt. This information was telegraphed at once to
the captain in the field and the explanation wired to
Omaha, but meantime head-quarters had been racked to
its foundation at a discovery of so alarming a nature.
Dispatches had been sent all over the country to cavalry
company commanders directing them to test their car-
tridges in Smith & Wesson pistols and report, and not-
withstanding our explanation an aide-de-camp was hurried
out to investigate ; he arrived next day, looked at the
two pistols and two styles of cartridges, remarked that
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 57
it reminded him of the profound philosopher who had
two holes cut in his door for his cats, a big hole for the
big cat and a little hole for the other, and went back to
Omaha. Shortly afterwards all Smith & Wesson pistols
were called in and none but Colt's issued.
We were constantly in receipt of telegraphic orders to
ship stores at once to all manner of remote posts. One
morning early came two dispatches : the first saying,
" Ship by express, first train, to commanding officer Com-
pany , Second Cavalry," so many carbines, slings,
belts, pouches, etc., and half an hour afterwards a similar
message to send just about the same things to the com-
manding officer of another company, in all comprising
arms, ammunition, and equipments for some fifty men.
Mr. X. and his sergeant pitched in with vim, an orderly
was hurried down to the depot to secure the co-operation
of the quartermaster's teams and the express company,
and by noon, when the Union Pacific train rolled in from
the East, the packing-boxes were at the station to meet
it. The proper invoices and receipts went with the
property and others by mail to the designated officers,
but the end of the quarter came and brought no receipts
whatever. X. wrote to the company commanders, then
'way up near the Wind River Valley, and requested that
they be sent at once. One of them replied that he didn't
get more than half the things specified in the invoice,
and the other said pretty much the same thing, only
worse. This wouldn't do by any means. X. knew that
every item on the invoice was in those boxes, and so
retorted. Then it transpired that the stores were re-
quired to arm and equip a lot of recruits going up to
join those companies under command of a lieutenant
58 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
who had opened the boxes and distributed the arms, etc.,
on the raih'oad. X., therefore, sent him invoices and
requested that he receipt, and by and by came the reply,
" I'm not responsible for the stores at all. They were
not invoiced to me. I simply took them to arm my
recruits." And then the gentleman obligingly went on,
" What you want to do is to make out certified invoices
and send them in with your papers, etc., if they (com-
pany commanders) will not receipt." X. could not see
that point at all, and demanded that the officer who took
the responsibility of opening and distributing should sign
the receipts, but it was six months afterwards before they
came, and then only on compulsion.
At last, seventeen months after Mr. X. was placed
temporarily in charge of those ordnance stores, all the
real work having been completed, Indian campaigning
being virtually over in the department of the Platte, all
the troops having been supplied with new equipments to
replace those worn out in the service, and the lull in
business was enabling the ordnance sergeant to com-
mence " straightening out" the contents of the store-
house, the long-expected official of the ordnance depart-
ment put in his appearance, and soon after him came
thie squad of assistants, clerical and otherwise, without
which no well-regulated ordnance establishment can
be conducted, but which we were compelled to do
without. The transfer of property began without delay,
and in the course of six weeks Mr. X. stood relieved.
He was behind in only one item of any consequence,
and away ahead on general average. It is needless to
say that the shortage stands charged against him, while
there is nothing to his credit.
THE ORDNANCE OFFICER. 59
Now, we are painfully conscious that in all this long
account of an experience as acting ordnance officer there
is nothing entertaining or lively ; it is as solemn as a
sepulchre, but so was the experience. We are portraying
trials and tribulations, and from its inception to the still
indefinite end this has been all vexation of spirit.* We
look back over those massive monuments of retained
papers, and wonder how we ever dared to go to sleep. We
recall the constant, the incessant round of duties required
of the adjutant from reveille until tattoo, attending morn-
ing and evening stables, and all drills, besides his office
and parade duties, and wonder what a genuine ordnance
officer would have said and done under the circumstances.
We recall the issue of stores " on memorandum receipt"
under the peaks of the Big Horn and the pines of the
Black Hills, and wonder why no ordnance officer was
sent with Crook's command. We met one with Terry
on the Yellowstone, but he was only out to see how the
equipments worked in the field, had no property respon-
sibilities, and was as free from care and as buoyant as a
cork; but then Terry's people were housed in comfort,
had carpets and barrels of bottled ale in their tents, and
could support an ordnance officer, but we poor devils
had neither tent nor change of raiment, and hard-tack
and bacon were the daily bread of officers and men until
we had to corne down to horse-meat. Looking back at the
depot in charge of which we so unluckily stumbled, and
compiling from our papers some figures of the work
done, we find that, besides the incalculable worry over
minor trifles, we had handled before the arrival of our
* It was settled some time after the publication of this paper in the
6o TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
relief the quantity of ordnance and stores tabled here-
Rounds of ammunition .... 1,550,000 1,054,015
Rifles and carbines 2,304 1,116
Revolvers 1,754 755
Sabres 1,664 728
Infantry equipments i,543 ^>35l
Cartridge-boxes and pouches . 2,565 896
Holsters 1,806 1,146
Haversacks 2,000 873
Bridles 3,082 1, 979
Halters and straps 1,911 1,79^
Lariats 2,301 2,290
Nose-bags 1,300 672
Saddles 1,069 9^2
Surcingles 1,264 1,082
Saddle-blankets . ; 1,799 1,776
Side-lines 2,400 2,184
We may be in error, but are constrained to the belief
that in that table alone the amount of stores is not so
trivial as to be beneath the dignity of the ordnance officer
de jure, and we are confessedly so pig-headed that to this
day we cannot be brought to see the propriety or justice
of picking out a cavalry adjutant, requiring him to attend
to every item of his own duty in garrison or in the field,
and yet to control and become pecuniarily responsible
for such an array of ordnance work and ordnance stores
AT WEST POINT. 6 1
AT WEST POINT.
Now, if you please, those readers who are not yet
bored to death with Mr. X.'s tribulations in the roles of
adjutant and ordnance officer will follow him back some
ten years or more and take a peep at the Military Acad-
emy during a critical period of its history. It may be
objected that what happened to Mr. X. then and there
cannot be regarded as a staff affair, and Mr. X. admits
the point as well taken ; but under the general title of
these sketches he had purposed to show some of the
troublous experiences of a subaltern when out of his
tactical groove in the line of file-closers, and a detail at
West Point was one of them.
Not but that he had more or less of an enjoyable time
there. The Academy is by no means an unpleasant
station; but in the light of subsequent events Mr. X.
cannot help thinking how very much better a time he
could have had if mighty experiments were not attempted
just at that period.
To begin with, it was with sentiments of unmixed
satisfaction that Mr. X. received, one bright August
morning, an intimation from the commandant of cadets
that he had applied for him as an assistant in the depart-
ment of tactics ; and a few days later there came an order
in due form directing him to proceed to West Point and
report to the superintendent thereof for duty.
For some years previous Mr. X. had served as a sub-
62 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
altern in a " swell" light battery under a choleric captain,
who was more explosive than the best percussion-shell
in the market ; then, having served out his apprenticeship
in the light, he had been duly transferred to a heavy bat-
tery, whose commander was as easy-going and lax as the
other had been capricious and exacting. The new duties
were slow and distasteful after the life and vim of the
mounted service, and Mr. X. was wondering how long he
could stand it, when the detail reached him. West Point
was thronged with visitors when he arrived and found
himself, with some twenty new assignments, attending
the closing party of the season.
In something like a fortnight those officers and families
who, having been ordered thither during the war, and
having been left there ever since, had begun to look upon
West Point as a bit of personal property, were well-nigh
ready to move out and give pl&ce to the new comers.
Mr. X. being a second lieutenant, the junior of his de-
partment and unmarried, was happily relegated to a room
in the barracks adjoining the cadet company which he
was assigned to command, and consequently could look
on in philosophical amusement at the little tiffs and
feminine spats which accompanied the movings out and
in of the married households. A few weeks more served
to accustom him thoroughly to the new and very light
duties; and having become a member of the mess, Mr.
X. prepared to spend an enjoyable winter.
Entering the library one sunny September morning,
Mr. X. came suddenly upon a group of strangers of
martial mien despite the garb of civilians, and, in response
to an inquiry, directed the spokesman to the superin-
tendent's office. Next, the superintendent's orderly made
AT WEST POINT. 63
his appearance with the superintendent's compliments,
and would the lieutenant be so good as to step there a
moment, Mr. X. stepped as requested, and found the
superintendent affably entertaining the group. " Oh,
gentlemen, let me present my young friend, Captain X. ;
Sir Francis Famous, Captain X. ; Major Freeman, Captain
X. ; Captain Bellairs, Captain X. I deeply regret, gentle-
men, that my engagements are such that I cannot accom-
pany you, and that I knew nothing of your coming ; but
Captain X. will do the honors for me, I am sure. Captain,
these gentlemen are of the British army, and eager to
see all that there is at West Point ; I have given orders
that the buildings and rooms should be opened to you."
And the superintendent smiled sweetly and confidingly
upon Mr. X., upon whom he had never lavished more
than mere official notice up to that moment.
Mr. X. accepts his charge, blushing at the unexpected
brevet, and presently marshals his transatlantic warriors
out of the urbane presence of the commander. He finds
the Englishmen pleasant, chatty fellows, full of curiosity
and interest, scrupulously returning the salutes of sen-
tinels, soldiers, and cadets who happen to pass, and
touching their hats respectfully as they walk under the
flag. X. conducts them through the model-rooms, the
drawing-academy, museum, mess- and riding-hall, bar-
racks, and ordnance-yards, then scrambles with them 'way
up to Fort Put, where the view strikes them simultaneously
as being awfully jolly, then down again among the bat-
teries, around " Flirtation," and thus having consumed
some two or three hours, and being not a little heated
and dusty, X. winds up with the cool shades of the
officers' mess, and regales his friends on Bass, brandy
64 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
and water, and cigars. They do it on their side of the
water, and expect it here. Presently they are joined by
our genial Colonel Bullock and several subalterns, who
are duly presented to the trio of British, and invited to
join them in refreshments. They add materially to the
entertainment and to its final expense, but Mr. X. feels a
professional pride in having his guests suitably received ;
and, as they are obliged to go back to New York by the
afternoon train and cannot stay to dinner, they cordially
accept his invitation to lunch, and three or four jovial
souls among the married officers conclude they would
rather lunch informally with the Englishmen at the mess
than go home to dinner.
Now, it must be here explained that, though by no
means in its infancy in those days, the officers' mess at
West Point was controlled by a set of rules and regu-
lations that might have been concocted for the guidance
of the pupils of a small boarding-school; and one of
those rules was to the effect that any officer who intro-
duced friends to the mess-table, or invited them to par-
take of its hospitality, should be charged individually
with the cost of their entertainment. Mr. X. knew it
perfectly well, and knew also that in the English service
there was an especial fund for the entertainment of
visitors, and doubtless all foreign officers supposed that
the same civilized custom obtained at the Military Acad-
emy of the United States. However, to go on. When
it comes time for the gentlemen of Her Majesty's service
to start for the train, they are duly escorted to the ferry,
and depart, evidently delighted with their visit, and pro-
fessing unbounded hopes of " seeing all you jolly good
fellows at the Rag one of these days, you know."
AT WEST POINT. 65
About a fortnight after, Mr, X. encounters the superin-
tendent, who accosts him cheerfully with, " Oh, Mr. X. ;
just the man I wanted to see. I've had a pleasant letter
from Sir Francis Famous, in which he expresses his
great appreciation of the courtesies extended to him
here, and he desires to be remembered to you. It seems
he is a very distinguished cavalry officer, and I am grati-
fied that we were able to show him so much attention."
Mr. X. mumbles something to the effect that he is
charmed to hear it all, and while abstractedly wondering
wherein his commander had shown the distinguished
cavalryman so much attention, is recalled to his senses
by the next remark : " By the way, he mentions that
there are two or three other young fellows of his ac-
quaintance coming up next week ; you just look out for
them, will you ? and see that they have a — well, show
them all the attention you can."
Sure enough, another week brings two more young
Britons with honest, sun-tanned faces and a keen zest for
sight-seeing. One has been serving in India, the other
at Hong-Kong, and together they are " doing" the United
States on long leave. Having first paid their respects to
the commanding officer,-^that formality which the Eng-
lish soldier never neglects, — they are affably entertained
by that functionary while his orderly hunts up Mr. X.,
who happens to be on his way to the riding-hall, and
thither conducts his new acquaintances, not, however,
until he has heard the superintendent express his great
regret that previous engagements prevented his inviting
them to dine that day, " but his young friend. Captain X.,"
etc., to which one of them blushingly murmurs, " Oh,
66 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
thanks, thanks," and the other, " Ah — to-morrow, per-
haps ?" which last the superintendent does not seem to
hear. These two are tiptop young soldiers. They are
delighted with the cadet riding, but disgusted with the
McClellan saddle, which does not seem to suit their cross-
country seat when they try it ; but they go riding with
X., and do the rounds of the Point, and are introduced
to many of the officers at the mess, and dine there with
X. and his friends, where we duly drink Her Majesty's
health in unaccustomed and rather fiery sherry, and when
bedtime comes they have accepted the invitations of X.
and a brother officer to rough it in the barracks with
them ; and so they, too, spend three days or so at the
Point, and go off well pleased, at least with what they
saw ; and this time X.'s brother officer, a poor infantry
sub., insists on sharing expenses. It is not long after
this that the superintendent smilingly informs Mr. X.,
one bright autumn morning, that, in his opinion, " one
good turn deserves another;" and as Mr. X. is wondering
what his good turn deserves, the superintendent proceeds
to develop a new and entirely original interpretation of
the saying. " You did very nicely by those Englishmen,
Mr. X. Now, here is a party of French naval officers
commg up to-day, and as I know you speak French "
" Indeed, I don't, sir," says X. " Well, everybody says
you do ; and, at all events, you seem to have more savoir-
faire than the others (last month's mess-bill was a stun-
ner, thinks Mr. X. ; now what will this one be ?), and I
will be glad to have you take them in hand. You have
nothing to do to prevent it, have you ?" he asks as a
clincher; and so Mr. X. becomes the entertainer of half
a dozen elaborately polite Frenchmen, who accept the
AT WEST POINT. 6/
supposed hospitality of the mess as freely as that of
their own would have been tendered.
Now, this sort of thing may strike the average reader
as a very trivial source of tribulation, but it had its
attendant drags, and by and by the thing worked itself
into a first-class millstone-around-the-neck. For two
mortal years visitors — English, French, German, Aus-
trian, and Russian — kept arriving at the Academy, and
time and again Mr. X. had to listen to the same apology
from the superintendent, and the same intimation that
his young friend Captain X. would do the honors. Time
and again these parties had to be entertained ; and,
though one thousand dollars a year was placed in the
hands of the superintendent for the entertainment of
visitors to the Academy, tJiat presumably went to the
Board of Visitors in June, and the politicians who voted
it when they dropped in for a visit. These were the
days when superintendents were not generals, and had
no attendant aides-de-camp to help them through the
mill, and so Mr. X. was utilized ; and while he could not
and would not ask the mess to defray these expenses
of entertainment, and while it rarely happened that
members thereof came forward and volunteered to share
them with him, he soon found, to his ineffable disgust,
that there were some two or three men who generally
dropped in when foreign visitors were there, who were
sure to be presented and to accept invitations to join in
the inevitable refreshments, and then to go off and say
that that fellow X. was burning his candle at both ends,
and would soon find himself swamped. As for the
superintendent, it probably never occurred to him that it
cost X. a cent.
68 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
X. was somewhat ruefully contemplating a mess-bill
and treasurer's account of the usual dimensions (for him)
one morning in early spring-time, when a brother officer
of the engineers dropped in for a chat. " What do you
think of the news ?" was the first remark that seemed
to possess more than a languid interest for either
party, " Haven't heard any worth thinking about," was
the reply. " Didn't you know two niggers had been
appointed cadets ?" said one. " No; but I'm not in the
least surprised," said the other. " Well, it is true ; I
heard it at the supe's office ten minutes ago." " Supe,"
be it known, is the irreverent abbreviative by which the
average West Pointer in those days was wont to desig-
nate the magnate in command. That evening, at mess,
the subject came up for discussion during dinner, and so
completely had the thing been foreseen, and so utterly
was it looked upon as a matter of course, that, except
among the very youthful members present, no comment
whatever was made. In that party of twenty-five or
thirty officers it is probable that few were able to tell
anything of the political opinions of their comrades, and
there was not a man in the mess who could have classed
all of them. Some had been reared in the Democratic
faith, more had risen from the ranks of the Republican
party ; but among them only one creed was recognized
in the days of which this chronicle may treat, — loyalty
to the general government.
Mr. X. does not propose stopping to portray the virtue
or credit of the circumstance, but, whatever might have
been the individual opinions of the officers on duty at the
Military Academy at that time as to the advisability of
starting the lately enfranchised in the race for commis-
AT WEST POINT. 69
sions in the regular service, they took the fact that repre-
sentatives were duly entered by proper authority as all-
sufficient. As judges, stewards, etc., it was simply their
duty to see that this new and very dark horse had a fair
show, and the only question in his (Mr. X.'s) mind at
this day is whether they did not overdo it.
There was no discussion at all. The youngsters held
their tongues and listened when the few words of advice
were spoken by the seniors, and then went off and said
no more about it. One officer whose father was a strong
pro-slavery man before the war did say, " Well, it's a free
country. Uncle Sam owns the craft and hires me as one
of the crew; I'll handle any freight he chooses to ship,
but he's loading the old boat down to the guards this
trip, sure." But there wasn't a man that more conscien-
tiously strove to do his duty when the " freight" came
than he. There was only one sentiment. It is the
nation's school, and we are here to teach to the best of
our ability any and all scholars the nation may send.
So much for sentiment, now for narration. One bright
June morning our burly and vastly popular commandant
assembled by order his four company commanders, —
" tactical officers" they used to call us, — and among these
was Mr. X.
On all occasions when it was necessary to be impressive,
" Old Harry" was wont to assume a tragic profundity of
voice, an awful solemnity, — severity of mien that to the
uninitiated was something superhuman. It would cause
a cadet coming into that presence as a culprit for the first
time to quake in his shoes, while the little rascals of
drummer-boy orderlies, who were used to it, would be so
convulsed with suppressed laughter and their efforts to
70 ■ TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
keep straight faces that they would half the time bolt
from his presence with no idea of the message on which
they were sent. It was something that would bring out
half the battalion giggling around the company officers'
tents to hear the colonel arraigning his cadet officer of
the day. The air was as full of boom, rumble, roar, crash,
and bang as Mark Twain's description of a thunder-
storm, and yet Mr. X. can recall that when he for the
first time listened with stunned faculties to a reprimand
administered to him as cadet adjutant, and it was dawning
upon his dazed brain that a mistake in the morning re-
turn of the battalion was a crime akin to forgery, and
that his chevrons were to be torn off by the roots in
thirty seconds more, all of a sudden the hurricane ceased,
a blessed calm stole upon the storm-swept features of the
colonel and over the senses of the stripling standing
attention before him, and a mild and benignant voice,
coming Mr. X. wondered from where, cooed forth,
" There, youngster, that's all I've got to say ; now go off
and think no more about it!' This w^as 'way back in cadet
days, and in Old Harry's first year in the commandant's
office. It is five years afterwards that he has summoned
us thither again, and though the skies have changed,
grim-visaged war smoothed his wrinkled front, the genial,
winning, lovable old imposture is the same as ever ; he
has something impressive to say, and as usual proceeds
to work himself up to the proper frenzy, — his heart is too
soft for the task.
Knowing him well, we four are seated before him in
solemn silence, with decorous and respectful glance. A
shock-headed drummer-boy, Bohrer, is clumsily fum-
bling at the strings of the curtain, trying to let down the
AT WEST POINT. 7 1
shade. Bohrer is the personification of awkwardness,
and on him no amount of " setting-up" ever took effect.
No word is spoken as the commandant gloweringly
watches his victim, for he is always storming at that boy,
and letting him have double the length of time at supper
to pay for it. At last his patience is exhausted. Like
the resonant roar of the " light twelve" his voice thun-
ders, " Boy !" and the hapless orderly dropping his work,
starts at the word, and faces the colonel. " Out with ye !"
And the youngster tumbles for the door.
Then Old Harry reviews us with a frowning gaze.
One after another, slowly and deliberately, he looks us
completely over, and we as solemnly look back at him.
Then, slowly and majestically, he rises to the full height
of his six feet four, and expands his powerful chest ; then
from the depths of his lungs, slow, measured, ominous,
detonating in rumbling basso profundo, we hear the
words, " Gentlemen, the crisis has come 1"
Well, nobody seems to be disturbed somehow ; all look
as though they expected it of course, but no one for a
moment ventures a remark. Meanwhile, sterner and
sterner the regards of our ponderous chief take us in.
At last, finding this sort of thing oppressive, one of our
number, a Kentuckian, who has small reverence for per-
sons and no sense of dramatic propriety, lapsing naturally
into the vernacular of the blue-grass country, cheerfully
pipes up, " Well, I s'pose you mean the nigger," and that
furnishes Old Harry with his cue. He well-nigh blazes
with pent-up consternation, but delivers his fire with
telling effect. The mere use of such a word as nigger
may cost a man his commission hereafter ; but, to boil
down the lecture to a point, we receive explicit instruc-
72 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
tions as to how those young gentlemen of color are to
be received, protected, and cherished, and by noon of
that day the pioneers of their race, two in number, are
safely lodged in an airy room in that portion of the cadet
barracks devoted to all new-comers, and the press of the
nation rings with the news that the colored cadet is a
Before they had been there ten days we had, as a
matter of course, an outrage. Up to that time there had
been no sign of turbulence among the cadets. There
was great curiosity on their part to see the new-comers,
but, thanks to their color, those two young aspirants were
not subjected to the tormenting system of initiation then,
and for years previous, in vogue at the Academy. As
they arrived the " plebes" were duly marked by vigilant
eyes from the barrack windows, and immediately after
breaking ranks after dinner that day, or certainly after
supper in the evening, those who had reported since the
previous day were surrounded by an eager knot of
" yearlings" and badgered with questions : " What's
your name, plebe ?" " What State do you represent ?"
" Ohio ?" " Great Scott ! fellows, look at this plebe ; says
he represents the State of Ohio." " Do you aspire to the
command of troops ?" " You do ? Jeewhillikins ! if here
isn't a plebe who aspires to the command of troops !
Look at him," " You don't ? Then what in blazes did
you come here for?" All very rough and reprehensible
sans doute, but leveling, sir, leveling, as all good dem-
ocrats would have the Academy of the nation.
The stern, Argus-eyed cadet corporals on duty over
the new cadets were overpoweri.ngly intolerant of the
faintest blunder the unsoldierly muscles of the novices
AT WEST POINT. 73
were sure to make, and wrathful commentaries were as
sure to follow ; but all this, and much more, the Africans
gazed at but took no part in. Few cadets seemed to take
more notice of them than a prolonged stare, and their
cadet instructors corrected their blunders in as few words
as possible, and strove to set them right without fuss of
It could not be said that they were ignored, for they
were the centres of attraction ; and so far as officers of
the tactical department were concerned, all were on the
qui vive to see that they were unmolested. The two
were a curious contrast : one a chuckling, bullet-headed
little darky from Mississippi, whose great eyes would
wander from object to object as though in search of
something to excuse the cachination for which his soul
was longing ; the other a tall, slim, loose-jointed, cadav-
erous party, with arms and legs of extraordinary length,
and an indescribable complexion, chalky-white, except
in spots where the tan struck through, and occasional
deeper blotches of brown ; little, beady, snake-like eyes,
high cheek-bones, and kinky hair. No. 2 was the per-
sonification of repulsive gloom, while little Mississippi
seemed looking everywhere for a chance for fun.
In those days the cadets all repaired to a room in the
barrack basement to have their shoes blacked, and some-
times just before parade or inspection the whole corps
would be swarming thither. One morning the new
cadets were crowded in there, the Africans among them,
and the first outrage upon the colored cadet was alleged
to have taken place.
According to the combined statements of the colored
gentlemen from South Carolina and Mississippi, the for-
74 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
mer acting as spokesman, the latter unhesitatingly cor-
roborating by eager nods and gestures, the circumstances
were substantially as follows : When it came their turn
to step upon the shoeblack's bench they had been
roughly hustled off, with much abusive language, by
their white classmates (no " old cadets" were present),
and upon their remonstrance and reassertion of their
rights to have their shoes blacked in their turn, they
had been seized by the throat, hurled against the wall,
and held there by certain young gentlemen, whose names
they gave, who at the time drew bowie- and large pocket-
knives, and threatened, with much frightful and profane
emphasis, to cut their hearts out, and then drove them
from the room.
The whole story looked plausible, if not probable.
New cadets were always examined on arrival, to see that
none had pistols or knives in their possession ; a system
that had been adopted of necessity in the days when the
chivalry " ran" the institution, and it was not exactly
credited that bowie-knives had been brandished ; but the
colored gentlemen were emphatic and reiterative, the
Mississippian going so far as to blurt out, " Yes, sah ;
an' — an' pistols, too — six-shooters,"
An instant investigation was ordered, and half an hour
from the time the outrage occurred three officers were
taking testimony in a barrack room.
Possibly because of the fact that he had been reared
in the faith of abolitionism, and had been taught the
crime and shame of slavery from babyhood ; possibly
because he represented a name that was identified with
the sending forth of the first colored troops raised in our
Northern land during the late Rebellion (the scene is
AT WEST POINT. 75
commemorated in the admirable painting at the Union
League in New York City), it fell to Mr. X.'s lot to be
the recorder of that investigation, and he entered upon
the duty with every conviction in his mind that the story
was true. It was just what he had been dreading, and
here was the time to take the stitch that might save nine
and prevent all future affairs by securing prompt punish-
ment of the first offenders.
First to be examined were the two complainants.
Hitherto they had simply backed up one another's ver-
sion of the affair ; now they appeared singly, South Caro-
lina leading, and very glibly and vindictively he gave his
testimony, and unflinchingly submitted to cross exami-
nation. He had done nothing whatever but simply
suffer the assault. Then came little chuckle-head from
Mississippi, and, deprived of the supporting presence of
his spotted associate, it became evident at once that he
was all afloat. Every time he told his story it differed in
important detail from his previous attempt. Mr. X.
argued that he was naturally excited and " flustered" by
the circumstances of the morning, and secured time for
his witness to " think over the matter for a while," though
the board of investigators very properly declined to
allow him to have a chance to compare notes with the
gentleman from South Carolina, so he was temporarily
relegated to a room by himself Meantime, the six new
cadets mentioned in the accusation as being prominent
in the outrage were examined one by one. Their stories
fitted together with exact nicety, nor had they had time
to concoct one. The instant after the affair took place
all the implicated parties were placed under surveillance.
Six or seven eye-witnesses to the transaction were then
yo TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
examined, and to a man the white cadets testified that
while there had been some elbowing and shoving be-
tween New Cadet and the gentleman from South
Carolina consequent upon a misunderstanding as to
whose turn it was, no other violence took place, hardly
a word was spoken, and there was no time for any out-
rage, as the South Carolinian loudly and excitedly called
to the Mississippian to follow him the instant he stepped
back or was shoved back from the bench, and together
they had hurried from the room, shouting, " Noiv we'll
see we get our rights," upon which the white cadets had
indulged in some laughter, doubtless derisive; but one
and all agreed that not a hand had been laid on the
colored boys, not a knife had been drawn, and beyond
the " Who are you shovin' ?" remarks naturally to be
expected under such circumstances, there had been no
bad language of any kind. Cross-examination failed to
shake their statements in the least.
Then the South Carolinian was recalled. This time
the whi|e portion of his skin looked ghastly, his beady
eyes flitted in quick furtive glances from one face to
another; he gave his version of the affair a third time,
stolidly, sullenly, as though he knew every word was
questioned and yet was bound to stick to it. He had
his lesson pretty well, but slipped on several minor
points in cross-examination. When the discrepancies
were pointed out to him, he bit his lip, apparently strove
to enlarge a knot-hole in the floor with the toe of his
boot, and muttered that that was all he knew about it ;
he declined to say any more. He was sent to his room
and the little Mississippian called in. He broke down at
the second question, hung his head, giggled, stammered.
AT WEST POINT. TJ
chuckled, experimented with his boot-toe on the same
knot-hole, and then threw up the sponge with an air of
Q. " Do you mean to say that your previous statement
was untrue ?"
A. " Ye— es, sah." (Chuckle.)
Q. " Then no knives were drawn ?"
A. " No, sah."
Q. " Then, did the cadets lay hands on you or Mr.
, or not ?"
A. " No, sah ; they didn't touch us."
Thereupon one of the investigating officers popped in
with this question : " In plain words, was or was not
your whole statement a deliberate lie ?"
Mr. X. informed the gentleman from Mississippi that
he need not answer that question, this was a mece pre-
liminary investigation to see whether or no further pro-
ceedings would be necessary ; but Chuckle-head was on
the stool of repentance and wanted to make a clean
breast of it. He unhesitatingly asseverated that he had
been lying ; that he and his associate had been put up to
the whole performance by letters from colored friends
and carpet-bag politicians, who told them to go ahead
with any story they liked and they would support them.
And so the bubble burst.
A few days more sufficed to close the academic career
of the little Mississippian. He was unable to pass the
preliminary examination for admission and dropped out,
but the South Carolinian started fairly. Liar or no liar,
the government was bound to give him a chance, and just
as though his soul were unspotted with guile his instruc-
tion began. For three long and eventful years the aca-
78 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
demic system was drained by the suppuration kept up by
this poisoned blade of the entering wedge with which
its enemies had hoped to render it asunder. Then the
foreign matter fell out through its own decay.
Of all the low, tricky, vindictive bipeds that walked
the earth, it would have been difficult for the " friends of
the movement" to have selected a specimen better quali-
fied to carry out their plans. Time and again he was
court-martialed for offenses for which a white cadet
would have been sent out neck and crop ; but though
found guilty and sentenced to dismissal, and though the
high authorities at Washington were compelled to admit
the absolute justice of the findings and sentence, and to
stamp them with their approval, yet was the whole gov-
ernment of the United States so committed to this polit-
ical e;^periment that the Secretary of War was compelled
to announce in general orders that " the policy of the
administration could not admit of the dismissal of this
cadet at the present time" (or words to that effect), and
directed his restoration to duty. The darky felt his
importance, and acted accordingly. He would vent his
hatred on the old cadets (who ignored him) by kicking
their shins as he marched behind them in ranks, — a pro-
ceeding they could not resent at the time, and reporting
him did no good ; he would deny or excuse it on the plea
of accident ; it was useless to court-martial, and if other
means were resorted to — well, here's what followed :
Sitting in his office as the battalion came marching
back from supper one winter's evening, Mr. X. noticed
some stir and disorder in Company " A" as it broke
ranks; a moment later the colored cadet rushed into his
presence all excitement.
AT WEST POINT. 79
" Mr. X., I claim your protection. I am in fear of my
Mr. X. assures the claimant that no harm shall come
to him, and requests further explanation. The darky
states that on breaking ranks he had been violently
assaulted by Cadet Dillard (let us say), pursued to his
room, and there beaten and abused until he made his
escape and flew to the officer in charge for succor.
Mr. X. sends an orderly for Cadet Dillard, who
promptly appears, — a tall, soldierly Kentuckian. " You
are accused of having assaulted Cadet on breaking
ranks. What have you to say ?"
" It is true, sir. I'm sorry, but I could not help it.
He was kicking me all the way from the mess-hall. He
had done it time and again, and at last I lost my temper.
He ran as we broke ranks, and I was foolish and furious
enough to follow and cuff his ears for him. He isn't
hurt, sir, half as much as I am." (That was evident, as
Dillard limped, and hadn't a mark.)
" Very well, Mr. Dillard ; go to your quarters in ar-
rest." And the Kentuckian, humiliated in the very
presence of his tormentor (Mr. X. uses the word ad-
visedly), faces about, and goes direct to his enforced
confinement. The feeling gained ground among the
cadets at that time that the institution was run solely in
the interest of the colored man, and that Mr. X. was a
" nigger worshiper."
A year before this occurrence, in making his inspec-
tion of the cadets' mess-hall at dinner-time, Mr. X.
noticed that there was no " commandant of table" among
the cadets seated with the gentleman from South Caro-
lina. " Where is Mr. Hayden ?" (let us call hhn) asked
80 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Mr. X. of the cadet corporal at the end of the table.
The young fellow looked embarrassed, and replied that
he thought he was somewhere in the mess-hall.
The " commandant of table" was a cadet lieutenant of
Company " A," that to which the colored cadet belonged,
and it was the duty of this young officer to preserve
order at his table, and to see that all cadets were satis-
factorily supplied with the rations to which they were
equally entitled. Some recent newspaper articles had
asserted that the new colored cadet was starved, de-
liberately deprived of food and drink, and so the " officers
in charge" were constantly hovering about his table to
see that nothing of this kind could happen. Only a few
days before, the new cadet squads had been broken up
and their members distributed among the company tables.
In a few moments Mr. X. came upon Cadet Lieutenant
Hayden seated at a table in another part of the hall, and
ordered him to go at once to his own place.
" Mr. X.," says the cadet, respectfully, but in evident
excitement, " I saw the superintendent yesterday, and Jic
promised me that this matter should be settled, so that I
wotdd not have to sit ivith the colored cadet."
Probably Cadet Hayden so understood the superin-
tendent, but it made no difference in the final result.
Mr. X. reported the dereliction of duty to the command-
ant of cadets, and that night at parade the cadet lieutenant
was shorn of his sword, plume, sash, and gold lace, and
returned to the ranks side by side with the colored
gentleman near whom he had declined to sit and eat.
Now, Mr. X. liked that cadet; furthermore, Mr. X.
liked some young ladies who also liked that cadet, and
of course, when this affair took place, there were several
AT WEST POINT. 8 1
highly- cultivated dames and damsels of very good Repub-
lican parentage or connections who looked askance at
Mr. X. from that time forth as a man who wanted to
make " their Hayd" sit and eat with a low negro.
Many a good laugh have we had when roughing it
together on the Yellowstone (Hayden and X. being the
we in question), for, whatever may have been the disgust
of his friends, H. was too good a soldier not to know
that it was purely a matter of duty on X.'s part.
These incidents are mentioned merely as specimens of
the efforts made to enforce the rights of this pioneer of
the colored race at the Academy. That Mr. X. was
thrown more constantly into disagreeable relations with
somebody or other in consequence of the principle in-
volved was simply characteristic of the ill luck which
pursued him. He it was who most frequently unearthed
such lapses of discipline and, reporting them, secured the
punishment of the cadet and the undying hatred of that
Such letters as used to come in those days ! Ku-
Kluxism was then in its heyday in the South, and the
vile, misspelled, profane, obscene, and abusive epistles
that were constantly received by the commandant, and
frequently by Mr. X., the gentle reader would not care to
see in print. We laughed at those bristling fulminations
from the land of cane and cotton ; but every now and
then came letters from men of education, — gentlemen
who propounded a series of questions, — who wanted to
know whether we did not think we were teaching that
darky to believe himself a heaven-born superior. Would
we really introduce him to our own wives and sisters?
Admitting his political rights, was it wise in the govern-
82 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
ment to seek to educate the negro to a position of com-
mand ? etc., etc. All traps to " draw us out."
It was easy enough to answer and say that officers at
the Academy were not there to decide whether the action
of the government was wise or not, and that so long
as their official relations towards the cadets, white or
colored, were those prescribed by law and regulations,
their personal opinions were of no earthly consequence
to any one.
But swarms of people kept coming to the Point and
poking their noses into everybody's affairs, on the general
plea of interesting themselves in the welfare of that
colored cadet. Reporters were buzzing about the post
incessantly, but their feats of impudence and mendacity
would require a volume. Next to them in rank as nui-
sances came the strong-minded women, and the American
editions of the genus Stiggins, who claimed to represent
the Methodist or Baptist faith. Somehow or other Mr.
X. was incessantly detailed to meet and receive these
gentry, the members of the Press, Sorosis, and the Pulpit,
and an awful life they led him. There was no matter
beneath their notice, — there was no subject into which
they did not pry. The Academy was at their mercy
now, for under cover of the interest which all American
citizens were supposed to be taking in the colored cadet,
these harpies of modern civilization swooped down upon
the post, and even the personal homes of the officers'
families were invaded by them in their hungry curiosity,
" It is the property of the nation, sir," as one ponderous
divine remarked, "and the public demands accurate
information as to its internal management."
Mr. X. tried to be polite to the reporters, — some of
AT WEST POINT. 83
them deserved it too, — and generally, after showing them
over the post, as he was directed by his superiors, he
offered them the refreshments of the mess. One day he
had three of them in tow, and was as civil as could be to
each and all. Three days after, the superintendent sent
for him, and proceeded to read the following extracts :
" Through the courtesy of the efficient superintendent. General ,
your commissioner was escorted around the post, taken to the cadet bar-
racks, and very hospitably entertained by Lieutenant X., a young officer
of marked intelligence and ability, who seemed eager to open every
avenue of information, and who promptly answered all inquiry bearing
upon the much-vexed question of the colored cadet. Subsequently,
Lieutenant X. introduced us to a number of officers stationed at the
Point, and it was impossible not to recognize the courtesy of manner
which distinguished them, and the utter freedom from that hauteur and
snobbishness which has been alleged to be their characteristic."
" Now, that's all very well, Mr. X.," said the chief;
" but now look here ; this is what the Moon says :"
" The superintendent somewhat gruffly turned us over to the tender
mercies of a beardless stripling, whom he introduced as Lieutenant X., and
who lost no time in impressing your reporter with the fact that to strut and
swagger in a tight-fitting uniform was about the extent of the information
he had acquired in a four years' schooling at the nation's expense. This
pigmy second lieutenant professed to believe that the colored cadet had
been fairly treated by the officers, but was unable to point to any circum-
stance as sustaining his argument ; and finding it impossible to extract
any useful information from such a source, your reporter desisted. . . .
" Subsequently, and doubtless with the hope of securing the favor-
able notice of the Moon, your reporter was escorted to the officers' club-
room, where a party of consequential young dandies, without an
unmortgaged dollar in their pockets, were regaling themselves with
brandy-smashes and thirty-cent Partagas. No wonder justice is not to be
obtained for the scholars chosen by the voice of the people to represent
them at the nation's academy, when its instructors are selected from so
vapid, empty-headed, and bigoted a class of young snobs."
84 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" What did you do to offend the Moon man, Mr. X. ? I
thought you had sense enough to be civil to these d — d
nuisances," says the superintendent.
Mr. X. says he does not know ; the three of them were
together, and he treated them exactly alike. " Better
send somebody else around with the next batch," he
Two days after, the Moon man comes up again, and X.
and others refuse to recognize him, whereupon a brother
journalist volunteers this explanation : " We are not
responsible for these things ; what we come here for is
simply the facts in the case, then when we get back we
color them tip zvliiclicver way we are told!' So much for
Of the swarm of visitors then attracted to the Academy,
it may be said that they were guided by the Press as to
the objects of interest to be seen at West Point. Monu-
ments, trophies, battle-flags, the pictures, the library and
museum, the lovely scenery, were passed over with dis-
paraging comment and blase indifference, — a new order
of things obtained ; and as a result of constant obser-
vation, Mr. X. is able to state that among all the parties
whom it was his delight and privilege to show around
the Point, nine out of ten would eagerly desire to see,
first, the colored cadet ; second, Fred Grant ; after that,
anything as it came along.
This tendency on the part of our visitors gave rise to
some harmless pleasantries on the part of their military
cicerones. Cadet Hayden, aforementioned, whose dark
complexion rendered plausible coloring to the deception,
was not infrequently pointed out by his comrades as the
genuine colored cadet, and Fred Grant and the colored
AT WEST POINT. 85
gentleman were made to do duty for one another a dozen
times. " You see," explained Lieutenant Wag, of the
engineers, " this is so thoroughly democratic an institu-
tion that one cadet is just as good as another, and I
really know very few of them apart." To allay all
possibility of acrimonious criticism on the part of
avowedly strong levelers of any distinction between
races, it was found a safe and soothing expedient to point
out the commanding officer at parade, or else the drum-
major, when the customary inquiry came for the colored
cadet. People who could actually go away and say they
had seen the despised African in positions of absolute
prominence and command were always glad to do so,
provided neither themselves nor their remotest relations
were among his supposed subordinates.
One rainy morning Mr. X. was putting the first class-
men, whose graduation was near at hand, through a
lively exercise in the riding-hall. Bareback and with
stirrups crossed the cadets were leaping their horses over
hurdles, and slashing at leather heads with their sabres,
to the nervous admiration of numerous visitors in the
gallery. Then the seniors withdrew, and the second
classmen appeared, and they, too, performed various feats
in equitation, to the delight of the lookers-on. At the
close of the second drill, as Mr. X. was leaving the hall,
he was accosted by the spokesman of a large party
of what appeared to be students of some theological
seminary. The spokesman was tall, pompous, gray-
bearded, and impressive. " Sir," said he, while he pointed
his cane square at his victim, and his satellites, male and
female, listened in wrapt attention, — " sir, permit me to
detain you one moment. I observed that the colored
86 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
cadet was not among your pupils this morning. At what
time does he receive his instruction in horsemanship?"
" Not at all as yet ; he is only a fourth class "
" I thought as much : I said as much," broke in the
spokesman, while his flock admiringly held their breath
and watched the demolition of the victim with all apparent
delight. "You exclude this young man from participa-
tion in equestrianism, as you do from other rights too
numerous to mention, simply on account of his color;
and yet, I suppose you consider that you are doing your
duty as an instructor at the Military Academy," etc.
Mr, X. was allowed no opportunity to explain that not
until their second year at the Academy were any cadets
instructed in riding. The ecclesiastic had the floor, and
did not propose to yield it until he had exhausted the
subject. Life and temper were both too fleeting to stay
and listen. Mr. X. beat a retreat.
But now we come to another and very different source
of tribulation. Mr. X. approaches the subject with all
diffidence, if indeed that diffidence do not fall short of
absolute timidity. In all the time he was on duty at the
Academy, in all the varied experiences there encountered,
there was one trial in face of which superintendent, com-
mandant, the academic staff, and the tactical department
shrank in common, — the ambitious mamma of an only
son, that son being a cadet.
Time was when the fact of being the only son of a
widowed mother was valid ground for exemption from
military duty, and, in the light of events herein chronicled,
Mr. X. declares it to be his conviction that at the Mili-
tary Academy it should constitute absolute ground of
AT WEST POINT. 8/
In nine cases out of ten that solitary chicken of the
fussy old hen has been petted, spoiled, and pampered
from babyhood. His digestion has been ruined by the
sweets and lollipops demanded by his infantile majesty
and all too readily accorded by his over-indulgent parent ;
his frame is feeble and puny, because his boyhood has
been passed on the periphery described, with the maternal
apron-string as a radius ; his temper and disposition are
querulous, exacting, and tyrannical. He has known no
rough schooling among boys of his age ; he has never
learned either independence or self-denial ; he has been
reared, the tender, sensitive plant, by his nurses and his
mother, whom he has alternately cajoled and bullied;
and yet just such a weakling as this sometimes takes a
notion into his head that he would like to go to West
Point and be a soldier. Doubtless there is a scene when
he announces this fact to mamma, but she has too long
been accustomed to yielding to Sammy's every whim,
and, after a few days of tears and entreaties, she suc-
cumbs. Such a mother is never without influence at
Washington. Pertinacity will accomplish as much there
as elsewhere, and in the days whereof we write every
year brought on two or three mother-escorted boys to
take their initiation. Generally the appointment was
wrung from a reluctant but powerless President. Be
that as it may, they were sure to arrive every June.
Other boys came sturdily alone, went at once to the
adjutant's office, reported, and were turned over to the
commandant of new cadets for drill ; but with Sammy
and his mamma it was different, and they, mind you, are
merely representatives of a class. They go to the hotel,
from which point madame dispatches a bell-boy with her
88 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
card to the superintendent and other officers, for, depend
upon it, she has come armed with letters of introduction
to half a score of them, and nothing will satisfy her but
that she may personally present her aspiring son to each
and every one. Nor will she permit him to " report"
until this ceremony has been effected. Then, when he
does go, she marches protectingly by his side, and, up to
the very moment when he is ushered into the cadet bar-
racks, never leaves him, and then only to return to the
hotel to plot and plan for his interests. Within twenty-
four hours she has succeeded in making the acquaintance
of every man and woman on the Point who can have the
faintest influence over Sammy's future career as a cadet.
She button-holes the commandant with long stories of
the heroic deeds of Sammy's ancestors, and of the
passion for a military life that beset him from earliest
boyhood. Somebody remarks that the boy looks pale
and feeble, and that the surgeons may reject him, where-
upon she descends upon those luckless " saw-bones"
(with letters), and besieges them individually and col-
lectively with dissertations upon Sammy's superb consti-
tution, — " never had a sick day in his life," and as for his
muscular development, why, Doctor Hammond, whom
you must know, has always said it was marvelous in a
boy of his age, etc., etc. In the days of which we write
it was the custom to start the new cadets on their drill
as fast as they arrived ; the examinations came later, and
on the very next day after his reception at barracks
Sammy made his appearance in a brown linen jacket
three sizes too large for him, and a squad of lusty
youngsters, fresh from the farm, whose ruddy faces and
clear eyes only served to make his sallow complexion
AT WEST POINT. 89
look the more ghastly in comparison. Of course madame
was on hand, following every movement of that squad,
and the miseries of Sammy when undergoing the process
of " setting up" were too much for her. She seized upon
the officer in charge with voluble protestations. It was
a shame to require her boy to go through such gyrations ;
he had been drilled all his life ; he took all the prize
medals at Churchill's school, and the Seventh Regiment
used to send for him to come and teach their companies —
or squads, which was it ? it was hideous to make him
drill with those hobbledehoys ; he was perfectly com-
petent to take his place at once among the old cadets at
parade : pointing him out as he came awkwardly stum-
bling over the heels of his front-rank man marching down
to supper, and wondering that in the sallow, hollow-
cheeked, and hollow-chested lad no one seemed to detect
the latent martial heroism of which she so volubly assured
them. In one class there came three such boys with three
such mothers, and then there was a little relief, for they
soon grew to cordially hate one another, and that gave
them something else to talk about ; but 'tis of the repre-
sentative madame mere we are speaking now. The officer
who had been assigned the duty of superintending new
cadet squad drills began to dread the rapidly- recurring
hours for that exercise. She was sure to be there, to
" corral" him somewhere, to petition for Sammy's relief
from such unnecessary humiliation as to have to drill
with a lot of raw boys. Sammy plainly didn't like it,
and betvveen-times was to be seen wandering dismally
about the Point with his mamma, pouring his plaint into
her ready ears. Then she began to assail the commander
on the subject. It was in vain that official patiently
go TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
assured her that no cadet ever entered West Point, much
less was ever graduated, without having to go through
the same rigorous drill. She persisted that it was unne-
cessary with Sammy, — " he was the very best scholar
at Peachlawn Military Academy," though the fact was
patent to all who cared to look that the boy was slouchy,
stooping, and awkward in the last degree : he seemed to
have no elasticity whatever. Then madame declared
that his health was suffering from the cruelty and severity
of his cadet drill-master, and called attention to his own
pallor and the cadet's flushed countenance. The latter
was having by far the harder time of the two, for
" Sammy's" stupidity was ruining the appearances of
his squad and all chance for corporalship. Madame
desired to have her boy excused then on the ground of
ill health, and had well-nigh succeeded, when it was
whispered to her, malheiireiisemeiit, that this would lead
to his being declared physically disqualified when he
came up for examination before the surgeons. Realizing
that a false step had been made, madame eagerly sought
acquaintance with the surgeons, and pumped them full
of information as to the vigor of that youngster's boy-
hood, explaining that he had never known a sick day
(though the poor fellow subsequently admitted he had
been well-nigh raised on medicines), and that his droop
and pallor were due entirely to mental distress at being
so ignominiously treated. Sammy got through after a
fashion ; was launched into the troublous sea of " plebe"
camp ; was soon recognized as an out-and-out " tender-
foot;" drills, guard, and "police" were too severe for
him. Once inside the lines, he was safe, and now madame
developed the fact that from babyhood something had
AT WEST POINT. 9 1
been the matter with his heart, or his lungs, — or was it
his liver ? Sammy's longest walks were to the hospital
to get excused : recognized by the other cadets as inva-
lided, he was let alone, and his heaviest burden was the
sick-book. Through his Plebe year he crawled in much
the same fashion, suffering from some mysterious malady
when it came his turn for guard duty, refusing the solid
fare of the mess-hall at supper, and requiring the more
dainty dishes to be had at " the Dutchman's." Sammy
was generally to be found there after evening parade, but
alone, — the only cadet in the battalion, probably, who
had the face to partake of Mrs. Renner's good cheer
without a sharing comrade. Both his examinations and
his examiners were superintended by madame, whose
tongue by this time was known and feared all over the
vicinity. Young officers whose misfortune it was to have
to instruct Sammy, and, as a consequence, to spur him at
times to make him keep pace with his comrades, began
to find themselves mysteriously losing ground in friend-
ships and in hitherto cordial relations with neighboring
families. Months or years after, in many cases, the ex-
planation was given : ** Well, I heard, from what I then
considered good authority, that you had said," etc., etc.
(needless to explain that there was a lady in tJiat case).
But madame was a ruthless enemy. Her motto was,
" Either for or against me," and the instructor or cadet
who was not in some way actively bolstering up the
nerveless ' cause of her nondescript was handled mer-
cilessly as woman's tongue and ingenuity could devise.
Why was it that Mr. X.'s company was the one of the
four into which these hen-governed striplings seemed to
fall ? Luck ; nothing but luck, of the worst kind. Were
92 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
he to live a thousand years he could never forget the
scene after parade the bright June evening when the cadet
officers' appointments were published, and Sammy's name
was not among them.
" Hell (hath) no fury like a woman scorned," unless it
was madame when some twenty young gentlemen of
Sammy's class were decorated with corporal's chevrons,
but none for Sammy. What made it worse was that
eight of the twenty had been chosen from Mr. X.'s com-
pany. Nearly all his " yearlings" had been appointed,
but not Sammy. For a year the boy had gone through
such duties as he could not get excused from, in a style
more dead than alive : he was always dismal, slow, and,
for a cadet, slovenly; always late at roll-calls, sleeping
through reveille, having contraband eatables in his room,
in his clothes-box, candle-box, or up the chimney ; his
belts were never trim and fresh, his accoutrements were
always dusty or shabby. With more clothes and far
more money than his companions, he never succeeded
in imitating their trim, soldierly, faultless dress and
carriage ; he was always blundering on drill, going half
asleep on parade, and twice narrowly escaped being
caught asleep on guard; yet the blessed mother-eye
could see naught but perfection, and rage was in her
heart and malice on her lips when she saw him unap-
" May I ask, sir, upon what principle you select your
corporals?" demanded she of the unhappy Mr. X., as
that young officer was vainly striving to dodge past her
at the hotel that evening. The halls were swarming
with people, and, as madame had already been ventilating
her opinions on the subject previous to his arrival, Mr.
AT WEST POINT. 93
X. found that a dozen or more maliciously delighted
listeners were gathered within ear-shot. " Perhaps," she
continued, not waiting for his reply,— " perhaps you
would have us understand that principle doesn't enter
into the matter at all." X. humbly protests that only
the superintendent has power to appoint, and that she
must appeal to that magnate for information; but the
device is too transparent. She knows well enough that
the recommendations of the company commanders are
the basis of selection, and goes on with her tirade. " It
is time the War Department was informed of the out-
rageous system of favoritism and partiality some officers
maintain here. I suppose you would have had your
colored protege made first corporal, — ha-ha-ha !" and
with a fine burst of derisive laughter she sweeps victori-
ous from the scerte.
" Well, X.," says the commandant, cheerily, next
morning, " I hear the panther clawed your eyes out last
night," and all the tactical department joins in the laugh
at the junior's expense. " All right, gentlemen, laugh
ahead," is the lugubrious response; "your turn will
But it did not seem to. Being the junior, Mr. X.
found that it fell to his lot to have unpleasant duties
thrust upon his shoulders which the seniors objected to,
and Sammy was not the only mamma's boy who was
handed over to his care. Sammy was enough of a trial,
however, — when taken in conjunction with the Panther,
— to eclipse all others. Once a third-class man, his
career of contemptuous disregard for regulations fairly
began. Lates, absences, dirty belts, boots, floors, etc.,
rapidly rolled up against him, and many a time did
94 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Mr. X. figure as reporting officer. " He is persecuting
my boy on every possible occasion," said the Panther to
the professors. " He is always sneaking around to catch
him at something, and reporting him on suspicion if he
cannot," was her way of putting it to the ladies. (Bless
their hearts ! they always told Mr. X. of it for fear she
would say it to him herself) " He prowls round the
barracks at midnight when gentlemen are asleep, just to
see if he cannot get an excuse to inspect Sammy's
room," was another allegation.
Night inspections of the cadets' rooms were required
once a week, at least, of the four company commanders,
the object being to see that the cadets were present, that
no lights were burning after ten o'clock, that no cooking
or " visiting" was going on. Great hands the cadets were
in those days at getting up contraband suppers in their
rooms, stewing oysters or " hash" over the gas, and spill-
ing the unlawful comestibles in greasy confusion on the
floors ; and of all such accomplishments Sammy was a
tireless exponent. There was more of it going on at all
times in his room than anywhere else. " He could not
bear the coarse food of the mess-hall," mamma explained,
" and needed the delicacies to which he had been accus-
tomed." So it often happened that Sammy was caught
in flagrante delictu and promptly demerited. There was
nothing vicious in it, per se, and other cadets caught in
the same way took their demerit marks and three or four
" punishment tours" without a murmur; but this Sammy
declined to do. Cadets in addition to their "demerits"
were awarded by the superintendent on the weekly
punishment list two, three, or four " extras," as they were
called, or a similar number of confinements. The " extra"
AT WEST POINT. 95
was a nuisance. On Saturday afternoons at two o'clock
all cadets awarded that punishment appeared equipped
and armed as sentinels, and each was assigned a post or
" beat" in the area of barracks, up and down which he
must silently walk until time for evening parade, — some-
times four hours. X. remembers to have seen as many
as sixty or seventy of the corps so disporting themselves
in the long spring afternoons, and, while few utterly
escaped them, there were some cadets who were always
there. When Sammy had tried two or three of these
and still had a dozen to " walk off," he decided that the
thing was an imposition. So mamma's services were
called into requisition. She was making her head-quar-
ters somewhere around New York just then, and took
to coming up on the noon train. Then Sammy would
get a permit excusing him from " extra" because of his
mother's sudden arrival, she having to go back in the
evening. This worked well for a fortnight, but between
times the youth was rolling up more of them, and the
commandant called the superintendent's attention to the
fact that while other cadets were serving out their pun-
ishments Sammy was getting off scot free ; so it was
ordered that when excused on Saturday he should walk
Sunday afternoon. This was an unchristian barbarity
that no mother could stand ; there were a number of
cadets whose array of punishment " kept them on" both
days, but the Panther was up in arms by first train and
interviewed the superintendent. That boy " had been
brought up in the shadow of the church, and should not
be forced to see his day of rest turned into a tread-mill,"
she argued; "he had always observed it as a holy day."
The superintendent grimly pointed to the record for
96 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
a Sunday within the month whereon Sammy, excused
from church by reason of headache, had worshiped and
glorified by tearing around the resounding halls of bar-
racks with two cavalry sabres, " hived" for the occasion,
clattering after him, and making the peaceful morning
hideous by rolling the policeman's iron buckets down the
iron stairways, to the great discomfiture of the " plebe"
sentinel on the lower floor. The Panther of course
declared this statement to be a malicious invention of
Mr. X.'s, — who was the reporting officer, — but the evi-
dence was against her. She left in some discomfiture,
but in no wise conquered. Then we heard of her in
Washington, and pretty soon Sunday extras were stopped ;
but the superintendent substituted two confinements for
each extra. A cadet confined for punishment was com-
pelled to remain in his room from 2 p.m. until first drum
for parade on Saturdays or Sundays. All Sammy's Sun-
day extras being converted into confinements, placed him
on the list of victims for months to come, with a number
of Saturday punishments still to walk off and " more
a-coming." Finding it impossible to get excused before-
hand from these Saturday tribulations any longer, Sammy
resorted to another dodge. He would take his post at
two o'clock, walk till 2.30, then call for the corporal of
the guard for relief, and present himself pale and depressed
to the officer in charge for permission to go to the hos-
pital and get excused as too ill to stand it. After a few
successes, this game was blocked by the order that a
cadet should not be considered as having served his
punishment tour unless he " walked off" the allotted
number of hours.
Spring came, and mamma with it, to stay a while. A
AT WEST POINT. 97
room had been set apart next the commandant's office,
in which relations of cadets could see them during study-
hours for ten minutes, or so, on making their wishes
known to the " officer in charge," and on Saturdays and
Sundays cadets on extra or confinement were allowed to
meet relations when the latter arrived, but were limited
to fifteen minutes.
One balmy Saturday late in April, Mr. X., being officer
in charge, had disposed his skirmish-line of extra men
in the area, and was in conversation with Captain San-
ford, when the latter, glancing out of the window towards
the sally-port, exclaimed, " Great Scott ! X., you're in for
it, — here comes the Panther. Good-by, old fellow : take
care of yourself," and was off like a shot. Another
minute, and the orderly ushered in madame, majestic,
formidable, basket-laden. " I wish to see my son ; the
superintendent has deigned to grant his permission, sir,"
was her only remark to Mr. X., who could not escape,
but now went to give the necessary orders for Sammy's
temporary release. When the fifteen minutes were up it
was necessary to send a messenger to remind the youth
that orders were orders. X. knew that if he did it there
would be the devil to pay, but his instructions were
explicit. Sammy went ruefully back to his post, and
madame whisked her heavy silks past the cap-raising
officer in charge with no more notice than a glare ; but
didn't she haul his unhappy name in the mire for all time
It was Sammy's last extra, though. Madame never
left the Point until she had succeeded in persuading the
surgeons that her boy's health absolutely demanded his
release from such punishment : so they advised that his
^ g 9
98 TRIAI.S OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
extras be changed to confinements, and they were. Then
she sailed in to prove that he was suffering for lack of
exercise, and that he must not be confined to his room
in the afternoons ; but the authorities held that if he
needed exercise he ought not to be so constantly excused
from drills as he was, on plea of headache, and the con-
finements stuck. Then madame left us again for a brief
spell, — we knew not whither she had gone, — but May
was then with us. Sammy and his classmates were wild
with excitement over the near approach of the long-
expected ten weeks' furlough to which those who had
behaved themselves would be entitled after the June
examination, and we prayed that she might not return
meantime. But she did, and in a hurry too.
One night Sammy was missing. An inspection at
1 1 P.M. revealed the fact that he was not in his room, nor
did his room-mate know where he was. According to
regulations, the cadet officer of the day was routed out
and ordered to " inspect for him every half-hour." This
young officer in the performance of this duty was com-
pelled to sit up all night, and was swearing mad when,
just before reveille, Mr. Sammy sauntered into the area
"Where the mischief have you been, Sam? Don't
you know you're ' hived absent' ? Here I've been after
you ever since taps."
Sammy turns white, for he knows that he is in for a
scrape this time. It means dismissal, unless he can say
he was not off cadet limits. That morning at nine o'clock
the cadet adjutant was seen to leave the commandant's
office, go to his own quarters, and presently reappear in
his full uniform, with plume, sash, and sword. Every
AT WEST POINT. _ 99
cadet in the corps knew what that meant : somebody to
be placed in arrest. The adjutant made a bee-Hne for
" C" Company's quarters. His sword was heard clinking
against the iron stairs up to the third floor, a door opened
and closed, then the sword came clinking down again.
The erect cadet figure stalked back to the first division,
and when Bentz's bugle summoned the sections to form
for second recitation at 9.30, the whole battalion knew
that Sammy was caged.
Next morning the commandant was summoned over
to the superintendent's office. In ten minutes he returned
to his quartette of assistants. " Well, gentlemen, Mrs.
has come, and, X., you've got to go and see her.
She's waiting for yoiL at the liotel"
" Was there a man dismayed ?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and "
X. often wondered what his sensations would be when
ordered to charge a battery. He thinks it a bagatelle to
such duty as was assigned him, and so sought to tem-
porize. Hadn't he been thrust into this particular im-
minent deadly breach as often as was his due ? Wasn't
it some one else's turn ? " Perhaps so," says the command-
ant, " but, you see, she got Sammy's telegram yesterday,
— she has just arrived, too much prostrated, she says, to
come to the superintendent, and he won't go. In fact —
hang it ! X. — the boy's in your company, and you've got
to go and explain the matter to her."
100 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
X. goes on his mission with sinking heart. Half-way
up to the hotel he catches sight of the prostrated lady
marching up and down the piazza. As he enters the
inclosure she faces him and halts [liorresco referens ! I see
her yet) : his face is pale with dismay, hers with pent-up
wrath. A crowd of curious visitors is idling about the
porticoes, and madame sweeps forward like a Meg Mer-
rilies in black. " Good-morning, Mrs. ," falters poor
X. " Good morning, sir, indeed ! What have yoii done
to my boy T'
Ah well ! Years have rolled by since then, and no
especial pleasure is to be derived from this reminiscence.
Mr. X. decides to dismiss it with the brief conclusion
that, odd as it may appear to those who have worn the
cadet gray, our Sammy escaped without court-martial.
Nothing could exceed the energy, vim, and final success
of that indomitable woman. For three days and nights
she flew back and forth between the Point and Wash-
ington. Then it transpired that Sammy had been guilty
of no unavoidable breach of discipline, — the poor boy
had been suffering from an attack of palpitation, or pa-
ralysis, or something of the heart. The night was hot
and sultry, not a breath of air stirring, and so, unable to
sleep in barracks, " he had wandered out on the plain
and spent a wretched night in pacing to and fro," all of
which with much earnestness and volubility madame had
repeated again and again to every one in authority, and
with telling effect. Sam wrote an explanation setting
forth that he had not been off "cadet limits," but vouch-
safed no further remark ; all that was left to mamma.
Some comment was excited by the fact that he had not
gone to the hospital, his invariable resort at such, and
AT WEST POINT. 10 1
many other, times, as also by the spontaneous reply of
the cavalry sentinels when questioned the next day that
none of them had seen anything of any cadet on the
plain that night. But shortly after madame's arrival she
was informed of this statement of the sentinels, and
within ten hours Privates Kelly and Mulligan remem-
bered that as they were coming home on pass, about
midnight, they saw a cadet leaning against a tree over
near the flag-staff, apparently sick, and McFadden, of the
second relief, come to think of it, saw a young feller in
the old mortar-battery sitting there two hours nearly.
The case was decided in Washington before it was fairly
opened at the Point, and, unless it was Mr. X., nobody
suffered. Indeed, as the Panther fiercely assured the
denizens of the Academy, " The thing never would have
occurred at all if it hadn't been for that horrid little
martinet," which every mother, except one, accepted,
doubtless, as gospel truth.
As Mr. X. previously remarked, madame was only the
type of a class. We had many very like her, though
not quite so bad. Sammy's mother was the acknowl-
edged leader of the lot, and she was the terror of the post.
The mere announcement of her arrival at the hotel was
sometimes sufficient to cause the superintendent to take
to his bed, and the post-surgeon to betake himself to
New York, for the latter was a martyr to her intermina-
ble harangues about that delicate chest, or throat, or
something or other with which her bantling was afflicted,
and by reason of which he should be excused from duty.
Once the junior doctor had the temerity to suggest that
as Sammy was, according to her account, such a physi-
cal wreck, it would be impossible for the medical board
102 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
to " pass" him on his graduation ; but it was the most
unhappy remark " Squills" ever ventured, for he had
bearded a lioness in her den, yea, even in the defense of
her sickly cub, and ere long his life was made a burden
to him, and his reputation, personally and professionally,
began mysteriously to run down-hill.
Thackeray makes old Major Pendennis hold to the
creed of never trusting, above all, never offending a
woman, and Mr. X. strove in solemn earnest not to
offend this one, but all to no purpose ; he was a repre-
sentative of the tyrannical and outrageous system by
which Sammy was brought to punishment, and so — fell
under the ban. It would be useless to describe here the
ingenuity with which she pursued him, or the scrapes in
which he became involved. Years have elapsed since
then, Requies<^^3'^' in pace.
Soon after our pioneer African's admission to the
Academy a change had taken place in the position of
commandant of cadets. Our genial old Harry, after five
years of valuable service, had been relieved, and the
summer of 1870 brought with it the new incumbent. We
were in camp when he arrived, and he was soon domi-
ciled in our midst, as much at home as though he had
been among us for a year. Professionally, and by name,
he was known to every soldier, regular or State guards-
man, throughout the United States. Personally, he had
but slight acquaintance with the officers of the tactical
department, only the senior and junior having ever met
him before. Mr. X. is well aware that now he diverges
far from the original channel of these articles, and that
what follows is in no way appropriate to the title, but,
writing of West Point in and after 1870, he can think of
AT WEST POINT. I03
nothing without thinking of Upton, and, thinking of him,
it is hard not to write.
It was in 1866 that X. first knew him : the general was
then at West Point busy with the preparation of his first
system of tactics, and X., a young enthusiast on such
subjects, hving close to him in the " officers' angle" of
barracks, was accustomed to spend many an hour listen-
ing to the exposition of his plans. He had not known
the general a week before the conviction dawned upon
him that Upton possessed three characteristics to an
almost abnormal extent, — frankness, nervous energy,
and tireless application. The close acquaintance and
friendship that followed years afterwards served only to
strengthen that conviction. He came to us in deep
mourning in 1870; the recent death of his dearly-loved
wife had thrown a pall over his life and hope, but it was
evident that he had determined so to environ himself
with incessant occupation as to crush out any possibility
of morbid mourning. He was even gentler, more sub-
dued in manner than when X. knew him four years
before, and though the winning smile was rarer by far, it
was none the less kindly and genial when it came. Up-
ton's smile was something that in all these long years
of separation X. has never forgotten. His eyes were
fully as much involved as the firm mouth under its heavy
moustache; indeed, Upton's eyes were more indicative
of his mood than the mouth, for that was almost hidden.
The first thing the corps of cadets discovered with
reference to Upton was that he was desperately in earnest.
He detected a certain element of " slouchiness" among
the upper class men, and set to work to crush it out.
X. well remembers the horror and indignation with
104 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
which certain first class men received the order to attend
" setting-up" drill until they could learn to carry them-
selves erect. Some begged permission to remonstrate
with their new commandant, but they might as well have
talked to the statue of Sedgwick. In ten days the corps
had settled down to the dismal realization that here was
a man over whom they " couldn't come it" in the least.
X. had served under and known several commandants,
but none like Upton. He was by long odds the strictest
and most exacting. He was the firmest in his convic-
tions and the most immovable in his decisions. Once
determined on a certain move he would carry it through,
even at times when he knew that, had he to do it over
again, his course would have been different. He was
never disheartened, never out of patience, and X. never
saw him out of temper. Being in mourning that first
summer, the general rarely went anywhere, and spent his
evenings in camp. It so happened that X. too was
something of a hermit then, and in this way they were
thrown together; acquaintance ripened into friendship,
and that continued until the rude disruption at the hand
of death that came this spring. X. turns sadly enough
to his huge scrap-book, wherein grouped together are a
number of letters, some of this very year, in the utterly
indescribable chirography of the general, — Rufus Choate
hardly wrote a hand more unpicturesque, — and there too
is a heavy envelope bearing his superscription and ad-
dressed to the Presidio, across which are the simple
words, "Too late." All last winter (i 880-81) we had
been in correspondence about the revision, — the revision
that now will never trouble him more.
After camp was over and Mr. X. with the battalion
AT WEST POINT. I05
moved into barracks, the general filled his house with
company, relatives of his wife and their friends, and so
it happened that he was often compelled to give up his
own room. Many and many a night in the winter of
1870 and 1871 has he appeared at X.'s rooms in the
angle, where his bed was always ready for him. That
was his harbor of refuge when crowded out by his own
hospitality ; and here it was that the friendship ripened
almost into intimacy. The first night he came was but
the pattern of all that followed. We talked for half
an hour or so, then Upton quietly arose, took from his
breast-pocket a small Bible, seated himself near the lamp
and read in silence awhile, and then when ready for bed
he knelt in prayer, and continued on his knees a long
time. In all the nights he spent with X. this was never
neglected, for Upton was as fervent and earnest in his
faith as he was in every detail of his duty.
The corps did not like him. Cadets seldom do like an
officer who is thorough in the performance of his duty.
The graceless young scamps dubbed him " the Christian
soldier," as though there were a possibility of reproach
in the combination of terms, and taxed their brains to
invent doggerel rhymes at his expense, which they sang
when they thought he could hear them and not detect
the singers ; but of all this buffoonery Upton was to all
appearance serenely unconscious, no word or sign ever
betrayed that he even heard the words. There were
certain cadet traditions and customs that had existed in
his day, and in 1870 still obtained in the corps, against
which he declared vigorous war, and thereby intensified
the feeling against him among the cadets. They could
not but respect him, he was so fair, square, and utterly
I06 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
impartial, but they disliked him all the same for his re-
lentless discipline, Upton knew this perfectly well, and
never made the faintest change or concession to alter the
sentiment He was as strong and independent a man as
ever lived, and, whether among the cadets or his officers,
unswerving in the enforcement of regulations.
There was only one point in his mental armor that did
not seem absolutely impervious. Allusion has been made
to the fact that he ordered all cadets, from first class men
down, who were not erect and soldierly in carriage to
attend setting-up drill, and Upton himself was not erect.
There was a decided roundness of back between the
shoulders that gave him almost the appearance of being
stoop-shouldered, a fact quickly seized upon and exag-
gerated by the cadets. In those days he was thin and
spare, and his face, deeply lined and seamed, was soldierly
in the last degree, but the moment he rose to his feet the
defect in his back and shoulders became apparent, and
he knew it. On horseback it was worse yet. Upton was
what is called a loose rider ; he used one of the huge
saddles, with schabraqiie and housings such as were
affected by the general officers during the late war, and
" rode over the pommel." Bending way forward as he
did, the stoop of the shoulders was exaggerated, and he
never appeared to so little advantage as when in the
saddle. Whether his wounds were the cause of this or
whether the defect was constitutional X, never knew, but
that Upton was conscious of it he feels convinced, be-
cause the general told him he knew it, and that the
general was sensitive about it he feels assured, because
the general spoke to him of it frequently.
Speaking of his wounds reminds X. that in the whole
AT WEST POINT. 10/
time he knew Upton he never once heard him allude to
them, and only once or twice did he ever mention his
service in the field. Once X. asked him about his cele-
brated charge at Spottsylvania on the loth of May, when
with twelve picked regiments he pierced the rebel centre
and captured the guns in his fi-ont. Said Upton, " Well,
that day I called up the officers and told them that from
the moment we started I wanted to hear not a word from
any one of them except ' forward ! forward !' " but Upton
never could be got to say what he thought of Mott's
failure to support him.
We had frequent visitors that summer ; lots of men of
our service came up, and occasionally they were officers
of about Upton's time as cadet. One incident, as illus-
trative of his modesty or indifference, X. will never
forget. The commandant's tent ^as a great place for
fighting battles o'er again, though he himself rarely, if
ever, could be induced to speak of his own. One day
six or eight of us were gathered there, and the floor was
held by one of those blatant gentlemen who, having
graduated before the war (and in this instance before
Upton), and having had just as good a chance as the
gallant band of ambitious young lieutenants who rose
to be generals, had preferred the safety, ease, and slow
promotion of mustering and disbursing duty, and whose
only brevet was for the farcical service of the " recruit-
ment of the armies of the United States."
For some reason or other gentlemen of this stamp
always found it necessary to talk more loudly about the
war and to be more savagely critical in their remarks
than the fellows who had been all through it, and also
there was a strong tendency on their part to disparage
I08 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
the services of the successful men, and attribute the pro-
motion over their heads of such soldiers as Mackenzie,
Upton, Merritt, Custer, Webb, and the like to political
influence. So Major was holding forth this day
about luck in the line, and the rest of us were sitting
around listening rather disgustedly, when he startled us
with this :
*' Well, now, Upton's another instance. Of course, I
don't mean to say but what you fought all right when
you got a chance, Upton, but you won't deny that there
were fellows who went through the whole war with
the regulars, stuck to their regiments or batteries, got
wounded time and again, and only got a brevet ; but here
you are a lieutenant-colonel and never got a scratch T
Considering the fact that Upton had been wounded
three times in three different engagements, he might have
been excused for a pointed reply, but he only smiled
quietly, as he sat writing at his desk, and said, " Well,
, there are lots of men who think just as you do
I've no doubt."
Where that colored cadet was concerned Upton did
even more than his whole duty. He considered that the
integrity of the Academy was involved in the experiment,
and was determined to see that the unprepossessing
South Carolinian had fair play. All through that long
academic year of 1870 and 1871 he was incessantly on
the alert, the faintest complaint of the darky led to
immediate and thorough investigation, even though pre-
vious experiences had established the fact that he was
an outrageous liar, and we, the commandant's assistants,
were held to a rigid accountability in all matters relating
to the gentleman of color during our tours as officer in
AT WEST POINT. IO9
charge. One afternoon late in the fall of 1872, in speaking
of the matter, the general suddenly exclaimed, " Do you
know, X., I'm beginning to believe that the trouble with
that darky is that we've made altogether too much of
him ?" and therein the general had hit the nail upon the
And yet there was an occasion on which the gentle-
man from South Carolina had been roughly handled, and,
had it been allowed to leak out at the time, no doubt the
magniloquent press of the country would have expanded
the affair into the longed-for outrage, but it didn't leak
out. Mr. X. believes at this day that when the thing
happened only three persons were cognizant of the facts
in the case: ist, the colored cadet himself; 2d, an ad-
mirable and most efficient officer then on duty at the
A^cademy; and, 3d, Mr. X. The first named never saw
fit to allude to it, probably because he had the deep
sagacity to know that here at least he could not, even by
implication, charge the assault upon a' cadet, and because
the facts in the case would hold him up to deserved scorn
and derision ; and as for the two officers, the first may or
may not have mentioned it to other friends besides Mr.
X., but not until long after did the latter speak of it to
It happened in this way. One bitter night in February,
1 87 1, when the thermometer was away below zero, the
sudden alarm of the long roll from the guard-house
tumbled the battalion of cadets out of their beds and
into their ever-ready " reveilles."* Those members of
* A term given by cadets to the old uniforms and loose easy shoes
into which they jump just in time for the early morning roll-call.
no TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" B" and " C " companies living on the third and fourth
floors found themselves almost suffocated by a thick
stifling smoke, and Mr. X., tearing down the iron stairs
six at a leap, found the area of barracks a broad sheet of
light, and the whole " Dialectic" Hall in the very middle
of the barracks a mass of flames. We had the old Phila-
delphia double-decker out in a few seconds and a stream
into the south window, while the Cadet Hook and Ladder
Company ran its light scaling-ladders from the roof of
the barrack porch to the windows above and brought
down the young fellows who could not make their way
through the smoke ; none too soon either, for in three
minutes the flames were raging along right and left
through the fourth story, and eating their way with in-
credible fury and rapidity over the entire length of the
barracks. That was a dismal night. Dozens of the
corps had escaped with only the clothing they could
seize at the moment : all were soon coated with ice.
Every man had his appropriate duties to perform, either
on the brakes of the hand-engines, manning the hose
lines of the steamers, or the ladders, or bucket lines ; few
had gloves, many only their shell-jackets, but all along
until broad daylight those plucky boys toiled unflinch-
ingly; wet, frozen, scorched, smoke-blinded by turns,
every man was at his post, and the chief engineer of the
department as then organized at West Point smiled
grimly, as he stood with Upton directing the streams in
the glare of the flames at the angle, when the general
said, " Who wouldn't be proud of the corps of cadets
if he could see them to-night ?"
And yet there was a shirk. With the exception of
certain picked men who belonged to the " crack" hose
AT WEST POINT. Ill
company, then commanded by Cadet Captain Wetmore,
and including among its pipe-men such adventurous
spirits as " Tony" Rucker, Davenport, and Birney, all the
"A" company cadets belonged to the hand-engine, and
had worked manfully at the brakes until the freezing of
the valves had rendered their machine useless, when
their first sergeant called them off, and their officers
formed them into bucket lines up the halls of barracks.
Then it was that the word began to be passed, " Where's
the nigger?" No other cadet was missing, — he was
known to be safe, for he lived on the ground-floor, and
early in the fight had been seen completely equipped in
overcoat, arctics, gloves, and even ear-mufflers, a marked
contrast to the majority of his white comrades, who,
having turned out in the first things they could lay their
hands on, seemed to scorn any addition until they had
that fire under control. It was about two o'clock when
the alarm sounded, and from that time until somewhere
about five not a soul had seen him. The chief engineer,
moving from point to point, noting the work of his men
and " verifying their presence," called upon the soldierly
cadet captain of Company " A" for his report. " Every
man present, sir, and at his post except the n — except
Mr. Smith,"was the reply, and then it seems that the chief
muttered something uncomplimentary to the African,
and went off about his business. But another officer
hearing of the matter, and being a fellow who could
stand no nonsense, bethought himself of the fact that
not fifty yards away lay the gymnasium, cozily warmed
by steam and softly saw-dusted as to its floor. He said
nothing, but repaired thither at once ; the door was closed
but unlocked ; he opened it and quietly entered. All was
IL2 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
dark and still save where a faint hissing in a far corner
indicated the location of the steam-coil, and to that
corner he groped his way, stumbled over something
curled up close to the heater, bent down and lifted that
something gently but firmly by the ear, calmly escorted
that something (by the same means) to the door, and
then with one vigorous kick vis a tergo sent the colored
cadet flying out into the area of barracks, and for once,
anyhow, justice was done the pioneer of his race at the
military academy of the nation.
In the light of the intense satisfaction he derived from
hearing of this incident the Radical Republican, Mr. X.,
forgot that there were such things as tribulations for
officers at West Point. He may not have related the
outrage just as it occurred, but as he remembers it after
this lapse of years, and with its recital gladly brings this
paper to a close.
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. II3
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT TO THE
The riot alarm struck just at 8.45 as Mr. X. was
trudging his way down to the armory. Late as mid-
night there had been a conference. The mayor, the
sheriff, the governor of the State, the general manager
of the biggest railway of the Northwest, the adjutant-
general of the State, — one of the finest soldiers it has
ever been Mr. X.'s lot to be associated with, and of
whom he wrote in a previous paper, — and finally Mr. X.
himself The governor knew and had reason to know
that the civil authorities could not control the situation.
The mayor and the sheriff — both Germans — thought
that they might control the mob by some native elo-
quence of their own. We — the governor, the adjutant-
general, and Mr. X., now a colonel and aide-de-camp on
the staff of the governor — had convictions to the con-
trary. We knew the civil authorities could 7tot control
the mob, and that nothing short of the sharp arm of the
National Guard would put an end to the lawlessness and
The mob — mostly Germans and Polanders — had swept
through the valley of the Menomonee, cleaning out the
railway shops, driving workmen from their benches,
threatening death to any man who dared to work after
their demand, " acht stimde" (eight hours), had been acted
upon by the employers — unless in their interest. The
114 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
great Allis works — the finest in the West — were closed
because the mob threatened the workmen, and the civil
authorities were powerless to protect them, and the
mammoth rolling-mills far down towards the South Point
were to be the next object of attack.
Out in the Menomonee Valley worse things prevailed.
There lay the great shops of the Milwaukee and St. Paul
Railway Company, every man driven from his bench, the
round-house, the machine-shops, the repair-shops, with
a thousand plucky employes ; yet, having no organiza-
tion, no leader, no arms, they had been driven from their
places by a mob of frenzied Polanders and " low Ger-
mans," and the municipal authorities, with a reserve of
fifty police, and the county magnates, with the sheriff
and his posse coinitatiis, and the Teutonic eloquence of
the two combined could effect nothing. Neither one
would risk his political chances by declaring war against
the vagabonds that had already despoiled the city's fair
name. Neither dared to call in certain aid against the
German name ; both knew that, while at the outset the
strike was begun by honest but misguided workmen, in
less than twenty-four hours the strikers were re-enforced
by all the thugs, thieves, and blackguards that could be
found in a population of two hundred thousand, — mostly
foreigners, — and, above all, that they were now being
hourly incited by the furious speeches of avowed Anar-
chist leaders to proceed at once to the enforcement of
their demands by the application of the torch and their
own peculiar explosive, dynamite. It was known and
well known that the Anarchists had been drilling under
arms for weeks ahead, and the mayor himself knew, five
days before the great parade, under the red flag, of the
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. II5
2d of May, that every pawnbroker's or second-hand
shop in town had been gutted of its arms.
Knowing well the evil elements in the population,
strenuous efforts had been made for some time before-
hand by our adjutant- general to get the National Guard
into shape for business. We had three pretty good
regiments in the State and one battalion of infantry of
four companies in the metropolis. But a crack troop of
cavalry and a light battery manned by an admirably-
drilled complement of cannoneers, all dashing young
Americans, were our local main-stays. Of course we
were balked by demagogue politicians in the Legislature,
and the governor himself was for a long time reluctant
to believe that there was any necessity for this prepara-
tion. He showed the stuff he was made of, however,
one night at a convention of the officers of the National
Guard, when Mr. X. had inflicted upon them a long
lecture on riot duty. No sooner had the lecturer finished
than up rose the commander-in-chief Six feet three in
his stockings, with a head and mane and beard like a
gray lion, massive and impressive, the biggest man of
the hundreds in the senate chamber.
" Gentlemen," he shouted, " I want to say one thing
right now. Colonel X. is all right except in just one
point, — in his instructions and warnings about the way
you receive orders from mayors and marshals and
sheriffs. Don't you worry about that! Whenever the
time comes for you to tackle a mob in this State, I'll be
thar as quick as you can, and you'll get yoiw orders from
The applause that greeted the chief was deafening ;
but could we have looked ahead a brace of years and
Il6 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
seen how superbly that stalwart promise was to be re-
deemed, the dome of the capitol would not have stood
However, as the spring of 'S6 wore on, the adjutant-
general at the capital and Mr. X. in the metropolis were
in almost daily communication.
The latter was advised to keep constant watch on the
situation, and the days were rare when he was not riding
through the very large districts occupied by the Po-
landers and the socialistic Germans, and sending his
conclusions to his superior. The detectives willingly
told him all they knew, but the chief of police (a Ger-
man of most kindly and affable character, who had
recently stepped into the position with no knowledge
whatever of police or detective work and no aptitude for
either, but simply because the mayor, a German, wanted
a German in that place) deprecated all rumors of threat-
ening meetings among the Germans, and as the governor
had, among his political advisers and henchmen at the
capital, several Germans (and one of the lowest of low
Germans) on his staff, it seemed impossible for the
adjutant-general to induce him even to order the ammuni-
tion so desperately needed at the metropolis. (We had
not three rounds per man of rifle, carbine, or pistol am-
munition. As for the battery, they had neither shell nor
A shrewd politician was the old chief He did not
mean to let any man brand him as an intimidator; but,
just at the fag end of April, he concluded to drop in
and take a look for himself, and what he saw and
heard seemed to bring about instantaneous change.
He whisked back to the capital and wired at once to
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 11/
Rock Island for ball cartridge enough to clean out a
corps d'armee — provided they hit. Even then, however,
he did not mean to show his teeth. Mr. X. got orders
to meet the first instalment at the station as the train
came in, and there, with some stout drays in readiness,
that officer received several innocent-looking dry-goods
boxes, variously inscribed " overcoats/' " blankets," etc.,
but the draymen wondered at the marvelous weight. In
an hour more the veteran quartermaster-sergeant of the
" Light Horse," with the assistance of one man, had
knocked those boxes to flinders and lugged their con-
tents down into the vaults of the armory, — and only
three men knew that thirty thousand rounds were ready.
On Sunday, May 2, with red flags innumerable, the
Anarchists, Socialists, and — sorry day for them that ever
they took up with such company — thousands of Knights
of Labor, made their big parade. At the fine stone armory
of the Light Horse, — which they built themselves, as
the State declined to, — in the quarters of the troop and
of that gallant Irish company, " The Sheridan Guard,"
a couple of dozen quiet men in civilian dress looked
grimly from the windows, making no reply to occasional
demonstrations of hatred and defiance from the proces-
sion. No disturbance occurred; no one interfered with
the picnic; but the next morning the riot burst forth
with the rising sun all over the manufacturing districts,
and in twelve hours our fair city was in the hands of a
howling mob, with a German mayor, a German sheriff,
a German chief of police, whose force was largely made
up of Germans, and all of whom owed their positions to
the preponderance of German voters, as our sole legal
barrier against anarchy and ruin.
Il8 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
At eight o'clock that night Mr. X. was drilling the bat-
tery in the use of small arms with which to defend their
wooden armory, far up-town and close to the " Polack"
settlements (shell and canister still they had none), and
at ten he received a dispatch to report at once to the
governor, who was hastening in by special train.
It was about midnight that the conference aforemen-
tioned was going on. The governor was eager to take
hold at once, but could not unless the local authorities
begged his aid, and this, after much "palaver," they
finally declined to do.
It was about i a.m., therefore, that the general manager,
whose shops, round-houses, etc., had all been cleaned out,
and whose elevators, rolling-stock, etc., were now threat-
ened, called in his division superintendent.
" Then it is understood, gentlemen, that we can have
no further protection than you have given us thus far?"
The mayor and sheriff began to explain that they
looked for better things on the morrow, but finally ad-
mitted that no further force was to be used.
" That ends it, then." And he turned to his assistant:
" Give orders to close up everything, Mr, Collins."
" Very good, Mr. Miller."
And so the conference ended.
All the same, we had our orders for the morrow. And
sure enough, about 8 o'clock a.m. the civic authorities
threw up the sponge and fled to the governor for aid, and
at 8.45 all over the city the fire-bells were clanging, as
aforesaid, the stirring riot alarm. X. made a quick run
for the armory and was getting into uniform in the
officers' room, while the troop was rapidly assembling in
the riding-hall and the Sheridans were darting up the
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. II9
Stairs to their quarters on the second floor. Then the
telephone in the office began its " R-r-r-r-r-r-ring," and
just then in came the chief and the adjutant-general.
The first news was that the " Polacks" were threatening
the battery armory. The guns were in danger, and be-
tween listening at the 'phone with one ear and to arriving
officers with the other, the governor's first order was to
have those guns run down here as quick as possible.
Mr. X. was put in command of the troop, battery, and
the infantry at the Central station. In forty minutes
every command in town was reported by wire as ready
for duty at its armory.
An orderly sent to the battery armory came back on
the run to say they couldn't move their guns because
they had no horses, and Mr. X. was in saddle in short
order and trotting northward with a few troopers to
"stir them up." It was a quick case of " man the pole,
splinter bar, and wheels." Then the guns were in the
street and rolling leisurely down-town, a small guard was
left with carbines and abundant ammunition, and, with
cannoneers somewhat blown and vastly astonished, those
guns were soon parked in the big riding-hall. Mean-
time, the Fourth Battalion, under its German major, had
rapidly assembled and been whirled off by special train
to " Bay View," where a great mob was already gathering
about the rolling-mills; a knot of excited citizens were
clattering around the governor; an expert " telephonist"
was at the instrument rapidly transmitting messages to
and from the chief or adjutant-general. Every company
of the First Infantry, as far out as Darlington on the line
of the Southern branch of the railway, fully one hundred
and fifty miles, had reported ready and only waiting for
120 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
the cars ; some were already en route. We knew that by
3.30 we would be re-enforced by at least four companies,
with others coming close on their heels ; but meantime
said the excited citizens, what was to become of the AUis
works, the stove-works, the great flour-mills, the mag-
nificent elevators, and, above all, the breweries? Mobs
were gathering around each and every one, so declared
each new arrival, and X. and his cavalry were kept on the
jump whisking around town and exploding these canards.
There wasn't a mob at any one of these points that a
platoon couldn't have larruped. But at one of the great
German gardens there w^j a throng, — half honest arbeiter,
half " toughs," — listening to blood-curdling harangues
from their leaders, and these fellows we reconnoitred from
time to time, while solid ranks of police stood near the
Down at Bay View the battalion — very badly handled —
had been drawn within the gates by a species of march
by the flank in single file through a crowd that followed
them with imprecations and brickbats and nearly over-
whelmed the rearmost company, which was composed,
oddly enough, mainly of Polanders, but of a better class.
A dozen panicky shots were fired which seemed to set
everybody to running, and our expert at the telephone
was kept dancing and shouting at the instrument for a full
half-hour, when suddenly the thing joined the strikers
and refused to work.
" Our line's cut, sir, between here and the Central,"
was the quick report.
" Run up another, and be lively," said the chief.
Then came the order for Mr. X. and the cavalry to
speed forth again, this time to tackle a gang at the rail-
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 121
way depot, where they- were gathered with the evident
idea of making it lively for the in-coming troops. We
found them ugly, blasphemous, and obscene, but not
dangerous. The first platoon cleared the needed space
in ten seconds without firing a shot or delivering a whack
with the sabre. The other three formed facing outward,
so that we had a big, clear rectangle three hundred yards
long, and here in fifteen minutes formed the arriving
infantry and a mysterious little four-wheeled wagon.
" Verdamptes mitrailleuse r exclaimed one of the scowlers
on the sidewalk. We were off for the armory in a
moment more, covering the broad streets from curb to
curb, but the mob did not follow with so much as a
Except a brief disagreement between a battalion of the
First Infantry and an overwhelming gang that had driven
the police " galley west," nothing of consequence occurred
in town that afternoon or evening. Fast as the troops
arrived they were sent to important points, — one little
detachment out to the railway shops ; a stronger one,
four companies, to the Allis works ; others to re-enforce
Mr. X. at the Central station, which, said the police, the
rioters meant to attack in force and rescue the ringleaders
and rioters " run in" during the day.
But the main anxiety was about Bay View as the late
hours of the evening came round.
Whatever the German major might think, he had two
or three timorous parties on his staff who were perpetually
wailing over the telephone that their position was most
hazardous ; the mob was all around them in heavy force ;
burning freight-cars, etc. Couldn't more troops be sent?
The governor learned by ten at night that furious
122 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
meetings had been held in various resorts on the South
Side, and that a genuine uprising had taken place among
the Poles, who, in response to the rabid harangues of
their leaders, resolved to march in full numbers on the
following morning, strip the insolent militia of their arms,
and drive them into the lake. As a consequence, two
American companies appeared on the right of the bat-
talion line, making six in all, when the vast mob, waving
the flags of anarchy and of some socialistic society over
their heads, came thronging into view on the morning of
the 4th of May.
Meantime, the governor, over the telephone, had had
brief converse with the commander. We were, indeed,
" getting our orders from him," and they were brief and
" If that mob marches on you in the morning, open fire,
sir, and drive 'em back."
It so happened that Mr. X. was in the office the next
morning when the worn-out orderly at the telephone
suddenly called for the governor.
" Message from Bay View, sir. The mob's advancing."
The chief sprang to the instrument and sung out,
" Hullo ! Hey ? That you, major ? What do you say ?
They're coming, are they ? Then give it to 'em ! Fire
at once !"
And with one volley the back-bone of local anarchy
There was tremendous uproar and excitement that day
in our city. The mobs were everywhere, but the main
body was gathered at their big garden on the West Side.
Mr. X. had only the troop and two companies of infantry
with him when at two o'clock the police telephoned that
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 1 23
they were completely overwhelmed at that point ; that
they were being fired on and driven, and they wanted
" all the help that could be sent them."
" Now, I want this thing stopped for good and all,"
said the chief. " Here, X., take the Light Horse and
what infantry you have and wind it up."
In fifteen minutes we were there. The Light Horse
pulled the police out of the hole they were in ; the
infantry silently and sternly drove back the howling gang
until we had all the space we needed and complete com-
mand of the position. The mob fell back a block away
in every direction. Some stones were thrown, but none
reached us. Then we got up the patrol wagons, made
sudden* dashes into the mob, gathered in man after man
until we had the carts crammed three deep with cowed
or cursing " toughs," but never a move was made to
rescue them. Never another stone was thrown. Every
time a platoon of horse started up either street, away
would go the crowd full tilt ; the big garden had not an
occupant, and we had not had to pull trigger once.
Finally the little command rode back through streets
crammed with rioters an hour before and brought its
cart-loads of " toughs" to the police station. That night
in Chicago was the tragedy of the dynamite bomb in
Haymarket with the slaughter of so many brave men,
but when we got back from the garden we had the local
leaders and the orators behind the bars, and our mob
had played its last card.
All the same, the guard had to be kept up. The
governor left for his hotel ; the adjutant-general was sud-
denly called to the capitol, and Mr. X. was left suprem.e
at head-quarters, and was ass enough to tell the worn-out
124 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
telephonist he might go until morning. Not until this
eventful night did he learn the real character of the tele-
phone as an adjunct to military operations. He had had
no sleep for thirty-six hours, and meant to get it now.
Guards, sentries, pickets, and patrols were all provided
for. The captain of the Light Horse moved in with
him, and on a couple of cots they stretched themselves,
boots, spurs, and all. Then it began, —
Up jumps Mr. X. and seizes the "ear trumpet."
" Hello !"
" Oh — all right. That's you, X. How're you all
getting on ?" comes back in the sonorous voice of the
" All serene. Every man asleep except the guard."
" Well. A report has just come to me that Caldwell's
command out at the car-shops "
Plkt. Whr-r-r-r-r-r !
And the governor's firm tones are suddenly replaced
by a shrill, distant, high-pitched feminine communi-
"An' I just told her that I wouldn't stand it from her
or any other "
Mr. X. grasps the crank with indignant hand :
A voice, sweet and placid — feminine of course — re-
" Ye— es ? What is it, Armory ?"
" I was just receiving a very important message from
the governor and was cut off in the midst of it."
" From whom ?" still sweetly.
" From the governor."
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 1 2$
" Ye — es ? What governor ?"
" Why, good Gbeg your pardon — the governor of the
State, Governor R . Find him right off."
" Where was he ?"
" Don't know. Try the hotel."
" Who shall I say wants him ?" sweeter yet.
" Colonel X., at the armory."
" W/ia( at the armory?"
"No matter!" (vehemently). "Just tell him the
armory only got part of his message. I'll stay right
Presently the same sweet, placid voice, —
" All right, here's the governor."
Next, explosively, " And if you allow such a thing to
occur again you'll never hear the last of it."
Mr. X. (aghast). — " Why, what in blazes has gone
wrong, governor ?"
" Good Lord ! That you, X. ? Thought I was still
talking with those blankety idiots at the Central. Why,
they've cut me off three times to-night in the midst of
important matter "
" Well, — pardon me, — but there's no telling how soon
they'll do it again. What were you saying about Cald-
" Great Scott ! Didn't you get that ? Why, I directed
you to "
"Armory! Armory! Are you through yet?" It's
the sweet voice at the Central.
" Through ! Not by a — (gulp) — good deal. Give me
the governor again."
Three minutes anxious waiting. Then, sweet as be-
126 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
"Armory, are you there? Oh! Well, the governor
isn't there any more. He's gone away !"
Mr. X. makes a jump for his sabre, and the stalwart
captain of the Light Horse tumbles out of his blanket
with the query, " What's wrong?"
" Don't know. You stay here in charge. I've got to
find the chief."
A cab whirls Mr. X. over to the hotel, and there he
finds the governor, beaming. He is surrounded by
prominent citizens congratulating him, and by reporters
taking notes. He comes forward at once to greet his
" Did you get my message ?"
" No, sir. It seemed impossible."
"Well, it's all right as it turned out. Some railway
people hurried in to tell me the mob were firing their
cars in the valley and that Caldwell was unable to pre-
vent it, but the manager had his own telephone, and
found out that there was nothing in it. The town's full
" Then, if there's nothing else, governor, I'll go back
to my post."
" All comfortable up there ?"
"Well, the men are, but I've a mind to take an ax
and demolish that infernal telephone. I apprehend we're
to have a lively night with it."
Back to the big armory. In the riding-hall and stables
seventy horses, in the troop quarters sixty-five men, and
in the battery-rooms as many; in the drill-hall and
company-rooms nearly three hundred infantry, all peace-
fully resting from their labors. In the head-quarters
office, the liveliest monologue, interspersed, like the
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 1 27
conversation of old Mexican War Patten, with vivid
blasphemy. It is the stalwart leader of the Light Horse
who holds the floor — and the telephone.
" Here, take this thing !" he says, as X. enters.
" Damned if I don't believe the Central has swapped
with the lunatic asylum to-night. — Hey ? What did
you ask ?" And again he addresses the conscienceless
instrument. Pause, while Mr. X. throws off his sabre
and gauntlets. " No ! But you can just tell the man-
ager that if we are cut off again to-night while important
messages are coming or going, I'll be hanged if we don't
send a guard over there and take possession ourselves.
Now give us Bay View again. Here's Colonel X."
" What's wrong at Bay View, captain ?" asks X., as
he takes his station at the instrument.
" Why, they report firing. I couldn't make out where ;
and right in the midst of it some d — d newspaper chips
in to know if we've got one of their reporters here as a
prisoner. I had just time to say I'd find out right off,
and if we had we'd hang him, when they were switched
off and the commander at the Allis works asked if we had
any information of a mob's coming that way and "
" Hold on a moment," says X. " What is it, Central?"
" Oh ! I beg pardon," the sweet voice again : " I
thought this was the armory. Never mind."
" It is the armory," yells X., in desperation. " I've
just got back."
But the sole reply is a distant " Whr-r-r-r-r-r-r —
R-r-r-r-r-ring — r-ring — r-r-r-ing-ing, trolls the bell in
response to vigorous twirling, and presently — that in-
domitably sweet voice, —
128 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" Ye — es ? That you, Armory ? Thought you'd gone."
" Gone ? We can't go ! Now, for goodness' sake,
give me Bay View — quick !"
" Bay View ? Why they've been talking the last half-
hour, and finally got disgusted because you wouldn't
answer. I'll try what I can do."
A few moments' suspense ; then, " Yes. Here they
" Hello, Bay View ! What's the matter?"
"Why, Colotiel X., we've been trying to get you the
last twenty minutes. This is Major A., of the staff. The
outposts and sentries towards town report heavy firing
about the Allis works and "
Plkt! "Armory ! Here's somebody who must speak
with you at once." (The sweet voice again.)
" Drive ahead," says X., all a-quiver. " It's the Allis
works, no doubt, and they're attacked."
A shrill small voice : "Armory! Armory! Can't you
answer ? I've been trying to get you all night."
" Here we are ; but for Heaven's sake be quick."
" Well— who is this ?"
" Colonel X."
" Colonel who ?"
" Colonel X."
" Well, I don't know whether you're the gentleman
Mrs. Ferguson wanted to speak with or not. She's got
company now down in the parlor. I'll run and see. Just
you hold the line a "
''Hi! Central!" shouts X. "Shut off that gabbling
idiot and give me the Allis works — quick."
"Shut off whatr (sweetly). "Please speak a little
lower and stand just a little -farther back."
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. 1 29
" Oh, never mind. Ring up the Allis works at once."
Presently the Allis works.
" Major, is everything all right. Have you had any
" Nothing 'cept half a dozen toughs tried to set fire to
the fence. We rounded 'em up before they knew it.
Another two tried to disarm one of my sentries. He
knocked one of them silly with a ' butt to the front,' and
the other's lying here with a "
" Pardon me, but have you had an attack ? any firing —
any approach from a mob ?"
" No such luck ! I wish to goodness they would
Then for an hour brisk inquiries and answers to and
from the various detached posts, only to find that there
had been no firing, n6 aggressive move. Then midnight,
and the post-commander finds himself worn out.
" Central !" he calls.
" Ye — es," sweetly.
" We are about used up now. Please give positive
directions that except it be important military business
we are not rung up again to-night."
"Very well. I'm tired too, and go home in five
minutes ; but I'll see you are not disturbed. Good-
And then Mr. X., played out, with a sigh of mingled
weariness and relief, throws himself upon his bunk. The
big captain rises, takes his sabre, and says, —
" Hope to goodness you can get a little rest now. I'm
going out to look after my guards and outposts. Back
in half an hour."
One more message presently routs Mr. X. out again.
130 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
A high city official warns head-quarters that immense
crowds have attended all the " indignation meetings"
held throughout the city, and mean to assault the armory
in the morning to release their prisoners. " They have
" So have we — lots of it. Good-night."
Finally, drowsiness, oblivion — then, R-r-r-r-r-r-ing
. . . r-r-ring! Loud, urgent, imperative. One bound
takes Mr. X. to the telephone.
" Hello !"
" Oh, Armory ! I'm so glad to get you at last." (The
voice is feminine, but pleasant, motherly, benevolent.)
" I tried to get you several times this evening, but when
I could get the wire you were busy, and when you
responded I had visitors whom I could not well leave."
(Ah ! Mrs. Ferguson herself at last.) " I wanted to
inquire about Willy Simpson. His mother and I are old
friends, and she telephoned me to say she had to leave
town, and please to have a motherly eye over him in case
of injury or trouble."
" No man of that name in this command has been
Wounded or injured in any way, madame."
" You're sure of that, are you ? I couldn't go to bed
without knowing, and my friends have just left me — but,
who is this ?"
" Colonel X., madame."
" Oh, yes. Well, you know Willy, of course."
" I regret to say I do not — personally. What does he
belong to ?"
" Indeed, I'm not sure ; but its the military — the militia,
you know. If Captain S were there, perhaps he
THE TELEPHONE AS AN ADJUNCT. I3I
Enter at this instant Captain S from his tour of
inspection, and X. gladly hands over the case to him.
" What can I do for you, Mrs. Ferguson. This is
Captain S ," begins the one-sided colloquy.
" Willy Simpson, did you say ? No, I don't know him.
And you say you don't know what he belongs to ?"
" H'm ! Yes. We've got as many as five hundred.
There's the Light Horse, the battery, and about six
companies of infantry. I don't see how you could speak
with him to-night."
" Oh, yes ! He must be here ; but you wouldn't ask
me to wake every one of the five hundred up to inquire
if he was Willy Simpson ?"
" No, madame ; I'll do it in the morning, but I cannot
now. It is simply impossible."
" Very well, madame, good-night."
" See here, now, Central, that's enough of that sort of
thing for one night, — and don't you forget it !"
Then, with a comical grin on his tired face, the captain
turns to Mr. X.
" What do you suppose the blessed old lady routed
us out at this hour for?"
Mr. X. is at a loss to conjecture.
" She says she must write to ' Willy's' mother the first
thing in<the morning, and she wants to be able to tell her
that the pies she sent him were safely received."
132 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
It was in the spring of 1885 that Mr, X. was notified
by the adjutant-general of the State that, in addition to
his duties as aide-de-camp, he was named assistant in-
spector-general, and would be required to make the
inspections as prescribed by law that season. We were
still a " granger" State. The old militia laws were, many
of them, still in existence ; but, like the militia, hardly
in force. Our legislators were men deeply imbued with
the idea that these new organizations, springing up and
drilling assiduously, were nothing but revivals of the
old "ante-bellum'' target companies, whose sole object
was to parade the streets in swell uniforms, and have an
occasional ball or picnic. We had wrestled hard with
these Solons, and had striven to make them understand
that here in the Badger State we were endeavoring to
bring about the renaissance so thoroughly accomplished
in Pennsylvania and other commonwealths in the East.
We wanted to organize the Guard on a business basis ;
disband the show companies ; abolish the old swallow-
tailed coats; introduce uniform instruction and disci-
pline ; make the command, in short, available for duty.
But it was uphill work. Ours is a mixed community,
and the representatives of the people were, of course,
mixed in equal proportion, — so were their ideas. It
seemed impossible to get most of them to understand
the situation. " If the boys want to git uniforms and
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. 133
play soldiers let 'em pay for 'em, that's what I say. The
people ain't a-goin' to do it," said the member from
Koshtovvoc, as he banged the table with his fist and
looked triumphantly around upon his colleagues, sure
of support and applause.
That patient and diplomatic official, our adjutant-
general, explained, however, that the riots of 'j^ had
taught Pennsylvania the need of a disciplined State force.
Ohio had learned the bitter results of neglect in the
destruction of Cincinnati's court-house and records, with
lamentable bloodshed as an accompaniment. Chicago
had twice been at the mercy of her thugs and black-
guards, and had to call for regulars to help her out of
the mire. We did not want that said of our metropolis.
But the satirical Solon was not to be alarmed by
" modern instances." " I don't fear anything of that kind
here," he said. " The good sense of the people will
stand between us and harm. We have no rioters and
thugs." (Sixteen months afterwards our metropolis was
in the hands of a mob of anarchists, socialists, etc., and
the civil authorities begging for troops.) " If there's
any trouble here we'll just call out the old Grand Army
of the Republic boys. They'll settle it." And in so say-
ing the orator from Koshtowoc winked at his associates
on the committee and nodded to the note-taking reporter.
That remark was warranted to "make him solid with
the boys" in his district. And so our committee fell
back with distinct sense of defeat.
All the same, the adjutant-general was not the man to
give up. It was a holy cause ; and if we couldn't get
what we ought to have, we would do the best with the
means at hand.
134 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
At this time the authorized force of the State con-
sisted of thirty-four companies of infantry, a troop of
cavalry, and a battery of light artillery. The support
allowed them was three hundred dollars a year, each, for
armory rent, and five dollars per man for uniforms.
Three regiments were formed of ten companies each,
and in our city one battalion of four companies. The
law required each company to be inspected once a year
between the ist of May and the ist of November, at its
own station and in its own armory; and, with admirable
economic spirit, provided that the officer making the
inspection should receive no pay whatever, but might be
reimbursed by mileage for the necessary traveling ex-
Deeply interested as he had been in the troops of his
State in the days when he was big enough to be made
marker of the First Regiment, long before the war, Mr.
X. had read the newspaper accounts of these annual
inspections with unflagging zeal, and had high expecta-
It had been the custom for some years for different
staff-officers to inspect the commands nearest their
homes, and as many or most of these gentry were
selected because of some political " pull," and rarely
because of any knowledge or experience in the military
art, it is perhaps easy to account for the similarity be-
tween the journalistic accounts of these ordeals. One
will suffice for the lot. We quote from the Daily Re-
" MILITARY INSPECTION AND DRILL.
"Last night the Guards were formally inspected and reviewed by
General Blank, of the governor's staff. The company under Captain
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. 1 35
made a splendid appearance as it filed into the drill-room, and, as each
man answered ' here,' and brought his musket down with a bang when
the orderly called his name, every spectator felt a thrill of pride at their
" After the drill, which was executed with the precision of veterans,
the silent manual and the drum-tap movements being especially fine, the
general addressed the boys, highly complimenting them upon their disci-
pline and efficiency, and congratulating the citizens of our thriving town
upon having so admirable a band of defenders. Captain made an
appropriate reply, and Orderly called for three cheers for the gen-
eral, which were given with a will. Then, headed by Zimmerman's band,
the Guards marched to Tony Schlaeger's, where speeches, songs, and
foaming lager wound up an enjoyable evening.
" Confidentially, the general told our reporter that he had never seen
anywhere such precision in drill, and that the Guards could not be
excelled even by the famous Seventh Regiment of New York City."
When the general inspected the Rifles at Washabaw
the following evening, he appears to have been similarly
impressed by the sight of that fine command, so said the
Washabaiu Joicrnal. And so in like manner were the
various staff-officers, until the spring of '82, when we got
a war-horse for a governor and an energetic soldier for
Barring a possible, and most natural, leaning to the
Grand Army of the Republic, and an unflinching faith
that, with a squad of his old boys, armed with the old
gas-pipe of a muzzle-loader, he could clean out a whole
company of these new-fangled things, the Executive did
pretty well by his troops, and the adjutant-general did all
the inspecting that year and for a year or so later, he
being by law adjutant- and inspector-general of the State.
Then, having paved the way, he called in Mr. X., and
that officer began to work on the lines indicated, and
for the first time had an opportunity of visiting at their
136 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
quarters the Guards and Rifles and other commands of
whose efficiency the local press had spoken in such
There was a time, years before the war, when, with
broad white crossed belts, glittering breastplate, and low-
hung cartridge-box and bayonet scabbards, with high
bear-skin shakos, and the slow, stately movement of
Scott's tactics, the old swallow-tailed coat looked well ;
but to see a swallow-tailed coat with loose trousers, no
cross-belts, no tall shakos, nothing but a waist-belt and
a forage-cap, the thing seemed incongruous in the last
degree ; but that was the way Mr. X. found many of the
companies of the State when he made his rounds in 1885.
As luck would have it, one of the first companies
visited was the " Veteran Rifles," which had been pro-
nounced by General Blank, three years before, the equals
of the New York Seventh, and, quite possibly, had so
considered themselves ever since.
The captain met the new inspector with a fine flourish
at the door of the armory, and informed him that the
boys were ready whenever he chose to appear. The
inspector told the captain that he would like him to dis-
miss his company, and then let him see the first sergeant
form it and call the roll. Ranks being broken, the first
sergeant gave the command, " Fall in, Veteran Rifles !"
and the men took their places in rank, not without con-
siderable pushing and an infinite amount of looking
about, laughing, and talking. The file-closers made no
attempt to check this performance, the lieutenants fell in
with the file-closers, and the captain stood with folded
arms where he could look on, but in no way did he
interfere with the work of the omnipotent " orderly."
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. 137
That official stepped down the Hne, and not being satis-
fied with the positions of some of the men, took them
severally by the sleeves of their coats, dragged them out
of the column of files, towed them to some other point.
and squeezed them in. Finally, having the men placed
in accordance with his ideas, the first sergeant gave the
command, " Left face ; support arms. Attention to roll-
call." And the first name called was that of Captain
, next Lieutenant Brown, then Lieutenant Jones, and
each of these commissioned officers obediently and
promptly answered " here" at the beck of the first ser-
When the captain was requested to give his authority
afterwards for this somewhat unusual method, he replied
that they had always done it, and that nobody had ever
found fault with it, and it was considered the proper
After the inspection, which went off without any fur-
ther remarks on the part of the inspecting officer, who
preferred to see how things would go without any inter-
ference, the captain gave the command, " Rest;" and Mr.
X. proceeded to jot down in his note-book the number
of men not properly shaved, boots not blacked, dirty or
torn gloves, coats not buttoned, fancy neck-ties, jeweled
scarf-pins, and other unorthodox points which had at-
tracted his attention.
A reporter stepped up and blandly inquired what he
thought of the boys, and the inspector informed the
reporter that he could tell more about it when he got
through with them.
During the inspection several men, chewing tobacco,
were expectorating freely over the floor, and exchanging
138 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
remarks with their comrades in the line as to the ap-
pearance of certain of the spectators and the somewhat
unusual movements of the new colonel.
The captain was then directed to put his company-
through the manual of arms, part of which was very
prettily done. The firings were unique, especially the
loadings. Firing by company was certainly a simul-
taneous performance. Then the captain " ordered arms,"
and gave his men another rest.
" You have only given the firing by company, captain,"
said the inspector. " Let me see them fire by file."
" Well, colonel, that's something we've never prac-
ticed," said the captain. " There's nothing soldierly in
that ; there's no snap or unanimity in it, and it only
demoralizes the boys to give them things that they don't
do exactly together."
" Never mind, captain ; give the commands for firing
by file, and let's see what they will do."
But the captain didn't know how to give a command
for firing by file, neither could he give the commands for
the oblique firings, nor for firing kneeling, and, fortunately
for him, firing lying down was not demanded.
The movements of the company in columns of fours
and platoons were next required, and here it was found
that the captain, though possessing a fine and ringing
voice, was utterly independent of the tactics as to his
commands. They were a mixture of Scott, Casey, and
Knight Templar or broom-brigade tactics, Mr. X. couldn't
tell which, and finally he stopped the captain and told
him that that was very pretty so far as it went, but that
he would like to see some movements that would test the
knowledge of the company.
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. I 39
So long as the company was permitted to " gang its
ain gait" and put up an exhibition or " go-as-you-please"
drill, the movements were certainly so smoothly done that
the array of spectators applauded vigorously, and Captain
looked flushed with success despite the short-
comings in the firings. Presently the company executed
on right into line from column of fours in very pretty
style. Each set as it halted making a soul-stirring stamp
that reminded Mr. X. of the hussar " orderly" who de-
livered all the messages in " La Grande Duchesse de
Gerolstein." Then, with a simultaneous bang, arms were
brought to the order. The room shook with applause,
and the captain, mopping the perspiration from his
brow, triumphantly accosted the inspector with, " How's
Mr. X. thought it was all very pretty, but ventured to
inquire where the stamp was found in the pages of Upton.
The captain did not know, but considered it an improve-
ment on the tactics. " You don't object to our doing
anything better than the book, do you ?" he asked.
" No," said Mr. X. " But unluckily the President seems
to have a prejudice against it, and the Secretary of War —
two of them, in fact — prohibits any exercise or evolution
not embraced in the tactics."
" Well," answered the captain, " we haven't introduced
any ' exercise or evolution' in that stamp. It's pretty, and
it pleases the boys and catches the crowd, like the twelve
counts in load. It makes 'em take more pains with their
" All the same," responded Mr. X., " it should not be
done, simply because it isn't in the tactics."
" Well — but look here, colonel," responds the crack
140 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
drill-master of Pecatonica County. " I don't question
your authority in the least, and that stamp shall be
stopped, but, if you are going to prohibit our doing any-
thing on drill that is not affirmatively prescribed in the
tactics, how the mischief am I to get the men's heads up
again after rest on arms? Paragraph 91 don't provide
for it, and if we carry out that iron-clad rule we'd have
the whole company hanging their heads like so many
naughty boys, after they had come to the carry. How
can I get my lieutenants in front of their platoons when
I'm moving in double time, company front, and want to
The inspector fairly chuckles : " Captain , I'm de-
lighted to see you are so close a student of the tactics.
Don't ask me to supply their shortcomings, but stick as
close to the text as you can without being guilty of
manifest absurdities. Now, by the way, I notice that all
your movements have been by the right flank. It has
been fours right, right by platoons, on right into line,
right forward, fours right, etc. Now let me see some
movements the other way."
" Well, now, colonel, we never do that," said the
captain, with a laugh. " You see it kind o' breaks the
boys all up. You can 'get there' just as quick by the
right flank, and then they always know just what to
expect, and do it in handsome style."
" V^e\\, can you 'get there' just as quick? Suppose
I tell you to place your company ten yards to the left
and rear of its present position, and facing in the same
direction, how would you do it in the quickest way ?"
" Face it to the left. Then by the left flank, march,
halt, and about face," answered the captain, triumphantly.
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. I4I
" Well, that would certainly be one way of doing it ;
but I meant that you should utilize the sets of fours.
The tactics do not contemplate marching any distance
in a column of files. Men are almost sure to lose
" Mine don't ! They can march a mile lock-stepped
like so many convicts. Here ! I'll show you." And the
captain whipped out his sword and was about to call his
company to attention, but the inspector told him ocular
demonstration would be unnecessary on that point.
"Just execute these movements, captain;" and Mr. X,
jotted down on a card, " Fours left; then left front into
line. Fours right about ; then left forward, fours left.
On left into line. Left by platoons ; then form company
to the front."
The captain shook his head as he looked at the card.
" I'll try it, if you say so," he said; "but the boys will
think it's mighty queer."
Evidently they did, for in two minutes the Rifles were
tangled up in a hard knot and confusion was worse con-
founded. A little later, when the company was straight-
ened out and marching gallantly in column of fours
" right in front," the inexorable inspector told the captain
to form line to the right front. Obediently that officer
shouted, " Right front into line !" but, true to their years
of practice, the men obliqued to the left and came up on
the wrong flank.
" Try it again, sir," was the order ; and this time,
though with much hesitation and some disorder, the line
Up comes a prominent citizen, an old soldier, a gallant
war veteran who proudly wears his G.A.R. badge, and is
142 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
a local authority on all matters military. He has been
loudly condemning the captain's astonishing " break" to
a knot of crestfallen friends of that officer, and the re-
porter of the local paper is jotting down his words. A
young gentleman in the neat uniform of the State Uni-
versity battalion ventures to put in a word in the captain's
defense. " It is perfectly right according to tactics," he
says, " to form line to front either by right or left oblique."
"Bah! I never heard of such a thing! Any old
soldier will tell you that when the right is in front you
must come up on the left, and when left is in front you
come up on the right. Here ! I'll prove it by the
colonel," he says ; and a rest having been ordered in the
mean time, the old major comes up to prove his point,
and the crowd follows.
" I've just been telling these gentlemen the captain
made a big mistake in several of those orders. It was
his fault that there was confusion. The company tried
to do it right."
" No, major; the captain's orders were according to the
present tactics "
" But I learned my drill over twenty-five years ago. I
was in the regular army before I went in the volunteers,
and I knotv it's wrong."
Mr, X. has no time to explain that he, too, learned the
drill twenty-five years ago, and was in the regular army.
The veteran shouts his views for the benefit of his fellow-
citizens and then bursts indignantly through the crowd
and makes his way out of the building. It is his con-
viction, and doubtless that of the populace, that the in-
spector is an ignoramus who knows nothing whatever of
the tactics. Indeed, the reporter is all prepared to " show
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. I43
him up" in the local paper, but, luckily for the reputation
of that unfortunate officer, the editor himself is a looker-
on, and it occurs to him to make some inquiries and to
" search the scriptures military."
There is no parade to the music of Zimmerman's band,
no speech-making at Schlaeger's, no cheering the in-
spector. He leaves town to go to the next station, leaving
behind him a community impressed with the idea that he
has put their pet company in a very wrong light, and
knows nothing whatever of his business.
But next year the Rifles drill just as well by the left
as by the right flank. The men have found out there are
two ends to the company and that there is a heap more
to the tactics than was supposed. The inspector is re-
ceived without enthusiasm, of course, for the populace
maintains that he has just ruined the drill of that com-
pany. " They used to come to every motion of the load
exactly together. They could fix and unfix bayonets
just click, click, click — like that. It was ten times better
then than it is now, and they would stand no chance
whatever in a competitive drill."
Distinctly, then, in standing up for the abolition of all
the old militia ways, Mr. X. was undergoing the trials of
the reformer as well as one of those of the staff-officer.
Pretty much every company had some especial " fad"
which it had long cherished and was bound to protect at
all hazards. Most of them had a beautiful flag, — pre-
sented by the ladies, or voted at a fair, or won at a com-
petitive drill, — and they wanted to parade this flag at
inspection, color-guard and all, and could not cheerfully
acquiesce in the ruling that only on battalion formation
could colors be allowed, and then only one. Another
144 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
company turned out in white cravats, the bows tied out-
side the dress-coat, and swore they had " regular army
authority for it." O ye regulars ! How was it, what
hapless inspiration possessed ye, that no less than eight
officers of a gallant regiment should have had their
cabinet-sized photos taken — -each man in full uniform —
with a white cravat tied outside the coat ? Mr. X. recog-
nized the pictures, but refused to recognize the authority.
The officers of another company appeared in mounted
officers' helmet cords, and said the by-laws of the com-
pany authorized it ; others wore buff gauntlets on foot
duty. A favorite manoeuvre of some organizations was
to open files in column of fours and then at the command
" Knapsack rest!" carry the rifle horizontally at the back
of the neck, both hands holding it in that position. Of
course there were a dozen accurately and admirably
drilled companies, but it was uphill work to try and
eradicate all these and a thousand other " milish" pecu-
liarities from the others. The adjutant-general was
backing the inspector just as far as he could, however,
and knew far better than did Mr. X. the difficulties in the
way. Whenever the latter had occasion to " score" an
organization pretty heavily, its friends, especially if it
happened to be commanded by German officers, would
immediately rush to the governor and complain and even
threaten. " The boys won't stand it," they said, and it
was intimated pretty plainly that if the staff-officer was
allowed to find fault with the " Germanias" or the " Bis-
marck Guards" or the " Prinz Karl Rifles" the old
governor need look for no "votes" from their districts
if he came up for re-election, and that astute feeler of the
public pulse was not a little discomposed.
MILITIA INSPECTIONS. I45
Once, after an exhibition o^ almost total ignorance of
the tactics on part of the captain and lieutenants of one
of these commands, the inspector was cautioned by a
civil official to " be very careful what he said about that
company, Tkcy are all but three of them ," and the
official gave the name of the political party then in power.
Mr. X. said he could not see what that had to do with
the question of their efficiency or non-efficiency as State
troops, and the gentleman replied that while it should
have nothing to do with the question, it did have a great
Another officer, found to be grievously ignorant of the
tactics, excused himself, because his men " were working-
men and couldn't get around." Mr. X. pointed out that
the best-instructed company in the district, if not in the
State, was made up entirely of workingmen, and that in
any event that was no excuse for the captain's ignorance
of his own duties ;" but the reply was too much for the
" Well, you see it's this way, colonel : I'm so worried
all the time lest they should go wrong that I can't think
of my own commands."
Then what a time we had when getting rid of the tail
coat ! What a " kick" there was when first it was an-
nounced that new companies must adopt the uniform of
the regular service and nothing else, and old companies
would be required to provide themselves therewith as
soon as their original dress should be worn out ! Yet
when those neat, soldierly, dark-blue tunics with the
white pipings and facings appeared on guard and parade
in camp, the prejudice disappeared. Three and four
years ago the cry was that " they were trying to make us
G i 13
146 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
like regulars." Two yea*rs ago they themselves were
beginning to try to look like regulars, and could not fast
enough learn to carry themselves as befitted their new
dress. And finally, last year, in his report to the Secre-
tary of War, based on the observations of a most ac-
complished regular sent to observe the work of each
regiment in camp, the adjutant-general of the army was
able to incorporate these words : " I believe that the
Wisconsin National Guard will compare favorably with
any State troops in the country. The personnel of the
troops is excellent. The officers composing the staff of
the g9vernor " But spare our blushes. " Most of
the regimental field-officers also saw service in our late
war. The company officers are mostly young men, —
zealous, active, and efficient."
Last year when General Sherman rode along the line
of neatly-clad infantry, cavalry, and artillery, all in dark-
blue service dress, with only white helmets and white
gloves to break the sombre effect of the utter lack of
plume or tinsel, and saw among their officers men who
had followed him to Atlanta and the sea, he said they
looked for all the world " like business," and that has
been our end and aim for years past.
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. I47
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION.
We turn now from the inspections required of each
individual company by the State laws, and come to their
performance under canvas when assembled by battalion.
It was a long time before we could extract from our
legislators a sum for the purchase of sufficient tentage
for the encampment of a ten-company regiment; and
that it was finally obtained for the purposes of the Na-
tional Guard was an achievement made possible only, it
would seem, by the agreement that the tents should at
all other times be at the service of the omnipotent Grand
Army of the Republic. The reasons for this assertion
will appear later on. Camp equipage at last having been
obtained, — wall tents of excellent size and quality for
line officers and men, hospital tents for the field and staff,
— the next thing was to decide the matter of camp-
grounds. By this time the infantry had been organized
into three ten-company regiments and one battalion, the
regimental districts being mapped out with a view to
rapid mobilization, — the First Regiment along the south-
ern border of the State, the Second along the eastern
upper half, the Third the western upper half, and the
Fourth, a four-company battalion, being stationed in the
It was decided by the powers that were that, for the
time being, regiments should encamp within their dis-
tricts and on such tracts as could be found in the neigh-
148 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
borhood of the large towns or cities. The first year's
encampments were largely experimental, for Mr X.'s
share in them was confined to the practical instruction
of the cavalry troop, an unusually good one. But the
camps resulted in the retirement of one or two war vet-
erans who, it was only too evident, looked upon the
whole matter as a huge joke. The year following, at
the invitation of the adjutant-general, Mr. X. accom-
panied him on his rounds of the different camps for the
purpose of conveying such practical instruction as was
necessary, and before he had been at it an hour, the dis-
covery was made that a big job had been loaded on his
shoulders. Officers and non-commissioned officers, as
a rule, wanted to know how things should be done, and
were quite willing to learn, provided little time for prac-
tice was necessary. There were some, to be sure, who
came to camp perfect gluttons for work and instruction,
— could not get enough of it. Others, and rather a large
number, looked upon the thing in the light of a social
picnic, and wanted to spend hours in showing their
friends about the camp, or in visiting them at their homes
in town. And herein was encountered the first lesson.
The regimental officers were allowed to^select the
place of encampment, as has been said, from among the
towns and cities of their own district, and the choice
went, as a rule, to the " highest bidder." The State pro-
vided tents; but fuel, straw, board-floors, bedding, po-
licing camps, expenses of band, cooks, kitchens, etc.,
had all to be borne by the regiment. It was represented
to the towns-people that the presence of the regiment in
camp would draw a big crowd from the surrounding
country, and thereby boom the local markets. The
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. I49
bankers, brewers, " butchers, bakers, and candlestick-
makers" were therefore invited to contribute to an en-
campment fund, as a return for which the regiment agreed
to make a street parade on at least one day, and have
attractive military exercises going on in the camp at all
times. Whatever Mr. X. may have thought of this way
of conducting military operations, he had to make the
best of it, and work as well as he could with the tools in
hand. The first lesson was somewhat memorable. The
Third, a fine, large regiment, was in camp ; he had wit-
nessed the review and dress-parade, and then, at officers'
school, was called upon to point out the errors. The
general effect had been very good, but individual errors
had been many.
Seated in a semicircle around the colonel's tent were
now the officers of the regiment. Within the marquee
was the governor with a dozen prominent personages,
and fifteen to twenty deep around the officers was a dense
crowd of towns-people, rustics, and the rank and file of
the regiment, all good-naturedly and cheerily interested
in the coming proceedings. The adjutant-general briefly
explained what he had called upon Mr. X. to do, and
Mr. X., trying not to look aghast, inquired if it was ex-
pected that he should proceed to make his criticism of
the officers in the face of that great crowd, and was told
that there did not seem to be any way of getting rid of
them. He next asked the colonel commanding if school
couldn't adjourn to the space in rear of his tent, and four
or five sentries be sent to keep it clear. " Certainly it
can be, if you like ; but the crowd will come too, if that
is what you are thinking about. Go right ahead, colonel ;
sail right into them, right here ;" and, there being no
150 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
help for it, Mr. X. sailed in accordingly. The first thing
was to point out to the officers that most of them had
their swords on " wrong side before" at this moment,
the guard being to the rear instead of to the front, as it
should be with the three-ringed scabbard. Next, that
very few of them looked towards the reviewing officer
in passing ; then, that few had executed the first motion
of the " present" at the command, and that most of them
had saluted with the hand in tierce instead of quarte, as
prescribed by the tactics when they lowered their blade.
" Take my sword and show them how it should be done,"
requested the adjutant-general; and Mr. X. illustrated.
Now, many readers have doubtless been to see the
great cycloramas of Gettysburg, Mission Ridge, Atlanta,
Shiloh, Bull Run, etc., and have listened to the lecturer
when he made his explanation of the paintings. Their
luck has been better than that of Mr. X. if they have not
at least once or twice been compelled to hear sarcastic
interruptions on the part of some grizzled veteran with
watery eyes, weather-beaten nose, a Grand Army of the
Republic badge on his manly breast, and an expression
of profound contempt on his countenance. On no less
than three occasions has Mr. X. known the lecturer to be
compelled to cease his flow of eloquence and request
silence on the part of the veteran who was interrupting
him with remarks to the effect that " It was the Two
Hundred and Twentieth Illinois (or the Five Hundred
and Eleventh Pennsylvania) that took that battery ; it
wasn't the Two Hundred and Fiftieth New York at all.
I know it ; I was there ; I was the first man in that bat-
tery," etc. You have all heard the old saying of the
white horse and the red-headed girl. Mr. X. never goes
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. 151
to one of those lectures now without looking around for
the interrupter as soon as the lecturer begins. And so
with his own first practical lecture to the officers of the
Third Regiment. No sooner had he shown the position
of the sword in the salute than up spoke a grizzled vet-
eran in the crowd, " That ain't the way zue done it, by
thunder !" The crowd tittered, and the governor's be-
nevolent features relaxed into a broad smile (out West,
where the old-soldier element is far stronger in propor-
tion to population than in the East, it is always the safe
thing for the politician to laugh with the Grand Army of
the Republic-man). The colonel commanding looked
vexed, and undoubtedly he was thinking that this was
hardly the proper place in which to conduct an officers'
school, but, what was to be done ? He arose and said,
"The crowd will please keep order; Colonel X. is in-
structing these gentlemen in the proper handling of their
swords, and must not be interrupted."
"Let him do -it right, then," says a veteran in the
throng; "you can't teach me nothin', by thunder! I am
a man of war, I am. I have fought in sixteen pitched
battles. I ain't any damn play-soldier, either," etc.
The veteran unquestionably holds the fort. It's the
first audience, perhaps, he has had since the day he was
mustered out, and he does not propose to lose the occa-
sion. The crowd is with him ; so, evidently, is the com-
mander-in-chief. It's no use explaining to the three sur-
rounding counties that the tactics require the backs of
the hands to be down instead of up in the salute with
the sword ; if the tactics say so they are all wrong. The
veteran of sixteen pitched battles " knows a damn sight
better," as he says, and as he does not hesitate to say.
152 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
We got through with the officers' school that morning in
rather a fragmentary way, and it was the same thing in
teaching practically their various duties in the afternoon,
or when sounding the different calls for the drummers.
The crowd and the Grand Army of the Republic-man
swarmed over the camp and took full possession. There
was no use in " kicking against the pricks." Of course
Mr. X. could and did suggest to the colonel commanding
that the populace ought not to be allowed to roam all over
camp at all hours of the day, and that enlisted men should
be kept aloof from the officers' schools, but the people
didn't think so, and that settled it for the time being.
Before camp was over we had things in better shape.
There were hours when the officers could be assembled
in the rear of the colonel's tent and drilled practically in
all manner of points in which they needed instruction.
But during the first two or three years of our State en-
campments the colonels could not be brought to issue
and enforce the orders by which the camp and the
parade-grounds should be kept free from incursions on
the part of the populace. Of course the Grand Army of
the Republic-man was there in force on all occasions,
giving the crowd the benefit of his views as to the absurd-
ity of trying to make soldiers nowadays anyhow. " Me
and a half a dozen of the old boys could clean out this
whole outfit," would be his frequent assertion. Clamor-
ing aloud, too, to the colonel to show them how to " form
square" on battalion drill, and when civilly informed by
that officer that no such movement was known to modern
tactics, loudly proclaiming his contempt for a regiment
that didn't know how to form square. " Give me your
sword, and I'll show 'em how."
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. 1 53
Mr. X. used to ride around and watch all this, and
laugh until his sides were sore, but powerless, of course,
except by advice, to bring about a better state of things.
A year later, when vested with some authority in the
premises, he caused orders to be issued that no " out-
siders" should be allowed in the body of camp except
between parade and tattoo, and that enlisted men should
not appear in rear of their company officers' tents except
when summoned thither on duty. In this way we had
some order in camp, and a certain degree of privacy at
the officers' schools, but — at what a cost ! One day a
pompous old Teuton drove his buggy straight up to the
sentry's post and was going on into camp, when the
guard seized and held his horse. " County judge," he
shouted, but to no avail. The officer of the guard civilly
told him that even officers of the regiment could not
drive in there; they must go around to a designated
point in rear of the field-officer's tent, and offered to
escort him thither. But the old man was furious ; it
seems that he was rarely in his sober senses, and no ex-
planation availed. He owned a newspaper, and to the
office thereof he drove in hot haste ; and the very next
issue of that paper was one continuous lampooning of the
colonel commanding and of Mr. X. Of course, there
were many in the populace who sympathized with him.
Nine-tenths of the men, women, and children saw no
reason at all why they should not be strolling around the
tents at all hours of the day, or at night either, for that
matter; nor was it solely among the " middle and lower
classes" that this idea prevailed. Will Mr. X. ever for-
get one lovely summer morning, when the cavalry were
in camp on the shore of our most picturesque lake. The
154 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
trumpet had just sounded the first call for reveille. He
wanted to see in what shape the men fell in for roll-call,
and Mr. X. tumbled out of his blankets, and, fortunately,
into boots and breeches before stepping into the front
portion of his abode, which was a large double wall-tent
overlooking the company's street. Here, to his dismay,
were seated two prominent society ladies, under the
escort of the pastor of their church. " Ah, Mr. X.," said
the imperturbable ecclesiastic, "good-morning; these
ladies have seen so much of the pomp and circumstance
of glorious war that they were eager to have an idea of a
little of the stern reality, and I bantered them into an
early visit." Stern reality, indeed ! There were the
troopers tumbling out of their blankets in all manner of
costumes except full dress. Mr. X. himself could only
dodge back into his own sanctum for another garment
or two, all the while inwardly expressing his views as to
the lack of common sense in the church militant. He
never could say what he thought of the gentleman him-
self, — he who piloted that party in search of the stern
realities of camp life, — but what didn't he say to the sen-
try who had let them enter before morning gun-fire ?
Some of the oddest " breaks" made by our officers, by
the way, must be laid at the door of the chaplain. One
most excellent divine having announced his intentions of
attending camp with the regiment, was assigned to a
tent with the field and staff. Fancy the consternation of
the colonel and the sensations of Mr. X. when the rev-
erend gentleman marched in with his wife and three
daughters, and gravely proceeded to furnish the tent for
their occupation. Mr. X. had no authority here; the
colonel expressed to every one of the officers — but the
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. 155
chaplain — 'his astonishment at the proceeding, yet had
not the grit to point out the impropriety thereof to the
gentleman himself. The chaplain's family slept in camp
the entire week, and doubtless learned a great deal about
the art of war which they had never dreamed of previ-
ously. Yet the old gentleman was not so much to
blame. He had heard what was the actual case, that in
some of the regiments the colonels had been accom-
panied by their wives and family, and doubtless held that
the presence of the fair sex would have a restraining in-
fluence on the language of the camp, as indeed it would,
could everybody but remember at all times that the
ladies were right there within hearing. But unluckily
most men were too busy and had too many other things
to think of to keep that perpetually in mind. How odd
it seemed to Mr. X. to note the furnishing of the field-
offlcers' tents in those days, — big bedsteads, bureaus,
mirrors, carpets, centre-tables, and " what-nots." But it
had to be, so said the officers, so long as we camp
around the towns and cities, and so it resulted that, at
one of the State conventions five or six years ago, Mr.
X. urged the purchase of a tract of land in the centre of
the State, at least ten miles from any town, and at last,
and only a year ago, we got it.* But before that time
came our camps had steadily becom-e more soldierly and
our sentries more like the real article. Guard duty is,
after all, the hardest thing to teach new troops, and an
immense amount of labor and patience is required. Mr.
X. thought we had some remarkably well-informed
officers by the time the third summer came, and you can
156 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
fancy his amazement when, one morning, a sudden
shower came pouring down ; the corporal of the guard
started out with a rush, and the next thing anybody
knew, he had whisked off the entire relief, every blessed
sentry on post, and came running into the guard-tents
with them at double-quick. Mr. X. went down to those
guard-tents in seven-league boots, and the officer of the
day received him with a bland smile, and was evidently
pleased with the rapidity with which the corporal had
performed the feat. He frankly confessed that he had
ordered the relief taken off for the fear of spoiling their
uniforms, and was rather astonished at the order by
which the relief was immediately reposted, and in double
At another camp, and in another regiment, the officer
of the day was missing. The colonel was asked if he
had given him permission to leave camp. No. Never-
theless the guards were positive that the officer had
gone " over to the park," indicating a pleasure resort
some little distance away, and there, to be sure, he was
found, having a pleasant time with some civilian friends,
and professing total ignorance of any military impro-
priety in the performance.
Once in a while we had some experiences that were
purely laughable and that did us all good. Perhaps the
best of these was one that occurred at the camp of the
Third Regiment, at Chippewa Falls, where we had a fine
ground, excellent arrangements, and most agreeable
neighbors in the people of this thriving little city. Un-
luckily it stormed furiously most of the week, and all of
the roads and fields were speedily turned into quagmires.
Everything had been arranged for a ball, which was to
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. 1 57
occur on the last evening of our stay ; and as the time
drew nigh, the mayor and his committee were fluttering
about enveloped in water-proofs and a not unnatural
state of excitement. It had been settled that six car-
riages, all that could be obtained for so perilous a service
as the frequent transit from camp to town over such fear-
ful roads, were to leave camp at 8 p.m. with the mayor,
the committee, and such officers as were ready, and
then be sent back for another load. It was estimated
that in three trips all the officers in camp, including the
governor's staff, could be thus transported to the hall
where the ball was to take place. About sixteen "young-
sters" went off with the first round. Then the mayor
and committee waited for the array of generals and
colonels expected with the next. Nine o'clock came ;
nine thirty ; the ball was waiting, but not another officer
appeared, and " His Honor" was rabid with excitement.
None of the carriages had returned to the hall ; yet an
inquiry developed the fact that big loads had been
brought in town, and deposited at a neighboring hotel.
The mayor darted around there through the pitiless
storm, but not an officer was to be found. The billiard-
room and the parlors were packed with jovial non-com-
missioned officers and privates on pass apparently, but
not a shoulder-strap was visible. At last, at ten o'clock,
some drenched jehus drove up to the hall with panting
and bedraggled steeds, and a number of gold-laced offi-
cials stepped solemnly forth from the dripping carriages.
" What on earth has kept you all this time ?" de-
manded the mayor.
" I am sure I cannot tell," said one of the generals.
" We waited nearly two hours for carriages."
158 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" Great Caesar's ghost ! driver, didn't I tell you to go
right back to camp and load up those officers, until you
had them all here ?"
"Certainly you did, Mr. Mayor, I have been hauling
colonels and majors through the mud until this town
must be just busting with them. You said I could do it
all in three trips. Damn me, if I ain't made a dozen.
My poor horses are all tuckered out."
And then at last it all leaked out. The night was
dark as pitch. The moment the drivers got back to
camp, and before they could get within fifty yards of the
head-quarters tents, they were stopped by a host of
gentlemen with the capes of their overcoats drawn up
over their heads, and (in the Badger State officers and
men of the line wore overcoats of the same pattern and
finish) a martial voice hailed them with " Here we are,
driver; stop just where you are; jump in, major ; tumble
in, colonel ; tumble in "
" Oh ! after you, general ; I beg After you."
" Not at all, sir ; not at all ; it is too wet to fool about
trifles; jump in; jump in. Load up those other car-
riages now, fast as you can. Now to the hotel with this
crowd as quick as you can get there."
And in this way the jolly sergeants, corporals, and
rank and file of the gallant Third had loaded up carriage
after carriage as it arrived in camp, while their superiors
waited, with such patience as they possessed, among the
dismal, dripping, tents of officers' row.
The joke might have gone on until the camp was
empty of enlisted men had it not become too big to be
kept; and finally the officer of the guard discovered
that he had been passing out about one hundred of
MILITIA CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION. 1 59
the rank and file for carriage-loads of commissioned
As there was only tentage enough for one regiment, it
followed that our canvas had to be shipped from point to
point about the State, and in this way some loss was
bound to occur. All marking, cutting, or defacing of
the canvas in any way was of course strictly forbidden,
and both at the beginning and end of each regimental
camp it was Mr. X.'s custom to make the rounds to
inspect tents for the purpose of fixing responsibility in
case of damage. At first, of course, in the exuberance
of their spirits, " the boys," as they preferred to call
themselves, would decorate by means of candle-smoke,
or crayons, their camp abode with certain inscriptions,
such as " Saints' Rest," " Drummers' Delight," " The
Wicked Four," etc. ; but one summer seemed to suffice
to teach them better. Two years afterwards, just before
striking tents at the tap of the drum, as had been taught
the men, Mr. X., in company with the colonel and his
quartermaster, inspected every tent in camp, and found
them all clean, in good condition, with the exception of
some old marks which were well known and recognized.
What was his surprise, therefore, two weeks afterwards,
when making the rounds the first day of the camp of
another regiment, to find that a number of the tents had
been defaced in a very flagrant way, and a number of in-
scriptions, far from elegant, appeared all over the canvas.
There was only one way of explaining it : When not in
use by the National Guard the tents were shipped from
one part of the State to another, in order to let the old
" Grand Army" boys have their camp-fires, reunions, and
post camps, — and the manner in which they were deco-
l6o TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
rated by the veterans was a sight to see. Mr. X. made
this circumstance rather a prominent feature in his report
of the summer encampments of that year, but that was
one portion of his report which never found its way in
print. This is why he said earlier in this article that it
seemed only on condition the camp equipage should be
at the service of the Grand Army of the Republic that
it was possible to secure an appropriation for its purchase
by the State. Goodness knows they were welcome to
it fifty times over, if they would only return it in proper
SHAM BATTLES. l6l
How many readers have had the experience, good or
ill, of taking part in furious combat under what Dickens
described as a " galling fire of blank cartridges," and
helping some State fair, " grand military pageant," or
similar catchpenny enterprise, to stagger to its legs, res-
cued from the " snowing under" it doubtless deserved by
the promise of " the whole to conclude with a realistic
and magnificent sham battle by the entire assembled
force, — regulars, volunteers, and national guard ?"
Time was when the regular, from the safe distance of
the frontier, could afford to laugh at these affairs and
wonder what people could see .in them. They were no
more like the real thing than brevet to actual rank ; but
little by little as the centre of population shifted westward
with the Star of Empire, and Congressmen sprang from
the newly-organized districts and began to have influence
— big or little — in shaping the affairs of the nation, and
what had been frontier posts were overlapped by the
people, and the regular and the State troops began to eye
each other askance, there sprang into life a new money-
making scheme by which shrewd financiers saw means
of depleting the pockets of a whole community and
replenishing their own by advertising, in flaming posters
all over the Northwest, a vast aggregation of military
attractions ; reviews, parades, camps of hundreds of the
finest organizations in the country; competitive drills of
1 62 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
regiments, battalions, and companies ; charges of cav-
alry ; thunderous salvos of artillery, etc. Fine militia
companies were tempted to come by promise of big
money prizes, and certain battalions, batteries, or troops,
of regulars were ordered to go by a department that,
properly enough, did not wish to " lose touch with the
Goodness knows the regulars, officers and men, were
glad enough to go, and do almost anything to make
themselves known to fellow-beings and fellow-citizens,
whose sole conception of the officers and men of the
United States army was derived from a casual reading
of the sneers of the Chicago papers and the squibs of
other journals no better informed than those of the once-
called " Garden City," but who thought it wit or wisdom
to follow their lead. And wherever the regulars went,
and whatever was to be done, they entered con amore
into the spirit of the thing, and won among the populace
hosts of friends, and from the projectors of the enterprise
a world of gratitude. "We'd have been swamped utterly
if it hadn't been for you fellows," as Mr. X. heard the
business manager say to a group of old frontier comrades
time and again, and, indeed, the statement was not exag-
But what comical times we had ! What wonderful
skirmishes and battles were those we fought among the
crested bluffs of Dubuque, along the " Cold Spring"
grounds, back of the Cream City, and, last of all, over
the barren flats behind that far-spreading, all-absorbing,
and fiercely-democratic metropolis of Chicago ! In
some particulars the experiences were identical in each
place. In some places we encountered new and original
SHAM BATTLES. 163
views on the part of the public as to the fine points of
modern war-waging. In one respect they were all
alike : the Grand Army man we had always with us, and
in his glory, too. In the " grand-stand," on the outskirts
of the crowd, and invariably the most conspicuous per-
sonage in his vicinity, the battle-scarred veteran or the
hospital " beat," as the case might be, was sure to have
a prominent position, and to be taking frequent occasion
to inform the crowd that " me and a half-dozen of the
old boys, with our Springfields, could clean out a whole
regiment of these fellows, with their new-fangled guns."
There was another point in which marked resemblance
was at once apparent. With enterprise genuinely Ameri-
can, no sooner was it announced that the sham battle
would take place on certain grounds than the populace
swarmed forth and took possession thereof, and before
the sham fight could come off, as per advertisement, a
genuine tussle was sometimes necessary before the lurid
spectacle could begin.
Perhaps the liveliest example of this sort of thing
occurred at the first encampment of the Wisconsin
troops in rear of the city of Milwaukee. There were
perhaps fifteen hundred infantry under canvas, a fine
troop of cavalry, some guns and gunners from the State
capital, and these were all provisionally brigaded to-
gether for the time being, and four battalions had been
organized from the foot-commands. There had been
daily parades, guard-mountings, occasional reviews, and
a big demonstration through the streets of the city,
headed by the governor and his staff on horseback. The
great field was known as the Cold Spring Course, and
its entire area was surrounded by a high board fence ;
164 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
not SO high but that ambitious boys could scale it; not
so impenetrable but that it could be burrowed under or
squeezed through in a thousand places. And after the
regular military work was done, a " hippodrome" enter-
prise had been resolved upon. A new armory was
needed for a crack organization ; the State couldn't build
armories at all or allow money enough even to pay an
insurance policy on a poor one; but the soldier-boys
had got their heads together and determined on some
plans to raise money, and this was one of them. A
business manager had been found ; blank cartridges by
the million had been provided ; huge posters had been
distributed all over Wisconsin, and fringed a surrounding
belt in the other States ; prizes were offered for the best
drilled companies from anywhere ; " regulars" were ob-
tained as judges and staff-officers ; and, on the last great
day of the feast, a sham fight of colossal proportions
was to take place, all of which could be viewed for a
very moderate price of admission. The fame of the
thing, as has been intimated in a previous article, was
trumpeted to the far East, and Harper's Weekly's liveliest
wielder of chalk and crayon was dispatched to the scene
to gather illustrations. The weather had been gorgeous
and the crowds generous, so " the management" looked
forward with comfort to the proceeds of " battle-day,"
and probably were not much disappointed when they
gazed on the tumultuous sea of people swarming along
the race-track and gradually possessing themselves of
the entire enclosed space except the tented rectangle at
the far western end, where doubled sentries kept the
camps tolerably secure against being bodily drifted off.
" Did you ever see such a crowd ?" said the manager's
SHAM BATTLES. 165
junior partner, an hour before the time announced for
the battle to begin. " We must have taken in ten thou-
sand dollars already."
" We haven't taken in ten hundred," said a flushed
and excited messenger from the great gate, arriving at
the instant. " This crowd has come in from a thou-
sand holes in our three miles of fence,, and they keep
It was then that the " manager," rueful and wrathful,
bestrode his gray steed and whipped his way through a
surging host of people, and presently* appeared in front
of the canvas head-quarters of the commanding general.
" My God, general ! I've got to have about a thou-
sand sentries right off The crowd is busting in that
big fence on all sides, and I'll have a tremendous bill
to pay and no money to do it with. How quick can I
have 'em ?"
" Well, Mr. Ferguson, you've got two regiments out
now. The sentries all around inside the race-track are
trying to keep that space clear for the sham fight, and
you have a battalion outside the fence to keep people
off the high ground to the south of us. Where are the
sentries to come from ?"
" If we can't get 'em any other way, I'll have all those
on guard around the track. I've got to stop this ' hook-
ing in' right off, anyhow, or we'll have all Milwaukee on
this ground in half an hour, and nothing to show for it
but damages," said the man of affairs, dolefully.
And so Mr. X., who was adjutant-general of the camp,
was bidden to mount his horse and order the immediate
changes required by the head of the combined civil and
military financial management, and, not relishing the job
l66 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
in the least, Mr. X. proceeded to carry out his orders.
In half an hour the fence was lined with sentries, who
speedily drove back every man or boy struggling over,
under, or through that barrier, but to do this required
nearly the entire force now under arms and awaiting the
signal to form for the coming battle. It also necessitated
the removal of all but about one hundred sentries from
along the race-track fence, whose duty it was to keep
the crowd from bulging through and occupying the field.
Meantime, the grand stand and spectators' " bleaching-
boards" were more leisurely filling, for extra halves and
quarters were demanded for accommodations thereon,
and the vast space intended for carriages was slowly
crowding with vehicles of every description. Mr. X.
didn't like the idea of changing those sentries one bit,
but " orders are orders," and he had to carry them out.
And now, before going further, a glance at the plan of
action and the ground itself may be needed. The space
inclosed by the mile race-track was fairly level. The
west end was covered by closely-packed tents of the
camp, the east end was diversified by a grove of hand-
some trees, and about one hundred yards back from
the judge's tower, just opposite the grand stand, was
a dense growth of shrubbery and underbrush, form-
ing a copse which was entirely impenetrable. Between
this copse and the stands all was clear and open ; behind
and beyond the ground was also unencumbered, and
from the stands a good view could be obtained. Every-
thing had been lavishly advertised, including a rough
sketch-map of the position, and as outlined by the press
the plan of battle promised some realistic features and
fine spectacular effect.
SHAM BATTLES. 1 6/
Fresh from his triumphs at the Dubuque encampment,
a gallant soldier of the regular infantry had come in from
the frontier to plan the grand attack on the camp of the
" W. N. G.," at Cold Spring, and in person to conduct
the assault. The defense was intrusted to Mr. X. him-
self The last time he and "the major" had sniffed the
fumes of battle together was the damp, misty morning of
Crook's withdrawal from the Indian villages which he
had captured at Slim Buttes the previous day, and to the
major in question and to Mr. X. had been assigned the
duty of burning every stitch of Indian property that
couldn't be carried away. That was blinding, beastly,
wretched work, for everything was so drenched with
rain it was hard to get fire to take hold. But before they
got half through their " sham " duties among their friends
and fellow-citizens, this summer afternoon at Cold Spring,
both these rival commanders were ready to wish they
were back in the smoke, mud, and sharp skirmishing
around the Sioux villages.
As set forth in the papers, the attacking force was to
appear through a gap in the fence at the east end, and,
hidden from view of the camp by the copse and grove
to run its artillery up to the right and left ; to deploy its
infantry in support of the guns, and then to open sudden
and furious fire. The alarm and the long roll were to
sound at once over on the tented field ; the guns of the
defenders were to reply with all speed and uproar. Paper
shells were to be kept bursting on high and shrieking
realistically through the air, and as Mr. X. was to have
four guns to the major's one, the latter was to allow him-
self to be temporarily silenced. Then Mr. X. was to ad-
vance the infantry from his left wing across the open
l68 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
field between camp and the copse in spirited attempt to
capture the westward guns of his friend the major, but
was to be driven back in confusion by the withering fire
from the rifles of the supporting force. A rally, and re-
newal of the attempt with increased numbers was to re-
sult in similar disaster, and Mr. X.'s left wing, finding
the enemy in front too strong, was to retire to the general
line and resume sharp artillery practice; and the right
wing, which up to this time was only menacing the
major's gallant left in sufficient force to prevent his send-
ing re-enforcements through the grove to his assailed
flank, was now destined to assume the offensive in good
First a heavy skirmish line was to push out; then a
strong line of battle was to sweep down upon the major's
guns ; two big battalions were to concentrate their fire on
one little one, drawn up in full view of the grand stand
and stretching from the judge's tower across in front of
the copse; this was gradually to crumble and give way
before the storm, and then Mr. X.'s whole line was to
advance cheering and at the run ; the cavalry were to
come sweeping down with the general advance, close to
the race-track, and then, as the major's left began sifting
away, with bugle-blast and stirring war-cry and flashing
sabre and rushing steed, the Light-Horse was to charge
down past the open-mouthed populace, dash through the
guns like Custer's troopers at Winchester, and go hack-
ing and hewing among the dispirited infantry of the foe,
who were to throw down their arms and beg for mercy
in full view of the ladies in the big pavilion, and the
horsemen were thus to be the heroes of the day. Then,
with his left crushed and shattered, the major himself
SHAM BATTLES. 169
would have no alternative but to come forth and grace-
fully tender his sword to the triumphant foe. It was
most magnanimous in the planner of the plot thus to
designate himself to play the part of the vanquished.
Perhaps, however, he knew what the result was going to
be. It read, like the French army returns in 1870, all
very well on paper. Now, let us see how it turned out.
At 3.30 P.M., as advertised, the attacking force was to
appear through an eastern gate, and carefully conceal its
march upon the distant camp. At 3.45 the head of the
column did reach the prearranged gap in the fence, but
that was as far as it got, for the time being at least.
There was no corresponding gap in the dense array of
wagons, carts, carriages, omnibuses, etc., wedged all over
the circular sweep of track in front. But there was no
hurry any more than there was need of bothering about
concealing their movements from the encamped foe half
a mile to the west. Neither could see the other with
glasses of " hextra million power." The entire inter-
vening space — the field of battle itself — was now occupied
by the populace, and some thirty thousand friends and
fellow-citizens jubilantly roamed or squatted over the
plain where by this time the skirmish-lines should be at
work, and over whose green sward the 12-pounders
should now be belching forth their thunder.
The manager sat in the judge's tower a picture of per-
turbation. Orderlies, messengers, police, " Pinkertons,"
and stray guardsmen had been dispatched through the
throng. On the one hand were the crowded seats of
paying spectators who were clamoring for the show to
begin ; on the other — on the great field — swarmed the
gleeful many, — " hoi polloi" — not one in ten of whom had
170 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
paid a dime to get in, and yet they were masters of the
" If you don't clear this field and retire to the race-
track the battle can't come off!" roared Mr. Ferguson,
" Den give us our money back !" yelled a gang of
gamins in the crowd, — and the crowd cheered delight-
edly. The manager fumed and raved. Finally he
mounted and came cantering into camp, where Mr. X.
and the gallant defenders were placidly waiting to be
" What are we to do, by thunder ?" says Mr. Ferguson.
" That crowd covers every inch of space you were going
to fight over. Can't you get 'em off?"
" Haven't men enough in camp to begin to try. Fast
as we shove 'em to one side they'll swarm in on the
other. Here — I'll show you," says a field-officer of
infantry whose battalion happens to be in readiness.
Deploying four companies as skirmishers, he makes a slow
wheel southward. The crowd laughs, rolls slowly back
until it becomes dense ; then refuses to budge. Mean-
time, the space just vacated is promptly occupied by
other enterprising citizens, and after ten minutes' lively
skirmish-drill the field is practically full as ever. It
dosen't mend matters to tell Mr. Ferguson that if he
hadn't taken the sentries away in the first place the
crowd wouldn't be here now. He knows that.
But an unexpected ally appears. Black clouds have
been gathering. There is vivid flash and thunder clap;
then a sudden deluge. The heavens descended in a torrent
that in five minutes swept that great inclosure clear of
every unfeathered biped and leveled many a tent with the
earth. The mob had fled to the State-fair buildings, — the
SHAM BATTLES. 17I
Stables, horse-sheds, stands, benches, — and, even then,
thousands were soaked to the skin. Thanks to Jupiter
Pluvius, the field was ours. In ten minutes it ceased as
suddenly as it began. Then the sentries lined the rail
fence at the track, and from camp to copse we held the
ground. So, too, had there been a stampede of all open
vehicles down at the east end. Thousands of visitors
of both sexes were drenched, but there was no use in
retreating farther. The sun came out bright and warm.
The major and his daring column dragged their guns
through the dripping fields. The thunder of the heavens
was suddenly answered by the hoarse bellow of the light
twelves. The bugles in camp rang out " to arms," and
the blue puffs of bursting shells scdXiercd papier-mache in
powdery fragments upon the upward-gazing faces. No
sooner was the major's line established than he was
backed up by the populace. Whatsoever might be local
prejudice or sympathy, the major was now bound to have
the best of it. No concentration of blank-cartridge fire
could ever drive him back. All Milwaukee was wedged
in behind him ; hack and hansom, cab and carriage, men,
women, and children ; a solid mass of eager humanity,
moist, dripping, but determined, now re-enforced his line.
It was now all he could do to hold his own against his
backers. Under that surging impulse from the rear a
headlong charge on camp — a total revolution of the pro-
gramme — seemed far more probable.
Bang and roar went the big guns; pop and rattle the
little ones. The skirmishers danced out to the front;
and then, in spite of probable annihilation, refused to
go dancing back until their officers dragged them.
Stretcher-men, duly detailed, scurried forward to pick up
1/2 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
v/arriors presumably dead, who became suddenly resur-
rected and declined to be taken to the rear. All this,
however, occurred on the side farthest from the crowded
stand and pavilion, and people were only moderately ex-
cited, for on the south side of the field, where now were
packed the throngs, only a long-range artillery duel and
some scattered skirmish fire was going on.
Now came the second stage, and down on the major's
fated left bore the heavy battalions of the right wing;
and no sooner dia the line of battle move to the front
than, as at the east end, the crowd came tumbling over
the scattered sentries and streaming out upon the field.
Mr. X., to his disgust, was re-enforced by a cheering and
enthusiastic mob of fellow-citizens, who came chasing
after his line, bound — since there was no danger in it —
to be in at the death. Detaching his cavalry with orders
to scour up and down, over and across the fields in his
rear, so that if the foe were compelled, by force of circum-
stances, to stand their ground, instead of yielding it, as
prearranged, he at least might have a line of retreat open,
Mr. X. galloped on after his right wing, now hotly en-
gaged, and burning powder at the rate of a barrel a
second. Vast clouds of the " villainous saltpetre" rolled
on high and obscured the opposite line. Swells, in light
wagons, and lovely dames, in carriages, finding it impos-
sible to see through the battle-smoke, came whipping
down the course behind the foot-throng and reached a
gap where stalwart policemen and guards, with fixed
bayonets, had, up to this time, prevented any one from
squeezing "between the lines." Through here the cap-
tured guns were to be dragged, — when we got them, —
but just at this moment all four of them together let go a
SHAM BATTLES. 1/3
thunderous " fire by battery." A dozen teams took fright,
became uncontrollable, and, despite guards and police,
veered in through this very gap, and the next thing that
the triumphant right wing knew, there came, charging
through the battle-smoke, — What ? The elephants of
Hannibal ? the war-chariots of Darius ? No ! Half a
dozen snorting, racing teams, bounding carriages, and
affrighted occupants suddenly appeared, as suddenly
whirled about, and again became swallowed up in smoke ;
and as nothing on earth could live in front of such a
blast of lead in open field, and, as the foe as well as the
luckless charioteers would have been blown out of exist-
ence by this time, " Cease firing" was sounded, shouted,
yelled, and finally enforced. And then, at last, as the
smoke cleared away, and people were revealed chasing
after stray hats, — chimney-pot and Gainsborough, — and
others hanging on to the heads of affrighted horses, and
others still picking themselves up and limping out of the
way, there stood the opposing line, its last cartridge
gone, its position no longer tenable from a military point
of view, and no longer " vacatable" from any other.
Unable to retreat, the heroic left, with fixed bayonets,
grimly faced the coming foe, bent on dying like the
Twenty-fourth at Isandlhwana.
Mr. X. sent an aide-de-camp around by the race-track
to remind the commander of the inimical left that he
was whipped, and really must fall back so that he could
be annihilated by our now impatient dragoons, according
to programme. Meantime, the two opposing lines glared
at each other like pugilists between rounds. The aide
came dashing back across the " zone of fire" with the
information that the major was deeply sensible of the
1/4 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
fact that he oughtn't to hold his position, but he simply
could not fall back. If relief weren't sent him in two
minutes he'd have to fall forward in deference to the pop-
ular impact, — vis a tergo, — in which event, said he, Mr.
X. and his bold dragoons had better get out of the way.
" The guard surrenders, but cannot die," says the aide.
" Shall I turn the cavalry loose on the crowd ?"
" No ; they might get lost, and we want them for dress
parade. Go and tell Major George, who commands that
staggering battalion, that I'll give him one last volley,
and they must all drop in their tracks."
" Then the crowd will bust over them and come at us,"
says the pessimistic aide. " We won't have time even
to yell ' Police !' "
" Then we can but die in our tracks. There's no re-
treat. The crowd behind is as thick as it is in front."
" Can't we slip out between 'em and let the two crowds
come together?" suggests the aide.
" Wouldn't do. A sham fight was advertised. They'd
sue the management for breach of contract if they got a
real one. Give a general feit de j'oie, and then tell every
man to yell, ' Both sides whipped.' "
A moment more of crashing musketry, blinding
smoke, and deafening cheers. When the clouds rolled
by a tumultuous mass of perspiring soldiery was revealed
tossing caps and helmets skyward and yelling triumph.
Thanks to the populace, the battle of Cold Spring was
Then we tried it for the benefit of another gift enter-
prise in Chicago ; and here, under the pretentious title
of " Grand International Military Camp," etc., a big
aggregation of bandsmen and militia assembled from all
SHAM BATTLES. 1/5
over the West, and the War Department had been in-
duced to order a light battery, a troop of cavalry, and a
battalion of infantry from the regular service thither for
duty. Sham battles were promised every afternoon, and
some of them were ludicrous in the last degree.
To begin with, the crowd, as in Milwaukee, swarmed
over the " Pinkertons" and police before the troops ap-
peared, and when we came forth to do our deeds of
daring before the ladies in the grand stands and pa-
vilions, the managers rode vainly to and fro through the
populace imploring it to fall back to the seats provided
for its accommodation all around the edges of the battle-
field ; but you might as well reason with a herd of
buffalo as with a Chicago crowd. It is never so happy
as when in mischief Where one man out of ten would
have enjoyed seeing the military display, nine out of ten
thought it bigger fun to bother the " Pinkertons," whom
the populace of the Garden City hate as rats do a terrier.
Argument, entreaty, and threats of " no game" being
alike useless, the police being only a handful in face of
such numbers, the commander of the regulars was ap-
pealed to, and presently out came the blue skirmish-lines,
steadily deploying at " arms port," in face of the throng,
and then the masses slowly yielded, retired to the
benches and the fences, and, after much bother, having
cleared the field and turned the crowds over to the
police and the local sentries, the regulars were recalled
to take their places for the thrilling combat, and in ten
minutes the crowd was out in the field again. Cavalry
charges were rendered impossible. The infantry banged
away at each other through the intervening mob, and
everybody laughed until he or she was tired.
1/6 TRIALS OF A STAFP-OFFICER.
That evening the management insisted that we must
have brigade dress parade, as advertised. The " regular"
commander said he would not undertake to parade and
keep the crowd back too. If the " management" would
handle the crowd, he would handle the troops. The
management bit its finger-nails and scratched its head,
and again appealed to the crowd to fall back, — " You
can see just as well at the seats." But the crowd stolidly
grinned and stood. Then a troop of regulars rode forth
and slowly and civilly as possible for the third time
herded the throng back to the fences and the benches ;
the grand stands and pavilions applauded ; the Pinkertons
and a line of sentries — not regulars — were placed in pos-
session. A distinguished war veteran rode forth to
assume command of the "line of masses," now forming;
six battalions of foot^ the light battery of the Fourth
Artillery, and a swell cavalry battalion made a handsome
show as it faced Chicago. For a few minutes the crowd
of " unwashed" was held within bounds ; but no genuine
American, of Irish or other descent, conceives that he
can suitably see anything so long as some other Ameri-
can is nearer the object than he, and little by little police,
Pinkertons, and sentries were impelled linewards, and
when Mr. X., as adjutant-general, galloped out to salute
the commanding officer with the present of the entire
command, he couldn't find his chief; he was swallowed
up in the crowd.
Next day and the next we took matters in our own
hands ; established sentries before the crowd got there,
and managed to have a clear field. Still there were
absurd features. One day was to be devoted to a realistic
Indian massacre, since Chicago couldn't be satisfied
SHAM BATTLES. 1 77
without painting the camp red and having something
genuinely " bluggy," A lot of New Mexican aborigines
were there, fellows who were about the color and size of
the Apache, and matched him about as a cat does a cata-
mount. A gallant major of Wisconsin infantry, who had
won the hearts of the whole " regular" contingent, was to
figure as a bearer of dispatches, and was to be summarily
dispatched by Apaches ambuscaded in the rocks (bales of
hay), and scalped in sight of a shuddering grand stand.
The government policy of sending a company to
"punish" a tribe was then to be fully illustrated, and
Captain , of the Twenty-third, was to show how he
and his company used to take the war-path in Arizona,
where indeed many of their number had bitten the dust
but a decade or so before. These were to be appro-
priately slaughtered by surrounding hordes (there were
about forty-five of the " Lagunas"), who were then to
indulge in a wild and ungodly revel and scalp-dance, to
be interrupted by a furious charge of cavalry (regulars
in full-dress uniform in deference to the wishes of the
management), whereat they were to scatter all over the
"prairie" and be pursued to their lairs, rallying quickly
and in turn overcoming the luckless troopers, and finally
the forces of a whole department, like those of Arizona
after the squad of Geronimo, were to be launched on the
Indians. There would be a surround, a terrific combat,
a final surrender, and, with the plain covered with
corpses, it was hoped the crowd would go home satis-
fied. Most of the troops by this time had gone, dis-
gusted. The regulars, being under orders, had to stay
and help out the management.
Well, that fight was a stunner, albeit carried out with
1/8 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Startling variations from the advertised programme.
Nothing could have been more realistic than the Badger
major's headlong tumble from his galloping horse,
nothing more dramatic than the scalping act and war-
whoops of the Indians ; nothing more disciplined than
the " die-in-your-tracks" business of the designated vic-
tims of the gallant Twenty-tliird; nothing more blood-
curdling than the wild war-dance of the warriors around
their prostrate foes.
But there ended the lesson. Intoxicated by the cheers
of the crowd, and fired by the taste of imaginary blood,
our savage allies concluded to fight out the rest of the
thing on their own lines, instead of those of the pro-
gramme. When the troopers came dashing on the scene
from behind the bluffs (a big wooden bullet-stop), the
wild warriors faced them like heroes instead of scattering
like sheep. Bear-with-a-hole-in-his-tail was knocked
endwise by Lieutenant A.'s rushing charger, He-that-
shuns-fire-water (a truly remarkable savage) was flattened
out by a whack from the back of Lieutenant S.'s glit-
tering sabre, and Wolf-stones-in-his-belly rattled for an
hour after the back-somersault he turned when colliding
with Sergeant Murphy's steed. But they and their
comrades were on their feet in an instant, banging away
with blank cartridges at the bewildered troopers, dancing
and yelling like all possessed. The cavalry, having
no orders to slaughter, fled in some confusion, as the
only means of saving their horses' hides from scorch-
ing. Then hundreds of infantry, re-enforced by marines
and " blue-jackets" from the United States steamer
" Michigan," marched forth upon the field, — the gallant
ensign in command of the latter bestriding a calico pony
captured from the foe, — and this overwhelming force
SHAM BATTLES. 179
bore down upon the Apaches and poured sheets of fire
upon them, and still they danced and sang, yelped and
clattered, and still refused to die. The crowd roared
with laughter and delight; the "management" swore a
blue streak ; the sailors and marines fired away their last
cartridge and begged to be allowed to board the enemy.
The Wisconsin major, tired of being dead and scalped
every three minutes, dragged himself behind a hay-bale
to die for the sixth or eighth time, and at last the troops
" slowly and sullenly" withdrew, leaving the Apaches
masters of tlie situation. Whereupon, having still some
cartridges, and unlimited fight among them, these noble
red men turned to and banged away at each other until
the manager begged them to clear the field for parade,
whereupon again the crowd set up a yell of " Shoot the
manager !" and the battle of Washington Park came to
an end by that official's unconditional surrender.
Yet, it was a newspaper man who came tearing up to
the office to criticise this brilliant spectacular effect.
Rodney's battery had been quietly " hitching in" for
parade as the affair was being fought out, and slowly
marched in on the track beyond the field in time to
witness the fag end of the fight. It had no more to do
with the " shindig" than a light battery — as such — ever
has to do with Indian warfare,* but the representative
of the Chicago press thought otherwise.
" It was a swindle," said he ; " that battery was within
easy range and it never fired a gun."
We haven't had any sham fights since, and if Mr. X.
is consulted, we won't have any more.
* This was written before the Hotchkiss gun had become a prominent
feature in frontier battle.
l8o TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORK-
For reasons set forth several years ago in the first of
his numerous papers on "The Trials of Staff-Officers,"
Mr. X. was compelled to do a good deal of regimental
work at night and beneath his own roof. In the first set
of quarters occupied by him, at Russell, there was a
" linter" on the east side of the cottage, separated from
the parlor by the hall-way and comparatively isolated
from the " social" side of the premises. Thanks to a
six months' campaign in the field, when no returns
were made, and during which time a new colonel and
a new adjutant had been "sprung" on the regiment,
everything in the office was in arrears. The colonel
found the command wofully uninstructed in drill and
garrison duties, though there was no discount on its
work in the field, and he and his new staff-officer were
kept mighty busy, especially the latter, in drills and cere-
monies of every kind. We were very short of clerks,
could get no more without depriving company com-
manders of theirs, and so Mr. X. tried by hard night-
work to make up the deficiency. As he was required to
be out at reveille and at work all day, it can readily be
seen that only a minimum allowance of sleep was accorded
him, and frequently three hours was the utmost he could
hope for. Mr. X. knows now that no one man could
accomplish what he attempted that year and that he was
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. l8l
an ass to try ; but try he did, and one of the prerequi-
sites was a " den" where he could work undisturbed.
We had a charming girl visiting us that winter. All
the bachelors at the post were paying her devoted atten-
tion. There was not an hour from guard-mounting to
midnight that some of them were not infesting the
premises, and Mrs. X. not infrequently had to order the
laughing crowd out of the house when midnight came,
declaring that her friend and guest must be allowed a
few hours' rest between visits.
There was a piano in the parlor and a guitar. There
was fun in full blast every evening, but the adjutant
would come in from tattoo roll-call and then shut him-
self up in his shop and scratch away at the various books
or papers, striving to be oblivious to the merry laughter
across the hall. By and by one big fellow, whose detail
as post commissary enabled him to " get the bulge," as
they expressed it, on the others, came to having the field
to himself during the hours when the regiment was
absorbed in morning drills, and one day the wife of his
bosom demanded of Mr. X., " Well, are you never going
to express an opinion about the engagement ?"
" What engagement ?" asked Mr. X., blankly, for every
moment of his time had been given to his work, and he
had seen nothing going on under his very nose.
" Why, our engagement," was madame's reply, the tone
whereof fully indicated her proper vexation at the imbe-
cility of her lord.
" I thought that was rather an old story," says Mr. X.,
" Oh ! How can you be so — stupid ? Don't you see ?
Haven't you heard ? Is it possible you haven't suspected
l82 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
's engagement ? She accepted him four days ago,
and they both think it so queer you haven't congratu-
" Great Scott ! Let me go and do it now ;" and Mr. X.
makes a rush across the hall and into the parlor and over
to the sofa, where sits enthroned a bewitching brunette
with sparkling eyes and flushing cheeks and flashing
white teeth, who smiles up at him as he says, —
" How blind I've been ! My dear girl, you don't know
how glad I am to hear it. With all my heart I wish you
joy, and — Billy, old man," and here Mr. X. turns on a
brother cavalryman and wrings his hand hard, " you're a
lucky fellow if there ever was one. Just don't I con-
gratulate you !"
But Billy's face is one of gloom, and Mrs. X.'s visage
portends a storm. " Why, aren't you the happy man ?"
blunders Mr. X., in continuation.
" I regret to say I'm not," says Lieutenant Billy, in
tones sepulchral, and then Mr. X. is remanded to prison
and properly lectured. It seems Billy wanted to be, but
wasn't. She was promising to be a sister to him, and
expressing the conventional hope that, as Mrs. Somebody
Else, she might still number him as one of her dearest
friends, when X. appeared, like an old mole just bursting
forth from the moist and loamy earth, dazzled and blinded
by the sudden sunshine.
But the real happy man was not allowed much hap-
piness, after all, in that garrison. His defrauded friends
and comrades made common cause against him. There
was a bachelor ranch next door, — a bachelor mess, —
whereat " the boys" all congregated right after retreat,
and from which he invariably made his escape just as
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 1 83
soon as he could satisfy the demands of hunger, and
then his well-known step would be heard on our piazza
without, and our bonnie guest would be borne from our
own dinner-table to grant her accepted just a moment
or two of precious tete-a-tete before his troubles would
begin. Before the rest of us could finish our coffee, bang
would go the gong-bell at the door, and our darky
maid would usher in the grinning quartermaster, a most
eligible bachelor, and " Good-evening, Mrs. X. ; good-
evening, Miss Blank," would be his laughing salutation
as he entered. " Thought you might be lonely this
evening, so I dropped in early. Hello, old man ! You
here, too ? Why, if I'd known that, now, I could have
gone on to Colonel K 's. Mr. X. gone over to play
whist yet, Mrs. X. ?"
" No, he's in the den, but he goes in five minutes. Did
you want to see him ?" for madame has a soft spot in her
heart for the luckless lover, and wants to secure him a
moment or two of bliss in answer to his imploring gaze,
" Oh, no — no, just wanted to know, so as to time my
visit up there after the card-party gets out of the sitting-
room. I can stay a whole half-hour yet."
And he does ; and when, at last, he takes his leave he
slips into his own abode next door. " Your turn now,
Bobby," he says to the nearest youngster, goes on about
his other calls, and Bobby trots in to X.'s forthwith, and
he spends his half or three-quarters of an hour chatting
blithely with Miss Blank, and totally ignoring the black
looks and sullen mien of his big comrade.
Then he goes, and the third relief, in the person of
another sub., comes in ; and so they keep it up until X.
comes home from the general's whist-table at eleven and
184 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
betakes himself to the den for work, and there he finds
his cherished friend, the accepted suitor, striding up and
down the narrow confines of that apartment, biting his
nails in wrath, and blaspheming at the rate of a dollar a
second, — if the regulations on that subject were ever
enforced. His half a dozen merciless chums have suc-
ceeded in making the evening a hell to him, as he doesn't
hesitate to say, and even at this late hour in come two
more of the gang.
" Saw your lights burning in the parlor, Mrs. X., and
thought we'd just drop in to say good-night," they ex-
plain. " Why, where's S ?" And S , in the den
with Mr. X., grits his teeth and swears anew. It was all
great fun for them, keeping this up night after night, but
as the damsel had soon to go eastward, whither her
adorer could not then follow, it was no lark for him.
Neither did it help the adjutant in his labors.
But even that invaded sanctuary was better than the
next. We were " ranked out" of those quarters presently
and forced into a set without a " linter," and here Mr. X.'s
den was fixed at the rear end of the hall, — a space about
eight feet by seven, — and here was the table on which
were his books, papers, pens, rulers, etc., and here he
strove to do his night-work, only to discover that a desk
which is used as the baby's playground by day is but a
mess of confusion at other times. Somehow or other
there was no such thing as getting the coveted workshops
after that. It was worse still when we went on university
duty and boarded in two rooms. It did not improve
when we took up our abode on the shores of a lovely
inland lake, and, having retired from active service, Mr.
X. found that his pen was all he had with which to eke
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 185
out a scanty income and earn a home for the wife and
olive-branches. There were several of the latter now,
and dollars flew from his hands faster than he could
amass them. For a time there was a nook in the garret,
a dark corner far aloft in the big house of an indulgent
relation, where X. had a refuge and where he could work
uninterruptedly, so long as he could stand the fumes of
the kerosene lamp, — there was no other light but a gas-
jet in the shop, — and between the gloom and the close
atmosphere it wasn't the liveliest place for composition,
but it was generally far above the danger of interruption,
and that was the main thing for a fellow whose ideas did
not flow spontaneously at all, but had to be dragged out
by the roots, as it were. It was up in this dark and
gloomy, but most acceptable, den that X. wrote and
studied, grinding out a big book of some eight Jiundred
pages for an Eastern publisher on some " Famous
Battles" of history, and finding some happiness in the
ten weeks' wrestle which resulted in the production of
" Marion's Faith," — the first sequel to " The Colonel's
Daughter." Then we were able to move into rather
pleasanter quarters as a household, though still crowded
in the winters, while the summers were spent up under
the beautiful bluffs of Lake Pepin, and at last, — at last
came the time when the longed-for roost of our own
seemed a possibility.
" What makes it loveliest of all," said placens uxor, as
she glanced about her cozy little parlor and library
(" Between the Lines" had furnished our pretty nook
" from turret to foundation-stone"), " is that now at last
you have your own den shut off from the rest of the
world, and there you can work utterly uninterrupted."
1 86 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
It was alluring. It did look plausible. Aside from
the deep, deep thanksgiving that filled his heart for such
a bright, cheery, homelike nest for the wife and little
ones, there was a heart-felt sense of gratitude that here
he might be able to delve at the trade which force of
circumstances had assigned him, and be free from the
score of interruptions that beset him elsewhere. The
selected "den" overlooked the children's playground at
the back of the house. It also overlooked many of the
neighbors' back yards, the tennis court of our small club,
the lake-side drive of the metropolis, and beyond, the
sparkling, dancing waves of old Michigan. " There's
inspiration for you !" was the daily declaration of the
lady friends whom Mrs. X. delightedly brought up to
show over the premises, and in course of time the test
was to be made.
We got into our prized possession simultaneously with
a lively tomkitten, whom the children promptly adopted
and the servants welcomed as sure to bring luck. We
spent a fortnight getting settled, and by the end of that
time Mr. X.'s den was indeed a joy to him. The walls
were hung with maps of old campaigns, photographs of
dozens of fellows of the regiments we had known and
served with, trophies from the far frontier, spurs, sabres,
field-glasses, belts, the old aignillette and shoulder-knots
of the adjutancy. A big flat desk, with abundant drawers
and pigeon-holes, was placed where the east light would
be at the scribbler's left ; the ponderous revolving book-
case was at the other hand. Shelves and stands were
built on every side for such volumes as were professional
or most frequently needed, and then X. was ready to
begin at a yarn for a long-suffering publisher, who was
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 1 8/
politely but positively upbraiding him for not getting to
" Dunraven Ranch" was the first story attempted, and
Mr. X. fondly hoped, and Mrs. X. confidently prophe-
sied, it could be done in a month. " The Deserter"
had only taken three weeks. " From the Ranks" was
written in four, and that was sufficient, said her ladyship,
to prove that the new story could be done easily and
readily in just as short a time, now that at last X. had
And this is the way it worked : Breakfast is over on a
bright June day. The schools have closed. The chil-
dren of the neighborhood appear to be congregated in
our seventy-five by fifty back yard, and a very pretty
and picturesque lot they make. There are over a dozen
little maids of every age, from five to fifteen. There are
no boys except tiny scamps of three and four summers,
X. junior among them. They are playing " puss in the
corner," and the game is in full blast. Mr. X. in spirit
is away on the Llano Estacado, telling, or trying to tell,
of a race with the Rossiter hounds. The fun grows fast
and furious in the playground. Some girls cannot laugh
without screaming, cannot catch or be caught without
ear-piercing shrieks. X. cannot bear to spoil their fun,
and cannot work ahead so much as a line within earshot
of such a racket. He compromises ; gets up and closes
the windows and resumes his seat and pen. But he
cannot so soon get back to Texas. " Let's see, where
were we? 'The stream bent southward just at the
point where he had first caught sight of the horseman,
and ' "
Rat-tat-tat on the door. " Come in !"
1 88 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" Oh, Mr, X., the man's here about the carpet !"
" What carpet ?"
" I don't know, sir. He says Mrs. X. was at the store
" Where's Mrs. X."
" Gone to market. She said she'd be back in ten
" Then tell him to wait ten minutes."
To the desk again. And back to the banks of the
Monee in pursuit of the thread of the yarn. It proves
illusive. Row in the back yard. A Babel of childish
voices. Lamentations and general excitement. The
Abigail from the kitchen vainly endeavors to restore
quiet. For a minute X. remains in the Pan-handle of
Texas hunting for that thread ; but the wails from this
particular back yard, in the Cream City, fetch him
forthwith. Down goes the pen. Up goes the window.
" What's the matter, daughter ?"
" Maudie Wilkins threw Birdie Jones's hat over in the
next yard, and now she won't go and get it."
" She pulled my doll's shoes off, an' she's got 'em,"
says the accused Maud, who stoutly declines to come
into the garden of our neighbor and recover the vanished
■ " I didn't," bawls Birdie. If Birdie grows up with that
voice, she'll be a joy to her husband, thinks Mr. X. He
never had much luck in settling the quarrels of women
and children, and the buffets of past experience warn him
not to try.
" Evangeline !" — this to the kitchen goddess below,
who, like Frank Stockton's Pomona who longed to be
called Clare, was ambitious as to her Christian name,
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONES OWN WORKSHOP. 1 89
and was probably only Angle originally, but the process
of evangelization began when she came to live with us, —
" Evangeline, will you kindly step next door and recover
that hat, and give Birdie an apple, or a watermelon,
something to stop that awful gap."
Evangy vanishes. So does Birdie, howling. The
prospect of so tame a recovery of the ravished head-gear
is not soothing to her wounded spirit. Her soul's in
arms and eager for the humiliation of Maud. She can
be traced out across the street, up the walk on the west-
ern side, across the place with the lofty name beyond, as
in the old days we could follow the " Armenia" miles
through the Hudson highlands by the echoing toot of
her steam calliope. The children anticipate reprisals
from the quarter whither she has gone. Maud scuttles
homeward to escape the excoriation that Birdie's mother
is said to administer, and presently she comes. There's
a ring at the bell, a knock at the den door.
" Mrs. Jones is here, Mr. X., and wants to see you. I
told her Mrs. X. was out."
" Did you tell Mrs. Jones I was very busy ?" groans X.
" Yes, sir ; but she says she must see somebody."
Now, we don't know Mrs. Jones at all except by repu-
tation, which is one reason we know her no better. She
is not, so to speak, in our set. She has four children
who do not go to school with ours, and who are not
congenial playmates. Indeed, some of our little friends
who are school-mates of our kids, and who eagerly wel-
comed us to this charming neighborhood, have received
parental injunctions not to play with the Jones girls at
any time. But the little Joneses are all-pervading. De-
spite their unpopularity, they go everywhere, and wher-
190 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
ever they go there is sure to be a row. It seems they
have few toys or playthings of their own and are pos-
sessed of the acquisitive faculty in marked degree. They
were prompt to call and welcome us on the day of our
arrival, and have been from that time to this the most
sociable of our neighbors. Mr. X. has been surprised to
find the quartette pulling over the books in the library
before breakfast-time on more than one occasion, and
pending the appearance of our little people out of doors,
the Joneses have not infrequently possessed themselves
of the tricycle, bicycle, doll carriages, express wagon,
etc., etc., and contented themselves therewith for hours
while our lambkins lamented. Stringent measures
have resulted in their exclusion from the house when
unbidden, but who could single out two or three of a
group of children and forbid them the playground ?
Yet wheresoever they go there is trouble, and what-
soever may be their own misdeeds, the uproar with which
they rush around the block to the maternal arms brings
her promptly to the rescue, and the tale of inflicted
wrong sends her forthwith to the scene. Mrs. Jones is
here to demand satisfaction. And the police patrol is a
mile away. Good-by, Dunraven; good-by.
Mr. X. regains his den in half an hour, wilted. But
for the coming of Mrs. X. he couldn't have regained it
at all. That woman has the soul of a Desaix. She heard
the one-sided battle from afar. She marched au canon
forthwith. Mrs. Jones is in tears and the midst of a
terrible tale of her little Birdie's sweet, shy, sensitive
spirit that shrivels under harshness or injustice. The
child had loved mine so. Here at last she had found
playmates who could understand her, sympathize with
THE ADTANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. I9I
her. Mrs. Jones had been so happy in seeing how
eagerly her children had rushed forth each morning to
spend the day at the X.'s, and now, like all the others,
the X.'s too were turning against her precious lambs.
Especially the lamb that had thrown herself howling
like a fog-horn out of the yard with the doll shoes in
her pocket. But that was accidental, as Mrs. Jones tri-
umphantly established after denying their presence there.
The row has cast a damper over the spirits of the
children, and a wet blanket over the Llano Estacado.
It was a blaze of sunshine there at ten o'clock. Now at
10.40 it seems to be pouring. Mrs. Jones has gone, for
she found it more difficult to hammer her views into the
head of the lady of the house, but her spirit hovers
over the den. Presently up comes Mrs. X. " She won't
come here again," she says. " Now, what can I do for
you down-town ?"
" Bring me a bull-dog, the ugliest you can find, and
tie him at the front door. Must you go ? I've written
only ten lines in two hours."
" I've got to. There's that sewing-girl coming to-
morrow and the material not yet bought, and the Blakes
and Walkers come to tea to-night and I haven't a thing.
I'll give orders you are not to be disturbed for anything."
And the lady of the house departs in that serene confi-
dence which so many housewives seem to have when
new at the business, that all that is necessary is to order
and folks obey. She is gone but ten minutes, and X. is
traveling back to Texas slowly. The children are again
at their play, though less noisily, and X. ventures to
leave his window up again. A hand-organ is heard in
the distance. Blessed relief. " Money for the monkey ?
192 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
Yes, my child, gladly. Here's a whole dime. Keep him
and the crowd a block away as long as you can." Ring
at the bell ; knock at the den door. Evangeline with a
" Sorry to disturb you, but the boy says ' it's collect.' "
" It isn't. It's paid. He's a young swindler. Tell
The dispatch is from publishers : " Anxiously awaiting
manuscript. When will it be here ?"
Back comes Evangeline. " It's the answer to be paid ;
and he wants car-fare for coming so far up-town."
" He will spend it in peanuts and chewing-gum. He
would never ride. He couldn't stop and play marbles
if he did. It is paying a premium on dawdling; but
here goes. Give him a dime, and shut the door."
Back in two minutes. " Is there no answer ? Man-
ager said not to come back without it." What answer
can I send ? Ten lines in two hours. More. It's eleven
o'clock. There go the cathedral bells now. " When
will the manuscript get there ? I don't know. At this
rate, never. Tell him so. Stay ! Tell him two o'clock
next spring, that's as definite as I can make it. And
shut the door."
Back to the valley of the Monee at last. The cloud-
shadows are sailing over the pampas. The cattle far
towards the horizon are browsing slowly down to water.
The Indian ponies on the slope beyond the Cheyenne
village are sleepily switching at the flies that swarm in
myriads about them. The
" Ow-w-w — Wa-a-a-h. 0-eee — Go ivay ! Wa-a-a-h.
0-hoo-oo — I won't! Wa-a-a-a-h ! f
Down-stairs, three at a jump. It's the voice of my
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 1 93
little Benjamin, the lamb of the flock, my baby boy.
He comes toddling through to the back yard, sur-
rounded by a swarm of sisters, cousins, friends, all sym-
pathetic, all soothing, all voluble in explanation, all
" What's the matter, my precious little man. Come
right to dad and tell him."
" I want ma-amma. That n-na-asty old Rover f-frowed
me in the mud. Wa-a-a-h !"
Rover is our neighbor's dog, big and playful, devoted
to my son and heir. It takes time, much time, to con-
sole the little man and more to repair damages. It is
11.30 when X. gets back to " Dunraven." It is 11.35
when a note is handed in.
"Dear Captain X., —
" We have a little fancy-dress party to-night, and my cousin, Mr.
H , of Chicago, has unexpectedly arrived, and, as luck would have
it, without a costume of any kind. He is just about your size, and I told
him I knew you would be only too glad to let me have for him the uni-
form you lent Harry for the theatricals last year. We will take the best
of care of it, and be so much obliged. Please send it by bearer.
" Yours sincerely,
" E. v. B. B .
" P.S. — Oh, yes, and please send the helmet with the lovely plume,
and the high boots, and the sword. Also the gauntlets.
" P.S. — And woicld you mind letting us have the white summer dress,
if not too much trouble?"
Lord no! It's no trouble at all. Some of the traps
are up-stairs in the garret, some down in the cellar.
Can't the boy come this afternoon when Mrs. X. is
home? No. He is only a "lightning delivery" boy,
and once is enough. It is 12.30 by the time X. roots
these things out, and he has just packed them, in one
194 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
shape or other, into the wagon when the three-quarter
strikes, and Evangehne meets him, — consternation in her
" Mr. X. ! Didn't Mrs. X. order whitefish for tea to-
night? They've sent up a big trout."
" Whitefish, of course. Go over to the Hartwell's
with my comphments, and ask if you can telephone to
the fish-market to send for this trout at once. We don't
want it. We must have whitefish. And I must get back
to my work."
Again at the den. Again screams of dismay from
the children. No Evangeline to answer their frantic cries.
My eldest daughter flies up the stairs.
" What is it, my Brownie ?"
"Oh, papa! Could you come to the cellar? Prince
Purr-Purr has got his head caught in an empty tomato-
can and can't get it out, and he's nearly wild."
So am I ; but I fly to the rescue of Prince Purr-Purr,
— who is the household cat and pet. The process of
extrication is not pleasant for Purr-Purr, and he makes
it lively for me. I am tempted to leave him caught as
he is, but the entreaties of the children prevail. His
claws have gashed one hand and added to the excoria-
tions on my temper. It is after one when I get to the
desk. Meantime, Evangeline has returned with the in-
formation that she cannot get the fishmonger. It is also
time for the children's luncheon. We dine — or rather
tea — late to-day, for friends are coming to try Lake
Superior whitefish, and the villain has sent us trout. X.
gives up. The manuscripts are pitched into the bottom
drawer, and a street-car takes him down-town. " Simply
a mistake on the boy's part," says the imperturbable
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 1 95
vender of fish, poultry, and game. He has left your
whitefish at the Comstocks, and their trout with you.
Why didn't you telephone ?"
" Couldn't get you, was Central's explanation. Will
you kindly bless that boy for me?" And X. goes home,
ruffled in spirit and sore athirst and an hungered. Mrs.
X. is exhibiting the den to a lady friend as he returns, —
all her lady friends, at one time or other, seem to have
come to see the house.
" Oh, Captain X.," says the enthusiastic visitor, " I've
just been telling Mrs. X. how lovely it all is ; but this —
this is perfectly charming. What inspiration you must
find here, — the lovely rippling waters, the gleeful shouts
of the children, the "
But Mrs. X. sees that the other side is uppermost in
her husband's mind just now, and laughingly inter-
" Why don't you get a telephone, and have peace ?"
she says, when the story of the morning is told. " You
wouldn't have had to go at all."
Now, it was one of Mr. X.'s stipulations that we
shouldn't have a telephone when we got the little home.
— He had had some experiences with it. — But we've got
one now. It isn't in the den, but I hear it the Lord only
knows how many times a day. It is of no earthly use
to me, for the electric cars came in with it, and whenever
I want anybody down-town, the only way I can get them,
as a rule, is by the street-car. On the other hand,
nobody seems to have any difficulty in getting us, —
especially those who don't want us at all. A dozen
times a day am I summoned to the instrument by its
196 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" Hello !"
" Hello ! Is that Saint Mary's ?"
" No saint at all. It's Captain X."
" Oh (disgustedly), I didn't want yoii. Central !
Ce-e-e-ntral ! Can't you get me St. Mary's?" and the
shrill, feminine voice holds the line.
X. was hard at work and behind time, as usual, the
other day, when there game a vigorous ring. It was the
steward of the club who called.
" Captain X., Colonel Bbbbleton wants particularly to
see you, and "
" Colonel who?"
" Colonel Bbbbleton, from Chicago."
" Spell it."
" I can't."
"Ask him to come to the instrument."
"He isn't here. He's just gone out. Says he'll be
back in half an hour, but wants particularly to see you."
Now, X. had just missed one old chum who was pass-
ing through town. He had heard from another back
number of a retired soldier, like himself, that a distin-
guished member of the division commander's staff was
likely to come to town in the course of the month, and
was eager to meet him, and so had dropped him a line
to be sure and call him up at the club when he arrived.
X. dropped his work, boarded a car, and shot down-
town. Colonel Bbbbleton hadn't returned, said the
steward, but he was so particularly anxious to see Mr.
X. that he had telephoned. A full hour did X. wait, and
then the gentleman came, — a total stranger.
" Oh ! Is this Captain X. ? I am Colonel B , of
the Mulligan Mound Military Academy, Illinois. I pro-
THE ADVANTAGES OF ONE'S OWN WORKSHOP. 1 9/
pose bringing my cadets up here for a parade next week,
and I had heard of you as one of the military men
hereabouts, and thought you might be able to tell me
where I'd find a drummer who wouldn't charge me too
Mr. X, told him, and went back to his den, wondering
what some colonels were made of.
" O for a lodge in some vast wilderness !" It took
four months instead of four weeks to finish " Dunraven,"
and it well-nigh finished the writer. But that was some-
thing our readers could perhaps have borne with equa-
198 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLE-
Never mind the real name of the place ; it is just possi-
ble that the State Central Committee might not care to
have the story brought home to them, even after the
lapse of so many years. They certainly were not over-
anxious to have it spread broadcast throughout the land
at the time, although the individual members derived no
end of comfort from the incident, and there was much
poking of one another in the ribs and exploding into guf-
faws of delighted laughter, and sudden cessation thereof
and straightening of faces into an expression of preter-
natural gravity and innocence when certain of the oppo-
sition happened to come around the corner. It was long
after the trying days of the reconstruction period, and
the army had been relieved from its detested duty of
" supervising" elections in the Sunny South ; but it was
before the resumption of Democratic supremacy through-
out the cotton-growing States, and when in some, even
many, parishes or counties the colored voters still out-
numbered the whites as many as twenty to one, and the
nominees of the lately-enfranchised were cock-sure of
election, provided their constituents exercised the right
of suffrage. There were districts in the South where the
so-called shot-gun policy had dissuaded many darkies
from attendance at the polls. There were towns and
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 1 99
cities where blacks and whites were nearly balanced in
point of numbers, and where, as a consequence, they
were almost solidly arrayed one against the other; and
the question at issue was not whether a Republican or a
Democrat would be chosen, but whether the white or the
black man was to " rule the roast" in that community.
And this was practically the situation at Oglethorpe in
the lovely autumn of 188-. Counting in the suburbs of
Congo Creek and Ashantiville, the population of the old
Southern city was not far from sixty thousand. Leaving
out these charming settlements, the number of souls in
the city proper was probably forty-five thousand, with the
preponderance in favor of the whites ; but, leaving out
the city proper and counting only the suburbs, no whites
could be found among the residents, except within the
walls of the lunatic asylum, which stood close by the
river-bank and within the confines of Ashantiville, yet
somewhat removed from touch with its thronging hovels.
Possibly it was a shrewd appreciation of the political
opportunities thus presented which had prompted the
Legislature, in the days of what the local press termed
" Senegambian supremacy," to decree that these two sub-
urban villages, with their teeming, moss-grown old
quarters, should be attached to the city proper ; not that
any perceptible increase in the municipal revenue would
result thereby (indeed, the opposite effect was noted from
the start), but that the intelligence and patriotism of
Congo Creek and Ashantiville might be brought to bear
upon all important questions arising in the town, espe-
cially in the biennial election of mayor and councilmen.
Little by little as the personal complexion of the Legis-
lature had changed from the all-pervading black of the
200 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
early '70's to the general Caucasian white of the early
*8o's, so, too, had the political hue undergone transfor-
mation from radical Republicanism to a very evenly mot-
tled House, and a Senate in which the Caucasian rejoiced
in a majority of two. Those modern distractions of
Northern politics embraced under the heads of Labor and
Prohibition parties were unknown to Oglethorpe. There
were but two factions in the field, and when the Demo-
cratic Central Committee began to look the ground over
and prepare for the fall elections of 188-, hope died in
their bosoms, for the metropolis of their fertile State
seemed to be more densely populated with presumable
Republicans than at any time in its previous history. It
was to be a most important election for Oglethorpe. The
city credit had suffered severely in the past. The
" carpet-bag" mayors and councilmen had run things to
suit themselves, greatly to the detriment of the
merchants, property-owners, and responsible citizens of
the once beautiful and attractive town. Matters had been
going from bad to worse, and at last the representative
men of the neighborhood arose in their might and de-
clared that now the time had come to call a halt. The
Legislature could not be induced, as yet, to undo the old
act and divest Oglethorpe of those parasitical suburbs.
Indeed, there was ground for the belief that certain legis-
lators, whose seats were insecure, were conniving at an
active scheme of colonization, and that swarms of negroes
who had no earthly chance of voting across the borders
of " a remarkably neighboring State," where the shot-gun
policy obtained in full force, were now descending upon
Congo Creek and Ashantiville, and who the dickens
could distinguish them, either in feature or statement.
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 201
from the duly-qualified electors of the Oglethorpe dis-
trict? Active canvassers assured the Democratic Central
Committee that the adult male population of the out-
skirts had nearly doubled in three weeks. The day of
registration had come, but that of redemption looked
farther off than ever. One of the most irreclaimable
scalawags on earth had been nominated by accla-
mation as the candidate of the " carpet-bag" party for
mayor, and a dozen lively Ethiopians had been selected
to run for the common council. On the other hand,
the white citizens, who were permanent residents, had,
irrespective of party, named good old Judge Fournier as
their standard-bearer, and had issued a fervent appeal to
all good men, white or black, to vote for this incor-
ruptible gentleman and statesman, and to down the
Hebrew importation who had bought, as was well
known, the nomination of the convention.
But if the committee felt blue and discouraged before
the completion of the registration, they were well-nigh
hopeless after it. Congo Creek, Ashantiville, and a few
colored districts in town showed an increase of nearly
two thousand duly-qualified electors over the rolls of two
years back, and every mother's son of them was ready to
swear he had lived there over eighteen months and pro-
posed to make Oglethorpe his home. Under existing
laws the Democrats on the board of registration had to
content themselves with verbal expressions of doubt and
derision : they could not interfere.
" No, suh," said Major Carter, or, as he called him-
self, " Cyahtah," one of the leading Democrats on the
board, " it's no use kicking against the pricks. We can't
prove what we believe, and the way things look now
202 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
these confounded niggahs will outvote us about two to
one in all but four wards, and the judge will be swamped,
I tell you, gentlemen, if that infernal Jew is elected
mayor of this city I'm going to quit."
" Ain't there no way of persuading them to vote the
right way or else have business elsewhere, like they do
over across the line ?" asked Captain Beaufort, who pre-
ferred the vernacular of his people to the King's English
of any other section ; and he jerked his head backward
to indicate that he meant the " remarkably neighboring
" N-no, suh ; we tried something of that kind six years
ago, and got the federal government down on us in less'n
no time. N-no, suh ; we can't afford anything like in-
timidation. And no power on earth can prevail with
those benighted creatures against the statements of such
infernal scalawags as are their political file-leaders."
" Well, can't they be bought ? — the leaders, I mean ?"
" Dassent try it, suh. You see you have to buy up
the whole gang, for if you leave one out he peaches on
the others, and then the whole election is thrown out.
There ain't money enough in sight to buy more than a
dozen of them, and that wouldn't do at all. N-no, suh,
we can't beat and we can't bribe ; I'm blessed if I know
what we can do."
" Registration all perfectly regular ?"
" Yes, suh. And every niggah in Oglethorpe and a
whole raft from outside have got their registration papers,
while some of our people wouldn't register at all. Said
'twas no earthly use, and I reckon they're pretty near
Mr. Alfred Forno, a high-bred, handsome young fellow
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 203
of twenty-six or seven, who had sat a silent listener,
put forth his hand at this juncture, took up one of the
registration blanks from a pile lying on the table, and
curiously studied it, whistling softly to himself as he did
so. It was a stiff card about four by two inches in size
and bore a printed legend to the effect that the bearer,
" , of number , street, age years
months, was duly registered at the office of the
precinct, ward of the city of Oglethorpe, on
the day of October, and will be entitled to vote at
the polling place of said precinct, said ward, on Tuesday,
November 3, 188 , on personal presentation of this
Mr. Fomo, still softly whistling, turned this card over
and over in his long slender fingers, gazing dreamily
through the smoke of his cigarette at a highly-colored
poster on the opposite wall. Finally, he arose and began
more attentively to study the poster, carelessly tossing
the blank registration card back upon the table. Major
Carter and his friend, the captain, meantime contin-
ued their despondent chat. After a while, Mr. Forno
" Every niggah got one of these hyuh things ?" he
" Every adult male and not a few legal infants, suh,"
was the answer. " But who could swear to a niggah's
age ? I reckon there's a raft of boys not more'n eighteen
that are entitled to vote by the fiat of that board" (he
called it bode, but the reader might not know what on
earth he meant). " Every man who votes has to hand
in his registration certificate when he tenders his ballot ;
that's our law over hyuh. How is it in Alabama ?"
204 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
" VVell-1, we haven't got quite so methodical as yet,"
answered Mr. Forno, with a quiet smile. " Our system
is simpler and somewhat more elastic. Now you've
got just three weeks in which to meet this situation,
as I understand it. Can't you see any way out of the
" Not a vestige of a show, suh. Why ? Do you ?"
And Carter looked up with sudden hope and interest ;
so did Beaufort ; so did one or two gentlemen who had
been silent, but despondent, listeners. They all knew
Forno. He was already a distinguished man in the legal
profession, and his fame had carried him on many a
mission beyond the borders of his own State.
" Possibly," he answered.
" No intimidation ; no hoodoo business ; no bribery
and corruption ; all fair and above-board, Fawno ?"
" Well, I just tell you, suh, that Oglethorpe will build
a monument in your honor if you'll just show us how
to get out of this fix."
" What majority does the registration indicate as prob-
" Not a head less than twenty-four hundred, — all nig-
gahs, suh, with more coming."
" Well, now, does every one of these hyuh fellows
hold his own registration certificate, — this sort of thing,
I mean ?" And Mr. Forno picked up the card again.
" Or are they held by the ward bosses?"
" There are two or three precincts where the bosses
have them, out there in 'Shantyville and Congo particu-
larly ; but we bluffed that game in town. Out there of
cose there's no use trying. The cyahpet-bag bosses just
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 20$
run things to suit themselves. They march their mokes
up to the polls in single file and give each man his ticket
and his cyahd as it comes his tuhn to vote. No, suh ;
hyuh in town we insisted that the cyahd should be
handed to the ownah and nobody else."
Mr. Forno whistled softly to himself a moment.
" What's to prevent one of those bosses getting a
winning ticket in the Louisiana lottery next week, and
being given money enough to go to N'yohleans to
" Well, how is that going to help ?"
"In this way: he won't be able to collect; he won't
have money to get back with, and you can start some
likely niggahs from town up to Congo and 'Shantiville
with the story that he was bought up, certificates and all,
and now they wouldn't be able to vote unless they could
get their papers back from the other bosses. It would
go like wildfire. Everybody knows they're the most
credulous people on the face of the globe."
" But it seems to me, Mr. Fawno, 'twould be easier to
get those certificates away from the bosses, if that's your
game, than it would be to induce each individual coon
to lose his."
" That depends, major, on how much campaign fund
you've got, or can raise. How much have you?"
" Well, we can easily make it five thousand for a sure
thing, but at this moment we haven't more than two
" Then take my advice. Invest fifty dollars, or a little
more, perhaps, in sending one of those Congo bosses
off to N'yohleans to collect a five-thousand-dollar prize.
Start the suburbs, in about ten days or so, on a raid
206 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
upon the other bosses to get personal possession of their
certificates. They're all regularly stamped and num-
bered and have corresponding stubs in the registration
office books, haven't they ?"
" Yes, suh, of cose."
"All right, then. You just see that as much as pos-
sible every colored voter in Oglethorpe has his own
cyahd by the 25th of this month ; and have, say, four
thousand dollars ready. It won't take that much, prob-
ably, but I want to be sure of being able to carry out
my promise. And I'll bet you the best dinner Victor
can lay out next Mardi Gras — a dinner for ten — that
Judge Fournier is elected."
" Done, suh ! done ! and make it for fifteen, and I'll be
overjoyed to lose," exclaimed Major Carter, excitedly.
" But, you must excuse me now, Mr. Fawno ; I'm blessed
if I can see how you'll do it, — that is, awnestly."
" I give you my word, major, that there will be no
intimidation, no influence brought to bear other than the
personal predilection of the citizen of African descent.
He shall be a free agent in the matter. Is it a bet ?"
" Of cose it is, suh, of cose it is ; anything you
And that night, having finished his business in Ogle-
thorpe, Mr. Forno journeyed back to Montgomery.
Somewhere about the middle of the next week the
Hon. Alphonse Beaudet, recently member of the Legis-
lature for the third assembly district in Oglethorpe, a
colored gentleman of considerable pretensions as an
orator and moderate ability as a barber, a leader among
his kind, and the holder of some four hundred registra-
tion certificates, suddenly left Oglethorpe. Indeed, it
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. • 20/
may be said, he secretly left, for Mr. Beaudet was a man
of refined, if not extravagant, tastes. He had been a
body-servant in the halcyon days of Southern supremacy
in Congress before the war; had become imbued with
many of the traits and fancies of his master ; and his
fondness for purple, fine linen, and the flesh-pots of
Egypt was accompanied by a lack of collateral with
which to defray expenses. In fact, despite Mr. Beaudet's
personal, professional, and oratorical graces, he was a
marked man in the community, so much so that had it
been known that he contemplated removal, even tempo-
rarily, from the limits of Oglethorpe the resultant ne
exeats would have made up in numbers and energy all
they might lack of legal existence. There was not a
colored shopkeeper, there were few tailors, hatters, shoe-
makers, haberdashers, whose books were not graced by
the accounts of the Hon. Mr. Beaudet when he was most
prominent and looked upon as a permanency in the
Legislature of the State of his nativity. But politics has
its ups and downs like everything else, and Beaudet had no
more successfully "called the turn" in i88- than he had
at faro the previous year. " Craps" he never descended
to until after the reverses to which allusion has been
made ; " craps" and the barber-shop came in together ;
" craps" and the Louisiana lottery swallowed the earnings
of the shop, which were fair, — much fairer than the games
he played. Beaudet was on his last legs financially and
politically, when one afternoon there strolled in a Mr,
Sullivan, a young Irishman well known in convivial and
political circles ; and Mr. Sullivan ostensibly came for a
shave. Casually, however, he drew forth and began
studying a slip on which was printed what purported to
208 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
be the winning numbers of the monthly drawing of the
Louisiana lottery. This instantly attracted the operator's
"Draw anything, suh?" queried the orator barber, in
his blandest manner.
" No, d — n it 1 Beaudet, I never do. I've been buy-
ing for years, — never pulled a cent yet. I had a chance,
too. Old Sweeny down here tells me he had two of the
winning numbers in his shop and sold 'em both. The
lists have just reached him; this is one of 'em. One
ticket he sold drew five thousand dollars, the other an
approximation prize. He can't for the life of him think
who bought 'em, and he's trying hard to get hold of 'em
now so's to buy 'em back, you know, before the fellow
finds out what a prize he holds."
" What number won the five thousand dollars ?" asked
Beaudet, with trembling lips.
" No. 43,787," answered Sullivan, referring to his list.
" D — n it, man ! Look out, you'll cut me !"
" My Lawd ! Mr. Sullivan, I beg pardon, suh, — it's, it's
only a scratch. My Lawd ! Y-you sure 'bout that
number? Let me just look."
"Sure? Course I am! Why, you lucky dog! have
you got that number? Sh ! Don't let a soul know,
Beaudet, for they'll be down on you in a minute. Here !
don't, don't sell it at a discount here. You take my
advice ; you go right on to Orleans and collect it,"
" My God, suh ! I— I— I'd just like to go, but I ain't
got a cent, Mr. Sullivan, — not a cent, suh ! I'd — I'd be
willing to pay mighty handsome for just enough money
to take me there." And Beaudet looked appealingly in
his customer's face, while big drops of sweat started out
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 20g
on his yellow-brown forehead. " Hyuh, suh, hyuh's my
ticket. Ain't that the number ?"
" Right enough, Beaudet ! Gad, sir, you ought to
make sure of that ! Ton my word, I've a good mind
"Oh, if you only would, Mr. SuUivan, I — I — I'd do
most anything for you."
"Well, you'd have to sneak off, Beaudet. Those cred-
itors of yours are legion. If they found out that you'd
won a prize they'd suck you dry. You've just got to
gather it in, bank it over there or at Mobile, then come
back here without a word to anybody, pay off each man
so much and promise the rest. Why, it would set you
all right again, wouldn't it? Er — when could you
" Go to-night, fust train, suh, if I only had thirty or
forty dollars, enough to take me on to N'yohleans. I'd
pay it right back, Mr. Sullivan, 'deed I would, and more
too ; I'd give a hundred for fifty."
" Pshaw! I'm no Jew. You're a pretty decent sort of
a nigger, Beaudet, if you'd only let politics alone. Now,
if you'll swear not to tell a soul that you are going, I'll
tell you what I'll do : I'll have a ticket to New Orleans
all ready for you at the depot at eight to-night and ten
dollars for expenses. It won't do for you to buy the
ticket ; that would give you dead away, see ? Don't take
any baggage. Better leave your watch here, too.
Perhaps I ought to have that, — I need security of some
kind in case of an accident to you."
And Beaudet only too eagerly assented to everything.
That night he was whirling away over the rice-fields, too
excited to sleep.
2IO TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
A week, ten days, passed by. Beaudet failed to re-
turn, and all manner of stories were in circulation in the
suburbs. Fiery meetings were being held by the negroes,
and they were making furious demands upon the bosses
for personal possession of their registration cards. Mat-
ters came to a climax on Sunday, the 25th of October.
That night Major Carter wired Mr. Forno, at Mont-
gomery, that the voters of Ashantiville and Congo
had overwhelmed the bosses and obtained their cards.
" Four thousand ready" was the significant close of the
Meantime, Mr. Forno had not been idle. A big "tent
show" had been " marching through Georgia" in Sep-
tember, and then, having exhibited in Alabama, and
being billed at Augusta, was bound thence to Aiken,
Lexington, Columbia, Spartanburgh, etc. Advance
agents were already preparing to " paper" the rural dis-
tricts adjoining those lovely old Southern towns, when
they were called off by telegraph and ordered to concen-
trate forthwith at Oglethorpe. All Tuesday night the
paste-brushes were flying, and on Wednesday morning
Oglethorpe — suburbs and all — was ablaze with highly-
colored posters, big as a barn-door, full of illustrations
of acrobats, ground and lofty tumbling, magnificent feats
of horsemanship, daring trapeze acts, bewilderingly beau-
tiful equestriennes, georgeous cream-colored chargers,
trick ponies and mules by the dozen, and — O joy to the
colored heart ! — a big brass band and three talented
clowns. All Wednesday, all Thursday, all Friday, all
impatience the thronging colored colonies of Oglethorpe
flocked about these posters, with bulging, wistful eyes
and watering mouths. " Two grand performances only,
HOW WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 211
to be preceded by a street procession Saturday morning.
Two grand performances Saturday afternoon and even-
ing. Admission for adults, with reserved seats, one
dollar. General admission, seventy-five cents. Children,
"The management, yielding to the solicitation of
prominent citizens of Oglethorpe, has at great expense
cancelled its dates in the interior in order that it may pre-
sent to its host of friends in the metropolis of the South-
eastern States its coruscation of new, daring, bewildering
stars now embraced in the catalogue of its unparalleled
attractions. But in view of the heavy cost involved in so
sudden a ch'ange of plans, the management is compelled
to rsasQ, for this occasion only, the scale of prices. Elegant
and commodious accommodations will be provided for
all, but the customary twenty-five-cent admission,
hitherto accorded the colored populace, is reluctantly
As not one darky in a dozen among the inhabitants
of Congo and Ashantiville had so much as a quarter,
this really made little difference. What did make it
hard was the fact that while he might possibly earn a
quarter 'twixt now and Saturday, it was only by extra
hard work that he could hope to get seventy-five cents,
and extra hard work was something not to be thought
of Then, too, what good was a circus without a quarter
for whisky and " goobers" ? It was hard lines on the
colored folks, and their orators made the most of it in
the big meetings held Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Here was a manifest effort to deprive the poor -colored
man of his rights. Here was outrageous oppression
and wrong on the part of the whites. Things looked
212 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
almost like a riot, especially when it began to be spread
abroad among the colored folks that never, never had
there been seen such a circus in the South. It was the
finest thing going. All day they swarmed in front of
the blazing posters. All Friday night hundreds of men,
women, and children hung about the big square while
the tents were being pitched and the wagons came trun-
dling in ; and then, when Saturday morning dawned,
Congo Creek and Ashantiville streamed into the broad
thoroughfares of the city. During the parade the band,
in its lofty gilded chariot, was surrounded by a thousand
enthusiastic blacks ; the banquette was jammed with
eager black faces, with shining white teeth. The pro-
cession was the finest ever seen of the kind in Ogle-
thorpe, and there was not a moke in all the metropolis
who wouldn't have bartered his pet hoodoo charm for a
ticket, when a strange rumor began to fly from lip to lip,
— a new announcement.
" The management, unwilling to deprive so large and
intelligent a body of citizens of the opportunity of wit-
nessing this transcendently beautiful performance, has,
at the last moment, decided to place on sale single
tickets admitting one colored gentleman and lady at the
greatly reduced price of one dollar, — a concession not
accorded to any citizens except those of color. Gentle-
manly agents will immediately appear upon the streets
to personally see to it that our colored friends have every
opportunity of purchasing."
Fifteen minutes later a still wilder rumor was afloat,
and Congo Creek and Ashantiville were racing up one
another's heels in frantic haste to reach those agents.
" Atiy gentleman temporarily out of funds will be provided
now WE ELECTED THE MAYOR OF OGLETHORPE. 213
with one of these tickets on depositing as seairity his regis-
Few white folks appeared at those magnificent per-
formances either Saturday afternoon or evening. They
couldn't get within a hundred yards of the entrance if
they tried ; but they didn't try. Congo Creek, Ashanti-
ville, and the colored precincts of Oglethorpe were on
the ground in overwhelming numbers. The big tent
could hardly hold the solid masses of dusky humanity.
The performances went off with much eclat. The throng
slowly drifted forth as the last act was finished and the
canvas began to be lowered over their very heads ; and
while the circus men packed their wagons and " folded
their tents like the Arabs," the management slid over to
the Jasper House, where Major Carter and a friend or
two were sipping Clicquot in a private room. Two
satchels of dingy, malodorous, but valuable registration
cards were dumped upon a table and gingerly counted.
Two fat wads of greenbacks were popped into those bags
in their stead. The management drank to the success
of the State Central Committee, and, slyly winking,
There was frantic raving among the orators of
Ashantiville at the meetings of Sunday and Monday
nights, in which Mr. Beaudet, just back from a freight-
car trip from New Orleans, took prominent part. And
when the polls were opened Tuesday at sunrise, the
inspectors of election sorrowfully shook their heads
when man after man poked an anxious black face into
the window, protesting he " done lost his cyahd" and
wanted to vote all the same. The books, he pleaded,
proved that he was registered. It was all useless. It
214 TRIALS OF A STAFF-OFFICER.
might be allowed, said the inspectors, " if it weren't for
Judge Fournier was triumphantly chosen by a majority
of three thousand over his Hebrew competitor, and at
Major Carter's dinner at Victor's next Mardi Gras there
was a shout of laughter when the story was told of
" How we elected the Mayor of Oglethorpe."
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Introduction By Capt. CHAS. KING, U.S.A.
The Adjutant's Story " Capt. CHAS. KING, U.S.A.
The Senior Lieutenant's Story . . " Lieut. THOS. H. WILSON, U.S.A.
The Senior Captain's Story . . . . " Capt. EDWARD FIELD, U.S.A.
The Junior Captain's Story ....'• Capt. HENRY ROMEYN, U.S.A.
The Colonel's Daughter's Story . . " Miss CAROLINE F. LITTLE.
A Captain's Story " Capt. W. C. BARTLETT, U.S.A.
The Quartermaster's Story . . . . " Mr. EDWARD L. KEYES.
The Major's Story " Major WM. H. POWELL, U.S.A.
A Guest's Story " ALICE KING LIVINGSTON.
The Colonel's Story " Col. H. W. CLOSSON, U.S.A.
^^HESE stories are all of military adventure. They are
J- supposed to be told over the walnuts and the wine at a
dinner given by the Colonel of the regiment.
The publishers venture the assertion that no book of the
kind, published here or abroad, excels in literary merit or
exceeds in typographical beauty this dainty volume.
The picture on the title-page was drawn for us by Mr. T.
L R. HAMERSLY & CO., Philadelphia.
Trade supplied by the J. B. Lippincott CoBtipany.
A MONTHLY REVIEW OF
MILITARY AND NAVAL AFFAIRS.
The United Service is not devoted strictly to teclinical
subjects. Fiction, Poetry, Stories of Adventure, Remlnis-
censes of the War, all find a place in its pages. Captain
Charles King, contributes a monthly paper. All
the contributors to the "Colonel's Christmas
Dinner" write regularly for the United
Service. Typographically there is no
handsomer Magazine published.
Specimen copies will be sent
on receipt of five 2c. stamps.
L. R. HAMERSLY & CO.,
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Price, 35 Cents. $4.00 per Annum.
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