Saturday, December 25, 2010

Interesting Items From The Army

The correspondent of the N. Y. World from [Pittsburg], May 7, writes as follows:


We prefer to offer no complaints about the state of the army, but, lest some good people be led to expect too much from it we are bound to say that it is no means the grand army it is supposed to be.  In the first place it is not 166,000 strong; and in the next place, fully one-third of its numerical strength is not effective.  We witnessed a division review by Gen. Davis to-day and were pleased with the appearance of the troops on the ground.  We were however struck with the diminished size of the regiments.  Several regiments, which we had known, in their better days a full thousand strong turned out with less than three hundred men.  Sickness, battle, wounds, deaths, heavy detail for transportations, and the camp guard have caused the reduction. – the men left in the ranks look well, go thro’ the evolutions well, and, we firmly believe, will fight well.  The cavalry is worn down by roads and consequent scarcity of forage.  It will hardly ever be worth anything in an engagement.

The artillery horses are also much worn down, but the men have been improved by their past experience.  Several batteries which lost their pieces have been merged into other and older batteries, where they will probably do better.  The army is in good fighting order but is not large, nor need it be expected to accomplish impossibilities.  The whole army go [sic] into the next fight to conquer – the determination is fixed, they must conquer and will.


We have probably on the whole as many good officers as there are in any army in the world, and possibly as many bad ones!  Of officers of high rank this may be said, because we have so many of them.  Brigadiers are so numerous that no one person can be found who knows their names.  We hear day by day of the creation of new ones by the dozen, some of whom are heard of for the first time.  The bill limiting the number of Brigadiers is regarded favorably, and it is earnestly desired that these should be made for distinction in the field.

It is also a subject of some remark that, out of the number of recent creations the claims of Col. Sweeny, of the Twenty-second Illinois should have been quite overlooked in Washington.  We was made Brigadier General of three months’ volunteers under Lyon, lost an arm at Cherubusco, was in active service eight years in the west, distinguished himself at Springfield, and received three wounds in his gallant conduct at the late battle at Shiloh.

There is also the “fighting doctor,” as he is now called through the army – Dr. Conyn who during the Sunday’s fight fought one gun in the [company] with the Captain for two hours, in the thickest of the fight and afterwards commanded one of the siege guns, in the absence of its proper officers, which contributed to greatly to the repulse of the exultant enemy; Major Cavender also the heroic commander of the batteries of the Missouri First, whose deeds have shown conspicuously from the beginning of the war, in a series of desperate battles; both have been worthy recipients of promotion for their services to the country.


The appearance of some of our commanders may be interesting to those who have not seen them.

General Halleck in the field is hardly the same person who might have been seen quietly gliding from the Planters house to headquarters St. Louis.  He does not look a whit more military in appearance, but looks, in his new and rich though plain in uniform, as if he were in borrowed clothes.  In truth he bears a more striking resemblance to some oleaginous Methodist parson dressed in regimentals, with a wide stiff rimmed black felt had sticking on the back of his head at an acute angle with the ground.  His demeanor in front of his tent is very simple and business like.  No pomp, no unusual ceremony, no lack of order.  His camps are pitched on a declivity on the south side of the village of Monterey.  When on horseback his Wesleyan character is more and more [prominent].  He neither looks like a soldier, rides like one, nor does he carry the state of a Major-General in the field, but is the impersonation of the man of peace.  His face is large, tabular, and Teutonic; his eyes the eyes of a genius – a kind of indistinct gray, not without expression but of that deep welling kind that only reveals the emotion without indicating its character.


Gen. Cullum, who is Chief of Staff and Chief of Engineers, is a bland gray bearded old gentleman, who seems to have been in his prime fifty years ago.  He is also accoutered in the black Quaker hat, and bears a close resemblance to common engravings of Don Quixote mounted on his steed Rozinante [sic].  He exults too, in some enormous and new-fangled [leggings], which e buckles upon his shrunken calves to the great merriment of all on-lookers.  From his conversation you will soon learn that he was on the staff of Gen. Scott in Mexico – a fact which he has not forgotten.  He is supposed to be a master of scientific warfare, and we believe has a very high opinion of his chief.


Gen. Grant a personage now somewhat notorious, is the same unalterable good natured little man he has so often been described. – He has none of the soldier bearing about him but is a man whom one would take for a country merchant or a village lawyer.  He has no distinctive features, there are a thousand like him in personal appearance in the ranks and it is by the conspicuous stars alone that he is distinguished as a high dignitary.  A plain unpretending face, with a comely brownish-red beard, and a square forehead, of short stature and thick-set.  He is we would say a good liver, and altogether an [unpronounceable] man; he is so like others as to be only described by general terms.  He is an inveterate smoker.

Apropos of this General, the passages published from a private letter of his containing a so-called vindication of his conduct at the late battle are the laughing stock of the entire army.  He is a sad jester.  To say that he was not surprised, to intimate that all are cowards who blame him, or to excuse his being absent from the field, are insults to the intelligence of all here.  None but the brave have I heard speak thus of him, and if by accident Gen. Halleck should be disabled and he succeed to the command it would be but the beginning of much trouble.


Gen. Pope is a large, portly person, of sociable bearing, and marked by no unusual characteristics of feature.  He is the type of a bon vivant – evidently enjoys to the full the blessings of physical comfort.  He affects a snappish and positive manner, which is not innate, but is rather put on with his uniform.  He is, we should say, ambitions and vain; this prompts him to continual action.  He is not above speaking well of his own accomplishments. – He believes, however, in fighting the enemy, and this fact wins him the best opinions of his army.  His judgment is well demonstrated in the selection of his staff officers, who rate high above the average of such selections. – His army is commanded by some of the best officers in the service, and will do him great honor when opportunity officers.  Of the other leading personages with this column more at another time.


Now that the army is in the field, with bad roads and the stock tasked to their utmost to supply the necessary rations and forage, the knavish dealing of contractors presses more heavily than ever.  While we lay encamped by the river the rations of the horses and men could be eked out by various means.  We are surprised to learn that systematic frauds upon the government have long been common in furnishing the food of the men and horses.  In the latter case it has been brought to our notice.  So many pounds of hay, oats, or corn are allowed per horse; this is rated and measured out by the bale or stack.  We are credibly told that hardly a bale of hay or a sack of oats or corn holds its full weight.  Sacks are doled out to the Quartermaster for 150 pounds, weighing actually 140, 125 and even 120 pounds, with no evidence of any loss by carriage.  The same is the way with hay and potatoes.  Bales of hay are meted out at 380 pounds, weighing less and 300.  With the hard bread, bacon and beef, there is probably not so much opportunity of fraud, as they are marked weights as issued from the scales.  The loss, I need hardly say, comes upon the poor beasts, who are now called upon to do double duty.  It is difficult to say whether the purchasing Quartermasters [sic] is privy to this swindle, but in charity let us presume he is not.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 24, 1862, p. 1

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