Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Brigadier-General William F. Bartlett to Colonel Francis W. Palfrey, July 8, 1865

Headquarters, First Division, Ninth Corps.
July 8, 1865.

My last was written about the 24th ult., since which time I have changed my views somewhat about remaining in the service. I find that it is a very different thing from what it used to be in war times. There is not half the incentive to labor on your command that there once was, and especially now, when these troops are restless and dissatisfied about getting mustered out, it is almost impossible to get men or officers to do their duty properly. As I told you, I found the Division in a poor state of discipline. I have succeeded in bringing it up somewhat, but it has only been by my constant personal supervision.

I have roughed more officers, and reduced more noncoms, to the ranks, these last two or three weeks, than in any other year of service. There is a very visible and gratifying change, still there is not that charm about the life that used to fascinate. You feel that the object, the aim, of this discipline is gone. You cannot feel that next week, in the presence of the enemy, we shall reap the benefit of this drill and training.

I am very glad that I came out here and satisfied myself, otherwise I might have always regretted that I had left the service, and been restless and discontented.

There are many pleasant things about it still. . . . . There is always more or less of a feeling of pride and pleasure in having a number of men under your control. But I have not been quite so well here as I was at home, and I really suppose it would be better for me to be further north this summer. For all that, Frank, it will be a very sad day for me, the one that I cease to be a soldier. . . . . I shall be in Boston the 20th. I am looking forward to the 21st with dread. I have been informed that a few words would be expected from me, among others, and, Frank, I'll swear I can't get up before such a crowd as that, and speak. What can I say? I am not joking. I feel very unpleasantly about it. . . . . I was talking with Charley Whittier yesterday; he is afraid he will be called on, and we were groaning in sympathy.

By the way, Charley has one of the best appointments in the service, better than he could have hoped for as a volunteer officer, when so very few will be retained, — Adjutant-general of one of the departments of the Pacific, either Oregon or California. It is a very great compliment to him, and every one here is glad; he is a great favorite throughout the army. He will be in Boston till the first of August. Macy has got a brigade in the Provisional Army Potomac. He intends to stay, I believe. I don't suppose he can after the Twentieth is mustered out, but that is retained for the present By the way, I have something to tell you which will please and interest you to know. I was recommended some time since for a “Brevet Major-general” for “gallant and meritorious conduct” at the Mine. I had never heard of it before, and indeed had never thought of such a thing, and I was not a little surprised, as you will be, to hear it. Colonel Marshall told me that he saw the report. Very few of the recommendations for brevets have been acted upon in this Corps yet, and I suppose mine is filed with the rest. So I don't expect to get it before I leave the service. But it is rather gratifying to know that the recommendation has been made, even if there is nothing more. I never ask any questions, and 1 suppose that is why I didn't know of this before. They seem to expect if a man wants a brevet, he will apply or ask for it, which to me (I may have a false idea about such things) seems a contradiction in terms. An officer, speaking in a complimentary way of my fortunes the other night, asked me why I didn't “apply for a brevet.” To cut him down, for he was one of them, I rather lied when I said, “I didn't know that was the way you got them.” I have learnt that, since I have been out here. Why, Frank, we used to think that our officers who had been brevetted in the Mexican War were special heroes, and had done some extraordinary feat of courage and devotion, but this sort of thing makes me rather skeptical about the value of a brevet in the armies of the Republic. . . . .

Yours ever,

SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 155-7

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