At Tenallytown, General McCall established his command in pleasant camps, and instructed the field officers to use all possible diligence in familiarizing their regiments with the battalion drill, and to teach the men the manual and the use of arms. The officers organized classes for mutual instruction in military tactics and army regulations. In these, all questions pertaining to military science were freely discussed, and points in doubt were referred to the officers who had graduated in the military academy at West Point, or to the commanding general. The zeal to acquire a knowledge of military duties and movements manifested by the officers, was equalled only by their efforts to instruct their men in the drills, the duties and the conduct of a soldier. Never, perhaps, was there so general a diffusion of intelligence, extending through all the companies of a division of an army, as was the case in the Reserve Corps. A large number of students from colleges, academics, normal and high schools, many teachers in the public schools and in the higher institutions of learning, professional student, physicians, lawyers and preachers, were found, not only as officers, but in the ranks, associated with young men of equal intelligence. There were sergeants who, but for their uniforms, might have been mistaken for generals, and privates fit to command brigades. To make soldiers of citizens like these was not a difficult task. To command companies, regiments, brigades and divisions composed of men of so much intelligence, required officers possessing much executive ability and a thorough knowledge of the rights, privileges and duties of both officers and privates.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A Citizen Army
Just started some new Civil War research, related to a property in Langley, Virginia that might have been a camp for soldiers of the Pennsvylania Reserves in the first winter of the war. When Lincoln send out his first call for 75,000 troops, far more Pennsylvanians volunteered than were needed to fill the state's quota. Unwilling to send these eager men home, the governor organized them into 13 regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserves. After the Union defeat at Bull Run, when Lincoln called for 200,000 more men, the Pa Reserves were activated as part of the Federal army and sent to Washington. The Pa Reserves produced several of the Union's most famous officers, including George Gordon Meade, Winfield Scott Hancock, and John F. Reynolds. All officers and NCOs up to the regimental commanders were elected from the ranks. This passage from the official history of the Reserves, written in 1866, gives a feel for what life was like in the first year of the war for these volunteer soldiers: