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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 229 [06-08-1861]

              [Gunn�s handwriting]
Mort Thomson on
the �Federal
joined the

[newspaper clipping including engraving]
	Doesticks� First Night�s Soldiering.
			The first two hours�
			drill of a raw recruit
			must be excrutiatingly
			funny to the disinter-
			ested observer.  My
			own experience is as
			  Up five flights of
			stairs, as narrow and
			as crooked as if the
			maker had contracted
			to build a circular stair-
			way inside a chimney,
			and had done it.  Into 
			a large room at the
			very top of the house.
			In fact, our drill-room
			is so high up, that in
			case of a thunder-
			shower, we have clear
			sky up there before
			the first drops of the
			rain reach the ground.
			It takes so long to get
up stairs, that Haney always takes a lunch to eat when he
gets half-way up, and always smokes nineteen pipes to re-
fresh himself before he enters on his evening�s arduous du-
ties of criticizing the recruits, and making bad jokes about
the awkward squad.  Haney has measured the distance from
the sidewalk to the drill-room, and finds that it is four cigars,
six clay-pupes, and a meerschaum and a half.
  Got into the drill-room on the eventful first night.  Lot
of fellows sitting round to make fun of the raw recruits,
and run rigs on the awkward squad  Felt awkward myself;
awkwarder than four dozen awkward squads ought to feel,
all rolled into one.  Thought I�d like to step on the toes of
the bystanders; also, to punch a few of their heads; also,
to knock a few of their eyes out; also, to hurt some of them
a little.
  Then I remembered that I can have my revenge�when I
get to be a General; resolved that the first man that laughed
at me should be appointed as my Special Aid, and I would
take special pains in aiding him to get himself killed, by
sending him to all the posts of danger�when I get to be a
General.  Determined, also, that if any man should make
fun of me, I shall court-martial that man and shoot him the
very first opportunity�when I get to be a General.  Firm-
ly made up my mind that if any daring man should make a
joke about my awkwardness, I shall pistol him�on pretence
of insubordination�when I get to be a General.  Swore a
solemn oath, inside, way down in my bowels, that should
any bystander wink, or smile, or grin, I would put that man
in irons, set him to work on my fortifications, and confiscate
all his ready cash�when I get to be a General.
  When you go for the first time to drill, your drill-officer
proceeds upon the supposition that you don�t know any-
thing at all, and, as a general thing, drill officer is about right:
so he teaches you to stand, to walk, and to turn around.
Officer told me how to stand in the �position of a soldier��
listened carefully�thought I understood it�but I saw so
many grins on the faces of the spectators, that in two min
utes I didn�t know whether he had told me to �turn out�
my feet or my eyes; whether to �project my stomach� out
before or behind; whether my eyes or my chin was to
�strike the ground at the distance of fifteen paces;� and
couldn�t tell whether my head or my heels were to be
�square to the front.�  Tried to do as the rest did, for the
present, but resolved to pay off all the grinners in the future
�when I get to be a General.
  Then he told us how to walk�tried it, but was so afraid
of stepping on the heels of the man in front of me, that I
straddled my legs about a rod apart, and it would have been
two rods, if the legs had only been longer; then he showed
us how to turn around and we turned around�some one
way, and some another.  We couldn�t step together, nor
turn round together, nor stand still together.
  He tried to make us stand in line�line was just the
shape of a fish hook: he got us into a straight line by back-
ing us up against the wall; told us to �Right face��nearly
twisted my head off trying to see through a window behind
me; then he said �Right face� again�told him I couldn�t
unless he�d let me step out, and get my head set on a swivel
�begged our pardon, and told us he ought to have said
�Front face� before he �Right-faced� the second time�
tried to make us march, and we tumbled over each other,
tangled our heels in each others� trousers, stepped on the
calves of each others� legs, knocked our chins on each others�
shoulders, and slipped down�lost step, and couldn�t get it�
lost time, and couldn�t get that�lost presence of mind, and
couldn�t get that�poked our elbows in each other�s ribs�
tumbled down�tripped over each other�rolled over�lost
our caps�unbuckled our belts�unbuttoned our jackets�
tore our trousers�smashed our cartridge boxes, and finally
when he gave the command to �Halt,� we halted some time
in the course of a minute.  And, on examination, it was
found that no two were facing the same way�that all were
out of breath, and about eight were out of temper�of whom
two wanted to thrash the drill sergeant, and the other six
were bent on having a free-fight among themselves.
  After a few more trials, things went a little better, and we
can now go through all our squad-drills, without risk of
walking through the windows�without endangering the
lives of the bystanders�without tearing our clothes, and
without getting so mad that the officers have to lock up the
  Military discipline develops the curious facts, that not one
man in a hundred can stand properly, not one man in a
thousand can walk decently, and not one in ten thousand
can turn around so gracefully as not to deserve a good sound
spanking for his awkwardness.
  That recruit has done wonders who, in two months� severe
drill has, in the three simple matters of standing up, walk-
ing forward, and turning round, become a tenth part as nat-
ural as a child, as sturdy as a man, and as graceful as a
woman.			{Sunday Mercury.               
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