Militia companies have always been popular, but never so much so as since the war broke out. Young men with stay-at-home-and-take-care-of-the-women proclivities, are more than ever inclined to join the Home Guards, in consequence of increased mortality in the army of the United States, as shown by the newspaper statistics
With a laudable ambition to support the Government, in any and every emergency, I have recently become a member of the War Department myself. I joined the Ellsworth Zouaves, a remnant of what used to be a troupe of acrobats, who distinguished themselves all the way from Chicago to Washington, by turning double somersaults, with muskets in their mouths and bayonets in their hands
There are no members of the Old Zouave battalion in the new one, but the new one retains the name of Ellsworth because one of the members has a brother that once saw a picture of Colonel Ellsworth’s grandfather. The names of organizations frequently have a more remote origin than this, and many of them are about as consistent and reasonable as a man claiming relationship to the President of the United States because he was born in Lincolnshire, or supposing he would be Governor if he married a governess, or trying to pass free at a circus as a representative of the press because he is a cheese-maker
I was put through a rigid course of examination before I could be made a Zouave, and I say it with feelings of gratification and self-esteem, that I was remarkably well posted in the catechism. My father was a hero of the revolution, having been caught once in a water-wheel, and whirled around rapidly a number of times. Others of the family have also distinguished themselves as military men at different periods, but their deeds of courage are too well known to need repetition
The following is a copy verbatim et literatim et wordim of most of the questions propounded to me, and the answers thereto, which my intimate acquaintance with the Army Regulations and the report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War enable me to answer readily and accurately. My interrogator was a little man in Federal blue, with gold leaves on his shoulders. They called him Major, but he looked young enough to be a minor. He led off with-
“How old are you, and what are your qualifications?
“Twenty-two and a strong stomach.
Then I requested him to fire his interrogations singly, which he did
“What is the first duty to be learned by a soldier?
“How to draw his rations.
“What is the most difficult feat for a soldier to perform?
“Drawing his bounty.
“If you were in the rear rank of a company during an action, and the man in the front rank before you should be wounded and disabled, what would you do?
“I would despatch myself to the rear for a surgeon immediately. Some men would step forward and take the wounded man’s place, but that is unnatural.
“If you were commanding skirmishers, and saw cavalry advancing in the front and infantry in the rear, which would you meet?
“Neither; I would mass myself for a bold movement, and shove out sideways.
“If you were captured what line of conduct would you pursue?
“I would treat my captors with the utmost civility.
“What are the duties of Home Guards?
“Their duty is to see that they have no duties.
“What will you take?
The latter question may have been answered with too much vehemence, and may have impressed listener with the belief that I am in the habit of jumping at conclusions. Such, however, is not the case.
I am a Zouave; I am a Home Guard. I have been through all the manoeuvres, and can right about face; I can also write about any other part of the body. I can do the hand-springs, and the tumbling, and the lay down and roll-overs, which are done with or without a musket. I have been drilled till the drill has become a bore.I have drilled in all the marches and leaps and vaults, and in the bayonet exercises, and in all the steps,– the common step, the quick step, the very quick step, and the double quick step, and the trot and the run; also in slow time and long time, which I never learned from my landlady nor my tailor. I can shoulder arms, and bear arms, and carry arms, (if they are not too heavy,) and reverse arms, and support arms, (ordinarily my arms support me,) and I can order arms better than I can pay for them after they are ordered. I can parry and tierce, and I can throw a hand-spring with a sword-bayonet in my hand without breaking the sword-bayonet in more than three pieces, and I can bite off a cartridge without breaking my teeth out
Once, when an order was given to sling knapsacks, I slung mine out of the window, and when the order was given to unsling knapsacks, I went out and slung it back again quicker than anybody else could have done it. I have got a pretty knapsack too– there are letters on it. It is just the thing to sit down on in the time of an action, and is big enough for a breastwork in case of danger from bullets or anything of that sort. It’s heavy, though, and I felt that there was an immense responsibility resting on me the first time I shouldered it. I must have felt something like Atlas did the first time he shouldered the world. It was so heavy that, as a piece of masterly strategy, I fell back the first time I strapped it on; and as a piece of unmasterly strategy I came near breaking my head against the floor. The Major had promised to put sawdust, softened with soda-water, on the floor hereafter
I have been getting a Major General’s uniform made. There is every opportunity that could be desired for promotion, in our corps, where real merit exists, and a Major General of Home Guards is not to be sneezed at. I may have to keep my uniform a few years before I will have occasion to wear it, but a Major General’s toggery is a good thing to have in case of promotion. I trust my friends will give themselves no uneasiness, as I feel sure of ultimate success in the enterprises I have undertaken. I mean to strike the keynote of my campaign soon, and then look out for a sensation in military circles
I haven’t shaved my upper lip since yesterday afternoon. To-morrow will be the third day. I mean to grow a moustache that will be an object of admiration and envy. Mustachios are indispensable to the achievement of a Major Generalship. Mustachios are absolutely necessary to the achievement of anything that is useful
In the event of a war between the United States and the Esquimaux, Chicago my residence will, in all likelihood, be one of the first cities attacked by the invading enemy, and every precaution should be taken to be fully prepared for them. Should such attack ever be made by the warlike and bloodthirsty Esquimaux, or any other of the great powers of the earth, and should it be my misfortune to be unable personally to command my forces, (for I have often observed that an invasion is productive of sickness,) I shall take care that my second officer is a man of sufficient capacity to defend the city as ably as I would do it myself. Should the worst come to the worst, I stand ready to sacrifice a substitute on the altar of my country.
Originally posted 2008-01-20 14:01:47.