MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861--NOVEMBER 1863
THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR
Ohio Senate April 12--Sumter bombarded--"Glory to God!"--The surrender--Effect on public sentiment--Call for troops--Politicians changing front--David Tod--Stephen A. Douglas--The insurrection must be crushed--Garfield on personal duty--Troops organized by the States--The militia--Unpreparedness--McClellan at Columbus--Meets Governor Dennison--Put in command--Our stock of munitions--Making estimates--McClellan's plan--Camp Jackson--Camp Dennison--Gathering of the volunteers--Garibaldi uniforms--Officering the troops--Off for
Washington--Scenes in the State Capitol--Governor Dennison's labors--Young regulars--Scott's policy--Alex. McCook--Orlando Poe--Not allowed to take state commissions.
On Friday the twelfth day of April, 1861, the Senate of Ohio was in session, trying to go on in the ordinary routine of business, but with a sense of anxiety and strain which was caused by the troubled condition of national affairs. The passage of Ordinances of Secession by one after another of the Southern States, and even the assembling of a provisional
Confederate government at Montgomery, had not wholly destroyed the hope that some peaceful way out of our troubles would be found; yet the gathering of an army on the sands opposite Fort Sumter was really war, and if a hostile gun were fired, we knew it would mean the end of all effort at arrangement. Hoping almost against hope that blood would not be shed, and that the pageant of military array and of a rebel government would pass by and soon be reckoned among the disused scenes and properties of a political drama that never pretended to be more than acting, we tried to give our thoughts to business; but there was no heart in it, and the morning hour lagged, for we could not work in earnest and we were unwilling to adjourn.
Suddenly a senator came in from the lobby in an excited way, and catching the chairman's eye, exclaimed, "Mr. President, the telegraph announces that the secessionists are bombarding Fort Sumter!" There was a solemn and painful hush, but it was broken in a moment by a woman's shrill voice from the spectators' seats, crying, "Glory to God!" It startled every one, almost as if the enemy were in the midst. But it was the voice of a radical friend of the slave, who after a lifetime of public agitation believed that only through blood could freedom be won. Abby Kelly Foster had been attending the session of the Assembly, urging the passage of some measures enlarging the legal rights of married women, and, sitting beyond the railing when the news came in, shouted a fierce cry of joy that oppression had submitted its cause to the decision of the sword. With most of us, the gloomy thought that civil war had begun in our own land overshadowed everything, and seemed too great a price to pay for any good; a scourge to be borne only in preference to yielding the very groundwork of our republicanism,--the right to enforce a fair interpretation of the Constitution through the election of President and Congress.
The next day we learned that Major Anderson had surrendered, and the telegraphic news from all the Northern States showed plain evidence of a popular outburst of loyalty to the Union, following a brief moment of dismay. Judge Thomas M. Key of Cincinnati, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was the recognized leader of the Democratic party in the Senate, [Footnote: Afterward aide-de-camp and acting judge-advocate on McClellan's staff.] and at an early hour moved an adjournment to the following Tuesday, in order, as he said, that the senators might have the opportunity to go home and consult their constituents in the perilous crisis of public affairs. No objection was made to the adjournment, and the representatives took a similar recess. All were in a state of most anxious suspense,--the Republicans to know what initiative the Administration at Washington would take, and the Democrats to determine what course they should follow if the President should call for troops to put down the insurrection.
Before we meet again, Mr. Lincoln's proclamation and call for seventy-five thousand militia for three months' service were out, and the great mass of the people of the North, forgetting all party distinctions, answered with an enthusiastic patriotism that swept politicians off their feet. When we met again on Tuesday morning, Judge Key, taking my arm and pacing the floor outside the railing in the Senate chamber, broke out impetuously, "Mr. Cox, the people have gone stark mad!" "I knew they would if a blow was struck against the flag," said I, reminding him of some previous conversations we had had on the subject. He, with most of the politicians of the day, partly by sympathy with the overwhelming current of public opinion, and partly by reaction of their own hearts against the false theories which had encouraged the secessionists, determined to support the war measures of the government, and to make no factious opposition to such state legislation as might be necessary to sustain the federal administration.
The attitude of Mr. Key is only a type of many others, and makers one of the most striking features of the time. On the 8th of January the usual Democratic convention and celebration of the Battle of New Orleans had taken place, and a series of resolutions had been passed, which were drafted, as was understood, by Judge Thurman. In these, professing to speak in the name of "two hundred thousand Democrats of Ohio," the convention had very significantly intimated that this vast organization of men would be found in the way of any attempt to put down secession until the demands of the South in respect to
slavery were complied with. A few days afterward I was returning to Columbus from my home in Trumbull County, and meeting upon the railway train with David Tod, then an active Democratic politician, but afterward one of our loyal "war governors," the conversation turned on the action of the convention which had just adjourned. Mr. Tod and I were personal friends and neighbors, and I freely expressed my surprise that the convention should have committed itself to what must be interpreted as a threat of insurrection in the North if the administration should, in opposing secession by force, follow the example of Andrew Jackson, in whose honor they had assembled. He rather vehemently reasserted the substance of the resolution, saying that we Republicans would find the two hundred thousand Ohio Democrats in front of us, if we attempted to cross the Ohio River. My answer was, "We will give up the contest if we cannot carry your two hundred thousand over the heads of your leaders."
The result proved how hollow the party professions had been; or perhaps I should say how superficial was the hold of such party doctrines upon the mass of men in a great political organization. In the excitement of political campaigns they had cheered the extravagant language of party platforms with very little reflection, and the leaders had imagined that the people were really and earnestly indoctrinated into the political creed of Calhoun; but at the first shot from
Beauregard's guns in
Charleston harbor their latent patriotism sprang into vigorous life, and they crowded to the recruiting stations to enlist for the defence of the national flag and the national Union. It was a popular torrent which no leaders could resist; but many of these should be credited with the same patriotic impulse, and it made them nobly oblivious of party consistency. Stephen A. Douglas passed through Columbus on his way to Washington a few days after the surrender of Sumter, and in response to the calls of a spontaneous gathering of people, spoke to them from his bedroom window in the American House. There had been no thought for any of the common surroundings of a public meeting. There were no torches, no music. A dark crowd of men filled full the dim-lit street, and called for Douglas with an earnestness of tone wholly different from the enthusiasm of common political gatherings. He came half-dressed to his window, and without any light near him, spoke solemnly to the people upon the terrible crisis which had come upon the nation. Men of all parties were there: his own followers to get some light as to their duty; the Breckinridge Democrats ready, most of them, repentantly to follow a Northern leader, now that their recent candidate was in the rebellion; [Footnote: Breckinridge did not formally join the Confederacy till September, but his accord with the secessionists was well known.] the Republicans eagerly anxious to know whether so potent an influence was to be unreservedly on the side of the country. I remember well the serious solicitude with which I listened to his opening sentences as I leaned against the railing of the State House park, trying in vain to get more than a dim outline of the man as he stood at the unlighted window. His deep sonorous voice rolled down through the darkness from above us,--an earnest, measured voice, the more solemn, the more impressive, because we could not see the speaker, and it came to us literally as "a voice in the night,"--the night of our country's unspeakable trial. There was no uncertainty in his tone: the Union must be preserved and the insurrection must be crushed,--he pledged his hearty support to
Mr. Lincoln's administration in doing this. Other questions must stand aside till the national authority should be everywhere recognized. I do not think we greatly cheered him,--it was rather a deep Amen that went up from the crowd. We went home breathing freer in the assurance we now felt that, for a time at least, no organized opposition to the federal government and its policy of coercion would be formidable in the North. We did not look for unanimity. Bitter and narrow men there were whose sympathies were with their country's enemies. Others equally narrow were still in the chains of the secession logic they had learned from the Calhounists; but the broader-minded men found themselves happy in being free from disloyal theories, and threw themselves sincerely and earnestly into the popular movement. There was no more doubt where Douglas or Tod or Key would be found, or any of the great class they represented.
Yet the situation hung upon us like a nightmare. Garfield and I were lodging together at the time, our wives being kept at home by family cares, and when we reached our sitting-room, after an evening session of the Senate, we often found ourselves involuntarily groaning, "Civil war in _our_ land!" The shame, the outrage, the folly, seemed too great to believe, and we half hoped to wake from it as from a dream. Among the painful remembrances of those days is the ever-present weight at the heart which never left me till I found relief in the active duties of camp life at the close of the month. I went about my duties (and I am sure most of those I associated with did the same) with the half-choking sense of a grief I dared not think of: like one who is dragging himself to the ordinary labors of life from some terrible and recent bereavement.
We talked of our personal duty, and though both Garfield and myself had young families, we were agreed that our activity in the organization and support of the Republican party made the duty of supporting the government by military service come peculiarly home to us. He was, for the moment, somewhat trammelled by his half-clerical position, but he very soon cut the knot. My own path seemed unmistakably clear. He, more careful for his friend than for himself, urged upon me his doubts whether my physical strength was equal to the strain that would be put upon it. "I," said he, "am big and strong, and if my relations to the church and the college can be broken, I shall have no excuse for not enlisting; but you are slender and will break down." It was true that I looked slender for a man six feet high (though it would hardly be suspected now that it was so), yet I had assured confidence in the elasticity of my constitution; and the result justified me, whilst it also showed how liable to mistake one is in such things. Garfield found that he had a tendency to weakness of the alimentary system which broke him down on every campaign in which he served and led to his retiring from the army much earlier than he had intended. My own health, on the other hand, was strengthened by out-door life and exposure, and I served to the end with growing physical vigor.
When Mr. Lincoln issued his first call for troops, the existing laws made it necessary that these should be fully organized and officered by the several States. Then, the
treasury was in no condition to bear the burden of war expenditures, and till Congress could assemble, the President was forced to rely on the States to furnish the means necessary for the equipment and transportation of their own troops. This threw upon the governors and legislatures of the loyal States responsibilities of a kind wholly unprecedented. A long period of profound peace had made every military organization seem almost farcical. A few independent military companies formed the merest shadow of an army; the state militia proper was only a nominal thing. It happened, however, that I held a commission as Brigadier in this state militia, and my intimacy with Governor Dennison led him to call upon me for such assistance as I could render in the first enrolment and organization of the Ohio quota. Arranging to be called to the Senate chamber when my vote might be needed upon important legislation, I gave my time chiefly to such military matters as the governor appointed. Although, as I have said, my military commission had been a nominal thing, and in fact I had never worn a uniform, I had not wholly neglected theoretic preparation for such work. For some years the possibility of a war of secession had been one of the things which would force itself upon the thoughts of reflecting people, and I had been led to give some careful study to such books of tactics and of strategy as were within easy reach. I had especially been led to read military history with critical care, and had carried away many valuable ideas from this most useful means of military education. I had therefore some notion of the work before us, and could approach its problems with less loss of time, at least, than if I had been wholly ignorant. [Footnote: I have treated this subject somewhat more fully in a paper in the "Atlantic Monthly" for March, 1892, "Why the Men of '61 fought for the Union."]
My commission as Brigadier-General in the Ohio quota in national service was dated on the 23d of April, though it had been understood for several days that my tender of service in the field would be accepted. Just about the same time Captain George B. McClellan was requested by Governor Dennison to come to Columbus for consultation, and by the governor's request I met him at the railway station and took him to the State House. I think Mr. Larz Anderson (brother of Major Robert Anderson) and Mr. L'Hommedieu of Cincinnati were with him. The intimation had been given me that he would probably be made major-general and commandant of our Ohio contingent, and this, naturally, made me scan him closely. He was rather under the medium height, but muscularly formed, with broad shoulders and a well-poised head, active and graceful in motion. His whole appearance was quiet and modest, but when drawn out he showed no lack of confidence in himself. He was dressed in a plain travelling suit, with a narrow-rimmed soft felt hat. In short, he seemed what he was, a railway superintendent in his business clothes. At the time his name was a good deal associated with that of
Beauregard; they were spoken of as young men of similar standing in the Engineer Corps of the Army, and great things were expected of them both because of their scientific knowledge of their profession, though McClellan had been in civil life for some years. His report on the Crimean War was one of the few important memoirs our old army had produced, and was valuable enough to give a just reputation for comprehensive understanding of military organization, and the promise of ability to conduct the operations of an army.
I was present at the interview which the governor had with him. The destitution of the State of everything like military material and equipment was very plainly put, and the magnitude of the task of building up a small army out of nothing was not blinked. The governor spoke of the embarrassment he felt at every step from the lack of practical military experience in his staff, and of his desire to have some one on whom he could properly throw the details of military work. McClellan showed that he fully understood the difficulties there would be before him, and said that no man could wholly master them at once, although he had confidence that if a few weeks' time for preparation were given, he would be able to put the Ohio division into reasonable form for taking the field. The command was then formally tendered and accepted. All of us who were present felt that the selection was one full of promise and hope, and that the governor had done the wisest thing practicable at the time.
The next morning McClellan requested me to accompany him to the State Arsenal, to see what arms and material might be there. We found a few boxes of smooth-bore
muskets which had once been issued to militia companies and had been returned rusted and damaged. No belts, cartridge-boxes, or other accoutrements were with them. There were two or three smooth-bore brass fieldpieces, six-pounders, which had been honeycombed by firing salutes, and of which the vents had been worn out, bushed, and worn out again. In a heap in one corner lay a confused pile of mildewed harness, which had probably been once used for artillery horses, but was now not worth carrying away. There had for many years been no money appropriated to buy military material or even to protect the little the State had. The federal government had occasionally distributed some arms which were in the hands of the independent uniformed militia, and the arsenal was simply an empty storehouse. It did not take long to complete our inspection. At the door, as we were leaving the building, McClellan turned, and looking back into its emptiness, remarked, half humorously and half sadly, "A fine stock of munitions on which to begin a great war!" We went back to the State House, where a room in the Secretary of State's department was assigned us, and we sat down to work. The first task was to make out detailed schedules and estimates of what would be needed to equip ten thousand men for the field. This was a unit which could be used by the governor and legislature in estimating the appropriations needed then or subsequently. Intervals in this labor were used in discussing the general situation and plans of campaign. Before the close of the week McClellan drew up a paper embodying his own views, and forwarded it to Lieutenant-General Scott. He read it to me, and my recollection of it is that he suggested two principal lines of movement in the West,--one, to move eastward by the Kanawha valley with a heavy column to co-operate with an army in front of Washington; the other, to march directly southward and to open the valley of the Mississippi. Scott's answer was appreciative and flattering, without distinctly approving his plan; and I have never doubted that the paper prepared the way for his appointment in the regular army which followed at so early a day. [Footnote: I am not aware that McClellan's plan of campaign has been published. Scott's answer to it is given in General Townsend's "Anecdotes of the Civil War," p. 260. It was, with other communications from Governor Dennison, carried to Washington by Hon. A. F. Perry of Cincinnati, an intimate friend of the governor, who volunteered as special messenger, the mail service being unsafe. See a paper by Mr. Perry in "Sketches of War History" (Ohio Loyal Legion), _vol. iii._ p. 345.]
During this week McClellan was invited to take the command of the troops to be raised in Pennsylvania, his native State. Some things beside his natural attachment to Pennsylvania made the proposal an attractive one to him. It was already evident that the army which might be organized near Washington would be peculiarly in the public eye, and would give to its leading officers greater opportunities of prompt recognition and promotion than would be likely to occur in the West. The close association with the government would also be a source of power if he were successful, and the way to a chief command would be more open there than elsewhere. McClellan told me frankly that if the offer had come before he had assumed the Ohio command, he would have accepted it; but he promptly decided that he was honorably bound to serve under the commission he had already received and which, like my own, was dated April 23.
My own first assignment to a military command was during the same week, on the completion of our estimates, when I was for a few days put in charge of Camp Jackson, the depot of recruits which Governor Dennison had established in the northern suburb of Columbus and had named in honor of the first squelcher of secessionism. McClellan soon determined, however, that a separate camp of instruction should be formed for the troops mustered into the United States service, and should be so placed as to be free from the temptations and inconveniences of too close neighborhood to a large city, whilst it should also be reasonably well placed for speedy defence of the southern frontier of the State. Other camps could be under state control and used only for the organization of regiments which could afterward be sent to the camp of instruction or elsewhere. Railway lines and connections indicated some point in the Little Miami valley as the proper place for such a camp; and Mr. Woodward, the chief engineer of the Little Miami Railroad, being taken into consultation, suggested a spot on the line of that railway about thirteen miles from Cincinnati, where a considerable bend of the Little Miami River encloses wide and level fields, backed on the west by gently rising hills. I was invited to accompany the general in making the inspection of the site, and I think we were accompanied by Captain Rosecrans, an officer who had resigned from the regular army to seek a career as civil engineer, and had lately been in charge of some coal mines in the Kanawha valley. Mr. Woodward was also of the party, and furnished a special train to enable us to stop at as many eligible points as it might be thought desirable to examine. There was no doubt that the point suggested was best adapted for our work, and although the owners of the land made rather hard terms, McClellan was authorized to close a contract for the use of the military camp, which, in honor of the governor, he named Camp Dennison.
But in trying to give a connected idea of the first military organization of the State, I have outrun some incidents of those days which are worth recollection. From the hour the call for troops was published, enlistments began, and recruits were parading the streets continually. At the Capitol the restless impulse to be doing something military seized even upon the members of the legislature, and a large number of them assembled every evening upon the east terrace of the State House to be drilled in marching and facing, by one or two of their own number who had some knowledge of company tactics. Most of the uniformed independent companies in the cities of the State immediately tendered their services, and began to recruit their numbers to the hundred men required for acceptance. There was no time to procure uniform, nor was it desirable; for these independent companies had chosen their own, and would have to change it for that of the United States as soon as this could be furnished. For some days companies could be seen marching and drilling, of which part would be uniformed in some gaudy style, such as is apt to prevail in holiday parades in time of peace, whilst another part would be dressed in the ordinary working garb of citizens of all degrees. The uniformed files would also be armed and accoutred; the others would be without arms or equipments, and as awkward a squad as could well be imagined. The material, however, was magnificent, and soon began to take shape. The fancy uniforms were left at home, and some approximation to a simple and useful costume was made. The recent popular outburst in Italy furnished a useful idea, and the "Garibaldi uniform" of a red flannel shirt with broad falling collar, with blue trousers held by a leathern waist-belt, and a soft felt hat for the head, was extensively copied, and served an excellent purpose. It could be made by the wives and sisters at home, and was all the more acceptable for that. The spring was opening, and a heavy coat would not be much needed, so that with some sort of overcoat and a good blanket in an improvised knapsack, the new company was not badly provided. The warm scarlet color, reflected from their enthusiastic faces as they stood in line, made a picture that never failed to impress the mustering officers with the splendid character of the men.
The officering of these new troops was a difficult and delicate task, and so far as company officers were concerned, there seemed no better way at the beginning than to let the enlisted men elect their own, as was in fact done. In most cases where entirely new companies were raised, it had been by the enthusiastic efforts of some energetic volunteers who were naturally made the commissioned officers. But not always. There were numerous examples of self-denying patriotism which stayed in the ranks after expending much labor and money in recruiting, modestly refusing the honors, and giving way to some one supposed to have military knowledge or experience. The war in Mexico in 1847 was the latest conflict with a civilized people, and to have served in it was a sure passport to confidence. It had often been a service more in name than in fact; but the young volunteers felt so deeply their own ignorance that they were ready to yield to any pretence of superior knowledge, and generously to trust themselves to any one who would offer to lead them. Hosts of charlatans and incompetents were thus put into responsible places at the beginning, but the sifting work went on fast after the troops were once in the field. The election of field officers, however, ought not to have been allowed. Companies were necessarily regimented together, of which each could have but little personal knowledge of the officers of the others; intrigue and demagogy soon came into play, and almost fatal mistakes were made in selection. After a time the evil worked its own cure, but the ill effects of it were long visible.
The immediate need of troops to protect Washington caused most of the uniformed companies to be united into the first two regiments, which were quickly despatched to the East. It was a curious study to watch the indications of character as the officers commanding companies reported to the governor, and were told that the pressing demand from Washington made it necessary to organize a regiment or two and forward them at once, without waiting to arm or equip the recruits. Some promptly recognized the necessity and took the undesirable features as part of the duty they had assumed. Others were querulous, wishing some one else to stand first in the breach, leaving them time for drill, equipment, and preparation. One figure impressed itself very strongly on my memory. A sturdy form, a head with more than ordinary marks of intelligence, but a bearing with more of swagger than of self-poised courage, yet evidently a man of some importance in his own community, stood before the seat of the governor, the bright lights of the chandelier over the table lighting strongly both their figures. The officer was wrapped in a heavy blanket or carriage lap-robe, spotted like a leopard skin, which gave him a brigandish air. He was disposed to protest. "If my men were hellions," said he, with strong emphasis on the word (a new one to me), "I wouldn't mind; but to send off the best young fellows of the county in such a way looks like murder." The governor, sitting with pale, delicate features, but resolute air, answered that the way to Washington was not supposed to be dangerous, and the men could be armed and equipped, he was assured, as soon as they reached there. It would be done at
Harrisburg, if possible, and certainly if any hostility should be shown in Maryland. The President wanted the regiments at once, and Ohio's volunteers were quite as ready to go as any. He had no choice, therefore, but to order them off. The order was obeyed; but the obedience was with bad grace, and I felt misgivings as to the officer's fitness to command,--misgivings which about a year afterward were vividly recalled with the scene I have described.
No sooner were these regiments off than companies began to stream in from all parts of the State. On their first arrival they were quartered wherever shelter could be had, as there were no tents or sheds to make a camp for them. Going to my evening work at the State House, as I crossed the rotunda, I saw a company marching in by the south door, and another disposing itself for the night upon the marble pavement near the east entrance; as I passed on to the north hall, I saw another, that had come a little earlier, holding a prayer-meeting, the stone arches echoing with the excited supplications of some one who was borne out of himself by the terrible pressure of events around him, whilst, mingling with his pathetic, beseeching tones as he prayed for his country, came the shrill notes of the fife, and the thundering din of the inevitable bass drum from the company marching in on the other side. In the Senate chamber a company was quartered, and the senators were there supplying them with paper and pens, with which the boys were writing their farewells to mothers and sweethearts whom they hardly dared hope they should see again. A similar scene was going on in the Representatives' hall, another in the Supreme Court room. In the executive office sat the governor, the unwonted noises, when the door was opened, breaking in on the quiet business-like air of the room,--he meanwhile dictating despatches, indicating answers to others, receiving committees of citizens, giving directions to officers of companies and regiments, accommodating himself to the wilful democracy of our institutions which insists upon seeing the man in chief command and will not take its answer from a subordinate, until in the small hours of the night the noises were hushed, and after a brief hour of effective, undisturbed work upon the matters of chief importance, he could leave the glare of his gas-lighted office, and seek a few hours' rest, only to renew the same wearing labors on the morrow.
On the streets the excitement was of a rougher if not more intense character. A minority of unthinking partisans could not understand the strength and sweep of the great popular movement, and would sometimes venture to speak out their sympathy with the rebellion or their sneers at some party friend who had enlisted. In the boiling temper of the time the quick answer was a blow; and it was one of the common incidents of the day for those who came into the State House to tell of a knockdown that had occurred here or there, when this popular punishment had been administered to some indiscreet "rebel sympathizer."
Various duties brought young army officers of the regular service to the state capital, and others sought a brief leave of absence to come and offer their services to the governor of their native State. General Scott, too much bound up in his experience of the
Mexican War, and not foreseeing the totally different proportions which this must assume, planted himself firmly on the theory that the regular army must be the principal reliance for severe work, and that the volunteers could only be auxiliaries around this solid nucleus which would show them the way to perform their duty and take the brunt of every encounter. The young regulars who asked leave to accept commissions in state regiments were therefore refused, and were ordered to their own subaltern positions and posts. There can be no doubt that the true policy would have been to encourage the whole of this younger class to enter at once the volunteer service. They would have been the field officers of the new regiments, and would have impressed discipline and system upon the organization from the beginning. The Confederacy really profited by having no regular army. They gave to the officers who left our service, it is true, commissions in their so-called "provisional army," to encourage them in the assurance that they would have permanent military positions if the war should end in the independence of the South; but this was only a nominal organization, and their real army was made up (as ours turned out practically to be) from the regiments of state volunteers. Less than a year afterward we changed our policy, but it was then too late to induce many of the regular officers to take regimental positions in the volunteer troops. I hesitate to declare that this did not turn out for the best; for although the organization of our army would have been more rapidly perfected, there are other considerations which have much weight. The army would not have been the popular thing it was, its close identification with the people's movement would have been weakened, and it perhaps would not so readily have melted again into the mass of the nation at the close of the war.
Among the first of the young regular officers who came to Columbus was Alexander McCook. He was ordered there as inspection and mustering officer, and one of my earliest duties was to accompany him to Camp Jackson to inspect the cooked rations which the contractors were furnishing the new troops. I warmed to his earnest, breezy way, and his business-like activity in performing his duty. As a makeshift, before camp equipage and cooking utensils could be issued to the troops, the contractors placed long trestle tables under an improvised shed, and the soldiers came to these and ate, as at a country picnic. It was not a bad arrangement to bridge over the interval between home life and regular soldiers' fare, and the outcry about it at the time was senseless, as all of us know who saw real service afterward. McCook bustled along from table to table, sticking a long skewer into a boiled ham, smelling of it to see if the interior of the meat was tainted; breaking open a loaf of bread and smelling of it to see if it was sour; examining the coffee before it was put into the kettles, and after it was made; passing his judgment on each, in prompt, peremptory manner as we went on. The food was, in the main, excellent, though, as a way of supporting an army, it was quite too costly to last long.
While mustering in the recruits, McCook was elected colonel of the First Regiment Ohio Volunteers, which had, I believe, already gone to Washington. He was eager to accept, and telegraphed to Washington for permission. Adjutant-General Thomas replied that it was not the policy of the War Department to permit it. McCook cut the knot in gallant style. He immediately tendered his resignation in the regular army, taking care to say that he did so, not to avoid his country's service or to aid her enemies, but because he believed he could serve her much more effectively by drilling and leading a regiment of Union volunteers. He notified the governor of his acceptance of the colonelcy, and his _coup-de-main_ was a success; for the department did not like to accept a resignation under such circumstances, and he had the exceptional luck to keep his regular commission and gain prestige as well, by his bold energy in the matter.
Orlando Poe came about the same time, for all this was occurring in the last ten days of April. He was a lieutenant of topographical engineers, and was stationed with General (then Captain)
Meade at Detroit, doing duty upon the coast survey of the lakes. He was in person the model for a young athlete, tall, dark, and strong, with frank, open countenance, looking fit to repeat his ancestor Adam Poe's adventurous conflicts with the Indians as told in the frontier traditions of Ohio. He too was eager for service; but the same rule was applied to him, and the argument that the engineers would be especially necessary to the army organization kept him for a time from insisting upon taking volunteer service, as McCook had done. He was indefatigable in his labors, assisting the governor in organizing the regiments, smoothing the difficulties constantly arising from lack of familiarity with the details of the administrative service of the army, and giving wise advice to the volunteer officers who made his acquaintance. I asked him, one day, in my pursuit of practical ideas from all who I thought could help me, what he would advise as the most useful means of becoming familiar with my duties. Study the Army Regulations, said he, as if it were your Bible! There was a world of wisdom in this: much more than I appreciated at the time, though it set me earnestly to work in a right direction. An officer in a responsible command, who had already a fair knowledge of tactics, might trust his common sense for guidance in an action on the field; but the administrative duties of the army as a machine must be thoroughly learned, if he would hope to make the management of its complicated organization an easy thing to him.
Major Sidney Burbank came to take McCook's place as mustering officer: a grave, earnest man, of more age and more varied experience than the men I have named. Captain John Pope also visited the governor for consultation, and possibly others came also, though I saw them only in passing, and did not then get far in making their acquaintance.