Academic journal article Parameters

Transformation Circa 1861-Precision Drill

Academic journal article Parameters

Transformation Circa 1861-Precision Drill

Article excerpt

During the secession crisis and the early months of the Civil War, tens of thousands of men on each side eagerly entered military service. Transforming such hordes of enthusiastic volunteers into an effective fighting force was a problem confronting both North and South during that period. The major element in such transformation was repeated practice of close order drill. Yet with many drillmasters themselves inexperienced and with even some experienced ones being of doubtful competence, some curious maneuvers resulted, never contemplated by those who drew up the drill manuals. A South Carolina officer later recounted one such incident:

   Immediately after the ordinance of secession had been passed, and it
   became apparent that there would be war, the attention of the
   Southern youth was directed almost exclusively to Hardee's tactics,
   and especially the drill of the company. A military company was
   organized in nearly every neighborhood all over the country, and the
   rivalry between them, as well as the interest elicited from their
   civilian friends and admirers, was immense. There was a very fine
   company organized in Memphis, which acquired a wide reputation for
   excellence in all the evolutions. It was commanded by a Mexican
   [War] veteran who was a master of tactics and a martinet in drill. … 
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