Open main menu

Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/202

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




CHAPTER XII


Formation of the Federal Army.—1861


THE readiness of the loyal States to place at the disposal of the Government all the men, money, and material needed for the suppression of the Rebellion had been clearly manifest ever since the fall of Fort Sumter. But the great problem for President Lincoln and his chief helpers was the proper use of the national resources so freely offered to them. There were in all the North but a few hundred men to be found regularly trained for the soldier's trade, while thousands were wanted as officers for immediate service. Even with nine-tenths of the loyal officers of the regular army, practical experience did not go beyond the command of companies. With such a scarcity of qualified persons, it was unavoidable that the largest number of officers should be taken from among civilians without the knowledge of even the manual of arms. Still, in acting under this necessity, the General Government and the governments of the several States could certainly have applied the strict test of physical, mental, and moral fitness in the selection of officers. But, unfortunately, the Executive saw a welcome and plentiful opportunity to reward political adherents with commissions in the army, and only too willingly used this extensive new patronage without regard to the fitness of the recipients. As a rule, in all the States, the professional politicians secured the new honors and emoluments. It is safe to say that four-fifths of all the field officers of the three months' regiments appearing in Washington represented this class of men, and the same practice prevailed in the

176