arrangement was made last winter by the provost marshal general of the Army of the Potomac. He established certain points on the picket line at which traffic might be conducted, and forbade admission to citizens. Some rigorous system like this is very necessary.
The social life of camps is, however, the topic of chief interest. The question is often asked, Is the life of a soldier demoralizing? The answer must be, 'Yes,' but not for the reasons generally supposed. The opportunities for vice and dissoluteness are really less than at home. The hundred thousand men in an army use less liquor than the same number of men in a city. In fact, liquor is nearly inaccessible to the soldier when on the march. For other kinds of vice the temptations are few. The demoralization arises from the terrible monotony of a prolonged camp, which produces listlessness, indolence, and a devotion to small amusements; deranges and reverses the whole system of active life, as it is seen at home; renders a man uncouth; disqualifies soldiers for anything else than the trade of war. To the officer in his tent and to the soldier in his log hut, while the cold rains are beating without, and the ground is knee deep with mud, there is a constant temptation to find amusement in cards. Gambling thus becomes a pastime too generally adopted. The books sent to the army are not always of the character best adapted to the circumstances. Moral essays and tracts will not be very eagerly sought for by men whose principal object is to kill time. The reading matter needed is the kind afforded by the periodicals of the day, unobjectionable novels, biographies, works of travel, etc.
Camp life has, however, its pleasures, and it must not be supposed that all succumb to its enervating influences, or that any great number yield themselves entirely to its demoralizing effects. The period of military service among our volunteers is too short to permit its full influence to be experienced, and the connections of our soldiers with their homes too intimate to allow them to subside completely into the routine veterans, whose social, mental, and moral nature is altogether lost and absorbed in the new and artificial military nature imposed on them.
War collects many characters of peculiar idiosyncrasies, and jumbles them strangely together, so that curious associations are produced. In any collection of men upon a staff or in a regiment, gathered from different localities, will be found characters of the most opposite and incongruous elements. There will be the youth who has never before travelled beyond his own village, and is full of small anecdotes of the persons who have figured in his little world; and the silent and reserved man of middle age, who, if he can be induced to talk, can tell of many a wild scene in all quarters of the world in which he has been a participant, since he stealthily left his native home, a boy of sixteen. There are men who have passed through all the hardships of life, who have been soldiers in half a dozen European armies, or miners in California and Australia, or sailors; and men who have always had wealth at their disposal, and spent years in foreign travel, viewing the world only under its sunniest aspects. There are many officers grown gray while filling subordinate capacities at posts on the Western prairies and mountains, who can relate many interesting anecdotes of their companions—the men now prominent in military affairs; and there are officers of high rank, recently emerged from civil life, who nourish prodigiously in self-glorification upon their brief warlike experience. There are brave men, and men whose courage is suspected; quiet men, and men of opinionated perversity; quick-witted men, and men whose profound stupidity makes them continual butts for all kinds of practical jokes; refined, educated, poetical men, and men of boorish habits. In short, any camp presents such specimens of humanity as would be furnished if all the ingredients of character and experience that compose the world had been collected in a huge pepper box and sprinkled miscellaneously throughout the army.
In such associations there are of course many occasions for extracting interesting and comical conversation and incident. Jokes of all kinds are constantly on the wing, and no one can consider himself safe from collision with them. Ridiculous nicknames become attached—no one knows how—to the most dignified characters, and altogether usurp the places of the genuine cognomens. No person possesses the art of concealment to such a degree that all his foibles and weaknesses will escape observation in the companionship of a camp; and when discovered, the treatment of them is merciless just in proportion to the care with which they had been hidden. All pretensions will be penetrated, all disguises unmasked. Every man finds himself placed according to his exact status, no matter how well contrived his arrangements for passing himself off for more than his par value. Many an officer, whom the newspapers delight to praise, because he is over courteous to correspondents, and takes precautions to have all his achievements published, has a camp reputation far different from that by which he is known to the public.
Opinions of all kinds flourish in the army as vigorously as in the outer world. There are ardent theorists of the progressive order, full of schemes for radical reforms, and old fogies believing in nothing except what they lament to see is fast becoming obsolete. There are students and practical men, authors and mechanics, editors, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, school teachers, actors, artists, singers, and representatives of all kinds of trades and avocations. All are now on the same platform, and, for a time, class distinctions disappear beneath the assimilating conditions of the new profession. Political strifes occur, but are rarely virulent. Generally the association together of men holding different political views, in a common cause, and subject to the same dangers, is tacitly accepted as the occasion for an armistice. But politics of all kinds are represented. There are of course Abolitionists, Republicans, Unionists, and War Democrats; but, strangely enough, there are also Copperheads, Peace Democrats, peace-at-any-price men, and even secession sympathizers. Why extremists of the latter classes should have joined the army voluntarily cannot be surmised; but there they are, and, moreover, they do their duty. There are some traits of original manhood so strong that even the poison of treasonable politics cannot overcome them.
The daily routine of camp life in a regiment can be told in a few words. The plan of a regimental camp as laid down in the army regulations is generally conformed to, with some variations recommended by the character of the camping ground. The following diagram exhibits the plan:
|N.C.S. Non-commissioned staff.
||LT. CL. Lieutenant-colonel.
|AST. SURG. Assistant surgeon.
In our armies the full allowances of camp equipage are not permitted. Field and staff officers have only three wall tents, and company officers only the same shelter tents as the men. The trains very rarely encamp with the regiments. The tents of the men front on streets from fifteen to twenty feet wide, each company having a street of its own, and there is much competition as