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The Army As A Trained Force


Chaplain 25th United States Infantry

[Note 34: Delivered before General Conference, Chicago, Ill., 1904.]

Reverend Bishops, and Brethren of the Ministry, and my Brethren of the

I thank the honorable Commission from my heart for the distinguished
favor they have conferred upon me in inviting me to address this august
assembly. Never before, during all my forty years of public life, have I
been granted so majestic a privilege; never before have I ventured to
assume so grave a responsibility; and, I may add, never before have I
felt so keenly my inability to do justice to the occasion.

I am encouraged, however, by the reflection that I am in the house of my
friends, where I may hope for an indulgent hearing, and especially upon
the subject which I have the high honor to bring before you.

The purport of my address is the conservation of life; the development
of physical and moral power as well as of mental alertness; the creation
of bravery and the evolution of that higher and broader
element--courage; the formation of character sturdy enough to upbear a
State, and intelligent enough to direct its government. What I have to
say will be toward the production of a robust and chivalric manhood, the
only proper shelter for a pure and glorious womanhood. Noble women are
the crown of heroic men. None but the brave deserve the fair, and none
but the brave can have them.

For the purpose of illustrating and enforcing these great social,
physical, and moral truths, I have chosen the Army of our country, or
the character and training of the American soldier. In this I do not
depart from Biblical practise. How many hearts have been cheered and
strengthened by the thrilling pictures painted by St. Paul of the
soldiers of his times! How many have in thought beheld his armed hosts
and heard his stirring exhortation: "Fight the good fight of faith!"

We owe our existence as a nation to the men in arms who for eight years
met the force of Great Britain with counter force, and thus cleared the
field for the statesmanship that can make the proverbial two blades of
grass grow. The man with the gun opened the way for the man with the
hoe. We who are here, and the race we represent, owe our deliverance
from chattel slavery to the men in arms who conquered the slaveholders'
Rebellion. It is a sad thought, but nevertheless one too true thus far
in human history, that liberty, man's greatest earthly boon, can be
reached only through a pathway of blood. The Army made good our
declaration of independence; and upon the Army and Navy Lincoln relied
for the efficacy of his plan of emancipation. Abstract right is fair to
look upon, and has furnished the theme for charming essays by such
beautiful writers as Ruskin and Emerson; but right, backed up by
battalions, is the right that prevails. When the men of blood and iron
come, there is no longer time for the song or the essay. It is, "Get in
line or be shot." The days of rhetoricals are over. The eloquence of the
soldier silences all. Even the laws are dumb when the sword is

Is this horrible doctrine? It is only God overthrowing Pharaoh by means
more humane than His fearful plagues, and less destructive than the
billows of that relentless sea over which redeemed Israel so exultingly
sang. No, brethren; the sword of the Lord and of Gideon has not ceased
to be a useful instrument. It is the proper thing for evil doers.

The army is the national sword, and the "powers that be" bear it "not in
vain." It is a fearful engine of destruction, pure and simple. Von
Moltke says: "The immediate aim of the soldier's life is destruction,
and nothing but destruction; and whatever constructions wars result in
are remote and non-military."

An Austrian officer says: "Live and let live is no device for an army.
Contempt for one's own comrades, for the troops of the enemy, and, above
all, fierce contempt for one's own person, are what war demands of every
one. Far better is it for an army to be too savage, too cruel, too
barbarous, than to possess too much sentimentality and human
reasonableness. If the soldier is to be good for anything as a soldier,
he must be exactly the opposite of a reasoning and thinking man. The
measure of goodness in him is his possible use in war. War, and even
peace, require of the soldier absolutely peculiar standards of
morality. The recruit brings with him common moral notions of which he
must seek immediately to get rid. For him, victory--success--must be
everything. The most barbaric tendencies in man come to life again in
war, and for war's uses they are incommensurably good."

Perhaps the greatest of American psychologists, Professor William James,
adds to these remarks: "Consequently the soldier can not train himself
to be too feelingless to all those usual sympathies and respects,
whether for persons or for things that make for conservation. Yet," he
says, "the fact remains that war is a school of strenuous life and
heroism and, being in the line of aboriginal instinct, is the only
school that as yet is universally available."

Emerson says: "War educates the senses, calls into action the will,
perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close
collision in critical moments that man measures man."

It is not my purpose, however, to glorify war. War to me is horrible
beyond description or conception, and it is for war that armies are
trained; yet the training of an army, like the training of even a
pugilist, is a work of great moral value.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Army gave us our independence, when
the Revolution had succeeded, and the Constitution had been framed, and
the country launched on her career, there was a tendency to forget
Joseph. So strong was the feeling against a standing army that it was
with difficulty that even a nucleus was maintained. The first
legislation on this subject gave us but one battalion of artillery and
one regiment of infantry, the whole consisting of 46 officers and 840
men. In 1814, because of the war with England, the army ran up to
60,000; but the next year fell to 12,000, and continued even below that
number up to 1838, when it again went up to about 12,000. In 1846,
during the Mexican War, it reached about 18,000. When the Civil War
broke out it was about 12,000. There were in the Army, at the time of
the beginning of the Civil War, over 1,000 officers. Two hundred and
eighty-six of these left the service of the United States, and
subsequently served in the Confederate Army. Of these 286, 187 had been
educated at West Point. But so far as I am able to say now, not a single
enlisted man followed the example of these officers.

Beside the staff departments, the Army now consists of 15 regiments of
cavalry, 30 batteries of field artillery, 126 companies of coast
artillery, and 30 regiments of infantry. These different classes are
known as the three arms of the service: Cavalry, artillery, and
infantry. Our whole Army to-day numbers 67,259 men. We are the greatest
nation, with the smallest army. Our Army, however, is capable of rapid
expansion; and, with our National Guard, we need not fear any emergency.
This Army, though so small, is in one sense a trained athlete, ready to
defend the nation's honor and flag. In another sense, it is a vast
practical school, in which the military profession is taught. The
students are not only the 60,000 who are now serving, but the many
thousands also, who come and go. Men enlist for three years, and
although many re-enlist, the Army is constantly receiving recruits, and
constantly discharging trained soldiers. These discharged soldiers are
often found among our best citizens.

The entire corps of over 3,800 officers may be regarded as professors or
instructors, whose duty it is to bring the Army up to a state of
perfection. To this corps of 3,800 commissioned officers must be added,
also, the large number of intelligent non-commissioned officers, who are
assistant instructors of the very highest utility. The work of the Army
consists of study and practice, instruction and drill. It is an
incessant school. There are officers' school, non-commissioned officers'
school, school of the soldier, school of the company, school of the
battalion, post school,--besides drills and lectures without number. The
actual scientific information imparted to the enlisted men is
considerable. To specify only in small part: It includes all methods of
signaling, up to telegraphy; all methods of preserving and preparing
food; all methods of first treatment of wounds; how to estimate
distance, to map a country, to care for property and stock, and the most
thorough knowledge of weapons and warfare. To become a second lieutenant
in the Army, a man must either go through West Point, or have the
equivalent of a college education, especially in mathematics, history,
and law; and have, besides, an accurate knowledge of what is purely
military. And when he is made a second lieutenant and enters upon his
career as an officer, his studies begin afresh. He must study to prepare
himself for subsequent promotions. Failure in this means dismission.
The army officer to-day must be exceedingly thorough and accurate in his

General Corbin says: "Never before in the history of the Army have there
been so many acceptable candidates for promotion as there are at this
time. Never before has the Army been in a higher state of efficiency and
in more perfect accord than it is to-day. Until within a short time, an
officer graduated at the Military Academy at West Point was looked upon
as a man with 'a finished education'; but to-day, and for the last four
years, we accept that education merely as the foundation upon which a
more advanced education is to be built. This theory is in general
practice, and has been so accepted. The service schools at Fort Monroe,
Fort Totten, Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, and the War College at
Washington are, in most respects, high-class post-graduate schools. In
addition of this, every post is a school of application, educating
officers and men for the duties now required of them."

What, then, is this training of the army for which the officer must
possess this most accurate, thorough, and scientific education? He is
required to have this education that he may train the soldier up to the
highest point of efficiency. The officer must know, and must be able to
impress the soldier with the fact that he does know. The officer must
have the full science of everything pertaining to the soldier's work,
in order that he may teach the soldier the art of it. The nature of
the training to which the soldier is subjected may be best understood by
considering its end. This, as in all training, is more important than
the method. The primary object of the training is to unify the army and
make it the efficient instrument for executing the nation's will. By
discipline, individual efforts are brought under control of the chief. A
company is well disciplined when, in its movement, its collective soul,
so to speak, is identified with that of its commander. The officer must
have possession of his men, so that when the command is given, an
electric current will seem to pass through the company, and the movement
will, as it were, execute itself. In a well-drilled and well-disciplined
company, the orders do not seem to pass through the intellects of the
men. Without reflection, but simply by concentrated attention, the work
is done. The wills of the men are not only temporarily dislodged, but in
their place is substituted the dominant will of the commander. This is
the psychological end sought; and this condition secures instantaneous
obedience to orders. It is this which brings about those marvels of
execution which occur among disciplined men. Men perform acts in which
neither their personal reason nor even their personal will has any part.

A second end of the training is to habituate the men so firmly in the
performance of certain movements that no emotion can interfere with
their action. Upon the battle-field there is nothing left of the
exercises of the times of peace, but that which has become a habit, or
in a word, an instinct. The soldier must be so trained that he will go
on with his work as long as he has the ability to do so. One has said:
"It must be the aim of the new discipline to make the private soldier
capable of keeping steadfastly in mind for the whole of the day, or
even for several days, and striving with all his might to carry out,
what he has been told by a superior who is no longer present, and who,
for all he may know, is dead."

A third end sought in military training is to render the soldier strong
and agile, so that he can move with rapidity, sustain long marches, and
handle his weapon with dexterity.

* * * * *

Every consideration in feeding, clothing, sheltering, both men and
animals, has but one object,--efficiency. All questions of moral duty,
all ideas of the spiritual or immortal interests, are completely
submerged beneath the ever-present thought of material force. Power must
be had by men, horses, machinery; power, aggressive power, is the
all-pervading and all-controlling thought of the army.

* * * * *

An army is properly an incarnation of the fiend of destruction. Every
part of its legitimate work is to destroy. If it constructs bridges and
builds roads, erects forts and digs trenches, these are all that it may
destroy, or prevent some other incarnation from destroying it. Armies
lay waste and destroy. Cornfields, orchards, lawns, life, and treasure
are all prey for the voracious destroyer.

The motive employed in bringing the soldier to the high state of
excellence here described is always that of duty. The word "duty" is
very prominent and very full of meaning in the army. Military duty is
made a moral obligation founded upon patriotism. This sentiment of duty
is the moral force in the army that gives dignity to its obedience. The
army develops, strengthens, and educates this sense of duty, until it
becomes supreme. It is this sense of duty which produces endurance to
undergo privations, and leads men to be patient under the greatest
sacrifices. The physical force which we see in the army depends upon the
moral or spiritual which we do not see.

The whole life of the army, its very soul, the breath which animates its
every part, is preparation for war. To be ready for war is the
supreme end toward which all its efforts tend. The mechanical parts of
the work are so numerous and various that I can barely outline them
here. There are those exercises which conduce to health and vigor, known
as the setting-up drill. These exercises correct the form of the body
and transform the recruit into a soldier. The constant drills all have
their effect upon the bearing and gait of the men. The extensive system
of calisthenics gives to the body suppleness. All this work is done
under direction, so that obedience and discipline are taught at the same
time with physical culture. Apart from these exercises are voluntary
athletics, which are greatly encouraged. It is believed that athletic
exercises, by bettering the bodies of the men, better also their minds;
that, for the welfare of the army, these exercises rank next to training
in shooting. I know you will take pride in the fact that the black
soldiers, both of infantry and cavalry, occupy a place in the very front
rank in all these manly exercises. They are equal to America's best on
the drillground, on the athletic grounds, and on the field of bloody

The practise of cleanliness is enjoined all the time, along with these
exercises. The soldier is taught how to make his bed and to put all his
effects in order, and is then compelled to do it; and thus there is
established within him a love of order. Punctuality, cleanliness, and
order are the soldier's three graces. The hygiene of his body, care of
his arms and equipments, respect for his uniform, are driven into his
inmost soul. Our regiment lived in the midst of cholera, without
suffering from the disease. Hence the army is a great object-lesson of
what care and training can make of men.

But the army in our Republic is of far greater value in a moral sense
than in a physical sense. In these days when authority is departing from
the home, the church, and the school, it is well that it can find refuge
somewhere in the country. The working of the army rests entirely upon
authority. One single will pervades every part of it, although this will
is participated in by thousands. Every subordinate is independent within
limits; but one general will controls all. Respect for authority is
enforced, and thus taught, not in theory alone, but by practice. The
corporal is not the same as a private. The man who holds a commission
from the President represents the high authority of the Republic; and
the true soldier yields him both obedience and respect. Everywhere the
soldier is taught obedience to law. After all that I have said, it is
scarcely necessary to emphasize the fact that the soldier's obedience
becomes voluntary, and that he takes pride in his profession. Hence the
army is a body of men, not moving according to their own wills, not a
deliberative assembly, but a purely executive body, the incarnation of
law and of force. It is silent, but powerful. It does not talk, but
acts; army spells action.

The men who are trained in our Army are not likely to become members of
the lawless element. They have learned too well the lessons of order and
the necessity of subordination. The attitude of the Army upon the vexed
race question is better than that of any other secular institution of
our country. When the Fifth Army Corps returned from Cuba and went into
camp at Montauk Point, broken down as it was by a short but severe
campaign, it gave to the country a fine exhibition of the moral effects
of military training. There was seen the broadest comradeship. The four
black regiments were there, and cordially welcomed by their companions
in arms. In the maneuvers at Fort Riley, no infantry regiment on the
ground was more popular than the 25th; and in contests the men of the
25th proved their mettle by carrying off nearly every medal and trophy
in sight.

"Perhaps the most notable series of events, in the light of the popular
notion of Negro inferiority, were the athletic sports. The first of
these was the baseball game for the championship of the Department of
the Missouri and a silk banner. This contest had gone through the
several organizations, and was finally narrowed down to the 10th Cavalry
and the 25th Infantry. On October 27th, which was set apart as a field
day for athletic sports, the officers of the encampment, many women and
civilians, as well as the soldiers of the regular Army present,
assembled on the athletic grounds at 10.30 A. M. to witness the game. A
most interesting and thoroughly scientific game was played, the 25th
winning in the eleventh inning by a score of 4 to 3. The banner would
have gone to colored soldiers in either case."

We must not expect too much of the army. It is not a church, not a
Sunday-school, not a missionary society. Its code of morals is very
short, very narrow, but it enforces what it has. Its commandments are:

1. Thou shalt not fail to obey thy superior officer.
2. Thou shalt not miss any calls sounded out by the
3. Thou shalt not appear at inspection with anything
out of order in thy person, clothing, or equipment.
4. Thou shalt not lie.
5. Thou shalt not steal.
6. Thou shalt not leave the post or garrison without

I would say, further, that warfare now requires so much from the man who
carries it on, that it is impossible to unite the general and the
statesman in one person. The army must be purely executive, carrying out
the mandates of the State. The moral and political questions must be
resolved by men of other professions. The soldier has all that he can do
to attend to the exigencies of the battle.

The Army of our Republic has a great moral mission which it is
performing almost unconsciously. It is a most influential witness
against lawlessness. By its own perfect order and obedience to
discipline it gives the force of a powerful example in favor of loyalty
to the Republic and respect for the laws. The best school of loyalty in
the land is the army. Every evening in the camp, to see ten thousand men
stand in respectful attention to our song to the national banner is a
lesson of great moral force. In still another sense our Army is also a
great moral force. When men see what a terrific engine of destruction it
is, the good people rejoice because they know this engine is in safe
hands; and the evil-disposed look on and are enlightened. Fierce
anarchists will stop to count ten, at least, before they begin their
attack upon the government.

Lastly, the Army, by the very aristocracy of its constitution,
contributes much to make effective the doctrines of equality. The black
soldier and the white soldier carry the same arms, eat the same rations,
serve under the same laws, participate in the same experience, wear the
same uniforms, are nursed in the same hospitals, and buried in the same
cemeteries. The Roman Catholic Church, by its priestly aristocracy, has
always been a bulwark against caste. So, in the same manner, the Army of
our Republic, by its aristocracy of commission, has proven itself the
most effectual barrier against the inundating waves of race
discrimination that the country has as yet produced.

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