Showing posts with label Military Discipline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military Discipline. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

New And Noteworthy: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in the Union Army

The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army, Lorien Foote, NYU Press, 256 pages, $39.00,

During the Civil War, the Union army—like the society from which it sprang—appeared cohesive enough to withstand four years of grueling war against the Confederates and to claim victory in 1865. But fractiousness bubbled below the surface of the North’s presumably united front. Internal fissures were rife within the Union army: class divisions, regional antagonisms, ideological differences, and conflicting personalities all distracted the army from quelling the Southern rebellion.

In this highly original contribution to Civil War and gender history, Lorien Foote reveals that these internal battles were fought against the backdrop of manhood. Clashing ideals of manliness produced myriad conflicts when educated, refined, and wealthy officers (“gentlemen”) found themselves commanding a hard-drinking group of fighters (”roughs”)—a dynamic that often resulted in violence and even death. Challenges, fights, and duels were common. Based on extensive research into heretofore ignored primary sources—courts-martial records and regimental order books—The Gentlemen and the Roughs uncovers holes in our understanding of the men who fought the Civil War and the society that produced them.

Lorien Foote authored Rich Man's War, Rich Man's Fight: Class, Ideology, and Discipline in the Union Army in Civil War History 51:3 (2005). Here is a beginning segment of the essay:

"In September 1861, for three successive days, an officer of the 2d Massachusetts tied a private to a tree for one hour. A courts martial had found the man guilty of drunkenness and insubordination. Regiments encamped near the Second noticed this punishment and disapproved. On the third day, as the man hung bound to the tree, a large crowd gathered around the edge of the Second's camp. Hurling insults at the officers, many men in the crowd took up a cry of "cut him down!" The crowd quickly became a mob that was not easily subdued. After this incident, officers from several regiments approached Colonel Gordon, commander of the Second, and asked him to punish the man in a more private place. Gordon refused. Wilder Dwight, the Major of the 2d Massachusetts, commented bitterly to his family that the Second was the only regiment that attempted to maintain discipline. "Even the officers among our neighbors discountenance the severity which alone insures our discipline," he lamented. "To-day our army is crippled by the ideas of equality and independence which have colored the whole life of our people. When this defect is cured, and men recognize authority and obey without knowing why, we shall begin to get... "

Text and top Image: New York University Press
Bottom Image: Lorien Foote, Facebook

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

New---Jolly Fellows: Brawling, Heavy Drinking, Gambling, Playing Pranks and Soon To Be Soldiers

Jolly Fellows: Male Milieus in Nineteenth-Century America, Richard Stott, John Hopkins University Press, 384 pages, 2009. $55.00

"Jolly fellows," a term that gained currency in the nineteenth century, referred to those men whose more colorful antics included brawling, heavy drinking, gambling, and playing pranks. Reforms, especially the temperance movement, stigmatized such behavior, but pockets of jolly fellowship continued to flourish throughout the country. Richard Stott scrutinizes and analyzes this behavior to appreciate its origins and meaning.

Stott finds that male behavior could be strikingly similar in diverse locales, from taverns and boardinghouses to college campuses and sporting events. He explores the permissive attitudes that thrived in such male domains as the streets of New York City, California during the gold rush, and the Pennsylvania oil fields, arguing that such places had an important influence on American society and culture. Stott recounts how the cattle and mining towns of the American West emerged as centers of resistance to Victorian propriety. It was here that unrestrained male behavior lasted the longest, before being replaced with a new convention that equated manliness with sobriety and self-control.

Even as the number of jolly fellows dwindled, jolly themes flowed into American popular culture through minstrelsy, dime novels, and comic strips. Jolly Fellows proposes a new interpretation of nineteenth-century American culture and society and will inform future work on masculinity during this period.

CWL: Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army has led CWL to examine antebellum male society in Jolly Fellows.

Text and Image Source: Amazon.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forthcoming: How Bad Did It Hurt? Military Discipline In The Union Army

Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army, Steven J. Ramold, Northern Illinois University Press, 454 pp., notes, bibliography, $40.00, October 2009.

Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army is an in-depth examination of internal conflict and discipline in the Union Army. During antebellum wars the Regular army preserved the peace, suppressed the Indians, and bore the brunt of the fighting. The Civil War, however, brought an influx of volunteers that overwhelmed the number of army Regulars, forcing a clash between traditional military discipline and the expectations of citizens. Baring the Iron Hand provides an extraordinarily in-depth examination of this internal conflict and the issue of discipline in the Union Army.

Ramold tells the story of the volunteers, who, unaccustomed to such military necessities as obeying officers, accepting punishment, and suppressing individuality, rebelled at the traditional disicpline expected by the standing army. Unwilling to fully surrender their perceived rights as American citizens, soldiers both openly and covertly defied the rules. They challenged the right of their officers to lead them and established their own policies on military offenses, proper conduct, and battlefield behavior. Citizen soldiers also denied the army the right to punish them for offenses like desertion, insubordination, and mutiny that had no counterpart in civilian life.

Ramold demonstrates that the clash between Regulars and volunteers caused a reinterpretation of the traditional expectations of discipline. The officers of the Regular army had to contend with independent-minded soldiers who resisted the spit-and-polish discipline that made the army so efficient but also alienated the volunteers' sense of individuality and manhood. Unable to prosecute the vast number of soldiers who committed offenses, professional officers reached a form of populist accommodation with their volunteer soldiers. Unable to eradicate or prevent certain offenses, the army tried simply to manage them or to just ignore them. Instead of applying traditionally harsh punishments for specific crimes as they had done in the antebellum period, the army instead mollified its men by extending amnesty, modifying sentences, and granting liberal leniency to many soldiers who otherwise deserved the harshest of penalities. Ramold's fascinating look into the lives of these misbehaving soldiers will interest both Civil War historians and enthusiasts.

Steven J. Ramold is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union Army.

Text Source: Northern Illinois University Press