Recruiting The Regiment: An Introduction

There’s a new series coming to the Emerging Civil War blog for the 160th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Both north and south spent the spring and early summer months of 1861 recruiting and training volunteer regiments.

Recruiting The Regiment will focus on particular units and different aspects of forming volunteers into military troops for the battlefield. While the series has an 1861 focus, it is not exclusive to that year and you may see recruitment accounts for units in any year of the Civil War. You’ll also find some individual accounts about recruitment as men (and a few disguised women) made the personal decision to volunteer for military action.

The poetry of Stephen Vincent Benet captures feelings as the regiments formed and before the first major battle of the war:

North and South they assembled, one cry and the other cry,
And both are ghosts to us now, old drums hung up on a wall,
But they were the first hot wave of youth too-ready to die,
And they went to war with an air, as if they went to a ball.

Dress-uniform boys who rubbed their buttons brighter than gold,
And gave them to girls for flowers and raspberry-lemonade,
Unused to the sick fatigue, the route-march made in the cold,
The stink of the fever camps, the tarnish rotting the blade….

So with these men and then. They were much like the men you know,
Under the beards and the strangeness of clothes with a different fit.
They wrote mush-notes to their girls and wondered how it would go,
Half-scared, half-fierce at the thought, but none yet ready to quit.

Georgia, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Florida, Maine,
Piney-woods squirrel hunter and clerk with the brand-new gun,
Thus they were marshalled and drilled, while Spring turned Summer again,
Until they could stumble toward death at gartersnake-crooked Bull Run.

(Excerpt from John Brown’s Body, Book 2 by Stephen Vincent Benet)

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