The British Military Observer

It is an old military tradition to send military observers to view a war in a distant country. We learn so much from wars in distant lands about the latest tactics and equipment. During the United States Civil War, Great Britain sent Col. Garnet Wolseley to observe the Confederate army. Col. Wolseley frowned as he watched the First Texas Infantry Regiment march by. Even then, in 1862, as they retreated form the Battle of Antietam, most of the men were barefoot. They limped from the cuts and scrapes on their bare feet. Their lower legs were covered by briar scratches. The cuffs of their sleeves and pants were frayed and ragged. They had tossed their blankets away, because they were shredded by bullet holes.

Col. Wolseley noticed their complete lack of military bearing. But, Gen. Lee assured him, “The enemy never sees the backs of my Texans.”

The truth was the Confederacy could not support its troops. Even into November, 1862, 2,000 men in the Army of Northern Virginia lacked foot wear of any sort. Another 3,000 had shoes that would not last through Christmas. The flour that arrived into the stores of Hood’s Teas Brigade in November had worms an inch long. As the war dragged on, the supply situation grew worse, not better. Yet, these hardy, brave men fought on.

The men of the First Texas Regiment were inspected and found wanting. The Inspector General for the Army of Northern Virginia found their rifles in “very bad order” In modern parlance, we would say they failed the IG inspection. It is likely they simply had not cleaned their rifles adequately or lacked some parts. The Inspector General said the officers were derelict in their duty. But, Gen. Hood was not impressed. He knew his citizen soldiers may not look pretty, but they were combat effective. He ignored the report.

Contemporary observers insist the Southern soldier fought for slavery. It is true that slaves represented material investment to the South. But, if the Southern soldier fought solely for slavery, why did he endure such privation for nothing more than material gain? If he was fighting only to protect his investment, why did he fight with no shoes and socks? It was surely poor investment strategy to protect one’s investments in another human being by serving in an army that could not provide shoes and socks.

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 136-137, 138

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