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 would later become the leading general of his age in the British army. He would retire as a Field Marshall.

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.”

No Footwear

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 Texas 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.

2 thoughts on “The British Military Observer

  1. Irish we are going have to agree to disagree on this one. The first 7 states to secede with the exception of Arkansas all made reference to slavery, abolitionists, property rights and/or the Fugitive Slave Act in their secession documents. Arkansas was a bit of a late comer of the first seven and the cited the use of force to coerce the unwilling back into the Union. Clearly the war was about slavery especially to the Confederate states, preservation of the Union in the North although in time, that became the question of abolishing slavery. I think once the war started people had different reasons to stay. Unfortunately, we can never know what motivated the men on either side to continue to fight. Was it the loss of family and friends in the fighting, protecting their homes and families…….


  2. I agree those secession resolutions were and are a big deal. But, you aren’t saying all 3,000 members of Hood’s Texas Brigade read those resolutions before signing up? I doubt the average soldier in 1861 was even aware of the resolutions and how they were worded. Heck, in 2005, I clicked a button on the Army website to volunteer for the Iraq war. I had no Civil Affairs background, but the Army was looking for volunteers to help out and become Civil Affairs experts. I reported to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in March, 2005. There were some 120 others with me. Not all were volunteers, but enough of us were. By 2005, we all knew there were no WMD’s in Iraq. Saddam was not hiding anything. We knew the Iraq war was based on fraud or a huge mistake. I am pretty sure not one of those 120 folks read the 2002 Congressional resolution that authorized the Iraq war. Just like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. I doubt any of the soldiers who volunteered for the Viet Nam war – and there were a good many volunteers – read that resolution before they signed up. Your country says they need you. So, you go. Or you click a button on the Army website.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s