Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Foreigners in the Northern Army
By George Brinton McClellan (18261885)
[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1826. Died at Orange, N. J., 1885. McClellans Own Story. 1887.]
OF course I rode everywhere and saw everything. Not an entrenchment was commenced unless I had at least approved its site; many I located myself. Not a camp that I did not examine, not a picketline that I did not visit and cross, so that almost every man in the army saw me at one time or another, and most of them became familiar with my face. And there was no part of the ground near Washington that I did not know thoroughly.
The most entertaining of my duties were those which sometimes led me to Blenkers camp, whither Franklin was always glad to accompany me to see the circus, or opera, as he usually called the performance. As soon as we were sighted, Blenker would have the officers call blown to assemble his polyglot collection, with their uniform as varied and brilliant as the colors of the rainbow. Wrapped in his scarlet-lined cloak, his group of officers ranged around him, he would receive us with the most formal and polished courtesy. Being a very handsome and soldierly-looking man himself, and there being many equally so among his surroundings, the tableau was always very effective, and presented a striking contrast to the matter-of-fact way in which things were managed in the other divisions.
In a few minutes he would shout, Ordinanz numero eins! whereupon champagne would be brought in great profusion, the bands would play, sometimes songs be sung. It was said, I know not how truly, that Blenker had been a non-commissioned officer in the German contingent serving under King Otho of Greece.
His division was very peculiar. So far as the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war were concerned, it certainly outshone all the others. Their drill and bearing were also excellent; for all the officers, and probably all the men, had served in Europe. I have always regretted that the division was finally taken from me and sent to Fremont. The officers and men were all strongly attached to me; I could control them as no one else could, and they would have done good service had they remained in Sumners corps. The regiments were all foreign and mostly of Germans; but the most remarkable of all was the Garibaldi regiment. Its colonel, DUtassy, was a Hungarian, and was said to have been a rider in Franconis Circus, and terminated his public American career in the Albany Penitentiary. His men were from all known and unknown lands, from all possible and impossible armies: Zouaves from Algiers, men of the Foreign Legion, Zephyrs, Cossacks, Garibaldians of the deepest dye, English deserters, Sepoys, Turcos, Croats, Swiss, beer-drinkers from Bavaria, stout men from North Germany, and no doubt Chinese, Esquimaux, and detachments from the army of the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.
I well remember that in returning one night from beyond the picketlines I encountered an outpost of the Garibaldians. In reply to their challenge I tried English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Indian, a little Russian and Turkish; all in vain, for nothing at my disposal made the slightest impression upon them, and I inferred that they were perhaps gypsies or Esquimaux or Chinese.
Mr. Sewards policy of making ours a peoples war, as he expressed it, by drumming up officers from all parts of the world, sometimes produced strange results and brought us rare specimens of the class vulgarly known as hard cases. Most of the officers thus obtained had left their own armies for the armies good, although there were admirable and honorable exceptions, such as Stahl, Willich, Rosencranz, Cesnola, and some others. Few were of the slightest use to us, and I think the reason why the German regiments so seldom turned out well was that their officers were so often men without character.
Soon after General Scott retired I received a letter from the Hungarian Klapka informing me that he had been approached by some of Mr. Sewards agents to get him into our army, and saying that he thought it best to come to a direct understanding with myself as to terms, etc. He said that he would require a bonus of $100,000 in cash and a salary of $25,000 per annum; that on his first arrival he would consent to serve as my chief of staff for a short time until he acquired the language, and that he would then take my place of general commanding-in-chief. He failed to state what provision he would make for me, that probably to depend upon the impression I made upon him.
Cluseretafterwards Minister of War under the Communebrought me a letter of introduction from Garibaldi, recommending him in the highest terms as a soldier, man of honor, etc. I did not like his appearance and declined his services; but without my knowledge or consent Stanton appointed him a colonel on my staff. I still declined to have anything to do with him, and he was sent to the Mountain Department, as chief of staff, I think.
On the recommendation of the Prussian minister I took upon my staff, as aides-de-camp, two German officers whose subsequent histories were peculiar and suggestive. One was a member of a very noble family, whose father had held high official rank in his native land, the son having been a lieutenant in the Guard Cavalry. He was one of the handsomest young fellows I have ever seen, polished to the last degree, and a splendid soldier. He remained with me during my command, and always performed difficult and dangerous duties in the best possible manner. He remained with the army on staff-duty after I was relieved.
Being in Germany when the Austro-Prussian war broke out, I determined to call upon the War Minister and advise him to recall the officer in question, as an admirable soldier whose experience in our war would be valuable; for I had been led to believe that his original separation from his own army had been caused by some trivial breach of discipline. Within a few days I learned that he had been dismissed our service. The last I heard of this poor fellowfor one cannot help feeling sorry for the waste of such excellent giftswas that he made his living as croupier in a gambling-den.
The other was of an old military family; his father had been a general, and I had met his brothers and cousins as officers in the Austrian army. He also was an admirable and most useful aide in difficult times. After I left the field he became lieutenant-colonel, and probably colonel, of a regiment, and did good service. At the close of the war, failing to be retained, he enlisted in a regular cavalry regiment, hoping to be examined and promoted to a commission; but his habits were against him. At last, in carrying the mail during the winter between the posts on the plains, his feet were frozen and, I think, amputated. Finally his family sent for him, and he returned home to die.
Of a different order were the French princes who formed part of my military family from September 20, 1861, to the close of the Seven Days. They served as captains, declining any higher rank, though they had fully earned promotion before the close of their connection with the army. They served precisely as the other aides, taking their full share of all duty, whether agreeable or disagreeable, dangerous or the reverse. They were fine young fellows and good soldiers, and deserved high credit in every way.
Their uncle, the Prince de Joinville, who accompanied them as a mentor, held no official position, but our relations were always confidential and most agreeable. The Due de Chartres had received a military education at the military school at Turin; the Comte de Paris had only received instruction in military matters from his tutors. They had their separate establishment, being accompanied by a physician and a captain of chasseurs-à-pied. The latter was an immense man, who could never, under any circumstances, be persuaded to mount a horse: he always made the march on foot.
Their little establishment was usually the jolliest in camp, and it was often a great relief to me, when burdened with care, to listen to the laughter and gayety that resounded from their tents. They managed their affairs so well that they were respected and liked by all with whom they came in contact. The Prince de Joinville sketched admirably and possessed a most keen sense of the ridiculous, so that his sketch-book was an inexhaustible source of amusement, because everything ludicrous that struck his fancy on the march was sure to find a place there. He was a man of far more than ordinary ability and of excellent judgment. His deafness was, of course, a disadvantage to him, but his admirable qualities were so marked that I became warmly attached to him, as, in fact, I did to all the three, and I have good reason to know that the feeling was mutual.
Whatever may have been the peculiarities of Louis Philippe during his later life, it is very certain that in his youth, as the Duc de Chartres, he was a brave, dashing, and excellent soldier. His sons, especially the Ducs dOrléans, dAumale, Montpensier, and the Prince de Joinville, showed the same characteristics in Algiers and elsewhere; and I may be permitted to say that, my personal experience with the three members of the family who served with me was such that there could be no doubt as to their courage, energy, and military spirit. The course pursued by the Prince de Joinville and the Duc de Chartres during the fatal invasion of France by the Germans was in perfect harmony with this. Both sought service, under assumed names, in the darkest and most dangerous hours of their countrys trial. The duc served for some months as Capt. Robert le Fort, and under that name, his identity being known to few if any beyond his closest personal friends, gained promotion and distinction by his gallantry and intelligence.