Beard's Memory of the Barracks

Accompanied by adult males for protection, one day I ventured over to Newport and visited the barracks.  The troops were drawn up as if for a dress parade, the field officers with gold epaulets and the privates with their brass fish scale epaulets.  Captain Horn's regimental band was led by the big drum major, with a tawny beard reaching to his waistline.  In front of the troops was the fife and drum corps, and in front of them were two men.  Not only had their buttons and stripes been cut off, but they were hatless and half of their heads had been shaved.  They had only their shirts to cover their bodies, which, for want of buttons, were open at the throat and wrists. 

The fife and drum struck up that direful but splendid marching tune, "The Rogues March.  They marched those poor devils round and round the parade grounds in front of the troops, who stood at attention with arms reversed, that is, each gun had its butt in front and the muzzle pointing to the ground, as was the custom at funerals.  They marched them to the barracks gates, where the culprits passed by the guard without giving password, and the sentinels, in place of a challenge, reversed their pieces and came right about face, standing with their backs turned.  After then men slunk down the street the band struck up a quickstep, as it does when returning from a funeral.  I do not know what crime the man had committed, but I do know that in those early days of the war soldiers were not allowed to willfully or thoughtlessly lower the moral standing of their regiments.  

Toward the latter part of the war, however, I saw no one drummed out of the army. On the contrary, on more than one occasion saw men fired upon who were trying to drum themselves out.  Once when we were playing opposite the Newport barracks a wild-eyed, a bare headed soldier sprang over the barracks fence, dashed down the bank across a flotilla of loaded coal barges and made a beautiful swan dive into the river.  When his head came up for air there was a corporal's guard on the barge with rifles aimed at the fugitive.  He obeyed the order to about-face.  All this was done amid a shower of bullets, which evidently were intended to intimidate the deserter, but which also intimidated and scattered the boys, who were directly in the line of fire.


From Daniel Carter Beard's autobiography, Hardly a Man is Now Alive, (1939)