Soldier Life || Captains || Episode 10
I’m so excited to be bringing back another post in my Soldier Life Series! This series (for anyone not familiar) is a compilation of posts I’m writing about the life of a soldier during the War Between the States. These are unbiased posts (North and South pretty much ran their armies the same way) and are meant to be a help to those writing about the War Between the States, or to inform those who are just interested in 1860’s of some of the inner workings of nineteenth century soldiering. It’s not an exhaustive guide, but I do hope it saves another writer from having to run all over the place to get basic information! Let’s get into it!
Captains were in command of a company, which could be infantry, cavalry or artillery, respectively. A company consisted of 100 men, divided. He would also accompany his men to battle, giving orders and acting under the commands of the Colonels (Regiments) and Generals (Brigades, etc.)
(Information Sourced from: Here and Here. You can find more details on this site that I won’t be covering here for the sake of brevity 😉)
As Company commander, the Captain is responsible for keeping up the morale of his men, through whatever justifiable means he can. He is also responsible for recommending promotion and demotion of non-commission officers (Sergeants and Corporals) and for meting out punishments for misbehavior and rewards for valor and service.
Not only did they enforce the discipline of his company and lift the spirits and stir the heart of the warrior, but the Captain was also expected to be well versed in military tactics and insure that his subordinates knew how to train the men in the performance of these tactics. One was never to stop learning. It was also a means of controlling the men and insuring that they behaved as befitted soldiers of their respective countries.
The Captain had to have his colonel’s agreement to promote or demote a soldier in his command. This prevented favoritism from taking hold of the chain of command, as even the best of commanders could fall to.
An interesting point on the relationship between the Captain and the First Sergeant was noted from this Source …
“The Captain must always sustain his First Sergeant, and the other non-commissioned officers, as far as is consistent with justice; above all things he should not appear to take sides with the men against them. If the non-commissioned officers do wrong, they may be punished for it as any other man in the company, but where the matter is simply an error of judgment, the non-commissioned officer should be privately corrected, instructed, or reproved, as may be deemed necessary, but never in the presence of the men. The men must be taught to respect their non-commissioned officers, and to recognize their authority to the fullest extent.”
When a soldier was mistreated by his First Sergeant (ex. Struck by the sergeant unjustly), he did not have the right to fight back. Instead of lowering himself to that level (unless, of course, the officer intended him fatal harm), the soldier was to personally report the incident to his Captain, who would investigate and punish the offender, just as though he were one of the men.
One of the things that made the Captain close with his men was the fact that he was (supposed to be) always there. He was to be there for any and all matters of business, great and small, to hear of grievances and requests and encourage the men to maintain discipline and a fighting spirit. His attitude greatly effected his men. If he seemed not to care about the success of his company in battle, neither would they.
More than anyone, the Captain has control over his men. It’s his job to make sure they understand their duty, follow it, and if they fail, investigate and punish the guilty party to insure no repeats from the offender or his fellows.
The men look up to their Captain. He needs to be brave, fearless even, assuring them that they can accomplish their goal. He needs to foster a respectable relationship with his men by seeing to even the simplest of issues that are brought to his attention. The men need to know he cares about them and that they can trust him.
There is also administrative duties the Captain must attend to, supply issues, reports to write, review or send out, but for sake of brevity, I’ll not give you the laundry list 😉 Refer to this link if you wish to know more (scroll down to the point that says “Administration”).
There is also the role of Officer of the day, which is basically an honor bestowed on different Captains in the regiments, with additional administrative duties attached to it. But because this can tend to get a bit dull, I will give you this link in case any of you would like more details.
That’s it for now! Next time this series roles around, we will be taking a look at the Major!
Have a blessed day!
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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