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“His three years of heroship expired,
to game, to drink, to show at home
There is little reason for believing that American soldiers are more or less addicted than others to vice and outrage. The conduct of the soldier is governed more by discipline than by national character.
A large portion of the American force in Mexico consisted of a class improperly called volunteers, since, where there is no conscription, every enlistment is voluntary. These volunteers, being enlisted for a short period, and being permitted to choose their officers, their discipline was probably less perfect than that of the regular army; and hence it is, that the journals of the day have teemed with accounts of their atrocities.
Of the 50,000 volunteers called into service, none perhaps have afforded a more instructive commentary on military patriotism and morality than the MASSACHUSETTS REGIMENT. These men belonged to a State surpassed by none for the intelligence, industry, and orderly deportment of its citizens. They had, moreover, responded to the official assurance of the Governor of the State, that it was the dietate of patriotism and humanity to save blood and money by volunteering to shoot Mexicans.* Passing by, therefore, the conduct of volunteers from other States, we shall confine our notice to these reputed descendants of the Puritans. Although nothing has been heard of their martial achievements, a few extracts from the journals of the day will prove that they have attracted a large share of the public attention.
“ For some days past, a strife has existed between a portion of the officers of the MASSACHUSETTS REGIMENT on the one side, and nearly all the privates on the other. That eternal disturber of order, John Barleycorn, 'stirred up the muss.'
The officers alleged that the privates drank to intoxication, became disorderly and unfit for duty; and to put a stop to the evil, they advised closing the coffee-houses, The privates, on the other hand, say they drank to no greater excess than did the officers in question. The war thus commenced waged fiercely with various success. At one time, we thought the men defeated, from the number of prisoners we saw marched off; but they managed to escape, and in turn swung up the leader of their enemies as high as Haman—i. e., his effigy. The guards were dismissed from the postern, the defences put up to keep out the Mexicans levelled to the earth, and the deuce played generally.”—Metamoras Flag.
“ Major Abbott, by sundry acts, has made himself * “Whatever,” says the Proclamation calling for volunteers, may be the difference of opinion as to the origin or necessity of the war, the constitutional authorities of the country have declared that war with a foreign country does exist. It is alike the dictate of PATRIOTISM and HUMANITY, that every means honorable to ourselves and just to our enemy should be employ. ed to bring said war to a speedy and successful termination, and thus abbreviate its calamities and save the sacrifie of human life and the wasting of public treasures." The best comment we can make on the logic and morality of this gubernatortal dictum is to exhibit the character of the men who obeyed the dictates of patriotism and humanity, as officially explained.
† The author deems it just to say, that he has heard it asserted that many of these volunteers were foreigners.
They hoot him whenever he passes them, and last night they went so far as to hang him in effigy. He had three privates whipped last night.”—Letter from Metamoras, N. 0. Bee.
ESCAPED. The MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEER, who some week or two since stabbed to death with a bayonet the partner of Mr. Sinclair of our city, because he refused to give him what he had not—a glass of intoxicating fluid -escaped from the guard-house a few nights since. It is thought the sentinels on duty permitted him to escape.” —Metamoras Flag.
Another paper mentions that three MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS had deserted, and a fourth had been marched through the streets of Metamoras encased in a whisky cask with the word “ drunkard" written on it.
The New Orleans Delta announces the arrival at that city of “a select lot of murderers, thieves, and villains of every dye,” sent home by order of General Taylor, including “three MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS.'
“ANOTHER MANLY Act.—On Wednesday evening last, after nightfall, sever MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS entered the dwelling of a Mexican near the Upper Plaza, and demanded whisky. A female who officiated remarked that she kept nothing but beer. After some remonstrance, one of the gentlemen drew a bayonet, which he wore in his belt, and stabbed the woman to the heart.”—Metamoras Flag.
It appears from the report of the Secretary of War,* that the deserters from this regiment, up to 31st Dec., 1847, numbered 105.
“Head Quarters, Vera Cruz, 15th October, 1846. “The following named men (sixty-five in number) of 1st Regiment MASSACHUSETTS Infantry, being incorrigibly
* Ex. Doc., 1st Sess., 30th Cong., No. 62, p. 72.
mutinous and insubordinate, will of course prove cowards in the hour of danger, and they cannot of course be permitted to march with the column of the army. They are disarmed and detached from the Regiment, and will report to Brevet Major Bachus, for such duty in the Castle of San Juan De Ulloa, as may be performed by soldiers who are found unworthy to carry arms, and are a disgrace and a nuisance to the army.
“By order of Brig. Gen. CUSHING."
A Boston paper
The following notices of these men, on their return, are taken from the periodicals of the day. says:
“ More than one-third of these, though never in a battle, were dead or missing before their return." The Editor of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, through which city they passed, says : “We spent some hours in conversation with these poor fellows, endeavoring to understand the meaning of such overwhelming squalor, want, and misery; for we do not exaggerate when we say, that we never beheld its parallel except at the Irish emigrant sheds in Canada last summer. The condition of these poor creatures was outrageously offensive to every human sense, as well physical as moral.” Another editor, after their arrival in Boston, remarked : “A more pitiable set of human beings we scarcely ever saw- -with unshaven beards, unshorn hair, ragged and dirty clothes of all shapes, fashions, colors, and conditions, pale and sunken faces, and a careless, unambitious saunter. They were truly objects of pity.” A Boston editor, after visiting their quarters, exclaims: “We must confess that the condition of the men touch us with astonishment; it was wretched beyond condition. Rags and dirt were to be seen in abundance. Scarcely a man had a whole pair of pantaloons on, and none a second shirt. Without any
öffence to the soldiers, we must candidly confess, they are not fit to be seen in the streets of Boston.”
To form a comprehensive view of the evils of war, and of the tremendous responsibility of those who commence it, we must consider its various and complicated assaults upon human happiness and virtue. The miseries we have inflicted upon Mexico will form the subject of a future chapter. We will now advert to the retributive justice thus far meted out to the immediate agents by whom those miseries have been inflicted.
The groans of the conquerors themselves are usually drowned in the shouts of victory, and the glare of the illumination fails to reveal the horrors of the battle-field, for the more prolonged agonies of the hospital. Eighty thousand American soldiers, abandoning the comforts of home and the pursuits of ordinary life, have been subjected to all the privations, sufferings, and evil influences of military service in a foreign land. When we recollect their long marches, some of them of a thousand miles under a burning sun, and not unfrequently exposed to the deadly vomito, we may readily believe that many lives have been lost through disease and casualties as well as in battle. Owing to the imbecility and ignorance of the Mexicans, the American loss in the field has been aston
ishingly small, not exceeding 5000 in killed and wounded in twenty-eight battles, as appears from official reports. But who can count the number who have died in military hospitals, and of others who, worn down by disease and : vice, have found a premature grave in their own country? From very partial reports from some of our military hospitals in Mexico, it appears that the deaths exceed those that occurred on the field of battle. !: A New Orleans paper, noticing the return of the Ten
Dessee Regiment to that city, remarks : "Just one year