Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 31, 1863 (Sunday): Disciplining the Army

Major General George Sykes (Library of Congress)

Camp near Three-Mile Station, October 31, 1863.
    The commanding general is again compelled to call the attention of division, brigade, and regimental commanders to the frequent complaints made against the troops for depredating upon the inhabitants in the vicinity of the camps. The evil instead of being, put a stop to, seems to be daily increasing. It appears that the fields, gardens, poultry, and stock of scarcely any one are respected. The fault rests wholly with the officers, and either shows that they are unequal to the positions they occupy or that they are utterly unmindful of the excesses committed by the troops. Common humanity demands that the little possessed by women, children, and aged persons throughout the country we occupy should be secured to them. Reports of armed parties of marauders from this corps, numbering from 40 to 60, have been sent from headquarters Army of the Potomac, and, from the fact that a number of these robbers were fired upon by the provost guard of the Second Division, the reports are shown to be true.
     Company officers will hereafter daily inspect the messing of their companies and any meat, poultry, vegetables, or other property not a part of the army ration, will be required to be accounted for by the soldier in whose possession it may be found, and if improperly acquired, the offender will be brought at once before a field officer's court for trial. As most of the stragglers accompany or fall in with the trains all commissaries and quartermasters will make a like inspection daily of their departments for the same purpose, send to their regiments for trail all soldiers with plunder int heir possession, and stop the pay of civilian employes, &c., guilty of like disgraceful practices.
The commanding general expects and requires strict compliance with this order. Division commanders and the commanders of artillery will report weekly whether it has been enforced throughout their commands.
    It will be read at the head of every company to-day, and all men on detached duty, employes, &c., will be made acquainted with its provisions.
     By command of Major-General Sykes:

     FRED. T. LOCKE,
     Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 404.

Sykes had a distinguished record before and during the Civil War.  He was a no nonsense West Point graduate who had little tolerance for the behavior he describes on the part of his men.  Meade found him overly cautious, and after Grant came into the Army of the Potomac he weeded out some corp commanders, Sykes among them.  Sykes was sent west, perhaps to duties which more suited his idea of discipline. 

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