8: First-Class Camp
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IT is a common saying among cadets that "first-class
camp is just like furlough." I rather think the
assertion is an inheritance from former days and the
cadets of those days, for the similarity at present
between first-class camp and furlough is beyond our
conception. There is none, or if any it is chimerical,
depending entirely on circumstances. In the case of
a small class it would be greater than in that of a
large one. For instance, in "train drill" a certain
number of men are required. No more are necessary. It
would be inexpedient to employ a whole class when the
class had more men in it than were required for the
drill. In such cases the supernumeraries are instructed
in something else, and alternate with those who attend
train drill. In the case of a small class all attend the
same drill daily, and that other duty or drill is
reserved for autumn. Thus there is less drill in camp,
and it becomes more like furlough when there is none
Again, first-classmen enjoy more privileges than
others, and for this reason their camp is more like
furlough. If, however, there are numerous drills,
the analogy will fail; for how can duty, drills,
etc., coexist with privileges such as first-class
privileges? Time which otherwise would be devoted
to enjoyment of privileges is now consumed in drills.
Still there is much in it which makes first-class
camp the most delightful part of a cadet's life.
There are more privileges, the duties are lighter
and more attractive, and make it withal more enjoyable.
First, members of the class attend drill both as
assistants and as students. They are detailed as
chiefs of platoon, chiefs of section, chiefs of
caissons, and as guidons at the light battery; as
chiefs of pieces at the several foot batteries;
attend themselves at the siege or sea-coast batteries,
train drill, pontoon drill, engineering, ordnance, and
astronomy, and they are also detailed as officers of
the guard. These duties are generally not very
difficult nor unpleasant to discharge. Second, from the
nature of the privileges allowed first-classmen, they
have more opportunity for pleasure than other cadets,
and therefore avoid the rather serious consequences of
their monotonous academic military life. A solitary
monotonous life is rather apt to engender a dislike for
mankind, and no high sense of honor or respect for women.
I deem these privileges of especial importance, as they
enable one to avoid that danger and to cultivate the
highest possible regard for women, and those virtues and
other Christian attributes of which they are the better
exponents. A soldier is particularly liable to fall into
this sans-souci way of looking at life, and those to
whom its pleasures, as well as its ills, are largely
due. We are indebted to our fellows for every thing
which affects our life as regards its happiness or
unhappiness, and this latter misfortune will rarely
be ours if we properly appreciate our friends and
those who can and will make life less wretched. To
shut one's self up in one's self is merely to trust,
or rather to set up, one's own judgment as superior
to the world's. That cannot be, nor can there be
happiness in such false views of our organization as
being of and for each other.
At this point of the course many of the first-class
have attained their majority. They are men, and in
one year more will be officers of the army. It becomes
them, therefore, to lay aside the ordinary student's
rôle, and assume a more dignified one, one more in
conformity with their age and position. They leave
all cadet rôles, etc., to the younger classes, and
put on the proper dignity of men.
There are for them more privileges. They are more
independent—more like men; and consequently they
find another kind of enjoyment in camp than that
of the cadet. It is a general, a proper, a rational
sort of pleasure such as one would enjoy at home
among relatives or friends, and hence the similarity
between first-class camp and furlough.
But it is not thus with all first-classmen. Many,
indeed the majority, are cadets till they graduate.
They see every thing as a cadet, enjoy every thing
as a cadet, and find the duties, etc., of first-class
camp as irksome as those of plebe or yearling camp.
Of course such men see no similarity between first-
class camp and furlough. It is their misfortune. We
should enjoy as many things as we can, and not sorrow
over them. We should not make our life one of sorrow
when it could as well be one of comfort and pleasure.
I don't mean comfort and pleasure in an epicurean
sense, but in a moral one. Still first-classmen do
have many duties to perform, but there is withal one
consolation at least, there are no upper classmen to
keep the plebe or yearling in his place. There is no
feeling of humbleness because of junior rank, for the
first class is the first in rank, and therefore need
humble itself to none other than the proper authorities.
Again, their honor, as "cadets and gentlemen," is
relied upon as surety for obedience and regard for
regulations. They are not subject to constant watching
as plebes are. The rigor of discipline is not so severe
upon them as upon others. It was expended upon them
during their earlier years at the Academy, and, as a
natural consequence, any violation of regulations, etc.,
by a first-classman, merits and receives a severer
punishment than would be visited upon a junior classman
for a like infringement on his part.
The duties of first-classmen in first-class camp are
as follows: The officer of the day and two officers
of the guard are detailed each day from the class.
Their duties are precisely those of similar officers
in the regular army. The junior officer of the guard
daily reports to the observatory to find the error of
the tower clock. Also each day are detailed the
necessary assistants for the several light batteries,
who are on foot or mounted, as the case may require.
The remainder of the class receive instructions in
the service of the siege and sea-coast artillery.
These drills come in the early forenoon. After them
come ordnance and engineering.
The entire class is divided as equally as may be into
two parts, which alternate in attendance at ordnance
In ordnance the instructions are on the preparation
of military fireworks, fixing of ammunition and
packing it, the battery wagon and forge. This
instruction is thoroughly practical. The cadets
make the cases for rockets, paper shells, etc., and
fill them, leaving them ready for immediate use. The
stands of fixed ammunition prepared are the grape and
canister, and shell and shot, with their sabots.
The battery wagon and forge are packed as prescribed
in the "Ordnance Manual."
The instructions in engineering are also practical
and military. They are in the modes of throwing and
dismantling pontoon bridges, construction of fascines,
gabions, hurdles, etc., and revetting batteries with
them. Sometimes also during camp, more often after,
foot reconnoissances are made. A morning and night
detail is made daily from the class to receive
practical instruction in astronomy in the field
Night signalling with torches, and telegraphy by day,
form other sources of instruction for the first class.
Telegraphy, or train drill, as the drill is called,
consists in erecting the telegraph line and opening
communication between two stations, and when this is
done, in communicating so as to acquire a practical
knowledge of the instruments and their use.
These various drills—all of them occurring daily,
Sunday of course excepted, and for part of them
Saturday also—complete the course of instruction
given the first class only during their first-class
camp. It will be observed that they all of them are
of a military nature and of the greatest importance.
The instruction is thorough accordingly.
I have sufficiently described, I think, a cadet's
first-class camp. I shall, therefore, close the
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