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In The Rebel States:
DEMOBILIZATION AND REORGANIZATION
The carnage and hostilities finally ended. General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday, 9 April 1865, began a chain reaction of surrenders by the Confederate military leaders that terminated on 26 May, when General Simon B. Buckner surrendered the forces of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department to General Edward R.S. Canby in Louisiana. In the meantime President Lincoln was assassinated, and Vice-President Johnson succeeded him in office; Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia and imprisoned at Fort Monroe. Lincoln's assassins were captured and put on trial in a military court. Returning Union troops marched in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the end of the war. Solutions to the political, economic, and social problems raised by seccession and war were eagerly pursued.
As the surrenders occured and the problems of recostruction confronted the President, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General Grant
were preoccupied with the demobilization and reorganization of the Army. They began mustering out the Volunteers and hurriedly organizing the Regulars into what was in effect two separate “armies.” One patrolled the Mexican border to eliminate the threat posed by Emperor Maximilian and the French forces of Napoleon III in Mexico, suppressed Indian uprisings and restored order on the Western frontier, garrisoned the posts along the Canadian border, and performed training and ceremonial chores in the eastern cities. The other army was assigned a mission unique in American history, namely, the occupation of the Southern States and the supervision of reconstruction.'
See notes at end of chapter.
Demobilization and reorganization were massive tasks, but they were accomplished within the following 15 months. Between 1,556,000 and 2,800,000 “Billy Yanks” wore the Army blue at some time during the war; by 1866 the strength of the Army was reduced to 57,072 officers and men. Moreover, in July 1866 Congress set the unit strength of the Army at five regiments of artillery, 10 of cavalry, and 45 of infantry; it fixed the personnel strength at 54,302. Four of the infantry regiments and two of the cavalry regiments were "colored.” Congress also provided for 1,000 Indian scouts. In addition, the Army was organized into 19 territorial departments and five geographical divisions.
During 1867 the strength of the Army peaked to 3,056 officers and 54,138 men but declined steadily until 1876, when it was reduced to 27,472, a number that remained relatively constant until the Spanish-American War. Also in 1869 Congress reduced the number of infantry regiments to 25, while continuing to authorize five regiments of artillery and 10 of cavalry. That reduction resulted in the consolidation of the four black infantry regiments into two, leaving the total number of black regiments at four. Those unit figures also remained constant until 1898. The number of territorial departments and geographical divisions, however, fluctuated considerably, as did the number of Army posts.
Those changes made a significant impact upon the chaplaincy. At one time or another, about 2,300 men served as chaplains in the Union Army, the largest number serving in 1863. In that year there were 1,068 on active duty; 21 served as post chaplains, 117 as hospital chaplains, and 930 as regimental chaplains. The post-war chaplaincy, however, was reduced to only 30 post chaplains, the same as during the pre-war years; they were employed by the post councils of administration, did not hold a commission, and performed the duties of chaplain and schoolmaster at posts which the Secretary of War thought were “most destitute of instruction.” 4
Six more chaplains were authorized by Congress in July 1866, one for each of the six black regiments. They were called regimental chaplains, were commissioned, and held the "rank of chaplain without command.” Their rank was roughly equivalent to that of a captain, and their names appeared after the surgeons on the field and staff rolls. Their pay was that of a first lieutenant. Because of the role chaplains played in the education of blacks during the Civil War, the same law
specified that their duties were to include the “instruction of enlisted men in the common English branches of education” and that they were to be stationed with their regiments."
In March 1867 Congress authorized the commissioning of post chaplains “now in service, or hereafter to be appointed.” It also gave post chaplains the rank of chaplain, which was “established to rank as captain of infantry,” and put all Army chaplains “on the same footing” with other officers as to terms of office, retirement, allowances for service, and pensions. Their pay, too, was that of a first lieutenant. This legislation also had a long-range side effect upon the denominational makeup of the chaplaincy. Immediately following the Civil War most of the chaplains were Episcopalians, and in 1868, when the West Point chaplain and 21 of the 36 Army chaplains were of that denomination, the Presbyterians protested at their annual general assembly and the Methodists at their quadrennial general conference. The Presbyterians called it “manifest and unjustifiable favoritism” and the Methodists "unequal and unjust,” and both churches memorialized Congress and the Secretary of War for a “redress of this irregularity.” The Methodists underscored their protest by reporting that the membership of the Protestant Episcopal Church was only 154,000, whereas the membership of the Methodist Church and its various branches numbered 2,358,425, Baptist churches 1,200,000, and the several Presbyterian bodies nearly a million.' Whatever the effects of their protests and memorials, the numerical predominance of Episcopal chaplains began to wane as the appointing power passed from the post councils of administration to the President. Though the denominational makeup of the chaplaincy thus became more representative of the national memberships of the Protestant churches, many years passed before it began to reflect adequately the memberships of Catholicism and Judaism. There were no Regular Army Catholic or Jewish chaplains during the early postbellum years. No Catholic priest was appointed until 1872, and only seven were appointed between then and the Spanish-American War. Moreover, no rabbi was appointed until World War I, and none who served during that conflict was a Regular.
In 1869, when the four black infantry regiments were consolidated into two, the number of regimental chaplains was reduced by two. In addition to the 30 post chaplains and four regimental chaplains, one chaplain served at the US Military Academy in the dual capacity of
chaplain and professor of history, geography, and ethics. Congress had authorized the West Point chaplaincy in 1813, and the chaplain was commissioned as a professor on the academy faculty. That arrangement continued until 1896, when Congress acted to permit the academy superintendent to make a four-year contract with a civilian clergyman whose role would be strictly that of a chaplain (App. 2).10 Thus, during the years following the Civil War, there was one chaplain for about every 10 posts and, later, one for about every three posts." With the exception of the West Point chaplain, they were all expected “to visit at intervals the posts in the vicinity of their stations.” 12
Another feature of the post-Civil War Army that affected the makeup of the chaplaincy was the “ironclad” oath of office which excluded many Southerners, including Southern clergymen, from its commissioned ranks. The traditional oath of 16 March 1802 was revised in July 1862 to require that every commissioned officer solemnly swear at his mustering in that he had “never voluntarily borne arms” against the United States; had "voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility” against the United States; had "neither sought, nor accepted, nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatever, under any authority, in hostility” to the United States; and had not “yielded a voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto.” 13 Although this oath remained in effect until May 1884, the War Department apparently made allowances for applicants whose voluntary assistance to the Rebel
was strictly humanitarian. David Wills was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Macon, Georgia, during the War and “ministered indiscriminately to the sick, wounded and dying of the Federal and Confederate” forces. Before signing his oath in 1879, he lined out the two clauses about giving aid and support to enemies of the United States; yet he was appointed a post chaplain and served until 1886."
Congressional legislation and Army regulations also affected the makeup of the post-war chaplaincy. To obtain an appointment as chaplain, an applicant had to be a "regularly ordained minister of some religious denomination” and either recommended by “some authorized ecclesiastical body” or by at least "five accredited ministers” from his denomination. In addition, he was required to present “testimonials of his present good standing" as a minister, and more often than not those
testimonials were from politicians, military officers, or other influential persons." Usually, and sometimes unfortunately, the applicant who presented the most testimonials from prestigious persons was appointed regardless of his age, health, denomination, personal effectiveness as a clergyman, suitability for duty with the Army.
The same laws and regulations defined the chaplain's duties as chaplain and educator. As chaplain he was required to hold public religious services on post at least once each Sunday, “when practicable,” and to close those services with a “short sermon suited to the habits and understandings of soldiers.” He was also required to hold "appropriate religious services at the burial of officers, soldiers, and camp followers” and to visit and “afford religious advance and instruction” to the sick in the hospital or in quarters." As educator he was charged with the instruction of children and enlisted men in the "common English branches,” especially in the history of the United States. 18 At the discretion of the commanding officer he could be assisted by “a soldier competent” to teach, if there was one assigned to the post, but he was responsible for "general supervision” and required to "visit the school daily. ” 19 His final “legitimate” duty was to make a monthly report through military channels to the Adjutant General of the Army regarding the “moral condition” of his regiment or post.“ Such reports generally contained not only statistics and narrative about his legal duties, but also about marriages, baptisms, and other events.
On the other hand, the same statutes and regulations prescribed the responsibilities of the regimental and post commanders for the religious and educational welfare of their commands. They were “earnestly recommended” to “diligently” attend divine services, to encourage their officers and men to attend, and to suspend all labor and maintain quiet during the services. Where there was no regimental or post chaplain, commanders were encouraged to attend divine services with their officers and men "whenever a neighboring church or religious congregation may offer proper opportunity.” 21 They were to establish schools for their children and enlisted men.22 They were “to render ... facilities” to “aid chaplains in the discharge of the duties assigned to them by the Government,” and whenever there were no suitable rooms or a building for school and religious purposes, they were to submit a request for a building “through the Quartermaster-General for the approval of the Secretary of War.” Finally, they were to forward the