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Wright found gardening to be hard work, not only because of his age, but also because at each post he had to break ground that was never before cleared or spaded. And even though overwork, exposure to the heat, and the cold winds, undermined his health, he never complained. Neither did he say that the hours he spent gardening kept him from doing his chaplain duties. His services, Sunday school, and Bible studies were well-attended, and he was ably supported and assisted by lay persons, particularly the officers and their wives."' When he reached age 62 and was eligible for retirement from the Army, he requested that he be retired, and his commander endorsed his request, saying that he was “beloved and respected by all the officers, their families, and the soldiers.” 5° When his request reached the War Department, however, the Adjutant General disapproved it, saying that there were only a few vacancies on the retired list and that it was “most necessary for the interests of the army to reserve them for officers of the line.” 81 Not until four more years passed, when his sight and hearing were almost gone and his general health was very poor, was he permitted to retire.
An additional duty occasionally proved to be hazardous. During the mid-1880s Chaplain Henry V. Plummer, a black chaplain, served as the manager of the post bakery at Fort Riley, Kansas; although he was manager for two or three years, only one incident is known about his work in that position. Unfortunately, that incident contributed to his dismissal from the Army in 1894. One morning his men failed to have the bread ready at the appointed time, and when Plummer investigated, he learned that a private had held a "little social gathering” in the bakery the night before and caused the delay. Chaplain Plummer reported him and forgot about it, but the enlisted man remembered. Moreover, he awaited an opportunity for vengeance, and several years later found that opportunity and made a complaint against Plummer. He alleged that the chaplain drank whiskey at a sergeant's promotion party and behaved disgracefully. Consequently, Plummer was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and gentlemen, brought to trial before a general court martial, found guilty, and sentenced to dismissal.S
Although chaplains generally accepted their additional duties without complaint, there were those who objected to serving on courts-martial boards and acting as defense counsels. Cephas C. Bateman, who once served as a member of a court for an officer's trial, disliked the experience and was thankful when chaplains were barred from the duty, though he
enjoyed serving as a defense counsel for enlisted men. He found such duty "sometimes exceedingly trying to the nerves and offensive to moral sensibilities,” saying that testimony was occasionally so revolting “as to completely upset a minister's mind when preparation should be in order for the sacred service of the Sabbath day.” Then, too, he learned that some cases were extremely complex and required much time for preparation. It also bothered him that the accused sometimes mistakenly thought that to be defended by a chaplain guaranteed acquittal. But in spite of all this, he did not want chaplains barred from this duty. He found intellectual pleasure and excitement in preparing a good case and fighting the prosecution to the end. More importantly, he believed chaplains frequently knew more about certain cases than anyone else and were therefore better able to serve the soldier defendant. He never refused to defend a soldier, regardless of how unpromising the charges and specification. He did the best he could and let the matter rest, and said that some men who were punished the most severely thanked him most heartily.83
Most chaplains did some of these additional duties some of the time, and for the most part accepted them as part of their vocation, just as the other officers accepted them. In so doing they were able to make a tangible contribution, as well as an intangible one, to community life on the posts, and the commanders appreciated those who did these duties well. Fortunately, they did not have to do all of them all the time, which left them opportunity for more traditional and legitimate duties.
CHAPLAINS AS EDUCATORS
Many chaplains found much of their time consumed by educational activities. Although post-Civil War regulations charged them with the general supervision of the post schools for both children and enlisted men at their posts, they quickly learned that "general supervision” was a euphemism for teaching."* Consequently, they were either in the classroom or preparing lessons. Fortunately, soldiers competent to teach were sometimes assigned to assist them, but regardless of who taught, many obstructions were encountered.
The most obvious obstruction was that many enlisted men could not read or write English. Black troops, for instance, were “totally uneducated.” 85 When the 9th Cavalry Regiment (Colored) was established, only one man in the entire unit could write well enough to act as sergeantmajor, and officers occasionally were forced to read the unit roster to the
first sergeant so that he could call the roll. The inspector general of the Department of Texas called attention to the “great labor thrown upon
the officers of the colored regiments in being obliged to make all rolls, returns, accounts, and keep all books with their own hands.” 87 Numerous white troops were also illiterate, and many of foreign extraction could barely speak English, let alone read or write it. In time, however, highly motivated teachers and students overcame that hindrance.
Other obstacles were more difficult to overcome. Whether classes for the soldiers were held during the day—as they were for the children or in the evening, circumstances frequently interfered with the educational process. Daytime pupils were frequently absent, because their commanders needed them for a military operation, for fatigue or construction details. Evening students were often tired, and even when eager to learn, classroom conditions must have discouraged them. 98 Chaplain John H. Macomber reported that candles did not protect the students' eyes or throw light upon their desks, and he recommended that shade lamps be provided. School books, libraries, furniture, teaching aids, and school rooms left something to be desired.99 The weather often made classrooms too hot, too cold, or too wet." If all this was not disconcerting enough, classes were occasionally suspended when chaplains became ill and soldier-teachers accompanied their units to the field or deserted.or Guy V. Henry, Jr., recalled the 1889 school year at Fort McKinney when Chaplain Henry V. Plummer's principal teachers—two black soldiers—were deserters who wore “heavy iron chain shackles around their ankles." Beyond all this, some chaplains were too elderly to supervise a school or teach.
At best, education in the Army led a precarious and unstructured existence until 1878, when the War Department published a general order which defined the obligations of everyone concerned with the operation of the post schools—from those responsible within the War Department to the youngest student. The order contained an intriguing paragraph that was bound to influence both the educational process and social relations at some posts.
If the command consists of white and colored troops, it necessitates
More important, the order provided for an inspector to regularly visit the various post schools and examine the system of instruction; to advise commanders of defects in the system and suggest methods of improvement; to endeavor to standardize the methods of mangement and instruction; to make known throughout the Army the best methods and systems in existence at any military post; and to report the results of his inspections to the War Department." Most significantly, Colonel Alexander McD. McCook, General Sherman's aide-de-camp, was appointed as the inspector and was called the officer in charge of education in the Army. The Army-Navy Journal editorialized favorably about these developments and said the greatest trouble with post schools was a lack of interest in them by the "greater part of the commanding officers.” It also recommended that chaplains “who have nothing to do except conduct Sunday services” be reassigned to remote posts.o5
With the force of his brevet rank of major-general and the prestige of the Commander of the Army operating on his behalf, Colonel McCook surveyed the field to ascertain the number of students attending post schools; ordered the construction of numerous buildings for educational and religious purposes; called attention to the difficulties encountered in procuring the services of competent teachers from the ranks of the enlisted men; and recommended legislation authorizing the enlistment of 150 schoolmasters, with the rank and pay of commissary sergeant." Then, equally important, he arranged to have Chaplain George G. Mullins ordered to St. Louis on detached duty as his assistant.
Chaplain Mullins, a Disciples of Christ minister, began his Army career in 1875 with the 25th Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis, Texas. Shortly after he joined the regiment, he almost resigned because of his despondency about the prospect of teaching black soldiers. He believed them to be inferior to white soldiers and “generally of that abject servile disposition which does just what is absolutely necessary, and nothing more.” ” He was appalled at the terrible condition of the school and its equipment. Moreover, since a chaplain had not been assigned to the unit for about three years, he saw that he must re-establish the education program. However, dedicated and energetic, he stayed with the regiment and set out to do a good job.
Soon he was holding three school sessions daily, except Saturday and Sunday. He attempted to harmonize instruction to the level of each man's educational development. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing,
basic mathematics, history, and elementary science. On Friday evening he gave short lectures to his students on some aspect of civil, military, or moral law. He spent many hours in study and preparation. In addition, he conducted a Sunday school, a Sunday morning service, and an evening preaching service.99
His hard work bore fruit and brought him recognition. Not only did his black pupils become good students, but their enthusiasm for learning was contagious and spread among their fellow soldiers. The officers showed interest in Mullins' efforts by encouraging more of their men to enroll in classes and stay in school. An inspector general said Mullins was “one of the most energetic, reasonable, and serviceable of his profession in the army.” 10° General E. O. C. Ord, the commander of the Department of Texas, commented about Mullins' success in a letter to the Army-Navy Journal.101
At some point Chaplain Mullins began to visualize education in a broader context—as a process that could transform the lives of his students. He noted that fewer men were committing court-martial offenses and that the guard house population was much lower. He observed that his pupils' progress gave them a sense of achievement, self-respect, and dignity. He theorized that education leads to a better moral life and good discipline. So much was he convinced of this that, after returning from a trip to Fort Bliss, Texas, he recommended that a chaplain be assigned there for “the sake of moral and mental welfare of our poor men since a good Post School, and regular Divine services act powerfully to keep men out of the guard house and from courts-martial, and particularly help develop a higher type soldier.” 102 His success as an educator, the recognition he received, and his theory about the social value of education apparently motivated him to enroll as many men as possible in his school.
He continued to encounter obstacles, including the weather, the hardships of frontier life, his tired body, and his wife's poor health, and sometimes he became despondent. In 1877 he even requested a transfer, which was disapproved, so he continued to develop his educational program. School attendance for enlisted men was voluntary, but it continued to increase. Colonel George L. Andrews, the regimental commander, also made it compulsory for the noncommissioned officers to attend; he believed they should be able to read and write well enough to perform minimal administrative duties. Mullins was the only teacher, but used the brighter students to tutor the slower ones. Finally, in January 1878