He required the men to stand their own turns, and, worse than that, introduced the system, in vogue among regular troops, of keeping the entire guard detail at the guardhouse when not on post, an encroachment upon personal liberty which sorely tried the patience of the young cavaliers.
It was in this undisciplined state that the men who afterwards made up the army under Lee were sent to the field to meet the enemy at Bull Run and elsewhere, and the only wonder is that they were ever able to fight at all. They were certainly not soldiers. They were as ignorant of the alphabet of obedience as their officers were of the art of commanding. And yet they acquitted themselves reasonably well, a fact which can be explained only by reference to the causes of their insubordination in camp. These men were the people of the South, and the war was their own; wherefore they fought to win it of their own accord, and not at all because their officers commanded them to do so. Their personal spirit and their intelligence were their sole elements of strength. Death has few terrors for such men, as compared with dishonor, and so they needed no officers at all, and no discipline, to insure their personal good conduct on the field of battle. The same elements of character, too, made them accept hardship with the utmost cheerfulness, as soon as hardship became a necessary condition to the successful prosecution of a war that every man of them regarded as his own. In camp, at Richmond or Ashland, they had shunned all unnecessary privation and all distasteful duty, because they then saw no occasion to endure avoidable discomfort. But in the field they showed themselves great, stalwart men in spirit as well as in bodily frame, and endured cheerfully the hardships of campaigning precisely as they would have borne the fatigues of a hunt, as incidents encountered in the prosecution of their purposes.
During the spring and early summer of 1861, the men did not dream that they were to be paid anything for their services, or even that the government was to clothe them. They had bought their own uniforms, and whenever these wore out they ordered new ones to be sent, by the first opportunity, from home. I remember the very first time the thought of getting clothing from the government ever entered my own mind. I was serving in Stuart's cavalry, and the summer of 1861 was nearly over. My boots had worn out, and as there happened at the time to be a strict embargo upon all visiting on the part of non-military people, I could not get a new pair from home. The spurs of my comrades had made uncomfortable impressions upon my bare feet every day for a week, when some one suggested that I might possibly buy a pair of boots from the quartermaster, who was for the first time in possession of some government property of that description. When I returned with the boots and reported that the official had refused my proffered cash, contenting himself with charging the amount against me as a debit to be deducted from the amount of my pay and clothing allowance, there was great merriment in the camp. The idea that there was anybody back of us in this war - anybody who could, by any ingenuity of legal quibbling, be supposed to be indebted to us for our voluntary services in our own cause - was too ridiculous to be treated seriously. "Pay money" became the standing subject for jests. The card-playing with which the men amused themselves suffered a revolution at once; euchre gave place to poker, played for "pay money," the winnings to fall due when payday should come, - a huge joke which was heartily enjoyed.
From this the reader will see how little was done in the beginning of the war to ward the organization of an efficient quartermaster's department, and how completely this ill-organized and undisciplined mob of plucky gentlemen was left to prosecute the war as best it could, trusting to luck for clothing and even for food. Of these things I shall have occasion to speak more fully in a future chapter, wherein I shall have something to say of the management of affairs at Richmond. At present, I merely refer to the matter for the purpose of correcting an error (if I may hope to do that) which seems likely to creep into history. We have been told over and over again that the Confederate army could not possibly have given effectual pursuit to General McDowell's flying forces after the battle of Bull Run. It is urged, in defense of the inaction which made of that day's work a waste effort, that we could not move forward for want of transportation and supplies. Now, without discussing the question whether or not a prompt movement on Washington would have resulted favorably to the Confederates, I am certain, as every man who was there is, that this want of transportation and supplies had nothing whatever to do with it. We had no supplies of any importance, it is true, but none were coming to us there, and we were no whit better off in this regard at Manassas than we would have been before Washington. And having nothing to transport, we needed no transportation. Had the inefficiency of the supply department stopped short at its failure to furnish wagon trains, it might have stood in the way of a forward movement. But that was no ordinary incompetence which governed this department of our service in all its ramifications. The breadth and comprehensiveness of that incompetence were its distinguishing characteristics. In failing to furnish anything to transport, it neutralized its failure to furnish transportation, and the army that fought at Bull Run would have been as well off anywhere else as there, during the next ten days. Indeed, two days after the battle we were literally starved out at Manassas, and were forced to advance to Fairfax Court House in order to get the supplies which the Union army had left in abundance wherever there was a storing-place for them. The next morning after the battle, many of the starving men went off on their own account to get provisions, and they knew very well where to find them. There were none at Manassas, but by crossing Bull Run and following the line of the Federal retreat, we soon gathered a store sufficient to last us, while the authorities of the quartermaster's department were finding out how to transport the few sheet-iron frying-pans which, with an unnecessary tent here and there, were literally the only things there were to be transported at all. Food, which was the only really necessary thing just then, lay ahead of us and nowhere else. All the ammunition we had we could and did move with the wagons at hand.