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William P. Robertson: Readings

Excerpt from Chapter 20 of HAYFOOT, STRAWFOOT: THE BUCKTAIL RECRUITS

(William P. Robertson)
November 9, 2010
William P. Robertson & David Rimer

When the Bucktails arrived at Camp Curtin to be trained as soldiers, they had many obstacles to overcome.  Most of the men were uneducated, which caused orders to be misunderstood:

The men equally hated the instruction they received in close formation drilling. Whole afternoons were spent saluting sergeants, standing at attention, marching to the left, marching to the right, advancing as a group, or retreating as a group. These maneuvers seldom went smoothly because many of the woodsmen didn't know one foot from the other. Finally, after the ranks ended up in a horrendous snarl, a frustrated drill instructor barked, "You Bucktails are the most pitiful group of recruits I ever seed! You got about as much discipline as bucks in the rut! Looks like the only way you're gonna march in cadence is if we makes a game of it."

"A game?" grumbled Hosea Curtis. "I thought we come here to kill Rebs, not play 'Ring Around the Rosie.' "

The officer told Curtis to shut his "pie hole" and ordered the soldiers to tie hay on their left boots and straw on their right boots. "Okay!" he bellowed. "Now, I want you to repeat after me:

 

March! March! March!

Old soldiers march!

Hayfoot, strawfoot,

Belly full of bean soup--

March, old soldier, march!"

 

"This is like being back in nursery school," giggled Jimmy.

"If we do this in a battle, we won't even have to fire a shot," chuckled Boone. "The Rebels will laugh themselves to death."