Regular Army and National Guard

Still a couple more days before Robert’s diary and letters resume. In the meantime, a great anecdote that shows how some of the Regular Army still looked down upon National Guard divisions like the 35th, even after they had fought and died alongside the regular divisions in the Meuse-Argonne.

First, some context from Charles B. Hoyt in Heroes of the Argonne:

After the relief had taken place, the troops assembled in the vicinity of Charpentry. The organizations, badly cut up and disordered, formed in marching order and set out on the long trail that led to the rear. 

Both officers and men were so worn by their five days’ fighting they literally dragged themselves to the task of marching. They kept in column formation, so far as that was possible, and there were stragglers only where men dropped out from sheer exhaustion and weariness.

From Chaplain Edwards in From Doniphan to Verdun:

On the march from the battle-field we were inspected. One of the chief duties of a soldier is to be inspected. Sometimes the sense of perspective seems to be lacking. 

A dapper little Corps inspector looked us over. And he did not like our appearance. He sent up a sharp and bitter criticism, which was read by most of the officers in the regiment. Our shoes were worn and muddy and our clothing was torn and unpressed. Officers were too familiar with the men who had fought beside them in shell holes and up the hills against the enemy, in some cases saving their lives. And he wound up his criticism with this scathing sentence: “This Division bears all the earmarks of a National Guard Division, which indeed it is.” 

He had pierced our disguise, and discovered us! The gallant and steady old First Division had looked upon our dead and hailed us “comrades.” The Germans had seen us drive back their seasoned troops kilometer after kilometer over bloody ground, and they thought that we were really soldiers. Why had we failed to make use of the barber shops and tailoring establishments scattered so thickly around Charpentry and Exermont! Why had we failed to ride in the limousines provided by a kindly government, and so remain unspotted by the mud! It was a fatal mistake. His eagle eye had discovered what we really were, merely National Guardsmen, and he did not like us. Neither did the Boches!

The same story from Clair Kenamore in From Vauquois Hill to Exermont:

A stiff, neat, energetic colonel from Corps Headquarters bounded into the Division on the march, to inspect it. His report showed how appalled he was by these ragged men. They did not salute him in the manner he desired, and he observed on several occasions officers and men talking together on conditions of apparent equality and friendship. It was most deplorable. In his report to his superiors, he said the most cutting thing in his vocabulary, which was: “This Division has all the earmarks of a National Guard outfit, which it is.”

Clearly, this incident was seen as a huge insult and was recorded by the regiment and division historians. It was not unusual for the National Guard divisions to be looked down upon by the Regular Army, though. From Richard S. Faulkner in Pershing’s Crusaders:

[M]uch of the esprit de corps in the American Army in the first months of the war was built upon a negative base. The Regular Army troops looked down upon the amateur “Tin Soldiers” of the National Guard… One Midwest guardsman thundered in his journal, “The regular army used to sneer at the National Guard. We used to have to swallow it in the old armory days. But we never claimed to be more than emergency soldiers. And now that the emergency is here let us see what had happened… I am tired of being scorned by the regular army.”

Where was Robert today? See the timeline.

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