Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Iowan Discusses Marching

Currently, I am reading Andrew F. Sperry’s, History of The 33d Iowa Infantry Volunteer Regiment, 1863-6 (1866; reprint ed., Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1999). The 33rd Iowa spent much of the war campaigning in the trans-Mississippi, and I am finding Sperry’s book to be accurate as well as entertaining. Since I have written several postings about marches in the trans-Mississippi, I found the following passage that chronicles one of the regiment’s marches during the Little Rock campaign in August 1863 to be interesting. I have italicized the portion that I found to be of most interest.

“The heat and the hard marching together, were too much for any ordinary powers of endurance. Men would fall out of the ranks and tumble down at the side of the road, by dozens and almost by hundreds. All such stragglers would have to come on after us, of course; but that is much easier than marching in ranks. In fact, marching with a regiment is one of the hardest ways in the world of getting along. A man may walk forty miles a day, alone and at his own gait and time, as easily as he can march twenty-five miles a day in the army. And a sick man, who can not march fast enough to keep up with the regiment, is frequently permitted to walk on ahead. This may be called a peripatetic paradox—that a soldier who can not march fast enough to keep up with his regiment, should rest himself by marching on ahead of it, yet such is often the case” (p. 46).

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