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Report to Captain Charles D. Rhodes1
July 28, 1907 Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
In compliance with your verbal instructions, I have the honor to submit the following report of my observations of the 13th Regiment Pennsylvania National Guard while encamped at Mt Gretna, Penna., July 6th to 13th last:
Sewage System . . .
Clothing and Equipment . . .
. . . Practically the regular army ration was issued by the Brigade Commissary—one three day and one five day issue—but this hardly indicates the character of the food provided as each man contributed on an average of $1.50 towards the mess for the eight days.
The company officers stated that they could handle the regular ration and make it do, but as the encampment was in the nature of the only outing the majority of the men had during the year, it was necessary to set a bountiful table. . . .
Drills and Ceremonies . . .
Personnel and Discipline
The personnel of the commissioned officers of the regiment was high, all appearing to be educated, ambitious and energetic men and very enthusiastic regarding the efficiency of the regiment.
Every officer, from the colonel down, seemed anxious to acquire all the practical knowledge possible of Military Art and were apparently ready and anxious at all times to listen to suggestions and follow them at once. They appeared to realize the futility of spending all the valuable hours of the encampment in normal “parade ground” drills and ceremonies, and endeavored to utilize all the time practicable in advance and rear guard, outpost and attack formations adapted to a varied terrain and approximating actual conditions as closely as possible. The drills were seldom held on the parade ground. My criticisms and suggestions were solicited and followed out to a flattering degree.
The enlisted personnel of the regiment was good. Men of all vocations were to be found in ranks, from the superintendent of a county school system, down through the various grades of labor. The men were generally of good physique, some few were undersized in those companies from the coal region where the labor element are strongly opposed to the National Guard organization, and recruits therefore difficult to secure.
The conduct of the enlisted men in camp was very good.
Apparently not much importance was attached to the practice of saluting but an improvement in this was noted during the week.
The average age appeared to be about 22 years.
There was a wide difference in the opinion of the different company commanders as to the number of men who would reenlist, ranging from 15 to 90 percent. Judging from the company records of past reenlistments, 15 percent seemed more nearly the correct number. All stated that 90 to 100 percent would volunteer in case of a foreign war.
Guard Duty . . .
Target Practice . . .
Record Keeping . . .
Instruction Given . . .
Inspection and Rating System
There are two general inspections of the State troops, one held in the armory in the Spring—the “minute inspection”—and one held while the troops are encamped each summer. As I understand it, the rating of each company or similar unit, is based on the result of these two inspections and the total percentage of each company published showing the relative efficiency of all the companies in the Guard, therefore the goal for which all strive is the obtainment of the highest possible percentage, and the success of the companies in obtaining good recruits, &c., depends in a large way on its rating.
Naturally the methods of work pursued, character of drills conducted most energetically &c., is that which brings results calculated to secure the highest percentage at the semi-annual inspections. I had the opportunity at this encampment of closely observing the summer inspection, and, based on my observations, I came to the conclusion that the method adopted is one that discourages progressive, practical work on the part of the regimental officers and fosters a system of “cadet training” which spends itself in encouraging a natty appearance, ceremonies, parade ground drills and the execution of few practical field formations, and then in a cut and dried fashion following the diagrams of the text books regardless of terrain, circumstances or similarity to actual war conditions. . . .
In a general way, it appeared to me that too much of the short time available, (one day,) was consumed in inspecting details that could be thoroughly covered at the home stations of the companies and not enough advantage taken of the opportunity to observe the condition of preparedness for war by field maneuvers. Certainly a much better idea of the field efficiency of the Brigade could have been obtained by observing the work of the officers and men in the maneuver of July 9th, than on the open parade ground.
What is more important, in fact all important and my reason for commenting so particularly on the method of inspection and consequent rating, an inspection made under such circumstances would have been a great incentive to all the officers to thoroughly drill themselves in and study the most important essential to war preparedness—field evolutions and maneuvers. As I have mentioned before, officers informed me that it was only practicable to drill at night at the home stations therefore it would seem all important to encourage or require all to derive as much advantage as possible from the opportunity presented in camp of operating in practical exercises over a varied terrain.
Men can be taught to salute, squads right and left, &c., in the armories, but a correct idea of advance guard and outpost duty and a correct handling of troops in the advance to the attack and on the defensive, can only be secured by movements on varied ground with as close an approximation to war conditions as possible.
When a choice must be made as to what to devote most of the short time available in one weeks encampment, it would seem that the majority of the work should be devoted to that which cannot be learnt from the books or managed on the armory floors—field maneuvers—and the smaller portion of the time in camp to that which can, to a large extent, be so derived—battalion and regimental drills. A well planned, umpired and criticized maneuver, however small—in fact, preferably so, furnishes food for thought and study for many days afterward, while an objectless and perfunctory advance guard or attack formation, is generally forgotten with the sounding of recall.
The 13th Regiment spent little time in close order drilling but if instead of the numerous advance guard and outpost and attack formations, a number of small, carefully prepared maneuvers for companies or battalions operating against each other and necessitating but two or three hour’s time, had been held either in the mornings or afternoons, after the first two days in camp, much better results would have been achieved.
In this connection, I wish to make special mention in this report of the spirit in which all of the officers of the 13th Regiment entered into the maneuvers of July 9th, and especially of the manner in which the criticisms following it were received and the enterprising and enthusiastic fashion in which all strove to make use of the few remaining days in camp in correcting the errors in the training of the men, shown up by the maneuvers. All seemed convinced immediately of the fact that the regiment was in fair shape for ceremonies and parade ground drills, but was greatly lacking in the practical knowledge necessary to qualify it for the purpose for which it is intended—field service.
I think it was demonstrated to all that a small maneuver is less tiresome to the troops than a parade or review and that it stimulates and holds the interest of the enlisted man as no other work does.
In conclusion I wish to report that I was treated with every possible consideration and kindness by the Brigade Commander and Colonel Stillwell and his officers.
My tour of duty with the 3d Brigade, Pennsylvania National Guard was made as pleasant and enjoyable as work can be.
Note A portion of my notes, including a diagram of the camp giving distances &c., was removed from my suitcase accidentally, I suppose, by the negro cleaning my tent. In this respect my report is incomplete.
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917 (RG 94), Militia, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Handwritten letter signed.
1. Rhodes (U.S.M.A., 1889), Sixth Cavalry, was the senior instructor at the Pennsylvania National Guard’s summer camp. He had finished second to Marshall in the Fort Leavenworth class standings. Marshal’s thirty-one-page handwritten report was filed as inclosure “D” to Rhodes’s report. The first section comments in detail on the poor sanitation practices of the troops in camp. The second section describes the varied uniforms of the officers and enlisted men concerning “Guard Duty,” Marshall was critical of the lack of practical maneuvers, as demonstrated by “the rigidity of the formations and the closeness with which the models given in the text books were adhered to, regardless of the terrain." He did note considerable improvement as the camp progressed, however. Marshall details his own participation in “Instruction Given." He lectured several times, conducted formations and drills, and offered critiques of the various maneuvers and formations.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 38-42.