Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Man's best possession is a sympathetic wife."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 12

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 13
    Previous Chapter
    REMARKS AS TO NOMENCLATURE--VACCINATION AND ITS EFFECTS--"N'YAARKER'S"
    --THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND THEIR METHODS OF OPERATING.

    Before going any further in this narrative it may be well to state that
    the nomenclature employed is not used in any odious or disparaging sense.
    It is simply the adoption of the usual terms employed by the soldiers of
    both sides in speaking to or of each other. We habitually spoke of them
    and to them, as "Rebels," and "Johnnies ;" they of and to us, as "Yanks,"
    and "Yankees." To have said "Confederates," "Southerners,"
    "Secessionists," or "Federalists," "Unionists," "Northerners" or
    "Nationalists," would have seemed useless euphemism. The plainer terms
    suited better, and it was a day when things were more important than
    names.

    For some inscrutable reason the Rebels decided to vaccinate us all.
    Why they did this has been one of the unsolved problems of my life.
    It is true that there was small pox in the City, and among the prisoners
    at Danville; but that any consideration for our safety should have led
    them to order general inoculation is not among the reasonable inferences.
    But, be that as it may, vaccination was ordered, and performed. By great
    good luck I was absent from the building with the squad drawing rations,
    when our room was inoculated, so I escaped what was an infliction to all,
    and fatal to many. The direst consequences followed the operation.
    Foul ulcers appeared on various parts of the bodies of the vaccinated.
    In many instances the arms literally rotted off; and death followed from
    a corruption of the blood. Frequently the faces, and other parts of
    those who recovered, were disfigured by the ghastly cicatrices of healed
    ulcers. A special friend of mine, Sergeant Frank Beverstock--then a
    member of the Third Virginia Cavalry, (loyal), and after the war a banker
    in Bowling Green, O.,--bore upon his temple to his dying day, (which
    occurred a year ago), a fearful scar, where the flesh had sloughed off
    from the effects of the virus that had tainted his blood.

    This I do not pretend to account for. We thought at the time that the
    Rebels had deliberately poisoned the vaccine matter with syphilitic
    virus, and it was so charged upon them. I do not now believe that this
    was so; I can hardly think that members of the humane profession of
    medicine would be guilty of such subtle diabolism--worse even than
    poisoning the wells from which an enemy must drink. The explanation with
    which I have satisfied myself is that some careless or stupid
    practitioner took the vaccinating lymph from diseased human bodies,
    and thus infected all with the blood venom, without any conception of
    what he was doing. The low standard of medical education in the South
    makes this theory quite plausible.

    We now formed the acquaintance of a species of human vermin that united
    with the Rebels, cold, hunger, lice and the oppression of distraint, to
    leave nothing undone that could add to the miseries of our prison life.

    These were the fledglings of the slums and dives of New York--graduates
    of that metropolitan sink of iniquity where the rogues and criminals of
    the whole world meet for mutual instruction in vice.

    They were men who, as a rule, had never known, a day of honesty and
    cleanliness in their misspent lives; whose fathers, brothers and constant
    companions were roughs, malefactors and, felons; whose mothers, wives and
    sisters were prostitutes, procuresses and thieves; men who had from
    infancy lived in an atmosphere of sin, until it saturated every fiber of
    their being as a dweller in a jungle imbibes malaria by every one of his,
    millions of pores, until his very marrow is surcharged with it.

    They included representatives from all nationalities, and their
    descendants, but the English and Irish elements predominated. They had
    an argot peculiar to themselves. It was partly made up of the "flash"
    language of the London thieves, amplified and enriched by the cant
    vocabulary and the jargon of crime of every European tongue. They spoke
    it with a peculiar accent and intonation that made them instantly
    recognizable from the roughs of all other Cities. They called themselves
    "N'Yaarkers;" we came to know them as "Raiders."

    If everything in the animal world has its counterpart among men, then
    these were the wolves, jackals and hyenas of the race at once cowardly
    and fierce--audaciously bold when the power of numbers was on their side,
    and cowardly when confronted with resolution by anything like an equality
    of strength.

    Like all other roughs and rascals of whatever degree, they were utterly
    worthless as soldiers. There may have been in the Army some habitual
    corner loafer, some fistic champion of the bar-room and brothel, some
    Terror of Plug Uglyville, who was worth the salt in the hard tack he
    consumed, but if there were, I did not form his acquaintance, and I never
    heard of any one else who did. It was the rule that the man who was the
    readiest in the use of fist and slungshot at home had the greatest
    diffidence about forming a close acquaintance with cold lead in the
    neighborhood of the front. Thousands of the so-called "dangerous
    classes" were recruited, from whom the Government did not receive so much
    service as would pay for the buttons on their uniforms. People expected
    that they would make themselves as troublesome to the Rebels as they were
    to good citizens and the Police, but they were only pugnacious to the
    provost guard, and terrible to the people in the rear of the Army who had
    anything that could be stolen.

    The highest type of soldier which the world has yet produced is the
    intelligent, self-respecting American boy, with home, and father and
    mother and friends behind him, and duty in front beckoning him on.
    In the sixty centuries that war has been a profession no man has entered
    its ranks so calmly resolute in confronting danger, so shrewd and
    energetic in his aggressiveness, so tenacious of the defense and the
    assault, so certain to rise swiftly to the level of every emergency, as
    the boy who, in the good old phrase, had been "well-raised" in a
    Godfearing home, and went to the field in obedience to a conviction of
    duty. His unfailing courage and good sense won fights that the
    incompetency or cankering jealousy of commanders had lost. High officers
    were occasionally disloyal, or willing to sacrifice their country to
    personal pique; still more frequently they were ignorant and inefficient;
    but the enlisted man had more than enough innate soldiership to make
    amends for these deficiencies, and his superb conduct often brought
    honors and promotions to those only who deserved shame and disaster.

    Our "N'Yaarkers," swift to see any opportunity for dishonest gain, had
    taken to bounty-jumping, or, as they termed it, "leppin' the bounty,"
    for a livelihood. Those who were thrust in upon us had followed this
    until it had become dangerous, and then deserted to the Rebels. The
    latter kept them at Castle Lightning for awhile, and then, rightly
    estimating their character, and considering that it was best to trade
    them off for a genuine Rebel soldier, sent them in among us, to be
    exchanged regularly with us. There was not so much good faith as good
    policy shown by this. It was a matter of indifference to the Rebels how
    soon our Government shot these deserters after getting them in its hands
    again. They were only anxious to use them to get their own men back.

    The moment they came into contact with us our troubles began. They stole
    whenever opportunities offered, and they were indefatigable in making
    these offer; they robbed by actual force, whenever force would avail;
    and more obsequious lick-spittles to power never existed--they were
    perpetually on the look-out for a chance to curry favor by betraying
    some plan or scheme to those who guarded us.

    I saw one day a queer illustration of the audacious side of these
    fellows' characters, and it shows at the same time how brazen effrontery
    will sometimes get the better of courage. In a room in an adjacent
    building were a number of these fellows, and a still greater number of
    East Tennesseeans. These latter were simple, ignorant folks, but
    reasonably courageous. About fifty of them were sitting in a group in
    one corner of the room, and near them a couple or three "N'Yaarkers."
    Suddenly one of the latter said with an oath:

    "I was robbed last night; I lost two silver watches, a couple of rings,
    and about fifty dollars in greenbacks. I believe some of you fellers
    went through me."

    This was all pure invention; he no more had the things mentioned than
    he had purity of heart and a Christian spirit, but the unsophisticated
    Tennesseeans did not dream of disputing his statement, and answered in
    chorus:

    "Oh, no, mister; we didn't take your things; we ain't that kind."

    This was like the reply of the lamb to the wolf, in the fable, and the
    N'Yaarker retorted with a simulated storm of passion, and a torrent of
    oaths:

    "---- ---- I know ye did; I know some uv yez has got them; stand up agin
    the wall there till I search yez!"

    And that whole fifty men, any one of whom was physically equal to the
    N'Yaarker, and his superior in point of real courage, actually stood
    against the wall, and submitted to being searched and having taken from
    them the few Confederate bills they had, and such trinkets as the
    searcher took a fancy to.

    I was thoroughly disgusted.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 13
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a John McElroy essay and need some advice, post your John McElroy essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?