Wainwright’s Diary, January 28, 1864: Drill hard, fight hard

For Thursday, January 28, 1864, Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s diary entry focused on the training of his cannoneers:

Last Friday I got out my order for drills and other duties…. I do not prescribe the exact time, nor the hours they are to give; only warn them that if any fail to work hard I shall do so.  I require recitations in tactics and regulations three evenings in the week, and drill at least two or three hours each day: when the ground will allow it, all else is to give place to the battery drill. Attention is also particularly called to the care of the horses.  I hope to turn out a pretty good command by spring, if we lay quiet as long as I think we are likely to….

An old adage, perhaps more from the post-World War II times but still applicable to any era, reminds that “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”  A sergeant-major, of the type who carry hash-marks the length of a sleeve, once imparted to me a corollary of that adage –  “combat experience does not make a better soldier; but it provides the motivation to make things right and  meaningful in training, which makes him a better soldier.”  Considering the experience, just within the previous twelve months, of Wainwright’s command, there must have been plenty of motivation to get those drills correct.


By way of drill, Wainwright would indeed have a “pretty good command” when the campaign of spring came.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, pages 317.)


One thought on “Wainwright’s Diary, January 28, 1864: Drill hard, fight hard

  1. Col. Wainwright’s high-toned, humorless narrative offends some, but his razor-sharp attention to duty renders him the complete military professional. In fact, the good colonel is the answer to boastful criticisms by many West Point-educated officers that “volunteers could not be trusted with important command.”
    A personal hero–and an officer who reminds one of Wainwright–was General David M. Shoup, Marine Corps Commandant, known (like Wainwright) as a “hard driving and assertive leader” during WWII. And who, by the way–as a Indiana farm boy and DePauw graduate–was never “blessed” with a military education.
    Born leaders are born leaders, no matter where there were (or were not) educated.

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