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Bill Thayer

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Talk 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Soldiers Unmasked
William Addleman Ganoe

published by
The Military Service Publishing Company
Harrisburg, Pa. 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Talk 3

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p10  II

What has he done

Two big pool operators of Wall Street one evening were standing in front of a prominent theater watching the crowds surge into the doorways. There was much display of ermines, sables, diamonds and general wealth. One of the two asked the other: "Say, where do these lambs get all the money we bears take away from them?"

Today many people say: "Where do these soldiers get all this peace stuff we extreme pacifists take away from them?" The answer lies in cold facts — cold facts the historians don't tell us — cover up almost completely. Lewis and Clark, for instance. Why, yes, they were two fellows who were the first to go across our Continent and back again. But who ever told you that it was Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark who took four sergeants and twenty-three privates in that hazardous trek between the Atlantic and the Pacific from 1803 to 1806 — that it was the soldier who made surveys and maps and created friendships with the Indians, many of whom were seeing a white man for the first time?

 p11  Pike's Peak! O yes, that was discovered by a man name of Pike. But where was it mentioned that it was Lieutenant Z. M. Pike? And what did he do? With three non‑commissioned officers and sixteen privates, he explored in 1806 and 1807 from the source of the Mississippi to its mouth, doing from north to south what Lewis and Clark had done from east to west. Turning west he discovered the peak which bears his name. In what is now New Mexico, he even beguiled the Spaniards into taking him prisoner so that he could learn their intentions, customs and country. For his great deeds of exploration and pacification he received the personal praise of the President of the United States. Then there was Captain Long who in the same way went through what is now Colorado, and for whom Long's Peak is named; Captain Bonneville who voluntarily lived with the Nez Perces and Flatheads for five years, creating friendships and learning their language; Lieutenant Sitgreaves,º who explored the Colorado River; and Lieutenant Whipple and Lieutenant Ives, who separately went through the southwest. And then John C. Fremont. O yes, the histories are crazy about calling him the Pathfinder, but never told you that it was Lieutenant John C. Fremont in 1838 when he started out, and Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont in 1844 — after he had explored  p12 10,000 miles of freezing mountain and sickly basin? In this brief space I can't even touch on many of these gigantic wedges of understanding. It was the soldier who made the first trails, dug the first wells, built the first roads, bridges and canals, made the first maps, surveyed most of our boundaries, erected most of our lighthouses, dredged our harbors and waterways, escorted the settlers, braved the Indian and suffered in silence. The Hon. John W. Weeks, former Secretary of War and United States Senator, wrote: "The Army was virtually the pioneer of pioneers. As our citizens moved west over the prairies and through forests, they traveled routes which were surveyed by army engineers, constructed by the army and protected by military posts. The titles of their land were valid only because of army surveys. . . . Up to 1855 there was scarcely a railroad in this country that was not projected, built, and operated in large part by the Army. Army engineers located, constructed, and managed such well-known roads as the Baltimore and Ohio; the Northern Central; the Erie; the Boston and Providence; the New York, New Haven and Hartford; and the Boston and Albany. Practically all of the transcontinental railroads were projected by the army. An army officer, Lieutenant G. W. Whistler, built the best locative of his time, after  p13 his own design." The building of the Union Pacific Railroad, the first to connect the two oceans, illustrates the soldiers' contribution to national welfare. The set‑up for this mighty link was a military one. The workmen were organized into companies and battalions. Soldiers would dig and hammer and at the cry "Indians," would rush to their stacked arms and give battle. Nearly every man was a veteran of the Civil War. The heads of the most of the engineering parties and all chiefs of construction had been officers in the Civil War. The chief of the track-laying force, General Casement, had been a distinguished division commander. In a twinkling, General Dodge, the chief engineer, could call into the field a thousand men, well-officered, ready to meet any crisis. General Sherman also furnished troops. The builders contended that this great bridge of progress could not have been finished without soldiers and army training. During the enterprise Oakes Ames said, "What makes me hang on is the faith of you soldiers."

The soldier went further than highways in his works. Let's look at buildings. How many know that the difficult Washington Monument, the wings and dome of the National Capitol, the old Post Office Building, the Municipal Building, the Washington Aqueduct, the Agriculture Building, the Government  p14 Printing Office, the War College and the beautiful Library of Correspond were all built by the Army? Army engineers supervised the building of the Lincoln Memorial, the Arlington Bridge, the parks and even the playgrounds of the District of Columbia. They even organized the Weather Bureau — and all this our government got at the comparatively small pay of the soldier.

But the soldier didn't stop at exploring and building. He didn't stop at just contributing to development and peace. He went further. He even tried his best to prevent war. So many were his attempts that they can scarcely be hinted at tonight. Here is one conspicuous example. In 1832, South Carolina was verging on secession and civil war. President Jackson called in General Winfield Scott and sent him to the scene of the trouble. There Scott by skilful persuasion and conference helped to quiet the difficulties and return the state to peace, without any troops at his back. In 1838 there was a revolt against Great Britain by Canadian patriots. Many in our border states were sympathizing with the rebels. Blood had been shed. It looked horribly like a third war with Great Britain. Scott was sent north to the place of the struggle. After great effort and the most tactful arbitration he brought harmony between the British officials and our own sympathizers. By  p15 his work, war was averted. In the same year the great educated, peaceful tribe of Cherokees in Georgia and the Carolinas, was enraged at the attempt of the whites to force it away from its native home because gold had been found there. 15,000 Indians refused to move. General Scott was sent by the government to conduct them west to what is now Oklahoma. Sensing the right on their side, but being compelled to carry out the government's unjust orders, he was left with nothing but his personality and good sense to keep us out of a big fight. By his masterful appeal to the Indians not to cause war, by his instructions to his soldiers to be gentle and firm, by his square dealing and carrying out of his promises to the letter, he was able to escort the whole tribe west, without the slightest sign of trouble. So great was his kindly power, that he even had these superstitious redmen submit to vaccination. It is estimated that this prevention of war saved the government two and one‑half billion dollars and untold loss of life. (Besides he very nearly washed clean the government's dirty linen.) But he had scarcely finished this delicate task when he was called to Maine. There the boundary question was about to plunge us into that third war with Great Britain. The government had already called out eight thousand militia. Things were pretty bad. Scott  p16 hustled back and forth holding conferences, calming this party and that, and finally closed the issue to the satisfaction of all. In 1848 after he had conducted the brilliant campaign which closed the Mexican War, Mexico was in a state of unrest. It was there that he established a rule so just and kindly that peace came more rapidly, and possibly composed Mexico for many years. Never had the Mexicans been treated so decently. Their representatives came to him and begged him to be their dictator. Though he didn't accept, it was probably the first time in history where a conqueror of foreign territory had been so cordially urged. Two years later after he had returned to the United States, trouble in Vancouver Island in the northwest again threatened that ever-skulking third war with Great Britain. The British Navy was already beating down upon the little island of San Juan. Scott arrived on the scene. By the cleverest tact he engineered a joint evacuation of the island. And no war came. Six times had this man, who towered six feet five and weighed two hundred forty pounds, showed us that his heart and character were as great as his stature. Six times had he saved us. In keeping us out of war who can compete with him? But he is not alone. Many another soldier gave us peace and many another built for peace.

 p17  In 1907, after long years of trial, President Theodore Roosevelt came to the conclusion that high-salaried civilians could not complete the Panama Canal. They would walk out on him and were inclined to the spoils system of wasting money. He wanted someone who would stay on the job, who would carry on the work for the work's sake. He turned to the Army. He appointed a commission of soldiers. Colonel George Goethals with his able assistants, Colonels Gaillard and Sibert, Corps of Engineers and Colonel W. C. Gorgas of the Medical Corps, were sent south to construct the Canal. Gorgas purged the place of yellow fever and malaria while the others forged ahead on the building. After bitter trials and maddening set‑backs, they finished the Panama Canal. This vast public work, which others had failed to complete in almost half a century, the soldier gave to his country in the surprising space of six years.

But this commercial short‑cut could not have been so quickly finished, had it not been for the work of another soldier. In 1900 Major Walter Reed with a group of medical officers and men was sent to Cuba to study yellow fever. For several years soldiers risked their lives repeatedly in their attempt to find out what caused the disease. It came to the point where a little banded-legged mosquito was suspected  p18 of carrying the fever from the sick to the well. But the suspicion had to be proved. Men had to let themselves be actually bitten by the deadly insect in order to vouchsafe to the world that the mosquito was the only carrier. Volunteers were called for. Officers and men responded with such willingness that the ready victims were always in excess of demand. One day Privates Kissinger and Moran came to Major Reed as volunteers. He explained to them what their offer meant — extreme suffering and probable death. They still insisted. They would gladly run the risk, if it would save lives afterwards. He then told them that they or their relatives would receive money. Both men showed their disgust. Kissinger stepped forward and said, "I want it understood that we are doing this intention interest of humanity and for science." Major of Infantry Reed rose, touched his cap and said with tears in his eyes, "Gentlemen I salute you." The two privates were allowed to be bitten by mosquitos which had fed on persons stricken with the malignant yellow fever. They took the disease, but God was with them. They pulled through. Major Reed said of them: "This exhibition of moral courage has never been surpassed in our history." Reed finally proved that the mosquito was the only carrier of the disease. Once the world found out the cause, the rest was easy — riddance  p19 of the horrible insect that had made so many countries places of horror and death. In the United States alone yellow fever had taken a toll of more than half a million. Commerce had been interrupted, states and cities had been turned into turmoil and whole populations wiped out. Shortly after the proof of the discovery General Leonard Wood purged Havana in a few months. And today it is estimated that by the heroic service of Major Walter Reed and his soldiers, thirty million lives have been saved in the Western Hemisphere.

Has the soldier done anything for peace? Has he done anything for progress? Sentiment, theory, loud arguments don't talk, but somehow deeds, facts do.

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