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Ch.6: The American Army

I SHOULD very much like to deliver a dissertation on the American
army and the possibilities of its extension. You see, it is such
a beautiful little army, and the dear people don't quite
understand what to do with it. The theory is that it is an
instructional nucleus round which the militia of the country will
rally, and from which they will get a stiffening in time of
danger. Yet other people consider that the army should be built,
like a pair of lazy tongs--on the principle of elasticity and
extension--so that in time of need it may fill up its skeleton
battalions and empty saddle troops. This is real wisdom,
be-cause the American army, as at present constituted, is made up
of:--Twenty-five regiments infantry, ten companies each.

Ten regiments cavalry, twelve companies each.

Five regiments artillery, twelve companies each.

Now there is a notion in the air to reorganize the service on
these lines:--Eighteen regiments infantry at four battalions,
four companies each; third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.

Eight regiments cavalry at four battalions, four troops each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.

Five regiments artillery at four battalions, four companies each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.

Observe the beauty of this business. The third battalion will
have its officers, but no men; the fourth will probably have a
rendezvous and some equipment.

It is not contemplated to give it anything more definite at
present. Assuming the regiments to be made up to full
complement, we get an army of fifty thousand men, which after the
need passes away must be cut down fifty per cent, to the huge
delight of the officers.

The military needs of the States be three: (a) Frontier warfare,
an employment well within the grip of the present army of
twenty-five thousand, and in the nature of things growing less
arduous year by year; (b) internal riots and commotions which
rise up like a dust devil, whirl furiously, and die out long
before the authorities at Washington could begin to fill up even
the third skeleton battalions, much less hunt about for material
for the fourth; (c) civil war, in which, as the case in the
affair of the North and South, the regular army would be swamped
in the mass of militia and armed volunteers would turn the land
into a hell.

Yet the authorities persist in regarding an external war as a
thing to be seriously considered.

The Power that would disembark troops on American soil would be
capable of heaving a shovelful of mud into the Atlantic in the
hope of filling it up. Consequently, the authorities are
fascinated with the idea of the sliding scale or concertina army.
This is an hereditary instinct, for you know that when we English
have got together two companies, one machine gun, a sick bullock,
forty generals, and a mass of W. O. forms, we say we possess "an
army corps capable of indefinite extension."

The American army is a beautiful little army. Some day, when all
the Indians are happily dead or drunk, it ought to make the
finest scientific and survey corps that the world has ever seen;
it does excellent work now, but there is this defect in its
nature: It is officered, as you know, from West Point.

The mischief of it is that West Point seems to be created for the
purpose of spreading a general knowledge of military matters
among the people. A boy goes up to that institution, gets his
pass, and returns to civil life, so they tell me, with a
dangerous knowledge that he is a suckling Von Moltke, and may
apply his learning when occasion offers. Given trouble, that man
will be a nuisance, because he is a hideously versatile American,
to begin with, as cock-sure of himself as a man can be, and with
all the racial disregard for human life to back him, through any
demi-semi-professional generalship.

In a country where, as the records of the daily papers show, men
engaged in a conflict with police or jails are all too ready to
adopt a military formation and get heavily shot in a sort of
cheap, half-constructed warfare, instead of being decently scared
by the appearance of the military, this sort of arrangement does
not seem wise.

The bond between the States is of an amazing tenuity. So long as
they do not absolutely march into the District of Columbia, sit
on the Washington statues, and invent a flag of their own, they
can legislate, lynch, hunt negroes through swamps, divorce,
railroad, and rampage as much as ever they choose. They do not
need knowledge of their own military strength to back their
genial lawlessness.

That regular army, which is a dear little army, should be kept to
itself, blooded on detachment duty, turned into the paths of
science, and now and again assembled at feasts of Free Masons,
and so forth.

It is too tiny to be a political power. The immortal wreck of
the Grand Army of the Republic is a political power of the
largest and most unblushing description. It ought not to help to
lay the foundations of an amateur military power that is blind
and irresponsible.

By great good luck the evil-minded train, already delayed twelve
hours by a burned bridge, brought me to the city on a Saturday by
way of that valley which the Mormons, over their efforts, had
caused to blossom like the rose. Twelve hours previously I had
entered into a new world where, in conversation, every one was
either a Mormon or a Gentile. It is not seemly for a free and
independent citizen to dub himself a Gentile, but the Mayor of
Ogden--which is the Gentile city of the valley--told me that
there must be some distinction between the two flocks.

Long before the fruit orchards of Logan or the shining levels of
the Salt Lake had been reached, that mayor--himself a Gentile,
and one renowned for his dealings with the Mormons--told me that
the great question of the existence of the power within the power
was being gradually solved by the ballot and by education.

All the beauty of the valley could not make me forget it. And
the valley is very fair. Bench after bench of land, flat as a
table against the flanks of the ringing hills, marks where the
Salt Lake rested for awhile in its collapse from an inland sea to
a lake fifty miles long and thirty broad.

There are the makings of a very fine creed about Mormonism. To
begin with, the Church is rather more absolute than that of Rome.
Drop the polygamy plank in the platform, but on the other hand
deal lightly with certain forms of excess; keep the quality of
the recruit down to the low mental level, and see that the best
of all the agricultural science available is in the hands of the
elders, and there you have a first-class engine for pioneer work.
The tawdry mysticism and the borrowing from Freemasonry serve the
low caste Swede and Dane, the Welshman and the Cornish cotter,
just as well as a highly organized heaven.

Then I went about the streets and peeped into people's front
windows, and the decorations upon the tables were after the
manner of the year 1850. Main Street was full of country folk
from the desert, come in to trade with the Zion Mercantile
Co-operative Institute. The Church, I fancy, looks after the
finances of this thing, and it consequently pays good dividends.

The faces of the women were not lovely. In-deed, but for the
certainty that ugly persons are just as irrational in the matter
of undivided love as the beautiful, it seems that polygamy was a
blessed institution for the women, and that only the dread
threats of the spiritual power could drive the hulking,
board-faced men into it. The women wore hideous garments, and
the men appeared to be tied up with strings.

They would market all that afternoon, and on Sunday go to the
praying-place. I tried to talk to a few of them, but they spoke
strange tongues, and stared and behaved like cows. Yet one
woman, and not an altogether ugly one, confided to me that she
hated the idea of Salt Lake City being turned into a show-place
for the amusement of the Gentiles.

"If we 'have our own institutions, that ain't no reason why
people should come 'ere and stare at us, his it?"

The dropped "h" betrayed her.

"And when did you leave England?" I said.

"Summer of '84. I am Dorset," she said. "The Mormon agent was
very good to us, and we was very poor. Now we're better off--my
father, an' mother, an' me."

"Then you like the State?"

She misunderstood at first.

"Oh, I ain't livin' in the state of polygamy. Not me, yet. I
ain't married. I like where I am. I've got things o' my
own--and some land."

"But I suppose you will--"

"Not me. I ain't like them Swedes an' Danes. I ain't got
nothin' to say for or against polygamy. It's the elders'
business, an' between you an' me, I don't think it's going on
much longer. You'll 'ear them in the 'ouse to-morrer talkin' as
if it was spreadin' all over America. The Swedes, they think it
his. I know it hisn't."

"But you've got your land all right?"

"Oh, yes; we've got our land, an' we never say aught against
polygamy, o' course--father, an' mother, an' me."

On a table-land overlooking all the city stands the United States
garrison of infantry and artillery. The State of Utah can do
nearly anything it pleases until that much-to-be-desired hour
when the Gentile vote shall quietly swamp out Mormonism; but the
garrison is kept there in case of accidents. The big,
shark-mouthed, pig-eared, heavy-boned farmers sometimes take to
their creed with wildest fanaticism, and in past years have made
life excessively unpleasant for the Gentile when he was few in
the land. But to-day, so far from killing openly or secretly, or
burning Gentile farms, it is all the Mormon dare do to feebly try
to boycott the interloper. His journals preach defiance to the
United States Government, and in the Tabernacle on a Sunday the
preachers follow suit.

When I went there, the place was full of people who would have
been much better for a washing.

A man rose up and told them that they were the chosen of God, the
elect of Israel; that they were to obey their priests, and that
there was a good time coming. I fancy that they had heard all
this before so many times it produced no impression whatever,
even as the sublimest mysteries of another faith lose salt
through constant iteration. They breathed heavily through their
noses, and stared straight in front of them--impassive as flat
fish.

Rudyard Kipling

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