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What an Old Soldier Knows

In the summer of 1846, while commanding at Comargo during the Mexican War, Major General Zachary "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor and one “Captain Clara of the Quartermaster's Department” (who cannot otherwise be identified from the Army List, and was probably a wartime-only volunteer) were in conversation when a soldier, who had been out on pass, came by “with firm step and as straight as a flag staff.”

 Looking at the soldier, Taylor said, "Clara, that man has been 'running the mail,' and has whisky on him.  Now, I will lay a wager that you cannot find it, and that I can.  Call the man back and let us see."

Clara called out, "My man, the General says that you have whisky on you; come here and let me see."  Thoroughly searching the man’s jacket, shirt, pants, drawers, socks, and shoes, Clara pronounced him free of any liquor.

At that, Taylor said to the man, "Come here, sir, and let me examine you!"  He removed the man's cap, and in the crown “lay nicely coiled up a large intestine of a pig, filled with old rye whisky”.

"There, Clara, what do you think of that?"

"Where did you learn this, General?"

"I am a graduate of 'old soldierdom,' sir," responded General Taylor, laughingly.

As for the soldier, Taylor sent him on his away unpunished, though without his booze.

 

An Errand of Mercy

The Civil War was one of the first in which women played an important role.  On both sides women were prominent in encouraging men to enlist, in maintaining morale, and in war work, a dangerous business in which scores of women died as a result of accidents in munitions factories or from disease and hardship while serving as nurses and hospital workers, not to mention an unknown number who, having disguised themselves as men, died serving in the ranks.  Caring for the wounded was one of the most important contributions women made during the war.  Usually this had enormous practical advantages for the troops, as many of the women took their tasks quite seriously.  However, at other times the women who volunteered for such service did so in pursuit of romantic adventure rather out of a sincere desire to help. 

There is a tale from the early days of the war that illustrates this.  It seems that an attractive young Southern belle visiting a military hospital spied a handsome young soldier "with dark eyes and a darling mustache" recuperating in a hospital ward.

“Is there anything I can do for you?"

Wearily the young man replied, "Nothing, I thank you."

Not to be put off, the young woman persisted, "Do let me do something for you.  Will you let me wash your face?"

The soldier responded fatalistically, "Well, if you want to right bad, I reckon you must; but that will make seven times that my face has been washed this evening."

Civil War Note:  Readers should keep in mind that North & South, the official magazine of the Civil War Society, has excellent coverage of the great national epic, as well as an impressive website, including the daily “Today in the Civil War”. 

 

"A New Race of Men"

During the Vietnam War, American troops left behind some tens of thousands of children by Vietnamese women.  Known as “Amerasians”, these young people came to the attention of the American public in the early 1980s, and in 1987, after some acrimony, Congress passed the “Amerasian Homecoming Act”, which facilitated the immigration of some 25,000 children believed to have been the offspring of American military personnel, along with their mothers and siblings. 

This was an unusual acknowledgement of the fact that soldiers in foreign lands often engage in liaisons with local women and then, just as often, depart, usually leaving offspring that they did not know of, or perhaps never cared to know.  But America’s acceptance of the Amerasians, though rare, was not the first time in history that a great nation acknowledged the illegitimate children of its soldiers on foreign postings.

More than two thousand years earlier, in 171 BC, the Romans enacted a similar measure, with surprisingly little acrimony, and thereby not only recognized the offspring of its citizens, but not incidentally increased the Republic’s manpower, and also helped solidify its hold on Baetica (southern Spain), creating a node for the further Romanization of the province.

As told by the historian Livy (59 BC-AD 17),

[A] . . . deputation from Spain arrived [in Rome], who represented a new race of men.  They declared themselves to be the sons of Roman soldiers and Spanish women who were not legally married.  There were over 4,000 of them, and they prayed that a town might be given them to live in.  The Senate decreed that they should send in their own names and the names of any whom they had manumitted to L. Canuleius, and they should be settled on the ocean shore at Carteia, and any of the Carteians who wished to remain there should be allowed to join the colonists and receive an allotment of land.  This place became a Latin colony and was called the "Colony of the Libertini – Freedmen."

Carteia, a city on the Bay of Algeciras, a few miles from Gibraltar, had been founded by the Iberian Turditani, descendants of the Tartessians.  It became a Carthaginian outpost, and was captured by the Romans in 206 BC, during the Hannibalic War, as Scipio Africanus completed the conquest of Spain.  A generation later it became the first Latin Colony outside of Italy, built around the core of 4,000 men and their families settled there by Lucius Canuleius Dives.

Canuleius was a member of an ancient plebian family who served as urban praetor for 171 BC.  He had been designated by the Senate to register the status of these men and their families because he had been assigned to govern Baetica (Southern Spain) for the following year, making him the ideal man to found the colony for this “new race of men.”

A Latin Colony was one that had the “Latin Citizenship.”  Although those with Latin rights could not vote in the Assembly nor hold office at Rome or in a citizen colony, they could legally marry a Roman, conduct business as a Roman, live in a Roman town, and even serve in the legions, and could expect elevation to full citizenship in time. 

A major port, Carteia exported wine and garum, the famous Roman fish sauce, but with the passing of Roman power it declined.  Abandoned during the Moorish Conquest, it is now an important archaeological site.

 


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