A First-Class Colored Fighting Regiment By One Of Its Battalion Staff Officers, Lieutenant O. E. Mckaine
With An Introduction By Its Commander, Colonel James A. Moss
[The Outlook; May 22, 1918]
[Colonel Moss, who has provided the Introduction to this article on the 367th Infantry, of which he is commanding officer, is one of the best-known military authors in the world. He has written twenty-six military books, of which several have been for years regarded as standard. His "Manual of Military Training" has been Called the "Encyclopedia Britannica of the Army." His "Officers' Manual," a guide in official and social matters, is used by practically every young officer entering the Army. His "Privates' Manual" was adopted several years ago by the United States Marine Corps, and a copy is placed in the hands of every recruit. Other books of his, such as "Non-Commissioned Officers' Manual," "Army Paperwork," "Infantry Drill Regulations Simplified," "Field Service," "Riot Duty," "Company Training," and "Applied Minor Tactics," are also regarded as standards among all military men. Since his graduation from West Point in 1894 Colonel Moss's service has been distinguished. It includes a record of two campaigns. In addition, he was aide-de-camp for three years to Lieutenant-General Henry C. Corbin, during which time, although only a captain in the Regular Army, he had the rank, pay, and allowances of lieutenant-colonel. For three years he was instructor at the Army Service Schools, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1911 and 1912 he was on special duty in the office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Leonard Wood, by whom he had been specially-selected to reduce and simplify the administrative work of the Army. Not only is he the father of the present system of Army correspondence, but he also gave to the service the new, simplified pay and muster rolls, and several other labor-saving blank forms that have done much to reduce military administrative work.
Lieutenant McKaine, the author of the article, rose from the ranks of a colored regiment, the 24th Infantry. In response to what he calls the nomadic spirit of hundreds of his migratory ancestors, he started his wanderings from his birthplace in South Carolina when he was sixteen years old, then studied in Washington and Boston, became a free lance for the colored newspapers, and later one of the editors of a colored newspaper belonging to the group that advocated the policy of Booker Washington. Later, in response to the conversation of a trooper who, he says, would have been a marvel as a recruiting sergeant or as aide-de-camp to Richard Harding Davis, he enlisted in the Army. His service took him to the Philippines. The colored regiment to which he belonged, which, by the way, received a golden loving-cup at a dinner given by the Governor-General and the Mayor of Manila and other persons for being "the best regiment that has ever been to the island," was ordered to Columbus, New Mexico. In a personal letter Lieutenant McKaine has written: "The Metropolitan Opera Company, the Boston Opera Company, the Chicago Opera Company, the Hampton Quartette, the Fisk Jubilee Singers—you think some of these groups can sing. You're wrong. They can't. You have never heard any singing unless you marched with the 24th across the border after Villa in the spring of 1916." Incidentally it may be said that this regiment was the personal guard of General Pershing. After a bloodless victory, the soldiers withdrew; and the 24th was the only regiment that marched out of Mexico without having a man fall out. It was while the-24th was stationed at Columbus after the withdrawal that a number of non-commissioned officers from this and three other colored regiments were selected for training as officers for the National Army. It was thus that Lieutenant McKaine received his shoulder-straps—THE EDITORS.]
Having been born and reared in the State of Louisiana, whose confines I did not leave until I went to West Point at the age of eighteen, and having served eighteen years with colored troops, including two campaigns, what I say about the colored man as a soldier is therefore based on many years' experience with him in civil life and in the Army—in peace and in war, in garrison and in the field.
If properly trained and instructed, the colored man makes as good a soldier as the world has ever seen. The history of the Negro in all of our wars, including our Indian campaigns, shows this. He is by nature of a happy disposition; he is responsive and tractable; he is very amenable to discipline; he takes pride in his uniform; he has faith and confidence in his leader; he possesses physical courage—all of which are valuable military assets. The secret of making an efficient soldier out of the colored man lies in knowing the qualities he possesses that are military assets, and which I have named, and then appealing to and developing them—that is, utilizing them to the greatest extent possible. Make the colored man feel that you have faith in him, and then, by sympathetic and conscientious training and instruction, help him to fit himself in a military way to vindicate that faith, to "make good." Be strict with him, but treat him fairly and justly, making him realize that in your dealings with him he will always be given a square deal. Commend him when he does well and punish him when he is refractory—that is to say, let him know that he will always get what is corning to him, whether it be reward or whether it be punishment. In other words, treat and handle the colored man as you would any other human being out of whom you would make a good soldier, out of whom you would get the best there is in him, and you will have as good a soldier as history has ever known—a man who will drill well, shoot well, march well, obey well, fight well—in short, a man who will give a good account of himself in battle, and who will conduct and behave himself properly in camp, in garrison, and in other places. I commanded colored troops in the Cuban campaign and in the Philippine campaign, and I have had some of them killed and wounded by my very side. At no time did they ever falter at the command to advance nor hesitate at the order to charge. I am glad that I am to command colored soldiers in this, my third campaign—the greatest war the world has ever known.
JAS. A. Moss,
Colonel 367th Infantry.
With the assistance of their civilian friends, both white and colored, the officers and men of the 367th Regiment of Infantry, known as "the Buffaloes," have erected a mammoth auditorium at Camp Upton, New York. The other night at the auditorium I went to see a show, and several white and colored soldiers were sitting just behind me, "talkin' it over," and waiting for the next act. I began "listening in," and heard a conversation that went something like this between one of the white soldiers and some of the Buffaloes:
"Does this building belong to you fellows?" the white soldier asked.
"We built and paid for it, so it must."
"But I thought I saw some white fellows in here using it the other day."
"You may have," the Buffalo replied; "but it's only because we let 'em. See this bench we're sitting on? Well, I paid for this bench with my own money; but I don't mind you sitting here. And then, furthermore, we're going to give it to the Government when we get our money back."
" Yes, but I thought this building belonged to the Government, and was just given to you fellows while you are here."
"Government nothin'. This auditorium belongs to the Buffaloes, every board and plank."
"What did it cost?"
"Forty thousand dollars, and we did all the rough work ourselves."
"Good show here to-night?"
"Always a good show at the Buffalo auditorium. Come down and bring your friends—we need the money."
" Well," laughed the white soldier, "all we want is our money's worth. Do you fellows pay to come in?" My face don't look like a ticket, does it? Of course we pay to come in."
"Many white soldiers come down here often?"
"Look back there now. Do you see many? Well, it's just like that all the time—just as many white fellows as colored."
"Looks like you fellows would want this all to yourselves."
Well," said the Buffalo, "it's like this. Lots of white folks helped us out on this building; and then I've got a lot of white friends in camp, and wherever I go they can go' and, further, we won't draw the line here as long as you fellows don't draw it. Now, next week we got two white fellows on the bill, and we pay 'em-just just like we pay everybody else—and boy, listen to that band." And the lights went out and the show was on.
The Buffalo auditorium of Camp Upton is the great democratizing institution of Camp Upton. White soldiers and white officers attend as regularly as colored soldiers and officers. The building is not a colored auditorium, but an auditorium for soldiers built by the 367th Regiment with the assistance of their friends. Eventually it will become the property of the Government. It was designed primarily for drill during severe and inclement weather. All of the preliminary bayonet instruction for the regiment, as well as some of the white regiments, has been given in this building. Classes in boxing by Bennie Leonard, regimental lectures and lectures of special classes, choir singing, and many other activities and instructions that cannot be held outdoors with any degree of satisfaction and success have been held in the auditorium. In the evenings and afternoons and evenings of Saturdays, and Sundays and holidays, the auditorium is devoted to religious services motion pictures, vaudeville, and other forms of recreation.
The officers and men of the regiment subscribed over fourteen thousand dollars toward the building and spent more than five hundred dollars additional in expenses incurred incident to the campaign for the remaining twenty-six thousand dollars. As the founders of the auditorium intended that a small sum should be charged for the entertainment and shows, bonds were issued to cover the cost of erection in denominations of ten, fifty, one hundred, and five hundred dollars, which were to be redeemed as soon as possible, and in the event that the regiment was ordered abroad before full redemption such funds as had been accumulated were to be prorated among the bondholders, the unredeemed portion being considered a contribution. When Colonel James A. Moss, in command of the regiment, first proposed to build the auditorium and issue bonds, he received a very lukewarm reception from the men; but when the cold winds of Long Island searched every crack and crevice, every tear and rip, the men viewed the project with increasing favor, and finally voted to back it to the limit.
"The Colonel must think we're going to be here for a thousand years," I overheard a Buffalo say one day between breathing spells from picking. "Well, I'd just as leave be here as out there drilling, for out there I just can't seem to git my feet to move till everybody else is gone. It mus' be 'cause I git so cold. Man, I never seen snow befo' in ma life! Down there in Texas there ain't no snow, and if the Colonel says that the auditorium kin be used for drills and such things, I'm wid 'im."
If the auditorium served no other purpose than as an ideal place for indoor instruction in winter and recreation during the evenings, thereby increasing the efficiency of the men and adding to their chance for whipping the Hun and returning home alive, it would be well worth the time and money spent in its erection; but its greatest purpose and value lie in the wonderful esprit de corps it tends to develop in the regiment.
Napoleon said, according to General Jomini, " Battles cannot be won by troops possessing no esprit de corps." Colonel Moss, the commander of the regiment, who has perhaps written more books than any other American army officer living, in writing of esprit de corps in his manual for officers, says: "Esprit de corps is that feeling of LOYALTY, PRIDE, AND ENTHUSIASM OF THE OFFICER AND TE SOLDIER, first and especially, FOR HIS OWN PARTICULAR REGIMENT OR CORP; second and generally, for the army to which he belongs—founded in each case on the glorious traditions of the past, on the patriotism and efficiency of the present, and on the determined resolve in future war and peace to uphold the prestige, the honor, the tradition of the army, the regiment, or corps—nay, go further, AND INCREASE THE PRESTIIGE, THE HONOR, THE TRADITION BY ADDDING SOMETHING THERETO BY INDIVIDUAL ACTS OF HIS OWN." "Whatever means tend to create, uphold, and increase prestige and honor MUST of necessity preserve and strengthen esprit de corps, for these are the living springs that give it its life, and it has need of all of them."
The traditions of the new Negro that be traced in the history of the great Chaka in the Valley of the Nile, thousands of years ago; Hannibal, "greatest of tacticians" in the war between Carthage and Rome; L'Ouverture in the Haitian rebellion against the mighty Napoleon; Attucks, as the "first casualty in America's first battle against the tyranny of George III on Boston Common; black sailors with Perry on Lake Erie; Black Samson at Brandywine; Peter Salem at Bunker Hill; Carney at Fort Wagner; the 24th and 25th Regiments of Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry at El Caney and San Juan in Cuba and during the insurrection in the Philippines; and the feat of the 10th Cavalry at Carrizal while with the Punitive Expedition in Mexico. The place of honor held by the Negro in the profession of arms is predicated upon the enviable and cherished facts that he has never had a traitor within his ranks and has never had the blot of cowardice, upon his spotless escutcheon. His prestige is based upon the high regard as a fighting man held by all fighters whom he has opposed, whether they be white men, black men, or brown men.
It may be rather far-fetched to the uninitiated to connect the building of an auditorium on bleak Long Island in the year of our Lord 1918 with a recital of the Negro's prowess as a fighter, and with a compendium of his traditions, honor, and prestige; but beyond and above every other consideration the object of building the costliest, largest, and finest building in any cantonment in the country was to create anew, revive, foster, and perpetuate these very things. Without these things the Negro would be as helpless against the wily Hun as if the government had sent him into battle unarmed.
He needs these things worse than most white soldiers do. An epitome of the reasons why America entered the war has been tersely set forth in the slogan "To make the world safe for Democracy." In his mind he confuses principles of democratic government with the Democratic party, and his bellicose enthusiasm suffers in consequence of his confusion. He knows but one thing, and that is blind, unswerving, and undivided loyalty to the flag for which his fathers have bled and died. That is not enough. He must either accept the democratic principles for which his country wages war or a cause must be created for him. He must have something to fight for, something that he understands and is in accord with. What has the auditorium to do with principles, causes, dreams, and morale? It has inestimable value as a creator of morale. There is a breaking-point in the collective nerves of any command when, after the fearful scenes of battle, the will of the organization is no longer able to drive its legs forward. By training the moral qualities we seek to raise this breaking-point. Study of the moral factors that animate men is therefore of the greatest importance. From association with them you must learn how best to appeal to their higher qualities. You must know what are the principles, rights, or possessions, intimately, personally, and unmistakably theirs, which the enemy jeopardizes and for which they will fight till they conquer or themselves are hopelessly defeated.
To-day there is not time for commanding officers to study men in detail and elaboration. Colonel Moss, our commanding officer, knew this full well. Our allies are fighting defensively, waiting for a force which, aroused by the brutality and ruthlessness of the Hun, is the incarnate spirit of the offensive. If we would win, we must go now. We cannot delay. But we cannot go if our men are not trained, if they have not become imbued with the enthusiasm necessary for success in war. To obtain this spirit the morale of troops must be very high indeed. To create this morale their officers must understand their psychology and must know them intimately through contact. To obtain this contact they must have a common meeting-ground where they can become mutually acquainted without detriment to discipline. The officers must divine just what expression brings forth the greatest sincere response. In the 367th Regiment the commanding officer accomplishes this by frequent talks on widely varied subjects to the entire regiment in the auditorium. He weighs the response given to each subject. It can be stated with confidence that to-day he knows just how to appeal to them and what appeal arouses the fighting spirit of the Buffaloes; and he himself has stated on numerous occasions that he knows that when they go over the top Wilhelmstrasse will know it.
This vitally important knowledge could never have been acquired in the short time allotted excepting for this common meeting-place. Has this morale been created in the regiment? This is my answer: General Bell, former Chief of Staff and second ranking Major-General in the Army, and twenty-eight years a soldier, said, among other things, in an address delivered to the Buffaloes: "This is the best-disciplined, the best-drilled, and the best-spirited regiment that has been under my command at this cantonment. I predicted last fall that Colonel Moss would have the best regiment, at Camp Upton, and you men have made my prediction come true. I would lead you in battle against any army in the world with every confidence in the outcome. I know that you would acquit yourselves with the same bravery and, loyalty that has attracted the attention of the world to the Negro regiments in the Regular Army…. I say again, I would lead Negro troops in battle against the greatest fighters of the world with confidence in my success…. I have served a good many years with colored soldiers, and I know them. Properly led, they haven't a superior in the world."
It should be remembered that this high degree of proficiency and efficiency was obtained under the instruction of colored officers.
There are two colored units at Camp Upton and Brigade Headquarters—the 367th regiment of Infantry, or "the Buffaloes," as they are better known, and the 351st Machine Gun Battalion. All of the captains, excepting one commanding the Headquarters Company (white) and one attached, are former non-commissioned officers of the Regular Army. Among them are two who have certificates of merit or gallantry in action under fire. All of them have been in two or more campaigns, and most of them were with Pershing in Mexico. A;; of them have had service in the Philippine Islands. The commanding officer of the Machine Gun Battalion is white, all others are colored. All of the officers of the Buffaloes are colored except the field and staff officers and commanding officer of the Headquarters Company and Supply Company. The battalion adjutants are colored. The regiment has 113 officers and 8 attached. The Machine Gun Battalion has 22 officers.
The regiment has had a higher average on the target range than any other regiment ever stationed at Camp Upton.
Incidentally, the 367th Regiment is the only regiment in the national army with a name, regimental stationery, regimental swagger-stick, and is one of the very few that have a regimental song, regimental pennant, regimental basket-ball team; and it acknowledges no superior among the armies of the world in the matter of regimental esprit de corps.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
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By J. Fred MacDonald