Primary Resource

"At Work for the Prizes," Washington Post (May 27, 1887)

In "At Work for the Prizes," published on May 27, 1887, the Washington Post reports on the National Drill and Encampment, in Washington, D.C. It was the only integrated militia competition in the nineteenth century, and when two black Virginia companies participated in the competition for best infantry unit, three white units withdrew.

Transcription from Original



The Infantry Companies in the Drill Grounds, the Riflemen at the Arsenal and the Artillerymen at Athletic Park.

The Events To-Day.

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.—Infantry competitive drills, as follows: 10 a. m.—Indianapolis Light Infantry. 10:30—Alexandria Light Infantry. 11—Jackson Rifles, Jackson, Mich. 11:30—Molineux Rifles, Company D., Thirty-Second New York. 12—Belknap Rifles, of San Antonio, Tex. 12:30—San Antonio Rifles. 1—Lomax Rifles, of Mobile, Ala. 1:30—Sheridan Guards, Manchester, N. H. While the infantry drill is in progress the Gattling [sic] gun contest between Cincinnati and Louisville squads will take place, beginning at 12 o'clock with the Cincinnati squad first.

2 p. m. to 5 p. m.—Battalion competition between the Fifth Rhode Island, Second Ohio, Louisville Legion and Washington Light Infantry.

4 p. m.—Individual competition.

5 p. m.—Dress parade by the Virginia Brigade, followed by exhibition drill by the Lomax Rifles in front of the grand stand.

The competitive drills by companies yesterday was far ahead of previous performances. The exercises began at 10 o'clock, and by that time there was apparently as great a number of spectators on the grand stand as had been there at any time since the drill opened. At that time, too, the sky was clear, and the bright sunshine, with the balmy breezes, made the day delightful. There was nothing then to foretell that in the evening the storm of Monday and Tuesday would sweep across the city once more.

The companies listed: for competitive drill yesterday were[:]

Governor's Guard, North Carolina.

Louisiana Rifles.

Company H, Sixth Illinois Regiment.

Company C, Second Connecticut.

Company C, First New Jersey Battalion.

Company B, Washington Light Infantry.

Toledo Cadets.

Company A, Washington Cadets (colored).

The Illinois company, third on the list, was unable to drill on account fo the sickness of one of its officers. The other seven companies went through the allotted exercises in a way that elicited very little criticism and a great deal of applause. Their work was very interesting, and as they were successively marched up to the judges' marquee, immediately in front of the grand stand, all the minutia of their movements in the manual at arms was performed within easy eye-shot of the public. The Second Brigade Band of Eldon, Iowa, furnished excellent music.

The North Carolina company made a very creditable showing for a young company. The Louisiana Rifles followed, and won unstinted applause, both for their graceful foot movements and their ready handling of arms. In their dark blue dress coats, trimmed with red, white cross-belts, army-blue trousers and black bearskins, they made a brilliant and soldierly appearance. The Sarsfield Guards, of Connecticut, and Company C, First New Jersey, both went through a creditable drill. Their dresses were not flashy, and dress counts for a great deal of the popular enthusiasm which the appearance of any military company evokes. But if the judges do not add merit marks for nice uniforms—if prizes are to be distributed according only to the proficiency shown in the manual of arms—these companies will doubtless stand as good a chance as others who look much more imposing at a distance.

When the white coats and black shakos of the Washington Light Infantry were seen entering the drill ground by the southern gate the spectators gave a prolonged cheer of welcome. The drill team of the Light Infantry was Company B, commanded by Capt. Ross, and although they excelled in evolutions all their predecessors, were unfortunate in the manual of arms, one private carrying instead of shouldering his gun, and the fixing and unfixing of bayonets being unevenly done. But the greatest enthusiasm of the day was created by the drilling of the Toledo Cadets. They are men of remarkable uniformity of size, handsomely uniformed in dark blue coats, white trousers, white helmets, with white and blue plumes, and went to their work with the precision of automatons. Every movement was so beautifully executed, and the enthusiasm of the thousands of spectators reached such a pitch that judges and company officers were compelled to demand a cessation of the applause, it being difficult for the officers to make their commands audible. Company A, Washington Cadets (colored), under Capt. Brooks, was the last company to drill, and made such an excellent showing that the spectators gave them hearty applause.

the zouave competitions.

At half-past two the zouave competitions began, the Chicago and Memphis companies being entered. The Chicagoans came first and were greeted with loud applause. They performed but few fancy movements, but in wheeling, marching, bayonet and skirmish drill, showed great proficiency. One of their feats, the scaling of a twelve-foot fence, was, perhaps, the most difficult yet attempted on the drill ground. At the word they broke for the fence, rapidly formed a pyramid, tossed up and passed over their guns, and, with cat-like agility, followed themselves. When but two men remained and the spectators were guessing out a way of saving them, one jumped upon the shoulders of the other, thence to the fence top, and there turned about and helped up his fellow.

The Memphians, in scarlet and dark blues, with wide cream sashes and white turbans, made a brilliant appearance, and were warmly greeted in their turn. They obeyed the word of command with marvelous celerity, and all their movements were as if impelled by springs of high tension. Their firing and their skirmish drill were little short of perfection. At the end they marched away to the tune of Dixie as jauntily as if their half hour of most trying exercise had only served to fresh them.

another rain-storm.

An exhibition drill by a mixed company of Vicksburg Southrons and Keck Zouaves brought 4 o'clock, the time for the individual drill. Sixty men, wearing all kinds of different costumes and representing nearly all the thirty-four competing companies, stood in line before the judges and ready for the word of command, when the rain began to come down, and that put an end to the individual drill. By 5 o'clock the sky had cleared wonderfully, and according to the programme, five battalions, led by the Louisville Legion, arched on to the field, but they had no sooner formed in line for dress parade when the sky suddenly darkened again. The spectators, warmed by the experience of the previous two days, rushed cityward. The dress parade was dismissed, and soon after five o'clock another terrific rainstorm was sweeping over the camp and over the city.

the artillery drill.

The artillery drill at Athletic Park yesterday was fully up to expectations and was one of the most interesting events of the drill. Of the five batteries drawing for places two withdrew, leaving the Petersburg Light Battery of Virginia, the Indianapolis Light Battery and the Milwaukee Light Battery to drill in the order named. The time fixed was 2 o'clock, and horses and drives from the Third Artillery were waiting at the park at that hour. Ten o'clock came and the grand stand was well filled with people, but the Petersburg Battler that was to drill first did not appear. The other batteries were in their places, but the judges, not wishing to take an advantage of the Virginia boys, waited and held the spectators and the other batteries for an hour. Finally at 11 o'clock, nothing having been seen or heard of the Petersburg company, the gates were thrown open and the Indianapolis Battery entered. Capt. Curtis drew them up for inspection and then received from the judges a programme of the work to be done. First came evolutions, which fully tested the captain's ability to handle his battery. Of course there were no errors scored against the men on this work, for their only business was to keep their seats on the caissons, as the driving was all done by the Third Artillery men. As the battery passed the grand stand for the first time at a trot they were greeted with applause that frightened the horse of Lieut. Chase, one of the judges. He began to prance sideways, and the Lieutenant lost his balance and was deposited on his back on the ground, to the amusement of the spectators. The men showed their agility and knowledge of tactics by loading and firing under all sorts of conditions and in dismounting and mounting the pieces, and after forty-five minutes' work, gave place to the Milwaukee boys under Capt. Oliver, who went through the same programme. The drilling of the two batteries was so nearly even that it will require the official score to decide which will carry away the prize of $1,500. The Indianapolis men did better work in the mechanical movements, while the gunnery and evolutions of the Milwaukee batter were probably the better of the two. "Gunners mount," with caissons to the right of the pieces, was a command that gave both batteries a great deal of trouble. The contest was under the direction of Capt. Oyster, of Gen. Augur's staff. The judges were Capt. Lancaster and First Lieuts. Chase and Randolph, all of the Third Artillery.

the contest at the rifle range.

From two to three hundred persons were present to witness the competition of the riflemen at the Arsenal yesterday, which was in charge of Col. Blunt, U. S. A.; Col. Wardwell, of Gen. Augur's staff, and Lieut. Allen, U. S. A. The shooting was not so good as the preliminary practice the day before, owing to the natural nervousness of competing marksmen. The wind was nearly stationary, but the atmosphere was a condition to carry the line of vision a trifle high. The light was good, obscured slightly now and then by light clouds. The rifles used were the latest Springfield make, 500 gr. ball and 70 gr. of powder, Frankfort ammunition, except the guns of the St. Paul men, which were half and full-cock and without a safety notch. Experts think they should be allowed two points for this disadvantage at each range. The "Haymakers" and one other company had each a gun, which, approaching too near the hair-trigger, was ruled off. The distance yesterday was 200 and 300 yards. The rules of position require the firing at 200 yards to be standing and off-hand; at 300, either kneeling or standing, so that the left hand is in front of the trigger; at 500 and 600 any position may be taken, provided the left hand is in front of the trigger, but no artificial rest is permitted. The "Texas grip" is the position taken by eighty-five per cent. of marksmen at long range—lying flat on the back, the left leg between the gunstock and the sling, the feet towards the target, the head resting on the wrist, and the piece discharged by pressing the right thumb against the trigger. There were not nearly as many competitors as were entered. The score yesterday was as follows:

200 Yards. 300 Yards. Total.
Lieut. Pollard, W. L. I. 42 43 85
LIeut. Bell, Wash. Continentals 41 42 83
Private Crossman, 2d Iowa 42 41 83
Private Johnstone, Wash. Cont. 42 41 83
Corporal Stoyer, 2d Md. N. G. 45 38 83
Private N. C. Browning, 2d Md. N. G. 44 38 82
Private Falk, 1st Minn. 39 42 81
Private Cash, W. L. I. 39 41 80
Capt. Browning, 2d M. N. G. 40 40 80
Capt. Chisholm, 2d M. N. G. 40 40 80
Sergt. Mountjoy, State Fencib's Pa. 43 37 80
Private Moring, Lit. In. Blues, Va. 39 49 79
Lieut. Hobart, 1st Mich. 38 40 78
Lieut. Sohan, Louisville Legion, Ky. 42 36 78
Private Parsons, Ind. L. I. 37 38 75
" Dawson, L. L., K.y. 37 38 75
" Wright, L. I. Blues, Va. 37 38 75
" Browning, 2d Md., N. G. 38 36 74
" Kobler, 6th Ill. 37 35 72
Lieut. Chantler, 1st Minn. 41 31 72
Capt. Gabelein, 1st Mich. 34 37 71
Sergt. Burgee, 3d Ky. In. 35 34 69
Lieut. Shield, 6th Ill. 37 32 69
" Morrill, 2d Maine 29 38 67
" Smith, 3d Va. 38 28 66
Private Irwin, 1st Ala. 34 32 66
Sergt. Garellon, 2d Maine 34 31 65
Private Watson, L. L. of Ky. 31 31 62
Capt Mount. 5th Iowa 35 25 60
Capt. Rawles, 2d Ind. 22 35 57
Private Crews, 3d Va. 23 32 55
" Weber, L. L. of Ky. 30 25 55
" Stevens, 3d Va. 36 14 50
" Winans, 3d Ky. In. 31 11 42
" Mauck, "A" Battery, Ky. 26 15 41
Lieut. Mansir. "A" Battery, Ky. 27 13 40
Private Hoffner, L. L. of Ky. 12 25 37
Private Greenwood, 1st Ala. 16 8 24

matters in the camp.

Camp George Washington was visited by the usual deluge of rain yesterday afternoon, notwithstanding the fact that Gen. Greely, with apparent confidence in the weather predictions, was out in a white suit and a straw hat. The boys have become accustomed to the rain by this time, and do not mind tramping about in the mud. Their only care is to keep their beds and tent furniture dry. The rain was later yesterday, however, and the only events it interfered with on the drill grounds were the individual contests and the dress parade. The consequence was that very little interest was taken in camp life. Almost all the soldiers that were not barred by not having competed were in the drill grounds.

Yesterday was an Ohio day after the Toledo Cadets returned from the drill, and their tents were thronged all afternoon with the members of other Ohio commands who congratulated them on their drill. Many Ohio people, living in Washington, also found their way to the cadets' tents and congratulated Capt. McMaken on the impression the cadets created.

Wormley Brothers, of Wormley's Hotel, had promised the Washington Cadets that if they acquitted themselves well in the drill they would show their appreciation, and accordingly when the command returned from the contest they found that their dining tents had been taken possession of an a dinner spread in Wormley's best style. The drill had sharpened the men's appetites, and the dinner was thoroughly appreciated and a vote of thanks returned to the donors.

In General Order No. 14 the following announcement was made by Gen. Ordway: "Lieut. J. P. Finley, United States Signal Service, will exhibit the methods of signaling by the new helio-telegraph on Friday, at 3 o'clock p. m., by sunflash signals, and at 8 o'clock p. m. by signal lanterns. The exhibition will be given on the western terrace of Washington Monument, and communication will be established with Fort Myer, on the south bank of Potomac River."

virginians and the colored troops.

Virginia is perhaps better represented at the National Drill by a greater number of companies than any other State. Upon inquiry among the various companies included in the Third Regiment it was found that both officers and men were unanimous in their approval of the presence of colored troops. They expressed themselves in terms positive and emphatic and further comment is hardly necessary. Maj. W. M. Cary, of Gen. Anderson's staff, said: "We had no objection whatever to the presence or participation of colored troops. We deprecated the feeling that led to the withdrawal of certain companies. We are very glad to have them with us and are not ashamed of having brought them." Capt. Page, Lieut. Babcock and Quartermaster Bacon—the latter also an Associated Press man—all expressed themselves fully and cordially in favor of their presence. They said the Light Guard was one of the best drilled companies in the State. They brought the captain of a colored company along with them and expressed themselves pleased with his soldierly bearing. Quartermaster Bacon further stated that the officers of his company had urged the City Council to make an appropriation for the colored troops.

In order to see if the men in the ranks had the same opinion as their superior officers, Commandant J. C. Culin and a crowd of the men were interrogated. "There are no objections from Virginia," said Commandant Cubin [sic]. "I think I express the views of all the boys when I say that we are glad the colored troops came, and we don't sympathize in the least with the Mobile companies." One of the privates of the Danville company said, "We had a little trouble with the colored people at Danville some time ago but we have gotten over that, and I am glad they came." Another, pulling up his trousers, displayed a cork leg and said: "I am a Confederate veteran; I express my honest feelings when I say I am not at all ashamed they came." Other members of various companies were questioned, the same opinion invariably being expressed in some form or other. It seems that the Virginia troops are a unit in their feeling on this subject and see in a national drill nothing to justify the action of some of their Southern neighbors.

the schedule of the drill.

The question of whether or not the companies who drilled yesterday had the advantage of those who drilled earlier in consequence of the publication of what purported to be the programme of exercises, is one of importance, and one upon which there was much speculation yesterday. Col. Black, chairman of the board of judges, stated to a Post reporter that no company could be any the wiser by reason of the publication. "The prgramme has not been revealed," he asserted. "If the recorders of the maneuvers had as carefully noted every movement of each of the other companies who drilled on the same day they would then have had the complete record of seven very different exhibitions."

Another of the judges led the reporter to understand that next week, when the drill will be over and official secrets may be discussed, the judges will show that those who profess to have divulged any part of the judges' secrets, or to have surprised the judges, do not know what they are talking about.

entries for the individual drill.

The entries for the individual competitive drill are as follows:

J. H. Wilkinson and E. H. Frank, Lomax Rifles; J. H. Hayes and J. F. Bradley, Sarsfield Guards; Charles T. Conrad and J. T. Clarvoe, Washington Light Infantry; C. Ludwick and J. Kelly, Washington Continentals; C. S. Domer and W. T. Woodley, Washington National Rifles; Benjamin A. Case and Theodore Schladmeiler, Company A, Fourth Illinois; G. E. Shields and J. D. Deffenbaugh, Monmouth Guards; John Miller and J. C. Dillon, Fort Wayne Rifles; Ad. Renling and E. M. Howard, Muscatine Rifles; J. A. Duffry and A. J. Boissoneau, Louisiana Rifles; E. Ater and H. B. Bowles, Louisiana Field Artillery; George O. Tufts, Neally Rifles; G. F. Mulliken and J. H. May, Michigan Military Academy; J. Scrouder and F. T. Rand, Grand Rapids Guards; H. J. Bennet and H. G. Munhunnick, Company I, Second Michigan; H. D. Nash and H. Bevier, Jakcson Rifles; E. G. Falk and W. C. Goodnow, Minneapolis Light Infantry; H. D. Broughton and A. G. Feltmer, Vicksburg Southrons; J. Mosal and D. P. Porter, Mississippi Light Guard; J. E. Kendrick and G. W. thro, Company C, Third Missouri; J. Dickson, and J. Gurhkle, Company B, Third Missouri; J. J. Foley and J. F. Bagley, Company B, First New Hampshire; James MacVeigh and James Morrison, Company C, First Battalion New Jersey; C. I. White, Eighth Separate Company, New York; Wm. Crawford and S. Newell, Molineaux Rifles; S. H. Strange, S. McLean and W. Cottrell, First Ohio Light Artillery; C. G. Dennis and J. E. Meade, Meagher Guards; John Devine and D. G. Condon, Company C, Fifth Rhode Island; J. Kissling and G. R. Hines, Belknap Rifles; P. A. Florian and H. G. Staack, San Antonia [sic] Rifles; W. P. Petit and L. Lovier Bethel Cadets; Y. E. A. Spott and E. W. Sweene, Richmond Greys; Wm. Gibson and J. R. Edens, Governor's Guard, North Carolina; Capt. Duncan, Sergt. J. H. Green and J. H. Price, Company A, Third Virginia; Capt. D. B. Englehardt and J. W. Stearns, Company C, Third North Carolina; J. B. Wagner and E. W. Johnston, Company A, Louisville Legion; W. S. Parks and T. B. Bolian, Company D, Louisville Legion; J. Wilcand, Company H, Second Ohio; J. M. Kell, Company F, Third Virginia, and Sanford Hunt, Jackson Guard, Michigan.

the programme to-day.

To-day on the drill grounds promises to be full of interesting events if the rain does not interfere. There will be no drill at Athletic Park t-day. The infantry companies embrace several very good ones. The Indianapolis Light Infantry is one of the finest in the West. The drill of the Belknap and San Antonia [sic] Rifles is given especial interest by the fact that they are from the same city, and are not only in the contest to gain first prizes if possible, but each is particularly anxious to defeat the other. The Lomax Rifles have taken a prize in every drill they ever entered and good work may be looked for from them. In their exhibition drill they will be drilled by Miss Mary Clifton Voss, of Mobile, Ala., the sponsor of the company. At its conclusion Representative Wheeler will present the Rifles with a floral tribute from the Alabama people in Washington.

The Gatling gun squad of Battery A, Louisville Legion, will enter the contest this afternoon through the courtesy of their competitors, Battery B, of Cincinnati.


The American Cadet Band, of Milwaukee, composed of boys, serenaded The Post yesterday afternoon and played a number of airs in excellent style. A large crowd was attracted by their music.

The Richmond Greys broke camp yesterday morning and left for home. They came here with the understanding they would not remain after they had taken part in the competitive infantry drill.

Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage will preach to the soldiers Sunday afternoon.

A private on guard duty balked Gen. Ordway Wednesday night, and the efficient chief of staff could not get to his quarters until a corporal came to his relief.

Thirty young ladies, pupils of the Alabama Normal College, dined last night in the tents of the Lomax Rifles.

The Saratoga Citizens' Corps gave an exhibition drill last night in front of the Arlington, which was loudly applauded, and were afterwards entertained by Mrs. Logan.

The only companies that have as yet volunteered to act as an escort to the Grand Army on Decoration Day are the Molineaux Rifles of New York and the cadets from the Michigan Military Academy, under command of Col. Rodgers.