Presenting Arms

NH Civil War Gal

2nd Lieutenant
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"The regulations directed that "sentinels will present arms to general and field officers, to the officer of the day and to the commanding officer of the post. To all other officers they will carry arms." To the recruits it was a difficult task to distinguish a field officer for a line officer. But we soon discovered that it was safer to give the junior second lieutenant of a regiment a general's salute than it was to carry arms to a major who was entitled to a present. Human nature would crop out in the army the same as elsewhere.

One of our boys was posted on No. 2 the first time he went on guard. He got all mixed up over his instructions, and was taken to task by several officers for not giving them the proper salute. But his intentions were all right. He wanted to show his loyalty. After making many dismal failures in determining the rank of officers who crossed his beat, he gave it up in despair. So he simply stood with his carbine in his hand, and as an officer approached, the sentinel, with a significant nod of the head toward his carbine, would sing out: "Say, Mister, which'll you have, field or line salute? I'll give you whichever you say, but I'm a new hand, and I don't want to make a mistake."

Most of the officers appreciated the "new hand's" desire to do them justice, and the sentinel was not punished.

Down in Dixie, Life in a Cavalry Regiment
 

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