Attitude and Behavior of Continental Soldiers During the Civil War

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A Most Undisciplined Profligate Crew Protest and Defiance in the Continental Ranks 1776-1783” written by James Kirby Martin examines the behaviors and backgrounds of the Continental soldiers who fought in America’s civil war. Pinpointing the New Jersey army defiance of 1779, Martin shows the astonishing indiscipline and lack of morals are attributed to the soldiers and the consensus of the stereotyping of common soldiers with lack of morals, ideals, and values. His essay serves to give some insight, justifying the grumblings and uprisings in the army by referring to the deficiency in money, poor conditions and inequality which poorly paid soldiers must face. Martin forwards also as the valid reasons for this far from esteemed attitude, the treachery of the government who reneged on their promises as well as a society who look upon the soldiers with indignity. The article laments the lack of patriotism and the betrayal on the part of the government in duly meeting their side of the bargain for the salaried officers while attending to the perceived greed, selfishness and prejudice in both state officials and the soldier body. The fixation on earthly possessions does not accord with the values that government tried to inspire in the soldiers. One sees the glaring presence of sedition within the ranks of the army where soldiers threaten to desert since they are not taken seriously and little regarded.

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Nevertheless, the justification for the lack of ideals shows repugnance since veterans never received pension and sometimes freedom. Unlike Europe, although America has no rigid social stratification, no barriers to land proprietorship, no union between Church and State and no monarchy, its government still infringed on basic human rights. Not all the citizens have the power. Power is not bound up in land, birth, wealth, or titles-but lies in the proclamation of the constitution and since the army recruited men who were low-income ‘riff-raff’ they are little more than property and are treated as such. Owing to strained political relations, between the government and the army, and also the upper-classed officers and the lower ranked privates, the consequences were battery (corporal punishment), constituting inhumane discipline. Americans question the authenticity of the soldiers since they cannot be trusted even as American allies-fighting degrades to a mere employment rather than a patriotic vocation. Some soldiers enlist with the army while segregation persisted in the formation of exclusively Black troops and whites. Britain only alienate them from their white compatriots. At the same time, the soldiers of New Jersey tarnish the good reputation of the troops and their Commander, the American President, which deployed them with the continuous complaints and rebellions.

The most important new information from this article is the internal turmoil even as early as 1779 within the ranks of the army and the need for change in dealing with the legitimate claims of the soldiers who have fought. What has been reinforced is the repetition of history. America’s veterans continue to be poorly paid and left to suffer as common vagrants many times after a war has ended. The non-existent or sparse patriotism is another element that has been underlined. The public’s reluctance to join the ranks of the army and the ill-treatment are a few ills within the army that America struggles with. The Vietnam War is a major example of this negligence in seeing to the soldiers’ needs.

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