Curiosities of Civilization_
Eighteen and Fifty Eight_
The following Essays have been reprinted from the pages of the Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, with the kind permission of their proprietors. It may be necessary, however, to state that, with the exception of the paper on the “Mortality in Trades and Professions,” which was published in the Edinburgh Review of January, 1860, the whole of them have appeared in the Quarterly Review during the last six years. The date of each essay is given in the list of contents; but, where necessary, corrections have been made, so as to bring each article up to the knowledge of the present day.
Lodging, Food, and Dress of Soldiers_
If the question had been asked a short time since what body of men presented the most healthy lives in her Majesty’s dominions, the reply might reasonably have been Her Majesty’s Foot-Guards. Recruited, at the age of nineteen, principally from among the agricultural population, submitted to the critical examination of the inspecting surgeon, tried in wind and limb and tested at every point, the would-be soldier must be proved an athlete, or renounce for ever the hope of wearing her Majesty’s uniform. Absorbed into the picked corps of the army; quartered either in metropolitan barracks or within a stone’s-throw of the palace of the Sovereign; clothed, fed, housed, and tended in sickness by the State; and only in the face of great emergencies required to brave the dangers of foreign service; the weak and incapable instantly weeded out from the ranks,—his does indeed seem to be a select life, with which no other among the labouring classes would appear to be comparable. As we see him on parade in all the pomp and panoply of war, we view him with pride as worthy of that noble band that swept irresistibly before it the eagles of France, and, single-handed, at Inkermann, long kept the foe at bay, and saved two armies from destruction. Yet take the unhealthiest trades in England—the pallid tailor, as he sits at his board, or the miner who lives in the bowels of the earth—and it will be found that the percentage of deaths in their ranks is not nearly so great as in those of the magnificent Guards, pipeclayed and polished up to meet the eye of princes, but, alas! often little better than whited sepulchres. Such is the fact elicited by the labours of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the regulations affecting the sanitary condition of the army. If the “most favoured” regiments furnish these disastrous results, it may be imagined that the condition of the rank and file, who take their turn in all climates, must be much worse; but, strange to say, the contrary is the fact. This is shown in the following table, which gives the number per thousand who die every year among the army at home and among the male civilians of England and Wales at army ages:—
According to Mr. Neison’s calculation, the mortality of the Household Cavalry is 1⅘, Dragoons, &c., 2⅕, Line 29⁄10, and Guards 31⁄13times as great as the mortality of the agricultural labourers who are members of friendly societies. Well may the Commissioners, contemplating these returns, remark—
“That in war men should die from exposure, from fatigue, from insufficient supplies, is intelligible; or that the occupation of a town of 30,000 inhabitants by an army of 30,000 men, without any sanitary precaution, suddenly doubling the population to the area, and thereby halving the proportion of every accommodation, supplies, water, drainage, sewerage, &c. &c., should engender disease, is readily understood; but the problem submitted to us is to find the causes of a mortality more than double that of civil life among 60,000 men, scattered, in numbers seldom exceeding a thousand in one place, among a population of 28,000,000, in time of profound peace, in a country which is not only the healthiest, but which possesses the greatest facility of communication and the greatest abundance of supply in Europe.”
In endeavouring to solve this extraordinary problem, the first question naturally asked is, Why the foot soldiers suffer a rate of mortality so much higher than the cavalry? They are recruited pretty much from the same source, and breathe apparently pretty much the same atmosphere; yet we find that the Foot Guards perish at nearly double the rate of the Life Guards. The causes of this difference are mainly, overcrowding and the want of due exercise and employment. The chief diseases of the soldier are fever and consumption; the latter, or “the English Death,” as it is but too aptly termed, being the chief destroyer. The deaths by pulmonary disease amount in the cavalry to 7·3 per thousand, in the infantry of the line to 10·2, and in the Guards to 13·8; whilst of the entire number of deaths from all causes in the army, diseases of the lungs constitute in the cavalry 53·9 per cent., in the infantry of the line 57·277 per cent., and in the Foot Guards 67·683 per cent. We are strongly inclined to believe that some portion of this extraordinary mortality from pulmonary disease may be owing to the atmosphere of pipeclay in which the Foot Guards, and indeed the Horse Guards in a minor degree, live. In 1853, the year in which the mortality tables were made up, the former pipe-clayed their white trousers and fatigue jackets as well as their belts. Thus the fine dust must have been for ever entering their lungs, and Mr. Simon, in his recent Report affecting the health of special occupations, expressly states that the workers in potteries are among the most unhealthy artisans, in consequence of the clay-dust they are constantly inhaling in the course of their daily work affecting their respiratory organs.
It would appear that overcrowding is the chief cause of the disparity of the death-rate between the two classes of Guards. If we compare the extremes, we find that, whilst the Foot Guards quartered in Portman-street barracks have only 331 cubic feet of air allotted to each man, the Horse Guards at the Hyde Park barracks have 572 cubic feet; and if we take the whole force of Foot and Horse Guards, we find that in London the latter have the advantage of between one-fourth and one-fifth more air in their barracks. But there is another and very important difference in favour of the Horse Guard: his exercise is on the whole more varied than that of the Foot Guard. In the infantry, the drill only exercises the lower limbs and fixes the chest in one position; the grooming of a horse brings nearly every muscle into play, which tends to open and expand the chest. The broadsword exercise has the like effect. This diversity in the daily duties and in the amount of air they have to breathe, explains, we believe, the great discrepancy between the deaths from consumption of the two classes of Guards.
The reason for the increased mortality of the Dragoon regiments over that of the Life Guards is not so easy to discover. As regards the Line regiments, being quartered mostly in country localities, they breathe on the whole a better atmosphere and have more exercise than the Foot Guards. That this is the reason of their lower rate of mortality would appear from the fact, that while the Guards were campaigning in Canada during the rebellion, enjoying the same pure air as the Line, and undergoing precisely the same fatigue and exposure, their relative rate of mortality was reversed, and the Foot Guards proved the more healthy of the two. The latter portion of the Crimean campaign showed the same result.
When the high rate of mortality was first made known in the “Times,” military authorities imputed it chiefly to the destructive nature of the night duties. The evidence given before the Commissioners, however, entirely negatives this explanation.
There are three classes of men whose night duties are more severe than those of the Foot Guards—firemen, the police, and sailors; yet, strange to say, all three enjoy a high state of health. The London fireman undergoes, perhaps, more wear and tear than the rest. His duties call him sometimes to several fires in a night, and when not out he is waiting in readiness. Whilst on service he is liable to great varieties of temperature, and to a good deal of wet; one minute he is scorching in the midst of the fire, the next half-drowned by the water. Nevertheless, he suffers a mortality of only seven per thousand. The metropolitan police are on duty ten consecutive hours in all weather, yet their mortality is less than nine per thousand. The comparison between them and the Foot Guards is the closest that could be made, as the unmarried men all live in section-houses (or barracks), are clothed in a uniform, and fed in messes. Yet the mortality is just half that of the line regiments, and less than half the mortality of the Foot Guards! The sailor on the home station, who is worse lodged than either, and is subject to constant nightwork of a very exposed character, shows a still more favourable result. It is clear therefore that the nightwork will not account for the frightful inroads made by disease in the ranks of the soldier. Nor need we go much further than the barracks to know the main causes of all this suffering and death. In London, as we have said, no more than 331 cubic feet of air was meted out to her Majesty’s Foot Guards, and in Dover Castle it was reduced to 147 feet per man, or less than the quantity which brought about the jail fever which Howard discovered to be raging in the Cambridge Town Bridewell in 1774. The highest average space allotted to each man before 1847 was 447 cubic feet. Even this amount of air is rendered less pure by defective arrangements. Add to which the beds are placed only one foot apart, in defiance of the fact that a man may be suffocated in a crowd notwithstanding that he has all the sky above him. The state of the morning atmosphere is thus summed up by Serjeant Brown, in answer to the questions from one of the Commissioners:—
“Have you often gone into the men’s rooms in the morning before the windows were open?—Yes. In what state did you find the atmosphere?—In a very thick and nasty state, especially if I came in out of the air. If I went in out of my own room sometimes, I could not bear it till I had ordered the windows to be opened to make a draught. I have often retired to the passage and called to the orderly man to open the windows.”
In some cases the troops are lodged in the basement of buildings below the natural level of the soil, or in places where the storekeepers object to put their stores, in consequence of the damage that would result to them from the damp. A notable instance is given in evidence by Dr. T. E. Balfour:—
“In 1845 the armoury was burnt down in the Tower, and a new barrack was erected on its site—certainly not before it was wanted, because the accommodation was very bad. The barrack was finished in the beginning of 1849; fever was then prevailing among the men, and cholera threatening. The surgeon applied to have the new barracks given over for the use of the men, and he got two rooms; he remonstrated through his commanding officer with the authorities, when he was informed that he could not have more given over to him, as they were full of stores—blankets, I believe. On suggesting that the stores might be put into the old barracks, he was told that they were a great deal too damp to put stores into, and it was only in consequence of an energetic remonstrance on the part of the commanding officer, which I believe reached the Duke of Wellington, that a Board of officers was ordered to assemble, who recommended that the troops should be immediately moved into the new barracks.”
Now and then the crotchet of a Colonel does a vast deal of mischief. Not many years since, the cavalry at Knightsbridge were condemned to drink the water from the Serpentine,—a reservoir of filth, which is now pronounced to be pestilential to the neighbourhood. The men objected to use this diluted sewage; but the commanding-officer had perfect faith in filters. Nevertheless, the water persisted in smelling bad, notwithstanding it looked clear,—a mystery the Colonel’s knowledge of chemistry could not fathom; nor would he give in until a Board had been called. The veterinary surgeon now began to complain that the coats of the horses were beginning to stare, and he wished that they should drink from the improved supply which was furnished to the men. The Colonel still had faith in his Serpentine water, and maintained that the horses would prefer it to the purer stream. A bucket of each was placed side by side in the barrack-yard, and a horse was brought in, which immediately settled the question by refusing the dirty water, and plunging its muzzle into the clean. It is not many years since the troops stationed at the Tower were, in like manner, forced to drink the Thames water, taken from the most convenient, which chanced to be the foulest, spot in the whole river. A coarse filter did not suffice to protect them from the disease such supplies were sure to engender.
They manage these things better now in civil life. In the year 1848, the Society for Improving the Condition of the Working Classes opened their first model lodging-house. Their measure of the quantity of air necessary for the poor man was much greater than that settled three years later, by the military authorities, for the soldier. The mechanic and labourer were allowed 542 cubic feet; the soldier, under the most favourable conditions, breathed no more than from 400 to 500 cubic feet,—a measure which fines off, by degrees, to the Black Hole allowance at Dover Castle, where the soldier was reduced to 131 cubic inches. Nor is this the only point in favour of the model lodging-house, of which there are several situated in the foulest portions of the metropolis, and which accommodate sometimes seven hundred inmates, or the full strength of many a regiment. Besides containing pure air, which, with a proper system of ventilation, costs nothing, but is of incalculable value to human life, the lodging-house, instead of being confined to one room, used for all purposes, is divided into the ordinary apartments of an inn; every inmate has his own dormitory, and there is a good coffee-room stored with papers and books, and supplied with hot water. In the kitchen below, there are facilities for roasting, boiling, baking, and frying, and each man has his safe for provisions. Hot and cold baths are provided; and the whole building is heated by hot-water pipes, and well lighted by gas. If the soldier was treated like his brother of the chisel and the hammer, the mortality of the Guards would not be at the rate of 20·4, and that of the ordinary rank and file at the rate of 17·8 per thousand, whilst that of the mechanic is only 13·9 per thousand.
If we were to write volumes, we could not deepen the impression these figures are calculated to convey of the importance to health of sanitary science. It has been said that soldiers would not appreciate the benefits of a model lodging-house, and that, as the colonel asserted of the troop-horse, they prefer the dirty to the clean,—crowding in a common room, to separate apartments. If this were true, it would be no reason for not teaching them better. If bad habits are congenial to them, they do not suffer less when the mischief is done; and if they were callous to the last, the interest of the nation still requires that lives which cost so much should not be recklessly thrown away. But experience refutes the supposition that soldiers have different notions of comfort from civilians. The Guards, in the old part of the Wellington Barracks, had, on one occasion, the temporary use, as a day-room, of an apartment fifty feet by thirty, and, large as it was, it became inconveniently crowded. The Commissioners, in their report, recommend that a minimum space of 600 feet be allotted to each man in his barrack and guard-room, that an interval of at least three feet be maintained between each bed, and that a day-room should be provided. The barrack should at least be on a par with the workhouse.
The high rate of mortality in the army is not to be attributed to the bad arrangements of barracks alone; the important elements of exercise and food have to be considered, and in both the infantry are in an inferior position to the artisan.
“Perhaps,” says Colonel Lindsay, “no living individual suffers more than the soldier from ennui. He has no employment save the drill and its duties; these are of a most monotonous and uninteresting description, so much so that you cannot increase their amount without wearying and disgusting him. All he has to do is under restraint; he is not like a working man or an artisan; a working man will dig, and his mind is his own; an artisan is interested in the work on which he is engaged: but a soldier has to give you all his attention, and he has nothing to show for the work done. He gets up at six; there is no drill before breakfast; he makes up his bed and cleans up his things: he gets his breakfast at seven; he turns out for drill at half-past seven or eight; his drill may last half an hour. If it be guard-day there is no drill except for defaulters. The men for duty are paraded at ten o’clock; that finishes his day-drill altogether. There is evening parade, which takes half an hour, and then his time is his own until tattoo, which is at nine in winter and ten in summer. That is the day of a soldier not on guard or not belonging to a company which is out for Minié practice.”
Unless it be denied that the mind has any influence over the body, it cannot be doubted that the inaction to which the infantry soldier is subjected in barracks, by the regulations of the service, is most detrimental to his mental activity and bodily health. The actuary well knows that the affluent upper classes, although in every other respect placed in the best sanitary condition, are shorter lived than the agricultural labourer, for the simple reason that, having but little active duty to perform, they suffer from ennui, which begets dissipation. The soldier shares with the wealthy this cause of increased mortality, without sharing in their other favourable conditions. Idle and ill-lodged, he naturally resorts to the public-house, and, having but little money to procure drink, he too often degrades himself by sponging upon the female admirers of red coats for the means. The annals of the police-courts are but too rife with the records of crimes and misdemeanours committed by the Foot-Guards from these causes. Mr. Jeffreys, a high authority, testifies that in India a large proportion of the men chafe and drink themselves to death, under modes of life so opposed to the habits of out-door labour in which they have been reared. The soldier is not so much in fault as the rule of the service which precludes him from making himself useful. The best-conducted troops are the Engineers, who work at their different trades. The evil does not stop with the mischief which the idle are sure to perpetrate. The active, self-reliant Englishman is notoriously the most dependant soldier in Europe. He can neither cook, bake, make his clothes, nor hut himself, like the Frenchman, the Sardinian, or even the Turk. Contractors follow him everywhere, excepting into the presence of the enemy; and when he most needs every necessary of life he finds himself a helpless man. Mr. J. R. Martin, one of the Commissioners, who has passed a life in high posts as a military surgeon in India, and who has done more for the sanitary condition of the soldier than any living person, holds it as a principle, “that in all climates the soldier should do for himself whatever he can perform without injury to his health, morals, or discipline; and, further, that he should be required to do whatever may be essential to his serviceable condition, in the event of a failure of the appointed appliances. Before the soldier can be held as fit to undertake his duties to the State, he must be made capable of maintaining everything which may be necessary to his personal care and comfort.” Does Aldershott or Shorncliffe fulfil even the majority of the conditions calculated to train the soldier for active service? Is he taught to build his own hut, to dig his own well, to make his own roads, to cook his own victuals, or to mend his own clothes? Aldershott, in fact, is not a camp at all, but a city of soldiers, built and maintained “by contract;” the sum expended on the buildings alone, for the years 1854 to 1856, being no less than 486,502l. 13s. 6d.; and we have little doubt that up to the present time, the civil labour has cost more than 600,000l. Now, as Colonel Tulloch urged, before these barracks were erected, why should not the men hut themselves? There are clay, gravel, and sand, on the spot, with abundance of small wood that no one will buy, not more than eight miles distant. Soldiers have hutted themselves at Maroon Town, in the West Indies, at 25l. per head. The buildings would not be such permanent structures as the contractors have put together: we should miss the architectural façades for the officers’ quarters, and the “moulded cornices” so maliciously described by the Times’ correspondent; but we should have serviceable huts which would last for eight or ten years. There can be little doubt that the men would be healthier in them than in vast barracks. The process of building would supply the kind of exercise which would amuse as well as instruct, and the plan would certainly save money to the State. Considerably more than one half, or 647·9 per thousand, of our soldiers have been recruited from the agricultural population, to whom the erection of earthworks and building of all kinds would be somewhat familiar. Of the remaining number, 294·7 have been trained to mechanical trades. Surely, from this force handicraftsmen could be selected to perform much of the work of the army. Bakers, cooks, tailors, and bootmakers, could be found to supply the wants of the regiment, and relieve us from the incubus of government contractors. We place more confidence in a system in which the artisan-soldier will reap the fruits of his labour, than in athletic games, which are not to be neglected, but which become irksome when they are enjoined upon the soldier by regulation. Serious exertion, too, with a useful result, is always more invigorating in the[Pg 335] long run than exertion which leaves no result at all. Work, in short, within reasonable limits, is more healthful than play.
During the disastrous months of the Crimean campaign, Mr. Galton proposed to give a series of lectures to the reinforcements about to proceed to the seat of war, on the shifts available in wild countries. He went to the Museum of the United Service Club at the hour he had advertised, but as his audience amounted to but one soldier, he discontinued his efforts to make known those wrinkles he had acquired with so much suffering himself. The substance of these intended lectures he has since amplified into a book, which is one of the most interesting little volumes we ever read, and which should be in the hands of every campaigner, whether military or otherwise. Had our soldiers been acquainted with its contents when our commissariat broke down, they would have been able to lighten their miseries in a considerable degree. The services which he extracts from a single piece of stick are almost inconceivable; and when there seems to be no further hope, he shows how the difficulties may often be overcome by the aid of the very circumstances which appeared to have caused the breakdown. His makeshifts and expedients are, it is true, at times rather rough; and Ensign Firebrass, as he looks at his neatly-polished little boot, would perhaps be startled at being told, that on a march, “pieces of linen a foot square, smeared with grease, and nicely folded over the foot cornerwise,” form a capital substitute for socks; or that breaking “a raw egg into a hard boot before putting it on greatly softens the leather.” Such announcements may be horrifying in the midst of luxury, but in hard circumstances the most nicely got up London dandy would be grateful for the hint. Many a poor soldier, at any rate, would be glad to know that even on a plain where there is nothing except the turf beneath his feet, protection is at hand if he were aware how to avail himself of it. “He need only turn up a broad sod seven feet long by two wide, and if he succeeds in propping it up on its edge, it will form a sufficient shield against the wind,” and even against a drifting rain, provided he plants his turf between the weather and himself.
As regards the in-door amusements of the soldier, we have but little belief in regimental libraries. The recruit from the agricultural districts will not read such volumes as generally form the bulk of these collections. A Scotch sergeant or two will thumb over Rollin’s “Ancient History,” or Robertson’s “History of Scotland,” but the majority of the soldiers will not look at them. “I have never heard of a reading army,” said the late Dr. William Fergusson; and we agree with him as far as what are called standard works are concerned. The soldier can be amused, however, with a lighter class of literature, and there is a certainty of pleasing him with a newspaper. This is the reading he selects for himself in the public-house, and why not condescend to consult his tastes? Major-General Lawrance stated that the system had been tried in some garrisons with excellent effect, of providing a room where the men could procure papers, coffee, and a pipe. “We approach the soldier,” says Robert Jackson, “with the dram-bottle in one hand, and the lash in the other.” Things are not so bad as in his day, but the temptation and the punishment are still provided; and to reduce both as much as possible, we should employ pleasant preventives, both of a moral and physical kind.
The question of food is intimately connected with the health of the soldier, and, as far as we can see, no attempt has been made by the commissariat to adjust it satisfactorily to the varying conditions to which he is subjected. The truck system, which has long been abolished by law in the payment of workmen, is still maintained to some extent in the army. The soldier is nominally paid 13d. per day, but out of this the authorities stop a certain sum, which varies with the markets, for the rations and other necessaries supplied to him. The quantity of the ration is fixed both for service at home and abroad. At home he has 1 lb. of bread and ¾ lb. of meat inclusive of bone, an additional ½ lb. of bread being given to troops encamped in England. Abroad the ration consists of 1 lb. of bread or ¾ lb. of biscuit, and 1 lb. of meat either salt or fresh, the additional ¼ lb. being given to compensate for the inferior quality of foreign compared to English meat. There are one or two exceptional rations; but at home or abroad, in peace or in war, the ration (the quality of the meat being considered) is the same. Simplicity may be urged in favour of the system, but we fear this is its only merit, and we are not at all surprised to find the following remarks in the Report:—“We are of opinion that no ration can be fixed upon which shall be adhered to in both peace and war. The conditions of life are so different in the two cases, that whatever is suitable for the one must be either too much or too little for the other.” Common sense would clearly point out that the ration which would be amply sufficient for the soldier in country quarters, whose principal occupation is lounging along the street, or leaning upon a bridge, would go but little way to maintain the wear and tear of a man when exhausted by the fatigues of an active campaign. The degree and nature of his labours then may be gathered from the following extract from the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Supplies of the Army in the East:—
“The average weight carried by a soldier on the march, including food and water for the day, is probably not less than from fifty to sixty pounds, and while carrying that burden he is frequently required not only to march considerable distances, but also to move rapidly, and make other great exertions. In the ordinary course of his duty he is called upon to watch during the night at longer or shorter intervals, whatever may have been his previous exertions. He is exposed to every vicissitude of temperature, and often to the inclemency of the weather, by night as well as by day, and must be ready to turn out when required, at any hour, and under any circumstances. He must generally be content with the shelter of a tent, whatever the climate may be. When engaged in siege operations, he has to perform, mostly during the night, the work that a railway labourer performs by day—excavating and removing earth. When stores are to be landed, he is often required to do the work of a dockyard labourer. When employed in active service the soldier, therefore, requires a diet as nourishing as that which is requisite to maintain the physical powers of any other man engaged in hard labour involving frequent watching and exposure.”
That is, the soldier is required at times to be a railway navvy, and something more; but, unlike the navvy, he is not allowed to replenish his inward man according to his natural desires, but according to a certain fixed regulation. As well may a stoker limit his engine to a hundredweight of coals a day, and expect to get any speed out of it he pleased. The navigator, whilst executing heavy work, is known to eat as much as six pounds of meat a day. Now we question if any navigator ever worked harder than the common soldier in the trenches before Sebastopol, yet he was expected to perform his task on one pound of meat, fresh or salt, equal to three-quarters of a pound of English beef or mutton. The salt meat too is vastly less nutritive than fresh; and in case the lemon-juice fails, as it did in the Crimea, scurvy and its allied diseases are sure to follow its use. Well may Dr. Christison have remarked “that any scientific person conversant with the present subject (dietaries) could have foretold, as a certain consequence, sooner or later, of their duty, that the British troops would fall into the calamitous state which befell them in the Crimea.” It must be evident again that the soldier during a Canadian winter requires more meat than he does between the tropics. In cold climates the nitrogenous and carboniferous food should predominate; in warm climates a larger amount of vegetable food is required. The exact amount of the different kinds of food, however, requires a special study; but surely chemistry, which has so admirably catered for the varying wants of prisoners undergoing fluctuating amounts of exertion, could find no difficulty in furnishing proper dietary tables for the British army in different parts of the globe. The Commissioners, in their Report, fully convinced of the injustice even at home of keeping stalwart English soldiers upon half a pound of meat per day, recommend that it shall be increased to a pound.
In the clothing of the British soldier a contest has been long going on between what is considered by the officers to look “smart,” and what is found by the men to be comfortable. A soldier upon parade and a soldier going into action scarcely looks the same man. The tight coat, the stiff stock, and the ugly shako, give a stiffness to his figure which is termed “a soldierly appearance:” but upon the march or the eve of battle the jacket is thrown open, the trowsers are tucked up, the shako is thrown away, and the stock follows suit. He has divested himself of every particle of clothing which is supposed to conduce to his smartness; but he is a free man: he can use his limbs with facility, he can march without fainting, and he can fight at his ease. Major-General Lawrance, apologising for the retention of the shako, and for the leathern stock, upon home service, urges that “it is essential to consider the appearance as well as the comfort of the soldier.” Some of the soldiers themselves wish to keep the stock, provided “that it may always be taken off when muscular exertion is required.” The Commissioners are of opinion, and we think rightly, that “this condition applied to any part of a soldier’s dress is condemnatory of it.” Why should he possess a set of fine weather feathers any more than the fireman or the policeman? Fitness is the very essence of comeliness. The Ironsides of Cromwell would have smiled grimly at the holiday suit of the modern soldier. The Commissioners in their Report condemn nearly every article of clothing in present use—the stock as an instrument of strangulation; the shako as neither fitted by size, colour, weight, material, nor form, for service in hot climates; and the trowsers as gathering dust on the march. In the Crimea the men were in the habit of wrapping a piece of bale canvas from the commissariat stores round their legs, which effectually protected them from the mud and wet. This suggests a return to the old gaiter used in the army during the early part of George III.’s reign, and still by some regiments of Highlanders, or the adoption of a boot to lace over the bottom of the trowsers like the ordinary shooting boot. The West India regiments are ordered to wear the Zouave dress—the loose trowsers, leather leggings, jacket, and fez. This may be well enough adapted for black troops, but we should be sorry to see our own men tricked out in this foreign fashion.
The chief parts of the soldier’s body which require attention, as regards health, are the head and neck. The head should be protected against the extremes of heat and cold by every means that science can devise. In tropical climates we still retain the shako, shielding it from the sun with a linen cover. The insufficiency of this device is read in the fearful mortality from sun-stroke, which devastates our army in India at the present time. The natives wear a cotton turban with an old horseshoe on the top to protect them from sword-cuts; and the Commissioners recommend a light cap covered with wadded linen, with a flap hanging down behind. Like the sola or pith helmet, the protection here is in the slow conducting power of the material. Mr. Jeffreys, however, in his admirable treatise entitled “The British Army in India,” justly remarks, that the slower a substance conducts, the longer it retains its heat. A turban-covered shako worn all day in an Indian sun becomes charged with caloric to such an extent that it will give out a sensible heat when hung up in the tent, and will distress the head the moment it is put on; for this reason the covering should be placed outside the tent at night to cool. But, after all, though the heat may penetrate very slowly to the wearer, the time comes when at last it reaches the skull. The protection may be ample for the acclimatised Hindoo, and yet be insufficient for the European. Mr. Jeffreys tells us that the scarf-skin of the Indian is so much thicker than that of the European, that, when serving as a medical officer, he was obliged to have a lancet ground in a peculiar manner for vaccinating the horny hide of the native infants. We therefore agree with him that science must be called upon to give the English soldier a still further defence against the sun. He has himself attempted to solve the problem. Instead of the use of the cloth-covered helmets he terms sun-traps he has constructed an ingenious covering in which reflection, retarded conduction, slow radiation, convection, and ventilation are brought consecutively into play. There can be little doubt that scientifically his contrivance is unexceptionable, and would keep the head always cool. The weight, however, which his plan necessitates is a material element, although it is the heat not the weight which kills. If we desire to form an idea of the amount of heat which is thrown off by a bright surface, we have only to place our hands before the polished sides of a common firegrate, when the reflected heat will be found to be very little less than that directly radiated from the fire. It is just because these sides cast the heat which strikes them back again that the inner face is kept comparatively cool. This, therefore, is the best description of surface to present to the sky. It may be objected that the soldiers would be dazzled by the helmets of their comrades; but the inconvenience would only be incident to a curvilinear-shaped helmet, possessing numerous tangential planes of reflection. A rectangular form, such as that of the present shako, would reflect the rays of the midday sun either down to the earth or up to the sky, and there would be no more glare observable than from the windows of a house, which, except at sunset, are the darkest part of the building. The helmet of the crusader was made in the form of a tin pot: this was retained by the Knights Templars, who well understood the value of the bright reflecting surface and the rectangular shape.
Mr. Jeffreys goes further. He proposes that the body-dress of soldiers serving in tropical climates should also have a metallic reflecting surface. Though the idea may seem strange, we think it worthy of consideration. A good defence against tropical heat must be devised if we intend to keep India; for we cannot afford to send English regiments to be wholly destroyed as fighting men every ten years. The sun is the great ally of the natives; they counted upon its service in the late rebellion, and we must endeavour to convert this enemy into a friend. A perfectly sun-proof dress would be worth many armies to us. Some regiments of irregular horse, which are by far the most picturesque-looking troops we have, wear a light gray woollen blouse with simple curb chains on the shoulders to protect them from sword-cuts. This we believe to be the most suitable garment at present in use. Mr. Galton says that “during the progress of expeditions notes have been made of the number in them of those who have provided themselves with flannel, and of those who have not, and the list of sick always included names from the latter list in a very great proportion.” With a host of such facts, well known to all who have paid attention to the subject, it seems surprising that the military authorities should have adopted a linen blouse for the troops in India. This material is perhaps the best conductor of all the fabrics used in dress; its unsuitableness therefore for a climate which is alternately hot, cold, and wet, may easily be imagined. The neck and spine should be guarded against the assaults of the sun almost as carefully as the head. In all ages Easterns have been mindful to protect the great nervous highway. The Arabs invariably bring one of the ends of the turban down over the neck, and the French have adopted the same plan in Algeria. As regards the spine, every one has experienced the sense of sickness which is produced when the back is brought close to a strong fire. Such a fire the poor soldier often endures for hours when marching under an Indian sun. Sun-strokes arise as much from this cause as from the exposure of the head. The Arab has a long tasselled loop of cloth hanging down in the small of the back, which acts as a piece of solar armour: the English soldier should have a similar protection, unless we are to consider that his black knapsack and his neatly rolled great-coat are all that is required. A belt of flannel should by no means be forgotten. The direct rays of the sun striking upon the expanse of nerves over the abdomen often bring on cholera or dysentery. The soldier should have, in addition, a loose woollen wrapper to serve as a change when campaigning. The value of dry clothes when he lies down on the bare ground after a fatiguing march is not to be overrated. “The skin’s debility is malaria’s opportunity,” justly remarks Mr. Jeffreys. “The germs of fever, dysentery, and cholera, stalking over the bodies of a sleeping army, which has been exposed to the sun by day, quickly scent out the enfeebled skins and divide the prey!”
The colour of the dress is important. Dr. Coulier, who has lately investigated the qualities of different materials as clothing for troops, found that white cotton placed over a cloth dress produced a fall of 7 degrees per cent. in heat. When the tube of a thermometer was covered with cotton sheeting and placed in the sun, it marked 35·1, with cotton lining 35·5, with unbleached linen 39·6, with dark blue cloth 42, with red cloth 42. From these experiments it will be seen that the staring red of our uniforms absorbs no less than seven degrees more of heat than simple cotton. As we have to guard against the cold of night, and the damp of the rainy season, perhaps the best method of meeting the varied conditions of heat, moisture, and cold would be to give the soldier a simple woollen blouse of some neutral colour, which, while it did not absorb the sun’s rays, would yet be pleasing to the eye. Gray, faced with red, or girdled with a red sash or belt, would have an excellent effect, and would answer admirably.
It is singular that whilst our troops at home, for the last twenty years within the immediate influence of a growing sanitary science, have profited little by its teaching, the troops quartered abroad within the same time have experienced a marked decline in their annual rate of mortality. In the year 1835 Lord Howick caused a parliamentary inquiry to be made into the causes of the fearful mortality among the troops on some of the foreign stations, especially in the West Indian islands. The returns proved even worse than had been anticipated. The mortality in Jamaica was no less than 128 per thousand, or, in other words, every eighth man who stepped on board a transport for service in this beautiful island was doomed to leave his body for the land crabs. In the other islands the mortality was somewhat less, the deaths being 81 in the thousand. The reason of this decimation had long been known. More than fifty years ago Robert Jackson had pointed out the deadly nature of our military posts, situated for the most part at the embouchures of rivers and in low harbours, or placed in the immediate neighbourhood of pestiferous swamps. Salt pork and rum were called in to finish the work malaria had commenced. Five days a-week were our soldiers rationed upon this poisonous food; and, to make the injustice more glaring, the convicts upon the island were fed with fresh meat, and were consequently in good health. In 1843 Sir Charles Metcalfe determined that the troops should no longer perish. He altered their diet and removed them entirely from the marshy plains to Maroon Town, which stands at an elevation of not more than 2,500 feet on the Blue Mountains, but sufficient to lift European life above the level of the deadly fevers of the climate. The effect of these changes exactly corresponded with what had been foretold by Jackson; the mortality speedily fell from 128 to 60 per thousand, and is now reduced to 32. Thus for many generations the mortality of white troops in Jamaica was fourfold what it should have been, through ignorance and extravagance; for, strange to say, the difference between the cost of the poisonous salt pork and the healthy fresh meat caused a saving to the Government of 80,000l. a-year.
In other colonies the improvement in the health of the troops has been marked of late years. At Ceylon, where resort has been had to hill-stations, the mortality has decreased from 74 per thousand,—at which ratio it stood until 1836,—to 38 per thousand at the present time. During the same period, we find that at St. Helena the rate has fallen from 25 to 12, at Gibraltar from 22 to 12, at the Ionian islands from 27 to 17, and at Newfoundland from 37 to 11 per thousand. From this gratifying statement we must except the greatest dependency of all,—our Indian Empire. In Bengal the mortality of the British soldier, just before the mutiny, was even greater than it had been twenty years before. On the average of nineteen years previous to 1836, it had been 75 per thousand; on the average of the next period of eighteen years, it was 76 per thousand. In Bombay, the mortality has decreased 2 per thousand; but in Madras the improvement has been such that the deaths have fallen from 76 to 41 per thousand. Whilst India remained in the hands of the East India Company, and the British troops stationed there seldom exceeded 25,000, the high mortality of the presidency of Bengal might have escaped observation; but now that the European soldiers are more than doubled, the necessity for putting their sanitary condition upon a proper footing must be obvious. “Colonel Tulloch has informed me,” says Mr. Martin, in his admirable work on the Influence of Tropical Climates on the European Constitution, “that between 1815 and 1855 there died, of European soldiers belonging to her Majesty’s and the East India Company’s army in India, very nearly 100,000 men, the greater portion of whose lives might have been saved, had better localities been selected for military occupation in that country.” Estimating the value of each soldier in India at 100l., this would give a sum of 10,000,000l.
The barracks and cantonments of India, as regard vastness and solidity, are, perhaps, not to be equalled by any in the world. The military buildings of Burhampore, in Bengal, are said to have cost, during the seventy-seven years they were in existence, including capital and interest, 16,891,206l.; yet this costly station, like that of Secunderabad, in the Madras presidency, was planted in an absolutely pestiferous locality. All over India the localities of the barracks are bad, and their construction and arrangement extremely faulty. “Nearly the whole station of Cawnpore,” says Mr. Jeffreys, “running some miles along the river, was so cut up into small ‘compounds,’ by high mud walls, that a bird’s-eye view would have given it the appearance of a divided honey-comb. These walls, with the profusion of trees they enclosed, seemed as if designed to cut off every current of wind from the inhabitants of the ground-floor dwellings hidden within them.” In another case, as if to make stagnation doubly secure, he mentions that there is a square wall within a square wall, surrounding a cantonment. Hence we can easily account for the fearful mortality among European troops in India. As if to make patent to us the folly we commit in constructing these vast bakehouses, the native troops, who hut themselves outside our lines, and thus get plenty of air, present the unique example of a soldiery whose mortality is below that of the population from which it is recruited. In the Bengal presidency the mutiny has cleared away the difficulty; for it has swept the mass of these pestilential cantonments from the face of the earth. The question, how shall we profit by the loss? is answered by Mr. Martin in his “Suggestions for promoting the Health and Efficiency of the British Troops serving in the East Indies.” He insists that we must station our troops, in future, upon the hills, but not on such stations as we have on the Himalaya and Neilgherry mountains,—positions of 7,000 feet above the sea; for, although they are a security against the fevers of the country, they are apt to induce bowel complaints, which are almost as fatal. His opinion is, that elevations of from 2,800 to 6,000 feet would yield a climate most congenial for European troops,—such, in fact, as we have already found in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. He especially draws attention to the solitary hills,—“those islands of the plains,”—as capable of affording a refuge from the fevers that inundate the low-lying ground. Here the mass of the British army may be lodged until their services are needed. From these eyries, like the Romans of old, they may watch the champaign country, and be ready, at a moment’s notice, to move on any threatened position. There is no intention of recommending the abandonment of strategical points, or large cities which serve as arsenals, simply because they are not wholesome. There are dangers to be braved in peace as well as in war. Yet our experience of the heroic qualities of the British soldier justifies the assumption that small bodies of them, placed in strongly fortified positions, could hold out against all comers until succour should arrive from the hill-stations, especially now India is being traversed by railroads and telegraphs. But even these stations are not sufficient to restore patients suffering under chronic disease. These, if possible, should at once be sent home. The sick officer is invalided, and speedily recovers in the air of his native land; the common soldier, on the contrary, is forced to enter the hospital,—too often to die. The men, moreover, should be recruited for a shorter time. At present they practically serve seventeen years in India,—a period which breaks down the constitutions of the majority. It is the exposure to heat for a great length of time, and not its intensity for a short period, that destroys European life. If we entrap the ignorant labourer by the most unworthy artifices, we should, at least, be merciful to him. Let the term of service be reduced to ten years, and then the stream of stalwart Britons, fresh from the mother-country, would enable us, in conjunction with hill-stations, to keep a powerful and resistless grasp upon the country.
It may well be imagined that, if the sanitary condition of our army is so bad in times of peace, its sufferings in war must be greatly exaggerated. The experience of the Peninsula, Walcheren, Burmah, and Sebastopol, has unfailingly proved this to be the case, and, in manifold instances, the evils were such as could have been avoided with ease.
“The barracks and the military hospital,” says Miss Nightingale, “exist at home and in the colonies as tests of our sanitary condition in peace; and the histories of the Peninsular war, of Walcheren, and of the late Crimean expedition, exist as tests of our sanitary condition in the state of war. We have much more information on the sanitary history of the Crimean campaign than we have of any other. It is a complete example—history does not afford its equal—of an army, after a great disaster arising from its neglects, having been brought into the highest state of health and efficiency. It is the whole experiment on a colossal scale. In all other examples the last step has been wanting to complete the solution of the problem. We had in the first seven months of the Crimean campaign a mortality among the troops at the rate of 60 per cent. per annum from disease alone—a rate of mortality which exceeds that of the great plague in the population of London, and a higher ratio than the mortality in cholera to the attacks; that is to say, that there died out of the army of the Crimea an annual rate greater than ordinarily die in time of pestilence out of sick. We had during the last six months of the war a mortality among our sick not much more than among our healthyGuards at home, and a mortality among our troops in the last five months two-thirds only of what it is among our troops at home.”
This splendid testimony to the value of sanitary science, exhibited on the largest scale, on an apparently hopeless field, is without appeal. The Commissioners propose a medical officer of health for the army, second in rank to the principal medical officer, and attached to the quartermaster-general in the field. This officer, says the Report, should be the head of the sanitary police of the army, should be answerable for all the measures to be adopted for the prevention of disease, and should report to the quartermaster-general, and to the principal medical officer. In order to prevent any evasion of responsibility, they further recommend that the sanitary officer shall give his advice in writing, and that the disregard of it on strategical grounds shall be equally recorded by the officer in command. Having thus provided for the army in the field, the Commissioners propose that there shall be associated with the Medical Director-General of the Army a sanitary, statistical, and medical colleague. Each of these officers would be at the head of a distinct department—the sanitary officer taking cognizance of all questions of food, dress, diet, exercise, and lodging for the soldier; the statistical department gathering together those invaluable details relative to the health of the army, for the want of which the British troops have so long suffered a mortality out of all proportion to the civil community; while the medical department would serve as a connecting link between civil and military medicine, keeping the latter up to the last word of science, as spoken by the great medical authorities in all countries. Some of these suggestions will require deep consideration before they are adopted. Nothing, at any rate, must be permitted to fetter the absolute power of the commander in the field, who must have a real as well as a nominal freedom. But every precaution which can guard the health of the soldier without cramping the discretion of the general is demanded alike by humanity and policy. What was so powerfully said in the last century has remained in a great degree true in our own. “The life of a modern soldier is ill-represented by heroic fiction. War has means of destruction more formidable than the cannon and the sword. Of the thousands and ten thousands that perished in our late contests with France and Spain, a very small part ever felt the stroke of an enemy; the rest languished in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction; pale, torpid, spiritless and helpless; gasping and groaning unpitied among men, made obdurate by long continuance of hopeless misery; and were at last whelmed in pits or heaved into the ocean, without notice or remembrance. By incommodious encampments and unwholesome stations, where courage is useless and enterprise impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away.”
...the constitution itself is not a complete system ... it takes none but the first steps in organization ... it does little more than lay a foundation of principles ... it provides with all possible brevity for the establishment of a government having, in several distinct branches, executive, legislative, and judicial powers ... it vests executive power in a single chief magistrate, for whose election and inauguration it makes carefully definite provision, and whose privileges and prerogatives it defines with succinct clearness...