Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

Copyright, all rights reserved


10. In the Field Artillery
At Fort Sam Houston
Upon arriving at Fort Sam Houston, two 1903 men, Clifford Jones and Ellery Farmer, who occupied a set of quarters, invited me to live with them, which I was very glad to do.

Captain Ernest Hinds, my Captain, was on a Board in Washington, developing a system of Fire Control for use with the new Rapid Fire Field Guns (3") to replace the old 3.2" non-recoil guns with which the Field Artillery was equipped. There were, in the Battery, two rather old 1st Lieutenants (they had come in from the Volunteers, in '98). They were both good officers, but at the time they happened not to be on speaking terms (their wives had had some argument about a maid) and they were quite content to have me take over as many of the routine duties as possible.

I have always remembered my first command assignment. A few days after I had reported for duty I was told to take charge of a mounted drill for recruits to be held on the plain (now the site of the new Fort Sam Houston) that afternoon. At the proper time I rode over to the plain. I observed about a dozen recruits being put through their drill by Sergeant Robbins. He was old enough to be my grandfather and he had probably been drilling recruits since before I was born. He seemed to be doing a very good job, and I watched from a distance for some time. It seemed to me that, if I was in charge of the drill, it was desirable, as a matter of prestige for a new 2nd Lieutenant, that I do something to show the recruits that I at least knew the drill. So I watched it carefully for a while. Sgt. Robbins began explaining a new drill movement to them. I thought I remembered my Drill Regulations from West Point, and I heard him make what I was sure was a mistake. So I rode up and said, "Sergeant, I think the Regulations prescribe so and so instead of so and so as you have said." He looked at me with some astonishment, and the recruits seemed to enjoy having him put in his place, be the new 2nd Lieutenant. He said, "I am quite sure that the Regulations state (the way he had explained it), Sir. But if the Lieutenant says it's the other way that's the way I'll do it." I rode back to my quarters feeling quite well pleased with myself. When I got home it occurred to me that, just to be sure, I had better check up on the Drill Regulations. I found that the Sergeant had been right and I had been wrong. I was faced with one of the most difficult problems that I had ever been confronted with, and I didn't sleep much that night, turning it over in my mind and trying to decide what I should do. Next afternoon I rode out to the drill grounds again and, after I had watched the drill for a while, I rode up to the detail. The Sergeant called them to attention and I said, "Sergeant Robbins, yesterday I told you that you had made a mistake in explaining a command. I have looked up the Regulations and I find that I was entirely wrong and that you were entirely right about it. So hereafter you do it the way you explained it yesterday." The recruits looked at the Sergeant with obvious admiration and respect for his knowledge. The Sergeant looked at me, with a somewhat paternal smile, and said, "Thank you, Lieutenant." During the three years that I remained with the 2nd Battery, Sergeant Robbins, and the other sergeants, by their friendly advice and tactful suggestions, saved me from many mistakes which otherwise could have been very embarrassing to me. I learned a great deal from them -- about many things besides the Drill Regulations.

I was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston for about a year. During this time the Battery went up to Kerrville, Texas, for target practice and went to Dallas for a County Fair. 1st Lieutenant E. A. Stuart (in command) and his wife had come from Dallas, and Mrs. Stuart promised to make the stay in Dallas an enjoyable one for all concerned. We arranged to have Clifford Jones, also a 2nd Lieutenant, attached to the Battery for the trip, and he and I certainly had a most enjoyable time. One of Mrs. Stuart's friends, Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Green, who had a large and attractive home, arranged a House Party with three or four girls (about the prettiest quartette I ever saw) as house guests, and Jones and I spent most of our time there. (Jones and Besse Green fell in love and were married within a year.)


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