Sunday, August 15, 2010

Five minutes' notice

From the diary of Hospital Steward John N. Henry, in the 49th New York Infantry (Third Brigade, Second Division, Sixth Corps).

"An order came to pack up and be ready to move at five minutes’ notice. [I] went to work immediately [and] kept busy until dark when I drove the last nail in the large box and leaving nothing but a small box to mail at the last moment."

The 49th was camped about four miles south of Warrenton. The 91st Pennsylvania (Second Brigade, Second Division, Fifth Corps), camped along Beverly Ford, was also told to be prepared to move immediately and have three days rations prepared.

Naturally, neither unit went anywhere. Someone should do a study of how many times a command (of any size) was ordered to prepare to move at 'moments notice' or in five (or thirty) minutes, and they just sat there. Hurry up and wait, it has been the motto of the military for centuries.

Henry's diary is found in "Turn Them Out Like a Mule", edited by John Michael Priest

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