View of Glynn Gardner
looking back over the years that have elapsed since the old
Signal Service days, it is a hard matter to say what experience
has been the most profitable; I do believe, though, that the
training gotten at old Fort Myer, though most distasteful at
the time, wrought to the good of the men concerned.
In July, 1885, the famous, because last, class of "rookies"
started the routine of training for six to eight months at the
old Fort. My! My! How dissatisfied were the boys at first, many
of whom tried for discharges, but to no avail. Drill, drill,
drill; study; study, study, was the order for a long, long eight
months. This history making calss was the last regular one at
One day, when the class was being drilled by Lt. Frank Greene,
it balled one of his orders so badly, that little Frank Greene
went all to the bad in his language and cursed the men to his
heart's content, not individually, but collectively. After the
company was dismissed, the boys started a language-fest all
their own about Greene's cursing, and one of the boys drew up
a letter of protest to be sent to the Secretary of War. They
were afraid that, if the letter went through regular military
channels, it would never leave the Fort; hence, it was concluded
to send a copy direct to the Chief Signal Officer (General W.
B. Hazen); and, being afraid that he too might pigeon-hole the
protest, a third copy was sent direct to the Secretary of War
(Robert Lincoln). A court martial of the entire class was a
Those were expectant days when the court martial was in process
in the old Fort. The boys were so worked up over it, that they
induced a prominent Washington attorney (Henry Wise Garnett)
to take hold and fight their cause. One of the boys also got
in touch with Ben Butterworth, representative in Congress from
Ohio, to take an interest in the court. Butterworth was up to
the Fort every day the court was in session, attended its sessions,
and made himself heard so often that finally the president of
the court ordered him not to again address the court, anything
he had to say was to be in writing.
The findings of the court were against the boys, of course;
but the penalties were minor - loss of a month's salary in some
cases, reprimands in others. Ben Butterworth became so stirred
up over the whole case that he raised the question in Congress.
The next class sent up was intended to remain for three years
and to attend more to the strictly military phase of the training;
but Congress investigated the whole Signal Service, concluded
to turn Ft. Myer over to the regular army and to make a civilian
body of the Signal Service; at least, the meteorological portion
of it. Our class was kept several months after the final examinations,
and we thought that Gen. Hazen did it as an additional punishment
for the boys' insubordination.