Ramblings & ephemera

Too much tail to that kite

From Addison Hart’s “General Fremont Has Chicken Guts!: Why John Charles Fremont Got Kicked Out Of Missouri“:

… [John Charles] Fremont did little else in his first few months in command in Missouri … He did, however, manage to get some criticisms over his choices for staff positions. Unlike many generals, Fremont wanted to be allowed to pick and choose each member of his staff and his bodyguard, and he did in fact do so. One priority, it seems, was that a candidate had to have a funny name, or at least a European one. In fact, the majority of Fremont’s staff members seem to have been Europeans, primarily Germans and Hungarians. A large amount of them seem to have been extra-legally commissioned and most had no idea of how the war in the West was to be fought. Those who knew military tactics advocated using the outdated tactics of Napoleon and Frederick the Great, as well as the Baron Jomini and that lot. A lot of them were as inefficient as possible, some were even minor nobility, and many were corrupt, mixed in with anti-Lincoln groups, Know-Nothings, and the like. …

The fact that the list of the staff members (about three hundred men in his personal bodyguard alone and a good thirty members, all over five foot eleven inches in height, made up his staff) is practically endless also bothered some individuals, especially when scrolling down the list one reads many times over French or Italian names, or running over several individuals with the surnames of ‘Kalmanuezze’ or ‘Zagonyi’. A lot of these fellows spoke English very badly at best, which only deepened the stupidity of the situation. When Fremont’s opponent in the field (not that Fremont ever bothered to fight him), General Albert Sidney Johnston, [Confederate States of America], was shown a copy of the staff list at his headquarters in Nashville, he simply commented with one of his deep chuckles “There’s too much tail to that kite!” Even the locals could feel their stomachs turn when they saw Fremont’s bodyguards and staff officers walking the streets, many wreaking of perfume, and wearing ridiculous (overly grandiose) uniforms with plumes and braids. Such men were the reason that the locals gave the men of Fremont’s staff (and the General himself) the somewhat embarrassing title ‘Chicken Guts’.

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