A Confederate Soldier’s Thoughts on World War I

Many of the Civil War soldiers who served from Mississippi lived well into the 20th century, and saw many technological advances: automobiles, telephones, airplanes and electric lights just to name a few. Those that survived into the second decade of the new century also saw the United States take part in “The War to End All Wars,” better known today as World War I.

In September 1917 a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram visited Camp Bowie, in

This postwar portrait of Charles C. Cummings was published in CONFEDERATE VETERAN MAGAZINE, Vol. 15, No. 9, (September 1907)

Tarrant County, Texas, shortly after the facility opened to train the 36th Infantry Division. Accompanying him was Fort Worth Judge Charles C. Cummings, who was a combat veteran of the 17th Mississippi Infantry. The reporter was eager to hear Cummings thoughts on the modern army, and he wrote the following article about his visit for the September 2, 1917, edition of the paper:

Bombs huried to earth from aircraft on European battlefields, machine guns pouring forth their destructive fire, shrapnel bursting and dealing death in its wake, thousands of soldiers falling dead or wounded – Such was the mental picture of Judge C.C. Cummings, pioneer resident of Fort Worth and a veteran of the Civil War, when he visited Camp Bowie with a Star-Telegram reporter to get a glimpse of modern military training methods. The veteran’s thoughts at the sight of so many Sammies drilling, the endless rows of tents, and the officers hurrying here and there dispatching orders, made him reminiscent, and took him back to the day, some fifty odd years ago, when he, himself, then a young man, marched forth with his comrades from Holly Springs, Miss., as a private soldier in Company B, Seventeenth Mississippi Infantry, known as ‘The Mississippi Rangers,’ with a musket on his shoulder to ‘do his bit’ for the Confederate States in the memorable Civil War.

                                                    How War Has Changed

But military tactics, facilities and conditions were different [in] those days. Shrapnel, gas bombs, dum-dum bullets, hand grenades, poison gas, Zepplins and other modern tools of warfare were then unknown. The soldier of that yesteryear period had to rely upon his musket, squirrel rifle, or whatever variety of weapon he found available. And according to Judge Cummings, uniforms were also at a premium. Those who could not obtain uniforms went in their civilian clothes. Some went barefoot. 

‘But,’ says Cummings, ‘the American soldier of today is furnished with an ample supply of clothing of very serviceable quality, and when it wears out, his wardrobe is restocked.  Also, the twentieth century Sammie has more accurate firearms at his command, and should his gun become lost or disabled, he is immediately provided with another. When I faced the shot and shell these modern conditions did not prevail. The soldier who lost his gun was indeed ‘out of luck.’   

Soldiers drilling at Camp Bowie during World War I - University of Texas at Arlington Library

                                                         Tells of Training

‘I enlisted April 27, 1861, at Holly Springs, Miss., and went immediately to the training camp at Corinth, Miss. The drilling was constant and very laborious, though not any more severe than the present method of drilling. More time was required to make a regiment proficient in drilling than at present, however, because few of the officers were experienced in conducting the maneuvers. When the call to arms was sounded we volunteers ‘fell in’ with whatever arms we could muster. Some carried shotguns, others muskets, and still others squirrel rifles. We were taught to drill with hands placed tight to seams of pants. The present day soldier drills with arms swinging loosely, which is less laborsome and much more comfortable. But I cannot get used to seeing the soldiers drilling with arms swinging.

Mobilized , Pell Mell

We were mobilized pell mell fashion and were not given time for sufficient training before we were rushed into battle. The improvement in war methods since I shouldered a gun has been marvelous. The French method of fighting is indeed very efficient, and general war science has advanced wonderfully. The arms are more accurate and the whole system operates in clockwork schedule, thus saving much time, energy and loss of life. We had no adequate hospitals, no labor-saving war implements, and we did not fight from trenches to any extent. The majority of the fighting was done in the open. It is indeed a revelation to witness the efficient methods of modern military training. The sight of the boys training here at Camp Bowie carries me back some fifty years ago, when I was doing the same thing. I can prophesy nothing but victory for the United States and her allies.

Cummings participated in many of the bitter engagements now written into the history of the Civil War. He was wounded at Gettysburg, losing his right hand.

A native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, Charles C. Cummings moved to Fort Worth, Texas,

This image of Cummings wearing his United Confederate Veterans Uniform was published in CONFEDERATE VETERAN MAGAZINE, Vol. 16, No. 9, (Sept. 1913)

in 1873. A lawyer by profession, he served as a county judge from 1876 to 1880, and also became the first superintendent of schools for the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.  Cummings was a very active member of the United Confederate Veterans, and served as historian for the Texas Division of the organization. In this capacity he wrote extensively about the Civil War, and often talked about his experiences as a soldier in the 17th Mississippi Infantry.

Charles Cummings lived to see the start of World War I, but he didn’t see its conclusion – the old soldier died on May 18, 1918, six months before the conflict ended. He is buried in Pioneers Rest Cemetery in Fort Worth.

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6 thoughts on “A Confederate Soldier’s Thoughts on World War I

  1. charles c plumley

    This Charles C. Cummings served in the very same outfit my G-Grandfather served in and enlisted at the same location 1 month later thaN he. I’m trying to find as much info.on that unit and the clothing, uniforms, weapons.
    hoping u can point me toward literature I can find it re: 17th Mississippi volunteers. Thanks
    Charles

    • Charles,
      I have a long list of sources for the 17th Mississippi, if you will send me your email address, I will be happy to send it to you. Also, I used several pictures of members of the 17th Mississippi in my latest book, Remembering Mississippi’s Confederates.

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