from The Worcester Daily Spy, November 28, 1861 , (Volume 16 # 280), 

THE CALL OF THE FIFTEENTH
[For the Daily Spy]

 That the recruiting for the fifteenth regiment is slow cannot be denied.  That there are plenty of men ready to enlist is equally true..  What, then, is the reason?  Among other causes assigned for this, I have heard it suggested that men ready and willing to enlist prefer to join a new regiment, where all will stand upon the same level of knowledge ( or ignorance ) of military matters, and where no man will be conspicuous for his awkwardness.  This feeling, which results from a pride, laudable in itself, is unaccountable to me in this connection.

 The man who joins this regiment now, surrounded by men who have had the advantage of a few months life of active service, will reap results of their hard won experience by mere contact with them.  His constant intercourse and his daily life with such men will enable him to master, in an incredibly short space of time, the rudiments of military knowledge which a private is required to learn.  But, were it otherwise, one would suppose that the desire to be attached to a regiment with the reputation of the fifteenth, and, under the very banners which witnessed the defeat at Ballís Bluff, to assist in avenging their wrongs, would induce men to enlist in that regiment.

 Military history shows that it is a general rule that those regiments which have won honorable fame in many actions; whose banners bear enrolled upon them the names of many fields of battle; and whose officers have been tried and found worthy to fill their posts, are more readily filled than regiments without renown, and whose history yet remains wholly to be written.  The fact that the recruiting for the fifteenth drags so slowly along is in violation of this rule.

Those who desire to enlist for the war, in deliberating upon a choice of regiments, should bear in mind that the mantle of glory belonging to the fifteenth follows it, no matter who fill the ranks.  The name of Washington belongs not alone to his contemporaries, but also to us, and we are as proud of it as if he were with us today.  So, too, the name of the fifteenth regiment belongs not alone to the individual officers and men who were engaged in that unfortunate action in which it was won, but to the regimental organization.  And though no man, among all those who behaved so nobly on that day, can ever be forgotten by a grateful country, still the name of the 15th regiment would be dear to Worcester county, and its banners with eager interest, even were its composition more changed than it will be, by the recruits that will be sent to fill the vacancies in its ranks.

 Communities, large and small, according to the prominence of the individual, watch the action, and are interested in the fate of each officer and private in every regiment now in the field.  But the country at large unable to comprehend so large a number of individuals in its watchful interest, follows the motions of regiments, brigades and divisions.  Thus it is that while each individual officer or private may win for himself an enduring name with the public at large, and if he conduct himself well will inevitably do so with the community where he is known; still the united valor of any body of men under a regimental organization, goes to create or build up the name of that regiment.  The individual act of courage tells not only for the man but for the regiment.

Of the interest which attaches to the hero; of the name which any man has made for himself; he cannot be deprived.  But it is equally true that the fame of the regiment once established, and which perhaps has assisted in creating, is entirely beyond his control.  This he shares while he remains in the regiment and when he ceases to be a member bequeaths to his successor.  It is the legacy of the raw recruit, and is equally his property with the man who helped to make it.

 It is this desire to share the honorable fame of a regiment whose name is honored by associations with deeds of valor that cause recruiting for such a regiment ordinarily to be a much easier task than in the case of a new regiment.  And so natural does it seem that such influence should work upon the mind of the recruit that this apparent reluctance to enlist in the fifteenth seems strange and unaccountable.

 The confidence in their leaders which causes men to follow them, implicitly relying upon their courage, coolness, and capacity, is only to be fully experienced in a regiment which has been tried in the shock of battle.  It is not to be expected that men should, nor will it be found that men will, rely with the same confidence upon an excellent officer before his trial in this way, as after.  The character of a regiment is in a great measure dependent upon this feeling of reliance in the leaders, and when that feeling exists in a regiment it should be a great incentive for enlisting.

 Certainly the fifteenth stands pre-eminent on that score.  Could we but have the brave boys of the fifteenth in our midst for a short time, the moral effect of their testimony as to the conduct of their officers at Ballís Bluff would fill their regiment in a few days.  Their confidence and pride in those officers would lead men intending to enlist, to trust their lives in such hands rather than in the hands of men as yet untried.

 It is sometime said that men enlisting now will be cast adrift when there shall be an exchange of prisoners; that their status is not permanent, and that for this reason some are unwilling to join this regiment.  Now there can be little foundation for such fears.  The number called for now would not increase the numbers enlisted in the regiment to such an extent, above the regimental organization, even if the poor fellows now held as prisoners should be returned but that provision could and would be made for retaining the excess.  There are other vacancies than those caused by the absence of the prisoners, and there can be no doubt but that every man who enlists now in the fifteenth, enlists for the war in that regiment.

 Let not then, those who are disposed to enlist, hold back from enlisting in this regiment!  Fill up the gallent fifteenth to its maximum number!  Hasten to avenge the losses at ballís bluff, under the intrepid Devens!

 

15th Massachusetts VI