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The “Sky Pilot” and the “Dutch” Corporal--The Mule that Sounded the Charge--“Bull’s-Eye” Kelley and the Fire-Bug.

War, with all its horrors, laconically described by General Sherman as hell, is not without its comedy. The marching through rain and mud; camping in marshes; digging in trenches, using the bayonet for a pick and the meat-ration can for a shovel; wading rivers by day and sleeping exposed to the elements by night, are all sandwiched with numerous mirthful incidents. Soldiers, above all people, have an eye for the ridiculous, and are ever ready to make merry and laugh over the most trivial matter. Even the horrors of battle are unable to quench the spark of gaiety ever present in the make-up of a “Yankee Doodle” soldier.

There are even times when comrades are lying about dead and dying, and the missives of death yet speeding by, searching for new victims, or to penetrate the quivering form of the already wounded, that something occurs to bring forth peals of laughter.


During the mobilization of the Army at Tampa, Fla., at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, an orthodox minister enlisted as a private in one of the infantry regiments. On the 6th of June came orders to break camp and prepare to go aboard transports for the invasion of Cuba.

The railroad facilities from Tampa to Port Tampa, where the transports were waiting, were not equal to the emergency. Traffic became more or less clogged, and it was early the next morning when the regiment to which the preacher belonged was entrained. During the early part of the night the men were gathered in groups, some playing “shuffle the brogan,” others busy at “nosey poker,” while the greater part of them were smoking their pipes and telling yarns, or stretching their weary limbs on rolls of canvas, or on the bare ground asleep.

The orthodox minister appeared worried. He was walking to and fro in an aimless manner like a headless chicken. After having paced backward and forward past a pile of mess-chests several times, each time sizing it up, he suddenly began to mount it, planted himself on the very pinnacle, and with a fog-horn voice began a patriotic harangue.

Long, hair-raising, and Spanish-scalping sentences rolled from his lips like crude petroleum from a five-inch pipe. Each inflammatory oratorical flight was dramatically climaxed with the words, “For it is sweet to die for one’s country.”

The sleeping ones restlessly turned over, rubbed their eyes, and opened their ears to this wonderful address. The entire regiment, officers included, soon became his audience, and all were inspired with the oft-repeated words, “For it is sweet to die for one’s country.”

This regiment was one of the first to land in Cuba, and took a prominent part in the attack on El Caney. Its position during this fight, for many hours, was within a few hundred paces of the famous “stone block-house,” in a sunken road, and was suffering heavily.

Along about two o’clock in the afternoon matters began to look blue even a general officer who had fought in many hard battles of the Civil War, and spent the best years of his life combating the Indians on the frontier, was overheard to mutter to his adjutant that he was “afraid we’ve bitten off more’n we can chew.”

There was not a cheerful face to be seen. Men with grinding teeth were soberly looking Death in the face. Sir Orthodox was burrowing his face into Mother Earth in a wild effort to shield himself from Mauser bullets. A German corporal was doing the same thing about fifty feet further down the road.

As the corporal, better known as “Dutch,” was burrowing his face in the mud, an idea struck him, and, like all Teutons, he must make it known. He raised his head and looked up and down the line of prostrate soldiers till his eye fell on the flattened figure of the minister. In a voice that could be heard the full length of the regiment, he bleated out: “Say, dere, Sky Pilots, id aind so schveet to died for vonce countries, aind id?”

The effect was magical. Amid this scene of carnage and death a wild yell of merriment went up that brought courage to many weakening hearts, and Caney had fallen before the men had ceased to laugh at the joke on the preacher.


He was a Colonel with enough dignity to rule the universe, but he knew no more about music than a pig does of navigation. With his regiment he was slipping up on a Filipino town at night. It was purely a clandestine movement orders were given in whispered tones by tiptoeing orderlies. The men were holding their bayonet scabbards against their legs to obviate screeching and rattling, and every effort was made to minimize the sounds of a marching body of men.

The Colonel with the battalion on the right had arrived within charging distance of the insurgent trenches. It was the pre-arranged plan for all the companies to arrive on this line before the general advance would be made. When all were ready, the charge would be sounded by the Colonel’s bugler.

The battalion with the Colonel was all ready for the bloody charge. Not knowing if the companies of the other battalions had arrived, the impatient commander sent his adjutant, mounted on a native charger, and his bugler, mounted on a Missouri mule, down the line to investigate.

When all was in readiness, the adjutant was to have the bugler sound the charge, when the whole khaki-clad line, like a thousand demons, would set up that awful, “gu gu” terrorizing “Yankee yell,” and wade into the unwary Tagalos with cold steel.

The adjutant and his bugler found that the companies on the left were yet some distance to the rear. The former, while waiting for the companies to come up, dismounted to tighten his saddle-girth, while the latter busied himself looking for some signs of life in the enemy’s trenches not two hundred yards ahead. His mule dropped his head in a dozing attitude. He suddenly appeared inspired, raised his head high in the air, looking toward the insurgent lines. Then, with a grunt, as if of satisfaction, elevated his chin, began working his huge ears backward and forward in a pumping motion, and set up a long-drawn “A-w-e ye! a-w-e ye! a-w-e ye! a-w-e ye!” in threatening tones, which sounded through the midnight air for miles around.

The faithful animal had not finished his challenge when the deep voice of the Colonel rang out completely drowning it, giving commands for the charge. He flashed his saber, and gallantly led the only battalion on the line into the midst of thousands of dusky soldiers he had heard the mule sound the charge.

It was a brilliant victory. The town fell with but a single American casualty that casualty left the bugler without a mount.


Where is there a soldier whose name is dry on the muster-rolls who has not heard of “Bull’s-Eye” Kelley? Kelley gained his enviable name of “Bull’s-Eye” by having spent twenty-two successive seasons on the target-range without ever making a “bull’s-eye.” As a reward for long and honest service not for marksmanship he was warranted a sergeant, and went with his regiment to the Philippines.

While the regiment was doing garrison duty at one of the interior towns in Luzon, it was constantly harassed by the little rebels. One dark night in June they made a determined effort to drive the Americans out. The regiment had run short of officers, so this night Kelley was in command of his company. He was a strict disciplinarian so much so that when out of his hearing the privates referred to him as the “Duke of Ireland.”

The night of this attack his orders were to keep his men lying flat on the ground and perfectly quiet. There was to be no talking, whispering, coughing, or smoking; or, as Kelley himself expressed it, “no nothin’” would be allowed.

All sorts of insects, including lightning-bugs as big as incandescent lights, were singing and flying about, causing the men to put their hands and faces through a most unique series of gymnastics.

The rebel fire was becoming alarmingly effective. Although they knew nothing of the location of Kelley’s company, yet stray bullets coming that way had already hit two of his men, instantly killing one of them. He suspected that something was betraying his position. Looking down the line, he was horrified to discover what was unmistakably a man smoking. Flushed with anger, he shouted louder than his instructions would have permitted, “Hie there, me man! put thet cigaroot out,” but the light remained undisturbed. “I say there, ye insultin’ divil of a rekroot, put out thet cigaroot,” stormed the enraged Kelley.

In reply came the low, mourner’s-bench, meek voice of a South Carolina recruit: “It hain’t a cigaroot, Sergeant; it’s a lightnin’-bug as big as a search-light on ‘Pin-Head’ Hebb’s mustache.”

The undaunted Kelley was not to be beaten thus, but sternly commanded: “I don’t give a dom what ’tis, put it out.”