It was a time of reckoning at Fort Seward in late June and early July of 1874.
The soldiers were about to get a job review. If your performance was not up to standards, you could be laid off from the army.
Headquarters at the Department of Dakota, that would have been located at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, sent the commanding officer of Fort Seward a letter asking him to perform the duty.
The letter said, â€œI am directed by the Department Commander to instruct you to call upon each company commander in your command to report by name all men therein who are considered by him as â€œhabitually worthless.â€
Not just worthless once in awhile, but â€œhabitually worthless.â€
The letter continued to say that they should consider soldiers who â€œif discharged would add to, or at least not distract, from the efficiency of the company.â€
Iâ€™m guessing you had to be a pretty bad soldier if the company efficiency improved if you were sent on your way.
Unfortunately, most of us have worked with people like that at one job or another.
Iâ€™m not sure how many soldiers were booted from the army. The records are a little vague. Any of the soldiers discharged from the army in this manner would have been called â€œbobtailedâ€ veterans.
The discharge papers a veteran would have been given when they exited the army in the 1870s had a portion at the bottom where the commanding officer could comment on the soldierâ€™s character.
Officers that didnâ€™t have anything good to say about a soldier would clip off the bottom of the discharge form. If you had good character and were in the good graces of your commander, he filled out the full form.
If you werenâ€™t, the officer would clip off the bottom segment about character and give the soldier a short or bobtailed discharge. Sort of the dishonorable discharge of the 1870s.
Iâ€™m guessing being â€œhabitually worthless,â€ led to a â€œbobtailedâ€ discharge.
For those of you with an interest in history, and Iâ€™m guessing if you read this you have an interest in history, Iâ€™m speaking at the Lutz Mansion on July 3 as part of the Front Porch Chats.
I wonâ€™t give away the whole presentation, youâ€™ll have to attend to hear the whole story, but Iâ€™m going to layout a bit of a mystery and ask those that attend to reach their own conclusion.
But, I will tell you the question I will ask that day. Does the Lutz Mansion museum have an artifact of the War of 1812 in its possession?
You can be the judge after I tell the story on the front porch of the Lutz Mansion this Sunday.