Sometimes, also, the joke, if I may so call it, has been turned upon the perpetrators to their utter discomfort. I will cite an instance.
Quite often in camp two robust plebes are selected and ordered to report at a specified tent just after the battalion returns from supper. When they report each is provided with a pillow. They take their places in the middle of the company street, and at a given signal commence pounding each other. A crowd assembles from all parts of camp to witness the "pillow fight," as it is called. Sometimes, also, after fighting awhile, the combatants are permitted to rest, and another set continues the fight.
On one of these occasions, after fighting quite a while, a pillow bursted, and one of the antagonists was literally buried in feathers. At this a shout of laughter arose and the fun was complete. But alas for such pleasures! An officer in his tent, disturbed by the noise, came out to find its cause. He saw it at a glance, aided no doubt by vivid recollections of his own experience in his plebe camp. He called an orderly and sent for the cadet captain of the company. When he came he was ordered to send the plebes--he said new cadets--to their tents, and order them to remain there till permission was given to leave them. He then had every man, not a plebe, who had been present at the pillow fight turned out. When this was done he ordered them to pick up every feather within half an hour, and the captain to inspect at the end of that time and to see that the order was obeyed. Thus, therefore, the plebes got the better part of the joke.
It was rumored in camp one day that the superintendent and commandant were both absent from the post, and that the senior tactical officer was therefore acting superintendent. A plebe sentinel on Post No. 1, seeing him approaching camp, and not knowing under the circumstances how to act, or rather, perhaps, I should say, not knowing whether the report was true or not, called a corporal, and asked if he should salute this officer with "present arms." To this question that dignitary replied with righteous horror, "Salute him with present arms! No, sir! You stand at attention, and when he gets on your post shout, 'Hosannah to the supe!' This rather startled the plebe, who found himself more confused than ever. When it was about time for the sentinel to do something the corporal told him what to do, and returned to the guard tents. The officer was at the time the commanding officer of the camp.
While walking down Sixth Avenue, New York, with a young lady, on a beautiful Sabbath afternoon in the summer of 1875, I was paid a high compliment by an old colored soldier. He had lost one leg and had been otherwise maimed for life in the great struggle of 1861-65 for the preservation of the Union. As soon as he saw me approaching he moved to the outside of the pavement and assumed as well as possible the position of the soldier. When I was about six paces from him he brought his crutch to the position of "present arms," in a soldierly manner, in salute to me. I raised my cap as I passed, endeavoring to be as polite as possible, both in return for his salute and because of his age. He took the position of "carry arms," saying as he did so, "That's right! that's right! Makes me glad to see it."
We passed on, while he, too, resumed his course, ejaculating something about "good-breeding," etc., all of which we did not hear.
Upon inquiry I learned, as stated, that he had served in the Federal army. He had given his time and energy, even at the risk of his life, to his country. He had lost one limb, and been maimed otherwise for life. I considered the salute for that reason a greater honor.
During the summer of 1873 a number of cadets, who were on furlough, visited Mammoth Cave. While there they noticed on the wall, written in pencil, the name of an officer who was an instructor in Spanish at West Point. One of them took occasion to add to the inscription the following bit of information: