18th-19th century officers who were "one of the lads"?

May 2019
82
Earth
#1
Given the social/class barriers that were sometimes present between military officers and men between the 18th-19th centuries (particularly in forces where men purchased a commission or came from an aristocratic background), I'd like to hear any available accounts of officers from this time-range who were known for maintaining a high degree of familiarity with their men (e.g. eating together rather than in the officers mess, engaging in leisure activities with the enlisted men, establishing informal friendships with them, etc.)

Officers like this have existed in other eras of military history (particularly junior officers, for obvious reasons). I'm not looking to get into a debate over whether this is a good leadership style or not, I'd just like to hear examples of 18th-19th century officers who went beyond the normal rank-to-rank interactions to the extent that they became accepted as "one of the lads" among their enlisted men.
 
Feb 2016
4,358
Japan
#2
Most officers got to know their men.

Few would have tried to be “one of the lads” as that would have diminished their standing amongst the rank and file.
Soldiers expected their officers to be gentlemen.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,081
Dispargum
#3
If that sort of thing did happen it was more likely to have occurred in a militia unit rather than in the regular army. At least in the US, some militia units, what later came to be called the National Guard, were almost like social clubs with some applicants being black balled by the men already in the unit. I've heard of a few stories over the years where a civilian boss was a private in the militia while his employee was a lieutenant. On drill weekends they reversed roles.
 
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May 2019
82
Earth
#4
Most officers got to know their men.

Few would have tried to be “one of the lads” as that would have diminished their standing amongst the rank and file.
Soldiers expected their officers to be gentlemen.
I'd suspect if they were conscripts or press-gang victims they wouldn't care much what their officers were like, as long as they didn't make their lives miserable...

If that sort of thing did happen it was more likely to have occurred in a militia unit rather than in the regular army. At least in the US, some militia units, what later came to be called the National Guard, were almost like social clubs with some applicants being black balled by the men already in the unit. I've heard of a few stories over the years where a civilian boss was a private in the militia while his employee was a lieutenant. On drill weekends they reversed roles.
Good point, I'm definitely not excluding militias and irregulars from my question.
 
Feb 2016
4,358
Japan
#5
Well no. Soldiers, then at least, resented officers from the same background as them. Saw them as equals therefore having no place to order them about.

Of course most men wanted an officer who knew what he was doing, was firm but fair and cool under fire.
 
May 2019
82
Earth
#6
Well no. Soldiers, then at least, resented officers from the same background as them. Saw them as equals therefore having no place to order them about.
Interesting, what sources did you get that info from? Any accounts of enlisted men voicing resentment because an officer was too familiar with them?
 
Sep 2012
1,043
Tarkington, Texas
#7
Patrick Cleburn "retired" from the British Army and moved to America. When the Civil War started the men made him Captain of his Militia Company. He was soon commander of the Regiment. He was a Major General and Division Commander when he fell at Franklin.

Pruitt
 
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May 2019
82
Earth
#8
Patrick Cleburn "retired" from the British Army and moved to America. When the Civil War started the men made him Captain of his Militia Company. He was soon commander of the Regiment. He was a Major General and Division Commander when he fell at Franklin.

Pruitt
Interesting, was it common practice in the ACW for militias to elect/nominate their officers from among the group like that? From Chlodio's post above, it seems the relationships between officers and men in these groups were notably closer than in the regulars, and ranks could be interchangeable...
 
Sep 2012
1,043
Tarkington, Texas
#9
In the beginning, American Militia companies routinely elected their officers. Later on the Governors of the state often appointed them. See "Glory" to see how two Lieutenants went from Lieutenants to Regimental ranks (Shaw was given Colonel). When the Civil War started, not all the Militia Companies volunteered. The Louisiana Militia raised 12,000 men in Companies loosely based on the local Militia Company that were sent to the Army of Northern Virginia and Army of Tennessee. Louisiana had a number of Militia Companies in New Orleans with Spanish names and represented a number of ethnic groups. My favorite was the Slavonian Rifles.

Pruitt
 
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