A National Weather Service Publication In Support of The Celebration of American Weather Services
...Past, Present and Future
Personal View of Glynn Gardner
In looking back over the years that have elapsed since the old Signal Service days, it is a hard matter to say what experience has been the most profitable; I do believe, though, that the training gotten at old Fort Myer, though most distasteful at the time, wrought to the good of the men concerned.
In July, 1885, the famous, because last, class of "rookies" started the routine of training for six to eight months at the old Fort. My! My! How dissatisfied were the boys at first, many of whom tried for discharges, but to no avail. Drill, drill, drill; study; study, study, was the order for a long, long eight months. This history making calss was the last regular one at the Fort.
One day, when the class was being drilled by Lt. Frank Greene, it balled one of his orders so badly, that little Frank Greene went all to the bad in his language and cursed the men to his heart's content, not individually, but collectively. After the company was dismissed, the boys started a language-fest all their own about Greene's cursing, and one of the boys drew up a letter of protest to be sent to the Secretary of War. They were afraid that, if the letter went through regular military channels, it would never leave the Fort; hence, it was concluded to send a copy direct to the Chief Signal Officer (General W. B. Hazen); and, being afraid that he too might pigeon-hole the protest, a third copy was sent direct to the Secretary of War (Robert Lincoln). A court martial of the entire class was a result.
Those were expectant days when the court martial was in process in the old Fort. The boys were so worked up over it, that they induced a prominent Washington attorney (Henry Wise Garnett) to take hold and fight their cause. One of the boys also got in touch with Ben Butterworth, representative in Congress from Ohio, to take an interest in the court. Butterworth was up to the Fort every day the court was in session, attended its sessions, and made himself heard so often that finally the president of the court ordered him not to again address the court, anything he had to say was to be in writing.
The findings of the court were against the boys, of course; but the penalties were minor - loss of a month's salary in some cases, reprimands in others. Ben Butterworth became so stirred up over the whole case that he raised the question in Congress. The next class sent up was intended to remain for three years and to attend more to the strictly military phase of the training; but Congress investigated the whole Signal Service, concluded to turn Ft. Myer over to the regular army and to make a civilian body of the Signal Service; at least, the meteorological portion of it. Our class was kept several months after the final examinations, and we thought that Gen. Hazen did it as an additional punishment for the boys' insubordination.