Anyone who has spent time in the military can tell you
that there are some recruits that just don't belong there.
After the first couple of days, even those recruits might
be prepared to admit that they made a mistake. The army
feels duty bound, however, to make a soldier out of every
recruit. This seems to have been true in the Civil War,
as well as today. Being able to eliminate the men who may
endanger the rest of the unit, or who cannot pull their own
weight, was a skill very new to most volunteer officers.
Arnold Sutermeister was a 31 year old drawing school
instructor. "Sutermeister's Battery" was the product of
some very persuasive Fort Wayne, Indiana city fathers.
Sutermeister and John Otto, a former Prussian artillery
man, set about recruiting the best men they could find in
the Fort Wayne area. Unfortunately, some of their new
recruits proved to be unable or unwilling to adapt to
One roster of the unit I found listed a number of men
as having been "discharged for disability of good for
nothingness." Not the wording of an "official" discharge,
records at the National Archives revealed that Captain
Sutermeister had found a sympathetic surgeon to help
him fabricate discharges, eliminating problem soldiers
and making the battery more efficient.
Sutermeister's notations on one of these discharges was
that, "he is nothing but an incumberance to the company..."
Another noted that the soldier "was never fit for service &
ought not have been received in the army because he is
insolent and indifferent." While the ailments that the
surgeon filled in may have been valid, I found it fitting that one
man who was discharged, was discharged with the ailment
"coccylgia," which is defined in Dorland's Medical Dictionary
as a pain in the butt region. This seems to have clearly
reflected Sutermeister's opinion of the man quite well.