Benteen's Animosity Jul 3, 2012 21:41:25 GMT -5
Post by nate on Jul 3, 2012 21:41:25 GMT -5
Was illiteracy so high in the British army that a kid was the only one that could write out reports in the company?!
The U.S. Army was not in this position.
Clair, literacy rates in the victorian army were poor but seem to somewhat improve during the period. This passage from "The Late Victorian Army" by Edwin Spiers sums it up pretty well I think
"Complementing the proliferation of these amusements was the extension of army education. Even in the pre - Crimean army, regimental libraries had been precieved as as an alternative haven to the barrack canteen. By 1876 there were 150 libraries in the United Kingdom and the colonies, containing nearly 230,000 volumes, but their appeal perforce was limited to those who were literate and who were prepared to eschew the dissipated habits of many of their barrack room comrades. Literate soldiers comprised a relatively small fraction of the rank and file, despite the startling improvements in army literacy recorded in the annual returns. By 1889, 1.9 percent of the other ranks were described as illiterate and 85.4 percent were rated as possesing a "superior education". However, these findings contrasted sharply with those of the Director - General of Military Education. In 1888, he recorded that over 60 percent of the ranks had failed to achieve even the lowest army education certificate (the fourth class, involving simple reading and a few sums at a level that might be attained by and eight - year old child). The annual returns were reclassified in the 1890's to confirm that throughout the decade over 60 percent of the ranks had failed to obtain any certificate. In other words, thirty years after the passage of Foster's Education Act (1870) and the 1872 Scottish Education Act, and after nearly two decades in which school attendance was compulsary for new recruits (1871 - 1888), the ranks still contained 60 percent who were either illiterate or barley literate. Even the standards attained by the remainder were "elementary at best", in spite of the inducement from 1889 onwards that the possesion of a first and second - class certificate of education was among the requirements for promotion to sergeant and corporal respectively" Spiers The Late Victorian Army pages 144 - 145
Now literacy in the American army I still need to do more digging on. Do you or anyone else have any stats or reminisances about that? Its interesting that 17 men on the "McCurry Petition" when they signed for their pay used an x which would point to at least some of the men being illiterate. It's an interesting topic.