Some laughed when they showed up.  Some thought it was a joke.  And during the Civil War many regular Union troops thought they’d be a hinderance more than a help.
They were the soldiers of the 37th Infantry of the United States Army.    They were formed during the Civil War, mainly as a recruiting tool.  The thinking was if these men could perform in combat and general army duties, others would join.  The 37th did better than that. 

 Of the original 914 men recruited, only three were killed in combat.  145 died of disease and a number of others were discharged because of wounds or physical disabilities.  But they only lost three to combat. 

During the war the 37th did their job every day right along with the regular troops.  They marched in the mud and slept in the rain like other soldiers.  Some were assigned as prison guards or worked in ammunition arsenals or ran the railroads shuttling troops to the front.  And often they were attacked by confederate troops. 

But they performed as they were expected to – just like any other soldier.   And in the end, the recruiting program did work.  By the end of the war, more than 1,300 of their sons and grandsons had also enlisted, and their reputation brought in thousands more. 

 Many who had heard of the 37th said, “If they can do it, so can I.”    And it proved that these men could work, fight and perform as real soldiers.  And up until that time, many had their doubts.   The 37th even had a nickname – they were known as the Greybeards, because they were all senior citizens.  The majority of them were in their 60’s, but many were in their 80s.  Even their commander, Colonel George Washington Kincaid was 72.  The Greybeards – one of the most inspiring and effective units during the Civil War.

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