Saturday, August 27, 2011

"It looks like a grand circus".

Monday, August 27, 1861

Well, for better or for worse, I have arrived. This place is called Camp Johnson at some other place called Lightwood Knot Springs, somewhat north of Columbia on the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad.

Before leaving Beaufort, there were some affairs that needed to be settled. I leased my place to Reverend Walker, rector of St. Helena's Episcopal on nothing more than a handshake. He is an honorable man and I must face what is in front of me without having to worry about what is behind. What I owed to anyone has been paid and what little that was left over I put in my pocket. It is a small pocket.

I spent my last day preparing for this journey. I returned to Fyler's store for provisions and some  luxuries such as a pocket mirror and a few candles. I need not have bothered about provisions as there was a soiree that night in the ballroom of the old Verdier House for those of us who were going to Columbia. Not only was there dancing, music, food and drink, the latter of which I did not partake, each of us who were leaving was presented a package from the lady's Soldier's Relief Society.

The contents of each package varied depending on who assembled it. Unbeknowst to any of us, the ladies had selected by lot a name of a departing fellow and with loving and tender hands, purchased or made the contents of the package. All contained food. There were pies, cakes, biscuits, candies, jellies, relishes and other necessities which every soldier carries into battle, of course. Some packages contained more practical victuals such as salt pork, hardtack biscuits, beans, rice, dried fruit and the like.

There were also items of clothing in each package. Some received a shirt and some even two. There were some drawers and it was obvious which of the young ladies made them as there was much blushing. No one blushed at mine so I suspect they were not made by a young lady. There were also two pair of fine stockings in my package. Remembering my time in Mexico, I know they will be valued. Inside each package was a small flask of spirits with a note advising that the contents should only be consumed when necessity dictated.

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, I went to the docks to wait for the steamer. Others were there for the same purpose. A band was playing martial airs to send us off but I doubt few paid any mind. The attentions of family and friends who were soon to be parted robbed the band of their due. 

Although there were smiles, hugs and kisses enough to satisfy all of South Carolina, I cannot help but think that for some folks who remain, their last memory of their loved one will be one of him waving from a departing boat. The tears put shame to the rainstorm that began.

As the band played on, the young Southrons and one old one boarded the steamer Edisto for the journey to Charleston.  En route, we joked and told stories filled with grand bravado of how we few, by ourselves, would rout the Yankee army and capture Washington. If wars could be one by braggidocio, we are already victorious. Many of us attacked the victuals that were left over from yesterday. They should have done so only sparingly. Who knows where our next meal would come from.  One could trace our route by the empty flasks.

Upon arrival in Charleston, we went ashore in varying states of equilibrium and made our way to the terminal of the South Carolina Railroad. There was such a sight. Our flags were everywhere as were soldiers in every color of uniform, including blue. One of our party commented that the war must already be over since the Yankees were here. One could hear music from every location as well as cannon fire which we were told was merely practice. The mood was festive and the air smelled of confidence.

We boarded some fine-appointed passenger cars and headed for Columbia. At Orangeburg, we stopped to take on wood. While there, I had a chance to talk with a few of the slaves who were loading the tender. They were owned by the railroad, some for more than a decade.

Once in Columbia, we left the train and were met by a lieutenant, a sargeant and three privates, all of whom looked fresh off of the farm. They were to escort us a ways to the terminal of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad where we boarded another train for the trip to Lightwood Knot Springs, our new home for the forseeable future. When we arrived and took in the spectacle that greeted our eyes, I overhead one of our party exclaim, "It looks like a grand circus". We shall see.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"I will go to Columbia".

August 21, 1861

There are not so many young men to be seen. Our President has issued a call for additional volunteers to defend our new nation. Quotas for the states have been assigned. There are several new regiments being formed up at Columbia. South Carolina started the swell for independence. She must do her part.

I stopped at the Post Office the other day and the Postmaster told me of a young lad who had been known to expell fire and brimstone whenever the subject of the conversation turned to Yankeedom. He talked a fine line but did little. The Postmaster said this wag came into his Post Office and was handed a package addressed to him. Being anxious at the prospect of discovering some treasure, he opened it right there. To his horror, he revealed a petticoat sent to him by some of the young ladys of Beaufort with a note that he should try it on as trousers were for men.

I do not expect to be the recipient of any such recommendation of change of my attire but it does raise a question? What is my part in this war?  We have been invaded by a foreign power that seeks to lay waste to our cities, render fallow our fields and slay our people. They mean to strip us naked of our liberties and condem us to perish in the Hell of their version  of slavery.

So far, the war has not visited us here. It has visited us there. It had little affected me. I still dine on the foods of my choice and spend my time enjoying the fruits of my labors as I see fit. I have no sense of sacrifice for the higher good, the common good or any good other than for self. While others have, of their own decision, left their hearths, homes and  loved ones to answer the call to arms to defend us, I and others remain secure in our indulgences and get fat. This is not right. The quality of our freedom is determined by the quantity of our participation.

They say that McDowell is out. A George McClellan is in as the new Yankee army general. Of what stuff is he made? We will have cause to find out. New forces are right now being assembled to attack us and McClellan will lead them. Ever since the capital of the Confederacy was moved from Montgomery to Richmond, it has been the object of their attention. Even if he leads a host of 100,000 against us, we shall whip him as we did that other fellow.

But who shall do the whipping? They outnumber us many times over. All must do their part or all will be lost. Every man and every musket is needed.  I cannot, with a clear conscience, sit home and reap the benefits of freedon while others make the supreme sacrifice on my behalf. I will go to Columbia.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"... I bought a diary".

August 17, 1861

It was not supposed to happen. Our leaders said that it would not happen. There would be no war. The Yankees would not fight. They would see the futility of keeping the South in the old Union and would let us go in peace. If there was a war, the fire-eaters said, one big battle would end with a victory for Southern arms. The Yankees would go home with their tails between their legs, lick their wounds and regret ever having invaded our country. One such confident wag said he would wipe up all the blood that would be shed with his pocket handkerchief.

The battle did come, at Manassas, in the Old Dominion State. Our army, under Generals Johnston and Beauregard, the latter the hero of Fort Sumter, whipped McDowell and his hordes. They ran all the way back to Washington. The papers call it, "The Great Skedaddle".  I regret that I was not there to witness the sight.  Many a brave lad surrendered his life on the field of honor in the cause of liberty. One of our Palmetto State generals, Bee, was killed while ordering his troops to rally behind the Virginians.

But though we have been proved victorious, there is still War. We did not follow them to their capital and hoist our flag up their pole. The war would have ended that day but we did not advance to our advantage.The Yankees are now licking their wounds and are preparing to have at us again. It is only a matter of time before they fling themselves across the Potomac again to burn, loot and pillage. We shall have to whip them again and again and again. That fool will need a million handkerchiefs and more.

Given my advanced years, I doubt that I could ever make a positive contribution to the war effort. I have already served in the Mexican War, with Zachary Taylor. Our regiment of Virginians arrived too late to see the elephant but it was a grand adventure none the less. After our state declared itself free of Yankee chains, and the militia was called out, I went to Fort Moultrie in Charleston and witnessed the firing on the Yankee ship, Star of the West in January. I did not fire my musket even once. Then in April, I and my fellow militia witnessed the grand bombardment of Fort Sumter. I fired my musket only twice, and not in anger but in joy when our flag flew over the former Yankee thorn in our side.

I am not needed in this war. It is for young boys who will be neither young nor boys much longer. War will do that. Still, I want to keep a record of these events during this struggle for independence so that in my later years I can recall with some accurracy how we accomplished this. It will be a fantastic story to be told for generations. The battles will be fought and re-fought long after we are gone.

I had to go to the Post Office and Fyler's store was just next door. In addition to the beans and nails, I bought a diary. This is the first entry.