Thursday, September 22, 2011

"It is shameful"

Sunday, September 22, 1861

Once again, I pen a few humble notes in this diary in the hopes that they may make for interesting reading in later years. I will be much dissappointed as there is so little of note that is interesting. We drill, and sleep, and drill, and eat, and drill and then we drill again. There is much here to occupy the body and so little to occupy the mind. Much of our time to ourselves is spent getting into mischief. I have seen several here confined to the guardhouse for childish pranks. Drunkeness is so common as to inspire little comment.

The weather does not like us. The rain soaks into everything and everyone. Quite a number of us are afflicted with afflictions of the lungs such as catarrah. There have been many instances of measles. Our "hospital" is filled with such cases in addition to pneumonia, camp fever, the flux, and the itch. Corporal Flynn has measles so we are enjoying the quiet. I have had measles and do not think it likely that I should get them again. Some are said to have chicken pox which I have not had so I may see the doctor yet.

Military regulations say that every new recruit will be given an examination by a surgeon. Some of us have been here awhile and are still waiting for their examination. I have finally had mine and have witnessed others and must report on how it is done in this army. A Doctor Turnipseed attended to myself and others. He asked a number of questions as a private registered the answers. I was asked if I was a drunkard. I answered that I was not. He asked if I was subject to the "fits". I answered that I was not. It was more of a gentrleman's agreement than a medical examination.

I have seen more than a few here how are unfit to be called a soldier. The medical officers are reluctant to send anyone home lest they miss doing battle with the Yankees. While morale is high in some respects, it is waning in others. So many of us still do not have arms or accourtrements. Some of the boys who are "armed" with sticks beat each other with them just out of boredom or frustration. I would not doubt that some have taken "French leave" and have returned home. I must keep a keen eye on my own musket lest it be appropriated under cover of darkness.

Our victuals range from poor to excellent. We get plenty of the standard Army ration of hardtack and salt pork with occassional issues of rice and beans. Some of the meat has gone bad. Some of the hardtack has gotton moldy and some have weevels. The city boys turn up their noses at the weevely crackers. I have seen a few farmboys consume the crackers and all, paying no mind to the non-regulation meat issue.

We are often visited by delegations of well-meaning citizens of some sort of soldier's aid society who enter camp with or without persission to see how their sons and husbands are faring. They often bring packages of food. As I am from the coast and my pards are from the upcountry, I am an outsider of sorts but they share their largesse with me. The citizens bring ample amounts of fried chicken. They also bring such necessary military victuals as tomato catsup, rhubarb pies, snicker doodles and lemon drops. We offer to share our humble fare with them. All politely decline. The mails also bring packages of food and small clothing. There are sometimes notes inside praising our efforts and wishing us well. Some of us are lucky enough to receive a package at random with a request of the recipient to write the sender. Many of the packages contain spirits for medical purposes, I'm sure.

When the mail arrives with missives from home and loved ones, it is an occassion for great joy and there are so few other joys here. Many letters are written here. Many more are received. All the contents are shared so that everyone shares in everyone's happiness. Some have become fathers while being trained here. Some receive news that their sons or daughters are getting married. There has also been news of sadness. It is unavoidable that someone at home shall pass while we are away. Our time will come.

One of my squad, William Caston, has received not a single letter from home but has sent several. It is without excuse that someone who has volunteered to protect his fellow citizens should risk all while those he protects cannot risk some foolscap and a few minutes of their time. It is shameful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"There will be cursing".

Monday,September 9, 1861
I have been here for some few days. There are many others who have been here many weeks. All of us are here to be transformed from a rabble into a Rebel army. When we were disgorged from the train, we were escorted to a recruiting station. Folks with paper, books and pens took down our particulars as to body shape, hair color, complexion and the like. It was difficult for many of us to pay attention to the questions of the recruiting officers given the many distractions that surrounded us.

There was much yelling on the part of the drillmasters. Not all of their fulminations towards their recruits was fit for polite society but one must remember that this is no finishing school for girls. This is an army camp for soldiers.There will be cursing. Martial music from a band was sometimes drowned out by the whistles of steam locomotives delivering supplies and more men, fresh fish they are.

The recruiting officer commented about my age and then said that few were being turned away. All who came were looking to get into a scrap with the Yankees and no one wanted to dissappoint them. I mentioned that I had served in the Old Army in Mexico with "Rough and Ready" Taylor. For this, I was made a lance corporal on the spot and was given my own "squad" to train under the compassionate direction of a Corporal Joseph Flynn. Besides, I had my own musket and accroutrements.

My squad consists of only six recruits, all new to the profession of arms. There's William Beckham, William Caston, Thomas Duncan, Burrell Hancock, Philip Shehane and John White. We are not yet assigned to a company. With so very few of us here having any experience in creating an army from a bunch of plowboys, clerks, planters sons and the occassional gentleman, there is great confusion in camp. I'm not sure anyone knows what to do with us. I'm sure someone will figure this out and will tell us where to go.

With one lone exception, all my squad are from the up-country. I am the lone recruit from the coast. I am also the only one with a musket. For the present, it is not critical that my men be armed with anything. It is enough to get them to march in step, turn as one body and obey orders, especially the latter. I can give orders in a loud voice but it is really an art form. Corporal Flynn does not give orders. He vomits invective from his palate of many colors onto the blank canvasses of the recruits. He inspires respect. And fear.

My squad looks to me as the "Old Man" and they pepper me with many questions. All want to be good soldiers and are anxious to look good in my eyes while at the same time avoiding the eye of Corporal Flynn. They all want muskets and cartridge boxes in order to more look the part of seasoned veterans and not be mistaken for recruits. Military supplies are few and far between. They will be lucky to get a stick. It is not enough to look like a soldier; they must BE soldiers. Their lives and the life of our country depend on it.

For the moment, we must make do with what we have, trusting in our government to supply us with the means to ensure our liberty. We must drill and drill and drill. When it rains, the drill field gets muddy and having many hundreds of recruits tromping renders everything into a quagmire. All are dirty. Many fall in the mud. I have not seen soap issued since arriving. I brought a small piece with me and am very popular with the squad.

There are quite a number of officers here but I have spoken only with those of the recruiting service. Some of the officers look like fops their uniforms are so gaudy and very impractical. Active campaigning will take care of that. There is almost every color of the rainbow represented by the mix of uniforms here. There is blue, red, green, brown and even some grey. In camp, the word uniform is just an abstract concept. The Emperor Napoleon would have been proud.

The night is growing long and my candle is growing short. Tomorrow is coming and it could be exciting