Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Some of us sharpened our bayonets"

Tuesday, October, 1861

There has been much that has happened of late.  The last time that I was making an entry, it was cut short by the sound of many drums all over the camp beating out the long roll. We all scrambled for our muskets and sticks and fell in on the company street. Corporal Flynn, sans brogans, was there to assault our ears with threats to our very existance.  None of us, including Flynn, knew what had happened to cause this ruckus.

Our captain addressed us in a hurried manner. We were ordered to strike the camp and prepare all baggage and equipment for transportation by train to Columbia. We were disappointed to hear him say that he had no clue why these orders were given, only that our movement was of great urgency. 

For some months, our camp had been a well-appointed small city. A great deal of personal baggage had been accumulated, much of it worthless in a military camp. Some of the recruits that arrived here brought one or more trunks of the "necessities" of army life. Visitors from Columbia and all over the upcountry brought items designed to provide some creature comforts for their boys. There were even a few servants in camp, attending to the needs of their masters.

There were not enough wagons to transport all of this to the depot. Trunks, picnic baskets, china dinnerware, cases of port and sherry, silver candlesticks and much more was abandoned as being unable to be transported. I stepped on a pasteboard box of a dozen white linen handkerchiefs. I picked up one and stuffed it into my pocket even though it was no longer white. 

It took quite some time but our column of men, horses, mules and wagons was finally assembled and marching on the road to the depot. Once there, everything had to be loaded onto the freight cars and that took up a great amount of time. I rode on an open flat car for the trip to Columbia. It was cold and I was thankful for my blanket. I think I saw someone fall off of the train. I hope I am wrong for the train did not stop. We didn't dare stop as the train behind us, having no idea of what was ahead of it, would collide with us.

The railroad must have been caught unawares and unprepared for such fast-moving events for our locomotive had only a small amount of wood on board and could not go very fast. Even so, we had to stop to obtain more wood. I was on the detail to assist the train crew in loading the tender. The railroad had some of their slaves there to load wood but we shoved them out of the way as we could load faster than they could. We were so afraid that the following train would impact us causing great destruction and loss of life. A detail was sent some distance to the rear of our train to watch for the next one.

Finally, were were done and the locomotive blew its whistle as a signal to the rear detail to hurry and board. I got back on board my flat car and picked splinters out of my hand with my pocket knife.

We speculated at great length as to what had happened to cause us to be ejected from our camp. No one, even our officers, knew anything certain. Were the Yankees in Charleston? We all knew from the northern papers that a fleet was being assembled for some purpose. Had it already sailed? Had it already landed its cargo of blue-clad oppression somewhere on our shores? Whatever the cause for our journey, all of us were eager to get in close with the enemy and slay them. We had been in camp so long that there had been much grumbling that the war would be over before we had a chance to show our mettle. All that is gone now. Some of us sharpened our bayonets. There was much boasting.

Amidst all the braggidocio, there were some few of us who said little or nothing. They sat by themselves or in twos and threes. They sewed buttons, ate a hardtack cracker, read from a New Testament. Some tried to write a letter but the movement of the train caused a mess of it. I tried to make another entry in this diary but soon gave up.

Is this how they gird themselves for the battle to come and perhaps eventual death? They say little and think much? Do they worry that they will not do their duty when the time comes and will be thought of as unworthy by the folks back home? I watched a boy who has never seen a razor reach into his haversack, pull out a full bottle of whickey and throw it off the train. Two others, whom I know to love a drop saw this and said nothing.

What is it that sustains men in times such as these? We are men.  This is what we must do. That is enough.

Once in Columbia, all that had leen loaded onto the trains had to be unloaded for the journey from the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad depot to the South Carolina Railroad depot which was, I suppose, two or so miles away where everything had to be loaded on rail cars again. Along the march route from one depot to the other, there were any number of waving flags, cheering people and playing bands.  Some young lady stepped into the ranks to pin some sort of momento, probably hand made by the young lady herself, on the breast o af  marching soldier. Other citizens passed packages to us. I received no such largesse but the fellow behind me was rewarded with a large cheese which he later shared.

It took quite some time to reload everything. Our sargeants and corporals were shouting at us the whole time to hurry lest the war be lost by our lack of haste. And still, we knew not what our final destination was. Everyone knew that in the direction were were going, this railroad ended in Charleston. Had this pillar of Southern graceful society been bombarded and taken by the enemy? It would make sense as the war began there. Even so, from Charleston, one could go north to Virginia or south to Georgia so we continued to speculate.

We stopped again for wood at Orangeburg and once more, shoved the railroads slaves away. I overheard a few say that this work wasn't  for white folks. Most did not care. They wanted to hurry to more quickly meet the Yankees and save Charleston from an unspeakable fate.

The last time that I traveled this route, I and my few fellow travellers from Beaufort rode in fine passenger cars well-appointed and well-served. This time, we were in a box car, being moved as one would move common freight. What cargo had occuppied this car prior to ourselves did not smell like roses. One had to be careful where one sat.

After some hours, our train pulled into Charleston. Once again, all freight, both human and not had to be unloaded. We wondered, would we go north or south? It was neither. We would stay in Charleston which was safe. There hadn't been  a whiff of gunpowder smoke here since the fall of Sumter.

Still, we are here for some reason. Something had happened to cause us to leave camp with such immediacy. Once we established camp, we were visited by citizens of Charleston. The brought greetings, the usual presents and news. We listened to them while wolfing down our new victuals. They  were able to state with certainty that a Yankee fleet had assembled in Maryland and had set sail southward some days ago, its destination as yet unknown but many feared it was Charleston.

Are we to defend Charleston? It that the purpose for our rapid move? So be it. Let them come and we shall slaughter them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Tuesday, October 15, 1861

It has been some time coming but finally, it has happened. After seemingly endless weeks spent training in a "unit" that had no parentage, I and my squad have been given to Company I of the 12th Infantry Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers. The regiment was mustered into Confederate service some time ago and we are just now being assigned to it, having been told by Corporal Flynn that we are now at least worthy of belonging to a regiment if not actually being real soldiers. Corporal Flynn has come with us and will continue to threaten our very existance but now we have parentage.

Once the transfer was made, I reverted to the status of a humble private. The lance corporal "rank" was strictly for training purposes. All the companies have names. Ours is the Lancaster Hornets, named for Lancaster District.

We came in too late to vote for our company officers. They were determined to be worthy of their ranks and responsibilities by those who were already in the company when the election was held. I do not regret having missed the campaigning by the prospective claimants to high position. As I am not from the upcountry as all the others are, the promises of future goodness based on past service at home would have been wasted. Their home and mine are different. For the duration of the war, however, our home is the army.

Electing our officers to serve over us is a very democratic process. Let us hope that we chose people who can perform and not just pontificate. There is already enough hot air here to propell a steamship across the Atlantic.

Our colonel is Dunovant, our chaplin is Dickson,  our captain is Vanlandingham. Our 1st sargeant is Wade. I do not know any of these people. Our corporal is Flynn. All know Flynn.

Some day our government will have the means to fully clothe and outfit the troops. One of the disadvantages of having an economy based on agriculture is that there is little of an industrial foundation to supply the means of war and self-defense.  Our national government has furnished so very little in the way of anything. South Carolina has done somewhat better to take care of her sons. I now have a new black strap for my cartridge box and no longer have to wear my white one that I brought from home. I gave it to another fellow who doesn't even have a cartridge box.

Those of us who are from the more established militia organizations have at least a martial appearance since they wear their uniforms from their home districts. The effects of weather and drill make them look less pretty and more like the rest of us who came here with nothing more than civilian clothing. Some of the latter looked like fops. When lined up for inspection, there is always two or three of us in tall hats as worn by gentlemen. Planters sons and others of the priveledged classes entered camp life with expensive liveries of garments useless to a soldier. All of them now look like us and we look like mud.

In lieu of a supply system that can sustain our needs, the Confederacy has fixed upon a commutation system. We supply whatever we can in the way of arms, accoutrements and clothing from our own resources. We are reimbursed from the national treasury for our efforts until such time that it can take care of us.

As some of us are nearly naked, the hope is that we will be supplied from the government more sooner than later. At present, the only source of clothing to replace that that becomes worn out are packages from home. Many of us owe a debt of gratitude to the Soldier's Relief Society in Beaufort. It's president, Mrs Morcock, and her officers, Mrs. Barnwell, Mrs. Fuller, Mrs. Wells and Miss Barnwell, have done a splendid job of sending us clothing, foodstuffs and small creature comforts. I received a shirt made by the hands of Miss Barnwell but it was much too small for me. I have given it to Philip Shehane. He is a good lad. In return he gave me a half-pound of bacon which of course I shared with the rest of the squad.

The advantage of being an agricultural society is that there will always be food. In this war, at least we will eat well.

The newspapers that come here and are read until they fall apart bring a mix of good and bad news, most of it bad. The Yankees  have been quite active in ship-building for a fleet landed Butler's force which seized Hatteras Inlet and our garrison there surrendered. One of Lincoln's objectives in this war is to close our ports to foreign trade and subject us to strangulation.

Paducah in Kentucky has fallen to Grant. Kentucky had declared neutrality but that was just a sham. One bit of good news is that Lexington, Missouri has been captured by Price, after a siege.

Drums. They are beating the long roll. Yankees?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"...shoot and kill"

Sunday, October 6, 1861

Once again, I feel compelled to make another entry in this diary. Why I should do this I know not as so very much remains the same. Perhaps I do this to give me something do do beyond the numbness of drill and the boredom of everything else. Corporal Flynn is out of the hospital so things are rarely quiet.

I am not the only one who feels the taxing burdens of boredom. There are those who seek relief in wholesome pursuits. Books, whether brought by the recruits or arrived by the mails, are circulated around until no longer readable. The Bible is the most read work. If one wanders from campfire to campfire, he will encounter at least a few discussions and debates concerning the New Testament. Works by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens are popular. Someone loaned me a book of poems by Emerson. I tried but could not fathom it and returned it.

At the other end are printed materials of ill-repute. The so-called penny dreadfuls have some following in camp particularily amongst the younger readers who are no so far removed from being children. There are novels of low order which appeal to those who are of low order themselves.

There is much gambling. The games of chance that are being practiced by the wiley upon their victims only increase the chances that the victims' pockets will be emptied. The chaplins rail against gambling but it is of little use.

Drink flows like water here. Drunkeness is often witnessed and often punished as being detrimental to good military disipline. Officers get drunk, too, but their punishments are less severe as is always the case.

Some of the officers take their responsibilites with much seriousness. Those who care can be seen going over worm copies of the various training manuals such as Hardees', Caseys' and Gillums'. They are so young to have such weights placed upon them. None have any experience in leading men in battle. Some received their commissions because they are the sons of powerful planters as if that fact in itself certainly implies superior knowledge. Obtaining the necessary experience will come but with a price payed in the blood of those they command.

Some officers seek out those with prior military service and pummel them with questions. Some of here have seen active service against the Indians and share their knowledge when asked or even when not. I am doubtful that any time spent fighting Indians will be of any use in fighting Yankees, savages though they both be.  Two lieutenants, Campbell and Rallings, knew of my prior service under old "Rough and Ready" Taylor in Mexico in the Virginia Regiment. Both hung on my every word until I said that the regiment arrived so late in the war that it and myself saw no action. They then thanked me and left the campfire.

Some arms have arrived here and have been issued along with some very few accroutrements. The muskets are all of an old pattern. Some were once flintlocks converted to percussion. I have seen none of the new American Springfields or the English Enfields that are rumored to be forthcoming. I still have my own Springfield but it is of the model of 1842. It will still shoot and kill. I still have my militia accourtrements which are mostly white. They may look good on the drill field or in the local tavern after a militia muster but I am growing more uncomfortable wearing something that may present me as a good target for some Yankee sharpshooter. I must make friends with the quartermaster.

When will we fight the Yankees?