Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Damn them"

Sunday, November 17, 1861   Camp Lee, Pocotaligo

I have been neglectful in my entries. So much time has passed since the glorious battle and our ingloriuos retreat. We did not run but we might as well have. All of us were pretty well feeling ourselves whipped and fearful that the Yankee army would follow us to finish us all up. We need not have fretted. They took Hilton Head and pretty much have not strayed too far from it. I understand they have taken Beaufort.

We have seen some refugees but not many. Almost all of the loyal folks were gone before the forts fell. The displaced families are behind our lines, some far away in the upcountry. Every so often we see great columns of smoke in the distance and think that their General Sherman and his infernal Yankees must get some sort of criminal satisfaction by sacrificing peoples' homes to Lucifer. I do not care if they burn my house down so long as they are in it when it happens.

The day after the fall of the forts, a new general arrived to take command. Lee is his name and he came too late to save anything. Now that he is here, we are moles again, digging, digging and more digging. We are becoming more adept at drilling with the spade than with the musket. Some muskets were lost by our boys during the retreat but I carried mine out. To have done otherwise would have been dishonorable.

The digging is such that all of us ache mightily. Every morning, during Surgeon's Call, there is a line of soldiers, all complaining of being in agony and seeking a medical certuificate exempting them from duty. The surgeon has little to give them, including certificates.

Our rations are not so bad. There is very little in the way of delicacies sent by supporting families. I imagine they are having enough difficulty supporting their own selves. Here in camp in Pocotaligo, where Lee has his heaquarters, we are on the line of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad so supplies of some sort arrive everyday from one or both of those places. I am sure every train brings in a fresh supply of spades.

My new frock coat is not new any more. It looks more like a laborers coat and that' is exactly what we are, just a notch or two above slaves and there are a few of those working here, too. When we and they are bent over our spades, directing our heads and attentions downward to our similar tasks, no one can tell white from Negro unless they stand up.

I have not yet seen this new man, Lee and know nothing about him save that he is a Virginian. No one else here knows much about him either. General Drayton we know. He is a gentleman and a good South Carolinian.

On occasion, we here the sounds of battle in the distance and a few times, we fell in with our muskets prepared to be sent to wherever the Yamkees were threatening but nothing has come of it. The sounds are such that we can tell that the battle is just a small skirmish and is of little consequence.

The Yankee papers say that already there is music to commemmorate the Battle of Port Royal. They have wasted no time in composing their tunes of oppression. Damn them. We shall play our own tunes with our muskets.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

" I have seen the elephant and I hate him"

Tuesday, November 12, 1861

After the events of the past few days, I'm lucky to even know what day it is. Most of us are alive and I thank our Creator for perrmittt  allowing me to live one more day.

On the morning of Thursday last, our situation was quite favorable. Our big guns were mounted, our artillerymen were standing to their guns, the rest of us, the infantry and cavalry were ready to repulse a Yankee landing. Tatnall's mosquito fleet had engaged their ships and had driven them off. Our blood was up, our ammunition and mouths were dry, and we were eager to begin the fray.

All eyes were directed to the sea where the enemy ships were positioning themselves for the assault to come. We could hear our hearts pound over the noise of the waves breaking shore. And then, at about nine and one-half of the clock, all Hell opened up and let fly.

There was so much noise from the cannon fire that I didn't hear anything. At least, I do not recall hearing anything.  Their ships were in a circle and as they came within range on one fort, they leveled a broadside at it and then reloaded, I suppose as I was not on board, as they made the turn to back where they came from. Once in range of the other fort, another broadside was offered. This manerver manouver they repeated. Never were the eruptions of their guns interrupted or slackened. We in Fort Beauregard, responded first, followed by Fort Walker. 

Our artillery, under Captain Elliott responded valiently but the contest had already been deceided with the first shot. All of our guns that were facing away from the sea to defend against an attack from land were utterly useless as no such attack never matieralized. Of the guns facing the enemy, so few of them were of a size sufficient to do them any damage.

Both of our forts, being of log and earth construction, their being no local source of stone or brick, suffered little actual destyruction although both were mightily shaken up. They threw shot and shell at us for hours. Our responce diminished as one gun after another was dismounted or otherwise put out of action.

We in Company I, the Lancaster Hornets, and some of the other companies were some distance away from Beauregard and thus were not the direct recipients of this bombardment. Even so, enough hot iron was thrown our way to convince us that a close relationship with the earth was desirable. We Hornets stung nothing as a musket cannot hurt a ship. It was so frustrating to be shelled and not return fire. Their infantry did not come. The only thing the Yankees had to send us was death.

I have seen the elephant and I hate him.

The fire from Walker ceased and caused some consternation amongst our officers. We had no means to communicate with Walker or they with us. It was determined that Walker could defend itself no longer and was ready to fall. If Walker fell, Beauregard could not stand. The order was given to evacuate.

From this point untyil we reached Beaufort, my memory of what happened is cloudy. We left in a great hurry, abandoning much of our supplies. At some place, we boarded some ship or boat and steamed away as fast as our paddlewheels could go. Tatnalls mosquitos could not protect us and we feared that a Yankee ship would catch us and blast us into oblivion. It did not happen but I think there were some of us who would have prefered such a fate if it meant that this affair would be over.

Beaufort was deserted when we arrived at the docks on Friday morning. I saw no one save us and a occassional slave. As we left  Beauregard without sufficient provisions, orders were given to open the shops on Bay Street and gather what we could to sustain us. It pained me to break into Mr. Fyler's store but it was necessary. I will have crackers and cheese for some time. I tried to leave a note of explanation and apology for Mr. Fyler but there was no time to finish it. 

Then we marched until we reached Port Royal Ferry, some miles away from Beaufort. There we halted and threw ourselves on the ground to sleep. What had happened to us?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"...the whole damned Yankee navy".

Wednesday, November 6, 1861

There has been so much that has happened since my last entry. I am lucky to still have my hearing. While sitting quietly in the church penning the last lines of this diary, the church bells rang as if the Devil was coming. It was unexpected and liked to scare me into the next world. Within seconds,I think every church bell in Beaufort was ringing. In the midst of this din, I could hear steamboat whistles expelling their energy in unholy sounds. I ran out into the street, forgetting both my diary and the package Miss Barnwell had given to me. In just this short time, a crowd had formed and I had to fight my way back into the chruch to retrieve my posessions.

Everywhere there was great and nervous excitement. The Yankee navy was here.
I could discern few details of this event from frightened crowd. Apparently, I was not the only one who thought they would never come here and I take no comfort in not being the only one wrong.

Several times, I was nearly killed by speeding wagons and horses while trying to make my way back to the docks to board anything that would return me to Fort Beauregard or anywhere else so I might finally have at the Yankees. In my rush to the docks, I encountered many of the named families of Beaufort heading just as fast the other way. The Barnwells, Johnsons, Morcocks, Draytons, Haywards, Rhetts, Fripps and others all were fleeing away as I was fleeing to.

The General Clinch was at the docks, it's whistle blaring loudly. With so much steam going up the whistle, I wondered if there would be enough to propell us across the water. Indeed there was. The boat plowed through the water furiously, without care or consideration for freight or passengers. The boiler and paddle mechanism made so much noise that I feared we would blow up. The captain had posession of some newspapers that were not too old, including a few from the north. I read them, looking up every so often, expecting to see the whole damned Yankee navy around every shoal and inlet.

Fremont, the, "Pathfinder", is out, replaced by Hunter in Missouri. Apparently, Lincoln did not approve of Fremont's freeing of the slaves there. Scott is out as general-in-chief and that fellow MacClellan is in. Scott was our other victorious general in Mexico along with my own general, Taylor, who went on to beciome President. I do not recall seeing Scott, although given his nickname of, "Old Fuss and Feathers", had I seen him, I do not think I would have forgotton him. Jackson is our new commander in the Shenandoah. I think I recall reading about him being at Manassas.

As I left the Beaufort docks for the second time, I thought about an earlier time when a captured enemy ship was docked there. In May, the Lady Davis, which had been part of the South Carolina state navy but was purchased by the Confederacy, captured the Yankee ship A.B. Thompson as it left Savannah. The Thompson, now a prize, was brought to Beaufort where a prize court debated her fate. Now, it is November and will it be my fate never to see home again? 

We did see them. It was a mighty host of warships and transports, lying outside the range of our guns. Soon enough we will sink the lot. We have already had our first exchange of shot and shell. On Monday, some of their ships ventured a little too close for comfort for Tatnall, the commander of four little vessels called the, "Mosquito Fleet". Gallantly, he attacked a much superior force and drove them away. Yesterday, Tuesday, the Yankees tried it again but with a larger force. Tatnall fooled them by going up an inlet where the Yankees could not go and saved his mosquitos for future stinging of the Yankees.

I might as well be an artilleryman or a mole. We turn so much earth at Fort Beauregard that I feel like that small mammal but it is all for the good as we strengthen our defenses. When not burrowing into the earth, many of us train as artillerymen with the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery militia as reinforcements should the need arise. I know some of the big guns already. There are about nineteen guns at this fort. Some face the sea and others face away should the Yankees make a landing behind us. Our largest gun is a Columbiad of ten inch caliber. There are others that fire solid shot of twenty-four, thirty-two and forty-two pound size. One of the thirty-two pounders is to fire hot shot and set the wooden ships on fire. We keep the hot shot furnance going and it is very comfortable now that it has turned cold. We even have a nine-inch Dahlgren gun, named after the Yankee naval officer who invented it.

I can only assume that the same efforts are being expended at Fort Walker at Hilton Head. From here, we can see a great deal of activity. Several companies of the regiment are there.

The ranks of the Beaufort Artillery are represented by many of the powerful planter families in Beaufort District. The Barnwells are here. A corporal and a sergeant Barnwell have been instructing us infantrymen in the finer points of gunnery. An Elliott commands the battery. The Fullers are represented by a sergeant-major, a sergeant, and two lieutenants. I wonder what they would say if I mentioned what I had seen in Beaufort on that day? I will say nothing. I am just a private.

Finally, I got the chance to open the package that Miss Barnwell gave me. I am blessed with a new frock coat, a kepi, a cotton scarf and a pair of drawers. The drawers must have been why Miss Barnwell insinuated  that I should not open the package in the house.

Now, I look like a soldier. I have my uniform. I have my musket and ammunition. Let them come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"While there is still som..."

Sunday, November 3, 1861

Captain Vanlandingham is a fine gentleman. He knows that I and a few others are from Beaufort District are not from the regiment's home recruiting area of the upcountry. The captain has graciously tendered to me a pass so that I might visit friends and see about my home. I never thought that I would be returning  so soon after enlisting.

It was a simple matter to secure transportation from Fort Beauregard to Beaufort as there are various types of craft going to and fro bringing supplies to both us and Fort Walker on Hilton Head. All the while that I was aboard the Emma, all of us, including myself, were keeping a watchful eye for the Yankee fleet that is heading to some as yet unknown destination along our coast. One could have floated this boat on the rumors that I heard. The Yankees have a hundred ships, a thousand ships. They are coming here, to Charleston. They are re-inforcing their foothold in North Carolina and will march inland burning farms, fields, cities and towns. I still say they are going to Charleston.  Even so, I looked.

Beaufort has not changed a great deal since I left only three months ago. With some exceptions, it appears to be business as usual. There are recruiting and patriotic posters in windows and on walls. There are announcements of socials to raise funds for the cause.
There are not many women on the streets. When I mentioned this to Mr. Fyler in his store, he said that many of the women spend their time making things for the boys. Caps, coats, stockings, drawers, scarfs plus pies, cakes, jams and other foodstuffs fly from the homes heading to the boys in the field. Without the women, how could we sustain ourselves?

In order to tender a debt of gratitude, I paid a visit to the Ladies Aid Society. Even without an appointment or calling card, I was received warmly by the president, Mrs. Morcock and Mrs. Barnwell. Barely did I get a word out of my mouth when a plate of hot food, ham and soft bread, was thrust upon me. There was peach cobbler with heavy cream for dessert and it was such a mile away from the hardtack and salt pork that the army feeds us.

I thanked the gallant ladies on behalf of all of us who have been the recipients of their tender attentions. Mrs. Barnwell asked me if their were any particular needs of the boys that the Society should direct their efforts. I mentioned that as the army marches a great deal, stockings wear out quickly and are in short supply. Some moments later, Miss Barnwell, whom I took to be Mrs. Barnwell's daughter, entered the room and gave me a package and bade me to open it at some future convenient time and place. I gathered from what she said that then and there would not do. 

After a long round of thanks and good-byes, I made my way to Rector Walker's home. As I entrusted my affairs to him before leaving for Columbia to join up, I thought it prudent to pay him a visit. He was not there so I stopped at his church and am writing this while sitting in a pew, surrounded by peace and silence. While there is still som

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

:...a Yankee fleet is en route..."

Friday, November 1, 1861
Our time in Charleston was very brief. Barely had our tired souls refreshed when it was time to strike camp and leave again. I must write this in great haste as there is a strong sense of urgency going through the whole camp.

I have completed the circle. Our regiment is on Phillips Island at a place called Bay Point, opposite Hilton Head Island. My home is perhaps just three or four miles away.Once the regiment arrived, we were put to work with spades and saws continuing what others have started, the construction of Fort Beauregard. Half of the regiment is not here, it having been sent to Hilton Head to work on Fort Walker.

All are in agreement that a Yankee fleet is en route to some point down south. There is much speculation as to exactly where. There must be someone, certainly of higher rank than us, who thinks the the fleet is heading here and that is the reason for our intense labors. I cannot see it. Charleston is where the war started and the Yankees would have much to gain by it's capture. There is nothing here of any military value. If their destination is Charleston, our efforts here are being wasted. If we do not remove ourselves to Charleston soon, that great city will fall easily to the Yankees. But lowly people such as myself are not in command so here we are and here we work our tools.

At least we are not alone. The Beaufort Artillery, under Captain Stephen Elliott, is here along part of Captain Screnen's company of Beaufort Guerillas under Lieutenant Youmans. The Colleton Rifles are here and I suppose there are others that I have not yet seen. Our own colonel, Dunovant, is in overall command of the defenses on this island. Captain Elliott is commanding Fort Walker itself. Surgeon Turnipseed, the officer who examined me in camp, is here on the colonel's staff. Even the state militia has been called out. The First Regiment of Artillery is here.

Over on Hilton Head are rumored to be the Eleventh and Fifteenth Regiments of South Carolina Infantry. There are supposed to be some infantry and artillery from Georgia as well. There are many guns here, some already mounted and others awaiting their turn to be placed so they can blast the Yankee fleet, should it arrive here, to the bottom of the sea. As I am not a gummer, I barely know one gun from another. I do, however, know how to work a spade. I know mine backwards and forwards. I know every dug earthwork and every felled tree by their first names. Beckham, Caston, Duncan, Hancock, Shehane and White, my old squad for which I was briefly their lance corporal, are here. So is Corporal Flynn.