Friday, December 23, 2011

"...Virginia and Tennessee are here".

Monday, December 23, 1861

For sometime, I have been complaining about the cold. Someone must have heard me because I can now complain about the heat. I should not be surprised. I have lived here long enough to know how the weather is this time of year.

The change in weather does not make the digging any easier, only different. Before, when it was cold, the ground was hard to dig. Now that it is warm, the digging is easier but there is more water and more mud.

The rations are about the same. There is some corn meal coming through and the boys can make corn dodgers which are a welcome change from hard crackers. Flour has disappeared as has any sort of fresh vegetation. Sometimes, when we are digging, we uncover plant material that looks edible. Whatever it is, it ends up in the pot at night and no one questions it. It is filling if nothing else.

Two nights ago, Corporal Flynn was making his rounds as our mess was preparing supper. He asked what we were having and Bill Caston, our cook for the night, raised the ladle from the cook pot to show him. There was what appeared to have been at one time an animal. I hadn't seen it get captured or skinned, nor did its appearence give me any clue as to its origins when alive. I ate it and felt satisfied.

It is even getting hard to get drunk.

Our uniforms are wearing out faster than they are getting replaced, either from government sources or family and friends. Our muskets have not tasted powder for awhile. Indeed, our shovels are more seasoned than our bayonets. There are too many hardships to list here. Life is certainly bad. Even so, this will be a good Christmas for Virginia and Tennessee are here. We have been reinforced.

One brigade of Tennesseans, the 8th and 16th regiments under Donelson, arrived a short while ago. There are two light artillery batteries from Virginia, the Turner Artillery from Goochland County, and the Caroline Artillery from Caroline County. I hope that the Virginians camp hard by as I want to ask them about the Old Virginny that I miss so much.
South Carolina is not alone and now, neither am I.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"I have seen this man, Lee".

Tuesday, December 17, 1861

Is there no end to the bad news that has plagued us of late? On this past Wednesday, Charleston suffered from a great conflagration of as yet unknown origins. A great deal of the city is now in ashes. Charleston has been burnt. There is much speculation in camp that the Yankees must have had something to do with it as it could not have come at a worse time for us.

My dear wife, Susan, is safe. The fire did not harm her. She went to Charleston just before the fall of Beaufort and now lives there. I have not mentioned her to this point as it is much too sorrowful to admit that we are separated. I rejoice and give thanks that she was spared. I will kill a Yankee for her.

I have seen this man, Lee. He makes frequent inspections of the works from his headquarters in Coosawatchie. It took some moments to erect myself to a full stance to see him as I and all of us had spent so much time bending over a shovel. Lee was with a few of his staff, pointing fingers and making notes. He is a tall man and has the bearing of a gentleman. He is supposed to desend from a fine Virginia family. He must know something of horses as do all Virginia gentlemen  as he knows how to ride well. He did not come close enough to us to say hello and we heard nothing of what he and his staff were saying. He is supposed to be a general but what he was wearing did not look so.

It continues to get cold and I continue to be watchful for my excellent blanket. Some of us have no blankets or even scarves or gloves. I consider myself quite lucky to have drawers made from canton flannell. Our government has been unable to provide for this army and we soldiers suffer for it.

The Yankees have been quiet for some time. I wish they would come so we could slaughter them from behind our works.

The last of the ham that we commandeered from the rail car is now gone. We are back to crackers and salt pork washed down with bad water. One gets used to it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"...wash clothes in a mudhole".

Tuesday, December 10, 1861 Pocotaligo Corners

There is much that I have missed entering into this diary. We have been digging every day since the fall of the forts. We dig trenches for the infantry. We dig emplacements for the artillery. Thank the Lord we do not have to dig anything for the cavalry. We dig in the dirt, we eat in the dirt, we sleep in the dirt, we exist in all manners in the dirt. When it rains, we do all these things in the mud. There have been several times that I have tried to make an entry but my hands had been wrapped around my spade for so long that I could grasp neither pen nor pencil.

The weather has turned quite cold, especially in the mornings. There has been frost. We lost much of our camp equipments during the retreat from the Fort Beauregard. There are few tents. Some of the boys who are handy with tools have felled trees and made crude cabins. Those equipped for fireplaces made of mud and wood are quite popular. We need to be careful not to set fire to the wood and mud chimneys. I still have my very good blanket that I brought from home. I need to keep a watchful eye on it lest it warm someone other than me. I have been offered and have turned down three dollars for it.

Our rations are adequate and that is the best that I can say about them. There is salt pork and hard crackers. There is some rice and a small amount of corn. When allowed, hunting parties go into the woods to bag some deer. Sometimes, one comes across wild hogs. They carry their own bayonets which are somewhat shorter than ours. Even so, when they charge, they hold nothing back. It is best to shoot them at a distance, the further the better.

The days of many packages sent by families and loved ones filled with jellies, pies, hams and the like are mostly over. Things are still too disrupted for much of that sort of thing. A detail of us were sent to help unload a train of supplies and ammunition. It was dark and raining. One of us, I dare not say which one, grabbed a small crate and smelled it. "I think there's a ham in this here box". "Who gets the box? Who's it for?" "I can't say. The address paper is missing". "So it goes to no body?" "I suppose so". "No body? That's us. We're no body. Hide that box". We were stopped by a staff lieutenant on our way back to camp. He asked what were were doing with the box. We answered that it was empty and we were going to use it to repair our chimmney and he believed us. There was a very nice ham inside and we feasted on it and hard crackers in our little cabin.

Our uniforms are all of uniform color which is the first time that this has happened. All are the color of dirt. My nice frock coat is no longer nice and barely qualifies as a coat. Our officers still insist on our presenting a proper military appeareance so we spend a good deal of time polishing our remaining buttons and brushing off the dirt, mud and grime. There is not enough sweet water here to allow for much laundrying. There is enough ditch water  but one might as well wash clothes in a mudhole. My soap is finally gone and there had been so little soap issued.

Our muskets and accroutrements are kept in splendid condition. We are soldiers after all. Only the presense of our muskets and cartridge boxes keep us from being mistaken for criminals. If it were posssible to scare the Yankees to death, we would win the war.