Thursday, January 19, 2012

" That General Lee is a Humbug"

Sunday, January 20, 1862 Camp Pemberton, South Carolina

We are nearly starved and if this situation continues, the Yankees will capture all of us without firing a shot. Some time ago, this Lee issued an order forbidding the use of public ammunition by hunting parties. There is a cartridge shortage and this is supposed to help. We haven't had adequate rations for so long and we have come to depend on hunting game to add to our meager plate of victuals. Now, only private ammunition may be used to hunt. All of us who joined up at Columbia who brought their oun own weapons brought whatever ammunition would fit that weapon. I brought some cartridges myself for my musket but those were used up long ago as were everyone elses'. Our cartridge boxes are more full than our bellies.

There were some of our gallant boys passing through and I got to talk with them. Their accents sounded familiar and sure enough they were from Virginia. The 60th Virginia Volunteers from western Virginia are a new addition to our forces here. I met the Bland boys, Benjamin, George, John and Robert, all from Company A. They are all related to each other but I have forgotton how. I was most gladdened by Samuel Hambrick of the Osceola Guards. His company was raised in Botetourt County which is so very close to my old home in Virginia. We talked at length all of us. Some of the people I knew back home have gone on. Others have joined the army and are now fighting for our freedom.

The 60th were ordered to Salem where they boarded a train of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. For a time, I worked for the railroad. The line runs so very close to the Yankees occupying western Virginia that I fear the line will be subjected to raids.

I asked where they had been and what they had done and their answers opened my eyes wide. They knew our General Lee as at one time he was their general during the battles around Cheat Mountain.. They say that they were beaten by the Yankees in a horrible campaign and they left in an disgraceful retreat. They said that Lee acquired the names Granny Lee and Retreating Lee since he had performed so poorly. That General Lee is a humbug. Now he is here in command of troops and all we do is dig. They said that General Donelson and his Tennesseans were up there, too. I and others want a transfer to where the real war is, northern Virginia. The Yankee Grant is making trouble in Kentucky and Tennessee. We would not mind going there if we cannot get to Virginia. We all want to shoot something.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

"They even stole the ferry".

Monday, January 6, 1862 Gardens Corner

Just a few days ago, some of the boys and myself were grumbling that we just a gang of slaves for the army what with all the hard labor we were doing. We were longing and clamoring to go to Virginia where the real war is. Early on New Year's Day, about an hour after midnight, we were rousted from under our blankets and ordered to form up. The Yankees were coming.

Only four companies of the 12th were here at Camp Pemberton. The other six, with our colonel, Dunovant, were detailed to Charleston. In the dark, we marched and stumbled towards the oncoming enemy. We did not know it at the time, only later, that the enemy was coming at us from two directions. Apparently, they were after the ferry landing at Port Royal on Whale Branch and the earthworks protecting it. The force we were sent against was a feint to take our attention away from the landing. Both attacking forces advanced under the protection of their infernal gunboats which sent their weight of shot and shell over the heads of their infantry towards us. The gunboats disrupted us greatly but caused few casualties.

Once we were in line of battle, it was the 14th South Carolina, the 8th Tennessee which was one of the regiments in Donelson's brigade, two guns of the Caroline Artillery from Goochland and ourselves, the 12th, closest to the river on our right. We could see some cavalry from Martin's Mounted Regiment providing flank protection on our far left. We moved through a cotton field to get into position.

By this time, it was light and we could see their blue line advancing towards us, supported by their gunboats. This was the first time that we had faced their infantry in battle. We could make out some of their flags and knew we were up against New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians, and others we could not identify. Their advance was not spirited and they declined to move away from the protection of their gunboats. Our defense was not well-organized as the gunboats kept us in a state of disorder. Their musketry had little effect on us and I think ours had the same effect on them.

Our earthworks guarding the ferry were still under construction and they were evacuated so that the attention of those troops could be directed elsewhere. While we were busy, another enemy force attacked  and carried the ferry and the surrounding works. As the works were not completed or fully armed, they did not get much. The Yankees did destroy everything that would burn. They even stole the ferry.

The entire affair ended with the Yankees retiring to their gunboats after some hours and they spent the night offshore. We stayed in the field and returned to Camp Pemberton the following morning. A detachment from Company C under Lieutenant Roseborough was sent out under cover of darkness to burn that corn and cotton that was at risk of being captured.

Once we were back in camp and had some cooked rations, without any coffee, we jawed at length on our recent engagement. For it being our first time against their infantry, most said they were little concerned about being in battle. They were glad that we had met them. Of course, had the affair been more heated, their tune might be different. As it was, our regiment suffered but one killed and four wounded. Everyone hates the gunboats. Unless they come within range of our guns, we cannot hurt them. We need more big guns. And coffee.