Monday, June 25, 2012

"...long roll."

Wednesday, June 25, 1862, by the campfire

It has not been much of a day. It was not our turn to pull picket duty. We Dandy Eights now sit around the campfi

beating the long roll

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Our women dip snuff and spit..."

Monday, June 23, 1862, in the swamp

The activity  in the lines has increased of late. Two days ago, there was a good deal of skirmishing along the Chickahominy but it did not involve us. At that same time, there had to have been a battle somewhere near Fair Oaks as the noise was too loud for simple skirmishing. It is the usual expenditure of shot and shell.

We have received some reinforcements at last. I suppose the prospect of seeing some action has convinced some still at home to enlist to defend the cause. Our regiment had received some, how many I know not. Our own Company I has increased by some few more and our own squad has four new members. A father and son, William Barton, Sr, and Jr. are with us as are Samuel Lynn and William Adkins. They look good but it is too soon to tell of what metal they are made. All are farmers and Barton, Sr. is only slightly younger than myself. It will be good to talk to someone who knows something.

As long as it is quiet, or at least comparitively so, it would be a good idea if I were to list the members of our squad for the sake of the record and my poor memory.

In addition to both Bill Bartons, and Lynn and Adkins, we have our Corporal Joseph Flynn, whose name suggests an Irish bent. There is Burrell Hancock, William Terry, Dennis Castles, Thomas Duncan, John Holton, Wilson and Troy Crenshaw, John White, William Johnson, Jefferson Mathis, Sterling or Starling Carter, Isaac Vincent, Richard Lyles, Andrew Conners and myself, David Tooms. This is our squad.

There are others, not part of our squad but serving in our Company I, the Lancaster Hornets, or higher up at the regimental level. J. Marion Bruce is our sergeant but he is not in our squad as he commands two squads. James Williamson is our lieutenant and he has four squads. Our captain is N. Vanlandingham, our colonel is Dixon Barnes who assumed command with the resignation of Dunovant. The regimental major is McCorkle.
We have formed ourselves, for the purpose of cooking our issued victuals, into messes of six or eight each with a splendid name that is much bragg or silliness. My mess is called "The Dandy Eights", just because there are eight of us.

The Dandy Eights are Duncan, Hancock, Castles, the Bill Bartons, Crenshaw, Holton and myself. The other two messes are named "The Ritz", and , "Possum Brothers Mess". Flynn comes around to see and "share" in out repasts even then he can eat with the other non-commissioned officers.

Because I have seen service in the war against the Mexicans, the other members of the squad keep asking me questions about that service, seeking to gain some tidbit of knowledge that might be of use to them. I have told them more than once that the Virginia Regiment arrived too late to see any action but they ask anyway. I tell them to keep a full canteen and always carry spare stockings.

I do have stories that I tell them around the campfire that are more interesting than useful. Speaking of campfire, Duncan ruined his shoes by getting them wet and trying to dry them out by putting them in close proximity to the fire. He is now barefoot and the quartermaster has no replacements. He receives little sympathy from us.

I never kept a diary while I was in Mexico. I was young and thought that there was no need to commit anything to paper. Now, years later, I have trouble recalling details and times of certain instances. I do remember that the only times I ever shot my musket, it was for food or sport.

There was one time that I spotted a very strange bird that seemed to prefer running to flight. I fired at it and missed as did everyone else. Later, I found out that it was a very fast bird called a road-runner. Did that happen near Buenea Vista or Monterrey? I cannot remember anymore.

The feasting was very good. It was my first encounter with freeholys and tortias which were delicioso. The senyouritas that served them could make anyone's head turn. They had a habit of smoking little cigars that our women at home would never do. Our women dip snuff and spit but they would never smoke little cigars. Their maidens were tanned whereas ours were pastely like this paper. We learned very quickly that no matter how comely they were, never get them angry. One would have better luck fighting a wild hog.

For awhile, the regiment was stationed around Saltillo as our colonel, Hamtramck was the appointed military governor for awhile in '48. Our major was Jubal Early who had a talent for salty language. I hear he commands a regiment or brigade in this army.

We engaged in several fights with the South Carolinians. Many a chair was smashed in the cantinas and there was much glass broken. It was a great escapade even though we never were pitted against the Mexican Army. There were some instances when we got into fisticuffical brawls with the Mexicans but that was dangerous as they were well expert in the use of a knife. One might find one's ears removed and fastened to the cantina wall with a horseshoe nail. Much of the trouble  caused there was due to boredom, bluff and braggidocio not to mention their local aguardienty.

That is all past. In these more modern times, we are faced with a challenge to our existance that we must meet successfully if we are to earn our freedom. The Yankees are a mere cannon shot from here. Every so often, they send us one of their iron missiles to remind us that they are hard by. They have not moved the bulk of their army for some time. What are they up to?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"...let them die".

 June 21 , 1862, in the swamp
If it were not for the mosquitos, and the swamp, and the rain, and the bad water, and the heat,and the occasional Yankee shell passing nearby, this camp would be first rate. We are in anticipation of the regiment moving to a more salubrious location before their big guns come up or the mosquitos get re-inforced.

Picket duty is peaceful as there is little shooting in our immediate area. We do hear from time to time the crack of musketry but nothing nearby. Even so, we must not let down our guard as our enemies, after all, are Yankees and they are a scheming, sneaky lot. At any moment, we may be overwhelmed by their numbers but as previously written here, if they cross the Chickahominy in this location, we shall give them a good drubbing as the swamp will make their crossing difficult.

The roster for sick call grows longer the longer we stay here. Surgeon Turnipseed is no longer with us. Surgeon Prioleau is his replacement. He seems a good man but he is outnumbered by his patients. The only good thing is that his charges are afflicted by agues and fluxes and not lead poisoning. We should leave this place to the Yankees and let them die.

Monday, June 18, 2012

:...we can shoot them at our leisure".

Wednesday, June 18, 1862, In the Swamps of the Chickahominy.

I should not be forgiven for the last entry since

Quite neglectful was I for not mentioning anything about the contents of those other two packages. They came from the Ladies Aid Society of Lancaster. The letter was signed, Mrs.M.P. Crawford, President.
Lieutenant Williamson gave one of the packages to Holton to hold as he directed his sole attentions to the other one. Poor Holton. He so desperately wanted to tear into the package but had to manfully maintain his composure even though he was about to bust. I think the Lieutenant did that intently.

The Lieutenant took his time opening the paper-wrapped bundle. He said he wanted to save the paper for something. Inside this bundle was finally revealed fourty-four pair of stockings, eighteen shirts of calico, thirty handkerchiefs and two bottles of tomato catsup, protected by the cloths. I was blessed with one shirt and one pair of stockings.

Holton then hastily gave the Lieutenant the bundle he had been holding, with admonitions to be a bit more hurried in opening it. This one had string on it and the Lieutenant saved it as well as the paper. This package, larger of the two, contained three blankets, three short jackets and one dozen towels. These were given to others in the company, nothing to our squad. I am not complaining. I am to the good by one shirt and one pair of stockings. I might have gotton nothing.

We are still unawares of any activity beyond our little section of the line. We hear much but see very little. While on picket duty, we have been startled more than once by eruptions of artillery fire. That does not happen anymore as we are becoming adept at knowing how far away the artillery is. We can tell when it is not close enough to hurt us. We also hear musket fire but always in the distance.

If their McClellan sends his army against the line that our brigade is holding, we will stay where we are and pour fire into them. I do not brag. His problem in this area is not we Hornets nor even our entire brigade but rather the swamps of the Chickahominy. They will slow him and then bog him down to where we can shoot them at our leisure. We could use a few artillery guns here to really send them to that other place. this is a relatively quiet place. He will not attack here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"I can write no more".

Monday, June 16, 1862, In camp near the Chickahominy, East of Richmond

Since the actions of earlier this month, the situation has quietedly settled in. We look at them. They look at us. On occasion, they throw a shell at us but little destruction is caused. It could be that they are not even shooting at us but someone else and the Yankees' aim is bad. Otherwise, I cannot explain why other areas of our lines should be the recipients of so much artillery fire and us so little.

This is a most unhealthy place. Many of us are sick with the ague or the flux. While some have answered sick call, others have tried as best they can to carry on. They are afraid that they will be confined to the hospital and will miss the next big shoot like they missed the last one at Seven Pines. I, myself, am feeling the effects of something but if I deny it, it will go away in time to start shooting Yankees.

Our squad has finally pulled some picket duty. We are surrounded by mosquitos who seem to be in a state of permanant and unchanging hunger. We have names for them, none of which I will write here. If we look very hard on a clear morning, we can see the pickets of the enemy some distance away. Duncan wated to shoot one of them but Castles talked him out of it. Castles said that if we make them mad, they have enough artillery to blast us to Kingdom Come. Duncan lowered his musket but we could tell he was quite disappointed. The rest of us were quite relieved.

Since Seven Pines, that Lee has kept "his" army quiet. I say "his" only because he is only holding a place for our Johnston, waiting until he has recovered from his wounds and will return to command the army that is rightfully his. I will concede that Lee was quite aggressive on the second day of the battle, after Johnston's wounding but Lee was just following Johnston's battle plan and anyone can do that.

The Richmond government has supplied us wth little beyond ammunition and rations. Some few of us have been issued a bayonet scabbard or cartridge box here and there courtesy of Richmond but the most of us are self-supplied or have received packages from home. I have no home to receive anything from. This past week, both Flynn and Hancockreceived packages from home and an additional two bundles arrived, having been addressed to the Lancaster Hornets, our own Company I, in general. Lieutenant Williamson took charge of distrtubiting distrubuting their contents.

Corporal Flynn shared some pickle relish with us. He is not a bad sort, I suppose. Someone sent him a wool sleeping cap made of yellow and red yarn. He gave it to Holton who put it on and pronounced it bully. Holton asked Flynn for the name and address of the lass who made the cap so that he might write and thank her. Flynn shot him a look that would split stone. I suspect the lass in question was related to Flynn, perhaps a daughter. Holton retreated and no more was said.

Duncan thought himself a rich fellow. He hollared when he opened his package and beheld the bounty within. First out was a new pair of shoes, complete with heel plates. He tried them on, found that they fit and gave his old shoes to Castles, whose shoes were held together with hope. Castles, in turn, gave his old shoes to the lieutenant who said he would cut them up and use the pieces to patch his own. Officers have to supply themselves with very litle support from the government and those officers who do not come from planter families are hard-pressed to procure what they need.

In short order, Duncan revealed three pairs of stockings, two pair of drawers, six handkerchiefs, one shirt and a cap. Although he was grateful for the new cloth items, he, and we for that matter, were sad that the package contained nothing to eat. Duncan said he would wear one of the drawers ankd keep the others for when the first became soiled. He did not mention what he would do with the pair he had on which caused me to think that perhaps we was not wearing any. In this army, I am not surprised at that circumstance. He gave Castles one pair of stockings to go with his "new" shoes.

Then it was the lieutenant's turn to divulge the contents of his two bundles. Both bundles came from the same source, a group of ladys from Lancaster County. There was a note , which the lieutenant read. Later, I asked him if I might borrow it for the purpose of copying it into my diary.The women do so much and get little recoginition for it. The note, penned in a most pretty hand, read:

"We Ladys of Lancaster do happily take this moment to write this small note to go with these humble packages, the contents of which are sent to you with the love and thanks of us who pray every day for your safe return to kith and kin, fireside and family. Those of us who are at home, safe in our security, far away from the battlefields, having never seen the enemy, knowing that he is much distanced from us as are you, have no concept, no clue, no inkling of what H---s you are voluntarily enduring so that we at home may be protected, living secure in the knowledge that sweet air of liberty that we breath is thanks to you".

I can write no more.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"...that d----d Lee..."

Tuesday, June 3, 1862, Smith's Farm Virginia
The euphoria over the news of our glorious victory over McClellan has vanished. I had been ready to dance a jig and pop a cork of cider but all I feel now is horror that such a victory will be wasted now that we have a new commander.

Johnston had been wounded and the command of the army was given to Smith. He has been removed and that d-----d Lee is now in charge. That granny who is no soldier was elevated by that peawit president Davis. Was he not aware of Lee's shortcomings and failings in South Carolina? Lee could not command a corporal's guard. May Johnston return to his army soon before Lee destroys it.

We are unaware of the details of the two-day battle. We do know that the loss of life has been frightful. There are thousands of our wounded too many and thousands of their wounded too few but this is the price for our liberty. We have seen our own surgeons quite agitated and in a state of frenzy. I suppose we will send them to Richmond to tend to our wounded.

It rains much to much here and when it does, the swamps look as if they would invade our camp. The frogs are happy and their sounds are pleasant to the ear but we all know that the sound of a new crop of mosquitos will soon follow and we will feel the sounds of their hunger.

I must remember not to play cards with Duncan again. He is quite good at it. He relieved me of two dollars, silver. He was quite happy about it. I should not have played with  hard money as there is so little of it around. I warned him about keeping a deck of cards but the shimmer of the silver deafened him.

Someone is sawing at a fiddle and we are going to go and listen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"...his wounds are not severe..."

Monday, June 2, 1862, Smith's Farm, Virginia

Something has finally happened. There has been a great battle and we missed it all. General Johnston, two days ago, threw his army, minus ourselves, at McClellan. That was really the source of all thathat thunder we heard. From what we have heard, the Yankees were defeated and thrown back some miles. Richmond is safe for the moment but they are sure to try again as soon as they lick their wounds.

We heard plenty but saw little and did nothing. Perhaps we were being held in reserve. Perhaps we were just guarding a part of the line. Whatever the reason, we are disappointed that we were not allowed to give the enemy a taste of our powder. If the enemy come again , we may be sent in and then the furies will be unleashed.

Our present encampment is not much north of the Richmond and York River Railroad. We have heard the whistles of many trains coming and going. The battle is now over, we think, but we still hear the whistles. Do the trains carry the wounded to Richmond hospitals? If so, there must be a great many wounded as there are so many whistles.

We have been told that among the wounded is our own General Johnston, the details of which are unknown to us. All the army prays that his wounds are not severe and that he my soon return to command the army. Until then, the army is in the hands of General Gustavus Smith.

We are now settled in to our new camp, or settled in as best as can be
expected under the circumstances. It is very hot here as well as muggy. There is so little dry ground and sweet water. There are but few tents and those for officers. This is an unhealthy place and the morning sick call is well-attended. I am sure that one day, I, too, will answer that call if not another.

We still engage in mush much drilling and in larger formations now that our brigade is bigger. As yet our squad has not pulled any picket duty but our time will come.