Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Will Jackson march on Washington..."

Thursday, August 28, 1862, near Manassas

On Monday, we came across the carcass of a deer, ate it in camp and felt thankful. On Tuesday,  we resumed marching with many of us stumbling rather than marching. Castles, Duncan and Terry, who had made those moccosins from raw deerhide were suffering from their new creations. Everyone near them were suffering as well from the smell.

My shoes had finally reached the point at which they protect nothing. Others were in the same way. My trousers were worn out in impolite places. The shoes were discarded but I dared not march sans trousers.

On Tuesday, we marched some more and suffered some more. I could tell that our force was getting smaller due to straggling. We did not know it that day but some of our cavalry and Trimble's infantry had attacked and captured the Yankee supply center at Manassas Junction. Yesterday, those of us who were still with the column marched into Heaven.

There were several storehouses and 100 cars captured largely intact. All were full of the riches called loot. Call it requisitioning, call it impressing, call it what you like, we looted. Once the area was deemed free of Yankee interference, we decended on this bounty, fairly-won, like Vandals in Rome. Everything was there and we took as much as we could carry which was a good deal.

The barefoot, which were most of us, were shod. The hungry, which were all of us, were fed beyond being full. I got two pairs of army shoes for myself. Having gone barefoot, even for a short while, I am comforted by the knowledge that, heavy as they may be, I will have new shoes hard by when these wear out. A new tarred haversack and a canteen, courtesy of Uncle Abe now hang from my shoulders.

And the food. Salt pork by the barrel and hardtack by the crate disappeared into mouths and haversacks. Numerous fires were rapidly started and the air was soon filled with the scent of cooking pork. Some of the Yankee regimental sutlers had their stocks here. We relished cigars, wine, tinned sardines, cakes, hard cider, candy, French mustard and other delicacies. As I do not indulge in the weed, I traded a bundle of six cigars I had "liberated" to Lieutenant Williamson for two tins of sardines he had acquired. We ate until we were tight as ticks. We slept very well that night. 

But that was yesterday. Early this morning we were back to the old routine of marching but all of us were cheerful about meeting the enemy with full bellies and full cartridge boxes. What couldn't come with us was put to the torch. Every few minutes, we could hear ammunition exploding and we felt satisfied at the sound.

We could hear a good deal of cannon fire and musketry from the direction of the Warrenton Turnpike. We were too far away to do any good. We stood ready in case we were needed. Corporal Flynn went around examining our cartridge boxes to see if they were full. We were able to determine that we are now in Pope's rear. What will Jackson do? We are between Pope and Washington. Will Jackson march on Washington while Lee holds Pope in place? Will Jackson and Lee destroy Pope between them? We are so very close to the old Manassas battlefield from last summer. Will we fight there or where? It seems clear that something will happen soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"...it was already quite dead."

Monday, August 25, 1862, near Thoroughfare Gap

This has been another day of hard marching. Jackson knows how to get every last mile out of us. We are certain that tomorrow will be just like today. We have left our knapsacks behind to ease our loads and be able to march another mile or five. I am not holding out any prospects for ever seeing my knapsack again.

It has been very hot and many of us have cast away blankets and other things to lighten the load. Although I have been tempted to lighten my own load, I will not rid myself of my good blanket. I will never see a blanket this good again. It may be hot now but the cold weather is coming and I will need something to keep me warm. I still remember the long marches through the mountains of Mexico.

Once we halted for the night, the regiment just collapsed off to one side. Little attempt was made to establish a proper camp. For Castles, Hancock and myself, we declined to lie down on the ground as we knew if we did that, we would not get back up again. Instead, we went hunting. This is the time of year when the deer become more active and we hoped to find some venison.

We took our muskets not to hunt dear but to use incase we should run into any Yankees who might be out hunting us greybacks. We dared not shoot the deer lest we alert the enemy as to our presence. We hoped that the enemy was still some miles away but were unsure, We had marched so many miles, for all we knew, we could be near Washington. Castles said he could run down a deer so we wouldn't need our muskets.

Castles saw the deer first. He didn't need to run after it as it was already quite dead from some cause we preferred to remain unknown. It was not so awful that we would leave it there for some other scavengers to feast upon. 

Once back in camp, the deer did not remain intact for long. Even though it was not a large deer, we made it stretch to feed our mess and two others. We feasted on our small portions with some hard crackers and pronounced it plenty. 

Castles, Duncan and Terry retained the skin and made Indian moccasins from the untanned hide. They will not last long but in the absence of real shoes these three soldiers will not last long. Whatever Jackson is planning, he will need every man of us. We must not fail him or our country.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The fatigue will kill us..."

Sunday, August 24, 1862, near Jeffersonton

We are all done in. Jackson is marching our feet right off. If we were to meet the Yankees tomorrow, we would all be captured intact in our sleep. More and more of us are falling out for want of shoe leather. The fatigue will kill us before the Yankees will.

Even so, we are generally of good cheer. We know that all this marching is for a purpose. We are to maneuver ourselves into a position where we can strike a blow for our independence. We just need to have enough soldiers still able to shoulder a musket to effect this outcome.

There has been much rain of late. The chills from the damp along with numerous cases of the flux are playing evil within the ranks. We go to sleep wet and awake the same way. We can get neither warm nor dry.

Earlier today, the Yankees began a noisy cannonade. The brigade formed up behind our batteries who were returning fire in case their infantry should advance upon us. They made no move and neither did we. There was a great deal of powder burned but to want effect I am unaware. We stood down eventually and marched to this place where we now sit around a campfire, trying to get warm. Where is Pope? Where is McClellan?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"...the pastime of Yankee-chasing..."

Sunday, August 17, 1862, Crenshaw's Farm, Virginia

The brigade has finally halted long enough for me to become familiar with our present location. We are tenting here at Crenshaw's Farm, some few miles to the northeast of Orange Court House. We are told that the owner is the captain of a Virginia artillery battery bearing his name. As he is a fellow Confederate, we must endeavor not to do any lasting damage to his property. If any of his chickens should challenge our picket posts, we will have to do our duty.

We have had some time to effect some repairs to our uniforms, equipment and ourselves. We must make our best use of this time as we may resume without warning the pastime of Yankee-chasing so liked by our Jackson. 

Crenshaw said that he had visited a friend in the Campbell Rifles and he told Crenshaw that he heard a conversation between two staff officers who said that they had heard that McClellan had left Virginia and was on transports heading this way to re-enforce Pope. Pope is supposed to be somewhere south of the Rappahannock. If the two of then unite, there will be some hard fighting to come. We may get pushed back to Richmond all over again. If that happens, we can count on Lee to turn things around like he did the last time. 

Before we go marching anywhere, we will need many shoes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"I bet they have sardines"

Friday, August 15,  1862,  Somewhere in Virginia

For nearly a week we have done nothing but march. I barely know where we are now let alone where we have been. I am fairly certain that we have covered the same ground more than once in both coming and going. After passing beyond Orange Court House one day, we found ourselves retiring towards that place some days later and we do not know why. We have crossed the Rapidan in one direction and recrossed it in the other. What is Jackson at?

All this marching perhaps serves some military purpose even if we who do the marching cannot see it. The regiment is in a bad way. All of us see it. All of us feel it. The brigade is probably in the same fix. How could it be otherwise? As the brigade goes, does the entire division follow? Given the rapid destruction of our shoe leather, how much longer can we maintain this?

There are so many of us who are barefoot. I will join the ranks of the shoeless before long. Duncan's new shoes which he received from home are all used up. His old shoes which he gave to Castles last May are all used up. Castles old shoes which he gave to Lieutenant Williamson to be used as repair material for his own shoes are all used up. His are just as bad as mine now. If we lose the next battle, it will be because after we whip them and they run, we cannot follow them.

On the other side of the scales, our rations are at least adequate in not abundant. We have added a good deal of corn to our diet. Not all of it was fully ripe and several of us have suffered for it. The trickle of packages from home have ceased. I suspect the army's postal system cannot keep up with us and might have lost us altogether. We will just have take supplies from the Yankees. I bet they have sardines.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Jackson is our general."

Saturday, August 9, 1862, near Culpeper, Virginia

I am so very tired as are the rest of us. From under this tree where I sit, I can see that so many of the boys have gone to sleep right where they collapsed. I shall join them very soon.

The four of us, Castles, Hancock, Duncan and myself had to light from the train at Gordonsville and make our way by foot, trying to catch up to our regiment. We could judge the way by the stragglers we encountered. We rested infrequently and ate little. Whatever action the regiment was marching towards we did not want to miss. We finally caught up with everyone at Orange Court House late in the night.

Corporal Flynn seemed glad to see us. From him and Sergeant Harper we learned that our brigade, under General Gregg, was part of the division of General A. Powell Hill. He is known for wearing a red shirt into battle. He must know that wearing such a thing makes him a target. Hill's division, along with that of General Ewell, now make up Jackson's wing of Lee's army. Jackson is our general. Jackson is making a march on their General Pope whose army is rumored to be near Culpeper Court House.

Whatever plans Jackson had were not agreed to by the Yankees for they attacked us at Cedar Mountain. Our brigade was detailed to guard the supply train against a possible raid by Yankee cavalry. Our General Gregg was fit to blow up and he "requested" to be allowed to fight but this was denied. The rest of the wing took on the enemy and beat them back without us. The march then resumed in the direction of this place, near Culpeper.

Although we are disappointed at having missed the battle, we know that our turn will come again someday.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Our train leaves tomorrow."

Tuesday, August 5, 1862, Richmond

Our little visit to Richmond would seem to be nearing its end. Chambers told us four today that we now have orders to report back to our regiment which is now in Gordonsville.  None of us had a clue that the entire brigade was marched from camp south of the city to the depot of the Virginia Central Rail Road where it boarded trains for that city. We inquired as to the reason for the brigade's move. Was McClellan threatening Richmond again? Was Pope moving on us from the north? Where is Lee's main army? No one knew anything.

We have had some fun here. There were no unpleasant actions while we were on guard. No one made any trouble for us. No one was shooting at us which is a very good thing but all of us are missing our friends and do not want to miss any action should there be any. Every man and every musket is needed up front.

Today, Hancock and I wandered into the city's center when we got off of guard mount to search for something good to eat.We returned to the market where we had purchased some hams some days ago but all that we came away with were some onions and peas.

We did come across the photography studio of Mr. Rees on Main Street. Both of us had our likenesses taken against a backdrop of a campscene drawn on a piece of canvas. We tried to look fierce but probably looked more like famished.

It was when we returned to the depot that we were informed of our future railroad trip. Chambers gave each of us a package from the depot that were addressed to our regiment. The packages were all from relief societies. We shall see what contents of these bundles actually arrive at their intended destination. Our train leaves tomorrow.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"They were named Lily and Hortense"

Thursday,  August 2, 1862, Richmond

For three days, now, I have been useless to anyone including myself. There is no one to blame but this poor soul who knew better. There was too much temptation and I, weak, puny man that I am, succumbed and must pay the price.

Hancock indulged in the same bill of fare at the hotel that I did and he seems just superb for it. There is no doctor here at the depot but there was one across the street at the Georgia Relief and Hospital Association's own depot on the same street and that is where this whole trouble began some days ago with two women.

Hancock and I were standing outside our depot, under arms. Ever since we four arrived here, we noticed the number of women, and a few girls, come and go from the Georgia & c. depot. Of course, we thought, they were employed there in some sort of capacity benefitting their depot. On occasion, one of a party would wave and haloo to us. We snapped to attention and tried to look very martial. We talked of things that men talk about but they have no place here. We resolved ourselves that a simple greeting from a lady would be all the conversation we would have from them.

Then the cattle stampeded. It was the twenty-fifth of last month. Hancock and I had finished out first guard mount of the day and were walking away from our depot towards the center of the city again in search of a decent meal. As we walked, Hancock observed what he said were the sounds of many cattle. I thought him suffering from hunger in the brain and told him such as I heard nothing. As we continued to walk, I thought that I did hear some such noise but dismissed it even as Hancock insisted that the sounds were actual.

We turned a corner and came face-to-fave with a drove of cattle. Hancock exclaimed loudly, "Tooms, we have died and gone to Heaven. This is our reward, all ours." I muse admit a certain feeling of disbelief but the sounds and especially the smells could not be denied. The idea that we might soon have fresh beef made us ignore the two ladies walking towards us.

It was evident that both of them were uncomfortable with the close proximity of the cattle. The drove did have a "cavalry escort" but even so, some of the beeves were unruly. One of the ladies screamed and her scream did nothing to pacify the cattle. The two ladies walked faster and broke into a trot when one of the beeves strode upon the sidewalk right behind them. The ladies were probably in no danger but they did not know that.

Hancock slapped my shoulder and we ran towards the ladies. I grabbed one and threw her against a building wall perhaps a bit too hard. I interposed myself between the lady and the "horrible, brutish creature", as she called it and gave the future roast a good kick in the snoot and it turned away. Hancock performed some similar feat of rescue for the other lady.

After the cattle passed us by, we inquired about their well-being. They were both quite scared but said there was no harm done. I thought these ladies must have been raised in the city as country girls would not have acted like they did.. We made our introductions and they made theirs. They were named Lily and Hortense. As it turned out, these two were some of those we had seen previous working at the Georgia depot. We all laughed when they realized who we were, guards at the South Carolina Depot.

Hortense and Lily wished to express their thanks for being rescued and we said it was nothing. They insisted that such a deed of bravery committed by two gallant gentlemen should not go unrewarded. They mentioned that there was too be a charity ball held at the Exchange Hotel on Saturday night next and would we be their guests. A ball. Dancing and refreshments. Pretty ladies. O, but we were just high privates and balls were for officers and gentlemen with clean clothes and white gloves. We stated our plight but they would have none of it. If we could not attend as guests, we could be there as smart-looking guards at the entrance to the ballroom. We agreed and escorted the ladies a short distance before parting company.

We forgot that the original objective of our walk was to relieve our hunger and we returned to the depot to tell of our good fortune. Castles, Duncan and Chambers all said we were liars but Duncan noticed the smell of honeysuckle on Hancock and then they started to believe us. We excused ourselves as there was much work to do before the ball.

 Both our uniforms and our bodies needed sprucing up. My uniform required some sewing but not a great deal. Hancock convinced Castles to loan him his own jacket as it was in better shape. Castles was promised something good to eat for the loan. We "borrowed" two pairs of brogans. After our last guard mount of the day, we worked on our muskets and accoutrements before going to sleep.

The following day, we worked on ourselves. Chambers knew a negro barber who was brought in to cut our hair and shave our faces.  An hour before we were to assume our posts at the Exchange, we presented ourselves for inspection and were pronounced first rate. From Chambers, we received passes lest the Police Guard stop us.

We arrived and took our places without asking anyone anything. We looked as if we belonged there and we were not questioned by anyone. Indeed, several important-looking people complimented us on our superb martial bearing. We expressed thanks but neither of us cared a fig for their words. We were interested only in "our" ladies and the refreshment table.

Lily and Hortense did appear, each on the arm of very pompous well-liveried gentlemen whose names I did not bother to commit to memory. At least the ladies were gracious enough to introduce us to the gentlemen as their rescuers.

The band struck up some patriotic airs and some people gave the proper speeches. Then the ball began and we stood guard, feasting on many sights and plotting on some real feasting. With so much going on, no one was paying much attention to us. As Hancock's uniform looked better than mine, he braved the crowd to make a frontal assault on the refreshments while the dancing was on. The negro servants in suits working the refreshment tables accepted Hancock's word that he was a colonel and would be taking some food out to the two guards. He was given a large silver tray piled with sandwiches of several types. Somehow, he managed to acquire a bottle of champagne. We ate our fill and Hancock went back for more which was secured in our haversacks.

When all was finished, we said our goodbyes and took our leaves of the ladies. It was well into the night when we returned to our depot. All three of our pards questioned us on any and everything we saw and heard, and ate. From our haversacks we produced enough food that all five of us had a very decent meal.

And now I suffer. I cannot prove that it was something that I ate as Hancock is fit as a fiddle. For whatever reason, my bowels are in revolt and there will be no sleep tonight. It was worth it.