Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Private Tooms, You are Under Arrest."

Thursday, December 31, 1863

In my younger years, I have endeavored to remain awake on the day before the new year. That is something for the young bucks. This year, as in so many past, I intend to be asleep. For several days now, there has been little else to do.

When I returned to the regiment, I was several days overdue from my furlough. I was met by my pards who had been wondering if I had been caught up in the Yankee raid in Salem. I was surprised that news of the raid was known here. Hancock informed me that some of our division had been sent away from here to catch the raiders. Our troops had made it as far as Staunton before being recalled and did not engage the enemy. While we were jawing, I noticed Corporal Flynn approaching our group with three armed men with bayonets affixed. Corporal Flynn said, "Private Tooms, you are under arrest."

With the corporal and one escort in front and the other two in the rear, they all took me, in the middle, to see Lieutenant Williamson in his cabin. Hancock, Duncan and the others followed but stayed outside. In his cabin was a staff captain who was from the Provost Marshall. Charges were read against me. It was mentioned that before I had arrived, the charges had been desertion, the penalty for which is death by firing squad. The staff officer scratched out the part about desertion and changed the charges to being absent without leave. 

The officer asked how I would plead to the charges. I responded not guilty due to the circumstances of my absence. Lieutenant Williamson asked me to present an explanation sufficient to render the charges null and void. I then told of the raid on Salem and of my conduct during the time of it. Both officers were attentive to my explanation but the captain asked if there was anyone who could verify that I was in Salem at the time. Quite unfortunately for me, I had told no one that I was going to Salem. Everyone thought that I was going to Charleston.

I thought about the officers and men of the Fiftieth Virginia who I met but we had parted company at the Charlottesville station. I did not recall telling them where I was going and since they and I parted, they could not verify my being in Salem. In a flash I thought of Captain Porteaux who had ordered me to transfer supplies in my hired wagon in Salem. Lieutenant Williamson offered to write a letter to the captain to verify my story. The staff captain said that until a satisfactory answer would be received, I, the prisoner, would have to be kept under guard in confinement.

And so, here I am, in the cabin of our mess as there is no stockade yet built. It is not so bad. I am excused from all duties. I keep a fire in the hearth and am quite warm. To my surprise, my very good blanket, which I had left behind while I was on furlough, was returned to me. All the time that I was absent, I had thought that I had seen the last of it. The rations are somewhat better than what my pares receive. Prisoners are not allowed to cook for themselves and are fed from a central mess. In addition the the basic fare of hardtack, salt junk, onions and cabbage, the same that the troops are issued, there is served to the prisoners a bowl of soup twice a day. There are a few carrots and some beef in the soup. I sleep most of the day and have ever since my return, including Christmas Day. It looks like that I will spend the first day of 1864 the same way.

While I am under arrest but suffering few privations because of it, poor Hancock and Duncan are the ones detailed to guard me, in alternating mounts. They also have no duties, other than guarding me, but they have to remain outside our cabin, bayonetted musket at the ready. The weather has turned quite cold, including frost and snow lately. Both of them leave their post when they think they can do so safely to come inside to get warm. Out of pity for their plight, I have shared my soup with them and they are mighty grateful. Corporal Flynn has not been by once to see as to my situation whereas Lieutenant Williamson has come by twice to inform me that there has been no response to his inquiry on my behalf. He is a good man.

I suppose there is nothing to do but wait and pen a few more lines in this diary. I could benefit from some more ink.

I Send You These Few Lines.

Tooms is in, "jail" but it could have been worse. Had the initial charge of desertion stuck, he would be facing several muskets, all pointing at his breast. Not a good way to bring in the new year. 

Tooms is hoping that the letter to Captain Porteaux in Salem will be his ticket to freedom. What Tooms does not know is that Porteaux was captured and is on his way to a POW camp somewhere up north.

What now, for Tooms?

Monday, December 23, 2013

"The Yankees are Here!"

Wednesday, December 23, 1863, Charlottesville

If ever I am granted a furlough again, I think that I will refuse it. All the good that has happened to me during the many days of this current one is far outweighed by the events of one night and one day. As I sit here in the railroad station awaiting a connection to Richmond, I can finally collect my thoughts and transfer them to this diary.

It was Tuesday of last week that Miss Kimberly, riding like the very Devil was after her, came to the Hofauger place to warn us all that the Yankees were coming. She stayed only long enough to tell us and like a whirlwind, she rode off again. Although it was after dark, I hitched up my hired horse and wagon, said my good-byes to the Hofaugers, warning them that they themselves may have to leave their place to the torches of the Yankees, and left as fast as the old horse could move. Elizabeth had tears in her eyes. I could only hope that whatever forces we could rally could stop the Yankees before my kind hosts could be harmed.

It was all the horse could do to maintain a trot. For short periods, she could gallop but that was dangerous to both horse and wagon let alone the driver. After a gallop, she had to rest by walking slowly for quite some time. I roundly cursed her but there was nothing more the poor beast could do.

Very early on the morning of the sixteenth, we arrived at Salem, finding the entire town in a fearful frenzy. A townsman said that the Yankees were bound for this place with murder, fire and destruction their objectives. He further said that all of the stores held at scattered places around town were being moved to the station so that they could be hurried away by train. These supplies were both for Lee's army in Virginia and Bragg's army in Tennessee.

About the same time that this citizen ran off, a mounted staff officer came next to my wagon. He introduced himself as Captain Porteaux of the Quartermaster's Department. He said that my wagon was needed and ordered me to proceed to a government warehouse where supplies may be loaded and take them with all due haste to the station. I was to repeat this until this particular warehouse was empty and then report for further orders.

I proceeded to the McClanahan's store where several other wagons were loading with the help of some Negroes whom I took for slaves as they were not working with any sort of urgency. Once loaded, I hastily went to the station whereupon the horse dropped dead. It was too much for her.
Although it was far beyond dark by this time, the lights of Salem were blazing everywhere. One could read a newspaper or make a diary entry by the light.

As we were about finished with the wagon, I was wondering if there was another horse that could help me fulfill my orders. There then rode up a staff major, Green, who, seeing the dead horse still in the traces asked what regiment I was with. I explained that I was on furlough and he reprimanded me for not having my musket with me. Staff officers know nothing of such things but at that moment, I did wish that I had not left my musket and ammunition with the Ordnance Sergeant in Virginia.

He ordered me to report to a Doctor Bittle at Roanoke College and take charge of the home guard there. He ordered me to take the guard north along the Catawba Road as that was where the Yankees were supposed to be coming from and mount a defense until re-inforcements arrived.

This Doctor Bittle had raised the Roanoke College Home Guard, comprised of the students. Doctor Bittle explained that most of the students were away for the holidays but he presented me with six who were ready to do their duty. All were under eighteen; one was fifteen. They were military in name only. Four of the six were armed with fowling pieces; the other two had nothing to shoot with. None had rations or a canteen. One had no ramrod for his fowler. With this we were to stop seasoned Yankee cavalry.

It was daylight by this time so at least we could see the enemy. We had not gone far, we were still in town when the cry, "The Yankees are here!" was heard and passed from throat to throat towards our little phalanx. At the same time that I heard hoofbeats approaching, I turned to instruct the six only to find that they had vanished. As I had no weapon, I tried to vanish, as well.

The Globe Tavern was the closest structure so there I went. Bounding up the stairs, I heard the Yankee cavalry pass close behind on the street. Amidst the yelling and screaming of the citizens could be heard the rattle of sabers and the commands of officers.

From a well-appointed room on the top floor, I peered through curtains at the unfolding spectacle. The raiders split into various parties, one going to the telegraph office inside the post office. Some others continued west to where I do not know. The main body rode to the station which was overflowing with supplies. I heard a few pistol shots and some artillery in the distance. I had hoped that the artillery meant that our own cavalry had arrived but later was informed that it belonged to the raiders. They had shot up a train arriving from Lynchburg.

It wasn't long after taking refuge that great clouds of smoke could be seen in the direction of the station. We had worked all night long to assemble the supplies there so that a train could whack them away ahead of the raiders but there was no train. All we did was put the supplies in one place and make it easy for the Yankees to destroy. Though it was daylight, flames could be seen and a great deal of smoke. There were explosions which I took for ammunition being destroyed. I crouched and I watched, feeling an overwhelming sense of uselessness and frustration.

It seemed that the Yankees had been burning forever but when they assembled to leave, I glanced at the clock in my room. They had arrived some six hours earlier and then they left by the way that they entered, the Catawba Road. It was near darkness when I emerged from my hotel refuge. The only substantial light was from the burning depot. When the wind was just wrong, I received a lungful of smoke. Embers were coming down, glowing less and less as they fluttered to the ground.

For a moment, I debated whether to stay or go. Certainly there was a need for me to stay and help but my furlough was ending. I chose to accept the risk of arrest and stay. At once, I was thrown into a fire brigade passing buckets of water to the station. There was a possibility of being killed by exploding ammunition but the fire had to be put out. I saw only white faces on the line. I saw no Negroes. I figured that they left with the Yankees.

When, several hours into the night, the burning station was only smoldering, half of us, including myself, were relieved from fire duty. We were all taken to the Globe and quartered for the night. For supper, we were fed salt beef and hardtack washed down with something called coffee. We were told to get plenty of sleep as on the morrow, we would become a track gang.

On that morrow, we were divided into two gangs. One would go east towards Lynchburg and one west, towards Bristol. I was happy to be detailed to the east gang as that was the direction of Lee's army and my regiment. There were no locomotives in Salem so tools and supplies for repairing the track were loaded on platform cars and pushed along that track that was still good. We were informed that the Yankees had tore up track in both directions out of Salem, about ten miles or so to the west and some five miles to the east. I was put on one of the platform cars to operate the brake lest it get away.

We spent the next two days repairing the track. We were given a sense or urgency to our work due to the importance of keeping our western and eastern armies supplied and in communication with one another. This was no easy task. Many of the rails had been placed on piles of ties and burned until the rails could be tied around a tree. We had so very few tools to straighten the rails and I use the term straighten with reservation.

Some rails were beyond our miserable efforts. As there were few good rails to be had, some of the rails from sidings in Salem were taken up, loaded onto the platform cars and pushed to the end of track. On the first day, we heard a train in the direction of Lynchburg. We did not know it at the time but it was a repair train, working from the other direction. Their locomotive roundly blew its' whistle and we cheered in return. As the train rounded a hill, we could see what it was and what it was doing and we cheered again. The opposite workers cheered back and the locomotive whistled again. We were tired but cheerful.

Once the rails were connected, we gladly shook hands with each other. The other workers were eager for news of the raid which we shared, of course. With some anxiety, I approached the foreman of the Lynchburg working party and explained my situation with regards to my furlough. I asked him when there would be a train coming to take passengers to Lynchburg. He explained that the work train was returning shortly for more repair supplies and that the fireman, a slave, had run off. If I was willing to work the firebox, I could leave shortly. In a moment, I asked Major Green for permission to return to my regiment and this was granted.

For the next several, too many hours, I threw chunks into the firebox of the locomotive, "San Francisco". For as much wood as I fed into that iron dragon, it should have made Lynchburg in an hour but it struggled every mile of the way. At Bonsack's, we stopped to wood up.

Now, I am here, very tired, very dirty and very hungry. There is no food to be had as it is too late. There are no rooms at any hotel. The station master is being kind by allowing me to sleep on some cotton bales with a sack of flax seed for a pillow. I want to go back to the front.

I Send You These Few Lines.

The great Averell raid is over, at least as far as the Town of Salem is concerned. The destruction the raiders caused seemed severe at the time but most was made right, with difficulty, before long. The raiders made an escape, stopping for a short rest near Mason's Cove, with Confederate forces nipping at their heels but unable to strike a killing blow.

That locomotive, "San Francisco", odd as it may sound, did serve on the Virginia & Tennessee.

Roanoke College, in Salem, did have its' student body formed into a home guards unit. It was part of the Virginia Reserves. Six of the students/home guards, ( the ones assigned to Tooms?) along with Captain Porteaux, were captured by the raiders. I have been unable to determine their fate.

All of the structures, McClanahan's store, Globe Tavern, etc., are not made up. All were in existence at the time as was Major Green, Dr. Bittle, Captain Porteaux and Samuel and Elizabeth Hofauger. Miss Kimberly did work at their house, and, in a way, still does.

After all this, what now for poor Tooms?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The Yankees are Coming".

Tuesday, December 15, 1863,

This is my last night here. Tomorrow, I must board the train to return to the regiment and see my pards. Elizabeth has put together a small basket of edibles for me to take along. Once I am out of sight tomorrow morning, I will take the contents of the basket and put them in my haversack. Soldiers do not carry baskets. In Big Lick, I will find some small girl and give it to her as a present.

There is not much in the basket and it is probably more than the Hofaugers can spare what with the winter coming on. The woolybears have broad stripes so this winter will be a hard one. I would like to take back a great deal for Duncan, Hancock and the rest. They would proclaim me a swell fellow if I could do that. Maybe there is something in Big Lick that can be purchased.

I am in George's room on the second floor. There's a fireplace here and it feels very good. Over the past few days, I have split a goodly amount of wood for the Hofaugers. Some of it is right in front of me. The mattress has fresh straw and I will spend my last good night to-night. If the trains do not break down, I should be back on Friday or Saturday next. As I have nothing more that a small freight wagon pulled by a horse that should have been buried before the war, I will have to leave before first light.

Elizabeth had made a shirt for George using some cloth that Miss Kimberly had spun but when George left, he forgot it. Samuel made some wooden buttons from some popular. She gave me the shirt and said she would make another for George. Elizabeth has been very good to me. All the holes in my jacket and trousers have been mended. With my new black slouch, My pards will think me quite the dandy when I return.

I have dismissed the whole idea of reporting Addy Stump as a deserter to the provost marshall. It has been too many days since he threatened to ventilate my chest. If I reported him now, the provost would want to know why I waited so long to do so. There are roving patrols looking for such folks. Addy might rejoin the army some day if he is not shot by a firing squad.

I must not write any more. It is too late and I must arise too early. This furlough has been a good rest but there is still a war to b                 A rider is coming hard. I can hear the horse's hard breathing. It is Miss Kimberly riding in an ungraceful manner. "Mister and Mrs. Hofauger. The Yankees are coming. They are coming down the Catawba road from New Castle".

I Send You These Few Lines:

The severity of a winter can be determined by the width of the dark center band of a woolybear caterpillar. The wider the band, the worse the winter will be.
An entry or two ago, Tooms had written that there was no war where he was. He was wrong. The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad had long been a objective of the Union. The railroad was a vital link in the east-west communications lines of the Confederacy. At one end of the several railroads that the V&T connected was the Army of Tennessee. At the other end was the Army of Northern Virginia. It was paramount to the Confederacy that the railroad remain intact. It was just as paramount to the Union that it be destroyed.

About two weeks after Tooms left on his furlough, a Union cavalry raiding party under Brigadier General William Averell left New Creek in present day West Virginia heading towards the railroad for the specific purpose of tearing it up.

It took the Confederate command a while to realize that a raid was underway and a longer time to determine its' route and ultimate objective. Averell managed to put out enough false probes to keep the Confederates guessing where they were going and by what route.

Actually, Averell knows that hostile forces are being gathered to beat him and some are quite close to him but his knowledge of their positive location is murky. General Lee's nephew, Fitzhugh is commanding some cavalry sent to stop Averell. Generals McCausland, Imboden and others, some from Tooms' own division, are after Averell.

Whom will get to the railroad first, the raiders, the defenders or Tooms?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"He had me at point blank range".

Friday, December 11, 1863, near Big Lick, Virginia

Outside of a battle, I came today the closest to visiting the next world than I have ever been. It happened just a bit north of Boone's Mill. Whilst in my hired wagon, I saw a ridge coming towards me heading to where I had been. As he got closer, I could see that he was in civilian clothes but had a musket slung over his shoulder and was wearing a cartridge box. I took him to be one of the home guard militia people but he looked familiar. As he neared, I recognized him and called out.

"Addy. Addy Stump. Haloo. Fancy meeting you here, friend". In an instant, he had whipped his musket around and was pointing it straight at my breast. He had me at point blank range. "Addy? Do you not recognize me, David Tooms"?  He replied, "I know who you are, Tooms, and since you know me, I should kill you right here". The look on my face must have resembled a question mark so he explained that he was a deserter. He had left his regiment in August and had been on the run since. He had had enough of the war. He asked me for food and I gave him what had been given me by the Sloans. He took it and then cocked his musket. He stared at me and I stared back, each of us saying nothing.

"I do not wish to kill you, Tooms, and if you will give me your word that you will say nothing about me, I will let you go". I swallowed and said yes, he had my word. With my life in his hands, what else could I do? I put reins to my horse and left Addy on the road. Looking back, he was still where I had left him, his musket no longer pointing at me but he did have it at the ready. I did not breathe easy until I was out of range.

From that point until I reached here, I debated with myself about my promise. It was given but not of my own free will. Certainly while under duress, no promise given is valid. Addison is a deserter in time of war. We need every musket on the line lest we become slaves to the Yankees. His deserting places a greater burden on those who remain on the line, defending our liberties. My internal debate was ended the moment that I saw my destination for the night, the Hofauger place.

George had left to return to the army as his furlough was about to end. I had left the Sloans for the same reason. I do not want to be arrested by Corporal Flynn. Once again, the Hofaugers were my midway resting place.

Without George there, I had no one to talk to. The Hofaugers, especially Samuel, talked quite a bit but I just nodded and let it pass. I have noticed that civilians and soldiers speak two different languages. I would rather return to my pards and the sooner the better. I understand them.

As Addy relieved me of everything I had to eat, the table that Elizabeth set for us was Heaven indeed. I had to restrain myself from feeding like a pig at a trough. While we were eating, we were paid a visit from Miss Kimberly. She was bringing some wool scarves and caps that the Hofaugers had asked her to make. This winter was supposed to be a bad one, she said. She has been very bust dyeing wool and spinning yarn to be made into scarves and mittens for the soldiers. And as a Christmas surprise, she presented the Hofaugers with a strawberry rhubarb pie. Elizabeth produced four plates and we all feasted.

I want to leave here as soon as possible but that would be impolite. With George gone, there are fewer hands to do the chores. There is wood to chop and that bad winter is coming. Also, there is still some pie remaining.

I Send You These Few Lines

For a moment, it looked like this blog was about to come to a conclusion for lack of a live person to continue making entries. Luckily, Addison, "Addy", Stump had second thoughts. According to the National Archives records in College Park, Maryland, Stump enlisted into the Confederate Army in Salem, Virginia, in May of 1862. The enlisting officer was Lieutenant B.P. Dyerele. Stump deserted the army in August of the next year, taking his musket and gear with him. His regiment was the 54th Virginia, a rare Virginia regiment that went west to serve under Bragg and later Joe Johnston. Stump's paper trail at the Archives ends with his desertion.

Tooms needs to be careful that his furlough doesn't end with him away from the army. He needs to hurry up and leave. He can't afford to have anything happen to him now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"There is no war here".

Saturday, December 5, 1863, Kemp's Ford, Virginia

If this is not home, it is something very close to it. I must confess to being surprised. I have not been away from here too long and yet, there is much here that I do not remember. I experienced some difficulty in finding the school house where I once taught. It had been whitewashed since I left and it took awhile to recognize it.

When last I made an entry, I was waiting in Charlottesville for the morning train to take me to Lynchburg. I slept in a bed and only had to share it with one person, a corporal from an Arkansas regiment who snored. There was plenty of chances in the fireplace and I slept warmly, for a change.

The next morning, without breakfast, the train took me along the Orange and Alexandria to Lynchburg. There were the usual slave boys hawking foodstuffs but as nothing looked as if it had ever been edible, I declined all offers to buy. I was determined to hold out for decent victuals in Lynchburg.

It was not too late when we arrived in the city and being famished beyond description, I made straight for Dibrell's Hotel on Main Street. Supposedly, there was a soldier's rest in the city but I was too eager to eat something quickly. The waiter, a Dutchman by his accent, informed me that the only fare in the house was salt pork, cornbread and cabbage. He explained that the war had caused this state of affairs.

As he was a portly sort, I did not believe him. I allowed him to see a quarter-eagle gold piece, part of my diminishing pre-war cache. With enlarged eyes to match his stomach, he proclaimed that since I was in uniform and obviously fighting for the cause, he would see that I was properly treated. Away he went into the kitchen. He returned directly with a plate of ham steaks and a half a mountain of potatoes. He said that he had an apple cobbler for me for dessert. I told him to bring it right away as Yankee cavalry could be hard by and they would spoil everything. He brought it, and some sweet cream as well.

I ate everything. I ate until I was in pain and kept right on. When I stopped, every plate was clean and I could have eaten more without a thought for the pain. I left him his gold piece and waddled onto the street like a duck. Had I come across a duck, I would have eaten everything but the quack. In the field, the quantity of my meal would have been four or five days rations and I consumed it all in one setting. O, how I desired that my trousers fit a bit looser.

From the hotel, I went to Meem & Gwatkins to purchase a new slouch as mine could be used as a strainer. I bought a nice black one with a brim sufficient to ward off much of the Sun. It cost eight dollars, almost a month's pay. The hat I paid for in Confederate paper for fear that two transactions in hard money would gain me the notice of the local toughs. They have enough, "courage" to remain behind and terrorize the home folks but not enough to shoulder a musket and defend those same people. I saw a number of young males unfit to be called men.

After a night at Dibrell's, I and my new slouch went to the Virginia and Tennessee station to board a train pulled by the locomotive, "Peaks of Otter", which I think I recognized from my days working for the railroad. The train passed through some very familiar places, Forest, Goode's, Liberty, Thaxton's, Bonsack's and finally Big Lick.

I had hoped to hire a horse from the livery but all the riding horses had been taken by the government. The only thing available was a broken-down plow horse and a light open wagon. It was too late in the morning to complete the trip to Kemp's Ford so I resolved to stop and rest at some suitable half-way point, say, the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Hofauger and their son, George.

As they had no inkling of my coming, they were greatly surprised to see me. The surprise was on me as George was there, on leave from the army. I could have not dreamed to be lucky enough to see him at this time. George was handling a paddle, stirring apple butter made from the last of this season's harvest. There were still apples to peel so I produced my pocket knife and started in. I sampled a piece of several random apples just to make sure they were not too old.

As I peeled and George stirred, we talked. It was unknown to me that he had enlisted in the Fifty-fourth Virginia regiment. It was just random chance that we were both on leave at the same time. He had seen action in the west, being with Bragg's army. He was at that great battle of Chickamauga. We reminded each other of the time we served in the state militia, the old 157th before this war ever started. I said that it was odd that our militia unit was known as the Salem Yellow Jackets, so-called from our uniforms and that my present unit was known as the Lancaster Hornets.

We talked about our old pards, some of which were quite young, if truth be told. There were Eman Harshberger, Jacob Sloan, David Shealor,  and other good men. Two of the Deyerle boys were railroad guards on the Virginia and Tennessee, the same that brought me to Big Lick. Addison Stump, good old "Addy", was thought to be serving somewhere.

I had to confess to George that when we joined the militia, both his parents made me promise to look after him since I was about the same age as Samuel. Elizabeth was concerned that her young boy might fall under the influence of the wicked ways of some of the others. She said that since I had served in Mexico, I was familiar with those ways and would know how to protect him. She perhaps did not mean it quite that way but I said nothing save that I would look out after George. As I was telling George this, Elizabeth was looking at us from the second story. She smiled and waved, as did we in return.

That night, we had a sumptuous supper as far as the victuals were concerned. Otherwise, it was the most uncomfortable supper that I have ever had to suffer through. Once our talk turned to the war, the situation became rapidly untenable. My host and hostess, both wonderful folks, have not a clue as to the real nature of modern war. George spoke of glory and of great battles where the few slew the many who died miserably while the few died with laurel wreaths on their heads amidst trumpeting angels. Elizabeth concurred with her husband, adding that although it may cost the life of the son she bore into the world, she would gladly offer him up and a hundred more of her children for the cause.

War is blood by the barrel. The butcher's bill is never satisfied no matter lives are paid. For those who have seen combat, a few words and a nod that are exchanged are sufficient to understand what it means to have seen the elephant. The bond that is formed is instant and forever. Those who have seen it, understand. Those who have not do not and cannot understand. They do not understand. They do not.

The following morning, yesterday, I hitched up the wagon and headed for this place, Kemp's Ford, in Franklin County. I wanted to visit a spell with friend and see if the old school in which I had taught was still there. As it had been whitewashed since I left, I almost did not recognize it. School was not in session so I went inside. There were still the same eight benches and one desk, my old desk. The chalkboard was still black paint on the walls. I was not fond of it at the time but I fondly remembered having to repaint the boards every year which caused such a mess. O, I hated that.

I am now in the Sloan grist mill. The Sloans have no room in their house but their miller has an office in the mill. My bed is comprised of sacks of ground corn. It is not bad. I am sure that the mice will dance all over me as I sleep. Whatever happened to Holles the miller? He was a good fellow.

I hear no musketry, no cannon fire. No sabers are clanging. How will I sleep? There is no war here.

I Send You These Few Lines

All the names mentioned in this entry are true names of real people living in their areas mentioned at the time.

In the previous entry, I had mentioned why I had pursued the profession of history. In my research for this entry, I needed, for the story, to find the name of the local militia unit from near where Tooms used to live in Virginia before moving to South Carolina. That's how I found the Salem Yellow Jackets. Since Tooms' company in his South Carolina regiment is known was known as the Lancaster Hornets, I knew that I had to use the Yellow Jackets. History is cool.

Once again, as Tooms has often done in previous entries, much ink has been expended on the subject of eating. Those who have been in the service will know what I'm talking about.

And speaking of knowing something, I do NOT claim any special knowledge of what happens to men in combat or the bonds formed from that crucible. I have never seen combat; being married does not count. Having worked for the military for 12 years and counting, I have met and listened to hundreds of dozens of those who have been there and done that. Their stories, each  an individual one, have the commonality of a shared collective experience. I have read the diaries and the letters, listened to the remembrances, and have seem the seen the footage. When they tell me their stories, I have seen the glimmer in their eyes...and the tears. I have heard the many and they speak as one. But I do not know.

The photograph that is supposedly of Kemp's Ford School is in reality, Kemp's Ford School. The people in the photo are my fellow interpreters from a there-century living history park in Virginia.

The railroad locomotive, "Peaks of Otter", was the real name of a real locomotive on a real railroad. The hotel and the store where Tooms purchased his hat are real as well.

Tooms stated that there was no war there. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Tooms has a bad habit of getting things wrong. Let's hope that this time he is right.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"I am going to Big Lick.."

Friday, November 13, 1863, Virginia Central R.R. Station, Charlottesvillle

There is a furlough in my pocket and I am going to visit my friends in Big Lick. I dare not return to my  home in Beaufort as the Yankees still are holding the town in their fists. My old home in Virginia is far enough away from the war that all remains well and it has been too long since I have been back to visit. 

Earlier this week, while our mess was consuming our meager supper, Lieutenant Williamson informed me that I and one other person from the company had ben selected to go on furlough. Castles slapped me on my back so hard that I spilled my tin place of coosh. Duncan asked who the other lucky person was. Each of the members of the mess strained to hear their own name. The lieutenant replied with the mane of Corporal Flynn. My smile, which had been as big as a poplar stump, vanished in a wink. I offered my furlough to anyone from the mess. There were no takers. The lieutenant directed me to be ready to report to the train station in Richmond the following day.

For the rest of the night, the rest of the mess taunted me about the prospect of spending time with the dear corporal. I know that it was all in good fun, but at the time, I could not see it. Everyone gave me a verbal list of things, mostly edibles, to return with. Castles asked for ten pounds of bacon. Holton wanted fifteen pounds and some sausages. Hancock wanted a gallon of whiskey and five hardtack crackers. Holton asked why Hancock wanted so many crackers. Barton, Junior, wanted new shoes, a new shirt and a new pair of drawers.
Duncan wanted a discharge. All I wanted was another travelling partner.

The following morning, Corporal Flynn and myself hopped in a box car and took a supply train into Richmond. It was during this part of my furlough that I decided that I would not go with him to South Carolina. Virginia would be my destination. I did, however, go with him to the Virginia and Danville station on Pearl Street, intending to part company with him and go to another station for my train. It was at the first station that I met the most splendid fellows.

The station was as busy as a beehive with everyone from everywhere going every place else. The standard traveling costume was a uniform. The civilians were noticable by their mode of dress. Off in one corner of the station were some soldiers that appeared to be having a roaring good time. I went over and made my manners to them. They were all from the Fiftieth Virginia, of General Early's division. They were going home to Grayson County on recruiting duty.

There were six of them, all under a captain. They made such an impression upon me with their jocularity and hilarity that I thought that I should remember them by name. The captain was Linville Perkins and his lieutenant was Russell Legg. There was a sergeant, Jim Sheets by name who had three privates, Silas Weiss, William Mink and Isaac Farmer.  All were from an area in Grayson County called Fork of Wilson except for Lieutenant Legg who had enlisted in Wytheville. They were going back home to wave the flag, speechify and sign up new recruits for the Fiftieth Virginia. No doubt there will be any number of parties soirees, and picnics with plenty of fried chicken washed down with liberal libations.
Sheets showed me a tintype of himself and Andrew Jackson Sheets, who I took to be his brother, now captured during the battle at Gettysburg.

I enjoyed their company so much that I almost missed meeting my train. I left my corporal with them and wished them all very well. My station was the Virginia Central on Broad and Sixteenth. I had to hurry to meet my train as it was scheduled to leave at three of the clock.

When I arrived, my train was still in the station, preparing to leave. One of the slaves owned by the railroad was busy oiling and when he had completed his task, we would leave for Charlottesville. While we waited, I chatted with the fireman. He pointed out that his locomotive was now named, "General Stuart", but had been built with the name, "President". He showed me that underneath the paint on the tender, the letters, USMRR could be faintly seen. This locomotive had been part of the United States Military Railroad and had been captured at Manassas last year. The Confederate government had sold it to the Virginia Central. Soon, it would pull two passenger cars and one baggage car to the terminus in Charlottesville.

We pulled out of the station on time and I settled in for a confortable and long ride during which I could do nothing more laborious than sleep. I should have known better. We stopped at several stations, including Hanover Court House to take on or let off passengers. There was a wood and water stop at Beaver Dam. Citing the difficulties of running a railroad in time of war, the conductor called upon every able-bodied man to help load wood into the tender.

When back in the car, and just about to nod off to sleep, this little black boy whom I sssumed to be a slave, came through the cars, calling on everyone to buy his apples which were the finest in all Virginia. I gave him two dollars, Confederate, for four applies. I ate one and put the remaining three in my haversack for future consumption. It was a good apple.

At both Louisa Court House and Gordonsville, we stopped to wood up. I noticed that as we went further west, the locomotive was getting slower as we got higher into the mountains. Our mighty Northern-built machine was struggling just to avoid coming to a halt. By the time that we reached Charlottesville, it was dark and cold and raining. No train would be leaving until the morning. The conductor directed me to a soldier's rest where I could get a hot meal and spend the night awaiting the morning train.

Supper consisted of cabbage soup with some ham or some meat plus biscuits made of real flour with fresh apple butter. The, "coffee" was hot and wet but it was not coffee. After supper, I found an unoccuppied corner near a sheet-iron stove and spread out a blanket supplied by the rest. I would prefer my own blanket as it is much warmer. There are two boys tending to the fire in the stove. I will write no more as I must sleep. I cannot miss tomorrow's train. I am going to Big Lick.

I Send You These Few Lines.

For almost all of my adult life, I have been deeply involved in the field of history. It is my training, my experience, my interest, my livelihood, my passion and my life. It is my being and my reason for being. Those of you who have a similar calling need no explanation as to why. For everyone else, I will try to explain.

This blog revolves around the fictional diarist, David Tooms, of the 12th South Carolina Infantry. This unit was one of several hundred regiments, battalions and companies that served on the Southern side. Every so often, a unit other that the 12th is mentioned.

This time, I thought that I would include the 50th Virginia Infantry because I know someone who re-enacts that unit. So I examined at the service records for the 50th to look for some interesting members. While looking, I came across Colonel Alexander Vandeventer, the regimental commander of the 50th. His service record stated that during the summer of 1864, he was a prisoner of war on board the ship, "Dragoon" at Hilton Head, South Carolina. That's a short ways from where I live and a long way from Virginia. How did he come to be here? And he wasn't the only one from the 50th. I had to take apart this mystery. So I started digging.

Some of you may have heard of a group of Confederate officers known as the, "Immortal 600". They are quite big in historical circles locally. There are markers and monuments to them. The story of the Immortal 600 is far too long and complicated to discuss in much depth here. A Google search will reveal any number of good sources to anyone interested in more details.

The short story runs like this. During the Siege of Charleston in 1863 and 1864, Union artillery was shelling the city and the targets were not always of a military nature. The Confederate commander of the defenses took 50 Union officer prisoners and place them in housing within the civilian parts of the city to dissuade the Union from shelling that area.

The Union countered by gathering 600 Confederate officer prisoners at Fort Delaware and sent them by ship to be placed on Morris Island near Union artillery batteries shelling Charleston to dissuade the Confederates from shelling back.

There was a party of senior officers including the colonel of the 50th and L.H.N. Salyer, the 50th lieutenant colonel, who were paroled and exchanged in Charleston Harbor. Another of these early parolees was General James Archer. He war a brigade commander of Tennesseeans in Lee's army. He had been the colonel of the 5th Texas. At one time, I used to be with the 5th Texas.

These early parolees, who were at Hilton Head for part of their captivity prior to their release were spared most of the horrors and privations of the rest of the prisoners who were treated quite badly. Many sickened and some died. At one point, the survivors were removed from Morris Island to Fort Pulaski, near Savannah. The fort had been captured by Union forces in April of 1862. Part of the fort had been converted into a prison to hold the newcomers.

While at Fort Pulaski, the prisoners continued to die from diseases including scurvy, a nutritional deficiency disease. These survivors were transferred back to Fort Delaware where more died. The final survivors were released one month before Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Of the thirteen who perished at Fort Pulaski, three were from the 50th Virginia, including Lieutenant Legg whom Tooms met at the train station. The other two were Captain Alex King and Lieutenant Jonathan Ganaway. Others from the 50th can be counted in the ranks of the Immortal 600, 186 of which were Virginians.

The story continues. The National Cemetery in Beaufort, SC has a section for Confederate dead. I wondered if any of them were among the 600. Few of them had first names or unit designations. It took some digging but with the help of my wife, Susan, I found one, Lieutenant Robert C. Bryan of the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry. He died in a hospital in Beaufort of chronic diarrhea on October 8, 1864.  He is buried nearly in my backyard.

Andrew Jackson Sheets would die a prisoner in Fort Delaware in 1863 leaving his wife, Mary and a daughter, Rachel, aged 6 and a son, aged 6 months. Mary filed for a widow's pension in 1896 as a resident of Tazewell County.

James Sheets would die a prisoner at the US Hospital in Judiciary Square in 1864.Among his effects was a silver watch, a New Testament and a pair of drawers.

Silas Weiss would be released from Elmira Prison, NY after the war was over and return home to Abingdon.

Isaac Farmer would also be captured but he took the oath for the Union and joined the Federal army in Company H, 1st United States Volunteers. He was posted to Fort Rice, Montana Territory where he died of scurvy on February 21, 1865.

William Mink died in prison of a lung infection in April of 1865 and is buried on the Jersey shore.

Lynville Perkins reentered Confederate service after his parole at Charleston and eventually commanded the 50th Virginia.

The town of Big Lick gets its' name from the salt licks in the area that attracted game and therefore hunters. Big Lick is now known as Roanoke.

All the information about the locomotive is true.

This is why I do what I do.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Ham owes me a Yankee".

Tuesday, October 20, 1863, between the Hazel and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia

General Lee, being a very good general, decided that the time was ripe to attack the Yankees again. We have learned that a good part of their army left our front to go to Tennessee. Now that their numbers were reduced, it was time to punish them again. Our own force had been reduced to to to the same place but that did not stop General Lee.

About a week ago, we were told to cook rations and that told us that there was to be some action. We had thought that operations had concluded for the year. We were looking forward to spending another winter warm and cozy in our rude cabins. At first, we thought that the Yankees were up to something and that we were to put a stop to it. Over the next few days, as we advanced and they retreated, we realized that it was ourselves who were doing the attacking. We felt very good.

The brigade crossed the Rapidan near Cave's Ford. For several days we marched further northward in the general direction of Warrenton. We desired that the Yankees would turn their backs to face us but they would not oblige us. We saw no action during these several days but did hear cannon and musket to the right of us in the distance. We cheered whoever was engaging the Yankees and loudly proclaimed that our turn would come.

Somewhere shy of Warrenton, we gorged ourselves on excellent white cabbage. Around the campfire that night, "Ham" Steele proclaimed, with great regret, that he could march no further on bare feet. There are quite a number of us sans shoes these days. Ham showed us his feet and inded, they were tore up. The cause of his depression was not his poor fet but rather that he could not keep up with us and would be unable to pot some Yankees.

From my pack, I removed the shoes that I had been keeping for when my current pair would blow out. The previous owner needed them no longer. I gave my old ones to Ham and put on the new ones. They were not fully worn in and I feared blisters but Holton gave me his spare pair of socks. I now have on both pairs and will trust that the additional padding will protect my feet. Ham expressed his gratitude by saying that the first Yankee he shoots will be for me.

On the fourteenth, we fell out from the line of march and went into line of battle. Some wounded of Heath's division passed us in the other direction. They called to us that the Yankees were hard by and that we should give them H--l. We swore that we would. I reminded Ham that he owed me a Yankee. My feet had been suffering a little but I forgot all about it now that we were about to attack.

In anticipation of our glorious charge which would rout them back to Washington, the Yankees shelled us but without much effort. When daylight faded away, which is earlier this time of year, the Yankees turned their backs to us once again and retreated towards Manassas. We were quite disappointed that they should not give us battle. As we marched the next day, we said that we would catch the Yankees at Manassas and would give them a good beating for a third time at that same place. It was at Manassas two years ago that our Jackson acquired the nickname of, "Stonewall". Our regiment was still in South Carolina at the time.

Once we reached Warrington, we halted and began the destruction of the railroad there. This may have been the Orange and Alexandria but I am not sure. The destruction of a railroad is a pleasurable affair. With whatever tools may be obtained from the nearest mechanic's shed, we pry away the spikes holding the rails to the ties. After the rails are removed, the ties are paced in a pile and set on fire. This was difficult as it was raining on and off during the day. Even so, we succeeded in heating the rails to the point where they would bend and be useless.

While we were enjoying ourselves, it was Hancock who asked if we were advancing, why were we destroying a railroad that would be in our rear as we advanved. Would we not need that line to keep us supplied as we moved towards Washington? It took a moment for this observation to sink in and when it did, there was no more joy in the burning.

That night, we marched to another point on the railroad. The rain was violent and all of us were as wet as fish in a run. We tore up another section of railroad but was not at all gleeful. Then we headed back the way we came. We could not have felt more miserable.

We crossed the Rappahannock yesterday and are now in camp. We can see the Yankee cavalry looking back at us from the other side. They cannot get at us and we cannot get at them. There will be a next time. Ham owes me a Yankee.

I Send You These Few Lines

What Tooms writes of is the Bristoe Campaign. It is little known or studied. Shiloh, Gettysburg and Nashville are better known. This campaign was an attempt by Lee to get around Meade's Army of the Potomac and threaten Washington. Lee was intending to maneuver Meade to a point where the latter would be forced to defend Washington. Lee would then tear off a piece of Meade's army and destroy it.

Meade would not co-operate. Rather than allow himself to be placed in a bad position, he retreated. There was one battle of any size, Bristoe Station. Hill attacked Hancock's II Corps but could do no significant damage. The casualties Hill suffered were severe.

In this post-Gettysburg fall of 1863, Lee's army is again suffering for want of men and supplies, including rations. Ham Steele was one of many such sufferers and winter is coming.

Tooms had previously written that as neither side was up to a new offensive, even though the weather would allow it, both sides would settle in for the rest of the year. Of course, he was greatly mistaken and surprised as was most everyone else. 

Now that this latest effort has expended itself, will the armies finally suspend their activities for the year or is there enough good weather and enough will for one more good throw?

Either way, it will be a long winter.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"We stay at six".

Tuesday, October 6, 1863, Orange Court House, Virginia.

If boredom could kill, half of us would be dead. There is so very little to do that is of any consequence. We chop great quantities of firewood for we expect a harsh winter and that is useful. Some of us sneak out of camp to hunt deer, fully aware that if they are caught, they will be charged for the cartridges they use or will face some punitive punishment. This is the time of year when the deer are active in their efforts to achieve connection and it is so hard to see them prance hither and yon and not think of a good supper.  I Company draws picket duty only every so often and with the exception of one flurry of activity, the Yankees have given us little excuse for raising a sweat. 

Towards the end of last month, on the 25th, the Yankee cavalry attempted a raid on Liberty Mills, on the Rapidan. They perhaps had heard that Longstreet's corps has left us to go out west and therefore our lines were weakened. Our division, being hard by, was ordered to take care of them. Lane's brigade of North Carolinians stayed behind at Barnett's Ford while the rest of the division went downriver, looking for Yankees. The Twelfth was separated from the brigade and went down from the Mills. We saw nothing and fired not a shot. The North Carolinians who stayed where they were saw some action but we did not.

Two days later, we returned to camp. Our only casualty was Hancock who twisted an ankle. Good soldier that he is, he did not allow himself to be separated from his pards and rode in a supply wagon with a teamster. That night, at supper around the campfire, Hancock produced a slab of bacon for all of us to partake. Hancock said that he had captured it. Our mess gave him three cheers. The commotion attracted the attention of Corporal Flynn who paid us a visit. We expected him to turn all bellicose and threaten all manner of punishments but all he said was that it smelled good in our mess. We bade him sit and share.

Longstreet and his whole corps has been sent to help Bragg out west. It seems that he cannot beat the Yankees without Lee's help and as Lee cannot leave here, he sent his trusted lieutenant, Longstreet. It is all too bad that Stonewall is no longer with us. If Old Jack were sent, he could drive the Yankees straight back to and beyond the Ohio.

There have been some changes lately. Colonel Perrin, who took over command of the brigade upon the wounding of General McGowan at our last great victory of Chancellorsville, has been promoted to brigadier general. When our division commander, Pender, was wounded at Gettysburg, it was Wilcox who took over comand. We now learn that his temporary command has been permanent now that poor Pender is dead, succumbed to his wounds.

The re-organization of our company and squad after Gettysburg seems to be working well. "Jeffie" Turner, and "Ham" Steele, Sims, Sullivan and the rest are adjusting to us and we to them. We have taken to calling Stafford Hood "General Hood" after that great Kentuckian -turned-Texican Hood and he does not mind it in the least.

We of the Dandy Eights mess have pondered what to do now that we number just six. Troy Crenshaw has been absent since being wounded at Second Manassas which was more than a year ago. Vincent went missing since Gettysburg and now it stands that we are six. We debated allowing others to join our mess to bring our numbers up to eight but we decided not to as it would be an admission that we would never see our two pards again. We shall stay at six.

I Send You These Few Lines

They may be bored but at least no one is shooting at them. The great scene of action, at this time, is in the West, with the Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg.In September of 1863, Bragg had his opposite number, William Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland penned up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Longstreet and part of his corps, not all of it as Tooms thought, were sent to help deliver the killing blow to Rosecrans.

Washington was not to permit this to happen. Two corps of Meade's Army of the Potomac, the XI  and XII Corps were sent west to assist Rosecrans. Sending away so much of Meade's army would slow but not halt offensive operations against Lee. Tooms is unaware of this transfer of Federal troops away from Virginia. 

What constitutes west at this time needs clarification. When someone spoke of the west back then, they were not referring to Wyoming, Nevada, Utah or Arizona (none of which yet existed) but rather Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan and other states which are now called the Midwest.

Tooms and his pards will need to enjoy the respite from active campaigning while it lasts. If the lull lasts much longer, the change from good weather to bad will terminate all campaigning until the Spring. If.

By that time, Longstreet will return and Lee's army will be whole again. The same cannot be said for the two corps sent from Meade's army. Neither would return to Virginia. The XII Corps would be broken up in April of 1864 and the troops used as the nucleus of a new corps.

The other corps that never returned, the XI, has quite an interesting story. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in April of 1863, it was this corps, under then O.O. Howard that was first attacked by "Stonewall" Jackson as part of his lengthy flank march. The reader may recall from the May 7, 1863 diary entry by Tooms, two captured Union troops, Albert Drehfall and Adam Herlich that were being escorted by Tooms' regiment away from the field. Both of then were with the 54th New York, part of XI Corps.

Two of the three divisions comprising XI Corps stayed in the West. The remaining division, would be transferred to the Department of the South to take part in operations against Charleston in 1863. The headquarters of the Department of the South and the base for operations against Charleston was Hilton Head, South Carolina, about 45 minutes south of where this writer (and Tooms) lives. 

So Lee gets all his people back and Meade gets nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. He does get some guy named Grant.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"There will be blood".

Saturday, September 5, 1863, near a Virginia river.

The thought occurred to me earlier today that during those times of active campaigning, when time is a luxury, that I make more entries in this diary then times like now, when there is a surplus of time. It has been more than two weeks since my last entry and I have had enough time to pen a dozen entries.

The general opinion in the company is that this year's campaign season is over. The weather is good and there should be two months of good weather left this season. We have handled the Yankees badly at Gettysburg and their actions after that great battle have been without much spirit. They, like us, will use the rest of the year plus the winter to rebuild. When the spring of next year arrives and dries the roads, there will be blood.

Now that we have had the time, the Lancaster Hornets have been re-organized. Several Hornets who were missing from Gettysburg due to illness or other reasons have returned but given our losses at that miserable Yankee town, the company numbers about some sixty or seventy muskets when it should have a hundred. 

Our squad, the second, numbers eighteen. This includes our mess, the Dandy Eights which now numbers six, Bill Barton, Senior having been killed in Pennsylvania and Wilson Crenshaw missing there as well. Still present and always hungry are-

Burrell Hancock
Dennis Castles
Bill Barton, Junior
John T. Holton
Thomas J. Duncan, and my own humble self,
Dave Tooms

The rest of the Second Squad, under that Corporal, Joseph Flynn are

William Terry
John White
Dick W. Lyles
Jefferson Mathis
Troy Crenshaw, who has been absent from the company since being wounded at Manassas last year.
Isaac Vincent, missing since Gettysburg.

Some new faces are present in the squad. All have been in Company I for some time. They are being transferred to this squad to fill it out. 

James F.V. Turner. We call him Jeffie.
Garrett Sims
Robert J.M. Steele
Hugh A.M. Steele. We call hin Ham. He does not seem to mind it. The regimental sergeant-major is Joesph Steele. I think the three are related. I must wonder if it is a good thing having two people related to our sergeant-major is good.
Stafford Hood
Andy Sullivan. Andy is the youngest of the squad, having joined at Lancaster in the first year of the war when he was just a tender seventeen years of age. Andy is now a seasoned veteran and is tender no more.
Joseph M. Richardson

The entire squad is from the South Carolina upcountry, mostly from the Lancaster area. There is one exception from the lowcountry and that is myself. I do not know why I joined the Twelfth in Columbia. Had I enlisted with the the Eleventh, I would be back in Beaufort, at least near my now-Yankee-occuppied home. I would be with the people I know, the Barnwells, the Rhetts, the Fripps, the Fullers and those of their kind.

But these people that I am with are good folks. We know each other and trust each other like brothers. We know what each of the families are doing back home. Just yesterday, Jim Shehane asked me to read to him a letter from home. I did so gladly as Jim can neither read nor write. The folks back home are trying to be cheerful in their writings but things can be read between the lines that show that their lives are anything but rosy.

The great debate here is, should be start building our winter cabins now since it seems that there will be no more campaigning or do we wait until the bad weather is upon us. The stalwarts advocating each side have made their opinions known. Some few cabins have begun to be built. None are finished and because the weather is still good, there is little pressure to finish them soon. 

The large mountain of packages from home that accumulated during our absence up North has been brought low. Every item and morsal has been given out. An occasional package arrives from one of the relief agencies. Hood received a new blanket, Duncan a new pair of trousers, bright green with small black stripes. Sims offered forty dollars for them and was turned  down flat.

"Jeffie" Turner received a package from home that included a new jacket with real brass buttons and two crockery jars of molassas. One of the jars had broken and covered the jacket with the sticky goo. Jeffie called some of us around and poured some of the contents of the unbroken jar into his mess plate and bade us all to dip our cornbread and crackers and feast. We did so, with great relish and thanks. Jeffie then wrung out his jacket into the intact jar until it was full again. He took that crock plus the jacket with his haversack and a bar of soap and went to the river. Since he did not take his musket, I do not think that he is pulling picket duty.

Somehow, I must get a furlough or a short pass to go to Richmond. This diary is nearly full and only in Richmond may I find a new one. What else might I find there?

I Send You These Few Lines

All the people mentioned in this diary entry were real and did serve in the war. This includes the old hats like Duncan, Flynn, Hancock, and Lyles as well as the newcomers Sullivan, Richardson, Turner and Sims. None of the newcomers are new to the company or regiment. They are just new to the second squad, being part of a post-Gettysburg reorganization.

That they are in the second squad is not possible to verify. The records to not offer that level of detail so the idea that any of them are in the same squad is mere license on my part.

I take no license when it comes to the affection that combat soldiers had or have for one another. All the letters and diaries and accounts from any war demonstrate that for each other they will give up their last pair of socks, their last cracker or their last drop of blood. If you have ever served, you will understand.

The names that Tooms mentions as being known to him from his Beaufort days, Barnwell, Fuller, etc., were (and some still are) the movers and shakers for the South Carolina lowcountry.

About the cabins...to build or not to build, that is the question. Neither Tooms nor his pards know the answer.

The Yankees know.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"This is a lovely place to die."

Tuesday, August 11, 1863, Barnett's Ford, along the Rapidan.

For perhaps the better part of a week, we have been marched many miles through the countryside and none of us have fired a shot in this regiment. The Yankees have probed here and there and we have responded by moving to that threatened spot only to find that either the Yankees have left or they were never there.

On Saturday the first, we were pushed north of Culpeper, on the road to Brandy Station. The Fourteenth got into it for awhile with some Yankee cavalry but the rest of us were unaffected. We rested on Sunday and were roused early on Monday and sent through Culper towards Orange Court House. The day was punishingly hot. Some of the residents of Culpeper met us with buckets and cups of cool, sweet water and we were very much grateful. 

Holton was marching two persons ahead of me in the line of march. As we approached one happy woman and her three daughters, Holton fumbled his feet and knocked over their bucket of water, spilling it all. Mathis, who was right behind him, picked up the bucket and gave Holton a blow to the head with it, while saying some impolite words. Corporal Flynn saw and heard everything and pulled the both of them out of line. Holton was made to fill the now-empty bucket from a nearby well. Mathis was made to apologize to both woman and child. Mathis cut three buttons from his jacket and gave them to the daughters. They seemed quite happy. Mathis pulled guard duty at the hospital tent that night.

Beyond Culpeper, we marched through last year's battlefield of Cedar Run. We encountered many bright skeletons from that battle, forgotten and unattended to. Someday, they need to be buried.  We passed one smiling bleached skull which was looking straight at us. Bill Barton, Junior made a voice as if it were the skull talking to us as we passed. "Where are you going, boys? This is a lovely place to die."Had that come from anyone else, we might have laughed. Coming from Bill, so soon after the loss of Bill, Senior at Gettysburg, no one laughed. Holton, who was behind me now, commented that perhaps Junior was not yet over the loss. 

The next day, which was Tuesday, we marched to a point not quite at the Rapidan. On the next day, we crossed said Rapidan at Barnett's Ford and went into camp only a mile from Orange Court House and we are still here, encamped in a wonderful grove of shady oaks. A crow flying overhead can find us by all the canvas we are under. This brigade has been blessed, having acquired a large number of Yankee flies. Every company in every regiment has these flies, nicely aligned in rows forming company streets. We look so military.

A round of thanks must go to Lieutenant Rallings who missed the march to Gettysburg. During the time that he remained behind, many packages and bundles were recieved for distrubution to the troops. The lieutenant took all those that were allocated to this company plus some stores from our own government quartermaster and would not let the contents be handed out to others who were absent from Gettysburg. Upon our return, the lieutenant, who had been promoted to a first lieutenancy, allowed the presents to be opened and given out. We heartily cheered him three times three.

Everyone in the company is now shod. Some have shoes from one of the relief associations, and some from government stores. Some others, myself included, have Yankee shoes. Having been barefoot for so long, I had wondered if my feet could ever again be fit into a brogan but I am very lucky.

I have copied down in this diary, the names of the various organizations responsible. When this war is over and our freedom won, I want to visit each of these and express my thanks to all for their efforts to sustain their army in the field. Without then, this army would have folded long ago.

One package was marked as being from the Ladies' Aid Society of Lancaster, Mrs. M.P. Crawford, President. From this package, Hancock received a pair of drawers, one shirt and two pairs of socks. Terry received the same plus a haversack made of ticking and a jacket with brass buttons. Both Holton and myself received a jacket. We three, Terry, Holton and myself, sacrificed one button each from our new jackets to give to Mathis who had given three of his to the girls in Culpeper.

In addition to my jacket, another package from the Chester Soldier's Relief Association, Mrs. A.Q. Dunovant, vice-president,  gave me two new shirts, two pair of drawers and three pairs of socks. Three pairs, all hand-knit from someone's loving hands. It was a Dunovant, who, as colonel, first raised and commanded this regiment. I suppose there is some relation. This same package provided Corporal Flynn with two shirts and two pair of socks, Mathis with one shirt and a haversack, and Holton with one pair of drawers. All os us who received any clothing to replace used items with buttons, stripped the buttons before discarding the used garments.

I threw away my old slouch hat if favor of a new one, black with a fine ribbon. It was then that Hancock noticed something that I had not. In the back of the crown of my old slouch was a bullet hole. It had probably been ventilated courtesy of some Yankee at Gettysburg.

The new haversack for Mathis was made from ticking that has a faded red hue to it. We now call him, "Pink". Once all the items were in the hands of their new owners, we were all very happy. We looked so military.

Lieutenant Rallings said that Mr. Obidiah Pickle of the Central Relief Association in Columbia was responsible for gathering these various bundles from various sources and transporting them to their warehouse in Richmond and from there to us. For him, who was not there to hear us, we gave him three cheers and a tiger. 

I Send You These Few Lines

Much has been said and written since the, "Late Unplesantness", about the ragged Confederate and his tent under the stars. The part of this latest entry tyhat deals with the proliferation of Yankee tent flies (awnings) comes from J.F.J. Caldwell. He was the adjutant to the brigade that Tooms is in and he wrote a post-war history of the brigade that refers to all the captured Union canvas. He says that Lee's entire army could be found under Union canvas. 

Tooms pays great homage to the Ladies aid societies and well he should. They maintained the Confederate armies in the field with their contributions of clothing, medical supplies and foodstuffs. Before the Confederate nation could summon the industrial means to support the armies, the aid societies, working largely at their homes, would provide the labor and material support to keep the armies clothed and bandaged. 

With a pair of drawers here and a handkerchief there, all total, the armies were kept going, giving the Confederate Quartermaster Corps a chance to get up and running. And afterwards, the work of the societies would supplement what the government in Richmond could supply which was, at times, very little.

Tooms mentions just three of the many societies and associations which contributed to the war effort. The Central Association for the Relief of South Carolina Soldiers, based in Columbia, was perhaps the largest to operate in the state. This association maintained a warehouse in Richmond where supplies were sent to from all over the state for distribution to the troops in the field. Its chairman was Dr. Maximilian LeBorde. The field agent was Obidiah Pickle, mentioned in several prior diary entries. Other Southern organizations were:

Charleston Ladies Hospital Association (SC)
Baptist Home Society (SC)
Scruggsville Soldier's Aid Society (AL)
Ladies' Humane Society of Huntsville (AL)
Mobile Military Aid Society (AL)
Ridgeway Soldier's Aid Society (NC)
Military Sewing Company (NC)
Soldier's Friend Association of Lake Orange (FL)
Ladies' Relief Society (Lynchburg, VA)
Soldier's Aid Society of Virginia (Richmond, VA)
Georgia Relief and Hospital Association (Augusta, GA)
Volunteer Aid Society (Athens, GA)
Military Sewing Society (Memphis, TN)
Soldier's Friend Society (Nashville, TN)
Ladies'Aid Society (Monroe, LA)
Fredericksburg Southern Aid Society (TX)

There were a great many others and their efforts were not confined to sewing, cooking or rolling bandages. Such societies performed nursing work in the hospitals and lifted morale by providing plays and shows to the troops. God Bless the Southern Women.

These material efforts on the part of the societies combined with those of the government, made the Army of Northern Virginia a well-uniformed one if not well-fed during the summer and autumn of 1863. 

And it is now the summer of 1863. There have been three large battles in the last few months. Fredericksburg, in December of 1862, was a Confederate victory. Chancellorsville, in May of 1863, was a Confederate victory. Gettysburg, in July of 1863, was a Union victory. Few persons, if any, at the time thought of Gettysburg as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. As far as most people were concerned, Gettysburg was just one of several battles that see-sawed across Virginia. There would be a next battle and the fortunes of war could turn again.

As far as both the major armies in the east are concerned, they are still recovering from the battering at Gettysburg. Both sides are marshaling their resources for another go at one another. There's still a good two months or so of good campaigning weather left before winter ends the campaign season. There's plenty of time for something to happen.

And it will.