Monday, April 29, 2013

"The Yankees have crossed the river".

Wednesday, April 29, 1863, Along Mine Road, Virginia

We were in camp, the entire brigade, tending to our preparations for eventual battle when the long roll was sounded and we formed up. From what I can tell, the entire division was called to attention with much agitation in the ranks. With great rapidity, the ordnance officers distributed packages of forty rounds to all in the ranks. Any preparations we had been making were terminated due to the necessity at hand.

The Yankees have crossed the river on pontoon bridges in at least two locations south of Fredericksburg. They crossed where General Early's division was and he took measures to meet them. We could hear the exchange of musketry and a sharp cannonade. Our Jackson was quick to form us up and bring our division in behind Early's. I have been told that the divisions of Rodes and Colston are to the right of Early. 

We are resting in formation, ready to move in line of battle should we have to. Old Sol has beat down on us for several hours. We have the protection of our cabins no longer and we all are quite incomfortable. Most of us missed our morning breakfast so we are just now preparing our evening meal. We Dandy Eights have pooled our rations. Hancock and Castles are doing the cooking. The elder Bill Barton has inspected his cartridge box more times than I can count. I am content to sit on this blackjack log and write while supper is being prepared.

Holton had been investigating the contents of his haversack since we halted here. He repeatedly looks around then looks inside his haversack, inserting his hand. He looks around and removes his hand with nothing in it. He waits several moments and then he repeats the spectacle. When I asked the reason for this peculiar demonstration, he replied, "All in due time, Tooms". 

After several more times of repeating this, he inserted his hand one last time and emerged with a dirty poke sack. It was coffee. Real coffee. He explained that some time ago, when we were on picket duty, he met up with a Yankee doing the same. They met in the river and exchanged tobacco and coffee. Holton had kept the coffee a secret waiting for some special occasion to prepare this most wonderful of beverages.

The younger Bill Barton produced our coffee pot and fetched some water. Before long, the pot was on the fire. I am drinking coffee from my tin cup as I write this. Without sugar or milk, it is still grand. All hail Holton, our new hero. 

The odor of real coffee has attracted a good deal of attention. Corporal Flynn and Sergeant Harper came over, cups in hand, pretending this was just a visit. From another squad, Bill Terry and the two John Thompsons, no relation, as far as I can tell, paid us a visit. Terry said that he would give us two crackers and a piece of fatback for a cup of coffee. It would have been polite to decline the offer but we Eights were hungry so everything went into the pan and everyone shared in the skillygalee alike.

First Sergeant Wade and Lieutenant Williamson, were making their rounds, seeing to their people when they sensed the presence of coffee. Neither had their cups with them but we shared both coffee and cups as it was a good time to inquire as to the situation. The Lieutenant said that the Yankees had thrown elements of two corps, Sedgwick's and Reynolds's on to our side of the river. What happens next is a matter of speculation. Do we attack tomorrow morning and throw them into the river before they are re-inforced? Do we hold them in place and await developments? Do we retreat? We know what Jackson would say.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"The Yankees have not moved."

Monday, April 27, 1863, Camp Gregg, Virginia

All winter long, I have been missing a button from my jacket. I have not replace it as there has been no pressing need to do so. Now that we could be marching off to battle at any time, I am scrambling about trying to find a button. Vincent gave me one of his, a nice Yankee button. And then he had to loan me the use of his housewife as I have  misplaced mine. One could say Lee's entire army is a similar agitated state of affairs. 

Those of us unlucky to be barefoot over the winter are pressing for the issue of brogans. Lieutenant Williamson is trying to provide for us by placing special requisitions with the regimental quartermaster. I would not mind aquireing another shirt and two more pairs of socks. As I have been favored with one new shirt and one pair of socks courtesy of Mr. Pickle, it is not likely that I will get anything else for some time. After I received the new shirt, I patched my drawers with my old shirt. I'm sure that I have the most colorful drawers in the entire company.

While I like my kepi, with its' martial looks, I would very much prefer a good, comfortable slouch. The kepi, while looking right and proper for a soldier, it does next to nothing to keep the Sun from emblazoning my head or rain from cascading down my neck. I hear the Yankees have slouch hats.

If we go off to battle anytime soon, it will be with one brogan off. We are missing so many. Adkins, Conners, Lynn, Carter and Johnson are dead. Castle, Lyles, and Duncan are absent, sick. Troy Crenshaw has been absent, wounded since Second Manassas last August. These losses are just in our squad. I am sure the rest of the company is similarly affected. Our captain, Vanlandinghan, resigned last month, being disabled from his wound at Gaines Mill. His replacement, Lieutenant Stover, is absent on a medical furlough due to his wound at Sharpsburg. Lieutenant Williamson runs the company. In the absence of a colonel or lieutenant colonel, Major Bookter now commands the entire regiment. No matter. Corporal Flynn is still with us. He can do anything.

With Castles and Duncan still at odds with each other, I hope they will go to separate hospitals.

The weather has turned wet again but we do not mind. If the roads can be kept bad, Hooker will not move and we can use the time to prepare to receive him. Part of this preparation is the cleaning of our uniforms, muskets, accoutrements and ourselves. Soap has become more available if not abundant. No amount of soap however, can rid us of the problem of pestilence. Our friends, the greybacks, respect no rank or status. All are equally infected and afflicted. To scratch is to be a soldier.

We have tried smoking them out, boiling them out, and picking them out by hand. No matter how many we kill by whatever means, ranks of them advance to replace those killed. There is no end of them. All during this winter inside our cabins, we ate with them, slept with them, played at cards with them and could not exist without them although we wanted to. They entertained us as we held races with them. They entertained us as we killed them. As we mashed them between our fingers and fingernails, they made such a satisfying popping sound. We never tired of the sound. We probably never will. 

The time is nearing when we will be called upon to kill bigger lice- Yankees. We cannot throw them in the fire but we can make things hot for them and make them think they are in H--l. They are still. When will they move?

Monday, April 22, 2013

"...ripping Virginia apart."

Wednesday, April 22, 1863, Along the Rappahannock

The ultimate tyranny is to be visited upon the Confederacy. We are to be slaughtered and dismembered like some hog. I have read a copy of the New York Herald. That gorilla Lincoln has stated that that area of occupied Virginia, which he calls West Virginia, is to be a new state effective in June. This dictator, in his proclaimed efforts to uphold the old Constitution, is ripping Virginia apart and by doing so, is trampling on that same Constitution.

Will East Tennessee and Western North Carolina be combined in a new state? Will Texas be given to New Mexico? The only circumstance that can prevent all this and more is a victory of Southern arms. We need a good stand-up fight, bayonet-to-bayonet, musket-to-musket. Give us Jackson and Lee and turn us loose. We are anxious eager for a fight.
 Virginia will again be whole.

Adkins is dead. The poor fellow was laid low by pneumonia right in camp soon after coming back from our furlough in Richmond. The very day we returned, he went straight to the hospital tent, complaining of feeling bad. I thought not much of it. I had thought that it was connected to our near-firing on the starving women.  I saw him just before he passed on. He said that I could have my old blanket back. He was a good man. Peace to his ashes.

That Mr. Pickle whom we met both going to and coming from Richmond, visited our camp and had a long word with Lieutenant Williamson. We noticed that when he entered the Lieutenant's cabin, he was with four Negroes, each with a sack or parcel. When Mr. Pickle left, Lieutenant Williamson called the company together. With only a slight hint of a speech, he said that the Central Association had sent the items from the folks at home for distribution to their boys with the army..

The items were opened and the contents handed out. There was nothing to eat but that was all right. There were some jackets, drawers, a few scarves, three pair of brogans, and quite a number of shirts and socks. There was one very fine kepi and Hancock got that. He strutted around looking very military. I was lucky to get one blue shirt and one pair of wool socks.

This got me to thinking about those items that I entered the war with. After taking a mental stock of myself, I found that everything I had joined up with at Camp Lightwood Springs had been used up except my very good blanket. All my civilian clothes wore out months ago. Several sets of more military issue have gone as well. A very good frock coat was stripped of its' buttons when its' usefullness had been completed. All my militia accoutrements and even my musket are well nigh gone. I will not lose my blanket again.

It is wrapped around me as I write this. It is our turn again to pull picket duty along the river. The fire in the cabin is warning those inside. I am outside as I feel the need for fresh air. As I sit on a log, I can see the Yankee pickets across the river. I can count their cookfires from the columns of smoke. There does not appear to be any more fires or pickets than were there when I went on furlough. Though we cannot see much, we know the Yankees are up to something.

We are drilling more of late. I will admit that we have become rusty over the winter and Corporal Flynn is doing his best to whip us into shape to whip the Yankees. There has been no official communication that a movement is at hand. Everyone knows that either our army or theirs must move first and the other will follow suit. There will be battle. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"...pickle relish".

Thursday, April 16, 1863, Camp Gregg, Virginia

We are back in camp and I, for one, am glad of it. My furlough was intended to allow for some rest but except for the earliest part of it, there was no rest. Of the six of us who met at the train station, only myself and Adkins terminated our time early. After coming so close to shooting women, neither Adkins nor I considered that we could enjoy whatever time we had left. Adkins is still physiclly sick over it. I feel better being back in camp.

On the train returning from Richmond, we had the opportunity to once again make the aquaintence of Mister Obidiah Pickle, the gentleman from the Central Association. He was also returning from Richmond with a car of supplies for we poor South Carolina soldiers. With any luck, some of the supplies are for our brigade and maybe for our regiment and company.

One of the first sights that we should see upon returning was Castles riding a wooden horse. Nearby was Duncan, with what looked to be a black eye, riding a similar horse. I hallooed to them both but neither answered. They only glared at each other. According to Hancock, they had engaged in a bout of fisticuffs and are now transferred to the, "cavalry", for awhile. Before we start campaigning, they need to bury the hatched before the Yankees bury them. Adkins did not see them as he reported to the hospital straight away.

We heard geese, flying north, and wished we had permission to invite them to supper. My first meal back was the usual hardtack and salt pork. Somehow, it tasted better than our fare in Richmond. It was probably being in the company of pards that made the difference. Holton shared a jar of pickle relish that he had received from home. I slathered a hardtack cracker with it and enjoyed it all. 

My musket and all my accoutrements are back with me and I feel better for it. I feel like a soldier again. My uniform is better suited to a rag merchant. My brogans are unworthy of the name. Adkins and I were hoping to obtain new things in Richmond. Perhaps we left too soon. No matter how unsightly I may appear, as long as my musket is clean, I am ready.

The snow is nearly all gone. The air is still cold at night. We still consume a good deal of firewood. The tree line has been reduced signifigantly in order to feed our fireplaces. Our bellies should be as well-fed. We will just have to supplement our rations from the Yankee haversacks. We are scheduled to pull picket duty again very soon. Perhaps some trade can be effected with the enemy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

".. be necessary to shoot the women."

Tuesday, April 7, 1863, South Carolina Soldier's Home, Richmond

I would have made this entry several days ago except that until now, my hands have been shaking so badly that I have not been able to hold a pen. It happened five days ago and occurred quite near here.

On Thursday last, Adkins and myself, after breakfast with our new friends, Johnston, Sherrer, Gettys and Raterree, left the Home bound for our respective destinations. We had said that during our stay in Richmond we would tie together but that did not last. Adkins and I were going to the South Carolina Depot where Castles, Duncan, Hancock and myself were sent last year to guard stores. Quite in error, I had let slip to Adkins that last year, we had made the aquantances of two women, girls really, named Lily and Hortense.

Adkins had been moving listlessly after our substancial breakfast but upon hearing the women's names, be became all attention and energy. He begged me to take him to the potential land of romance and softness. I tried to explain that after a year, it was not likely that they were still there but Adkins would have none of it. On we went, the pace gathering speed as we came closer to the same destination for different reasons. Adkins was looking to make a conquest. I was now looking for a place to sit and rest. I am not forty any more.

As we made our way along Fourteenth, we heard in the not to far distance which we took for a great commotion. As the Yankees were dozens of miles away, we dismissed the sounds as being of no consequence. His mind and my body had better things to do. I was regretting ever having mentioning anything about women to Adkins.

At last, we came to Main and walked, almost running at the double-quick, to the Depot. The sounds we had heard and ignored were getting louder and we could tell that they were angry. Hard by was the building for the Georgia Hospital and Relief Association. I had to rest as Adkins was eager to enter the Association building, saying that he was ready to storm some breastworks. I think I remember being like him when I was his age. Martin van Buren was President as I recall.

Our attentions were quite quickly interrupted by the sounds of soldiers marching towards us from our opposite direction. There were no bands or flags. Adkins said this was no parade. A lieutenant, breathing hard, saw us and called, "You men, draw muskets and ammunition from the Depot and fall in! Quickly now!" A private inside the Depot gave us what we needed and we ran to catch up to the column. 

I asked the soldier next to me what was going on. He said, "Riot. We are to put it down."
A riot! By whom? We are at war for our freedom. A civil disturbance does no good for our cause and only helps the enemy to further his tyranny over us. If these were our own brother soldiers at the root of this riot, this is treason. These people are traitors and they must be shot. 

We were ordered to halt. The sounds were loud and full of venom against our government. We could see a mob and it was getting closer. I saw and struggled to comprehend what my eyes told me. The mob was almost all women. They were calling for bread and other foodstuffs but it was mostly bread. They cried of hunger and starvation and want. They were badly dressed and darkly thin.

I did not understand. Our breakfast that morning at the Home was filling if not fancy. We had quite enough. Why do these hard people facing us not eat? Why do we feast while they famine? I could not think for long for that lieutenant said that the President was coming.

We saw him. He was mounted but not richly so for him being our President. His manner of dress was similiarly modest. The lieutenant said that if the President could not quell the mob, it would be necessary to shoot the women. It would be an uneven contest. We had muskets with bayonets; they had knives and hatchets. If we fired, certainly we would win, and in winning, we would be lost.

President Davis addressed them but I was too far away to hear the words. It looked as if he reached into his pocket and threw something to the mob. It looked to be coins. The tensemess of the situation continued for several minutes before the mob melted away. We did not not have to open fire upon the women. We were marched back whence we came. The lieutenant discharged us at the Depot with thanks for doing our duty. Had we been ordered to shoot the women, I might have instead shot him.

We turned in our muskets and cartridge boxes at the Depot and had no further interest in Lily, Hortense or any other women. We went to the nearby Reading Room to forget what we had seen and quell our nerves. This we could not do so we went to the Metropoloton Hall to the the McCarthys play. Even that musical immersion did not remove our minds from our troubles. We returned to the Home where I tried to sleep. I do not remember anything from that day to this one. Why does a nation of farmers starv

Monday, April 1, 2013

"...Obidiah Pickle".

Wednesday, April 1, 1863, South Carolina Soldier's Home, Richmond

Clean sheets, clean water and rations enough. Well, maybe not enough but more than we are used to in camp. If this is not Heaven , it is something quite close. No one is shooting at us and that, too, is good.

Adkins and I were indeed looking forward to seeing Corporal Flynn on Monday morning. He escorted us to the train station where we met others of the regiment, also on leave and bound for Richmond. We needed no escort. We would not miss this train for anything.

At the station on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac line, we met Steven Johnston and George Sherrer from Company B, the Campbell Rifles. There was also Ebenezer Gettys and Thomas Raterree of Company H, the Indian Land Guards. There were many others there but we six became friends and rode the same car to the capital.

En route, we made the aquantence of Obadiah Pickle. Mister Pickle is the field agent for the Central Association for the Relief of South Carolina Soldiers. His responsibility is to see to the needs of Palmetto soldiers serving in Lee's army. He stated that he had just delivered packages to the troops and was returning to Richmond for more. The Central Association is just one of many citizen's groups working hard at home to make or purchase things for the, "boys at the front."

We left the train at the Eighth and Broad Station and made our way to the Exchange Hotel at Fourteenth and Franklin. I noticed that things were visibly different from the last time that I was here not quite a year ago. There is a certain drabness here, both in the buildings and the people. I heard a few bands playing whereas last time, it was hard to hear due to the noise. I find this quite odd as we are winning the war.

The hotel has leased half of itself to the Central Assocation for use as a Soldier's Home for us. There are beds for us with clean sheets and even pillows. Additional beds have been placed in the rooms so as to provide for more of us. We could be stacked like cordwood; we would not care a whit. We eat in the saloon at long tables. The fare is not up to the standards of a first-class establishment but we would not know what to do with something with a foreign name.

Our first meal consisted of a thin stew or perhaps a thick soup. Whatever it was, it had meat and we liked it. There was soft bread and butter. Adkins and Gettys fought over the last piece of bread with Gettys the victor. The water was cold and clear, without any blood. There was milk and buttermilk. I have never, ever liked buttermilk but I drank a quart of it and pronounced it first-rate. Privations will change a man's palate.

The six of us have said that we would stay together during our short stay here. We will see how long that lasts. I would like to go and visit the American Hotel on Twelfth and Main. Perhaps Samson, Horace and Eliza are still there. I remember them from July last when Eliza fixed up that ham I had purchased at the city market. Hancock still speaks of it from time to time. 

As we have arrived in the city so late, we have had but little time for sight-seeing. The locomotive that hauled our train here moved very slowly. Even though we left early and the distance is not great, it took many hours to get here.

The Home has newspapers, paper and ink for writing, and a bath. I took one earlier. I would like to take it with me to camp. It was splendid. Only two people had used it before me. The ink that I am writing with now is from the Home. 

Tomorrow will be a fine day but right now, I cannot think further than breakfast tomorrow. As long as the ink lasts, I will list every course, every bite and every gulp. We must enjoy it now for it cannot last.