Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Three pounds of bacon...

Friday, May 29, 1863,  near Moss Neck

We have returned to camp and have discovered that in our absence, things have gone to pot. When we left here not quite one month ago to follow our Jackson on his march to flank the Yankees across the river, the camp was left without anyone to guard it until our return. A flock of vultures could not have done a better effort at denuding the area of anything useful.

For the first few nights here, we slept with the stars as our covering. The stars are nice but they will not deflect the rain. There was some discussion about whether we should go to the trouble of erecting shelters on the grounds that we may soon move again. Practicality won out over everything else and so we pretended we were beavers. Some have built little cabins and others have erected simple shebangs.

Castles has left us for awhile. He came down with a sickness and left us on the 26th, instant.
Cauthern has absented himself for a similar reason. These brogans that I recently acquired were not as broken in as I had thought. My feet now pain me fiercely but as that is a common complaint in this army, there is no use in going to see Surgeon Keith.

We have not yet drawn picket duty since our return but surely our turn will come. Those who have drawn duty have reported that the Yankee cavalry keeps us under watch from their side of the river. Where is their infantry? Is their cavalry a screen behind which something is happening? Our officers have again sternly admonished us not to engage the enemy in conversation of any kind. We will see how long that lasts.

We are on short rations but that is now normal. Flour has all but disappeared. We are receiving little by way of meat.  Three pounds of bacon would go down very well right now. The fishing is good along the river, we have been told. The soldiers on picket have a chance to land  some fish. Hancock, who had not been on picket, somehow obtained two of the scaly creatures. The Dandy Eights, minus the absent Castles, had a small piece each. We cannot wait to go on picket.

Although the regiment sat out the great battle of Chancellorsville while playing at guarding wagons and prisoners, we are busy putting ourselves ready to do battle. We did not suffer the same wear and tear as did those who fought but marching to and from Richmond is sure to blow out some brogans and wear holes in the more delicate areas of our trousers.

Hancock, both Bartons, Holton, both Crenshaws, Vincent, myself and even Corporal Flynn and Sergeant Harper appointed ourselves a committee of the whole (regiment) to approach Lieutenant Williamson and Lieutenant Stover with a verbal petition. In short, we pleaded that in the next engagement, the regiment be spared from nursemaid duty and be allowed to go after the enemy with our bayonets.

As we were mere privates, we allowed Sergeant Harper to state our case. Corporal Flynn was there to second our wishes. Lieutenant Williamson looked annoyed but he deferred comment to Lieutenant Stover who outranks him as company commander. Lieutenant Stover said that his long absence from the company thanks to his Sharpsburg wound last September, he was yearning to return to action. He made no promises save that he would make sure our petition, which he said he felt the whole regiment held to, would be conveyed by him to the relevant parties in authority. May our petition be granted.

I Send You These Few Lines:

While Jackson's people left their camp, it was unguarded for several days. When the battle was over, the brigade, minus Tooms' unit came back to camp. Anything seemingly left behind by absent owners was fair game for, "Confederate Pickers". The brigade historian,  who was there, James Fitz James Caldwell, wrote of this in his post-war history.

Surgeon Keith is really Assistant Surgeon W.W. Keith. He reports to the regimental surgeon, W.H. Bailey. In Confederate service, typically, each regiment is assigned one surgeon, one assistant surgeon and a hospital steward, a medical NCO. On the Union side, regulations authorize two assistant surgeons per regiment.

Cauthern, John T. Cauthern, is new to the company and this blog. He is from Lancaster, South Carolina and has only recently enlisted in March of 1863. He is, at present, in Company I, the Lancaster Hornets but is in a different squad than Tooms, Duncan, Hancock and the rest of the more familiar names read in this blog.

Once again, the subject of rations takes up diary space. This is a bad time for Lee's army as far as provisioning is concerned. The cavalry is not concentrated but rather is dispersed as there is not enough grass in any one area to support all the horses. All the troops are suffering from malnutrition, if not actual starvation. The longer Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia stay in one spot, the more likely that every morsel of food for man and beast will be consumed. The southern transportation system is failing in its' job of keeping the defenders in a state of healthy subsistence. Much more of this and the army will dissolve.

A "shebang" is an improvised shelter consisting of some upright forked poles sunk into the ground. Other poles act as cross-members to provide a roof, of sorts. Pile brush on top and it will do to keep one dry and out of the Sun.

It is understandable that having missed one great battle, Tooms and his comrades should feel themselves cheated of new laurels. They are eager to do what they have been trained to do, fight and kill. They have been in a few battles. They know what war is about. It means fighting and that means killing...and dying which is fine so long as it's the other guy. The other guy has his own ideas about this whole fighting thing. 

Tooms and his comrades don't know what's coming. You do. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"May I ever be spared such a sight again."

Friday, May 22, 1863, Antioch Ford, Virginia

One more good day's march should put us back in our old camp from before the latest battle. We are still smarting from the loss of our Jackson. We have heard nothing new concerning the conditions of General Hill and General McGowan. We need someone to lead us. Who will it be?

We needed to get away from Richmond. The present state of affairs there is dreadful. There is great jubilation at our victory but there is little else to take one's mind away from the continuation of the war. We know that Hooker is still across the Rapphannock and is gathering strength for another try at us and Richmond. If he were pushed to the other side of the Potomac, Richmond world breathe easier.

We would not breath easier for it would be we of the army who would be doing the pushing but that is what we are for. If General Lee so orders it, we will push Hooker to the other side of the Hudson. Since we were held back from the battle around Chancellorsville, the regiment is intact. Let the Twelfth advance to the front and lead the way.

During our rest in Richmond, some of us were able to improve our lot. We did leave with full rations in our haversacks. I saw a few new hats and caps. The regiment is mostly shod. We came across one place where some of the Yankee prisoners which had been in our custody were lying awaiting burial. In less time than it takes to load a musket, they were relieved of their brogans and some of their socks.  I gave my old ones to Hancock and was pleased that my new ones were already broken in.

While in Richmond, several of us visited a hospital in the hopes of seeing to the conditions of some of our pards. It was there that I witnessed the most horrible sight ever that I have  seen. Hancock, the junior Barton, Holton and myself were in the Chimborazo Hospital, a very large complex which must hold many thousands.

There was a female nurse attending to a patient. I had heard that women work in hospitals but she was the first one that I have seen. If this had been before the war, I would have described her as handsome but not pretty and dressed simply and plainly. As it was, I thought her most beautiful and dressed in great style.

I was not close but was close enough to hear this administering angel speak with a wounded boy barely into his manhood. It was odd, I thought, that this lady should be touching his leg with her finger. There was a good deal of blood near the spot that she was touching and some of his blood was on her. A surgeon approached the two and inspected the scene with a harrowed look about his face. Without a word, he shook his head and walked away.

Shortly, the boy spoke, giving instructions as to how his mother may be notified of his death. I heard him to ask the nurse how long he would live. She replied quite calmly that he would live as long as her finger was in place. He thought for a moment and then said, "You can let go". She fainted and he went on the journey that awaits all of us. Holton and Hancock bolted for the door and once outside, evacuated the contents of their stomachs. I wanted to do the same but as younger Barton's legs gave away, I had to pick him up and carry him from the place. May I ever be spared such a sight again.

I Send You These Few Lines

The incident in the hospital was not made up. It was as real as your own heartbeat. The nurse was Phoebe Yates Pember, who related her wartime experiences in her book, "A Southern Women's Story: Life in Confederate Richmond."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"...we would have eaten dirt..."

Friday, May 15, 1863, Richmond, Virginia

It has been several days since I have been able to hold a pen in my hand to write anything  heard here. I have been so unsteady that some would think me drunk.It was during our last morning's march before we arrived with our prisoners in Richmond. Lieutenant Stover had been recently released from the hospital and caught up with the company where he shared the news with us. Our Jackson, our, "Stonewall, had expired. It was not the Yankee bullets that killed him, nor the amputation. It was pnewmonn pneumonia that layed the great general low.

Our fight for independence has been made more difficult but we still have Lee and Hill, once the latter recovers from his wounds and we pray that he does. Lieutenant Stover has been absent from the company ever since he was wounded at Sharpsburg in September. Now that he is back, he replaces Lieutenant Williamson as commander of the company. 

When we listened to the news about our Jackson, several of the Yankee prisoners were near enough by to hear what was being said. We observed some of them to be smiling and they heard some of us cock the hammers of our muskets. The smiles vanished. I heard some of our people  painfully crying . I will admit to being affected and was glad that I still posessed a hankerc handkerchief. 

We have surrendered our charges to the Provost Marshall and we learn that the regiment will be able to spend  some time in Richmond. There are so many prisoners to guard that we have to help the Marshall's people. As the numbers shrank, parts of the regiment were allowed the freedom of the city so long as the "freedom" did not extend beyond a nearby park. We were ordered not to get curious and go beyond the boundrys of the park as the regiment would return with all haste to the army once our duties were done here.

One might have tried to hold back the ocean tide with a broom. Men scattered all over when no one was looking. Not wishing to walk another step, I stayed in the park. We were approached by many of the citizenry who inquired with great feeling as to the details of the great battle. We were not a little embarassed to say that we heard pleanty but saw almost nothing. They were disappointed that we could tell them so little. They were no more disappointed than were we.

Some of the capitol's residents brought us small gifts for, "their boys". I remember the food riots and how the participants said they were starving for want of food. With one or two exceptions, the women who shared with us looked thin and pastly. There were few men who visited and most of them were fat as ticks. One woman gave us one egg. Another gave us two loaves of soft bread that had ceased to be soft some time ago. They apologized for such meager offerings. We smiled and gave them our sincere thanks. Had they offered it, we would have eaten dirt.

My gunboats are completely blown out and I am not alone. It is much too late for us to be returning to the army tonight. If I am lucky, some of us may visit the South Carolina storehouse and get replacements, perhaps even replenish our haversacks.

How can Lee replace our Jackson, and Hill if it comes to that? 

I Send You These Few Lines

How, indeed, will Lee replace Jackson? The pool of talent that can be drawn on to replace the fallen is shrinking faster than it can be replenished. Lee may find someone to fill the empty slot but replacement will not be possible. There is but one Jackson.

Captain N. B. Vanlandingham had raised the company called, "Lancaster Hornets", and later resigned his commission. Lieutenant William Stover took over command of the company but was not promoted to the captaincy. After Stover was wounded at Sharpsburg (Antietam to our Yankee friends), Lieutenant James S. Williamson took over the running of the company.

All Stover, Williamson and Tooms know is that the handing over of prisoners needs to be completed quickly. The regiment needs to rejoin Lee soon. Something could be happening and having missed one battle, missing the next one would be terrible. It could be a big one.

Friday, May 10, 2013

" ...three crackers..."

Sunday, May 10, 1863, Heath's Store, Virginia

One more good day's march and we shall be in Richmond. Then, we may rid ourselves of the burden of these prisoners. We need to return to the army. Hooker may have been defeated but he is still on Virginia soil with a host. He may try something again and we will not wish to miss this one.

I had thought that the distance from Guinea Station to Richmond was shorter. It seems that we should have been to Richmond by now. When we were at the Station, I saw a cluster of buildings that looked to be belonging to a well-to-do family. I think that it was being used as a hospital as I saw an ambulance there.

It has been difficult keeping these prisoners fed. So many were captured without haversacks and thus without rations. The Commissary Department has provided some rations but too few to meet the need. Also, so many of the prisoners have no canteens. It has not been too hot on this march and it has rained quite a bit I have seen some Yankees try to catch the rainwater in their hats and caps. My canteen is empty right now as are several of the boys. Holton and the younger Barton have the canteens and are off looking for sweet water. 

We are hoping that we will be allowed to remain in Richmond long enough to fill our bellies. If I had a belt, I would boil it and eat it.

I have but three crackers in my haversack. The bacon was used up yesterday. I did have five but I gave two away, one each to two Yankees who had nothing, not even an empty haversack. Both were boys. One has his right hand bandaged and the other was swathed in bandages around his crown, there being only one eye showing. The one with the bad hand showed me an image of his two sisters. Both were quite pretty. One of them said that if they had their own Jackson, we would be their prisoners. It is all talk. 

General McGowan is wounded, we are told. Colonel Perrin of the Fourteenth now commands the brigade.

Since we have been separated from the army for several days, we have also been separated from all news. From the good citizens who have visited us as we stop on the march, they tell us that our Jackson has been wounded worse than we thought. They say that his left arm has been amputated. We hope that it is not as serious as all that. But even if it is true, once recovered, he will lead us to the next victory. 

I Send You These Few Lines

Beginning with this diary posting, I'm going to include this feature in the body of the blog proper, towards the end.

Will Tooms ever write an entry in his diary that does not mention food? No.

The Battle of Chancellorsville treated the 12th South Carolina very well. Since the regiment stayed out of the battle to do guard duty, there were next to no casualties. On the other hand, both Hooker's Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee, fared much worse.

Hooker's army suffered 17,000 casualties, 1700 of them dead and 6,000 have been taken prisoner. Lee's army endured 13,000 with 1700 dead and 2500 prisoners. The North could easily replace these losses and the South could not. In some regiments, the casualty rate was one in three. Some were quite higher. 

These are just numbers, statistics on a tally roll but each number was an individual, a person much the same as are we. They all are our ancestors. For some of you following this blog, you are the direct descendants of they who fought there.

Guinea, sometimes spelled Guiney Station, was on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac rail line. The station was the assembly point for the Union prisoners being transported to Richmond. When Tooms saw an ambulance, he thought there was a hospital there. There was a hospital there, of sorts, with one singular patient.

Neither Tooms nor his pards could know that what was seen was an office on the Chandler plantation called Fairfield. Inside the office was Thomas Jonathan, "Stonewall", Jackson and those attending him, including his wife, Mary Anna Morrison Jackson and daughter Julia. Also in attendance were his surgeon, Hunter Holmes McGuire, the Reverend Beverly Tucker, cook and slave Jim Lewis, aides Sandie Pendleton and James Smith.  

They came there to tend to Jackson. They left there to bury him.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"On to Richmond".

Thursday, May 7, 1863, Guinea Station

We are surrounded by prisoners and we did not capture a one of them. We have stories, mostly from the Yankee prisoners, as to the brilliant attack. The brilliant attack that we were not a part of. Any other regiment in the brigade could have stayed behind but it fell on us. That is all right. Unless Hooker retreats all the way to Washington City, there will be a next time and the Twelfth will be there. 

Jackson will be there too. We have been told, although not formally, that both Jackson and Hill were wounded but not badly. We hope that both generals will recover in time for General Lee's next pounce upon the Yankees.

If half of what these Yankees have been telling us is true, our victory was total. Jackson caught them napping and woke them up with a cannonade. The result was a stampede that threw the whole Yankee army across the river. The prisoners are coming here for transportation to their new quarters in Richmond. There must be thousands here.

Some are wounded and are being taken care of by their own captured surgeons. I expect that the surgeons will be released when the need for them has concluded.  Both Lee and Jackson have always been generous where it concerns medical officers. I have seen some of our surg attend to their wounded.

Many of them are in a pitiful state. So few have blankets or haversacks or canteens. They will suffer the most during their captivity. While I am sure that many lack these necessities due to the haste of their capture, I am equally sure that some were relieved of their burdens by our own people. Had the regiment participated in the attack, I am not so sure that I would have not done the same thing.

I had a chance to talk a spell with two of these Yankees but I did not understand very much of what they said. They were Dutchmen. So many of the prisoners here are those foreign, babbeling servants of that dictator, Lincoln. I am reminded of those Hessians that Daddy fought during our Revolution. How we are fighting them again.

These two gave their names as Albert Drayfall and Adam Hairlick. I had to ask them several times. Both were from New York. I asked them why they were fighting us but could not understand their answers. It did not take too long before I stopped asking them anything. 

We are marching the prisoners to Richmond. We will be several days in doing this. Every day's march takes us further away from the army. We will have to hurry them along to get back in the shortest time possible. On to Richmond. This is what the Yankees have been saying.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"We have been cheated".

Saturday, May 2, 1863, Virginia

Very early yesterday morning, long before sunrise we were roused out of our slumber and told to have breakfast and prepare for a march. There were no drums; no long roll was beaten. The sergeants and corporals of the regiment went from place to place where we were sleeping and woke us with instructions to be quiet. 

Our division was the last to leave the camp and I think our Brigade was the last of the division to leave. Right behind us were the ordnance trains. We knew we were going west along the south side of the Rappahannock but not towards what goal. As we continued to march, word filtered back that the Yankees had crossed the river at U.S. Ford above Fredericksburg. They were, as we in the ranks saw it, trying to turn Lee's army and cut it off from Richmond. 

Although our opinion of the Yankee's intentions was exactly that, we did now that the Yankees were behind us. We had left General Early facing those who crossed the river in front of him. We knew the Yankees were in front of us at this new crossing. We were inbetween them but at the same time, Hooker's army was split. And Jackson was moving.

It was so early, the morning fog had not yet burned off. Jackson's people always march fast and a battery of the Richmond Howitzers moved from the road to allow us to pass. From behind us, we could the sounds of distant cheering that creeped forwards us. Lee was the cause of the commotion. It was Lee they were cheering and soon it was our turn to take up the cheer as he passed us. Lee waved his hat at us, acknowledging our attentions. The Yankees probably heard everything.

So what if they did hear us? Let them. Let them know that Lee and his army are coming and there will be battle which was coming sooner than we anticipated. Some distance short of a place called Chancellorsville we were forced to stop. We heard a good deal of gunfire and artillery. Some shells made it our way but I know of no casualties suffered in the brigade. After some time, we passed the action that was on the left and continued west. We could see balloons suspended in the sky, watching us. Later that day, the brigade stopped and we encamped itself in a pine thicket. 

The only rations we consumed were those we cooked that morning. We ate them all cold lest our fires give us away. There was no coffee. Some tried to build small fires but they were all caught and reprimanded very badly. We Dandy Eights longed for a fire but held true. We spent the night wondering what we were going to do. All were assured that as long as Lee and Jackson were here, it would not be a retreat. We did not get a lot of sleep.

Then came the morrow, this morning. Again we were roused without fanfare. We were told to eat what we could, cold, of course, and fill our canteens as the march would be a long one. We saw Jackson at one point on today's march. He has a new uniform and does not look like a rumpled blanket. We wanted to cheer him but were ordered not to.

Then the blow fell. One regiment had to stay with the ordnance train and protect it. We were still unsure as to the exact location of the enemy and could not afford to have our ammunition get captured. It was expected that there would be prisoners and one regiment should be prepared to receive them. That one regiment is us.

We have been cheated. We have been resting and preparing all winter for this moment. We itch to fix bayonets and charge into the enemy. We have full cartridge boxes. Let us empty them into their faces. We can hear the sounds of a blow being struck but we do not know if it is us or the Yankees doing the striking. Orders are orders so here we sit and wait.