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.