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

The Yankees know.