Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Victory will be ours."

Saturday, New Year's Eve, 1864, trenches.

This year, which has all but exhausted itself, is ending well for our cause. The papers are filled with good news. Hood has fought a great battle south of Nashville. The Yankees are retreating north towards that great Southern city which has so long been occupied by the Yankees. Hood has captured much in the way of stores to sustain his army during their march to new victories New recruits to the banner have replaced his losses in battle. The army is reported to be in high spirits. Nashville will be ours by New Year's.

Price is about to take back all of Arkansas and Missouri. It is reported that enough recruits have joined his mounted corps in the Trans-Mississippi so that it numbers 33,000 and is now the largest in the entire Confederacy. Five new brigades have been raised.

The news is tempered by the report that Forrest, that very gallant master of the horse, is dead. Sherman, who had disappeared after his capture of Atlanta, has made his presence known by taking Savannah. He has made the city a Christmas present to his master, Lincoln.

Our own predicament, in these trenches, does not look so good by comparison but we are not downhearted. These trenches,which offer a good deal of protection from Yankee lead, fix us in place. If they cannot get in, can we get out? It has been awhile since Grant has tried to take our works by storm. He has tried, more than once, to extend his lines far to our right to get beyond the reaches of our works and destroy the railroad that is supposed to feed us. We have to continue to extend our own thin lines to counter his moves. Our lines are about as thin as we are.

One of our own papers reprinted a story from one of the Northern papers that many of us find bothersome. The Yankees claim that our attempts to raise and arm the slaves will be doomed to failure. We soldiers were unaware that Richmond was entertaining or could even think of entertaining such a fantastic proposal. It is probably just more of their lies designed to cause our morale to waver.

Many of us see ourselves as carrying on the fight of our ancestors. This is our second American Revolution. We were reminded of this upon reading that there are still four pensioners from the Revolution still on the rolls.

The papers report of a ball to be held in Richmond.  Professor Rosenberger's band Couples will be admitted upon the presentation of $10 tickets. Single ladies will be admitted at no charge. I asked my fellow Eights if any of them would be in attendance. Hancock said he had a prior engagement. Terry said he had nothing to wear. Castles said he did not want to give any of the ladies his cold. Taylor and the Crenshaws concurred with Castles. Taylor said he was a bad dancer while White said that he did not want to embarrass the other gentlemen attendees and take all their ladies away with his dancing abilities. I did not want to be the only one from the Eights to go so I bowed out.

There is a call for support from the citizens of Richmond to provide a grand dinner to we of Lee's army. Upon hearing of this, Hancock stated that sound a noble idea should consist of fifty pounds of bacon, one half-dozen apple pies, ten pounds of potatoes, and three gallons of good whiskey. Terry observed that this was not much for the entire army. Hancock replied that he was not talking about the entire army, just his share. Castles wondered aloud why there was so little whiskey. We have not lost our sense of humored and we have not lost this war. Victory will be ours.

I Send You These Few Lines

There were so many living at the time, especially in the South, who thought that the war was close to end with a decisive victory for the Union. The papers say otherwise. These stories will boost Confederate morale at a time when it was flagging.

All the newspaper stories mentioned in this diary entry come from the Richmond Daily Dispatch from December 22 through December 30, 1864.

The last veteran of the Revolution survived the Civil War and passed away afterwards.

This sort of banter around the campfire about the Richmond ball is typical of the type of humor amongst veterans.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"...Grand High Noble Master Possum of the Mess."

Monday, December 26, 1864, Trenches

I would have liked to have made this entry yesterday, Christmas Day, but it was much too cold to write anything, even a signature on a furlough. It is slightly warmer today. The best thing about yesterday is that no one was shooting at each other. There has been a truce of sorts, strictly unofficial. Each side has independently gotten it into our respective heads that we will not kill each other. That is to say, yesterday. Today, we have heard a little exchange of musketry and some small amount of artillery but nothing in our immediate front. For this temporary respite in killing, we are grateful.

Castles is both a gentleman and a scoundrel. For some time, I had been loudly lamenting that my diary entries would have to cease as I was running out of ink. Yesterday morning, after breakfast, Castles presented me with a bottle, half-full of writing ink. On our march earlier this month to try and catch the Yankees who committed depredations against the railroad, he had picked up an abandoned Yankee knapsack in which was the bottle. Castles has let me fulminate about my lack of ink all this time, just waiting until yesterday to make a present of it to me.

Captain Stover authorized a whiskey ration to all in the company and God bless the man. As I do not imbibe, I gave my small share to Castles but God bless the Captain all the same. Hancock, Vincent and Terry, during one of the wood details, cut and brought to our cabin some pine boughs so as to make it look somewhat festive. Crenshaw made a rather artistic cross for the cabin from twigs and bark. We would put a candle near it but we have none to spare.

Some of us in the Dandy Eights mess exchanged small trifles as gifts. At least these things would be considered trifles at home. Here in the trenches, they have the status of luxuries. Terry received Hancock's old socks. He will undo them and use the threads to repair his own socks.Vincent and Terry each gave the other a half of a hard cracker and had a good laugh at it. I gave everyone a blank page from my diary so they could write a letter home.

Vincent said that he had nothing at hand but said that after this war was over, we could go to his home in Lancaster County and feast on as much bacon, apple pie, molasses and whiskey as we could hold. At once, we all gave him the rebel yell and elected Vincent Chairman of the mess. It dawned upon us at that point that we had never had a chairman before this. We anointed him with the title of Grand High Noble Master Possum of the Mess.

Truce or no truce, unofficial or otherwise, someone had to pull picket duty last night and it was most of the company. Once the Sun was down and the stars were out, someone started playing a fiddle. I do not know from which side the playing started but it was not long before he had come company. We could make out some more fiddles, some guitars and at least one banjo. Terry tried to join in with his jaws harp but no one could hear him beyond the confines of our hole.

Those who could sing and those who could not added to the melodious din. There was Jingle Bells, complete with someone hammering on a cowbell. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Deck the Halls, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and We Three Kings were sung with as much volume as the cold would allow. O Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night sounded so  sorrowful compared to the other songs. The last that was played was Home, Sweet Home. No one sang or could sing after that.

I Send You These Few Lines

The brigade historian, Caldwell, mentioned that there was a small whiskey ration issued to the brigade this winter.

All the songs mentioned were correct for the period.

This is the fourth Christmas of the war. It was never supposed to have lasted to even the first one. Will there be a fifth? It is too soon to tell but let us hope not.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"We never fired a shot."

Saturday, December 17, 1864, back in the trenches.

It is cold. It is the sort of cold that freezes one's marrow in the bones. It has rained so much that we expect at any moment that our officers will direct us to find two of every living thing. Our daily pint of corn meal does not carry us through a day. And to add to our many woes, the worst one is that we did not find the Yankees.

They moved too fast and we moved to slow. The had time enough to destroy several miles of track and make their way back to their own works. We understand that some of our cavalry reached the readers and exchanged some fire. I suppose that our cavalry was supposed to hold the Yankees in place long enough for we poor infantry to come up and punish them. The Yankees managed to break away from the cavalry and escape fast enough to avoid their punishment.

On Sunday, the march was resumed at dawn. We followed the Yankees, anxious to get ahold of them. We had not gone but a few miles before we stopped. We needed the rest badly but did not want to lose the Yankees. After some time, we turned around and retraced our steps towards Petersburg. We were too late. The Yankees had outmarched us to the point of our not being able to catch them. We never fired a shot.

We could have caught them had we been able to move faster but our bellies would not allow our feet to do so. Too many of us dropped out of the line of march due to exhaustion and that due to lack of food. Had we been able to catch them, we would have been hard-pressed to whip them.

We went back through Jarrett's Station and slept on the cold ground at the Nottoway River. On Monday, we camped just shy of Dinwiddie Court House. It was all familiar. On Tuesday, we were back in our works. I do not know what happened after we entered our works as I fell asleep and I will wager that I was not alone. I do not remember eating anything or even having anything to eat.

We did not end this empty-handed. We did manage to capture some numbers of stragglers. They are now on their way to a prisoner-of-war camp. I noticed that some were bare-footed and that probably not from wearing out their brogans while destroying the railroad. For some reason, we came across a number of blankets abandoned by the Yankees. Some of us, myself not among them, are sleeping warner of late.

In other times, when we took the field from the Yankees, we could count upon a bounty of abandoned property, haversacks with cheese and sardines, knapsacks withdrawers and socks, muskets and cartridge boxes enough to re-equip an army, Lee's army. This time, there were only some blankets and tents. This time they retreated, it was orderly and not in a panic. They are getting better at the art of war.

I Send You These Few Lines

Grant's raiders were Warren's corps, reinforced. They did tear up some sixteen miles of track in the usual way. First, the rails were taken up. The ties were removed, piled up and set on fire with the rails on top. As the rails heated, they became soft and were wrapped around trees. In the west, these were called, "Sherman's Neckties."

While the Weldon Railroad was disrupted, it was not destroyed. Confederate supply trains transferred their cargos to wagons at one end of the break. The wagons would bypass the break and reload waiting trains on the other side. The flow of supplies to Lee's army was slowed but not stopped. The damage dome was eventually repaired.

Rails damaged as described above could be repaired. It would be very slow and labor-intensive, beating the rails back into usable condition but it could be done. To destroy the rails beyond their being reused, there was a device that would allow the rails to be not just bent but twisted. A twisted rail was beyond the ability of Southern industry to be made good again.

The Union raiders did outmarch Hill's infantry. The cold affected both sides but the lack of food hurt only the Confederates. The abandoned blankets and tents comes from Theodore Garrish of the 189th New York, "Falling in, our few remaining blankets and tents proved to be so frozen, wet and heavy, the men were generally compelled to abandon them."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

" ...sharpen our bayonets."

Saturday, December 10, 1864, near Jarrett's Station

We were thinking and some hoping that, thanks to Mother Nature, all the campaigning was concluded for this year. The Yankees, not being content to sit in their works near the fires, have come out to have another try at us. This is all to the good as we have the opportunity to whip them one more time before Christmas.

On Thursday last, the eighth, we were told to cook three days rations. That always means that a March and battle will be hard by. The Ordnance folks came around to top off our cartridge boxes. Our officers told us to clean our muskets and sharpen our bayonets. It was after dark when we formed up and left our works. Leaving at this time is quite unusual. Some of speculated as we marched that there was a sense or urgency in our leaving before getting a good night's sleep.

Our rations have been so short for some time that ten days rations would have fit so very nicely in our haversacks. We are quite willing to whip the Yankees if only to feast upon their haversacks. We will take their blankets and overcoats from them as well. There are orders that we should not wear Yankee clothing but we would rather be warm and will take the risk of being shot by mistake.

That night, we camped some few miles south of Dinwiddie Court House, having come down the Boydton Plank Road. Our supper consisted of a little corn meal, less than a pint to each of us. We had to mention snow to mix the meal into dough which were then cooked into small cakes. The fare was meager but the fire warmed us nicely.

We did not get a great deal of sleep. We were awake before dawn. Breakfast consisted of whatever we did not eat for supper and that was not very much. We need to make our scant victuals last for some days and dare not eat so such at each meal. Even so, some of us, like Cauthen and Langley, have already eaten everything. They joined the company not that long ago and have not yet learned the ways of the seasoned veteran.

The weather, already cold, turned colder, so cold that the ground froze. Before dark, it began to sleet upon us. We hoped that it was sleeting on the Yankees as well. Building a fire after we went into camp was nearly impossible. All of us slept on frozen ground. All during the night, stragglers, some barefoot, who fell out of the line of march rejoined the regiment. I ate nothing.

Today, the tenth, we were on the road at first light. It was slow going for awhile until the marching could warm us up. At ten of the clock, we reached Jarrett's Station, on the Weldon Railroad. We thought that Grant was going for our railroad again. We could hear firing in the distance, but never could get close enough to join the fight.

The rain is heavy. There are no fires tonight. Tomorrow we hope to make it hot for the Yankees.

I Send You These Few Lines

Louis M. Cauthen and James B. Langley are fairly new to the Lancaster Hornets. Cauthen enlisted in October and Langley in September.

Grant is on the March again. He is making another try to cut the railroad bringing supplies to Lee. Grant is moving a large force to the far right of the Confederate lines to tear up enough track to starve Lee's troops, as if they were not starving already. Lee has sent Hill's entire corps from the protection of their works to meet and defeat Grant's new offensive.

Lee does have something to worry about. A third of his army has left the line. Should Grant become aware that that part of the line is now unprotected, he has enough troops to get between Lee and Hill, cut them off from mutual support and sack everyone up.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"The Yankees are up to mischief".

Monday, December 5, 1864, in works near Boisseau House

This is a dark and evil war. Our company was requisitioning some items that we needed very badly. Corporal Flynn volunteered Duncan, Holton and myself to assist Captain Stover and Lieutenant Williamson in fulfilling the request. We were to follow them to the brigade quartermaster and bring back the needed items.  Holton asked the Lieutenant to see the papers we were to submit to the quartermaster. Holton read to us the list of treasures.

There were seven pairs of trousers, twenty-one flannel shirts, twenty-three cotton shirts, six jackets, twenty pairs of shoes, seven pairs of socks, twelve blankets, twenty-three pairs of drawers, thirty-one pairs of socks, an ax and a tent fly. We could have been knocked over with a feather. We were certain that with so much to be issued to the company, each of us would surely receive something. All three of us wanted new shoes, drawers, socks and blankets. Holton wanted all dozen blankets.Duncan and myself each wanted a flannel shirt to keep us harm while on picket duty. Honton said he did not need one as the dozen blankets would do him just fine. I wished for a new set of drawers and jacket. All of us wanted new haversacks but there were none on the list.

The quartermaster, when presented with the list, shook his head and said that his cupboard was nearly bare. Our officers pleaded with him, citing the suffering of their troops. The quartermaster replied that all the troops were suffering and hat one could not get water from a rock.We walked away with only the ax and the tent fly. The ax was given to the second platoon as they had broken theirs while chopping firewood. We were crestfallen. We walked with bowed heads all the way back to camp.

When we arrived, we were greeted by many others in the company who knew that were on an errand of great reward. They started cheering us once they spotted us. Some wag called out that Duncan, Holton and myself were the Three Wise Men bearing gifts. The cheering stopped once we got close enough for them to see that were were returning with nothing. There was no cheer among the boys for the rest of the night. We will just have to get along with what little we have for some time longer.

The Yankees are up to something. For the past few days, it has been our turn to pull picket duty in front of our works. There are supposed to be three of us in each rifle pit. Two may sleep upon their arms as one keeps watch. Our purpose is to give warning if the Yankees advance upon us.

Duncan, Castles and myself were sharing a rifle pit but we took little sleep. There was too much noise to get any sleep. We heard horses and quite a number of them, more than we had heard the last time we were on the picket line. There were too many horses for just routine patrolling. We heard the creak of many wooden wheels. Some would be supply wagons and some would be artillery. During the day, we could see additional columns of smoke from additional fires. At night, we could see and count additional glows from fire pits. We asked the boys in the pits on our left and right if they were hearing what we were hearing. They all confirmed what we thought. The Yankees are up to mischief.

I Send You These Few Lines

I'm experimenting with a new layout for this blog. If I'm lucky, I won't hit a wrong button and wipe out everything.

The requisition mentioned above is a compilation of two requisitions, each bearing a date of November 30. One was filed by Lieutenant Williamson and the other by the company commander, Captain Stover. The items listed here are the actual items originally listed and the ax and tent fly were the only things issued.

The sounds being heard in the rifle pits were not being imagined. Even though it is late in the year, the Yankees are preparing yet another attack.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"A deer would have to take his own cover..."

Saturday, November 27, 1864, Trenches near Boisseau's House

We had been hoping that someone would have paid attention to some of the hard lessons learned from our last period in winter camp. We remember the cold of that time and how the supply of easy firewood was quickly exhausted. After that, we went after the difficult firewood. Eventually, the camp had to be moved in order to obtain a fresh supply.

This winter is proving to be no more gentle to us than the last one. We were ordered to establish our line of works here and here is where we began digging, as ordered. The nearby woods were plundered for cabins, firewood and construction of our works. The woods are now visibly thinned. A deer would have to take his own cover with it should it enter. It will not be too long before the woods will disappear entirely. I suppose we will have to move somewhere else again.

At present, we are warm enough. Hancock came in from picket duty and set has brogans by the fire to dry. They did dry and are now brittle and crumbly. He has not yet managed to get a new pair. Although I chided him at the time, he has had his revenge. I stood too close to a fire and burned a hole in the leg of my trousers. All the time the fire was smoldering my trousers, I had neither felt nor sensed anything was amiss. I still wear them as I know that it will do no good to request a new pair from the Quartermaster.

At least while we were pretending to be Maine lumbermen, if we should come across an animal that did not know the countersign,  it was quickly dispatched into the closest cook pot as being an enemy spy. We need to be careful as such executions are frowned upon by our officers as being a waste of ammunition. These officers need to let us high privates run this war. Us and General Lee of course.

First Sergeant Wade has returned to us from Richmond where he had ben detailed to the Quartermaster there.

General Hood, the papers of both sides say, in still marching north in Tennessee. He has beaten or eluded everything the Yankees have sent against him. He will take Nashville by Christmas and Cincinnati by New Year's.

President Davis had declared that our Confederate nation should observe a day of prayer the sixteenth instant. On that Wednesday, our own Chaplain Betts along with Chaplain Carson of the Fourteenth and Chaplain Mulally of Orr's Rifles preached to the brigade. This could not have been done during the early days of the way as the brigade would have been at full strength. Now, as I understand it, we number only a good-sized single regiment.

Their words flowed like water and were sweet as honey. The usual admonitions against our favorite  sins were present- profanity, drink,  sloth, gambling and all those things that all soldiers turn to as solice from combat. The chaplains reminded us of the soldiery bonds experienced by comrades by quoting Proverbs: 18-24. They said that God will not suffer the South to prevail until we all renounce our wicked ways. I noticed that several in attendance were standing barefoot on the frosted ground.

If our Southern independence is to be based upon our suffering, then our victory is assured.

I must conclude this entry. Holton and Terry bagged a fine deer spying upon us from the woods while they were on a wood detail.

I Send You These Few Lines.

The Boisseau house was in Dinwiddie County. The Boisseau family was a prominent one in the Petersburg area and were well-represented in terms of numbers. I have been unable to determine which head of household lived in the house.

The problems with firewood that occurred during the winter of 1864-64 also happened during this winter as reported by the brigade historian, J.F.J. Caldwell.

The day of national prayer called for by President Davis was called for in the November 11, 1864 edition of the Richmond Dispatch and was mentioned in the November 13, entry of this blog. The three chaplains mentioned, Betts, Carson and Mulally were all serving in their mentioned regiments at this time. That they conducted a joint prayer service is conjecture on my part.

It seems to be a common practice among re-enactors of both sides that they (we) keep putting wet brogans too close to the fire to dry them out. It must be so as so many makers of reproduction shoes state that any warranty is void under these circumstances. That Tooms singed his trouser leg comes from personal experience. At the 150th anniversary of the Star of the West event at Fort Moultrie in January of 2011, I stood too close to the fire and burned some quarter-sized holes in one leg. I knew nothing about it until the following morning.

Hood had done very well in his north-bound offensive. He and his Army of Tennessee were on their way to capture Nashville. Before Hood reached the Tennessee capital, he would have to beat the Union troops at a town called Franklin.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Someday, we will have to whip them."

Sunday ,November 13, 1864, Petersburg trenches.

We have not shot a Yankee in so long, we have forgotten what it is like. Things here are very quiet and have been so for some two weeks. Only in the distance are we able to hear any musketry or artillery and that not very intense. From our immediate front, we have heard only the occasional round or two. We must be careful not to allow ourselves to fall into a false sense of complacency. As long as the Yankees are on our soil, we must remain on our guard.

Somehow we know not, Holton managed to get a copy of a Richmond paper. The news is very good for our arms. Hood is fooling the Yankees in Tennessee. Price is doing the same across the Mississippi. Grant has proved himself an utter failure. We expect to hear news of his being replaced at an early date. Our President has called for a national day of fasting and prayer. The government has advertised for young ladies to be trained as telegraph operators. My, my.

Much of our time is spent improving our works. We work for as long as the weather will allow. The time is nearing when nature will tell us that both sides must retire to our respective works and hunker down until the Spring. We form into working parties under the watchful eye of a corporal or sergeant who does not care for the duty. Our corporal, Flynn, is our watchdog. We try not to offend him. Every so often, an officer of engineers will inspect our efforts along the line. He will not address we high privates. He will only talk to our officers who will then talk to our sergeants and corporals who will gladly inform us of our shortcomings. We will then effect repairs.

Peaceful times or not, we all have to take our turn on the picket line which is opposite their picket line. At the closest point, our pickets are, I figure, only some two hundred and fifty yards apart. When the weather is still, we can hear them talking and I'm sure they can hear us. They have identified themselves as the 39th New Jersey. Someday, we will do battle with them.

I Send You These Few Lines

Newspapers are valuable sources of news to both sides. The papers are a reminder that there is a world beyond the death and destruction of the battlefield. News from the other side of the lines can be quite informative or dead wrong.

Tooms writes that Grant is a failure. Tooms has read a story in the Richmond Dispatch for November 11, 1864. In it is quoted a story from the New York World. The story says, "It is clear that the campaign against Richmond, begun on the 7th of May and continued through six months, has ended in failure. If General Grant dared not hazard a battle last Friday in a position of his own choosing in front of the enemy's works, he will run the risk of attacking them in their works. It is plain, then, that he cannot take Petersburg- which these works defend- much less Richmond." And this from a Union newspaper.

The advertisement for female telegraphers and the call for prayer appeared in the same Richmond newspaper.

The paper is wrong. Hood is still in Alabama and Price is being whipped in Missouri and Arkansas.

The 39th New Jersey was part of the Third Division of the Union IX Corps.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Hood is raising Merry Ned..."

Saturday, October 29, 1864, Petersburg trenches

We have not traded fire with the Yankees in some time. We can hear the infrequent exchange of a few shots in the various distances but this is not substantial. It rarely causes us to look up from our coffee. I say coffee just because I do not know what else to call it; un-coffee perhaps. Our tin boilers have bark floating on top as one part of this drink. We will get used to this as we have everything else, I suppose.

There was something of a fuss on Thursday. The brigade was formed up as if for action. We marched only a little ways, never left the works and went into waiting, for what we know not

It is only by the mercenary generosity of Shehane that I am able to write this diary entry. Having run out of ink, I had to resort to a pointed burnt stick. The company received recently some packages and parcels from Columbia courtesy of Mr. Pickle. Inside one such parcel was a small bottle of ink and a nib pen. Shehane took that parcel. Since he cannot write, I asked him if he would give me the ink and pen. He said that he would not give it to me but would consider a trade. I was instantly offended by him but did not let it show. Holton slipped me a poke of tobacco and I tossed it onto Shehane's lap. He tossed the ink and pen to me and before they reached me, he had already opened the poke and was reaching for his pipe. Both of our addictions were satisfied. I am glad that Shehane is not in our mess.

Our cabin is up. Last year, our chimney was made from hardtack boxes. We do not recall when last we saw one of those. Our chimney is wholly made from sticks and mud. Last year, we made a mistake by not building one cabin large enough to hold our entire mess. This year, we built but one cabin and it holds the entirety of the Dandy Eights. We have four bunks. I sleep on the bottom of one and Castles sleeps above me. At my age, I would suffer a nosebleed if I slept up top. All of us sleep on bedding of pine boughs under our selves. I am the only one in this mess with an overcoat. I feel blessed.

There is one table and six stumps for chairs. Three have backs. I hope we will not have to burn them for firewood before the Spring. Although we are comfortable in our rough diggings, we are a bit nervous. Even though the weather gets colder and wetter by the day, it is not yet so bad to cause a halt to all active campaigning. If need be, if our Lee so desires it, we will leave our works and go after the Yankees and perhaps never see our cabin again. If it means that we can have at the Yankees again, we will not mind abandoning our rustic comforts.

We have had our pay raised but little good will it do us. There is nothing worth buying. Besides, we have gone so long without eleven dollars a month, it will be nothing to go without eighteen dollars a month.

Hood is raising Merry Ned in Tennessee. Even with one leg missing and only one good arm, he has out-witted Sherman and has left him in his dust. Where will he go? Nashville? Memphis? Cincinnati? We shall have to trade for Yankee papers to find out.

Old Pap Price is hurting the Yankees near Kansas City. Perhaps he and Hood will unite and capture St. Louis.

Castles is back from furlough. Aside from a new shirt, he looks no different than when he left. First Sergeant Wade has been detailed away from us to the Quartermaster's Department in Richmond. Marshall is absent, sick. Caskey is absent and not from sickness. We suspect that he has taken, "French Leave."Sadler has been court-martialed after only two months. Blackmon has returned from furlough. Montgomery has left on furlough for three weeks. Langley is still detailed away to the forage train. I wish someone would provide such a train for we human beings. Both Porters are absent. Lieutenant Williamson is in charge of the regiment as he is the senior officer. Perhaps soon, it will be my turn for a furlough.

I must quit this as we have so few candles.

I Send You These Few Lines.

It seems to be a busy time for Tooms even if he thinks there's no campaigning going on. Hood is campaigning in northern Alabama not Tennessee and is heading west towards Decatur, final destination as yet, unknown. Sterling, "Pap", Price had started an offensive in Missouri. It looks on the surface that the fortunes of the Confederacy are rising. What Tooms missed is that Jubal Early had been defeated at the outskirts of Washington and was being pursued south through the Shenandoah Valley by Phil Sheridan.

The little fuss Tooms speaks of was actually the Battle of Hatcher's Run. Grant sent a large part of his army around the far right of the Confederate lines in anticipation of turning Lee's flank and severing rail connections bringing supplies to Confederate troops. Grant ran into a Hornet's nest and eventually recalled his forces as it was looking that a substantial part was about to be cut off and chewed up. The Twelfth and the whole brigade played almost no part in the action. The brigade was an on call reserve should it be needed and it was not.

The circumstances regarding Dennis Castles, George Wade, Medrid Caskey, Wesley Blackmon, James and Julius Porter, William Marshall, Johnathan Montgomery, James Williamson and James Langley are a matter of record.

That James Sheehan could not write is not literary license. His 1919 application for a Confederate veteran's pension featured his mark, not his signature.

Mr. Pickle, Obadiah Pickle, has been mentioned in previous diary entries. He was the field agent for the Central Association for the Relief of South Carolina Soldiers. The Association's primary task was to provide material comforts to the boys at the front.

The Confederate government did see fit to raise the pay to the boys at the front as mentioned above. Between erratic paydays and inflation, the money, if and when the soldiers got it, was not good for much.

Time will tell if either Grant or Lee want to have one more go at each other before Mother Nature calls a halt to everything.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"We have invaded Vermont"

Sunday, October 23, 1864, Petersburg trenches

This is most intokjh intol. I have run out of ink and must mad make-do with a sharp twin and the blacking from the fire. This is very messy. I probably will not be able to read this after awhile.

It has been some time since the Yankees have shot at us or we at them. The weather is turning much colder and wetter. Even so, we are not quite ready to go into winter camp. We all want one more go at them. We need to whip them one more time before retiring to the wrmh of our cabins.

Once again, just like last year and the year before that, some of us have stolen a march on Old Man Winter and have their cabins built, complete with chimneys. The rest of us are waiting, God knows why, a little longer before building shelter. We of the Dandy Eights are of the first mind. We have learned from the last two winters to build early, even if it means ricking a bandoning all our work to go back on the march.

The Crenshaw boys have been inseparable since Troy's return to the company. For months, he has been detailed away from the company as a shoemaker. We had hoped that when he returned, he would bring his pards a new pair of brogans. He did not although the ones he was wearing looked first rate. We need to go after the Yankes again if only to separate them from their brogans.

The Yankee papers that fall into our hands by whatever means tell some interesting stories. We have invaded Vermont. From what the papers say, our troops crossed into Vermont from Canada. Has John Bull finally come into this war on our side.? How could he otherwise permit a foreign army to cross the border?

It has been some time since the Dandy Eights mess has been at full strength. With both Bartons dead and Duncan captured, the Eights have numbered but five for months. By a majority vote, confirmed by our secret handshake, we remaining Eights voted to fill our ranks. As Wilson Crenshaw was already an Eight, it seemed natural to admit his other half, just returned to us, Troy. The other two are White and Terry. As we did not want to do dishonor to Duncan by voting him out in order to vote in his replacement, we elevated Duncan to member in absence. After all, it is not his fault that he is captured.

Our ranks continue to increase if only by one. Louis Cauthen enlisted in Columbia some two weeks ago and has managed to find us in these trenches. He is as fresh as they come but so were we all before we saw the elephant.

This is enough. I must find some real ink or give up writing.

I Send You These Few Lines.

No, there never was any invasion of Vermont by Confederate troops. There was an incident there, however, called the St. Albans Raid. Some two dozen Confederate agents crossed over from Canada into Vermont and established themselves in the town of St. Albans. Several banks were robbed and attempts to burn the town failed. The raid's intent was to draw Union forces away from the fighting fronts. The raid was a failure.

The part about Troy Crenshaw returning to the company after being detailed to make shoes is borne out by the records.

Soldier's messes played a critical role during the war. Soldiers (sailors, airmen and Marines, too) in all of our conflicts have always formed bonds little understood by others. The mess, always unofficial and always established by the soldiers themselves, were where a good deal of the sharing of experiences, in and out of the army, took place. The name of the mess mentioned in this blog, the Dandy Eights, is fictional.  Thomas Duncan, an original member of the Dandy Eights, was captured at Spottsylvania. Another original member, Thomas Barton, Jr., was killed at the Wilderness.

To, "see the elephant" is a term that predates the War. I cannot verify which original meaning is correct so I'll leave that one alone. In this context, it means to have seen combat.

Louis M. Cauthen was a late-comer to the war. He enlisted in Columbia, SC in October of 1864. Eventually, he made his way to Company I of the 12th. In some way, he could be related to George T. Cauthen of the same company but if he is, I have found no evidence of it.

If Private Tooms doesn't find some ink soon, this blog just might come to a conclusion.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"It was easy to shoot them down."

Saturday, October 1, 1864, Weldon Railroad, Virginia

I should not have begun this entry tonight but now that I have, I must see it through. All I want is some sleep. I am hungry but am too tired to eat.

Yesterday morning, we were rousted from our most comfortable trenches right here where I sit. The long roll, which we have heard so many times in this war, sounded and all thoughts and efforts not relating to preparing to march into battle was forgotten. Anyone who did not finish their breakfast stuffed the remains into their haversack in the hopes that the opportunity would arise to complete the act, if they lived.

Once again, we marched through Petersburg, heading north towards Richmond. The citizens  questioned us as to what was happening and where we were going. We had to shout back that we had no idea about either question. We crossed the Appomattox and entered the turnpike to Richmond. We had not marched too far at all up the pike before we were halted and told to go back the way we came. We had thought that Grant had slipped aside our Lee and was making a bold move to capture the capital. We rested for awhile and resumed the march, this time heading south.

Soon after we reoccupied our trenches, we saw the Yankees coming our way. All of us high privates speculated that the Yankees were making another try to break this railroad. We prepared to receive their attack, confident that they would smash themselves against our works. We did not wait long.

After a short while, someone decided that the division would attack them. The Twelfth was on the extreme left of the brigade. Between us and the Yankees was an open field. Open fields are nothing to us. We have crossed too many such places in this war to be much bothered by them. Besides, that is where the Yankees were and we have to smite them.

Their skirmish line, in advance of their main line, did not put up much of a fight before retreating. Some three dozen did not retreat fast enough and are now on their way to a camp just for them. Poor fellows, some were relieved of anything useful by our own soldiers. I will say that I acquired nothing by this manner but that was only because I was not fast enough.

Their line advanced towards us. We were not going to wait on them. Under orders, we charged them. We received one volley. On we came and they surrendered the field to us by abandoning it. It was easy to shoot them down. Some of us threw rocks at them out of contempt but they were running faster than we could throw. Their artillery threw some rounds at us but they soon limbered up and left.

At the other side of the field was a second line of Yankee infantry in some pines. These Yankees had more sand in them and stood and fought with us. We charged them, too. For awhile, it reminded me of the fight at Spottsylvania when they were charging us in the woods. Some of us were barefoot but it mattered not.

I fired some thirty rounds but I cannot say for certain that I hit anyone. One of those fellows put a ball through my canteen and ruined it. When this fight was over, I got a new one. There were many to choose from. It took awhile but this second line retreated but in better order than the first.

We held the line formerly held by the Yankees in the woods. We held under their artillery and rifles, somewhat protected by a fence and an undulation in the ground. We stayed until it looked that the Yankees would not be coming again and then we left. I think that it was near to nine of the clock. We marched back to this place in the rain.Having just been released from the hospital, I fear becoming sick again and being sent back.

Our colonel is dead. Colonel Bookter had suffered several wounds prior to this fatal one. We thought he had been killed at Spottsylvania but he survived. 

We have fresh fish in camp. Caskey and Cauthen recently joined us from Columbia. Neither have been assigned to our platoon.They are but two. We need many thousands more.

This is enough. I am whipped.

I Send You These Few Lines.

The battle described above was the Battle of Jones' Farm. This was part of the siege of Petersburg. Little-known compared to Gettysburg, Nashville and many others, it was one of many such small actions during the war. Small in this case is a relative term. If someone is shooting at you, it's pretty significant.

Bookter was Colonel Edwin F. Bookter, of Richland District, South Carolina. A former member of the state legislature, he assumed command of the 12th South Carolina upon the death of the former colonel, John Miller.

Caskey and Cauthen are John Harper Caskey and James M. Langley. According to their service records, they enlisted in Columbia on the same day in September. Eventually, they made their way to the camp of the 12th.

Another battle is over. It is nearing the time when Mother Nature will postpone all military operations for awhile. With so little time left in this year's campaign season, will Grant try one more time or cease his efforts until the weather gets better in the Spring? We may find out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"We have lost Atlanta."

Saturday, September 17, 1864, Jackson Hospital

Here in this hospital, it does not rain or snow on me. I am dry. The stoves do not run out of wood.The sustenance is not the Spottswood but it is better than what we were issued in the trenches. There is fresh bread when there is flour. There is some coffee but not much. The meat is mostly not blue. As there is much paperwork here, there is much ink. I must remember to "requisition" some when I leave. If we listen carefully, we can hear gunfire in the distance. We know that none of it can reach us. We are safe here.

I do not wish to stay here. In spite of all the conditions here, I want to go home. Home is back in the company with my pards. I miss them all.This is no place for a soldier. I cannot defend my country from here. I want to go back to the trenches where I can do some good. A surgeon said that in three or four days, I might be released.

It was the cold that sent me here. That and Assistant Surgeon Willis, that is. A good many of us were suffering from the effects of too many working parties on the trenches in the cold. Firewood is hard to come by. We used up all the nearby woods early on. We go further and further afield to get firewood. 

One morning, during sick call, eighteen of us including Sergeant Major Steele, reported to First Sergeant Wade to be taken for examination by the surgeon.He was not there so Willis took over for him. Six of us were deemed sick enough to be sent to Richmond. The others not so selected were to be made well within the division hospital.

It was not a long ride on the railroad as far as distance was concerned but it took almost two hours to arrive at the Richmond station. In better days, it would have taken only some forty minutes. There was no one hawking anything during the trip much to our disappointment.

I was assigned a bed next to Creighton in one of the wards. He has the rheumatism and I have bronchitis. We were preceded by some other Hornets including Blackmon and Sims.
Sims is now dead. His wounds last month eventually cost him a leg and that cost him his life. I saw him only a couple of hours before he passed into the next world. Blackmon looks to be healing nicely from his wound.

There are some entertainments here. There is a library of sorts. The religious tracts are well-worn.  One may read popular novels like Maid of Esopus and Massasoit's Daughter as well as the newspapers. There is news from the west. We have lost Atlanta. It belongs to Sherman and Lincoln now. Joe Johnston was replaced by the gallant Hood. He was shot up rather badly at Gettysburg and Chickamauga but that did not stop him from taking over our western army.  One Richmond paper has said that the fall is a trifling affair. Hood has pluck and will know how to deal with Sherman.

Our General Lee has pluck and more. He knows how to handle Grant. 

I Send You These Few Lines.

It is now the autumn of fourth year of the war. The news is not good for the nation calling itself the Confederate States of America. Atlanta has gone up. The nation is split in two up the Mississippi. Losses on both sides have gone far beyond appalling. The North can replace theirs. The Confederacy can not. Supplies of all sorts are scarce. The lack of adequate rations has reached desperate proportions. The list of problems and shortcomings is long.

Still, the Confederacy yet exists. As long as her armies are in the field, she lives. Lee's army has repeatedly demonstrated that in spite of every hardship that is thrown at it, it can continue to bloody Grant's nose. Give Lee a chance and he will hurt the Yankees.

The western army of the Confederacy does not share the same level of success as the eastern army does. The Army of Tennessee, under a succession of commanders, has been driven from its' homeland with little hope or ability to return. The last commander, Joseph E. Johnston, has been removed by President Davis. John Bell Hood, formerly a division commander in Lee's army, will now get a chance to show what he can do.

Hood is, indeed, shot up rather badly. At Gettysburg, his left arm was wounded so badly that it was useless. At Chickamauga, another wound cost him his right leg.

Tooms' comment about the fall of Atlanta being a trifling affair is from the Richmond Daily Examiner of September 5, 1864. The two novels mentioned, currently available in reprint, were  forerunners of the post-war dime novel era.

Of the people mentioned in this diary entry, all were on the muster rolls at the time. The rolls show that George M. Creighton was in Richmond's Jackson Hospital at this time with rheumatism. The sergeant major of the regiment, Joseph N. Steele, was also absent, sick at this time but where he was sent is not recorded. Wesley Blackmon, also in the same hospital, was recovering from a wound suffered in August. That same month, Garrett Sims suffered a wound which caused the amputation of his leg at the same hospital. Unlike Creighton, poor Sims did not survive.

The material on firewood is sources from the brigade historian, J.F.J. Caldwell.

The third quarter of 1864 is just about over. The last quarter will see some changes that will be recorded by Tooms in his diary. There will be other changes that will not be so recorded. These changes will be in this blog itself and these changes in the 21st century will be driven by historical circumstances of the 19th.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"This cracked them"

Friday, September 2, 1864, Petersburg

 I will give the Yankees some credit, but not much. They are a persistent bunch of scoundrels. Like loathsome spiders, they work their way from their central web to strike out in various directions, always looking for something to trap and destroy.

The last time that we met them was north of the James when some of them tried to break into Richmond. Our Lee gathered up his people and advanced to whip the Yankees. We have done this several times since the start of the campaign season. The Yankees may be persistent but they have learned nothing after all their defeats. They have tried it again and we whipped them again. This time they tried to break up the Weldon.

Last week, we moved at midday. Usually, we leave camp in the morning to meet them. We left our works, which we were still improving, south of Petersburg. As is normal these days, the weather was unkind to we infantry. There was plenty of Sun to go around. Our canteens were emptied early on and there was little opportunity to replenish them. Not a few fell out along the line of march thanks to the heat. That night, stragglers came in all night. We camped near Holly Point Church.

That night, as we know to do before the anticipated battle the next day, we tended to our muskets, equipment and uniforms, in that order. Our muskets are our lives. Ammunition was passed around and cartridge boxes were checked. Slings on haversacks and canteens were examined and, if found wanting, repaired. It just would not do to lose a canteen during a battle.

Our spirits were high. We have rarely failed to drive them away from their positions even when outnumbered and under the weight of their artillery. We are accustomed to whipping them and we are quite fond of doing so. Our supper rations was not more than bad corn meal and bad salt horse but we did not mind as we are also accustomed to making the Yankees replenish our haversacks from their own. We laughed and joked, as we always have, about what we expect to feast upon when the battle is over.

All of us want cheese, no matter how old or what color. We all want meat, with beef being preferred. Unless we capture a camp with a butcher issuing fresh beef, all we get are the chuncks of salt pork from their haversacks. We sometimes find a flask of spirits, especially if the former owner was an officer. We talk of apple fritters, chocolate cake, peaches in brandy and other such delicacies that are just so much fanticys.

And then there is coffee. We all want it. Indeed, we crave it. All a Yankee is worth is his shoes and his coffee. We will take his sugar, too.

General McGowan has returned to us just in time to resume command of this brigade. He had been absented from us since his wounding at Spottsylvania in May.

It was early on Thursday morning when we rolled up our blankets, had a quick breakfast and formed up on the road. The brigade crossed the Rowanty at Mink's Neck Bridge and then we rested before resuming the march towards Ream's Station. At noon, we stopped in order that we might be formed into line of battle and then we advanced across an open field.

It was nothing to drive in their pickets but once they retreated behind their own lines, the way was clear the Yankees to open up on us. They had plenty of artillery and knew how to use it against us who lacked cover. We returned to our starting places and advanced a second time. We were stopped again by the fire from their muskets and artillery. We reformed again, taking quite awhile to do so.

We tried a third time, this time hitting another part of their line from a different direction. We were re-enforced by General Heth and a battalion of artillery under Pegram. This cracked them. Some of the Yankees broke and ran. We were able to take their part of their works. Their abandoning their line meant abandoning their artillery behind them and we showed them no mercy. Piece by piece, their line was turned back until they engaged in a general, hurried withdrawal. We took their works and we kept them through the night.

We did not pursue the retreating Yankees and few of us wanted to do so. Between the heat and the battle, we were all used up. Our regiment that day lost its' commander, Colonel Bookter. He had returned to command not long ago after being wounded in the Wilderness.

There were prisoners to herd and a battlefield to pick over. A good number of Southrons were able to replace old muskets with new ones. As usual, anything worth having was gathered up by the new owners. Castles and Holton both found cheese in their new haversacks. That night, there was enough coffee with sugar for all. I have new shoes which I will use when my present ones surrender. New trousers and two new shirts complete my wardrobe. We found a goodly amount of soap amongst the victors' spoils. It has been some time since any of us have been clean.

The revelry of the victors did not last long that night. We welcomed the sleep. The next day, the 26th, we returned to our Petersburg works. Here we remain. It has been quiet.

I Send You These Few Lines

The battle described above was the Battle of Ream's Station, not nearly as well known as Fredericksburg, but not every Civil War battlefield was a Fredericksburg. Or a Ream's Station.

Grant had sent forces under General Hancock to tear up the Weldon Railroad and reduce the supplies arriving to sustain Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee saw this as an opportunity to strike and kill a part of Grant's Army of the Potomac while it was detached from the main body and unable to be supported. Hancock suffered 2,750 casualties. Lee's attack, led by A.P. Hill, suffered but 720. Hill's men captured nine cannon and 3100 small arms.

Actually, Hill commanded only the opening moves of the assault. He took sick and turned over operations to Cadmus Wilcox, the division commander in which McGowan served as a brigadier. When Henry Heth arrived with his reinforcements, he assumed overall command. Heth is a division commander like Wilcox. Both serve in Hill's corps.

Pegram is William Pegram, often called, "Willie". He was one of the more talented artillery commanders in the Confederacy.

Although Hancock was defeated in his raid on the railroad, a previous raid tore up enough track that Lee's supplies had to be taken from the trains and hauled by wagon around the gap to other trains. It was a burden on the supply resources but not an insurmountable one.

Another battle is over. Another attempt by Grant to break Lee has failed but Grant is not going home. Grant is determined to stay in Virginia. Lee is equally determined to make him go. What will Grant do next? What will Lee do?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

" Short is dead"

Wednesday, August 24, 1864, Weldon Railroad, south of Petersburg

It is good to be back with the rest of the army. It was shortly after we whipped the Yankees at Fussell's Mills that we we're put back on the road to Petersburg. The citizens cheered us as we marched through the city. The looks on some of the faces in the crowds signaled to us that they knew that Lee's army, is saving Richmond, had saved Petersburg, too. Not all of the faces were happy to greet us. We noticed not a few looked at us with scorn. They must side with the Yankees.

Once we passed through,  we continued until we reached this place. The Petersburg and Weldon Railroad is behind us. We are dividing our time digging new works here and watching for the Yankees to make another try to break these rails.

It is still quite hot and sweet water is difficult to come by. We sometimes use an old shirt and pour dirty water from a bucket through it to try and filter out some of the dirt. Bolton said that we should be saving the dirt as we need it for the works. Since we do not know if we will be here through the winter, we are not keen on building cabins lest others take over this part of the line and the cabins. Besides, it is so hot, there is nary a thought of the coming cold and snow. Many trees have been sacrificed to the alter of our breast works. There is not much shade so lean-tos have to do.

I very much like my new canteen. There are no holes in it. I gave my old one to Castles. I can feel through the covering that this canteen has rings like a bulls-eye. I hope that does not mean anything. My new shoes are doing well. I thank the previous owner for breaking them in for me. It is a certainty that before it snows here, that these shoes will need to be replaced with new ones.

When we are not digging, we are drilling, which all feel is a perfect waste of our valuable time. After being in the army this long, if we do not drill by this time, then wbeing in the army for this long, if we have not mastered drill, we never will. When we are not drilling, we pull picket duty. Last night was our last night to man the picket line for awhile. There was a fire to cook our rations for those of us who had anything to cook. Despite my best efforts to save something from the rations recently donated by the Yankees at Fussell's Mills, all have been consumed. All it took was one meal and my haversack was empty again. I was not the only one in such a plight.

Short is dead.The wounds he suffered in June caught up to him. He passed in Petersburg. We are sad that we could not have seen him one more time as we passed through the city. Terry is gone, away on medical leave. Blackmon is gone to a hospital. He has suffered a wound to his throat. Nelson has been given a medical discharge for disability. Terry is absent on a medical furlough.  Wilson Crenshaw is in a hospital in Richmond or Petersburg. There are so many absent that I cannot account for all of them.

We can hear firing all up and down the lines, whether we are on the picket line or back in our works. Some of the sounds come from quite far away. We suspect that Grant is probing our lines, looking for a weak place to make a push. He may push all he likes. Our Lee will always push back.

I Send You These Few Lines

There are indeed so many of Tooms' pards that are missing. In addition to those absent that are mentioned above are Colonel Bookter, the regimental commander, Medrid Caskey, Sergeant Major Joseph Steele, Julius Porter, James Porter, Ransom Plyer, John McKay, Lieutenant James Williamson,  John Neill, Hugh Steele, Troy Crenshaw and William Marshall. These soldiers, all in the same company as Tooms, are absent sick, absent furlough, absent detailed or just absent. There are others, absent as prisoners of war, such as John Plyer, Jefferson Mathis, and John Howell, all mentioned in previous diary entries. All of this material is sourced from the National Archives.

The Late Unpleasantness saw the first mass use of railroads in wartime. Transportation of men, munitions and material is now critical to the successful conduct of war. The Confederate troops defending Richmond and Petersburg, Atlanta and Wilmington, and all other places held by the Southern soldiery, are being supplied with beans and bullets by way of the railroads.

During the early part of the  the war, Richmond was served by several railroads, bringing supplies and manpower from all over the Confederacy to her defense. By the summer of 1864, the railroads are few and their carrying capacity is shrinking. The Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, often called just the Weldon, mentioned by Tooms, is one of the few railroads keeping Lee's army in the field, allowing him to defy Grant.

The Weldon ran from Petersburg to Weldon, North Carolina. From there, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad ran to Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the few ports left to the Confederacy where supplies can be run through the blockade from overseas.

Tooms has observed that some of the looks of the citizens of Petersburg are less than friendly. Tooms writes that these might be in league with the Yankees. While that might be somewhat true, it might be that those people see in the soldiers the fact that the war will continue. War-weariness has set in to a large part of the Southern populace, civilian and military. This sentiment has been in existence for awhile and, barring a monumental victory over the Yankees, this sentiment will grow. Some Southerners hold out hope for ultimate victory and some just want the war to end, no matter the outcome.

For the moment, things are quiet. Well, at least quieter than it has been for awhile. There's no more shooting. Well, at least no more shooting that is so close that it requires someone to shoot back. Tooms and his pards have been around long enough to know that, no matter how quiet it is now, this is just the time in between one period of chaos and another. There's a war on. It is certain that this time is just the calm before the storm.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"...those d-----d gunboats"

Wednesday, August 17, 1864, North of James River, Virginia

We are so very frustrated. There is not a man in the company or regiment who is not desperately anxious to wade into those Yankees and soundly whip them to the far, far north. While it is true that we lack decent clothes and full bellies, as long as our cartridge boxes are full, we are content that we can whip any number of Lincoln's hirelings.

For some few days we had guessed that something was afoot. We were instructed by our officers to give our muskets a good going-over and to render our uniforms into a proper military presentation. It was not necessary to say anything about our muskets. We have been in this war long enough to know that our muskets are our lives. A good cavalryman puts his horse before himself. We infantry take care of our muskets better than we take care of ourselves. We did the best with what we had.

There was a lively trade in buttons and thread. Brass buttons are preferred but anything will do. Old shirts and drawers were consigned to the alter of cleanliness. For some of us, we are now wearing the only drawers and shirts that we have. We said that we would get new ones from the Yankees. We sharpened out bayonets, unaware of just how useless they were to be against our intended enemies.

It was an evening march this time and we were glad of it as it was cooler. This has been a very warm summer and Old Sol has sent not a few of us to sick call. We marched with the thought that on the morrow, we would heat up the Yankees. It has been too long since we have dealt them a blow.

On Monday, we were told of our mission. We were going to advance to the James River and attack the gunboats that threatened  to go upriver to capture Richmond. There are still a few of us left who remember the regiment's first encounter with gunboats. At Port Royal Ferry back in '61, they handled us badly. Now was our chance to pay them back. We would sink the lot of them. O, how we cheered.
We did not get much sleep that night. We were too excited at the idea of attacking the gunboats.

The next day, Tuesday the 16th, we heard the sounds of many muskets towards our left. As we marched to the sounds of the guns, we could see in the sunlit hours that this move was more than just our regiment or brigade. We could see so many of our flags in all directions it seemed. We thought that our Lee and his entire army was part of this great movement.

For awhile, the firing died down but we did not slack our pace. Before too long, the musketry increased as did our pace. The weather was very unfriendly to us and not a few fell off to the side of the road. When we formed into line, the picture of what lay before us became more clear. The Yankees had captured a line of advanced works near Fussell's Mill. It was odd that they were not advancing. They looked to be reforming their lines before making another assault. That allowed us enough time to throw up some crude breastworks.

When they were ready, they came at us. They had to advance across open ground to reach us. We poured it into them and many fell. Perhaps they thought that we would be overwhelmed by their numbers and that was why they advanced in the open.

Whatever the reason, it nearly worked. As one fell, it seemed as three filled his place. The Yankees came up to our works and we met them with the bayonet. I regret to write that we were pushed back but we were certainly not defeated. As the Yankees advanced, our own troops on either side of them who remained firm and were not pushed back were able to fire into both flanks of the enemy. The enemy staggered and then they fell back. When it was all over, we had retaken our works, a good number of prisoners and gathered up a fair amount of, well, plunder. I am well-supplied with two new shirts, a new pair of drawers, a new canteen and pokes of sugar, crackers, rice, and some salt horse. The best thing is a not-too-worn pair of shoes.

We never saw any of those d-----d gunboats.

It is rumored that we will return to Petersburg.

I Send You These Few Lines

This battle, Fussell's Mills, was one of the hardest I've written of since I've started this blog. Fussill's Mills is not one of the, "sexy", battles of the War Between the States. No historian will ever write a multi-volume or even single work on this battle. The Official Records have little to offer by way of documentation.

There is a history of the brigade written by the adjutant of one of the brigade's regiments. His version differs from what little material I can find coming from more modern sources. The author, J.F.J. Caldwell, writes that he was wounded about this time and he cannot vouch for the history of the brigade at this time. Perhaps that explains some things.

Fussell's Mills is north of the James River, a bit west of Malvern Hill, between New Market Road and Charles City Road.

The previous encounter with Union gunboats mentioned above was mentioned in the January 6, 1862 diary entry. It was the Battle of Port Royal Ferry.

Once again, Tooms has it wrong. They are not going after any gunboats. At this time, a part of Lee's army, under Jubal Early, has been detached from the main body in order to advance through the Shenandoah Valley and attack Washington. Grant was curious if enough forces had left Lee that an assault on Richmond might be successful.

To test this, Grant sent Winfield Scott Hancock, "Hancock the Suburb", to feel out the works southeast of Petersburg, probe the enemy lines and, if possible, take Richmond. It was this threat, not the gunboats, that the brigade was responding to. Lee had come up from Petersburg with substantial reinforcements to turn back Hancock's force.

But now, the lines protecting Petersburg are weakened. Lee is gambling. Will he win?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"That was enough; we charged."

Saturday, July 30, 1864, Fort Harrison

On Monday last, the brigade marched north up the works east of Richmond. At some point, I know not where, we were stopped and countermarched back to our original positions. No one explained why we were marching in the first place or what happened to cause us to return.

On Thursday, we again took to the march and the Yankees took an objection to it. As we moved, they shelled us. The day before, they shelled us as we stayed in one place. At least on Thursday, we took some satisfaction in knowing that we would be soon be returning the compliment.

Near Fussell's Mill, the brigade formed into line. All of the our regiments were there. The First, having being detached to garrison Fort Harrison, had rejoined us about ten days earlier. The Twelfth was on the far left of the brigade line. If we looked to our own far right, we could see the distinctive flags of Lane's brigade of North Carolinians.

Before we could light into the Yankees, we had to make our way through a woods. Once breaking the woods, there was a road. There was a marsh after crossing the road. This was not to stop us or slow us down. We pressed on and by doing so, lost contact with Lane's brigade. After the marsh we entered a cornfield. After the cornfield we came to a hill and reached the crest.

All the while we were moving through these obstacles, we were under fire. First there was their artillery and then their muskets once we came within range. When we took the hill, we found that the Yankees had fled to a line of woods in their rear. They had artillery there and continued to shell us from the other side of a field that separated us. That was enough; we charged. Across the field we went, faster than they could flee. The Thirteenth charged with us and we took one of their guns.

Our elation at driving then from their position and taking one of their guns was short lived. We had advanced past any support and were taking flanking fire from our right. Lane's brigade finally caught up after being slowed in the marsh and drove them off. We would have suffered greatly had they not made a timely arrival. Under orders, we reformed our lines and advanced.

We intended to keep the ground we had won and started digging new works to protect our new position. All the while, that d----d Yankee artillery kept shooting at us but caused no significant damage. I know of only one casualty in the company- John Neill who suffered a wound. There were a fair number of prisoners taken and one of them is missing his shoes.

Chaplain Betts visited us earlier today. He brought us news and not all of it was good. Sullivan has died of his wounds. Truesdale, wounded two months ago, had his leg amputated and now is with Sullivan in that Great Place. There was some good news. We had all believed that Howell had been killed at Falling Waters. He was not killed but instead captured. He is somewhere North in a Yankee prison.

I wonder what happened to that gun we took.

I Send You These Few Lines

The battle described here came to be known as Deep Bottom. The details come from the original brigade historian's account of the battle.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Crater. This was an attempt by the Union to break the Confederate lines at Petersburg by digging a tunnel to an underground chamber underneath the Confederate works, filling it with gunpowder and igniting it. The explosion caused many casualties and created a large crater in the Confederate works. Union troops charged into and around the crater. The Confederates rallied quickly and inflicted numerous losses upon those troops stuck in the crater. The costly attack failed.

Tooms and his pards knew nothing of this at the time. They were too far away.

Sullivan was Andy Sullivan. Truesdale was John C. Truesdale. Their deaths, as well as the wounding of John Neill and the good news about John N. Howell are a matter of public record at the National Archives.

Chaplain Betts was assigned to the 12th South Carolina.

Despite my best efforts, I can find nothing to indicate what happened to that captured cannon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"I have new drawers."

Wednesday, July 13, 1864, Chaffin's Bluff, Virginia

Aside from the occasional musket round thrown our way from the other side, there is very little action to take up our efforts. We do not mind this as this relative respite gives us the chance to improve our works and ourselves. There are not so many of manning the line here. When we are not on the line, we sew and mend and there is a great deal of that to do. Strengthening the works keeps us from getting in too much trouble.

The quality and quality of our rations does not permit us of enough energy to allow any trouble. For a brief while, there was coffee in abundance. Each of us could have two cups per day. This was real coffee, not the barn sweepings that get graced with the name of coffee. It was captured from the Yankees for all we know, not that it mattered. We did not question it's origins. It was grand if temporary. It is no longer issued to us. We might not see its like again.

If only the rest of our rations were as grand. We would not recognize wheat flour if we saw it. There is some corn meal issued to us and we make the most of it, or perhaps the least of it. The water here is bad and it is so much the worse since there is no coffee to mask the taste. There were some wild onions here but we wiped them out some time ago. We think that we can identify our meat ration as having been, when alive, of animal origins but we cannot tell what kind of animal.

One piece of brightness that has shone upon us is that Lieutenant Williamson has bestowed clothing riches upon us. I have new drawers. I cut up my old ones to patch my shirt with. Hancock got a new jacket.  White got a blanket, the only one issued. Some of us got something but some of us got nothing. More than anything I wanted shoes but there were only nineteen pair to be issued and others got them.

Hagins has returned from sick furlough. Terry has gone on sick furlough so the company is neither weaker nor stronger.

The First has been removed from the brigade. That regiment now is the garrison of Fort Harrison. The four regiments left will have to get along without the First.

The news tells us that the gallant horseman Stuart, recently killed, is replaced with that South Carolinian Wade Hampton. He has a bit of a reputation as skillful cavalryman. He has a big pair of boots to fill.

I think that if a horse neared our camp, we would kill it and roast it.

I Send You These Few Lines.

The clothing issue was taken from records at the National Archives. The records document the issuance of 5 jackets, 18 pair of trousers, 9 shirts, 2 pair of drawers, 19 pairs of shoes and a single blanket. Tooms and his pards will need to take good care of what has been given to them. There's no telling when or if there will be any more.

That there was a good deal of coffee issued at one point comes from the brigade historian. They thought they were doing very well at two cups a day. Some of my modern friends would think themselves suffering if they did not have much more.

The poor rations are also mentioned in the brigade history.

Fort Harrison, part of the Richmond defenses, needed a unit to be the garrison and it was the First South Carolina was picked. The brigade, much understrength already, was just further reduced by twenty percent.

John M. Hagins and William Terry's medical furloughs are a mater of record at the National Archives.

Lee's army is split at this time of the war. There are just too many Yankees in too many places for Lee to properly protect. Lee now provides his own troops to other commands to the weakening of his own. Tooms and his brigade, plus one other, are on loan to Richard Ewell who is defending Richmond. Is this loan temporary or permanent?

Monday, June 30, 2014

"...we crossed the Appomattox."

Thursday, June 30, 1864, north of Fort Harrison, VA

When I last made an entry, the Yankees were not bothering us as much as was Ol Sol. We long for last winter, having forgotten just how cold it was. When this winter arrives, we will long for this summer, having forgotten how hot it was. As there is so little shade here, we have resorted to building  our shebangs just as we have for the past three summers. It would be so much better for us if there was an abundance of sweet water. What little sweet water there is not going to last. A soldier's camp is a dirty place. We need to move camp closer to that millstream.

And the very next day after the last entry, we were back on the march. Mahone's division was to attack the Yankees near Richmond and our division was to be in support. It meant leaving our works and marching again through Petersburg, this time heading north. The first time we marched through Petersburg, heading south, the citizens greeted us with cheers, calling upon Lee's boys to save them from the vile Yankee hordes of scoundrels.

The best thing that happened to us on that march was that the citizens, mostly the womenfolk, presented buckets and pails of the best water we have ever had.We would have liked to have stopped and filled our canteens but there was no time to avail ourselves of this liquid bounty. The best we could do was dip our tin cups into the buckets as we passed. God bless the citizens of Petersburg.

Holton noticed something about our march and called or attention to it. We could see in some places where the line of march was very straight, the colors being carried by each regiment. We observed that the distance from one battle flag to the next was quite short. There are so few of us now that each regiment does not take up quite so much space as it used to.

There are so many missing from the ranks. Corporal McAteer, in command of second squad, is still absent in the hospital. Most of his squad is dead, wounded, or on details. The only man fit to shoulder a musket in his squad, Stafford Hood, is now with us and first squad until things get better. Our squad, with Hood, numbers but nine men. Of these nine, Will Crenshaw and Bill Terry are absent sick. This leaves seven, including Corporal Flynn. As there is no second squad in this platoon, our squad of seven represent the entire platoon, which should number some forty. I would wager that the entire company does not number two dozen nor the regiment even one hundred present and fit for duty. We will whip the Yankees anyway. We have faith in our Lee and he has faith in us.

When Mahone finally engaged the enemy, near Jerusalem Plank Road, the brigade staten somewhat in the rear, waiting to be called in to support if necessary. We were not so far in the rear that the Yankees did not find us. We exchanged some musket fire but it was not a hot fire. Short was wounded here. When this little expedition was over, we marched back to Petersburg, drinking our fill while in town.

The Yankees did not allow us to rest in our works for long. We left during Wednesday night, going through Petersburg on our way to near Richmond. As it was a night march, it was cooler but it was too late for there to be any water for us in town. When we crossed the Appomattox, there was but a little time to replenish our canteens.

The march was long and hurried. We guessed that Beast Butler had broken through our works and was about to capture Richmond. What with the lack of water had the rapid pace, straggling was very bad. We crossed the James on a pontoon bridge and were in position by today's late morning. Stragglers filtered in all the rest of the day and into the night. Our position is in the works to the north of Fort Harrison. There is a good deal of heavy artillery in the Fort.

And now we dig.

I Send You These Few Lines

The brigade (McGowan's) has been marching its feet off during June. There has been some action and some rest but the rest of the month has been spent doing what infantry is supposed to do, march.

Fort Harrison, part of the Richmond defenses, is part of the National Park service system. The fort is located south of Richmond, a bit east of the James River and west of Malvern Hill. Malvern Hill was one of the 1862 Seven Days Battles.

The conditions of the several names mentioned, McAteer, Crenshaw and Terry being absent sick, and Short being wounded, all come from the National Archives records. As mentioned in a previous entry, the records are not so detailed as to indicate which soldier is in which squad or platoon so any mention along those lines is just literary license.

It is not license, however, to state that the ranks in Lee's army are thinning. J.F.J. Caldwell wrote a history of McGowan's brigade in which he was a company commander in the First South Carolina. In this work, he states that the company he commanded at this time consisted of himself and seven men. Another company had but two.

There's something else about the documentation that has been bothering me since long before I started this blog. Much of the references that I use to support this blog come from company muster rolls held by the National Archives. The rolls were filled out six times a year, once every two months. When May of 1864 arrives, something happens. Instead of there being two rolls, one for May/June and one for July/August, there is just one. One roll for the four month period. This is common to all Confederate forces wherever stationed at the time. I have never been able to account for this.

This situation complicates things for the researcher. An incident, happening to a soldier, might be noted on the roll but with the time period covering four months, it is not possible to determine when the incident happened. For instance, James W. Porter, of Company I, the 12th South Carolina, is carried on the May/August roll as being absent, sick. Do I mention this in a May entry, June entry, July entry or August entry of this blog?

And since I'm on a roll about documentation, please let me add that it is very unfortunate that the quality and reliability of the information depends on the persons keeping the rolls. A further frustration is having to deal with the handwriting of some of the Federal transcribers who were hired in the very early days of the 20th century to transcribe information from the muster rolls to index cards. Almost all muster roll information used by modern researchers is gleaned not from examination of the original rolls but rather from these index cards. Some of these transcribers have good handwriting. As for some others, they might as well be writing in Cyrillic.

Beast Butler refers to Union Major General Benjamin Butler. He commands the Army of the James positioned to the east of and in between Richmond and Petersburg. Butler acquired the nickname, "Beast", from his activities as commander of Federally-occuppied New Orleans. The women of the Crescent City were being very disrespectful to the occupiers. Butler issued an order stating that any women who showed such disrespect to Union soldiers ..."would be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." In other words, a soiled dove, fallen angel, trollop, strumpet, a lady of the night, etc. Chamberpots were manufactured with his likeness at the bottom.

Tooms does not know that now that the brigade is in the Richmond defenses, it falls under a military jurisdiction commanded not by Robert E. Lee but by Richard Ewell, who used to command a corps in Lee's army and now commands the Department of Richmond. Will Tooms ever see the Army of Northern Virginia again?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"We left behind the pickles."

Tuesday, June 21, 1864, south of Petersburg

We entrench constantly these days. If we are to be in any one place for just a few hours, we entrench. If we have to march to a certain place and must rest for the night before we arrive at our destination, we entrench. Luckily for us, today we did little work entrenching and that was only because we have returned to some works we had already constructed.

The regiment is becoming quite the engineers. We do not lack for tools as even a tin plate can be used as a digging tool. Some of us have no plates but their hands work just fine. There are some proper tools, axes and shovels, in the regiment, but only a few per platoon. If there is any sort of structure nearby, be it barn or farm house, it is raided for anything useful to dig with. Boards are ripped up. Dinner plates, taken from the kitchen do not work well as they break much too easily.

Some days ago, Hancock, Castles, Holton and myself were sent to a farm house for anything that might be turned into an implement of construction. Axes, hammers, nails and shovels are especially prized. We hoped the property had no residents. We were happy to see that the previous occupants were absent. If ever people are present, we politely ask the owner to spare what he, or often she, can spare for the protection of the boys.

However, since we are but high privates of the lowest order, we look first for something to eat. More often than not, we find nothing, not even a raccoon. At this house, the fence rails went first as they make good firewood. We all slung our muskets over our shoulders and carried as much as we could back to our camp. Our eyes were peeled, looking for patrolling Yankee cavalry.

It was on our sixth or seventh trip to the house when we began to tear up the walls, ripping off the boards. Holton peeled away one board to reveal a hidden pantry. On the floor was a three gallon crock. He called us all over to him. We stared at the crock, covered with cheesecloth and a plate with a rock on top. We said nothing but each of heard the others ask the same question in our heads,"What is in there?"

Holton carefully removed the rock, plate and cloth. The first sight that greeted us was a greenish scum with a foul scent. Holton moved away the scum with the plate. Castles called out, "Pickles, those things are pickles!" All thoughts of our assignment vanished as we anticipated a feeding frolic. Holton picked up the crock and moved to place it on a table. The crock fell from his grip and it crashed onto the floor, breaking into pieces and scattering the scum and pickles all over the floor.

We were mad as hornets towards Holton. This careless act would not go unpunished. Castles beat him with his slouch as Castles kicked him. We picked him up and carried him to a nearby run. We found a small pond and threw him into it. It was then that we heard it. It was the sound of creaking wood and iron and falling water.

It took a short while to go through the undergrowth to determine the sours of the sounds. Castles saw it first. It was a mill, somewhat worse for wear. As Holton cursed our souls, the rest of us raced into the water towards the mill. Hancock fell and got just as wet as Holton. The door to the millwright's office was kicked in and we barged in, hoping that our loss of the pickles would be made up with the gain of something of equal value.

Near the hopper we found several sacks. There was plenty of "evidence" that the mice had found them before we did. After all the sacks were opened, we found that we were the proud owners of three sacks of corn meal, one of wheat flour and two sacks of corn, all with holes. Luckily for us, there were some empty sacks nearby, some marked, "H.C.". We took them and transferred the contents, including the, "evidence" into the new sacks. The mice that did not run away, we picked from the sacks and let them go. We joked that the mice were so small that they would not be worth the trouble to kill, skin and roast. I could not help but wonder if we might not someday regret having let the mice go.

We were in a very dangerous situation. We had forgot all about being soldiers. In our haste to punish Holton, we had left our rifles and ammunition at the farmhouse. Suppose a patrol of Yankee cavalry should just then come by? They would see that there were rebels hard by and would come looking for us. We could flee and be shot or stay, be captured and go to prison. No Yankees appeared. Providence was with us.

As it was getting dark, we determined that we needed to get back to camp. Should we approach our lines after dark, we might be shot for Yankees. Back at the farmhouse, we found a wheelbarrow which we took back to the mill to get the sacks of treasure. As sweet water was hard to come by in camp, we took the time to drink our fill from the millrace and fill our canteens.

We were very fearful whilst returning to our lines. The wheel of the barrow was very much worse for wear. It screamed its protest at having to do any work. Several times, the wheelbarrow collapsed, spilling our treasure to the ground. Each time we repaired it as best we could without tools or parts. Every time we stopped, it caused us to lose time. It got darker and the wheel got louder.

When the only light was coming from the stars, a shot was fired at us and then we were challenged by the pickets. Usually, the challenge comes first. We pleaded with them not to shoot, that we were fellow Confederates. There were more shots and calls of, "Liars, it's a trick". We shouted our names and said that we had corn. The shooting stopped. We were ordered to advance and be recognized and bring the corn.

We advanced and were recognized as being friendly. Lieutenant Williamson was there and demanded an accounting of our actions. We had not finished our account when he stopped us and inquired as to the contents of our sacks. Hancock opened them up and  almost started a riot. One of the pickets asked if the sacks would have to be turned over to the regimental commissary. Lieutenant Williamson said, "No. Company I found it. Company I keeps it." There was a cheer for the Lieutenant. Although it was quite late, the company ate well.

We hope to be able to return to the farmhouse. We left behind the pickles.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"...Yankee cavalry hard by."

Thursday, June 16, 1864, near Malvern Hill.

Should I march another mile, I feel as if my feet will surrender. My brogans are just misshapen pieces of leather. Rocks and small sticks easily find their way through the openings in my soles to visit my feet. I dare not complain too loudly as there are many of us, perhaps the most of us, who are in the same way.When I had the opportunity to do so some weeks ago, I should have helped my self to three or four pair of Yankee brogans.

All this started this Monday past. While the brigade was in place, being watchful behind earthworks, we were hastily ordered to fall in and march south to a then unknown destination. We all thought that Grant had again moved away from our front and was trying to flank our Lee again. We crossed the Chickahominy and the York Railroad. Someone said at one place that we were marching through Frayser's Farm. If true, we were going through one of the battlefields where two years ago, McClellan had tried to wrest Richmond from our Lee.

There seemed to be a sense or urgency in this march. The further south we went the more we felt that indeed, Grant was trying to turn our flank. This was a bad time to be marching rapidly. Many men fell out due to the heat. We trusted that they would catch up to the main column by nightfall. I had two Yankee canteens. Castles offered me forty dollars, Confederate, for one. Duncan heard this and offered sixty dollars, Confederate, of course. I gave Castles one of my canteens and did not take any of his money as it was empty.

Later that same Monday, we were ordered into line of battle. Someone called out that there was Yankee cavalry hard by. There was some skirmishing but it was not heavy. I did not fire my musket even once. After some short time, the Yankees left us to the field. I am not aware that we suffered any casualties. That night, before getting any sleep, we fortified our position. We still did not know where we were going.

On Tuesday, we marched, always to the south. In the far distance to our right, and somewhat behind us, we could see the spires of Richmond. The day was just as hot as the day before. This was not a good land to get much water. What little water we came across was poor. Our rations were scant, insufficient to keep a body from wasting away under these exertions. There was still that same urgency of movement and the same lack of an understanding of where we were going. I heard some wag joke that Grant had embarked his whole army on transports and landed then in North Carolina.
Grant is somewhere and I suspect that Lee is looking for him. When our Lee finds him, there will be fighting.

I Send You These Few Lines

I see where this site has passed the 3000 hits mark. To those of you who made this happen, I thank you.

Grant has moved. After the grisly costly defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant decided to do another flanking run around Lee's right. Lee waited for some few days, not knowing what Grant was up to. When Lee determined that Grant was moving south, he had his army leave their works and rapidly march to some place where Grant might be caught in the open and a piece of his army may be bitten off and chewed up.

The cavalry-infantry skirmish that did not amount to much was one of several small encounters that occurred at this time. Union cavalry is looking to see where Lee is and every so often, they find him.

The hard marching, short rations and bad water were all reported on by those who were there. Indeed, there are places in Virginia that are rather dry. This is one of them. I am speculating that during the winter, there is good water in abundance. This is not winter, the temperatures are torrid and only bad water is easily found.

Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill were two battles fought in 1862 during the Seven Day's Battles, right after Lee had assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee turned on the Union Major General George McClellan and drove him away from the gates of Richmond. Two years later, Lee finds himself now keeping Grant away from the Confederate capitol.

This diary entry opened with Tooms lamenting the state of his shoes (brogans). He opened the last entry in the same manner. Keeping Confederates in proper footwear has been a problem since the beginning of the war and it's getting worse.

A last word about Grant and his strategy. Yes, Grant has embarked on a grand flanking move around Lee. The entire Army of the Potomac is on the move but it is not Richmond that Grant is after.