Friday, January 24, 2014

"Standing Guard Mount is Cold H--l."

Sunday, January 24, 1864, Along the Rapidan

If the Yankees wanted to end this war quickly, they would do well to cross the river with one hundred men and capture us all without firing a shot. The winter looks at us with great disfavor. The snow is up and the temperatures are down. Standing guard mount is cold H--l. The massive stockpile of firewood that we had cut is nearly exhausted. It is so cold that the wood-cutting parties can not keep up with the demand. No one knows what we shall do. We shall freeze to death. We take some comfort that it is just as cold for those Yankees across the river but we know that each and every one of them has an overcoat issued by Massah Linkum.

Some of us are more lucky than others. Jeffy Turner, McAteer and Hagins have been granted furloughs. Assistant Surgeon Keith has sent John Neill to the hospital along with Howell and Blackmon. Troy Crenshaw had returned to the company after being absent since being wounded at Second Manassas, only last month and he is now being detailed away as a shoemaker. I certainly hope that it is warm where they are going. I know it is warm where I would like to send the Yankees. Truesdale has returned from furlough and he says that he should have stayed home.

Once again, the ladies of the Confederacy have come through for us. Lieutenant Williamson has been in receipt of a box from Shiloh Soldier's Aid Society. Every man in the company has a new pair of wool socks. Five of us have new blankets. Drawers, scarves, trousers, shirts and a single pair of gloves were received with gratitude. The Lieutenant said that he would write a letter of thanks on behalf of the company.

There was nothing to eat in this box but some other packages from other kind ladies contained treats that disappeared rather quickly. There was one apple pie that met with some sort of accident in transit and made a mess of the rest of the contents and we cared not the least. We ate the, "pie", as if it had been presented to us on a silver salver.

Chaplain Betts led us at church call this morning. He called upon the Great Provider to grant us the usual things but today he added a request for sunshine. If he gets his wish, we shall all convert.

I Send You These Few Lines:

It's winter and it's hard. The winter of '63-'64 was a cold one in Northern Virginia for both sides. Tooms correctly observes that the Union side was better prepared to handle the winter elements than their grey opponents. Industrial nations will always enjoy that advantage over agricultural nations.

All the persons mentioned as going to or coming back from furlough or being sent on special detail or to the hospital were listed on the muster roll for January and April for 1864. This muster roll and all such rolls are in the National Archives repository in College Park, Maryland.

That box and all of its' contents was one of many boxes sent to Confederate troops in the field or in hospital during the war. The full contents of this particular box, sent specifically to Company I, of the 12th South Carolina Regiment, were listed by Lieutenant Williamson in his letter of thanks as, "Five blankets, two quilts, six pair linsey pants, twenty-one pair cotton pants, four pair drawers, eleven cotton shirts, one pair gloves, sixty pair wool socks and three scarfs." I cannot imagine what use cotton pants would have in such a cold winter but I suppose it is better than going without.

A note about the new year, 1864. We, living in 2014, know what the outcome of the war will be like. Tooms and his people do not. They do not know how long this war will last or what they will face once the campaign season begins. They do not know that whereas 1863 was bad, 1864 will be evil. This year, the kid gloves come off.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"It is just Pure Meanness".

Sunday, January 10, 1863 1864, along the Rapidan, Virginia

It has been both said and written that all good things must come to an end and so it has. Last week at this time, I was under arrest, confined to quarters as there is no stockade yet built. As the cold blasts of winter have visited us, being confined to quarters is not so bad. I was indoors, with a fire and not too badly fed.

Lieutenant Williamson's letter to Captain Porteaux, who could vouch for me and release me from my confinement, found its way into the hands of Doctor Bittle of Roanoke College. He explained that Captain Porteaux was captured by the raiders last month. The captain could not vouch for me but the Doctor could, and did, in a letter to Lieutenant Williamson. I am now free and all the worse for being so.

On the other hand, both Hancock and Duncan, who had been, "guarding" me in quarters. Sergeant Harper was making his rounds of inspection when he came across both Hancock and Duncan in our cabin, having exchanged their outdoors guard posts for an indoor fireplace. Harper leveled invective at both of them for their transgressions and confined them to quarters. He bore the letter which freed me and then ordered me to report for a work detail. I had to leave the warm cabin and go outside while Hancock and Duncan stayed indoors, with a fire, with the prospects of being fed not too badly.

The work detail is rather involved. We are tasked with the building of a plank road from Orange Court House  to Liberty Mills. My job is not so bad. Stories of my escapade with that hired horse and wagon led to my being assigned a wagon to transport felled logs to where they can be used as planks for the road. The horse I was given to pull the wagon was in considerably better condition than that hired one, rest its' soul. The weather is very cold and there is snow everywhere. The soldiers of the detail that have the task of felling the trees worked in their shirts. The rest of us were bundled up like Russians. It did not escape my attention that all folks on this detail had shoes. Those without shoes were exempted from this detail.

Terry, White, Lyles and, "Ham", Steele, amongst many others, were working the axes. Sims and Turner assisted with the loading of mine and other wagons. "Ham" gave me a very dirty look. I do think that he envied my working as a driver. At one instance, Hood, who was driving a wagon next to mine, winked at me.

After my first days' work was completed and the horse brushed down and fed, I went back to our cabin and was challenged by two fellows with fixed bayonets. I recognized nether of them. It was only with great difficulty that I convinced them that my business within the cabin was appropriate and did not include breaking Duncan and Hancock from their imprisonment. When one of them opened the door, I pelted both of the "inmates" with a snowball each. How dare they sit in a warm cabin while I worked in the cold. I should not have done that as they now refuse to share any of their prisoner rations with me as I had shared mine with them.

They told me that the two guards outside were Cook and Vaughn from B Company. Someone thought that having guards from another company would lessen the chances of familiarity causing them to abandon their post in search of some way to avoid death by frostbite. Hancock and Duncan refuse to invite their guards inside to get warm. It is just pure meanness.

I Send You These Few Lines

Tooms is lucky. His letter of salvation from,"prison", has come through. He is now free to be detailed to hard labor in wintertime, although not as hard as some. The 12th and the rest of the regiments in the brigade were tasked with planking a five-mile stretch of road from Orange Court House to Liberty Mills, both locations being in Orange County on the south side of the Rapidan River, west of Fredericksburg. Some of this road is today's Virginia State 20.

There are a lot of names in this diary entry, all of which are real names of those who served in Company I of the 12th South Carolina Infantry. All but two, that is. Cook and Vaughn are also real names but they served in Company B, known as the, "Bonham Guards."

William Cook joined Company B of the 12th in August of 1861 in Ridgeway Depot, Fairfield County, South Carolina. The muster roll for May and August of 1864 list him as being on furlough due to a gunshot wound. The records at the National Archives repository in College Park Maryland do not state in what battle Cook received his wound but the dates indicate Spottsylvania. Eventualy, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps and detailed to new duty in Columbia, SC.

John M. Vaughn enlisted on April 12, 1861in Ridgeway, SC. He is recorded as being sick in hospital in Stanton, VA, disease not specified.  He sustained a gunshot wound in the right hand, probably at Spottsylvania, according to certain dates in his records. Vaughn received a 60-day furlough to recover. Sometime after this, he was detailed back to his home county, Fairfield. The last record of him, the muster roll for November and December, 1864, has him listed as being absent without leave, or AWOL.

Has Tooms forgotten that he still owes the livery stable operator in Big Lick for a horse and wagon?