Sunday, April 27, 2014

"...canned sardines..."

Wednesday, April 27, 1864, on Picket along the Rapidan

It has not snowed for awhile. There is no longer any snow on the ground but there is still some chance that it might still snow. The rain has let up somewhat. There is still a great deal of mud here but it has been worse. The roads are showing signs of drying out.

Caskey has gone and done it. For all that crazy talk of joining the Navy, he meant every word. He is gone and our Navy has him. He is gone but another Caskey has taken his place. Medrid Caskey joined up right in camp just today as we were leaving to go on picket.

Bill Barton, Jr. has returned from furlough as has Joe Steele. Junior came back sporting a new pair of trousers and a jacket from home but nothing for us. Stele brought back himself, looking just as bad as when he left us. Each of them told of the many hardships the folks back home are suffering in this war. I do not doubt that they have it rough but no one is shooting at them. They must not lose faith in the cause for it is largely their faith that sustains ours.

Junior was informed that while he was gone on furlough, the company was reorganized. Both he and we were happy that he remained in our squad.

Castles and Neill were picked to go on furlough. They will leave on Friday.. It will be quite some time before I will be eligible for a parole. It will be hog-killing time before that happens.

Assistant Surgeon Keith has been promoted to full surgeon but we will not benefit from this as he is being transferred out of the regiment. I do not know who will take his place.

Williams who has been ailing for some time has received a surgeon's certificate of disability. We do not understand how it is that he can no longer serve with us but can be transferred to Holcombe's Legion.

It has been an expensive time for both Mathis and Bruce. Mathis managed to ruin twelve cartridges and was fined three dollars for doing so. Bruce fared much worse. He ruined both his bayonet scabbard and his cartridge box. The first cost him two dollars and fifty-seven cents; the latter was four dollars. Another two and one half dollars were taken from his pay for ten cartridges. It is so hard to get by on the eleven dollars a month paid to us high privates.

We are along the same stretch of the river that we have been before. The ones we relieved kindly left us a good fire to which we have added some chunks. We will not freeze tonight.

Hancock and Crenshaw have been on a tear for an hour. Earlier today, Holton halooed to a Yank across the river, offering to trade. They met in the river and Holton gave up tobacco for coffee. He came back and gave the paper to Hancock, saying that the Yank said to enjoy the paper as it will be the last one for awhile. The sutlers, who had the papers, have all been sent away. That set off those two who said that it was a mean trick. We were looking forward to beating the Yankees again and raiding their sutlers of canned sardines, canned peaches, apple fritters and much more coffee. We shall have to take their haversacks from them.

Holton mentioned that, according to the Yank, all their cavalry have been sent away from picketing the river.

The clouds are few tonight. It will get cold tonight but the stars will look fine.

I Send You These Few Lines

The National Archives records confirm all the furloughs, transfers, promotions, fines and enlistments Tooms writes of in this entry.

Once S. R. Caskey joins the Confederate Navy, I lose all track of him. He no longer appears in the records. The newly-promoted E.M.L. Williams was transferred perhaps to the 16th North Carolina, the record is not clear on this. J.W. Caldwell of Columbia, SC is the new regimental Assistant Surgeon.

A legion is an archaic type of military unit. Not many were raised during the war; most were Southern. A legion might be described in modern terms as a combined arms unit. A legion was composed of a little infantry, a little cavalry and a little artillery. In theory, the commander has a little bit of everything at his disposal. In practice, the commander does not have enough of any one thing to make much of a difference. Many legions were broken up into their distinctive parts and served apart from each other, either as reinforcements to other units or as separate small units.

In the case of the Holcombe Legion from South Carolina, it did not have any artillery and it's infantry contingent was reinforced to where it was the size of a full regiment. The cavalry contingent was similarly reinforced to regimental size and redesignated the 7th SC Cavalry. Williams disappears from the records in late 1864.

The pay of a Confederate infantry private at this tine was $11.00 a month. Union privates received $13.00 a month. A Confederate infantry colonel received $195.00 while their Union counterparts received $212. Corporal Flynn draws $13.00 per month. Sergeant Harper receives $17.00. Payday on both sides was once every other month, officially. In reality, especially on the Confederate side, a soldier might get paid only three times a year.

The removal of sutlers from the Army of the Potomac was commented upon by Confederates writing home. The Yankee cavalry was indeed removed from picket duty by orders from the army's commander, General Meade. Grant, by this time, is with the army but he does not command it, Meade does. But Grant does command Meade.

Castles and Neill are going on furlough at just the right time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Poor Lyles is Dead"

Thursday, April 14, 1864, near Liberty Mills

It is just the way of all things. Just when we high privaters were getting somewhat confortable, someone way up, "there", gets the notion that we are indeed confortable and decides to change things around. I refer, of course, to our officers. Generally, I think that they are fine fellows. Lieutenant Williamson, for instance, looks after us rather well. He is first rate. This company, we Lancaster Hornets, has been reorganized and we are as mad as our name.

I suppose that all these new recruits have necessitated these changes. They are so few so it might not be due to them that we are changing. Sims and Hood have been transferred to the second squad. Holton and Castles have come to us from that same squad. Our squad now numbers thirteen, including Corporal Flynn. We still have him. We now have, in addition to Flynn, Burrell Hancock, Bill Barton, Jr., Tom Duncan, Dennis Castles, John Holton, Wilson Crenshaw, Jeff Mathis, Bill Terry, John White, Isaac Vincent and myself. One good thing that has happened of all this is that all the members of our Dandy Eights mess are in the same squad instead of being spread over two squads.

But poor Dick Lyles. He was in our squad and took sick suddenly. He was sent to the hospital in Gordonsville. We have since learned that poor Lyles is dead. He was perhaps only twenty-one. He was always a cheerful sort.

Williams has turned sickly. We who had been sick and confined to quarters are now well. We had been on excused duty. Now that we are well, we work.

Caskey is not of our platoon and we are glad of it as we think him crazy. He talks about leaving his pares to go and join the navy. Since I live on the coast or at least used to, I am used to the sea. These other folks, from the upcountry, have a horror of the sea. 

I had forgotten to mention is my last entry of the most important thing that we received from the latest packages from home. Soap, it was soap, good old lye soap. The single brick, about the size of the back of one's hand, is worth its weight in gold pieces. When the piece was discovered, we all stared at it in dumb silence. Second squad challenged os for the title to the single piece. 

We put our Terry against their Hood in a wrestling match. Their Corporal McAteer officiated. I think the entire company watched. Wagers were placed on the outcome. I saw money, socks and rations being offered up as possible winnings. Holton bet his new shirt against Jeffy Turner's blanket and I thought that a mistake as it is his only shirt.

The yelling would have awakened poor Lyles. There was pushing, shoving and some jabs, and not all from the combatants. Hood slipped in the mud and went down with Terry right on top of him. Hood squirmed and squiggled but Terry would not be moved. Exhausted, Hood gave it all up. The both of them arose and shook hands. Terry used the soap first as he looked more like a mud hen than a soldier. Holton got his blanket and Turner got cold that night.

It was my turn yesterday morning to use the soap. My clothes, all of them, are now clean as is my face, feet and hands. It felt as good as if on furlough. The remaining sliver I gave to Barton. We smell so much better now.

Just before starting to pen this entry, I wrote a letter to my little friend, Rose Mae. I have copied it here:

My Dear Miss Rose Mae-

It is with gratitude that I write you these few lines. That splendid flag that you made is right now under my jacket against my heart where it is keeping me warm. We soldiers enlisted to defend this flag and the freedoms that we all desire. This we shall do until this war is over. Trusting that you and your family are well, I remain,

Your most humble and obedient servant
David Tooms
Company I
12th South Carolina Infantry Regiment

I Send You These Few Lines.

Tooms makes much about just a piece of soap. To him and all soldiers of the period, soap is a big deal. Getting filthy is easy, getting clean is hard given that soap is scarce. Tooms washed only his face, hands and feet for two reasons. First, there's no place to take a full bath. Second, army regulations call for only the feet to be washed, twice a week.

In researching Civil War soldiers, it is fairly easily (emphasis on the word fairly) easy to determine the soldiers' company and regiment. Finding the platoon, sometimes called section, and squad is not possible; the available records do not have that level of detail.
my placing of the men in certain platoons and squads is fiction, or literary license.

Rose Mae is Rose Mae Talbird, mentioned in the last entry. The soldiers mentioned all appear on the muster rolls of Company I. Richard Lyles did contract an illness and died of it on April 5th at the hospital at Gordonsville. 

Tooms and his company are about due to pull picket duty.