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.