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.