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[510] devote a great many lines to this subject, which the fastidious had better skip.

I am writing of the lights and shadows of a soldier's life, and the two twin evils of vermin and the camp itch were important institutions. They followed Johnny Reb everywhere, staid by him, refused to leave, resisted every effort of force, opposed ever attempt at compromises, and they tarried with him until he doffed the gray uniform for a citizen's suit. Then only did both disappear and vanish out of sight and mind.

These insects, which in camp parlance were called graybacks, first made their appearance in the winter of 1861. At first the soldier was mortified and almost felt disgraced at discovering one of these insects on his person; their crawling made his flesh creep, and energetic efforts were made to hide the secret and eliminate the cause. At first the soldiers used to steal out companionless and alone, and hide in the woods and bushes, with as much secretness and caution as if he was going to commit some fearful crime. Once hid from the eyes of men, he would pursue and murder the crawling insects with a vengeful pleasure, thinking that now he would have peace and comfort of mind, and be able to hold up his head once more before his fellow men. On his stealthly way back he would be sure to run in on a dozen solitary individuals who tried to look unconcerned, as if indeed they were in the habit of retiring in the dim recesses of the forest for private meditation.

The satisfaction he felt would not last long, in a day or two his body would be infested again, and then, desperate, he would try every expedient — all to no purpose, it was simply impossible to exterminate them. The men would boil their clothes for hours, in a hissing, bubbling cauldron, dry and put them on, and next day these confounded things would be at work as lively as ever. Even at Fort Warren where underclothing was so plentiful that each man had an entire change for every day in the week, it was found that these pests skirmished around as usual, though where they came from and how they arrived were mysteries never solved. The salamander graybacks had more lives than a cat, and bred and propagated faster than a roe-herring. Once lodged in the seams of the clothing they remained until time mouldered the garments. You might scald, scour, scrub, cleanse, rub, purify, leave them in seathing liquid, or bury the raiment in the ground, but it was wasted labor, for the insects seem to enjoy the process and increased and multiplied under it.

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Fort Warren (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

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1861 AD (1)
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