On the march.
On the 20th day of August, 1862, our brigade (Kemper
's) left Gordonsville
to open the campaign against Pope
The orders were to leave all knapsacks behind, and to travel in light marching order with three day's rations in our haversacks, a blanket on our shoulders, and eighty rounds of cartridges in our boxes and pockets.
Little we knew then that it would be two whole months to a day before we beheld our scanty wardrobe again, and for more than eight weeks we would be without a single change of underclothing, and that our attire on the return would shame the famous seven beggars of Coventry
, and cause a decent scarecrow to look like a well-dressed gentleman beside us. There was not a single article of either kind in camp.
The regiment, though reduced a hundred or so by the battles around Richmond
, had yet comparatively full ranks, and their esprit du corps
Indeed, they had gained that confidence in themselves and their officers that goes far to make a crack soldier and steady veterans; and veterans they were, with Blackburn's Ford, Bull Run
, and the seven days fight emblazoned on their banners.
They knew what a soldier's life was by this time, and had got trained in every phase of it. In the cantonments at Manassas Junction
, drilling six times a day; in the picket duty at Falls Church
and Munson's Hill; in the bivouac at Fairfax Courthouse; in the winter quarters at Centreville
; in the long marches from Manassas
, and thence to Johnson
, on the York river
; trench duty at Dam No. 1, at Yorktown
; the rear guard at Williamsburg
; the skirmish line on the road, holding the enemy in check; the builders of miles of fortifications; in the sudden dash and desperate battle of Seven Pines
, and then to the glorious excitement of following up the retreating army of McClellan
; and then the battle of Frazier's farm
, had taught Kemper
's men what war really was, and changed the raw levies, into gladiators who could meet death with a smile on their lips.
And so in the bright morning sunshine they jested as they received
abundance of cartridges and limited rations which was in the same proportion as Falstaff
's sack to his bread.
Down the road, past Orange Courthouse, from there to the Rapidan
, where we camped.
Thence to the Rappahannock river
, where we remained two days, watching the enemy on the opposite side.
Our rations now gave out, and how to live without eating became the problem that each soldier had to solve to suit himself.
A long week of marching and countermarching ensued, in which we subsisted on green corn and apples; then a forced march of twenty-eight miles to Thoroughfare Gap, on the hottest day I ever remembered, with the dull booming of the cannon on the other side of the ridge to quicken our wearied footsteps.
The next day, the 30th of August, we fought the battle of Manassas
, and lost a fourth of our brigade.
The history of that glorious day I will skip.
We got each a Yankee haversack and a full square meal, and I saw scores of soldiers, nearly famished, eating while they fought, indeed, it used to be a saying of our foes, that a rebel soldier would charge through hell to capture a Yankee haversack.
The night after the battle we drank a gallon of real coffee per man, and filled up on salt pork, boiled beef and canned vegetables, and groups of soldiers sat by the camp fires, and boiled, stewed, and fried, and ate off and on all night.
Hunger is a fearful thing, and we forgot for a time many a loved comrade who was shot in the battle.