crossed the Rapidan
into the Wilderness
, in 1864, there were fifty-six thousand four hundred and ninety-nine horses and mules in it. Either of these is a large number to provide with water.
But of course they were not all watered at the same pond or stream, since the army stretched across many miles of territory.
In the summer of 1864, the problem of water-getting before Petersburg
was quite a serious one for man and beast.
No rain had fallen for several weeks, and the animals belonging to that part of the army which was at quite a remove from the James
and Appomattox Rivers
had to be ridden nearly two miles (such was the case in my own company, at least; perhaps others went further) for water, and then got only a warm, muddy, and stagnant fluid that had accumulated in some hollow.
The soldiers were sorely pressed to get enough to supply their own needs.
They would scoop out small holes in old water courses, and patiently await a dipperfull of a warm, milky-colored fluid to ooze from the clay, drop by drop.
Hundreds wandered through the woods and valleys with their empty canteens, barely finding water enough to quench thirst.
Even places usually dank and marshy became dry and baked under the continuous drought.
But such a state of affairs was not to be endured a great while by live, energetic Union soldiers; and as the heavens continued to withhold the much needed supply of water, shovels and pickaxes were forthwith diverted from the warlike occupation of intrenching to the more peaceful pursuit of well-digging, it soon being ascertained that an abundance of excellent water was to be had ten or twelve feet below the surface of the ground.
These wells were most of them dug broadest at the top and with shelving sides, to prevent them from caving, stoning a well being obviously out of the question.
Oldfashioned well-curbs and sweeps were then erected over them, and man and beast were provided with excellent water in camp.
Fatigue call was the next in regular order.