after which, if the weather admitted, they could be seen plodding along barefooted, their pantaloons rolled up a few inches, and their shoes dangling at the end of their musketbarrel.
Then, this very crossing of a stream often furnished an interesting scene in the march of the column.
A river broad and deep would be spanned by a pontoon bridge, but the common creeks of the South
were crossed by fording.
Once in a while (in warm weather) the men would take off most of their clothing and carry it with their equipments across on their heads.
It was no uncommon experience for them to ford streams waist-deep, even in cool weather.
If the bottom was a treacherous one, and the current rapid, a line of cavalry-men was placed across the river just below the column to pick up such men as should lose their footing.
Many were the mishaps of such a crossing, and, unless the enemy was at hand, the first thing to be done after reaching shore was to strip and wring out such clothing as needed it. With those who had slipped and fallen this meant all they had on
and what was in their knapsack besides, but with most it included only trousers, drawers, and socks.
After the halt which allowed the soldiers time to perform this bit of laundry work had ended, and the column moved along, it was not an uncommon sight to see muskets used as clothes-lines, from which depended socks, shoes, here and there a shirt, perhaps a towel or handkerchief.
But if the weather was cool the wash did not hang out in this way. When it became necessary to cross a stream in the night, huge fires were built on its banks, with a picket at hand, whose duty it was to keep them burning until daylight, or until the army had crossed.
A greater number of mishaps occurred in fording by night than by day even then.
's retreat from Culpeper
, in the fall of 1863, --it was the night of October 11,--my company forded the Rappahannock
after dark, and went into camp a few rods