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John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life, I. The tocsin of war. (search)
se men were better known at that time as Fire-eaters. As soon as Lincoln's election was announced, without waiting to see what his policy towards the slave States was going to be, the impetuous leaders at the South addressed themselves at once to the carrying out of their threats; and South Carolina, followed, at intervals more or less brief, by Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, seceded from the Union, and organized what was known as the Southern Confederacy. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee seceded later. The people at the North stood amazed at the rapidity with which treason against the government was spreading, and the loyal Unionloving men began to inquire where President Buchanan was at this time, whose duty it was to see that all such uprisings were crushed out; and Oh for one hour of Andrew Jackson in the President's chair! was the common exclamation, because that decided and unyielding soldierPresi-dent had so promptly stamped
ck, of stone, or of wood. If there was a deserted house in the neighborhood of the camp which boasted brick chimneys, they were sure to be brought low to serve the Union cause in the manner indicated, unless the house was used by some general officer as headquarters. When built of wood, the chimneys were lined with a very thick coating of mud. They were generally continued above the fireplace with split wood built cob-fashion, which was filled between and lined with the red clayey soil of Virginia, but stones were used when abundant. Very frequently pork and beef barrels were secured to serve this purpose, being put one above another, and now and then a lively hurrah would run through the camp when one of these was discovered on fire. It is hardly necessary to remark that not all these chimneys were monuments of success. Too often the draught was down instead of up, and the inside of some stockades resembled smokehouses. Still, it was all in the three years, as the boys used t
ing something, they were really in the way of those who could work and were willing to. Many of these shirkers would waste a great deal of time and breath maligning the government or their officers for requiring them to do such work, indignantly declaring that they enlisted to fight and not to chop wood or dig sinks. But it was noticeable that when the fight came on, if any of these heroes got into it, they then appeared just as willing to bind themselves by contract to cut all the wood in Virginia, if they could only be let go just that once. These were the men who were invincible in peace and invisible in war, as the late Senator Hill, of Georgia, once said. I may add here that, coming as the soldiers did from all avocations and stations in life, these details for fatigue often brought together men few of whom had any practical knowledge of the work in hand; so that aside from the shirks, who could work but would not, there were others who would but could not, at least intelligen
rience for all soldiers to drink coffee without milk. But they soon learned to make a virtue of a necessity, and I doubt whether one man in ten, before the war closed, would have used the lactic fluid in his coffee from choice. Condensed milk of two brands, the Lewis and Borden, was to be had at the sutler's when sutlers were handy, and occasionally milk was brought in from the udders of stray cows, the men milking them into their canteens; but this was early in the war. Later, war-swept Virginia afforded very few of these brutes, for they were regarded by the armies as more valuable for beef than for milking purposes, and only those survived that were kept apart from lines of march. The milk ration. In many instances they were the chief reliance of Southern families, whose able-bodied men were in the Rebel army, serving both as a source of nourishment and as beasts of burden. When the army was in settled camp, company cooks generally prepared the rations. These cooks were m
tion, and finally begging rations from the army. Those families by whose premises both armies marched were in the depths of distress, for Confederate soldiers let little in the way of provisions escape their maws on their line of march, even in Virginia; so that it was not unusual for such families to meet the Union advance with tearful eyes, and relate the losses which they had sustained and the beggary to which they had been reduced by the seizure of their last cow and last ounce of corn-mead mules. Volumes might be filled with incidents of foraging. I will relate one or two that came under my own personal observation. The people of Maryland undoubtedly enjoyed greater exemption from foragers, as a whole, than did those of Virginia, for a larger number of the former than of the latter were supposed to be loyal and were therefore protected. I say supposed, for personally I am of the opinion that the Virginians were fully as loyal as the Marylanders. But a large number of
hanged to the Greek cross figured in the plate. That this circular of Hooker's was not intended to be a dead letter was shown in an order issued from Fal mouth, Va., May 12, 1863, in which St. Andrew's cross. he says:-- The badges worn by the troops when lost or torn off must be immediately replaced. And then, after de 2d, and 3d Divisions respectively, may be worn by all enlisted men of the Corps. This was an entirely different corps from the Seventh Corps, which served in Virginia, and which had no badge. The latter was discontinued Aug. 1, 1863, at the same time with the original Fourth Corps. The Eighth Corps wore a six-pointed staronths or three years elsewhere. Here is another General Order which speaks for itself:-- Headquarters twenty-Fifth Army Corps, Army of the James, in the field, Va., Feb. 20, 1865. [Orders.] In view of the circumstances under which this Corps was raised and filled, the peculiar claims of its individual members upon the justice
nly as receiving ships. But with the increase in range and calibre of naval armament came a seeking by Invention for something less vulnerable to their power, and after the encounter of the little Yankee cheese box, so called, and the Rebel Ram Virginia, the question of what should constitute the main reliance of the navy was definitely settled, and monitors became the idols of the hour. These facts are all matters of well written history, and I refer to them now only to illustrate the truth o61 and ‘62 took out hundreds of revolvers only to lose them, give them away, or throw them away; and as many regiments were forbidden by their colonels to wear them, a large number were sent back to the North. Revolvers were probably cheaper in Virginia, in those years, than in any other state in the Union. There was another invention that must have been sufficiently popular to have paid the manufacturer a fair rate on his investment, and that was the steel-armor enterprise. There were a
XV. the Army mule. Two teamsters have paused, in the shade of the pool, Rehearsing the tricks of the old army mule; They have little to say Of the blue and the gray, Which they wore when the garments meant shedding of blood-- They're discussing the mule and Virginia mud. It has often been said that the South could not have been worsted in the Rebellion had it not been for the steady re-enforcement brought to the Union side by the mule. To just what extent his services hastened the desired end, it would be impossible to compute; but it is admitted by both parties to the war that they were invaluable. It may not be generally known that Kentucky is the chief mulepro-ducing State of the Union, with Missouri next, while St. Louis is perhaps the best mule-market in the world; but the entire South-west does something at muleraising. Mules vary more in size than horses. The largest and best come from Kentucky. The smaller ones are the result of a cross with the Mexican mustang.
John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life, XX.
Army road
and bridge Builders. (search)
oughs, building trestle bridges across small streams, laying pontoon bridges over rivers, and taking up the same, laying out and building fortifica- Corduroying. tions, and slashing. Corduroying called at times for a large amount of labor, for Virginia mud was such a foe to rapid transit that miles upon miles of this sort of road had to be laid to keep ready communication between different portions of the army. Where the ground was miry, two stringers were laid longitudinally of the road, ana large number of wagons loaded with intrenching tools with which to supply the troops when their services were required as engineers. The building of trestle bridges called for much labor from the engineers with the Army of the Potomac, for Virginia is gridironed with small streams. These, bear in mind, the troops could ford easily, but the heavily loaded trains must have bridges to cross on, or each ford would soon have been A trestle bridge, no. 2. choked with mired teams. Sometimes
ssed to the historian of the Signal Corps Association, to whom General Alexander has furnished a sketch of the organization of the Rebel Signal Corps, he says:-- You are more than welcome to the compliment I paid the signal-station on Round Top in my article in the January Century. I have forgiven all my enemies now; and though you fellows there were about the last that I did forgive, I took you in several years ago, and concluded to let by-gones be by-gones. Thy work is done; along Virginia's river No more thy signal flies; From Georgia's hills by night no more the quiver Of thy red torch shall rise. There came a noon when from the bastions frowning Of every fort and bay Flung out a banner; hurrying on and crowning The mountains far away. We left undecked no hamlet's little steeple That loud with joy-bells rung; And from the breasts of a too happy people Its passion-flowers were hung. We knew its language; knew our work was over; And hailed, while ours we furled, The only