« PreviousContinue »
10 o'clock they overtook us with a wagon-load of ' Silver Heels' tobacco, which we distributed to the men. Many a poor soldier was made happy that day, and the effects of the tobacco could be seen in the livelier step on the march and in the renewed joking and laughter.
"The weather remained fine until within two days' march of Chattanooga, when it suddenly turned cold. The ground froze, and ice formed on the streams and along the road. The long march from Memphis to Chattanooga, and from there up to Knoxville without supplies, had worn out the shoes of the men so that when the cold set in many of them were barefooted, and had to make the last day's march in that condition over the ice and frozen ground. Their feet were so lacerated that we sent them from Chattanooga to Bridgeport, down the Tennessee River, in an open scow. That was the day before Christmas, and the suffering of those poor fellows with their sore feet and the exposure to the cold winds in their open boat, was sad indeed. Their feet became so inflamed and sore that when they got back to Springfield, 111., Jan. 22, 1864, on veteran furlough, many of them were unable to wear shoes, having their feet bundled up in old rags. I never expected to see the horrors of Valley Forge or anything akin to it, but what I have related is only a faint picture of what those poor soldiers suffered.
"While speaking about feet, I have been reminded of a state of affairs that came about at the close of the war. In the spring of 1865, at the grand review at Washington, a number of my men were without shoes, but then the weather was warm, and it caused no suffering. The long march from Savannah, Ga., up through the Carolinas, and thence, via Richmond, to Washington, had worn out their shoes, and when we stopped at Alexandria, Va., to refit, I could not find with any of the quartermasters shoes large enough to fit eight or ten of my men. They had not calculated on supplying our big Western boys, and had neither Nos. 11 nor 12. I told the men that they need not take part in the grand review. But they wanted to be there, and did actually march down Pennsylvania Avenue barefooted, but with steady step, keeping time to the music of the Union.
"To show you how tough and hard these men were after their long marches, sieges, and battles, I must give you a little incident that occurred near Mount Vernon. We had turned aside there to visit the tomb of Washington. While marching along one day near a small town called Dumfries, where a bright little stream ran across the road to empty itself into the Chesapeake Bay, we came to a narrow foot-bridge which spanned it. Our usual marching order was in a column of four front, but the bridge was so narrow that we had to undouble, which caused some little delay in the march. While sitting on my horse waiting for the crossing, I heard some angry words, and turned just in time to see one man strike another a terrible blow across the face with his musket, tumbling the latter off the foot-bridge into the water below. I rode back to see about caring for the injured man, but before I could reach him he picked up his knapsack and gun, and took his place again in the ranks as if nothing had happened. The next morning when I went out to look after him, the only signs left of the blow was a slight black spot under each eye. Such a blow across the face of a civilian would have laid him up for a month; but these men were tough and hard, for they had been brought down to solid fighting weight by long service in the open field."
General Bloomfield, who now depends on his legal skill for his rations, then informed the hearers that he could not be with them hereafter, as he was about to take command of a relief expedition in a divorce suit; but, whether it was apropos or not, he would relate one more incident to show that bullets in war often become ungraceful and over-step the rules of etiquette.
"A volley of musketry has very little respect," he said, "for titles or rank in army society; and it is generally true that there are soldiers in both opposing armies who aim at sashes and badges.
"On the morning of the battle of Mission Ridge, Col. Timothy O'Meary, of the 90th Illinois, came into line of battle wearing a blue flannel suit and a bright red sash around his waist. Col. John Mason Loomis, the brigade commander, warned him of the danger, saying:
"' Colonel, we have to go down over that open field, and the hill on the other side is full of sharpshooters. Your sash will furnish a good mark for them!' But the gallant colonel only smiled and held up a picture of the Virgin Mary that he always wore suspended by a cord around his neck, replying:
"' They cannot hurt me while I have this.' A few minutes later he lay weltering in his blood, mortally wounded by a rifle ball through his left side, just below the heart."
Doubtless this incident will remind the veterans of 1861'65 of whole bookfuls of similar happenings. It reminded Maj. M. B. Parmeter, of the 77th Illinois, of one, which must be prefaced with an explanation:
There was a type of combatant in the North during the war known as "copper-head," the more virulent class of which were members of the " Knights of the Golden Circle;" the milder developments were less haughty, and were sometimes known as " plain copper-heads." But it is to the good feeling of all who stood by their country in the hour of her need, the S. P. U. H. included, that this entire type of citizens was limited, though the epithet was applied to many without desert.
It must not be understood by the term "combatant" that the main pillars of the K. of the G. C, with their adherents, were soldiers; for they kept as far to the rear as possible. They were combatants in everything except business at the front, and lacked the first principles of soldiership—patriotism and moral courage. They combated the policy of war from innate cowardice, more than from their love of peace; they decried emancipation because their opponents upheld it; opposed the government because it was not under their own direction. When the last call for troops was made, they were in sore lament. Already there were nearly a million soldiers in the field (and this was a thrust at all soldiers)—every man who became a soldier, and was detailed to forage, was no better than a thief, they said. Think of it—a million thieves, turned loose upon the unprotected citizens of the country! O temporal O mores! How homely to these "unprotected citizens" was the beautiful picture of the great concourse of a nation's children scattering to their peaceful homes across broad prairies, over mountains and through glens, to plow, preach, and pound anvils!
But there came a day when the clatter of their loose tongues was hushed. No more did they stand behind a tree and demand peace. For then it was that their great relative. Uncle Sam, made a suggestion in the form of a draft that all his able-bodied male relations over twenty-one years of age and under forty-five, should come to his assistance at once. But now was "the winter of their discontent." They disclaimed all kinship. They sought "British protection." Their able bodies began to pedestrianize, and did not cease that operation until they had found a home in Canada. Like other fractions of humanity, when a relative is in affluence he is very dear to them; but place him in durance vile, and they seem like residents of Neptune. When the tills of the nation are overflowing with the golden coin, each of the former " unprotected citizens" is a noble foster of the " best government God ever gave to man;" but let the Executive call for needed service, and they deny their allegiance—vile treason sits on manhood's throne!
With the foregoing revery rehearsed, Major Parmeter's remarks may be better appreciated:
"It was just before the capture of Vicksburg, and the draft had just come into full blast. The majority of the Peace Faction at the North had either become quiet or gone on an expedition to Labrador, or in that direction. At any rate, they were not very boisterous around their former neighborhoods. Some of them went South, but not for the purpose of joining the army.
'Among the latter was a physician from my old home who was apparently well read, but nevertheless was a mild copper-head. It made him nervous to see so many of the boys going off to the war, and he took it upon himself to act as a sort of missionary for their return. He seemed especially interested in a young fellow by the name of Buckingham, and came to Vicksburg to persuade the young man with others to return home.
"But no persuasion for Buckingham; he was too enthusiastic. The doctor remained several days, and as he became bolder and found more old acquaintances, he began to get nearer to the front. One day he came out on skirmish line, where several of the home boys were, and began his missionary work, talking about the old times at home. Pretty soon the Johnnies opened fire on us, and the skirmishers began to seek shelter. Having had considerable experience in the business, the boys were expert in getting behind the works, but the doctor was left out. A spent ball just then grazed his clothes, and, with a look of fright and surprise, he ran for the works, exclaiming:
"' Why, I didn't suppose they would shoot a citizen /'
'" Yes, sir,' said one of the boys, 'shoot you as soon as any other copper-head—bullets are no respecters of persons."
With the last two incidents to show that the etiquette of bullets is yet unwritten, the camp-fire adjourned.