Saturday, December 17, 2022

Acts of Kindness Encourage the Wounded after the Battle of Chickamauga -- Sept.18-20, 1863

    In difficult and distressful situations of pain and suffering, how much do "little things" really matter?  Consider the following account of a USCC delegate working among wounded soldiers as you answer the question about the value of "little things".

    The battle of Chickamauga took place in northwest Georgia along the Chickamauga Creek between the Union Army of the Cumberland commanded by Maj Gen William Rosecrans and the Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by Gen Braxton Bragg. The Confederate forces were attempting to stop Union forces from entering deeper into Georgia and instead retake Chattanooga TN back from Union control.  The small city of Chattanooga, with 2,500 inhabitants, lay on the banks of the Tennessee River where it cut through the Appalachian Mountains.  It was the crossroads for four major railroads.  Capturing it allowed Union forces to cut off vital Confederate supply lines.  The Battle of Chickamauga was a costly Confederate victory in stopping the Union army from advancing into Georgia.  In fact, its casualty rate was second only to Gettysburg.  Of the 60,000 Union forces, 1657 were killed, 9756 were wounded, and 4757 were missing or captured.  Of the 65,000 Confederate forces, 2312 were killed, 14674 wounded, and 1468 missing or captured.  The Union army withdrew from Chickamauga, GA area back to Chattanooga, TN to regroup.  Gen. Bragg’s Confederate forces then besieged the Union forces occupying Chattanooga, but were later driven back when more Union reinforcements arrive. 

Wounded in the Hospital

The following is a description of a U.S. Christian Commission delegate creatively doing whatever he can to encourage the wounded men after the battle:

Rev. Edward Hawes recalls these scenes of his service as a USCC delegate working among the wounded in Chattanooga after the battle of Chickamauga:  
    Pushing aside the canvas, I enter a hospital tent.  In one corner lies a wounded man: “Can I do anything for you, my friend?”
    “Yes, sir, if you please.  I have lost my Testament, and would like to get one.”  I give him one.
    On the next cot is a man who lies quiet, seemingly without pain.  All save his face is covered: “You are not much injured, I suppose, my dear fellow?”
    He looks up with a faint smile, “Not much, sir,” -- but he has been hit in nine places by a bursting shell!
    I pass along and the steward says “Chaplain, won’t you come here?  We think this man is dying.  Can’t you say something to him?”
    I bend over him; the cold sweat is already upon his brow; his eyes are fixed, fastening themselves in death, but they grow brilliant, and he mutters something: “See! A star!  Oh, how bright!  It’s the star--,” and his voice dies away in death.  Perhaps he is thinking of the Star of Bethlehem.  We hope so, and that it will light him through the dark valley.
    I go to another man in the next tent, and with the Surgeon’s permission give him a single swallow of wine; he looks such a beam of gratitude from those brightened eyes!
    “O sir, that’s good.  What is your name?  I shall always remember you.”
    “How are you getting along, my brother?” I say to the next.
    “Oh, very well, thank you.”
    “Have you a family?”
    “Yes, a wife and two little children in Ohio.”
    “Have you written to them since the battle?” – It is a foolish question, for I see in a moment that his right arm is shattered; “Sha’n’t I write for you?”
    He hesitated; why don’t he say gladly “Oh, yes, sire, if you please?”  I repeat, perhaps he does not understand.  He looks at me with a queer air:
    “How much do you charge, sir?”
    Oh, how that cuts the Delegate’s sensitive heart: -- “My dear brother soldier, that is what I am here for, -- to write for you, or to do anything for you.  I will thank you for the privilege.”
    “Oh, thank you!  Thank you!  I will be so glad.”
    We get paper and pen ready: “What shall I write?”
    He begins with expressions of Christian trust, and then briefly describes his condition.  We read what is written, but the man is not there, -- his eyes are shut, the big tears are rolling down from the beneath closed lids, and he makes no effort to wipe them away, -- ah! The shattered arm perhaps; but no, that is not the reason; he is in Ohio, with his dear wife and children; we will not disturb his dreams.  After a pause he opens his eyes, and we tell him the letter is finished, -- “Will it do?”  With a look of overflowing gratitude he answers –
    “Oh, yes, sir; yes, sir; thank you!”
    In the corner lies a man burdened with a sense of his guilt.  After talking some time, I ask him “My dear friend, can’t you trust Jesus now?”
    “Oh! If I only could!  It would be the happiest day of my life.  Won’t you pray for me?”
    I kneel at his side; -- there may be card-playing in the opposite corner, -- no matter, God’s Spirit is with us and prayer ascends, and God hears us, for I leave the soldier with a trembling hope in Jesus.
    Passing out, I come to a little shelter-tent, under which a man is lying.  I bend over and ask – “You have the Christian’s hope, I trust?”
    “Oh, yes, sir.”
    I see no Testament by him, -- “Have you no Testament?”
    “No, sir.”
    “Well, you must have one”, and I begin opening my haversack; but he tells me he cannot read.
    “You cannot read?  Then I shall read for you.”
    We begin at the precious words, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heaves.” [2Cor.5:1] We read through the chapter, and then leave him peering up through the rent in the canvas covering into the deep blue beyond, longing after the country above, where his spirit must soon be with the multitude of the redeemed.
                Incidents of the U.S. Christian Commission by Edward P. Smith 1869. P.224-26.

    “Little things” make a big difference -- USCC delegates were civilian volunteers who helped the soldiers in any way they could during the Civil War.  This account shows the delegate creatively doing whatever he can to encourage the wounded men in a variety of situations.  Sometimes it is giving them something he has that they need, like a New Testament, a sip of wine, or an envelope set to write home.  Other times it is engaging in conversation about their situation and sharing encouragement and most importantly pointing them to Jesus.
    The account of the letter writing for the wounded Ohio soldier shows the heart of the USCC: “God’s love is free, so is this soldier.”  It was a “small thing” in the “big picture” of history, yet to that man far from home it was indeed a most precious gift to help him connect with his loved ones.
    I can understand Rev. Hawes’ reaction to the Ohio soldier’s hesitancy to accept his offer of help by asking “how much?”  Our family has reenacted the USCC for almost 30 years.  At our tent we have offered something to drink and goodies to eat as encouragement to the reenactors at events.  From time to time someone would look in at the mix of goodies (cookies, pumpkin bread slices, brownies, lemon bars etc), pause, and ask “how much”?  So over the years we started saying to anyone who hesitated “God’s love is free, so is this soldier!  Come on in!”  To the spectators we would explain that we were reenacting an organization that did whatever they could to help and encourage the soldiers of the Civil War era.  (And also explain that the USCC would not have served goodies like we put out, but more basic food to supplement the army “good old hardtack” rations.)  My point, Rev. Hawes was not offended by the soldier’s question.  Rather he was saddened that his offer to freely help the man was being wrongly rejected “because everyone knows nothing is free in this world.”  And you can sense his joy when the soldier accepts his offer of help.
    I believe "little things" in difficulty make a difference.  To the one who is struggling with sad distressing difficulty such actions can be an encouragement to enable them to better face the challenge.  And to the giver of the "little thing" it brings a smile of joy just knowing that you helped someone else.

Examples of U.S. Christian Commission Envelopes
These are reproductions of original envelopes that I have in my collection.  The USCC gave the soldiers envelopes and stationery for free so they wouldn't have to buy writing sets from the sutlers at high prices.  This helped out the men who didn't have money to buy stationery and helped those who did have money to be able to use their money to buy other things they needed or to send back home to support their family.  In the spirit of the USCC doing little things to encourage, I have handed out many of these reproductions at the tent and in camp walk throughs over the years.  Additional USCC designs are shown on the website Roweclan Haversack.

Children’s Project:
Read through this account with your child.  Talk about how the USCC delegate creatively did his best to meet the need of each wounded soldier.  Talk about how we need to be creative in helping others.  Explore about how your child can help their friends in little ways, especially in sharing with their friends about Jesus’ love for them.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Ohio Civil War Soldiers Creativity with Letters, Stamps and Ration Supplies

    What can you do to stay connected with family and get a little variety beyond the normal army rations?  Well, two brothers from Ohio found creative ways to deal with the challenges they faced as they served in Co.I, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  Both brothers enlisted in August 1862 -- Isaac “Wyke” Maurice and David Wheldon Maurice – in response to Lincoln’s call for 300,000 more volunteers in July 1862.  These letters were written as their unit waited for orders while stationed in [West] Virginia.  I always enjoy learning “little details of camp life” from letters like these.  I hope you find the contents interesting also.  [Transcripts for these letters come from Billy Yank and Johnny Reb Letters site]

Challenges of staying in touch with family.  David Maurice gives us some insights into the challenges of getting stamps and paper to write home.  We also learn about delays and limitations of the mail system.  The letter is written to his cousin, Joseph Wheldon.

Summerville, [West] Virginia
December 29th 1862
Dear Joe,
    Your long looked for letter came to hand on Saturday. We was glad to hear from you but it did [not] to contain any stamps which would have been very acceptable at this time. We are nearly out of stamps and paper but the sutler has got a new stock of goods and I expect he has got some good paper now.
    Tuesday, December 30th. Now I set me down to finish this letter as I could not get it done last night. We are not allowed to have light burning after 8 o’clock at night. The big drum beats three loud taps which is called “Taps.” All lights must be put out at that time—that was the time I stopped writing last night.
    The mail just brought two papers directed by your hand. Last Thursday brought two from Woodside. Those are the first we have received. I suppose you sent some before that. If you did, we didn’t get them. No matter. Your head is alright anyway.
    In one of my letters to you, I sent for some money. I have not received any yet. I merely wanted 50 or 75 cents at a time—just enough to get paper and envelopes or any little thing like that. If you have not sent any, you need not for we expect. to get paid off before the 20th of next month. Postage stamps will be accepted at any time but not more than 20 cents worth at a time. We make the stamps get when we start. We can’t get them here for ten cents apiece. Old Jery sent us a lot or we would have been out before this. We would send you letters and make you pay when you got them out of the [post] office. [but] I know that makes you mad—it would me anyway.
    Wyke has borrowed a fife from the drum major. He sits down at night and blows till his eyes stick out so you could snare them with a grapevine. He plays “Join Lad.” The Tomcats don’t stay about here any longer. There was one around before Wyke got his fife but it has disappeared altogether.
    You can’t speak of getting you an Enfield Rifle. You are took in about the rifle. The Enfield is not half as good as a common rifle. They are clumsy, ugly things. Won’t shoot near as straight as a common one. I could have got any quantity of them from the Second Virginia Cavalry. I could have got one for five or six dollars or if I had been at the camp where the prisoners were took, could have got shotguns, carbines, Mississippi Rifles, Enfields, Pistols, and any kind of arms you could think of. If the regiment had went to the camp, they could have brought a great many things but they did not go there. The cavalry burned most all the guns and things, If I had been there, I would have [ ] to a good shotgun that would be worth two Enfield rifles. The Mississippi Rifles are more thought of than the Enfield but they are heavier than the Enfield. They can be bought for 8 or 10 dollars.
    In regard to sending a box to us, there is no possible chance of getting anything larger than a package that can be carried by mail and then it [is] doubtful whether we get it or not. We are 60 miles from the boat lading and very bad roads.
    You asked me in your letter if I got all the stamps you sent. I got six, Wyke got 8 in one from Aunt with a few lines from you, and he got six from Mary and two 25 cts. stamps. That is all we have got. The mail has been very uncertain. [It] is a little more regular now but it is like all other overland routes on horseback—very slow and uncertain. We are both very well. Have lots of drilling now. Some of the boys are getting furloughs. Five started for Dayton [Ohio] this morning out of our company.
Yours forever, — D. W. Maurice

    David values both getting and sending letters.  He clearly has a sense of humor, and shares opinions with his cousin on a variety of issues.  To do this, he appreciates getting stamps from home because of the poor availability of stamps in the camp.  It seems implied in the fourth paragraph that he has to pay more than face value for postage stamps in the camp.  Did you catch his joke about maybe having to send letters without stamps which would mean his cousin would then have to pay to redeem the letters upon reception?  Remember, there was no “free” mail for soldiers at this time.  Writing the words “soldier’s letter” on the envelope got it delivered back home, but then the family had to pay the postage due in order to get the letter. And while he wants stamps, yet not too many all at once.  Likely because he doesn’t want to have to deal with them being made useless by getting wet and damaged or maybe stolen since stamps were used as money due to the coin shortage.  On the envelope below there is not stamp showing.  So it appears that he did send the letter without postage to his cousin.
Written to Joseph Wheldon, Springfield OH

    He is looking forward to getting paid in January which will then give him some money to buy things like stationery and envelopes now that the sutler has been resupplied.  Remember, the value of 50 cents or 75 cents back then was much greater than it is today.  Using a few on-line inflation computation sites, 25 cents 1861 is about $8 today [2022] in value.  The picture of the Military Portfolio writing supply sales kit below shows a cost of 30cents for 30 sets of stationery and writing utensils. 

This "Sutlers Stationery Depot" Envelope is 8 3/4" x 5 1/2" in size.
It is likely early war issue since it has a picture of Winfield Scott on the back side.
I have reproduced copies from the original that I bought years ago
and have seen some used by reenactors in their living history displays.

    Also notice his advice about sending boxes of supplies from home.  Family would often try to send food and other items to their soldiers on the field as encouragement.  But, he informs his family, delivery of the care packages is not always guaranteed.  I hope you enjoy his insights into aspects of the importance and challenges of staying connected with family.

    David’s comment that he has finally gotten a few newspapers reflects the general valuing of them by the troops.  James McPherson cites evidence of troops valuing newspapers in his book For Cause & Comrades – Why Men Fought in the Civil War (p.92): “Newspapers were the most sought-after reading material in camp – after letters from home.  Major metropolitan newspapers were often available only a day or two after publication, while hometown papers came weekly when the mail service functioned normally. ‘I receive the Chronicle regularly,’ wrote a lieutenant in the 50th Ohio to his brother back home in 1863.  ‘The boys all want to read it.  The officers subscribed $4.75 for papers for the benefit of the boys.  [We] get four daily papers, all loyal and right on politics’ – that is, Republican.  In January 1862 a private in the 17th Mississippi stationed near Leesburg, Virginia, wrote in his diary: ‘Spend much time in reading the daily papers & discussing the war question in general.  We always close by coming to the conclusion that we will after much hard fighting succeed in establishing our independence.’  Two years later a lieutenant in the 4th Virginia reported that the ‘boys’ spent much of their time in winter quarters reading the papers.  We ‘make comments on the news and express our opinions quite freely about the blood and thunder editorials in the Richmond papers, smoke again and go to bed.’”

Creative supplements to standard Army rations.  Isaac “Wyke” Maurice [Jr.] shares in his letter some creative ways he has supplemented the standard Army rations:

Summerville, [West] Va.
January 22, 1863
Dear Cousin,
    I take it upon myself to inform you that David got all his tools and a letter all right the last mail (the night before last). David is cooking today. He has not time to write today though he may write before the mail goes out tomorrow morning. The mail comes in the evening.
    I scarcely know what to say for there has nothing of any importance transpired since you last heard from us. The weather is rather rough. Been snowing & raining several days. I have not done any military duty since New Years Day except dress parade and inspection now and then. Been carpentering, fixing up quarters, and building a cook house & sundry work & ain’t more than half through yet fixing up.
    The Sergeant Major was shot a week or two ago accidentally by a Lieut. of Co. G. The sergeant was sitting upstairs and the Lieutenant was fooling with a Secesh gun downstairs (not knowing it was loaded—no cap being on the tube) [when] it went off, went through the ceiling and floor, the ball lodging in the spine of his back. He lived a few days, then left this troublesome world. He was from Troy—Tom Mitchell.
    We get mist all of the important dispatches here by telegraph every day or two—generally two fool cap sheets to write & put on the bulletin board. Tis rumored here that we will leave here before very long. From the looks of things, it may be so though I do not believe anything I hear here till I know it to be sure.
    Just ate dinner. I think you had better put your usual quantity of corn ground out in beans for I think there will be a good demand before the war is over the way our boys go into them. We have a good set of boys in our mess [and we] generally have a good bit of fun. I was doing a little work for the baker this week and he gave me a couple loaves of bread and David went out in the country the other day, took our coffee and got 8 lb. of butter which goes very nice with soft bread. We have only been getting soft bread about once a week though the quartermaster is going to issue soft bread every day so reported. He has got two or three extra bakers detailed [and] they are at work now. We have had butter most all the time since New Years Day. I took our coffee out on picket the last time I was out and got 4 lb. butter. Coffee is a great object here with the folks. It’s worth 50 cents a pound and butter 15 cents.
    Myself and David draw our coffee out as we do not drink any & trade it off to the best advantage. The sutler sells sugar and coffee to the country folks here. Coffee 75 cents a pound, sugar 35 cents a pound. We can trade our extra rations to the country folks to pretty good advantage when we have any to spare, Two of our boys out of our mess went out this morning, took soap and rice to trade for chickens & butter. They have just come in with a lot of pies.
    A man came in with a watch a few minutes ago for David to fix. He has just taken it to pieces & finds the mainspring broke. How is my little watch getting along? Does it keep good time without getting out of order? Please answer soon. I have not had a letter from any of you folks for about two months. Yours, — I. W. Maurice

    It is clear that Wyke is glad that they are getting some soft bread from time to time.  Evidently his helping out the baker got him some.  The Revised US Army Regulations of 1861 has these as standard issue daily rations for a soldier:  12oz pork or bacon, or 1lb 4oz fresh or salt beef / 1lb 6oz soft bread or flour, or 1lb 4oz corn meal, or 1lb hardtack (9 squares).  In addition, per every 100 rations there is also issued for the group: 1 peck of beans or peas/ 10 lb. of rice or hominy/ 10 lb. of green coffee, 8 lb. of roasted and ground coffee, or 1 lb. 8 oz of tea/ 15 lb. of sugar/ 1 lb. 4 oz of candles/ 4 lb. of soap/ 1 qt of molasses. In addition to or as substitutes for other items, desiccated vegetables, dried fruit, pickles, or pickled cabbage might be issued.
    The main focus is on bread and meat as the two main sources of food for the soldier, with some supplements.  Soldiers were issued uncooked food, so typically they would group together in a mess and take turns fixing meals, hence the term “mess mates”.  Wkye’s reference about a baker making bread may reflect the fact that they are encamped, and so soft bread is being made and issued instead of hardtack which was the normal “bread” when on the march.
    That he and David are using some of their standard rations like coffee beans to trade for extras from the locals shows their ingenuity in getting variety beyond the normal issued rations.  Am not sure, but it probably helped the trading that they are in West Virginia where the locals may have been more supportive of the Union troops.  We can see why they might enjoy getting a chicken as a break from salt pork or salt beef.  Remember the rations were the same for every meal, breakfast or supper.  Remember there was no Chick-fil-A in the neighborhood back then.
    David’s advice to his cousin to plant beans instead of corn on the farm is probably a mix of sarcasm over normal army rations mixed in with a genuine suggestion of what crop might actually be more profitable due to the increased need for it because of the war.

    Family Information:  Isaac “Wyke” Maurice (1836-1876) and David Wheldon Maurice (1838-1900) – both sons of Isaac Wyke Maurice (1802-1873) and his first wife, Eliza Wheldon (1799-1842) of Springfield, Clark County, Ohio.  So, the oldest got his dad’s name and evidently went by his middle name “Wyke” instead of “Junior”, and the younger got his mother’s maiden name for his middle name.  David Wheldon Maurice rose in rank to First Sergeant, then 2nd Lieutenant of Co. E, and finally to Captain of same company/regiment.

    Summary of 11th OVI actions 1862:  Operations in the Kanawha Valley April to August, 1862. Moved to Washington, D.C., August 18–24. Pope's Campaign in northern Virginia August 25-September 2. Bull Run Bridge August 27. Maryland Campaign September 6–22. Frederick City, Md., September 12. Battle of South Mountain September 14. Battle of Antietam September 16–17. Moved to Hagerstown, Md., October 8, thence to Clarksburg and Summerville, W. Va., and duty at Summerville until January 24, 1863.

Children Projects:  
1) Do not let your child think “oh it’s only 25 cents, that nothing”.  Work through the “value” of things by using inflation to bring the “cost” of the various items into today’s cost.

2) Explore how they are willing to give up coffee to gain better food.  Coffee was highly valued by the soldiers back then as it is today by people.  Check out my posts on hardtack so your children will better understand the joy over getting “soft bread”. 

3) Eating for a day as a soldier.  This project would be for upper grade school & older children to help them understand the challenge of army rations.  For one day they only eat bread and meat for all three meals/ no butter or jelly or snacks or goodies.  Supply them in the morning with either part of a loaf of bread slices or a loaf of French/Italian bread that they have to slice themselves.  If you want to somewhat give “hardtack”, maybe use crackers instead of bread. For the meat portion, maybe bacon to fry up is more accurate, or a pound of sliced ham might be simpler to use to avoid cooking.  That’s it. Nothing else.  They then must fix the food and eat as they want to.  Drink would be water, or tea, or coffee, no juice or soda.  This is their food rations for the entire day.  The goal is to help them understand why Wyke is so happy about creatively getting butter and chicken etc.  Now you as parent can eat like normal.  Why? Because you are the “senior officer” and so have advantages.  Also, all day any requests must be put in writing by the child on paper and placed in a dish on the table.  An hour or so later, you do one of two things.  Either read the note, and write a response that you “mail” back to them, or randomly before you read the request you crumple it up and throw it away.  This will show the child the importance of letter writing and the frustration of having to wait for an answer or not getting one.  Do not use this as a “punishment” exercise, but as a lesson about why variety is appreciated over the tedium of no options.  OK, I doubt this project will get much use, but had to put it out for your consideration.  I think I probably would have taken the challenge to do it for a day when I was a young kid, and I think it would have made me more appreciative of what the soldiers back then had to endure.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Why Was Hardtack So Disdained by the Civil War Troops?

  Complaining about army rations has been a soldier’s task from time immemorial.  But is there really any basis for the Civil War soldier to grumble about the army provisions?  Well, John D. Billings (Hard Tack and Coffee. Soldier’s life in the Civil War 1887  p.113-16) has an interesting description of this ‘beloved’ government issued army ration which I’d like to serve up for your enjoyment, then you decide if you would sing it’s praises:

“I will speak of the rations more in detail, beginning with the hard bread, or, to use the name by which it was known in the Army of the Potomac, Hardtack.  What was hardtack?  It was a plain flour-and-water biscuit.  Two of which I have in my possession as mementos measure three and one-eighth by two and seven-eithers inches, and are nearly half an inch thick.  Although these biscuits were furnished to organizations by weight, they were dealt out to the men by number, nine constituting a ration in some regiments, and ten in others; but there were usually enough for those who wanted more, as some men would not draw them.  While hardtack was nutritious, yet a hungry man could eat his ten in a short time and still be hungry.  When they were poor and fit objects for the soldiers’ wrath, it was due to one of three conditions:  
First, they may have been so hard that they could not be bitten; it then required a very strong blow of the fist to break them.  The cause of this hardness it would be difficult for one not an expert to determine.  This variety certainly well deserved their name.  They could not be soaked soft, but after a time took on the elasticity of gutta-percha. 
[During the Civil War “gum blankets” (water-proof flexible ponchos/ground clothes) were issued to the troops made with either India rubber or gutta percha coated muslin cloth. According to an on-line video by Mike Woshner, author of India-Rubber and Gutta-Percha in the Civil War, only 4% were made with the gutta-percha latex, the rest with India rubber.  It seems the term “gutta percha” became the popular ‘slang term’ for everything that was black rubbery looking even though it was made with India rubber.  So, in this context John Billings is saying that even if you soaked them, at best it is still just like eating your gum blanket.]
The second condition was when they were mouldy [sic] or wet, as sometimes happened, and should not have been given to the soldiers.  I think this condition was often due to their having been boxed up too soon after baking.  It certainly was frequently to exposure to the weather.  It was no uncommon sight to see thousands of boxes of hard bread piled up at some railway station or other places used as a base of supplies, where they were only imperfectly sheltered from the weather, and too often not sheltered at all.  The failure of inspectors to do their full duty was one reason that so many of this sort reached the rank and file of the service.
The third condition was when from storage they had become infested with maggots and weevils.  These weevils were, in my experience, more abundant than the maggots.  They were a little, slim, brown bug an eight of an inch in length, and were great bores on a small scale, having the ability to completely riddle the hardtack.  I believe they never interfered with the hardest variety.
When the bread was mouldy [sic] or moist, it was thrown away and made good at the next drawing, so that the men were not the losers; but in the case of its being infested with the weevils, they had to stand it as a rule; for the biscuits had to be pretty thoroughly alive, and well covered with the webs which these creatures left, to insure condemnation.  An exception occurs to me.  Two cargoes of hard bread came to City Point, and on being examined by an inspector were found to be with weevils.  This fact was brought to Grant’s attention, who would not allow it landed, greatly to the discomfiture of the contractor, who had been attempting to bulldoze the inspector to pass it.
The quartermasters did not always take as active an interest in righting such matters as they should have done; and when the men growled at them, of course they were virtuously indignant and prompt to shift the responsibility to the next higher person, and so it passed on until the real culprit could not be found.
But hardtack was not so bad an article of food, even when traversed by insects, as may be supposed.  Eaten in the dark, no one could tell the difference between it and hardtack that was untenanted.  It was not uncommon occurrence for a man to find the surface of his pot of coffee swimming with weevils, after breaking up hardtack in it, which had come out of the fragments only to drown; but they were easily skimmed off, and left no distinctive flavor behind.  If a solider cared to do so, he could expel the weevils by heating the bread at the fire.  The maggots did not budge in that way.  The most of the hard bread was made in Baltimore, and put up on boxes of sixty pounds gross, fifty pounds net; and it is said that some of the storehouses in which it was kept would swarm with weevils in an incredibly short time after the first box was infested with them, so rapidly did these pests multiply.”

As disdained as hardtack was by the soldier, it was a staple of army rations long before the Civil War, having variations of its production back to ancient times for various army and naval units.  So, its use in the Civil War time period is not a “new thing”.  William Davis writes “as many as three or four million hardtack [were] being consumed every day [by 1864], clearly too big a demand for any one baker to supply, and thus companies all across the North received contracts that kept their ovens at baking heat around the clock.” (A Taste for War: Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray  2003, p.42)  That is a lot of crates of hardtack being shipped to Union troops.
The South, not having as much access to wheat flour which was grown mostly in Virginia and Georgia, used other things like corn or rice to make something similar to hardtack known as “corn dodgers” or “Johnny cakes”.  This was a mixture of cornmeal, salt, and water cooked until it was just as dry and hard as the Union hardtack.
Given the challenges of the time period of limited preservation options combined with the large quantity needed and the transportation challenges, we have to give the soldiers back then much credit for making due with what they had, even if they grumbled and mocked it in songs like “Hard Crackers Come Again No More” (see the March 5, 2022 post about this humous song).  They made due with what they had in order to accomplish the task before them.  We can also see why the army sutlers enjoyed good business in offering expensive options of food variety to the soldiers.

        An example from the Vicksburg campaign of soldiers valuing this army ration is cited in Nothing But Victory; The Army of the Tennessee 1861 -- 1865 (p405-06) by Steven Woodworth.  "The [Union] army spent May 20 and 21 [1863] making preparations, improving its position and its supply situation.  Though the process of hauling up material from the river had begun on the nineteenth, it was taking time to get the new rations into the hands of the soldiers.  Riding his line on May 21, Grant heard one of the soldiers say, quietly, but just loud enough for the general to hear him, 'Hard tack.'  That was all it took, and within moments hundreds of men had taken up the chant of  'Hard tack!  Hard tack!' and it spread rapidly along the line in both directions.  Grant assured the soldiers nearby that the food was one the way, and shouts of 'Hard tack!' changed to cheers.  By the evening the army was able to issue full rations to all of its troops around Vicksburg."

Children’s projects:
1. Given the resources of the times, can your children understand that it was an honest attempt to have food available to eat that could be stored, transported and handed out to keep the men fed?  Remind your children this is before refrigeration and plastic packaging etc we take for granted today.
2. Which one of the three options would your children find most horrible if their rations were contaminated in one of the ways Billings lists.  Extra hard?  Moldy?  Weevil infested?
3. Do some on-line research about weevils.  Would they make nice pets?  What might be the rationale behind not rejecting weevil infested crackers?  Look at Billings description of how such biscuits were used by the men.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

"God's Love Is Free!" Insight Into the Heart of a Woman Who Desired to Bless Civil War Reenactors

    The following is a transcription of a devotional that my wife, Vicki Rowe gave to a woman’s group about her heart in reenacting the U.S. Christian Commission at Old Mahoning Baptist Church, Home, PA shortly after we had started reenacting -- probably about 1995 or 96.  She is sharing with the women of that church, none of whom were reenactors, what we as a family were doing and why.   I found her hand written notes of her testimony while going through old papers.  Those of you who have been blessed by her at the tent will indeed see that she loved you guys and wanted to bless you in many ways.  (Vicki went home to Heaven on March 3, 2016):

    We all cherish photographs because they remind us of special people or events.  Our heart also carries pictures of God’s faithful training in our lives.  I asked God which snapshot from this past year to share with you.
    Have you ever told God that you wanted to serve Him – that you were willing to do whatever He asked?  When God answered and gave you a job to do, maybe the job was less than fun, maybe even something you were not good at – but He was asking you to depend on Him.  Deep down inside, we all hope God will use our strong points, instead of exposing our weaknesses to other people.
    To be painfully honest, I am afraid of grasshoppers – terrified of bees – dislike making buttonholes – feel sick at the smell of smoke – not good at avoiding stepping in the cow patties -- and my least favorite subject in school was history.  Do you understand my sinking feeling when God chose to give my family a hobby of Civil War reenacting?  When I married my husband 20+ years ago, I had no idea that we would eventually develop a hobby that include so many things I was afraid of.
    I smiled at God’s sense of humor, and decided to keep my promise to serve Him in trying to be God’s hands, feet, and voice to this group of people.  Last year was our first full year, and we chose 6-8 events to be involved in.  We planned various acts of kindness that included baking food to share with the troops, helping cook over the open fire, sewing pouches with buttonholes, crocheting scrubbies, handing out samples of stamps/envelopes, and carrying many bucketfulls of water.  We would come home both sore and tired – but God has been faithful to teach us many lessons.
    This year the Mesopotamia [Ohio] event was one we worked hardest preparing for. Probably about 1500+ reenactors. We decided to take a week’s vacation so we could be there for the full 3 days.  We spent a month doing without sleep so we could get everything done that God had laid on our hearts to do.
    Saturday came – we actually made it there in one piece with projects just finished, wool outfits pressed and on the proper person, and did fairly well in being there on time in the morning.  The kids and I worked on getting ready to carry the boxes in while my husband went to find our unit’s location.  And could you believe it – it started pouring.  Everything was soaked including the sewing projects we brought to share, our clothes, shoes.  You cannot build a fire in pouring rain.  I started telling God how discouraged I was – how I feared that the children would get sick from being cold and soaked.  I felt God had neglected His duty to bless my obedience and smooth the way.  After all, if we are doing God’s work, doesn’t He smooth the way and give good results?
    But as I thought about why we were there – to show acts of kindness to the reenactors in hopes that God will soften their hearts to Him and draw some of them closer to Himself, what better way to show God’s love then to do it when things are difficult.  Jesus did not come to earth, taking on human limitation, to offer Himself as sacrifice for our sins because it was easy to do.  Jesus showed His kindness and love on the cross at Calvary under the harshest of circumstances.
    Maybe God has asked you to serve Him in something that is fun to do – or maybe He has asked you to do a job that leaves you feeling bedraggled.  Either way, He still asks the same question.  “Who is the servant – Me or thee?”  Are we going to allow God to use us even doing things that we are not good at?  He is asking us to depend on Him.
    That weekend at Mesopotamia through the rain and mud we offered God’s love to the reenactors – “God’s love is free! So is this soldier!”  Through the grasshoppers and bees, amidst the cow patties, in spite of the rain we watched God use what little we could do to point reenactors to Him and His free love for them.  Only God knows the results.  Let God use you in all you do, the things you are good at and the things that you struggle to do, to point others to Him.   Pass along the grace God’s given you to others so that they too may find God’s free grace. 

Some of my reflections on her commitment to passing along God’s love to other through reenacting:
    When I first expressed interest in doing Civil War reenacting, Vicki asked if we could do it as a family.  I said yes, the unit is family friendly.  So, she said she wanted to be involved.  Of course, she fed our unit with goodies at the early events we attended.  Then when we learned about the U.S Christian Commission, I remember her saying that we should portray them because it would allow us to offer food and drink to others beyond our unit.  Feed the unit or feed the whole reenactment? OK why not.
    She also sewed things like small pouches & housewives kits, drawstring bags we filled with things like packets of salt & sugar & matches, and handkerchiefs to put out on the gift table at our tent along with the stationery kits & tracts I would put out.
    As we reenacted over the years, she actually came to enjoy history.
    At the event that she cites, I do remember that among the large assortment of cookies and baked goods were six banana boxes full of pumpkin bread loaves.  At that time, we didn’t have a tent, so we used our unit’s storage tent to keep things, and would throughout the day fill up trays with goodies and walk around among the encampment along with lemonade in porcelain pots saying “US Christian Commission. God’s love is free and so is this”.
    So, in the above talk which Vicki is sharing with the ladies at the church about why she is working so hard at a challenging opportunity the Lord has asked her to do -- what is her motivation? It is not fame or fortune.  It is to be a small part in pointing others to Jesus.  It is to bless others in Jesus’ name.  Serving Him is our way of saying “Thank you Jesus for doing on the cross what we could never do ourselves – atone for our sin.” God’s love is free!  God’s love is not for sale!  It is not “church” or “rituals” or “money” or “good deeds” which saves us from judgement for our sins.  It is believing in our hearts that we are forgiven by grace – undeserved love – that Jesus showed on the cross.  Do not be a Pharisees who pridefully thinks that by keeping the laws then God will then owe you forgiveness & heaven.  Come as the thief on the cross who admits "I really do deserve punishment" yet cry out to Jesus for mercy “remember me Lord”.
    Vicki wants to welcome you at the tent in Heaven with a hug and some special delicious goodies saying “God’s love is free! Welcome Home! Come on in!”  Put your faith in Jesus alone.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

God bless,
Glenn Rowe

Saturday, September 17, 2022

They've Come! Louisa M Alcott -- Civil War Hospital Sketches

 What's it like to work among the wounded during the Civil War era?
        Tribulation Periwinkle, a woman who has volunteered to come and help in the medical crisis the war is causing, presents a vivid description of the demands confronting nurses working among the wounded after the battle of Fredericksburg in Hospital Sketches Chapter III – They’ve come! (part 1  pages 31-36).

"THEY'VE come! they've come! hurry up, ladies–you're wanted."
"Who have come? the rebels?"
This sudden summons in the gray dawn was somewhat startling to a three days' nurse like myself, and, as the thundering knock came at our door, I sprang up in my bed, prepared
"To gird my woman's form,
 And on the ramparts die,"
if necessary; but my room-mate took it more coolly, and, as she began a rapid toilet, answered my bewildered question,–
"Bless you, no child; it's the wounded from Fredericksburg; forty ambulances are at the door, and we shall have our hands full in fifteen minutes."
"What shall we have to do?"
"Wash, dress, feed, warm and nurse them for the next three months, I dare say. Eighty beds are ready, and we were getting impatient for the men to come. Now you will begin to see hospital life in earnest, for you won't probably find time to sit down all day, and may think yourself fortunate if you get to bed by midnight. Come to me in the ball-room when you are ready; the worst cases are always carried there, and I shall need your help."
So saying, the energetic little woman twirled her hair into a button at the back of her head, in a "cleared for action" sort of style, and vanished, wrestling her way into a feminine kind of pea-jacket as she went.
I am free to confess that I had a realizing sense of the fact that my hospital bed was not a bed of roses just then, or the prospect before me one of unmingled rapture. My three days' experiences had begun with a death, and, owing to the defalcation of another nurse, a somewhat abrupt plunge into the superintendence of a ward containing forty beds, where I spent my shining hours washing faces, serving rations, giving medicine, and sitting in a very hard chair, with pneumonia on one side, diptheria on the other, five typhoids on the opposite, and a dozen dilapidated patriots, hopping, lying, and lounging about, all staring more or less at the new "nuss," who suffered untold agonies, but concealed them under as matronly an aspect as a spinster could assume, and blundered through her trying labors with a Spartan firmness, which I hope they appreciated, but am afraid they didn't. Having a taste for "ghastliness," I had rather longed for the wounded to arrive, for rheumatism was n't heroic, neither was liver complaint, or measles; even fever had lost its charms since "bathing burning brows" had been used up in romances, real and ideal; but when I peeped into the dusky street lined with what I at first had innocently called market carts, now unloading their sad freight at our door, I recalled sundry reminiscences I had heard from nurses of longer standing, my ardor experienced a  sudden chill, and I indulged in a most unpatriotic wish that I was safe at home again, with a quiet day before me, and no necessity for being hustled up, as if I were a hen and had only to hop off my roost, give my plumage a peck, and be ready for action. A second bang at the door sent this recreant desire to the right about, as a little woolly head popped in, and Joey, (a six years' old contraband,) [“contraband” was a Civil War era term for black slave escapees coming from the South] announced -- 
"Miss Blank is jes' wild fer ye, and says fly round right away. They's comin' in, I tell yer, heaps on 'em–one was took out dead, and I see him,–hi! warn't he a goner!"
With which cheerful intelligence the imp scuttled away, singing like a blackbird, and I followed, feeling that Richard was not himself again, and wouldn't be for a long time to come.
The first thing I met was a regiment of the vilest odors that ever assaulted the human nose, and took it by storm. Cologne, with its seven and seventy evil savors, was a posy-bed to it; and the worst of this affliction was, every one had assured me that it was a chronic weakness of all hospitals, and I must bear it. I did, armed with lavender water, with which I so besprinkled myself and premises, that, like my friend Sairy, I was soon known among my patients as "the nurse with the bottle." Having been run over by three excited surgeons, bumped against by migratory coal-hods, water-pails, and small boys, nearly scalded by an avalanche of newly-filled tea-pots, and hopelessly entangled in a knot of colored sisters coming to wash, I progressed by slow stages upstairs and down, till the main hall was reached, and I paused to take breath and a survey. There they were! "our brave boys," as the papers justly call them, for cowards could hardly have been so riddled with shot and shell, so torn and shattered, nor have borne suffering for which we have no name, with an uncomplaining fortitude, which made one glad to cherish each as a brother. In they came, some on stretchers, some in men's arms, some feebly staggering along propped on rude crutches, and one lay stark and still with covered face, as a comrade gave his name to be recorded before they carried him away to the dead house. All was hurry and confusion; the hall was full of these wrecks of humanity, for the most exhausted could not reach a bed till duly ticketed and registered; the walls were lined with rows of such as could sit, the floor covered with the more disabled, the steps and doorways filled with helpers and lookers on; the sound of many feet and voices made that usually quiet hour as noisy as noon; and, in the midst of it all, the matron's motherly face brought more comfort to many a poor soul, than the cordial draughts she administered, or the cheery words that welcomed all, making of the hospital a home.
The sight of several stretchers, each with its legless, armless, or desperately wounded occupant, entering my ward, admonished me that I was there to work, not to wonder or weep; so I corked up my feelings, and returned to the path of duty, which was rather "a hard road to travel" just then [“hard road to travel” – a phrase used a southern war song “Richmond is a hard road to travel” = won’t be an easy conquest, but a challenge]. The house had been a hotel before hospitals were needed, and many of the doors still bore their old names; some not so inappropriate as might be imagined, for my ward was in truth a ball-room, if gun-shot wounds could christen it. Forty beds were prepared, many already tenanted by tired men who fell down anywhere, and drowsed till the smell of food roused them. Round the great stove was gathered the dreariest group I ever saw–ragged, gaunt and pale, mud to the knees, with bloody bandages untouched since put on days before; many bundled up in blankets, coats being lost or useless; and all wearing that disheartened look which proclaimed defeat, more plainly than any telegram of the Burnside blunder. I pitied them so much, I dared not speak to them, though, remembering all they had been through since the route at Fredericksburg, I yearned to serve the dreariest of them all. Presently, Miss Blank tore me from my refuge behind piles of one-sleeved shirts, odd socks, bandages and lint; put basin, sponge, towels, and a block of brown soap into my hands, with these appalling directions:
"Come, my dear, begin to wash as fast as you can. Tell them to take off socks, coats and shirts, scrub them well, put on clean shirts, and the attendants will finish them off, and lay them in bed."
If she had requested me to shave them all, or dance a hornpipe on the stove funnel, I should have been less staggered; but to scrub some dozen lords of creation at a moment's notice, was really–really–. However, there was no time for nonsense, and, having resolved when I came to do everything I was bid, I drowned my scruples in my wash-bowl, clutched my soap manfully, and, assuming a business-like air, made a dab at the first dirty specimen I saw, bent on performing my task vi et armis [Latin meaning “by force of arms”] if necessary. I chanced to light on a withered old Irishman, wounded in the head, which caused that portion of his frame to be tastefully laid out like a garden, the bandages being the walks, his hair the shrubbery. He was so overpowered by the honor of having a lady wash him, as he expressed it, that he did nothing but roll up his eyes, and bless me, in an irresistible style which was too much for my sense of the ludicrous; so we laughed together, and when I knelt down to take off his shoes, he "flopped" also, and wouldn't hear of my touching "them dirty craters. May your bed above be aisy darlin', for the day's work ye ar doon! –Whoosh! there ye are, and bedad, it's hard tellin' which is the dirtiest, the fut or the shoe." It was; and if he hadn't been to the fore, I should have gone on pulling, under the impression that the "fut" was a boot, for trousers, socks, shoes and legs were a mass of mud. This comical tableau produced a general grin, at which propitious beginning I took heart and scrubbed away like any tidy parent on a Saturday night. Some of them took the performance like sleepy children, leaning their tired heads against me as I worked, others looked grimly scandalized, and several of the roughest colored like bashful girls.

Louisa Alcott does have an interesting way of describing the challenges women faced as they stepped up to help in the hospitals during this national crisis doesn't she?  She was born Nov.29, 1832 in Philadelphia, Pa. died March 6, 1880 in Boston, Mass.  She is known for books such as Little Women (1868) and Little Men (1871).  Her book Little Women was first published in a series of short stories, then eventually complied into one book.
        Due to pressures and family struggles as she grew up, writing became for her a creative and emotional outlet as her family struggled to support themselves.  Her family served as station masters for the underground railroad in the late 1840s.  She was also involved with the woman suffrage movement during her lifetime.
 In December 1862 she volunteered to be a nurse to aid the wounded in the Union Hospital in Georgetown, DC.  The demands of the war led to the acceptance of women serving in the hospitals as nurses (a role previously restricted in the military to male Stewards).  She intended to serve three months, but half way through she contracted typhoid and became deathly ill.  Though she eventually recovered, she would struggle with the after affects of the medicine (which included mercury) used to help her recover.
        Alcott edited and fictionalized letters she had written home about her nursing experience into the story of nurse "Tribulation Periwinkle" which were first published in the Boston anti-slavery paper Commonwealth and then later printed as a book entitle Hospital Sketches in 1863 (republished with additions in 1869) — which brought her recognition for her observations and humor.

        Union casualties at the battle for Fredericksburg, Dec.11-15, 1862:  1,180 killed; 9,028 wounded, 2,145 missing (Combat: The Civil War ed by D. Congdon p.315). Other sources have numbers of around 1,200 killed, around 9,600 wounded, around 2,000 missing or captured.  Exact stats vary with sources.  But clearly there were a great many wounded who were needing medical help from this battle when Alcott came on duty.

        What is in the name "Tribulation Periwinkle"?  I do not claim to have figured out why Alcott chose this name for her fictional character.  I looked for suggestions of reasons on other sites, but really didn't find many ideas.  Some suggested that "Tribulation" was chosen since the nurse was facing many challenges in getting accepted into the role of nursing and then as she did her work in the medical system of that time.  Seems reasonable.  Didn't find much on the last name of "Periwinkle".  When I did research on the word, it's a name for a grouping of flower types, some of which are poisonous.  There seem to be two themes of meaning attached to the flower type from European folklore. One is that periwinkle symbolizes hope/ love/ affection/ protection.  The flower was often given to someone who had suffered loss as an act of comfort.  The second theme is that it is the flower of death, because its vines were woven into headbands placed on dead children in burial or by criminals on their way to execution.  Also periwinkle was a popular folk medicine component in various herbal treatments from the Middle Ages on.  Given the mixed messages themes associated with periwinkle, I can see maybe why Alcott chose the name tag.  She, as a nurse, was both offering hope and comfort in the midst of suffering and death.  Again, I am not claiming this is the correct interpretation of Alcott's reasoning.  I offer this as a suggestion that you might find interesting.

Children’s Project:
        Discuss with them how they would feel to be in a room full of wounded men and be working on cleaning them up from the grim and dirt of battle along with the blood stains of wounds and surgery.  Explain to them how she tried to deal with bad odors of the place through the perfume bottle she carried.  Explore why they think she was willing to endure such tough circumstances to be at this hospital.  Would they be willing to do the same?
        For background on the "contraband" tag see the post on September 2018 "Southern Contraband of the War Fleeing North -- Gen. Butler's Account of the Contraband Tag being Applied to Runaway Slaves".

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Cape Hatteras Under Union Control – A Soldier's Perspective September 1861

    How did the men-in-the-ranks view the victory of taking the Confederate forts protecting the Cape Hatteras inlet in August 1861?  Well, it was a much needed Union victory in the fall of 1861 after a summer of defeats as I shared in the previous blog post about the Hatteras Victory Patriotic Envelope, posted on April 20, 2022. But was it an effective strategy in blockading Southern commerce?  And what was it like for the Union soldiers to be there on duty after the battle garrisoning the captured forts?  The following unnamed soldier’s letter gives some interesting “little details” to help us better appreciate the “big picture” of the Union victory.  Hope you enjoy reading his letter printed in the Sunday Mercury Newspaper Sept.22, 1861 about what’s happening now that the Union controls Cape Hatteras:

Hawkins’ Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.V.
On Board Steam Transport S.R.Spaulding
Cape Hatteras, September 12, 1861
To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:
I write to you, having an opportunity to send this by the transport which leaves for Fortress Monroe to-day.  We struck tents at Newport News, VA., at 4 o’clock PM, of the 10th inst., but did not get aboard of the steamer until 10PM, when we left under cover of night.  We arrived here yesterday, 12PM, after a pleasant voyage.  The steamer was somewhat crowded, and of course we hadn’t everything we wanted.  We slept on deck, down in the hold, and in fact in every place we could find.  We disembarked at 1 PM, Wednesday, and remained on shore until 6 PM, when we were ordered aboard again for the night.  The same inconvenience we had to experience again.  All the companies, with the exception of our own, are ashore.  We are detained aboard for something; I don’t know what.  To tell the truth, this is the most dreary place I have ever seen.  The soil is all sandy, like Coney Island exactly.  Our colonel [Rush Hawkins] is in possession of Fort Clark, which is at the upper end of the island.  Fort Hatteras, in possession of Col. [Max] Weber, is nearest the landing, and is, I think, the best fort.  I stood upon the ramparts yesterday, and viewed the country all around.  It is a very curious sight.  Shot and shell were strewed all around.  I have got plenty of shell and shot, and will endeavor to send you some.  Fort Hatteras is not a regularly-built fort, like any that are in the Harbor of New York; it is built of sand and sod, and has no barracks.
Our boys have all sorts of trophies taken here.  Some had watches, and others had knives and pistols; and when we arrived, we were received by some of our boys who were dressed up in all sorts of clothes, taken from the “seceshers” -- green, blue, gray, and every color imaginable.  It was rather an amusing sight, and one I won’t soon forget.  Yesterday we met two schooners (prizes) on their way to Philadelphia.  It appears they came in supposing it to be still in possession of the secessionists.  Lieut. Crosby met them, and they asked to be towed in by the Fanny, and the captain of the “secesher” said he was glad to get clear of the “d—d Yankee,” meaning the frigate Cumberland, who tried to deceive them by letting them run the blockade.  Lieut. Crosby afterward said he was a United States officer, and claimed him as his prisoner.  The captain then was so surprised that he went aboard and got drunk, and remained so all day.  The colonel had a beautiful stand of colors captured, and the hoisted them on the fort. We have captured five vessels since our boys have been here, and we expect a number to arrive from the West Indies daily.  The prizes we took yesterday had on board coffee and ammunition.
Our boys lived high at first.  They captured all their provisions.  The people, they say, come from miles around into camp, and sell articles, such as fish, etc.  They are all loyal.  To my utter surprise, we have not seen a contraband since we arrived.  There are none around.  All the people are white.  There is a small church a little way up the main land, where an old minister preaches, and who seems to be their leader.  He comes into camp under a flag of truce, and gets all the inhabitants to swear allegiance to the Union.  About five hundred have already done so.  They say there is no rebels nearer than sixty miles.  This I guess is so, because we have no picket-guard posted, only an interior guard.  We are on the Cape, and nothing can be seen to the North but a wide expanse of water; and it reminds me of the island that Robinson Crusoe lived on; at the back you can see a few houses.  Our men seem to have everything they want; figs are in abundance; a little back in the country, fishing is of the first class, but the water is awful.  We have no well save those that are dug in the sand, and the water is almost unfit to drink.  When a storm is brewing, they say, it carries everything before it, washing clear over the sand.  You may not hear from me for one or two weeks.  I understand we are to have communications with the fortress twice a week, and then of course I will write to you often. R.H.J.

Fort Hatteras under Union control
Picture from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War 1887 page 665

9th Infantry Regiment New York State Volunteers also knows as the Hawkins Zouaves or New York Zouaves. Organized mostly in New York city, mustered into U.S. Services May 4, 1861.  In June they were stationed at Newport News VA.  On August 28-29, 1861 three companies (C, G & H), serving under Major-Gen. Butler, helped in the attack on the confederate forts guarding the Hatteras Inlet.  The rest of the regiment was then sent down to help secure the forts taken, arriving Sept.10 through 12.

Little details make “the big event” more interesting
Reading this man’s letter describing various little things going on around him gives us more insight into the big picture event of the Cape Hatteras Assault.  You have to appreciate his sense of humor.  His humorous description of how the blockade runners were lured into thinking “they had made it safe” by flying of Confederate flag over the fort and the pretending to let them slip by the Union blockading vessels, only to be surprised – “you’re our prisoners”.  Might as well finish off the liquor, it’s just going to be confiscated anyway by these yanks.  And I am sure the coffee was much appreciated by the garrison.
The details about occupying the forts, the mix of good food options to supplement army rations and distasteful water, and the relationship with the people in the area all give more depth of appreciation of the big picture of this Union victory on the North Carolina shores.  I am glad the Sunday Mercury printed up letters like this one during the course of the war.  Its always interesting and enjoyable to get perspectives from the guys doing the work on the ground.

Children projects:
1) Explore why the Confederate blockade runners could be fooled.  (You will have to explain there was no such thing as radio signals or text messaging during the Civil War time period.)  Show how this was part of the early war Anaconda Plan proposed by Gen. Scott.
2) For background on the “contraband” comment, see my post on “Southern Contraband of War Fleeing North” (Sept. 8, 2018) for the origin of this term to describe people of color during the Civil War.
3) Perhaps explore how 'big politics' can differ from 'local politics'.  The state of North Carolina did secede from the Union. But here the local population seems to accept the Union forces.  Explore how secession was more complicated in North Carolina than other southern states.
4) This soldier talks about souvenirs of war that he and others were enjoying collecting.  Does your family have any souvenirs of maybe family history that you prize?  But then the next generations may not value what the previous ones did because the “memories” don’t get passed along.  Time moves on.  I bought a Civil War hat pin years ago that had been made out of an original Union coat button which some sweetheart had worn in honor of her man off to war.  My wife wore it in her hat at the reenactments we went to over the years.  So, it got a second life.  When Vicki died, I gave it to my daughter.  She will give it to my granddaughter who is named after her grandma with the story of the memories of grandma always wearing it in her hat.  But someday it will probably just be lost again.  Talk to your children about why they treasure some things, about family memoires of things you treasure.  It may keep family history alive for another generation.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Challenges & Joys of an Ohio Soldier Tramping Through Tennessee 1862

  Of course, being out on campaign in the fall of 1862 is fun!  Well, maybe better described as a mix of challenges and surprises.  This letter is from George Washington Fawcett (1837 – 1912).  He had volunteered for three month service in the 19th Ohio when the call first went out from President Lincoln.  Then he reenlisted for three year service in Co.I 1st Ohio Infantry.  His commitment to the Union cause shows up in this letter, written to his friend Clara Strieby living in Kansas.  His unit, involved in the Western Theater campaign, is encamped in Franklin Country TN just north of the Alabama boarder.  Having fought at Shiloh (April 1862) and the Corinth Campaign, they are awaiting further orders.  His letter is an interesting mix of how he is handling challenges such as 'marching into enemy territory' and finding 'creative' ways to get food, along with enjoyable surprises such as getting mail from home and exploring interesting local sights.  He has some interesting insights into the change of attitude about this being a "short war" and about how his attitude toward the secessionists is changing.  Enjoy a bit of “history” from the ranks:

Written to Miss Clara L Streby
Council Grove, Morris County, Kansas
Postmarked Nashville, Tn

Camp Boiling Fork, Franklin county, Tennessee
August 5, 1862
Friend Clara,
Yours of July 11th was received the other day and you may rest assured that it was perused with much interest. For a long while we had been—as it were—shut out from the balance of the world without either a mail, newspaper, or any news whatever save camp rumors which are as a general thing very ridiculous and not much to be depended upon. But the other day a train did finally get through from Nashville and the glad tidings was revealed to us that this railroad was open through from Nashville to Stephenson—a distance of 120 miles. But this was not all the joy. A large mail for Company I produced some smiling countenances and your humble servant was the recipient of no less than four letters and several papers, one of which was from your good self. So you may judge that I felt right good and that night I slept sound and had pleasant dreams of friends in the far distant west & of dear ones at home—a sister whom I so dearly love and who expected or hoped that the war would be over before this, was disappointed in not having me home by the 4th of July. Why Clara, if I get home by the next fourth of July, I shall feel thankful. I do not see as there is any prospect of the war ending yet. Indeed, things look more gloomy to me now than they did 10 months ago. We have gained a great amount of territory, but we have got as much or more than we can hold.
The rebels are now all around us and if they should make a dash into our camp today, I would not be a bit surprised. We are looking for them and more than half of our regiment are now out building fortifications. If they do come, we will give them a warm reception and they will get the best we have got in our cartridge boxes. We are encamped in a very pleasant grove near Boiling Fork—a small creek which supplies our camp with an abundance of the best of water. We are guarding a bridge which we have rebuilt across the creek since we came here. We arrived here on the 8th of July. Came by way of railroad from Huntsville. Our train was the first one on the road for over 5 miles as the rebels destroyed all the bridges on the road last spring when they retreated from Nashville. We have now go the road in running order.
        We are distant from Nashville about 87 miles south and 30 north of Stephenson and about 35 or 40 from Chattanooga. We are only a few miles north of the line between Alabama and Tennessee. There is a range of the Cumberland Mountains here through which the railroad crosses by way of a long tunnel. We are encamped at the foot of the mountain about 2 miles from the tunnel.
When I last wrote you we were at Florence which is over 150 miles from here. We had some hard marches after that beneath the rays of a hot Alabama sun. And you better believe we felt glad when we arrived at Huntsville and were favored with a ride on the cars. The balance of the division were not thus favored as they had to walk through to Stephenson. Since we have been here, we have been rather short of rations for a long while. We were one-fourth rations and some of the time without any at all from Uncle Sam. But we made it a point to visit some of the neighborhood plantations very frequently and the potato patches, hen roosts, orchards and such like had to yield to our wants.
I have been in the service over one year but I have never taken anything of much importance without paying for it—till of late. But lately since the rebs have been playing the mischief so and trying to cut off our supplies, I have just come to the conclusion there is no harm in making the prominent secessionist in the neighborhood respond to our wants. This rather a rich part of the country and there are quite a number of very good plantations near our camp. I have been out several times after provisions. I first go and ask for what I want and if they do not give it, I sometimes take it anyhow. We were out of bread for several days and we were bound to have something to eat or else starve so 8 of our mess went out after potatoes. We found an old planter who gave us enough to fill our haversacks and while 6 of us were in the garden digging, then two others of our mess were skylarking around the premises to see if they could find another patch and they engaged the old planter in conversation while the other two boys filled a 2-bushel bag.
Since our arrival here I have had several tramps up on the mountains and have visited quite a number of very wild and dangerous places. But I am always in my element while clambering over rocks, penetrating caverns, and visiting such wild places. But I must now tell you about what a beautiful cave there is on the mountain side about 1½ miles from our camp. We heard of this cave shortly after our arrival here. Also heard that there was a band of bushwhackers concealed in the cave. So our captain with our entire company went out on a scout to the cave. After a long search, we found it but would not if we had not went and got a negro slave to show us the place. There is no road or even a path leading to it. The entrance of the cave is very small—not more than large enough to crawl in at. We did not see any outward signs of rebels so we had no fears on entering. We left a strong guard on the outside while about 20 of us provided ourselves with hickory torches and entered. After crawling on our hands and knees for several hundred feet, we came out into a large room which was at least 60 feet from floor to ceiling and several hundred feet in length and width. I was perfectly enraptured with awe at its beauty and grandeur. The ceiling and walls resembled the most magnificent fresco painting, which reminded me of the audience room of the M. E. Church in Salem—only it was far more grand. The ceiling was covered with formations which resembled icicles in shape. Those were of various sizes from 3 inches to 3 and 4 feet in length—the points of which are covered with a white substance resembling snow. This reflecting in the torchlight was magnificently grand. We found several springs of the purest crystal water. There were many side caverns that we did not enter but doubtless the cave is miles in extent. I have made two visits to the cave and am now ready for the third visit. I was there one day with our chaplain. He says it exceeds the Mammoth Cath in beauty.
We have captured several bushwhackers since we have been here. One boy belonging to our company was shot at the other day while on picket. I like our present camp very much, it being so near the mountains. The weather as a general thing is very pleasant. There is an abundance of apples & peaches which are now ripe.  The health of our regiment is remarkably good. Two of our company there were wounded at Shiloh have again rejoined us in camp nearly as sound as ever. One of them will be a little lame probably for life yet he is of the right grit and he wants to get a chance at them again. Steph. Talcott has again rejoined us after being home on furlough about 3 months. My right hand man, Joe T., is all right. Him and I have got us a very nice bough house made with a good bed in it and everything fixed to suit our fancy. Call around and see us.
Well, Car, I have not told you half as much as I thought I would when I commenced but I will have to close. We are all enjoying camp life hugely. My health was never better. Soldiering is a luxury while we are laying in camp as we are at present.
So it is the white Injins you are afraid of now? I should judge from what you say that they need civilizing—a portion of them at least. Your letter was full of interest and just such a one as a soldier loves to receive. You need have no fears about not interesting me. I remember our friend Alex Taylor. I trust he is not badly wounded.
The late call for 300,000 more troops [Lincoln’s Proclamation July 1, 1862] will either bring out a good many cowards or else they will be drafted. There is considerable of talk about drafting now about home.  I have not seen or heard from Br. Hale since I wrote you before but I learn that Woods’ Division is on the railroad between us and Nashville. Talcott saw Br. Hudson on the train the other day as the cars passed but he did not get to speak to him. We still have some very spiritual prayer meetings. I could appreciate a good class meeting once more. I trust that my heart will remain fixed and that my faith may never waiver.
Write me soon as you can. I remain as ever your friend truly, — G. W. Fawcett
    Direct On the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, Cowan Station, Tennessee
    Stephen sends his respects & says he is a going to emigrate to Kansas after the war is over and Fawcett is a going along.

[This letter transcript is from the WordPress site: Billy Yank & Johnny Reb Letters. Transcribed by Will Griffing, in the Ohio letters section]

Children Projects:
    1) In his letter’s first paragraph explore why his unit might be very glad to get “mail from home”.  Explain to them what “letters” and “newspapers” are.  Maybe show them some of your artifacts if you still have them.  And remind them that this letter they are reading was written in 1862 and has survived over 150 years.  He wrote this letter on Aug. 5th.  The cancelation date on the envelope in Nashville is Aug. 9th.  And it looks like someone wrote on the envelope that the letter was "received" on Aug. 15th.  So it appears that sometimes mail delivery was good and sometimes not so good, which makes sense in a war situation.  Staying connected with loved ones back home was always something the men looked forward to, both to get news from home and as Fawcett shows here to share perspectives from the field about what's going on in his life.  
    2)  Supplementing short rations means taking what's needed:  Explore his attitude change about getting food needed to survive.  They are now in “enemy” territory and sometimes are not getting the supplies needed from the army quartermaster.  Initially Union commanders tried to uphold Lincoln’s policy of not pillaging from the locals as the armies moved through secessionist territory.  The hope was to avoid pushing locals toward loyalty of the Southern cause.  But as the Union troops began pushing into the South in 1862, attitudes began to change as it became evident that Southern loyalty was indeed generally stronger than national loyalty. Attitudes from the men in the ranks on up to higher commanders became “we must conquer” by punishing the disloyal and gaining supplies for our conquest.  Fawcett is reflecting this shift in this letter as he describes the reaction to how his unit is supplementing their shortages of army rations. For a more detailed summary of this shift of attitude check out Nothing But Victory – The Army of the Tennessee by S.E Woodworth p.210-13.
    3)  Trace through the letter his comments that point to a shift in his understanding that this will not be a “short war” as he had once hoped in early 1861.  Remember he had signed up for the first call to action of 3 months.  Now reality is setting in.  Discuss if his attitude is one of defeat or determination.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Somebody's Father -- July 3, 1863 Gettysburg

A confederate soldier's sad memory:  C.R. Graham does not give the name of the soldier who shared this memory with him.  It appears in a section titled “Random Tails by Confederates”, so we can assume that it is a memory of a southern soldier who was at the battle of Gettysburg:

    I think that one of the saddest incidents of the war which I witnessed was after the battle of Gettysburg.  Off on the outskirts, seated on the ground, with his back to a tree, was a soldier, dead.  His eyes were riveted on some object held tightly clasped in his hands.  As we drew nearer we saw that it was an ambrotype of two small children.  Man though I was, hardened through those long years to carnage and bloodshed, the sight of that man who looked on his children for the last time in this world, who, away off in a secluded spot had rested himself against a tree, that he might feast his eyes on his little loves, brought tears to my eyes, which I could not restrain had I wanted.  There were six of us in the crowd, and we all found great lumps gathering in our throats, and mist coming before our eyes which almost blinded us.  We stood looking at him for some time.  I was thinking of the wife, and baby I had left at home, and wondering how soon, in the mercy of God, would she be left a widow, and my baby boy fatherless.  We looked at each other and instinctively seemed to understand our thoughts.  Not a word was spoken, but we dug a grave and laid the poor fellow to rest with his children’s picture clasped over his heart.  Over his grave, on the tree against which he was sitting I inscribed the words: “Somebody’s Father, July 3, 1863”  [Under Both Flags. A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure, and the Romance of Reality   1896 pages 84-85]

Deo Vindice = God is our vindicator
CS grave marker
Summary facts about Gettysburg:  Casualties at Gettysburg totaled 23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing & captured). Confederate casualties were 28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing & captured), more than a third of Lee's army.
    The Confederate dead were not buried in the Soldier’s National Cemetery.  Within a few months after the battle most of the Union dead were dug up from their shallow graves and reinterred in the Soldier’s National Cemetery, which was for those who fought to preserve the Union.  But the Confederate dead were left wherever they were buried scattered across the fields and farms of the area.  In the 1870s an effort was made by organizations in the southern states to find and relocate the corpses of the southern soldiers to sites down south.  But it is a known fact that not all of these shallow grave burials were discovered.  And from time to time a grave has been uncovered.  So, we do not know if this man’s body was ever returned home to family.
    In the ‘broad roll of human history’ come moments which remind us that it is those whom God has put in our lives as “family” that are far more important than fame or fortune.  These relationships of love are God’s great gift to us no matter what is rolling along in the big picture of history.

Children’s project discussion questions:
1.  Would you hope your father’s dying thoughts would be on your family, or would you want him to be thinking about how successful he was or how rich he was or how athletic he was?
2.  If you would want him to be thinking of you and your family circle, then are you trying to learn good traits from your parents, or are you too busy with friends your own age to care about building a positive family circle?