Almost every day some incident would occur, sometimes pathetic, but more frequently of a ludicrous character, that would serve to break the monotony of the camp or march for a time and if it was of a humorous character, would be treasured up by the jokers of the Regiment and trotted out for another laugh on every favor able occasion. Some of those incidents unaccompanied by the peculiar circumstances attending them would seem rather flat to the casual reader, but to those concurrent with all the facts it would only be necessary to mention them to recall to their minds all the minor details that caused them to be so irresistibly funny when they occurred.
I have imperfectly sketched a few of these incidents to keep them in mind not that I can dress them in attractive language so that they could be fully appreciated by any one not conversant with the facts, but knowing that to those who "were there" they will prove just as palatable as they were when they were fresh. The first one to be noted will be fully appreciated by any old soldier who may chance to read it.
When the company was enrolled,
the men were informed that they would receive "Eleven Dollars
per month and their boarding". By this the majority of the
men supposed the rations that would be furnished by the Government
would be about the same as farm hands, or laborers receive when
they are boarded by their employer. When the company arrived at
Camp Morton, and the first rations were issued to them, they were
about the most indignant, disgusted set of men in the country.
They waited on the Captain en masse to enter protest against
such treatment. "Why men, what is the matter with the rations?"
the Captain asked. "Matter enough" the spokesman replied,
"they have given us no butter for our bread, nor milk for
It was decidedly rough fare, but before the company was mustered out of service they would have considered the fresh bread, dried apples, fresh meat, potatoes, molasses, coffee, tea and vegetables that were issued daily at Indianapolis a regular banquet and would have been glad to get a smell of such a feast once a week.
When the company was mustered
for inspections on the 30th of April 1861 and it was announced
that none would be accepted who were under five feet, six inches
in height, Marsh H. Parks quietly stepped out of the ranks and
was not seen again until his name was called. He was supposed
to be considerably under the required height, but when he responded
to his name and presented himself for inspection, to the surprise
of every one Marsh had fully a quarter of a inch to go on, and
being sound physically, was accepted.
After the company was sworn in by Mr. Woods, it was discovered that Marsh, being fully aware of his short coming had slipped off to a shoe shop and had his shoes half soled and tapped and as he wanted them to last while he remained in the service, he had four or five extra soles put on, raising him something over an inch in height. Marsh declared "there is nothing like leather", especially when a man wanted to get up in the world.
Carelessness and recklessness
in handling firearms caused the loss of many lives and the maiming
of hundreds of men in the army. One incident briefly referred
to on page 46 [this book page 35] was the narrowest escape from
serious injury by the accidental discharge of a gun, that ever
came under my notice. It was but little short of miraculous. Benj.
F. James was one of the best, and most useful soldiers in the
On the occasion referred to Ben was on guard duty, in the woods, just above our camp near Evansville, Ind. and becoming somewhat weary, tramping back and forth had halted at the end of his beat, set the butt of his musket on the ground, crossed his hands over the muzzle and rested his chin on his hands. His next move was to thoughtlessly place his foot on the hammer.
Some noise or movement caused him to raise his head and turn partially around and in doing so, one hand was removed from the muzzle of the gun, while the other hand, by the weight of the body which was thus thrown upon it, was pressed down more forcibly. By the same movement his foot was moved from the hammer which, was caught by the bottom of his trousers and drawn back, so far that when they slipped off the gun was discharged.
The strange thing about it was that instead of passing through the hand, and causing the loss of the two middle fingers; the ball forced its way between the fingers, without breaking the skin. The only explanation of this strange freak was that the musket was an old fashioned smooth bore and the presence of his hand on the muzzle had been sufficient to confine the air in front of the ball, forming an air cushion which impeded the exit of the ball until the pressure of the air forced his fingers apart, and the ball having lost its initial force passed through [the] opening and probably dropped to the ground within a very short distance. As it was his hand was thrown from the muzzle of the gun, the only marks left was a redness of the skin between the fingers, as it almost blistered, while the hand was benumbed so that he could not use it for several days and was swollen and discolored, as if it had been seriously bruised.
The night of the grand scare at
Evansville will not soon be forgotten by some of the members of
Company E. I refer to those who supported "Poulson's Battery"
at the covered bridge about two miles below the city. About one
half of the company had been left under Lieut. Gallagher to guard
the bridge, which was one of the old fashioned covered wooden
bridges spanning a creek, probably twenty yards wide, on the road
leading from the city down the north bank of the Ohio.
Lieut. G. had taken in a liberal supply of "Commissary" and as this arrangement gave him an independent command he concluded that it would be a good time to show the boys "what he knew about war". He began to drill them first in defending the bridge against an attack from above, then from an attempt to ford the creek, and then from an attack from the side next [to] our camp. In all of these movements the battery played an important part.
He would lead the men on double quick through the bridge, deploying them to the right and left to support the battery, which in the meantime was supposed to be hurling death and destruction into the ranks of the enemy. To demonstrate his lessons he became "the Battery" for the time being. He borrowed an old Navy pistol, from R. N. Poulson, that was about worn out, and threw out nearly as much fire behind as it did in front. With this pistol he would blaze away six times, and when the enemy was supposed to be about to charge, the battery would retire to the other end of the bridge; the infantry holding the enemy in check until the battery was in position; then they would return across the bridge and take up a new position while the battery would cover the bridge with dead and wounded.
The "drill" was kept up for over an hour, and until the Lieut had lost about eighty percent of his entire force, and exhausted all of the ammunition he had for the battery. About one half of his men reported to the company in Evansville, the balance of the missing men returned to camp, while the small squad that remained at the bridge, guarded the battery while it rested, and nursed the wounds received in the shape of face and fingers badly burned by powder. From that night "Poulson's Battery" was one of the institutions belonging exclusively to Co. E.
When the 12th Regiment left Indianapolis
for the east, it was generally understood that an emergency existed
and that we were to report for duty just as soon as the railroads
could take us through. A delay of a day's duration at Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania awaiting orders, was unavoidable. From that place
to York, Pa. we made reasonably good time, but from York to Baltimore,
Md. we went by "lightning express", so the boys said.
No one but Col. Wallace could have explained the recklessly rapid movement of the train. The men became alarmed at such reckless running, and would take their camp kettles, jump off and walk on ahead and pick a kettle full of black berries and then sit down and wait for the cars to overtake them. There was a great abundance of very nice berries along the road, and I think scarcely every man in the regiment secured a camp kettle full. At times nearly one half of the men would be picking berries ahead of the train.
Of course in the unsettled state of that portion of the country there was danger of bridges being destroyed or of obstructions being placed on the track, and caution was necessary. But no one could give a valid reason for the snail-like movement of the train, unless it was that the Colonel did not want to " have those blackberries go to waste".
Every little incident that could
be twisted into something funny or ludicrous was used for all
it was worth. As had been intimated, Col. John M. Wallace, was
strongly suspected by the men of being just a little bit too timid
for the position he occupied. Whether their suspicions were well
founded or not I cannot say, but he certainly was apparently nervous
Just after our arrival opposite Harpers Ferry (the second or third night) someone was discovered prowling around near the spring from which we procurred water. Failing to respond when challenged by the guard, the guard fired at him. The Colonel was in his tent preparing for bed, but when the shot was fired he sprang outside his tent, some said "minus his trousers", and called out in an excited and rather tremulous tone "Lights Out!" From that time, whenever there was any unusual stir about the camp, or when the Colonel would be seen approaching the boys would sing out in every direction "Lights Out!"
On the 2nd of August 1861, Co. E was ordered out on picket duty on Maryland Heights. I was left in camp opposite Harper's Ferry, the camp being about a mile back from the Potomac on the Pleasant Valley road. I had a few men in camp, and had sent a detail to the railroad to draw rations for the company. Tommy Hubler, our little nine year old drummer, accompanied the detail.
I was busy in camp making out some reports that had been called for, when the detail returned with the rations, and instructed the Sergeant in charge to have the wagon unloaded and rations prepared for the men on picket. A few minutes later Tommy came rushing into my tent, calling out in a very excited manner "Orderly! Orderly! Come out here, quick! My God! You never saw such a sight!"
Knowing that the enemy had a strong force on the other side of the river, and was expected to attack our small force at any moment [and] seeing Tommy's wild excitment, I thought surely there must be something dreadful happening or about to happen. Dropping my pen and reports I hastened out of my tent and followed Tommy to a large stump at the lower end of the company quarters, from which a good view could be obtained.
I was about to mount the stump when the little scamp stopping suddenly, assumed the attitude of a tragedian and pointing to an immane side of meat which was lying about ten feet below the stump, exclaimed "Just look at that ____ old horse! It was right here by this stump, when I went after you. I seen the d___ thing was trying to get away. I thought it was about to desert, and that I'd better call you, so you could place a guard over it. If you don't, by ___ it will be down to the Potomac in less than an hour!"
Tommy's serious, tragic attitude and his language, when his size and that meat were considered, would have caused a tobacconists Indian to explode. I just collapsed. It was so ludicrous, so unexpected, and then the meat! What kind of an animal it was taken from I can't imagine. It was a huge side of something, minus the hair. And there it looked so very tempting. On the outside it was a dark seal-brown; next to the hide, it was a beautiful green tinted yellow, shaded off into a dirty ash grey. It had a decidedly rich bouquet. In fact the smell was indescribable, a kind of blending of the essences of old smoke house, hog-pen and out-house, and then it was tender. It was only necessary to take hold of the hide at one corner, with the thumb and finger, give it a gentle jerk, and it was stripped for the pan nice and clean.
As near as I could judge from as close an examination as I dared to make, it was an animal that had been killed for the use of the army, during the War with Mexico, and had by some accident been covered up with debris in some old warehouse, from where it had been smelled out by some enterprising army contractor and again sold "for soldiers use."
Much was said and written during and since the war, concerning the rations that were issued to the soldiers in the field. It is true that there was not much of a variety furnished, but as a rule, the quality was of the best, and when the men had fully mastered the art of preparing army food, they had no reason to complain, either as to the quality of the food, or the variety of dishes that could be concocted. I am speaking of the genuine army rations, that had been properly inspected and delivered, as per contract.
There was a class of army contractors
who became millionaires by defrauding the Government on their
contracts and thus robbing the soldiers of health and life itself,
by furnishing articles that were wholly unfit for human, or animal
use, by reason of adulteration or imperfections. In order to do
this they had access to the pockets of the Inspecting officers,
who, in many cases no doubt were silent partners in the contract.
In many cases the unwholesome rations were condemned, only to be replaced by others that were equally as bad; and it is probable that the condemned articles were again issued within a very few days to another and possibly to the same command and the men were compelled to accept and use the truck to the detriment of their health. "Old Horse" soon became a familar sight and smell, to those who went to the front in '61. It was supposed to have passed inspection, but as in the case mentioned on the opposite page, the inspection if made at all must have been made several years prior to the issue.
As to Hard-tack, there seemed to be greater care taken, and it was usually as good bread as any one could desire. It was hard, to be sure; but it was wholesome, and nutritious. Sometimes a contractor would manage to work in a lot of "Jaw Breakers" that might have been used to advantage in plating gun-boats or building fortifications.
The hardest "Hard-tack" I ever attempted to interview was some that was issued to us while in camp in Pleasant Valley, a few days after we drew the "Old Horse". The flour used may have had some wheat or rye in it, but the principal ingredient was ground peas with a liberal share of terre alba. When broken it looked like dried putty and it was about as palatable and as hard to masticate. The only way it could be eaten was to soak it in water over night, and then fry it.
It is a fact, of which I was an eye witness, that one of the men, after trying, in vain, to break one of the cakes, between his teeth and then with his fingers, walked deliberately out to the road, where a loaded army wagon was passing and deposited his cracker in front of the wheels and after the wheels had rolled over it, the cracker was taken up and examined and not a break or crack could be found about it. Some of the boys ran after the wagon and examined the tire and declared that the impression of the cracker had been found in the iron. This part of the story I will not vouch for. But that both the front and hind wheels of the loaded wagon did pass fairly over the cracker without breaking it is a fact.
Probably there was no General,
field officer, or enlisted man in the Army of the Potomac that
was so generally known as "Haversack" (Presley G. Frarey)
of Co. E 12th Indiana Infantry. Men might not be able to tell
who this or that General was, but they all knew "Haversack".
He was a character that was bound to attract attention and furnished
as many square solid laughs to the men of Banks's Division as
ever a clown did in a season with a circus. He was a big man over
six feet in height, weighed over two hundred pounds and so well
proportioned that there did not seem to be an ounce of surplus
flesh on his frame. One would select him as a model of physical
health and strength and good nature and he was not deficient in
manly grace of carriage or good looks.
The miserable little pouches that were issued as haversacks in which the men were expected to carry two to five days rations on a march were a source of annoyance to the men who pronounced them a nuisance. A man could stow away two days rations of "Hard-tack and Sow-belly" in them, but the straps by which they were suspended wwere mere strings, not nearly strong enough to sustain the weight. In passing through woods, or on a rapid march, the straps would be torn off or would break and a man would see his grub kicked along the road or trampled in the dirt before he could recover it.
"Pres" soon discovered the deficiency both as to size and strength of these "grub bags" and set his wits to work to remedy it so far as it applied to his own case. Being a "carpenter and builder" he was not long in preparing his "plans and specifications" for a Haversack as in a Haversack.
Procuring an ordinary gunny-sack which would hold about two bushels, he soon had a piece of inch rope firmly fastened to each side of it for a strap and his haversack was completed. With the rope over his shoulder and the sack swinging under his arm, the bottom reaching to below his knees, Pres just vowed that it was the only really sensible haversack in the Army of the Potomac. It would hold a days rations for any ordinary man and he would not be in danger of losing his grub at every step." No one was disposed to dispute his claims, and it was not long until he was known throughout the army by his sack and "Haversack" was thenceforth his name.
It was a singular fact that whether it was one or five days rations that had to be carried, that Haversack was never exhausted when it reached camp. On fishing out the fragments of his army rations, it would be found that by some mysterious process there would be unearthed a quantity of potatoes or other vegetables with perhaps a ham or two or three chickens and other eatables, making a load as much as any ordinary man would care to carry. "Haversack" could always tell when and how they were "purchased".
Our camp in Pleasant Valley, Md.
was located on the land belonging to, and near the residence of
a noted secession sympathezier, who immediately applied for and
obtained a safe guard to protect his property from the depredations
of "the Vandals". He was very better and outspoken in
his denunciation of the Government for "attempting to subjugate
the southern people". While he would fawn upon and couzen
around the officers to secure this protection he did not hesitate
to inform the men who were detailed to guard his property that
he regarded them as "poor white trash" who would rob
and steal whenever they could get could get a chance, and assure
them that the Southern men would soon send them home howling.
Of course this kind of talk made the men love and respect (?)
Nevertheless, the orders were very strict and his premises were so strictly guarded that not a rail was disturbed. On the 16th of August, when our Brigade started on the march to Monocacy Bridge the safeguard was withdrawn. As the 12th Ind. was assigned to the rear of the column we were compelled to wait several hours for the other regiments, battery and the trains to get out of the way. While waiting, "Old Secesh" as the boys called him made his appearance. Every wagon and bundle that was visible was closely scrutinized by him, to see if anything had been stolen. He seemed to be afraid that the men would get away without giving him another chance to insult or denounce them.
Frarey had been on safe guard at his home the previous night and it was just after he was relieved that he built his haversack. As soon as "Old Secesh" came into camp, Pres disappeared. There was a field of four or five acres of very nice early corn between our camp and the house. It had been carefully guarded, although the roasting ears were a tempting bait to place before men who were compelled to live on rusty bacon and hard-tack. "Old Secesh" had been shipping the corn to Baltimore every morning, but never offered an ear to the guard. Some of the boys were just aching to kick him out of camp for nosing around so cooly.
Just as the Regiment began to form for the march, Frarey made his appearance with his huge haversack under his arm and filled to the top with the nicest kind of roasting ears. There must have been nearly two bushels of them. Walking deliberately up to where "Old Secesh" was sitting on a log, Pres pretending not to know or notice him deposited the sack of corn right by his side and took his seat on the log, and in answer to the question "Where have you been?" blurted out "I have just been over to that house to see that ____ old Secesh that we have been guarding so carefully, to see if the ___ old rebel would sell me a few roasting ears for my supper. The old cuss wasn't at home. I guess he was sneaking around to see if he couldn't steal something from some of our wagons. One of his nigers said it would be all right, he would let me have my haversack full, for half a dollar. I didn't like to trust the ___ nigger, but then I thought he looked decenter than his master and then I knew they would both steal, if they could get a chance. But the old cuss wasn't there; so I just put a few ears in my haversack and when the niger's back was turned, I laid a half dollar under the top rail of the fence just by that big tree. I knew the ___ old rebel would nose it out; he could smell 50 cents a mile away; and if the nigger got the money the old cuss would never see it and would blame some of his secesh neighbors with stealing his corn. I was sorry I didn't get to see the ___ old cuss, for I wanted to give him the money and tell him how to invest it for the benefit of the secesh cause."
The boys were just bursting with laughter at Presley's serious manner, and the dumbfounded look of "Old Secesh" but one of them asked "How should he invest it, Pres?" "Why buy a rope, go to Maryland Heights and hang himself where the secesh buzzards can pick his bones. It's the only way the secesh will ever get anything out of the ___old stingy cuss!" The old man sat staring at Pres in a dazed sort of way until he finished and then without saying a word, he got up quietly and sneaked off toward home, as if he was afraid some one could see him. The whole regiment joined in the laugh, at Presley's purchase and he was at once dubbed "Haversack"
The 12th Mass. Inf. was a very
fine regiment. It was made up in the city of Boston of young men
who probably never had soiled their hands with any kind of hard
labor, or any implement heavier than a yardstick. It was officered
by the elite of the city and commanded by Col. Fletcher Webster,
the son of America's greatest statesman. It was fairly equipped
by the businessmen of the city of Boston and sent to the front
to represent that City of culture in the great struggle for the
nation's life. It was really a magnificant looking regiment, well
drilled and well dressed and after the culture and conceit had
been toned down by rough knocks in the service, it made a record
of which its city and state may justly feel proud. It reported
to Gen. Abercrombie at Pleasant Valley in all the glory of fine
clothes, white gloves, and splendid arms and equipments; and looked
upon the plain looking Hoosiers with whom they were brigaded,
with considerable disdain and as a side show.
The camps were located so as to enable both regiments to procure water at the same spring. There was an abundance of water, but the spring was shallow so that with so much dipping the water was kept constantly riled. A detail was ordered from the two regiments to enlarge the spring. I had charge of the detail from the 12th Ind. while a 2nd Lieut. had charge of the men from the 12th Mass. The Lieutenant, of course took command of the entire detail, and we soon discovered that the Massachusetts men were "not in it", when it came to digging and working in the water and mud. There was a large flat stone, that we found, if it could be removed from its position, would leave a large basin form the reservoir for the water and but little more work would be required. The stone would weigh from 1000 to 1550 pounds and lay so that no lever purchased could be secured to throw it in the right direction. It must be done by a dead lift. This could quickly be accomplished by the men, if they would step into the water, on the upper side, and all take hold and lift together.
The Lieutenant was strutting around ordering the Hoosiers to "get in there", "take hold there", and do so and so, while his own men were standing idly looking on, without offering or being ordered to help us. A large, fine looking man, wearing a common soldier's blouse and slouch hat, in passing, had paused to watch the proceedings. Seeing what was necessary to accomplish the work, he jumped into the water, which came up to his knees, took hold of the rock, and called out "Here you men; what are you standing there for? Get in here and take hold and help these men" Not a man moved. "Lieutenant, what are you and your men here for? Were you sent here to look on us and boss these men while they work? Take hold here and help, or else go to your quarters and keep your mouth shut!"
The Massachusetts men were perfectly astounded at such impertinence to their officer, while the Lieutenant was fairly boiling with passion, as he strutted forward, demanding "Do you know who you are addressing, Sir?" The cool reply was "No, I do not know you, but I know that you are not fit to take charge of such work. Now men, all together! Heave-oh! and the big stone was fairly lifted from its bed and turned over, leaving a splendid spring basin, from which water could be dipped all day without stirring up the mud; and no thanks were due the Boston dudes for assistance.
But by this time the Lieutenant was at a white heat, and he stepped forward in a threatening manner, exclaiming "I'll teach you some manners!" But the burly form of the Hoosier looked rather formidable, and he paused. Turning to me he said "Sergeant, this is one of your men; arrest him and take him to your commanding officer. I will prefer charges against him and have him properly punished!" I was so full of laughter that I could make no answer.
But it was not necessary. The offending man stepped squarely in front of the irate Lieutenant and looking down into his face, calmly remarked "Lieutenant, I am sorry that I have treated you with disrespect, in the presence of your men; but I could not help it, for I despise skulkers such as these men that are with you have shown themselves to be by standing idle, while their help was needed, and while other men were doing the work, they will receive credit for helping to do. And I cannot respect any officer who will permit, or silently consent to such skulking while he tries to compel others to work beyond their ability to perform the work his men should assist in. I guess the Sergeant will not arrest me, but if you wish to prefer charges against me, you can do so. I am Lieut. Col. George Humphrey, of the 12th Ind. Inf. at your service."
It was a complete take down; and the Lieutenant's turn to apologize. The Hoosiers all joined in the laugh, and three cheers were given for Col. Humphrey, while the crest fallen Yankees quietly returned to their camp to wonder what kind of men the Hoosiers were any how.
On the march from Monocacy to
Hyattstown in August '61, there was a scarcity of water that caused
great inconvenience and considerable suffering among the men.
The weather was excessively warm and the roads dry and dusty.
All the little streams along the road were dried up, while the
few wells that we found were all reported "unsafe" as
they were said to have been poisoned for our especial benefit.
As if to confirm the report, some of the men in our Regiment which
had the advance, stopped at a house, drew and drank water from
the well, before a guard could be placed over it.
The result was that in a very short time the men were siezed with cramps and convulsions and one or two of them died in great agony. This may have been caused by drinking the water while overheated; but we were assured that the wells along the road had all be visited by strangers recently, that some of the stock had died with symptoms of poisoning, after being watered, and that the people could not be induced to use the water from their own wells, but hauled it from a distance back in the country. In consequence of these reports, guards were placed over each well, by the advance, to prevent the men from using the water. A large number of the men dropped by the roadside overcome by the heat, stifling dust and the torturing thirst it produced.
Pushing forward as rapidly as possible to obtain water, a report was received that there was a force of the enemy at or near Hyattstown. On receiving this report the 12th Indiana dashed forward at "double-quick" for some distance. The pace could not be kept up long, however, under the circumstances and the men began to drop out, rapidly "to rest awhile". A few men from each company still kept "a going" and they finally struck a deposit of "Nectar" in the bed of a small stream that emerged from under a fence, to the left of the road.
Close up under the fence was a wallow containing about half a barrel of muddy water and a large spotted sow. That was too much for the men to stand. A charge was made and that sow was routed out of the bath in which she had been routing for thirst and in less time than it takes to write it, a dozen of the boys were down on their stomachs taking long deep draughts of the delicious fluid, while the other were scrambling to reach over our heads to get a cup full of the "Nectar" in which beauty had bathed. It was good! Yum! Yum!
On leaving Hyattstown to march
to Darnstown, our regiment was selected as rear guard. It was
raining in the morning when the wagons were loaded and sent forward
with the train and we were drawn up at the roadside to "rest
in place" while the balance of the command passed by. As
the day wore away and the rain continued, we were cheered from
time to time with the orders "Rest at will". About the
time we would get a shelter constructed the order to "Fall
in" would be given and after another wait in the rain for
an hour, it would be "Rest at Will".
This continued throughout the day, and until 4 o'clock the following morning. As may be supposed the boys were all in an amiable humor, when soaked with rain as they were their ears were saluted during a short lull in the storm in the afternoon with the musical cry of "Water Millyuns!" Every man was on the qui vive, as a native drove along the line with a large Jersey wagon, loaded with the delicious fruit. They were tired and hungry, if not dry, and such a treat could not be neglected. Their hands went into their pockets and the spare change began to show up in a way that caused the farmer to think he had struck the right place to get big prices. His entire stock could have been disposed of in a very short time at double the usual price. But he became avavicious and determined to make a big haul.
When one of the men selected a mellon such as was usually sold for 10 to 15 cents and inquired the price, instead of hearing "25 cents" as he expected to, he was startled by the announcement "that'uns worth half a dollar, and this'uns 75 cents." It did not take long to convince the boys that the native was "after hide and all" and they were just in the humor to accommodate him, with the same kind of coin. The change was returned to their pockets; bayonets were fixed, and "Big Jack" reaching over the heads of those in front, plunged his bayonet into one of the largest mellons and said "I'll take this one: raising it as he spoke high over his head, like a banner, "I'll try this one" said another, and "I'll plug this one" cried a third, and before the farmer could recover from his surprise and get his team out of the crowd, every mellon had been bayonetted and not a dime had reached his pocket to pay for the load. The boys enjoyed the feast and the farmer drove sadly away, followed by the advice "The next time you want to sell "Water Millyuns" to soldiers, charge a decent price and you will get decent pay. If you don't, you'd better stay away."
"Haversack's" show was one of the institutions
provided to amuse the soldiers while in camp. To judge by the
crowds that responded to the announcement of a performance, it
was very popular. "Haversack" was the stage manager
and sole proprietor. There were too many "dead heads"
to make it a financial success. Every visitor was provided with
a "reserve seat" provided the ground was not too wet
or muddy to sit on. In that case there was "standing room
only". The men who attended always enjoyed the show, but
sometimes the officers would consider some of the "local
hits" by the clown rather personal.
When in camp, "Haversack" was almost certain to be sent to the Guard House every day or two for some of his pranks. He could not remain quiet for any considerable length of time; and then, he seemed to prefer the Guard House to his own quarters and knew just how to get there, without incurring any serious penalty. In from ten to fifteen minutes after he was turned over to the officer of the guard, there would be a commotion in camp. A "special performance" would be announced, the proceeds to be applied to buy some article of luxury, or ornament for the officer, who had ordered his arrest.
First, there would be a camp meeting at the Guard House. "Haversack" would take his tent and preach a "powerful sermon" in which the sins and shortcomings of that particular officer would be portrayed, followed by a strong exhortation to repentance. His sermons and exhortations would be general in their application, but every one could read between the lines and see at whom they were directed.
The exhortation would wind up with a special invitation to that particular sinner or a general invitation to all, to "come right forward and witness the greatest performance" or "see the greatest curiosity" or "the most wonderful animal on earth". No faker that ever traveled with a side show, could command a greater flow of flowery language than "Haversack" in describing the attractions in his great show, one of which would probably be "the only living specimen" of some non-descript animal, bird, or reptile, to secure which, fabulous sums of money and hundreds or thousands of lives had been sacrificed.
From the sermon and exhortation the crowd would generally know what the attraction would be, as the show was usually the "sequel" to the sermon, and all would crowd forward to see what ludicrous light it would assume. It was certain to be something that would afford an immense amount of amusement to the men, at the expense of some officer who was unpopular for "Haversack" was sarcastic and very ingenious in clothing his fancies in such a way as to cause his victim to squirm under his sarcasm, the point to which could always be seen, as well as felt in the great attraction in the show.
For this reason it required nothing more than the announcement of the show to attract a crowd about the Guard House. Some officer would be sure to have some of his peculiar traits shown up and ridiculed. The only way to prevent it was to order "Haversack's" immediate release from durance vile and that did not always stop the show; for if "Haversack" felt sore over the treatment he had received, or "had it loaded" for some officer that had offended him, he generally managed to give an after-piece or side show in which that particular animal would be shown up.
The supply of drugs furnished
to Regimental Surgeons was rather limited for the successful treatment
of the various aches and pains incident to camp life. Only such
remedies as would afford temporary relief were to be had, and
it became rather monotonous to hear the same remedy prescribed
for every ache, pain, or bruise the men had or pretended to have,
when required to perform some distasteful duty. Dr. Wm. Lomax
of Marion Ind. was the Surgeon of the 12th Ind. Inf. and his patience
must have been surely tested at times, when men who actually needed
medicine would seek relief at his hands and he would be compelled
to prescribe the same remedy for a dozen different diseases.
He was an able physician; kind hearted and considerate, and felt a deep interest in the welfare of the men. Very slow and deliberate in speed, his countenance was very expressive, so much so in fact that one could almost read his thoughts by watching the play of his facial muscles while listening to the complaints of the men, who sought relief from duty, either with, or without just cause, at "sick call". His responses became mechanical from frequent repetition and consequently became amusing or annoying as the case might happen to be amused or serious. It was almost invariably the same; droned out in the same slow deliberate tone of voice: "Burns, You may give this man an opium pill." Then would follow the instructions to the Orderly. In case the man was actually sick, it would be "Excuse this man from all duty for the present, while to the man who was trying to deceive him, he would say quietly, "Hm! Here is some water, just swallow this pill!" and down it would have to go right there. Then he would turn to the orderly and with a peculiar twinkle in his eye, but in the same monotonous tone of voice, say "I guess this man can perform any ordinary duty, without injury to himself". That quiet decision always settled it.
One of the boys in Company E was
very successful in "playing sick" when ordered on duty.
He could neither read nor write, but he kept the run of details
and knew just what days he would be called on, and while enjoying
good health between times, he would almost invariably present
himself at sick call on the particular morning on which he would
be on duty, and by swallowing tobacco juice or some other means,
would succeed in pulling the wool over the old Doctor's eyes.
It happened so often that I became suspicious and stated my suspicions to the Doctor, requesting him to examine the lad closely, the next time he called. One night I noticed that B. was having a "high old time" in the quarters with a few of his cronies, and by referring to my duty roll, I discovered that he would have two days yet in which to enjoy himself, before he would be regularly subjected to detail. Next morning he was chipper as could be, when the regular details were made and at "sick call" made no complaint.
Along about 10 o'clock a.m. there was a very heavy and unexpected detail ordered, for some very fatiguing duty, and it caught B. He immediately discovered that he had been very sick all night; not able to eat, and that he had not been able to eat any breakfast. I knew the story to be false but only asked "Why did you neglect sick call, then?" He answered, "Well, I didn't think I'd be on duty, and thought I'd be all right before night." I knew that to be true and ordered him to "Go to the Doctor and get a written excuse." Away went B., expecting to get his usual opium pill and excuse from duty. The doctor happened to be at leisure and subjected the young man to a very rigid examination, which as he assured me convinced him that B. was as sound in health as any man in camp.
The old Doctor, however made him swallow some very bitter dose (a preparation of Quassia, I think it was) and then wrote and hand him "his excuse". B. came sailing back to his quarters and handed me the "excuse" with a flourish, saying "There it is". It read as follows, "The commander of Co. E is authorized to give this man a "double dose" of duty. He is shamming." The "excuse" was properly signed, and was strictly enforced. A more surprised, or thoroughly disgusted young man, than B when the excuse was read to him would have been hard to find. No remonstrance seemed to set aside that "excuse". He was quietly ordered to get ready for duty forthwith, and the Sergeant in charge of the detail was instructed to "compel B to do his full share of the work." He did just as he was instructed and when the detail returned to camp that night B. was tired. Next morning he was given his second dose with the regular detail for guard duty.
On another occasion B. had a very
interesting game of poker in hand, when he was unexpectly ordered
to get ready for guard duty. He at once became very sickscarcely
able to be out of bed, in fact. "Sick Call" had been
neglected because he was asleep "for the first time last
night". Knowing his failing I refused to excuse him; but
he pleaded so earnestly that I thought I might be mistaken, and
took him to the Doctor, reporting it as a new and sudden case.
The old Doctor questioned B. very closely concerning the symptoms,
which corresponded with nearly every symptom the Doctor suggested.
The old man occasionally shook his head, with a sad, mysterious air. I had expected to hear the stereotyped prescription of an opium pill; but the Doctor assured me with a sad expression that B. had taken too many of them. B. began to get scared at the Doctor's solemn manner and actually looked sick. I was somewhat alarmed myself, as the old man turned to his medicine case and began to prepare a dose that was rather ominous looking which B. had to swallow right there. It went down with many grimaces and the Doctor then ordered B. to go to his quarters and remain "perfectly quiet" for that day.
B. started to his tent, while I remained behind to learn the man's true condition. "Is he really sick?" I inquired. The old man looked up with a dry little laugh, and quizical look, and replied "Yes, he is sick. You will have to excuse him from duty today." He then assured me that it was a very violent attack of Chronic Laziness, but I think that dose will bring him through all right." Returning to my quarters I found the "sure cure" was already having its effect. But B. did not remain quietly in his quarters. He was about the busiest man in camp that day. By the time that searching dose was through with him he was pretty thoroughly cleansed of Chronic Laziness and bile. He was too weak to go on duty the next day, but the cure was effective and lasting. I had no more trouble with B. when he was ordered on duty. He want no more excuses from the Old Doctor.
While in camp at Darnestown, Md.
two or three cases of accidental shooting occurred, one of which
was as close a call as I ever wished to have. R. S. Richhart and
I were stretched on our blankets in our tent one evening, having
a sociable chat, our muskets, as usual stood leaning against the
tent pole, back of our heads.
The men in the tent just back of ours, belonging to another company, had been drinking and quarrelling and finally got to fighting, during which one of their muskets was knocked down and discharged. The ball passed into our tent striking Richhart's musket just by the guard; shattering the stock into splinters and imbedding itself between the stock and the barrel and about the lock. The splinters flew all over our bed and pieces of lead, torn from the ball lodged, in my wrist, and one or two in Richhart's hand or arm. His musket was ruined, but it saved our lives, as the course of the ball would have carried it directly through his head, and downward through my body from the left side to the right hip.
There was no love lost between Major Hubler and Capt. Morrison of Co. A. Both had aspired to the former's position, and after the Major was elected the Captain felt sore, and would have dragged him down, if possible. He seemed to have a grudge against the men in Co. E and showed it on every occasion probably to spite the Major.
The Captain was a big tyranical Scotchman and was insulting in his manners to all his inferiors in rank. It may well be supposed that he was not very popular in camp, and also that he would soon run foul of "Haversack" and try to humiliate him. One day the Captain was Officer of the Day, and soon found some trival cause to send Haversack to the Guard House, where he remained for some time perfectly docile. Every man in the Regiment was expecting an outbreak of some kind and there was considerable speculation as to the cause of his silence.
Suddenly the exhortation commenced and as Haversack had a powerful voice it was not long before a crowd was attracted. It seemed as if every man in the Brigade that was off duty was there. All of the wonderful attractions of the show was rehearsed and a general invitation was given for all to come forward and see "the greatest wonder of the world!" The ground in front of the Guard House was crowded and the men would press forward, take a look and return with shouts of laughter and cheers for Haversack. They would not tell what they had seen but urged others to go and see it for themselves, assuring them that it was "a rich one."
Col. Link was in his tent with some other officers and hearing the unusual noise came outside to learn the cause. Haversack espied him just as he emerged from the tent and called out, "Come right this way Colonel, and you shall see the greatest wonder of the world! The only living specimen of the most remarkable animal that has ever been captured alive! It was secured after a long search through the Jungles of Africa and brought over at enormous expense expressly for this occasion. Come right forward Colonel! You shall see it and it shall not cost you a red cent! Gentlemen just stand aside and open up the way so that the Colonel can get to see this great wonder. Come right along Colonel!"
The way was opened and several officers who had been there urged the Colonel to go, while they were just roaring over the show. Col. Link was a quiet sedate man, but his curiosity was excited, so he walked forward and took one good look at the show and then turned to the officer of the Guard with the order "Send Haversack to his quarters" and then burst out laughing and walked back to his tent fairly shaking with supposed mirth. It was the heartiest laugh I ever knew the Colonel to indulge in.
The show consisted of two enormous "gray backs" that Haversack had hunted down in the Jungles of Africa (the seams of his trousers) while he was so quiet. he had procurred a long hair and tied one of the varmints to each end of it then spread a piece of white paper on a cracker box and placed his team on it to see which was the strongest. They would walk up and rub noses and then start rapidly in different directions til they would reach the end of the tether, and then would come the tug of war. It was amusing to see the struggle.
But Haversack's explanation took the cake, and every man in the Regiment could see the point. They were both looking for promotion, he explained. "This long limbed chap seems to have got there and that sandy haired animal with the scotch cast of countenance is doing his dirty best to drag him back or make people believe that he is the biggest bug of the two. But gentlemen I don't believe he will succeed, for you will notice that this old chap has a grip on his posish that he will keep til he dies or is mustered out. It is all nonsense for that sandy complicated chap to try to pull him down. But then a louse will be a louse!"
The Major and his horse "John"
afforded an immense amount of amusement for the men in the 12th.
The Major was a splendid drill officer, and was by odds the best
posted officer in the Regiment in field movements. He took great
pride in the fact that he usually had command of the Regiment
when on battalion drill. He always mounted "John" on
Now John was not a showy war horse, in any sense. He was an ordinary looking sorrel; old enough to know how to behave himself; moved with dignity and deliberation, without indulging in any of the pranks, or coltish tricks, of which more youthful horses are so often guilty. In fact, John would have been selected out of a thousand, as a quiet well behaved family horse, such as Mother could ride or drive and the children could crawl over or under and pull his ears or his tail, with perfect safety. John just suited the Major in this respect. But while the Major would not have been willing to take any risks with a younger, or more spirited animal, he did want John to hold up his head and show some pride in being permitted to serve in such an exalted position.
Therefore, on taking the field for the daily drill, while John would walk along with his head down considering his chances of getting through his term of service with a whole hide, the Major would be trying to arouse him from his reveries with a sundry gently, but persuasive kick, slyly administered with his boot heels. John would resent this by switching his tail. When the battalion would be formed for drill, the Major would take his position, and begin the drill by remonstrating with John for his bad conduct, and undignified manners, prefacing his remarks by a dig in John's flank with the spur. To this John would respond by switching his tail twice.
Having arranged these preliminaries with John, the Major would draw himself up to his full height in the stirrups, and begin: "Attention -Batallion!" In emphasizing the command, he would, unconsicously (?) prick John again with the spur. John would again switch his tail, and would receive the admonition "Whoa John!" John would immediately "whoa", and the Major would continue his order to the Batallion: "Shoulder Arms!" The spur would again be unconsciously (?) used in emphasizing the command, and John would manifest his displeasure by switching his tail three times, and would be rebuked by the Major with "Whoa John! ___ ___ you!" John would stand rebuked and the Major would continue, "By the right of companies to the rear into column March!"
In giving full emphasis to the command "March!" John would get an extra hard dig with the spur, which would startle him out of his tracks and cause his tail to indulge in a skirmish drill in the rear. By this time the Major would become thoroughly incensed at John's unseemly pranks and would break out in a tone almost, if not quite, as loud as that used in giving his commands: "Whoa John! What the h___l has got into you, now? Whoa - I say! and poor old John would get two or three yanks on the bit and another dig with the spur that woud make him dance a jig and cause him to think if horses ever do think, that the Major certainly meant "Woe John" instead of "Whoa John."
By the time the Major and John would arrive at an understanding, the boys would be about ready to explode with laughter. But after giving this preliminary exhibition of his horsemanship, the Major and John would settle down to business and would keep the boys moving for an hour, or until they felt like saying to the Major "Whoa John!" The Major would pause occasionally, however, to remonstrate with John for giving way to his coltish proclivities when an order was properly emphasized, and on these occasions the men would get a short breathing spell.
On the 17th of Sept. '61 the day
Capt. Williams started home on recruiting service, Dr. David Hazzard
of Warsaw, Ind. arrived in camp, on a visit to his son Lemuel
and the boys in Co. E generally. The old gentleman remained with
us about a month, accompanying us on the march to Point of Rocks
and back to Frederick City and thence to Williamsport, sharing
our camp fare and exposure cheerfully. If ever a man enjoyed himself
on the march or in camp, under all circumstances, he did. He made
a regular picnic of it, rain or shine and was as full of fun and
just as jolly and frisky as any of the boys.
In fact those who were disposed to grumble at the rough fare or to complain of fatigue were ashamed to do so, when such an old man (the Doctor had reached his three score and ten) would share the same and treat it so lightly. His cheerful face and jolly laugh were like a tonic to the men, and soon won their hearts. Every man in the Regiment seemed to regard him as a personal friend. He was, in fact, the guest of Co. E provided with a cot in the tent occupied by Lieut. Millice and the orderly. A cordial welcome was extended by every man in the company or to share in the contents of their haversacks on the march.
The night spent at Dawsonville during the storm, the Doctor enjoyed the fun occasioned by the "sudden lifting of the curtains" exceeding by and took no extra precautions to avoid a ducking himself. He laughingly assured the boys that he was "waterproof" and even if he did get wet, that he would not melt. He succeeded in convincing the boys that "their mishap was only a good joke."
At Frederick City the joke was turned on the Doctor. The storm came up suddenly and rather unexpectedly and no trenches had been made around the tents. The Doctor was on a camp cot at the side of the tent, while Lieut Milice and I had spread our blankets on the ground on the opposite side. There was a slight depression in the ground, through the centre of the tent from side to side, but it only served to make our resting plce more comfortable than if it had been level or sloping.
The Doctor, I believe had not yet been asleep, but the Lieutenant and I were putting in full time, when the down pour of rain created a small riverlet which followed the depression mentioned beneath the Doctor's cot to where its course was obstructed by our bodies. Before the water awakened us a respectable little pool was formed, extending back under the cot and some distance outside the tent. Owing to the formation of the ground, the water in part of the cot was about ten inches deep, and it began to pass over our bodies before we realized that there was something wrong.
I think the old Doctor had been a silent witness of the river of waters and was chuckling to himself over the joke he would have at our expense, from the fact that the first exclamation of alarm was greeted by a shout of laughter from the doctor, who had raised up on his elbow and was just shaking his sides.
But his laughter was suddenly checked and it was our turn. The water had softened the ground on which the iron feet of the cot rested, and they had gradually been sinking. The shaking of his body had assisted in the work, and the weight and motion when he raised on his elbow completed it and down went the front of the cot, spilling the old gentleman full length into the water. The ducking was as complete as if the water had been ten feet deep. As soon as the Doctor could get the water out of his mouth and ears and while still sitting in the water, he acknowledged that we had the laugh on him and then the old man shook his side and laughed til the tears rolled down his cheeks. He could out-laugh us, even if it was at his own mishap, and after that it was only necessary to ask "Doctor, are you water proof?" to get him started. He was always ready and willing to give or take a joke, but on this occasion he seemed to enjoy it like a ten year old boy just released from school.
Capt. Morrison, of Co. A was not
very well-liked in the Regiment. He was haughty, disagreeable
and tyranical, to the men at all times and seemed to take delight
in abusing them, treating them more like dumb brutes than men.
He usually had the right of the Regiment on the march when he
would compel one of his men to carry his (the Captain's) baggage
in addition to his own, as a punishment for some trival offense,
and then he would start off at a lively step, leaving the companies
in the rear to keep up the best they could.
The result would be that in closing up the column, the companies in the rear would be compelled to double quick, every few miles, and had but little chance to rest, as he would start forward as soon as they overtook him. Having no load to carry himself he did not consider the comfort or convenience of the men who were compelled to pack about forty pounds each, on an average. Ordinarily the company in advance would select a comfortable or shady place in which to rest, while those in the rear would be compelled to close up and take their rest wherever they happened to be, whether in sun, dust, or mud.
This fact seemed to suit the Captain who would halt in the first favorable place for his own comfort, while the balance of the regiment would have to stand in the sun, when by moving forward a few rods further, all might find a comfortable place to rest. No remonstrance of officers or men could induce the Captain to change his tactics in this respect, only the orders of his superior officers could prevent the outrage. On the march from Frederick City to Boonsboro, the order was "Left in front" and it soon became evident that Capt. Morrison was to get a dose of his own medicine. We had him just where we wanted him, and the word was quietly passed to give him the full benefit of marching in the rear.
The road was a solid "pike" and was in splendid condition; the men, also were in good condition; having had a good rest, and the day was fine. The field officers had some business to attend to, and would overtake us in a short time, so we had it all our own way for a while. We moved out leisurely, but soon began to increase the pace. But few breathing spells were taken, going up the mountain, and they were just long enough to permit Co. A to close up. The men scarcely seemed to feel the fatigue and during the last two miles up the mountain they settled down to it as if walking for a wager.
No more halts were made until we reached the summit where we halted to procure water and take a lunch. We were about ready to start again, when the Major and Surgeon overtook us. The old Doctor said "Boys, boys, you are marching too fast!" We thought not. "Why," said he "Company A is scattered along the road for two miles back, and Capt. Morrison says they can't keep up." That was what we wanted. The doctor was assured that we were glad to hear it, because we were treating Capt. Morrison precisely as he had always treated us, and if he thought we were marching too fast we would change our step to double-quick.
The old Doctor shook his head and laughed and we started forward at a moderate pace, when the Major came forward, saying that Capt. Morrison complained that we gave his men "no time to rest, and we must go slower". That was enough. Some one yelled "Double-Quick!" and away we went, yelling like Indians. The Major spurred John to the front to stop us, when several stout men, headed by Haversack and Big Jack rushed up, grabbed John by the bridle and the tail and with a yell of "Whoa John," pushed, pulled, or dragged John and the Major to the side of the road, while the Regiment went dashing by yelling and cheering and calling for Morrison to "close up" and scarcely paused in their mad race till they arrived at Boonsboro. The Major was angry, because they had treated him with such disrespect, but his anger was tempered with satisfaction at giving Capt. Morrison a lesson that did him some good.
Practical jokes were the order
of the day, while we were on picket duty at Dam No. 4 during the
winter of 1861-62. On one occasion about twenty men from Co. E
were sent across the Potomac, to learn something concerning the
movements of Stonewall Jackson's men, but more particularly to
look after a small force of Ashby's Cavalry that made their headquarters
some five or six miles back from the river, while foraging off
the loyal citizens in that vicinity. The point was somewhat noted
as a rendezous for rebel sympatheziers and spies, and it was determined
to break it up, or at least, make it uncomfortable for them.
We crossed the river after dark and took the most direct route we could, through the wood, over rock and fallen timber, arriving at the place about midnight; but we failed to find the men we were after. We did find, however a quantity of forage, and fowls of various kinds, and concluded that as the loyal citizens had been forced to contribute to the support of the rebel force, it would only be fair and just for the rebel element to balance the account by a contribution to Uncle Sam's boys. We could eat chickens, turkeys, hams and such things, just as well as the rebels, if we could get them; and here they were just waiting to be plucked. The trees along the fence near the house was loaded with them.
It did not take long for each man to secure as many as he could conveniently carry. Marsh Parks had secured a couple of nice fat chickens, but just as we were about to leave he located a very fine turkey, in the top of a good sized tree, and concluded to go for it. Giving his chickens to some one else, after a hard and rather dangerous climb he secured the prize and we started for camp. It was a large turkey and Marsh was a small man, but he tugged it along manfully over rocks, logs and mudholes and through the brush, while the other boys were speculating as to which was the biggest Marsh or his turkey.
When within about two miles of the river, it was ascertained that a superior force of Ashby's men, was following us, and it would be necessary for us to move rapidly to escape. Some of the boys dropped their surplus loads, but Marsh hung on to his turkey.
We reached the river ahead of the rebels and had almost got to the north side, when they made their appearance on the south bank. Seeing that we were safe they withdrew. We still had a tramp of nearly a mile and a half to reach camp and a good portion of it was over a very rough road, up a long steep hill, on the top of which our camp was situated and it was quite dark. Just as we started from the river Sergeant Thorn pretended to have discovered that Marsh's turkey was an old Peacock, and by the time we reached the foot of the hill nearly every man was giging Marsh for giving away his nice fat chickens, and packing an old Peacock six or seven miles, when every body knew they were not fit for buzzard meat.
They kept it up to tease Marsh, until he became convinced that it was true, and finally, when only about forty rods from camp he exclaimed "Why didn't you tell me?" D___ the ___ ___ peafowl!" and turned his turkey over a log beside the road, and trudged along into camp very tired, and "mad as a wet hen", while the boys continued to joke him about "Roast Peacock for Dinner."
Next day Marsh was invited to come around and take dinner with our mess. He came. We had a splendid dinner. Roast turkey was the principal dish, with nice light bread, pies and cakes, fresh butter and vegetables galore. We had employed a woman who lived near the camp to do our baking and she had stuffed and roasted our turkey for us. She was a success as a baker and cook.
Marsh enjoyed his dinner and laughed as heartily as any of us about the Peacock. When dinner was over Charley Davis wanted to know of Marsh, when he was going to cook his peafowl. Of course none of us knew that he had thrown it away.(?) Marsh replied "Nary Cook!" All the boys expressed surprise at that, declaring that they would cook it if in his place "just to see how it tasted". Marsh laughed and said "Why, I threw the ___ thing away. I thought it was a mighty big turkey, but never looked at [it] till you fellows began to make so much fun over it; then I held it up and seen that it was a d___ old Peacock that had shed its tail and it made me so d___ mad to think what a fool I was that I just threw it over that big log down by the stream and I expect the d___ thing is there yet. If any of you fellows want to cook it, you are welcome to it."
Thorne spoke up "Well, I think roast Peacock is right good eating. When Marsh threw his away I just stepped over the log and picked it up and Mrs. ___ stuffed it and roasted it. I tell you it was nice, now, wasn't it Marsh?" Along that tune, Marsh saw the joke that had been played on him. He could scarcely believe it at first, but finally acknowledged the corn. He only begged the boys not to say anything about it. They all promised and I guess they kept their promise; but it did seem strange that while marching through Virginia in the spring of '62 when any one in the regiment would happen to see a turkey they would call for Parks and inform him that "There is another Peacock."
During the almost five months
that was spent on picket post at Dam No. 4 almost any means of
amusement that could be conjured up was exhausted. Cards, dominoes,
chequers, chess and even the most rival school-boy games were
resorted to, to while away the weary hours when off duty. Music
by violin, guitar, banjo and bones, singing and dancing had their
run but they became stale because of lack of variety. Practical
jokes were resorted to, but the men soon had their wits sharpened
and were on their guard so that it became almost impossible to
work one to a successful denouement. An alarm was greeted with
enthusiasm and a skirmish with the enemy was as eagerly looked
for as a circus in the country town. Even Haversack's show lost
its attraction because the animals to exhibit were limited in
Occasionally some one would spring a trap that would catch an unwary one and on these rare occasions the old Major would enjoy the fun as much as any of the boys. He had never been victimized and felt perfectly safe as it was not probable that any of the boys would attempt to play off any of their pranks on him.
Now the Major did just naturally love an occasional "snort' of good whiskey, and he would have it if it could be found. One day he learned from some source that a "grocer" at Downsville, some four miles from our camp had a keg of "extra rye," and his servant "Dave" was promptly mounted on John and sent out to capture the enemy of good order and military discipline. Dave went, made the reconnaissance and by firing some of the Major's change into the Grocer's till, cut off and captured a gallon jug-full of the enemy and returned in triumph to camp. In fact, Dave was considerably elated when he reached camp and turned over the jug to the Major, owing to the fact that the jug had leaked some on the way. It was evident that Dave had saved the leaking fluid by absorption.
The Major immediately sampled the remaining contents of the jug, and determined to have it court martialed. He heard the evidence of his own cutthroated taste and then before pronouncing judgement as Post Commander, he concluded to hear argument by the Judge Advocate and summoned Lieut Gallagher, of Co. E to serve in that capacity. No better selection could have been made, for "Pat" had "practiced at the bar" for many years was thoroughly versed in the legal forms of "trying whiskey" and it was well known that he was always ready to try, pass judgement or punish whiskey, when brought before him on any charge.
After his preliminary examination, the Major smacked his lips with a satisfied air, called Dave and handing the jug to him, with the order "Set that under the head of my cot, in my tent." Dave obeyed orders, while the Major took a few turns back and forth in front of his tent. He was evidently considering the advisability of limiting the Judge Advocate in his arguments. He knew Pat was long winded and given to repetition in such cases. As it happened, the Major's cot stood to the left of the entrance, with the head close to the canvas at the back of the tent. The front was tied down to the pole on that side; the flap to the right serving as a door.
It also happened that there ws a number of men in camp, who were willing to "try" good whiskey, especially at that time when they needed something to liven them up. They had watched and waited and planned a long time to get some, but the orders were very strict and strictly enforced. Nearly all the men had been watching to get the Major "elected" or made the victim of some practical joke. Haversack was the boldest and most cunning in this respect, but had failed several times, where the Major was to be the victim. Haversack had been sitting in his tent with some of his chums, but a short distance away, playing cards, and had witnessed the Major's proceedings and heard his order to Dave and as Dave happened to leave the flap open when he entered the tent Haversack could see just where the jug was placed.
His plans were matured instantly. The spring was located some distance down the hill, back of the Major's tent; the path leading to the spring, passing diagonally from right to left behind the tent, and very close to it. Haversack picked up a camp kettle and started to the spring for water. As he passed the Major's tent he stepped quickly aside, drew the corner pin, hoisted the canvas, pulled out the jug and quietly emptied its contents into his camp kettle. The jug and tent pin were returned to their respective places and Haversack came up the path, puffing and growling about having to pack water up that steep hill. On reaching his tent nearly one half of the men in camp wanted a drink of fresh water and the last drop was quickly swallowed, another man being sent for more, as a blind.
In the meantime, the Major had arranged things in his martial court and seeing Pat at a little distance called him. The lieutenant had evidently been expecting a call, as he had been eyeing the Major ever since Dave returned to camp. He responded promptly, actually seeming glad to see the Major and anxious to serve him. "Pat", said the Major confidentially, "I've got some ____ good whiskey. Don't you want a drink?" That was just what Pat did want, so he answered "Well, yes, Major, I don't care if I do," and Pat moistened his lips with his tongue and pulled up his trousers. The Major called Dave and gave the order: "Bring out that jug and a cup for Pat to drink out of."
The Major had determined to limit Pat, in his pleadings, and would not permit him to come mouth to mouth with that jug. Dave brought out the jug and cup, and the Major, taking the jug handed the cup to Pat, saying "I heard that that fellow up at Downsville had some good whiskey, and I sent Dave up today and got a gallon the last drop he had. I thought you would like to try it." While making this explanation the Major had been twisting at the cork, which Haversack had pushed down rather tight. Pat's eyes were snapping and his mouth watering with expectation as he stood with arm outstretched, cup in hand, while the Major having extracted the stubborn cork was tipping up the jug to give him the promised drink.
As the bottom of the jug was elevated, followed by no sign of the expected liquor, it was the most ludicrous sight, I think that I ever witnessed. The Major lowered the jug and poked his finger in to displace the cork that he supposed prevented the flow of the liquor, and then the jug was tipped up again. Up until it was fairly top end down and only one or two drops fell into the extended cup. The faces of the two men were a study. That of the Major was a puzzled look, in which wrath and sorrow struggled for the mastery. Pat's face was a masterpiece, in which disappointment, regret and blasted hopes were nicely blended.
The Major, on ordinary occasions, had a vast assortment of "cuss words" at his command, but on this occasion, like the whiskey, they failed to come forth. He could not do justice to the subject. He was furious. That whiskey should be found and the man who had stolen it should suffer! He could not wait for a detail to be made to search the camp. Looking around he saw Haversack, Shaw and Funk and ordered them to make a thorough search "in every tent in camp" and when they found it to "arrest every man in, or belonging to that tent." He would make an example of them.
The search began, and with it the fun. Every man was furious at being even suspected. But Haversack was inexorable, every tent, camp kettle, canteen and mess pan in camp was searched. Every man had to stand up and let him smell their breath, while Haversack was denouncing the men that would steal the Major's whiskey in unmeasured terms. It would not be so bad, if it had been stolen from any body else; but to steal from the Major! Why it was an outrage for which no adequate punishment could be devised! But the search was in vain. No trace of the whiskey could be obtained. There was, however, an epidemic of uncontrolled laughter in camp during the search and for hours after its results were made known to the Major. It was infectious. One man did not dare look at another, but an explosion would follow.
Aside from the Major and Pat, Haversack was the only man in camp who did not find something to laugh at. Not a trace of a smile could be found on Haversack's countenance. He seemed to take the matter to heart, and feel deeply concerned because he had failed to find the whiskey, and for days afterward he would be seen with a serious air examining the canteens of the men about the camp. It was his masterly acting that caused so much merriment. It finally dawned upon the Major's mental horizon that he had actually been made the victim of a practical joke, and he would laugh heartily over it; but I don't think he ever had the mysterious disappearance of his whiskey explained, or knew who put up the job. He certainly never for a moment suspected Haversack.
One of the best companies in the
12th Indiana was Company C, commanded by Capt. Buchanan. It was
a German organization from Madison and the men had all be Democrats.
They had facetiously taken, or been given the name "Copperheads".
But few of the men could speak English so in all of their drilling,
German was used. They afforded a great deal of amusement for the
balance of the Regiment and the men always wanted to get where
they could see the "Dutch" on drill.
Capt. Bachman was a brave, efficient officer, and very enthusiastic in the discharge of his duties. Like his men, his knowledge of the English language was rather limited and led to some very amusing blunders. The company was well-drilled, but it was amusing to witness their queer German ways and especially to see their childlike submission to the will of their officers, and the eagerness manifested to obey any order that was given them. They almost worshiped the old Captain and would have disregarded any personal danger, had his life or liberty been at stake.
An amusing exhibition of this devotion was given a few days after the attack on Dam No. 4 in which Capt. Williams was captured. Company C had been sent to strengthen our position and was assigned to a post about two miles from our camp, guarding a portion of the line that we had formerly covered. The rebels were quite active and impudent and would fire at our pickets every opportunity they could get. On this occasion Capt. Bachman had been inspecting his line and was walking, leisurely along the towing path, when suddenly and without any warning, a half dozen shots were fired from the south bank of the river, the balls pattering against the rocks, uncomfortably close to the old captain's head. With a yell he spung forward, brandishing his sword over his head and called out "Mine Gott!" Mine Gopperheats! Your Gaptain haf feen fired at!"
There followed a string of orders and exhortations in German, that would have led one to suppose the entire rebel army was to be met and repulsed. And to see those Germans, would excite any man to laughter while he would be compelled to admire them. All were excited. All were talking and all the officers from Captains to Corporals were giving orders at the same time. It was Germany broke loose; while they grabbed their arms and almost fell over each other to rescue their beloved Captain, and avenge the insult offered him. They rallied by fours and in squads, and rushed forward to the edge of the water, where they gazed defiantly across the river, to get a glimpse of the foe who had dared to fire at their Captain. The man who would have incautiously exposed his head on the other side, would have suddenly been changed into a miniature lead mine. What was so admirable about it, was the enthusiastic responses to the call to duty; and then, a word or two in German served to allay the excitment and the men were mere machines moved and controlled by a word or a nod from their officers. It was German discipline exemplified.
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