MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN
CHAPTER 16 – Refitting for War, Sep ’63 to Feb ’64
Sept 3rd. We are told that we Missourians, and in fact all the Vicksburg prisoners, are now exchanged, by what process, I have not yet learned officially, neither have I seen any account of it through our papers but it is the general talk among us, that many of the Yankee prisoners captured and paroled at Harpers Ferry by Stonewall Jackson, were recaptured in a few days thereafter in the battle of Antietem, and our Confederate Government learned through those prisoners that the Northern Government would not recognize Jackson parole, but put the whole batch of nine or ten thousand men back into their army, and into that bloody battle of Antietem. So our exchange is said to be in retaliation of that act, this is the way we privates and lower officers understand our exchange, came about, but this statement is not official.
We are now being reorganized, three Missouri batteries, Wade’s, Guibore’s, and Landis, have been consolidated, with Capt. Guibore commanding. Richard Walsh, of Wade’s battery, 1st. Lieut. McBride of Guibore’s battery, 2nd Lieut. and Harris of Wade’s battery 3rd Lieut., more than half of our men, and non-commission officers formally belonged to Wade’s battery. We still retain the name of 1st Mo. Battery. Many of our absent boys are coming in daily. We have not received our guns yet, and are just lounging around doing nothing. I will not see my Soldier Home, so often now, but I have surely had the best time imaginable. The one I so loved to be with, “My Ideal,””My Alabama Girl,” is now off at school again. How she will be missed at home, and by her soldier friends.
Sept. 15th, 1863. All the camps are busy reorganizing, so many of our Missouri boys have not been heard of since the Baker’s Creek battle. The Brigade and Battery, have not had a roll call since, or at least until after we surrendered at Vicksburg, but we know that many, who were with us when the surrender came, cannot be accounted for now. As time dragged heavy, I wrote a letter to my Alabama girl, boys will do rash things. I suppose it was a surprise to her, but I had to write. After a long delay the answer came, and when I went to break the seal, I had a real “Buck Ague,” the screeching and bursting of Yankee shells around me never produced such a shake. It was a fine composition, faultlessly written, expressing friendship and sympathy for the writer, and reminding him, that she was a fallable being, but loved purity and was trying to live a pure life, and beseeched me to do the same. She spoke of my temptations and dangers, and hardships, and her great sympathy, admiration, and friendship, for Confederate soldiers, and would try to live worthy of my friendship. She did not invite me to write again. Well, this letter took the wind out of my sails, and let me down to earth again, I am now thinking perhaps, I was not altogether responsible for what I wrote, as I cannot now recall but little of the contents of my letter, but if I gave vent to my feelings it would be worth a place in the Alabama Museum. Perhaps her letter had the desired effect by causing me to remember that I at least was extremely human, and would get much relief, if I would improve upon that fact, and I think I have improved some-what. But notwithstanding her answer to my letter, can see no room in my Alabama Girl, for improvement, except that she write again to me, about her friendship, defining it somewhat.
Oct 10th. We are having a good easy time in camp, answer roll call police the camp, eat, read, write, go to church in the city every Sunday, and to the country, an a twenty-four hours pass occassionally. We have received our horses, and those men who have been chosen, on their own request, as drivers, are kept busy feeding, watering, and currying them. Our guns have not yet put in their appearance, we ought to do considerable work in the way of drilling, when they come. Wade’s Battery, at least, has not drilled for nearly a year, as we have been continually at the front, and on the march, until captured. I have just learned that my Alabama Girl, has returned home, after one months absence, I will try and prevail on the Captain to give me a pass for one day, although he is not doing much of that business now. He thinks we have frollicked enough.
Oct. 16th. In camp. Have lately spent two days at my Soldier Home, and I am all out of sorts. Things are awfully dark for me, I cannot imagine anything worse, there is not a glimmer of light to be seen, but I will never give up until I have to. Opposition in most matters, is right and commendable, but in this particular case, it is the most cruel persecution imaginable. He is a brave, polished, moderately fine looking, and of the same religious faith, and order. It is the latter characteristic that seemingly gives him the walkover, he is of the clerical order, in the way of a profession, and has a strong backing at my soldier home. One thing I know, that girls are not partial to men of that profession, if there is another chance in sight, and she shall never be in doubt on that line. He must not win.
Oct. 20th. Our guns are here. Four beautiful ten pound, Napoleon bronze they are the latest, and best make, light therefore will be easily handled in battle, and easy to haul on bad roads. Our brigade boys, are around with their new endfield rifles, the best mussel loading infantry gun in America. The boys know how to use them, and when they have it to do, the result will be deadly.
Oct. 29th. Have orders to leave here, and move over to Meridian, Miss. as we are now in good fighting trim, and I suppose must get in touch with the enemy. We leave friends, and sweethearts, and may not come this way again.
Nov. 3rd. We have landed at Meridian, a little village of some four or five hundred inhabitants, built right in the pine woods, with trees and stumps in the streets, yards and everywhere. Two churches, a news paper, and a good school. The R.R. from Brandon, Miss to Demopolis, and on to Selma, Ala. crosses the Mobile and Ohio R.R. at this place. I noticed a blind boy today, selling parched peanuts to the soldiers, at ten cents a pint, and he never failed to give you the correct change. This is remarkable, when you remember that all of our Confederate money is paper. We have five cents, ten cents, fifteen cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, one dollar, etc, etc, all bills less than one dollar are the same size, and this boy could tell in a moment by feeling, the correct denomination of any bill, you might hand him, and never make a mistake in returning the correct change. While feeling of the bills his face would invaribly be averted. Such fine touch of discrimination, is inconceivable to me. We have pitched our tents, such as we have on the pine ridges near the village.
Nov. 10th. It is thought we will spend the winter here, and we have been quite busy building log cabins. My mess has a comfortable one finished. Our brigade boys have built several comfortable places of worship, where our Chaplains preach almost every night. Most of our Brigade boys came from Christian homes, and must have preaching.
Dec. 6th, 1863. Weather cold with two inches of frozen snow on the ground. We had a fine turkey at our house for breakfast, and we came by it honestly. We could not afford to send out invitations, so made it a family affair, forgot to even invite Gen. Cockrell, or our old Capt. Guibore. This was not selfishness, but we actually forgot it, until the feast was over. My mess are all honorable men, composed of the aristocracy of the Missouri troops, and I am proud to chronical their names, 1st Sargent Lawrence Murphy, a man that condems everything that is impure and dishonest, was never known to take the Lords name in vain, nor to gamble, nor use dirty language. He is the purest, cleanest man of the Catholic faith I ever knew, more than half the men in my battery are of that faith, and the priest had his headquarters here with us. Murphey does not touch intoxicating liquors, nor play cards; I have seen his proest do both. God bless our Sargent Murphy, he is all right, and brave as the bravest in battle. He loves to read my New Testament. 2nd. John Wharton, another of God’s saints, he is of the Methodist faith, and expects to go into the ministry when the war is over, if God should spare his life. He is brave and pure, and a special friend of the writer. 3rd. James Goddard, a jolly whole soul Irishman, that likes intoxicating drinks, and will fall every time if too much of the temptation is at his disposal. He is the driver for the wheel team on my gun. His team was killed under him at the battle of Elk Horn, but that did not seem to excite him. 4th. Oliver Dickerson, has long red curly hair, which he is quite proud of, loves his mashaum pipe, enjoys a good joke, seems to be somewhat vain, but an all around good fellow. 5th. James Bybee, dark hair and eyes, brave and cheerful and the soul of honor, 6th, James Baker, is another fine character, and a good brave boy. We honor and respect each others feelings, and are anxious to do something for the mess.
Jan. 1st. New Year, the third one I have spent in the army, and the only three I ever spent away from home before. Well, all of us bear it cheerfully, as we are serving our state, trying to establish her rights, to act for herself. When a state is imposed upon, she should have the right to defend herself, peacably if she can, forceably if she must. We are here to suffer, and to die if necessary, for that right.
Jan. 7th. 1864, Meridian Miss. The weather continues cold, and the snow still on the ground. We have just received orders to cook three days rations and be ready to leave tomorrow morning, out destination is supposed to be Mobile, Ala. It is reported that some troops that are stationed there have mutined, and I suppose that Gen. Johnston wants us to persuade them to be good boys, like we are, and obey their officers, even if they do act silly and make us ashamed of them, once in a while.
Jan. 8th. The 1st Mo. Brig. this morning, according to orders, left for Mobile. We will load our guns, and be ready to leave tomorrow, as that is our orders now. The snow has not all disappeared yet, and the nights are quite cold, we miss our comfortable quarters, just abandoned. I hope some other soldiers, not Yanks, will enjoy them.
Jan. 9th. Left about ten o’clock, and arrived at the depot in Mobile at one o’clock the following night, and just made little fires where we could and out of such boxes as we could pick up, the night was cold and the mud was ankle deep in most places near the depot. I witnessed the most degraded and abandoned speciman of a woman tonight, that I suppose ever existed in a human form. A woman with a small delicate figure, had the appearance of being sixty-five or seventy years old, and a walking skeleton, repulsive to look upon, thinly clad in an old black dirty dress, without shoes, but wore dirty hose. She was somewhat intoxicated, and very profane. Six or eight of us boys had found some wood and made a fire, as we were cold, and it was beginning to rain or sleet a little. She came to our fire and swore she intended to stay there all night, I did not want her to come near me, so I went some distance away from the fire in the dark and cold. She worried one of the men until his anger was uncontrollable, and he grabbed her by the arm and gave her a sling, which sent her in a run some twenty feet, in the freezing mud ankle deep, before she could stop herself, and as she waded out, I never heard such swearing in all my life. She finally moved off to, I know not where, wet and covered with filthy black mud, and almost frozen. She certainly could not exist many hours without attention. It is dreadful to think, that a woman could ever be brought so low, many will have to give an account for the loss of that poor soul. She was once innocent and pure, and when the tempter came, in the form of an angle of light, and she fell, her neighbors doubtless, instead of rushing to her rescue, turned her from them forever.
The RR from Meridian to Mobile, runs through a low swampy country most of the way.
Jan 10th. Moved out four miles from the centre of the city and camped. Sargent Murphey and I came back to the city, and had a feast of good things, fresh oysters included.
Jan. 16th. I visited the city today and while there, went down to the bay, and went aboard the gunboat Tuscaloosa. Langdon, a Lieut. on that boat was a member of Wade’s old battery, and was glad to see me, and had to show me his boat. He is a freehearted fellow, a great Blowheart, but not much in a fight.
Jan. 17th. Sunday. Plenty of work today, as it is the day, wherein we are commanded not to work. Our grounds were all policed for inspection this morning, I intended to go into the city to church, but I was suffering with a severe headache. Went to preaching tonight. There has been artillery firing at Fort Morgan today.
Jan. 18th. Our battery and brigade, and other troops were reviewed today, by Gen. Maury, on Goverment St, in the city. Many ladies were out, and waved their handkerchiefs and threw flowers. After writing a letter I attended church.
Jan. 20th 1864. I was engaged in a happy occupation for awhile today, writing to my Ideal Alabama Girl. She has spent many days in this beautiful city at the celeb rated Battle House, when I walk the beautiful Goverment street, and look upon that celebrated Hotel, I think of that pure lovely girl, that has enjoyed the sumptious feasts, that are served there.
Jan. 21st. and 22nd. Had drill work. I attended church in the city.
Jan 23rd. Another review today in the city on Goverment st. Gen. Clayborn and Maury, were the reviewing officers. Hundreds of ladies were out and they looked lovely. It seems our officers will never get tired of reviewing. It seems to me, there oiught to be something more important than to pass us poor feloows, up and down the streets, to gratify a gazing public, and every officer that comes to Mobile.
Jan 24th. Sunday. I took my Bible, and a copy of Byron’s poems, and walked about one mile from camp and remained more than half the day, alone. I suppose I was homesick, as I did want to be at home so badly, but when I remembered I had no home, I could hardly bear the painful thought. Three years ago I left a beautiful home, with father, sister, and three brothers, and brother-in-law, today it is no more. Father carried away and imprisoned because he was a Southern man, sisters and brothers-in-law, have fled to other states, one brother died in an Illinois prison, the other young boys have fled, one to the Pacific coast, the other to Kentucky, and all property stolen and destroyed. No one of my home folks know that I am in the land of the living, and the chances are that they may never know, and I do not know where to find one of my homefolks, or how many are living. It is well that I fled from my home, as soon as I did, a stay of one day more at home, would have caused me to miss my chance to cross the Missouri river, at Lexington, while Gen. Price was there, and in that event I would have been captured and sent to prison, if I did not take an oath of allegience to the Northern Government, which I could not do, and surrender my living faith in State Rights, as guarranteed by the Constitution. This was all that I was willing to fight and die for, and I find that those who were willing, and those who were not willing, that took the oath required, so as to be able to stay at home in peace, were afterwards forced into the Northern army. These reflections, are sad, but we are cheered to know, that we have plenty of good friends in the South, who will not let us suffer. I have the best home in the South at my command, if I should get sick, or wounded. A home that is ever before me, to cheer me and make me true and brave. I have read much in Byron today, the whole of his Child Harold, it is his greatest poem. Some little of it I condemn as not at all nice, but perhaps was admissable in his day and times, butnot now. His poems are fascinating, and they are so natural and life like in spirit.
Jan 31st. Sunday. Nothing of interest has been going on, more than drill and reviews, and guard duty.
Feb 1st. Monday. Some of our bad boys, dearly love to forage (steal). George Taylor, and Frank Shields are the two worst, they with one or two more brought in a hog, and boldly salted it down in their tent. The owner, by some means, traced it to our battery, and told his story to Lieut. Walsh, who told him to come with him and he would search every tent, and if his meat was found, he would punish the culprit severely. He took the plaintiff, and started at the head of our line, and they both entered every tent, and gave a few glances, and is they saw nothing suspicious would go to the next one. It so happened that the Irish boys that were into the plot, had sent Capt. or Lieut. Walsh, a nice roast, and he had feasted on it, for one or two meals already, and when he came to their tent, he as a matter of course concluded that his friends had taken the usual precaution, and covered up every suspicious evidence, but imagine his horror, as he entered the tent to see the old man’s hog nicely salted right before his eyes. But Walsh was very quick witted, and was equal to the emergency, and quickly remarked as he turned to walk out, “Oh, this is the commissary tent, where we keep our rations,” and continued the search from tent to tent, until he had satisfied the old man, that his battery were innocent of the crime.
Feb. 4th. Have orders to cook up rations, and get our guns to the depot tomorrow morning and load them, as we are going to Meridian. The weather is cold and wet, but a soldier has to take the weather as he finds it when ordered.
Feb. 5th, 1st Mo. Brig. left and we will follow.
Feb. 7th. At Meridian, and will not unload our guns, but the car will be switched on to the Brandon road, and we will move in that direction to meet Sherman. He is advancing from Vicksburg, our daily Mobile papers keep our army and the country, tolerably well informed, as to the movements of the enemy in our front. The weather is cold, and a gentle rain is falling.
Feb. 8th. I suffered severly last night, in the cold rain, on a open flat car, I was wet and the wind was piercing, was so cold and stiff, that I went to the engine when it stopped for wood, and climbed into the cab with the engineer, to get warm. He let me ride, but when I became warm I was glad to get out, as I was afraid the engine was going to turn over, every few minutes, it would plunge from side to side. Our rail roads are almost beyond use, for the need of repairs.
Feb. 9th. Took our position about dark today on a slight ridge, with some open ground in the front. Our brigade is on our left, and a Mississippi brigade just behind and to the right of our guns. Two or three of the Mississippi infantry came to me and asked whose battery was that, I told them the 1st Mo. They said, “Oh, we are glad of that because we know you Missouri boys will stand by us.” The Missouri troops east of the Mississippi river, were known by every private, and officer in the army of Miss. and Tenn., where they served as hard fighters, and they were generally known, especially among officers, to be a body of men, that the enemy had never been able to drive from any position that they had taken, and what is still better, they were known to be a body of men, that had never failed to drive the enemy in their front, when they went after them, regardless of the position they held, or the amount of abattis they had to pass over to reach the foe. I have never heard of another brigade of Confederate soldiers, that served four years on the firing line, that can say as much.
Feb. 10th. We left our position last night, about midnight, without seeing the enemy, and we are now moving east, back towards Meridian.
Feb 12th. Marched all day on yesterday and all of last night, roads very bad, and our teams often stop in mud holes, and we have to get to the wheels and help them out. As the team on my gun, stopped in a bogg hole last night, my friend John Wharton, jumped into the mud, and grabbed the front wheel, and when the team started he could not extricate his feet from the stiff clay, so as to get out of the way of the hind wheels of the gun, and he just fell backwards in the mud, and let the wheel pass over his legs below his knees. When we hauled him out of the mud, and found that he was not seriously hurt, there was great yelling and laughing. The brigade was so worn out on account of heavy roads, and continual marching day and night, that Gen. Cockrell let his men rest ten minutes every hour, and then had the Brigade band to play, one or two lively pieces, Dixie always included, every time the march was resumed. The plan was a good one, as it kept the men from straggling and they made better time. We marched to Newton station, and then to Meridian.
Feb. 14th. Left Meridian, and marched to Almucha, and on the 15th, to Gaston, and thence to Lewis’ Ferry on the Tombigby river, and we are moving slowly, over bad roads towards Demoplois, Ala.
Feb. 18th. Reached Demopolis today, through mud and rain, and some snow. Men and beast sorely in need of rest. We have given up some rich country to Gen. Sherman. We left here six months ago, and am glad to return, as we all have many friends in this section, especially is the writer happy in the hope of meeting his souls Ideal, or his Alabama Girl, in a few days.