Monday, December 3, 2012

December 1, 1862

December 1, 1862:  The Army of the Gulf, newly reconstituted, under command of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, finally gets underway by transport for New Orleans.

---By nightfall on this date, Gen. Hindman’s 12,000-man Army of the Trans-Mississippi has completed the crossing of the Arkansas River, enroute to hit Blunt’s 5,000 Army of Kansas near Cane Hill.

---Ruffin Thomson, a soldier in the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment in camp outside of Fredericksburg, writes home to his mother about the trials and miseries of a soldier’s life:

I wrote you by Regan from Culpepper. The next day I believe after he left, we started to this place on a forced march, to head off the Yankees. We succeeded in doing this, but the exertion and exposure were fearful. It had been raining before we started, and the road was wet and slippery, and the fatigue in marching was excessive, and you may imagine. the first day was bad enough, but the next was incomparably worse, for in addition to the wretched condition of the road, it rained steadily and hard all day long. Through this we marched as rapidly as was practicable. Many and the deep were the curses heaped upon the heads of our generals, for the men could not see the necessity of it, as they do now. If the days were bad, the nights were horrible, for most of the boys had no protection from the weather. The first two nights I had my little Yankee tent, but the last and worst night (the night we made Fredericksburg) I stood all night in the rain, for Press gave out, and I had to go without the friendly shelter of my little “fly.?” . . .

I was detailed on police duty, and had to patrol the town. . . . The day the Yankees reached the other bank of the river they ordered the women and children to be taken away, . . . The occupants had been driven away by the invader, to seek the cold hospitality of Richmond and elsewhere. Here and there I would find some miserable huckster selling a few articles in an out of the way place, tempted by greed of gain to brave the Yankee shells. . . .

Our “feed” is of next importance. Rations consist of flour and beef, never anything more, but you would be astonished to see how well we get on with these two articles. We make tolerable biscuit of flour, water and salt alone. The method of cooking the meat depends on the piece we draw. It is either baked or steaked nearly all the time. Sometimes we have a pot of soup. . . . The day before the people left town I send Press in to get something to eat. He succeeded in getting some rice, lard, pepper, sugar and coffee (?). While this lasted we lived finely. Press does very well in cooking anything, but he always acts under instructions. Were he well I should have a big pot of lye hominy made, and also get some beef feet from the butcher pen, and make calf foot jelly. Some of the boys succeeded finely on the latter especially. . . . you must fix up a box for me, not of clothes merely, but something to eat, viz.: dried fruit, red pepper, sugar, a jug of molasses, jelly, some preserves, a pone of lightbread, some sweet cakes, a bottle or two of ketchup, pepper sauce, etc., etc., – in fact anything you may have that will beat transportation, – especially sugar and something sweet. . . .

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