Orders to move! Where? When? What for? are the
eager questions of the men as they begin their preparations to march.
Generally nobody can answer, and the journey is commenced in utter
ignorance of where it is to end. But shrewd guesses are made, and scraps
of information will be picked up on the way. The main thought must be to
get ready to move. The orderly sergeant is shouting "Fall in!" and there
is no time to lose. The probability is that before you get your blanket
rolled up, find your frying pan, haversack, axe, etc., and fall in, the
roll-call will be over, and some extra duty provided.
No wonder there is bustle in the camp. Rapid
decisions are to be made between the various conveniences which have
accumulated, for some must be left.
One fellow picks up
the skillet, holds it awhile, mentally determining how much it weighs,
and what will be the weight of it after carrying it five miles, and
reluctantly, with a half-ashamed, sly look drops it and takes his
place in the ranks. Another having added to his store of blankets too,
freely, now has to decide which of the two or three he will leave. The
old water bucket looks large and heavy, but one stout-hearted,
strong-armed man has taken it affectionately to his care.
This is the time to
say farewell to the bread tray, farewell to the little piles of clean
straw laid between two logs, where it was so easy to sleep; farewell
to those piles of wood, cut with so much labor; farewell to the girls
in the neighborhood; farewell to the spring, farewell to our tree and
our fire, good-by to the fellows who are not going, and a general
good-by to the very hills and valleys.
threw away the most valuable articles they possessed. Blankets,
overcoats, shoes, bread and meat, -- all gave way to the necessities
of the march; and what one man threw away would frequently be the very
article that another wanted and would immediately pick up; so there
was not much lost after all.
The first hour or so
of the march was generally quite orderly, the men preserving their
places in ranks and marching in solid columns; but soon some lively
fellow whistles an air, somebody else starts a song, the whole column
breaks out with roars of laughter; route step takes the place of
order, and the jolly singing, laughing, talking, and joking that
follows no one could describe.
Troops on the march were generally so
cheerful and gay that an outsider, looking on them as they marched,
would hardly imagine how they suffered. In summer time, the dust,
combined with the heat, caused great suffering. The nostrils of the
men, filled with dust, became dry and feverish, and even the throat
did not escape. The grit was felt between the teeth, and the eyes were
rendered almost useless. There was dust in eyes, mouth, cars and hair.
The shoes were full of sand, and the dust penetrated the clothes. The
heat was at times terrific, but the men became greatly accustomed to
it, and endured it with wonderful ease. Their heavy woolen clothes
were a great annoyance; tough linen or cotton clothes would have been
a great relief; indeed, there are many objections to woolen clothing
for soldiers, even in winter.
the dust and heat were not on hand to annoy, their very able substitutes
were: mud, cold, rain, snow, hail and wind took their places. Rain was the
greatest discomfort a soldier could have; it was more uncomfortable than
the severest cold with clear weather. Wet clothes, shoes and blankets; wet
meat and bread; wet feet and wet ground; wet wood to burn, or rather not
to burn; wet arms and ammunition; wet ground to sleep on, mud to wade
through, swollen creeks to ford, muddy springs, and a thousand other
discomforts attended the rain.
There was no comfort on a rainy day or night
except in bed, -- that is, under your blanket and oil-cloth. Cold winds,
blowing the rain in the faces of the men, increased the discomfort. Mud
was often so deep as to submerge the horses and mules, and at times it was
necessary for one man or more to extricate another from the mud holes in