Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Minutiae of Soldier Life In the Army of Northern Virginia - Conclusion

Here is the conclusion of Carlton McCarthy's article on life in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The wagon trains were devoted entirely to the transportation of ammunition and commissary and quartermaster's store, which had not been issued. Rations which had become company property, and the baggage of the men, when they had any, were carried by the men themselves. If, as was sometimes the case, three days' rations were issued at one time and the troops ordered to cook them, and be prepared to march, they did cook them, and eat them if possible, so as to avoid the labor of carrying them. It was not such an undertaking either, to eat three days' rations in one, as frequently none had been issued for more than a day, and when issued were cut down one half.

The infantry found out that bayonets were not of much use, and did not hesitate to throw them, with the scabbard, away.

The artillerymen, who started out with heavy sabres hanging to their belts, stuck them up in the mud as they marched, and left them for the ordnance officers to pick up and turn over to the cavalry.

The cavalrymen found sabres very tiresome when swung to the belt, and adopted the plan of fastening them to the saddle on the left side with the hilt in front and in reach of the hand. Finally sabres got very scarce even among the cavalrymen, who relied more and more on their short rifles.

No soldiers ever marched with less to encumber them, and none marched faster or held out longer.

The courage and devotion of the men rose equal to every hardship and privation, and the very intensity of their sufferings became a source of merriment. Instead of growling and deserting, they laughed at their own bare feet, ragged clothe, and pinched faces; and weak, hungry, cold, wet, worried with vermin and itch, dirty with no hope of reward or rest, marched cheerfully to meet the well-fed and warmly clad hosts of the enemy.