Captain Bostwick gets married—In the hospital at last—Good care and treatment—The slow process of getting well—The Ponchatoula trip— Mosquitoes and alligators.
February n, 1863.
JUST at night, as I had finished the above, the Laurel Hill, the boat that brought us from quarantine to
In the hospital after all. Dr. Andrus came last night to our tent and ordered me into the house I spoke of. I had a warm, dry bed and a good night's rest and feel much better to-day. The doctor has his office downstairs and the upstairs part is crammed full of sick men. A big tent is being put up and cot beds put in to put the fever patients in. Captain Bostwick was married last night, so it is said. Corporal Knox died in a fit this afternoon. It tires me to write so I must stop. Good-night.
Captain Bostwick came to see me to-day. Two men died last night, one in the hospital and the other in his tent. I don't feel as well to-day.
Think I am really better to-day. If I keep on I'll soon be out of this and with the boys again. But they all come in to see the sick as often as they can and so we keep track of each other.
Wednesday. I have been very sick. This is the first time I have felt able to make a mark with a pencil. I was taken in the night, after the day I thought myself so much better. Was taken out in the tent, from which I judge I have had fever.
Am very weak yet. A little tires me out. A letter from Herman just a month old. Coon died last night, but we none of us knew it till we saw him carried out.
Was carried back into the house to-day and put among the convalescents. I must be getting well, but it is slow. Most all the time I was worst off Dr. Andrus let me have anything I wanted to eat, but then I couldn't eat it. Now I can eat, he has cut me down to nothing. What he allows me only makes me crazy for more.
Had a wash and a shave and am tired out. The regiment has marching orders. Wish I was out of this to go with them.
March p, 1863.
Gunboats are said to be going up the river every day. I wonder what's up.
Don't feel quite so smart as I did. This getting well is slow business.
March n, 1863.
The boys say they are ready to march, but don't get any further orders. Letters from home. Have written to father — wish I could see him.
Sunday. Have my pants on and have made up my bed. If this keeps on I'll soon be able to hunt for something to eat.
Ben Crowther is awful sick. He is a fine fellow and we hate to lose him. He is of better stuff than the average of us. I wish I could kill his nurse, for he has him tied down to the bed and stands laughing at his efforts to get loose. But it is the only way to keep him in one place, for he is out of his head. Talks to his wife as if she was right by his side.
Last night I got a little box from home. That I may never forget a single thing in it I'll put them right down now. On top was a
Too much excitement yesterday and I feel like two weeks ago. The doctor says I will have these setbacks though and it is only a part of the process of getting well. A man named Kipp died to-day. I don't know how many die out in the tent.
Poor Crowthers died very peacefully about to-day. His cot is next mine and he seemed like one of the family to me. The company has undertaken to raise money to send his body home.
Orderly Holmes is very sick. His discharge is under his pillow (or knapsack). He lies in a room next to this and I can hear him talk, giving orders to the company as if he were well.
Saturday. This is a hard spot to get well in. Two poor fellows are near their end to all appearances, and it is trying to hear then rave about home and their families. I am glad their friends cannot see and hear them. And yet the hardened wretches called nurses find something in it to laugh at. I wish I could change places between them and the sick ones. Wrote three letters to-day and don't feel so very tired. Begin to think Dr. Andrus was right. If he would only let me eat about four times as much, what a jewel he would be.
Thursday. The finest morning yet. The air is just right. The birds are singing, the sun shining bright and everything seems just right for getting well. A man named Barker died last night about . He has seemed to be dying for week and we have watched to see him breathe his last any minute. Orderly Holmes is better and may get well after all. Some of the boys killed an alligator to-day and cooked and ate his tail. They say it is just as good as fish and looked like fish.
Have been downstairs. My legs just made out to get me there and back. Will they ever get strong again? But I am getting there, slow but sure, as I can see by looking back only a short time.
Another fine day, and another trip downstairs. My legs behaved better this time. Am not near so tired. Now that I can write without getting tired I must put down some things I remember, but which I could not write at the time. I shall always remember them of course, but I want to see how near I can describe them on paper. First I want to say how very kind my comrades have been all through. I can think of many acts of kindness now that I paid little attention to then, but they kept coming along just the same. Whatever else I think of, the thought of their care for me and how they got passes and tramped miles to get me something to eat, always taking it to Dr. Andrus first to see if it would do for me—these thoughts keep coming up and my load of gratitude keeps getting heavier. Can I ever repay them? God has been good to me, better than I deserve. I was first taken to the room where I am now writing. I remember but little of what happened before I was taken out and put in the big hospital tent. It is a large affair, made up of several tents joined together endwise and wide enough for two rows of cots along the side, with an alley through the middle, towards which our feet all pointed.
I remember the head medical man coming through every day or so and the doctors would take him to certain cots, where they would look on the fellows lying there and put down something in a book. I soon noticed that most always such a one died in a short time, and I watched for their coming to my cot. One day they did, and I remember how it made me feel. Dr. Andrus was so worked down that a strange doctor was in charge, but under Dr. Andrus, who had charge over all. When he came through I motioned to him and he came and sat on the next cot, when I told him I would get well if I could get something good to eat. "All right," said he, "what will you have?" I told him a small piece of beefsteak. He sent one of the nurses to his mess cook and he soon came back with a plate and on it a little piece of steak which he prepared to feed me. But the smell was enough and I could not even taste it. The doctor then proceeded to eat it, asking if I could think of anything else. I thought a bottle of beer would surely taste good and so he sent to the sutler's for it. But he had to drink that too, for I could not. He laughed at me and though I was disappointed, it cheered me up more than anything else had done for a long time. When I got so I could eat, I surely thought he would starve me to death.
A poor fellow across the tent opposite me got crazy and it took several men to hold him on his cot. The doctor came and injected something in his breast which quieted him for the night, but when it wore off he was just as bad and he finally died in one of them. On my right lay a man sick unto death, while on my left lay another whose appetite had come and who was begging everybody for something to eat. His company boys brought him some bread and milk which he ate as if famished. The next morning when I awoke and looked about to see how many faces were covered up I found both my right and left hand neighbors had died in the night and their blankets were drawn up over their faces. The sights I saw while I was able to realize what was going on were not calculated to cheer me up and how I acted when I was out of my head I don't know. At any rate I got better and was brought back to this room, where I have since been.
Sunday. Had a thunder shower in the night and some sharp lightning. Was not allowed to go out to-day on account of the ground being wet. We hear of hard fighting up the river, but reports get so twisted I put little stock in them. Still I hope they are true, for they are most all favorable to our side.
Nothing worth writing for a few days. To-day those we left at quarantine came up looking hale and hearty. Most of them have had smallpox or varioloid. The weather is warm and the boys who have been out of camp report alligators are plenty in the swamp back of us, and snakes of many kinds also. I am rambling about camp nowadays, but am not discharged from the hospital yet. General Neal Dow found a place next door to camp to-day where liquor is sold. He took every bottle he could find and smashed them across the porch rail after first locking up the landlord. Camp is being cleared and every precaution taken to keep away yellow fever. There is none of it yet, but it is expected this summer on account of so many soldiers that are new to the climate. Lew Holmes has been worse for some days and we fear we shall lose him yet.
. I am sitting up to let a tired out nurse get a nap. Holmes died a few minutes ago. He tried to tell me something, but his tongue was so swelled I could not understand what he said. He pulled me clear down to his face and his breath was awful. I pretended to understand, and he settled back as if satisfied and only breathed a few times more. His troubles are over, and those of his old father and mother and his wife and child will begin when the news reaches them. I am glad they did not see the end.
April z, 1863.
Company B chipped in for a metallic coffin and Holmes will go home. A hearse from the city has just been here and taken him away. He was one of the best of fellows, and very popular with the men. I wonder now if Kniffin will be tried on us again. There is some reason for it now, but it should go to Riley Burdick, who is next in line.
Two funerals to-day. We have quite a graveyard started. From all I can hear, by talking with soldiers of other regiments, none of them have been hit as hard as the I28th New York. And it all comes from our being stuffed into the hold of the Arago a month before we sailed. A big responsibility rests somewhere.
Saturday. Cleaning house day in the hospital. I have been helping so one of the nurses can get off for a walk outside. We found a burying ground where I counted fifty from the I2th Connecticut Volunteers. Nearly all died in August and September last. So we have not had all the sickness and death. I will try and not complain as much as I have. There were only eight from our regiment besides two we have sent home. From there we followed the parapet to the Jackson & Mississippi R. R., which runs not far back from camp. Saw a regiment of negro soldiers, who seemed to feel fine, were having all sorts of games and were in first-rate spirits. Their camp was clean and at the head of each company street were flower beds. Just outside they had planted a garden and onions and other things were growing. The commissioned officers were white. Everything else was black. But for get-up and style they beat any white regiment I have yet seen. It made me ashamed to go home. When I get out of the hospital I mean to try and get the boys to be more like them.
Sunday. Some time while I was sick Chaplain Parker left us. I hear he had some differences of opinion with the officers, but don't know what. Major Foster was in it in some shape, for his name and the chaplain's are the most common in the yarns that are told about camp. I used to believe all I heard, but I have learned to wait for the truth, and that doesn't always come out. Lieutenant-Colonel Smith is a rough and ready customer and stands in no more awe of the officers than of the men. So long as we behave half way decent he is kindness itself, but disobey orders and he is a raging lion. But he is our best friend, and is the only real soldier in the whole outfit. He is a regular army officer and his chief concern seems to be the welfare of the enlisted men. Now that I am able to be about camp and have no duties to perform, I enjoy seeing the captains and lieutenants put through their paces as well as the rank and file. For meeting to-day Major Foster read a chapter from the Bible, read a hymn and then sang it, after which he pronounced the benediction.
One of Company A's men died to-day. His name was Burch. A boat-load of negroes landed here to-day and were taken down towards the city, what for I did not learn. Many of the men in camp are having diarrhea, and some have to go to the hospital, where the diet can be regulated. Some corn and contraband goods were seized to-day a short distance up the river. A man has been suspected for a long time and to-day was seized upon with all his goods. We are expecting letters every day now. We watch the papers for the mail steamers, and if we get no letters are much disappointed.
Two steamers due and yet no letters. Been loafing about camp so long I feel as if I was an unprofitable servant. But as there is nothing doing I am about as profitable as the rest.
A little excitement to-day. An attempt was made to spike some puns near the negro troops headquarters. A few shots were fired but no one hit, hurt or captured. A letter from my sister, Mrs. Rowley. All well at home. For a change I have a troublesome boil on my leg. The weather is beautiful. Everything is growing—I never saw leaves and flowers come so fast.
Yesterday I took the place of a nurse who was ailing, and to-day have been with several others to explore the country roundabouts. We came to an orange orchard and found and cut some sprouts for canes. General Dow and his staff were riding past, and seeing us, rode full tilt towards us, as if to run over us. The general was so busy watching us he never saw a ditch, and into it he went. The horse went down and the general went on his head, landing in the tall grass on all fours. He was not hurt, and after his staff had caught up and helped him on his horse, he came up and said, "To what regiment do you men belong?" Being told, he snapped out, "Report to your quarters at once and don't be seen cutting orange trees again." It is said he roams about like this, driving in any he finds outside, and in other ways making himself unpopular with the boys. However, he didn't take our canes and we have some nice ones to show for the trip.
Two letters to-day, and although they were a month old, they were full of news to me.
About camp and hospital yesterday, getting well every minute. Except that I am skin poor and tire out easily, I am well. My little looking-glass first told me what a change my sickness made in my looks, but I can see my old self coming back every day now. A short meeting to-day, the only thing besides my diary to remind me it is Sunday, God's day. He only asks one day in seven, and it seems as if more attention should be paid it.
Wrote and mailed some letters this morning. Wm. Partington died in this room this morning. He and I came here the same time and lay side by side. I was taken to the big tent and he left here. We were both hard sick and when I came back Bill was in just about the same condition I was. We both got round together and began to go out at the same time. A day or two ago diarrhea hit him and now he is taken and I left. So it goes. We plan for to-morrow and to-morrow we are wrapped in a blanket and out we go.
A letter from John Van, with one in it from George Willson and one from T. Templeton of the 15oth. They are feeling fine and the regiment has little or no sickness to report.
Reported for duty with the company this morning, but have to report to the doctor every day until I get my discharge from there. Have been appointed commissary sergeant. See to drawing the rations for Company B, and shall look out that they get their share. This relieves me from guard duty and from everything that interferes with my duties as commissary. It relieves me from duty in the ranks, adds another stripe to my arm, and two dollars per month to my pay. I am glad to have something to do. At night a citizen tried to go through camp and when halted by the guards started to run and was shot. What he was, or why he acted as he did I don't know, and he can't tell.
Thursday. A letter from Walt Loucks asking me to come and see him. Shall surely go if I can get a pass.
Friday. Went to see Walt. I had a first-rate visit. He is about well. I did little but answer questions about what has been going on since we parted at
Later. Marching orders with two days' cooked rations and 100 rounds of ammunition, blankets and overcoats. I am going, too, unless Dr. Andrus stops me. Must stop and write a letter before taps.
Saturday. The regiment has gone and I am left. When will I get clear from the hospital? One of the hospital cooks, E. Furguson, died to-day. There are hardly enough men in camp to bury him, only the sick and convalescent being left.
Sunday. We buried Furguson to-day. The grave was full of water and we had to punch the box down with sticks until the earth held it. Hear nothing from the regiment.
No real news yet. Lots of rumors though, one of which is that they are all cut up and the rest captured. We don't believe it.
.April 21, 1863.
Drew ten days' rations to-day, so I guess there is some of Company B left and that they will be back to eat it.
Wednesday. The regiment came back to-day. Have been gone four days. Had some hard marching and lived high on pigs and chickens found by the way. They went up the
The officers have drawn new tents and the captains have given the cooks their old ones for cook houses. We tore down the old shanty, and put up the new house in short order.
The morning paper gives a glowing account of the great expedition of the I28th. Speaks well of the behavior of both officers and men and their great respect for private property. But Colonel Cowles has been lecturing them and his account differs from the newspaper reports on nearly all points.
We were paid off to-day and the money flies. We have floors in our tents now. An order has gone forth for camp inspection once each day. The tents, the cook houses and cooking utensils and everything will be inspected, and must be as clean as possible or trouble will come. Taking it all in all we have good times. One of the boys has a fiddle, and some are good singers. We have only enough to do to make us hungry when meal time comes.
Walter Loucks has returned to camp and looks well. He feels some sore from sleeping on a board, after his stay in the hospital, but that will wear off. General Dow has cleared the peddlers out of camp and torn down some shanties near, where pies, etc., were sold. My throat has got sore again and I must get Dr. Andrus to fix it up. We have had marching orders a couple of times, but each time they were countermanded.
Nothing unusual has happened since my last entry. I have written and have received several letters; have been on duty all the time, although I am supposed to be in the hospital yet. Have seen the doctor every day and he keeps tinkering at me. We hear all sorts of rumors of big battles and big victories and believe what we are a mind to. My office, commissary of Company B, is not very exacting while in camp. It keeps me out of the ranks though and until I get round again I am glad of it.
Sunday. Yesterday this regiment and many others were reviewed by General Banks. Evidently something is going to happen soon. The health of our regiment is fairly good now. I begin to find out that some had rather be sick than to be on duty, and they play it till Dr. Andrus sends them back to camp. We have some very hot weather, and then again some not so hot. Mosquitoes are the pest of our lives. They hide in our tents, ready to pounce upon us the minute we enter, and the only place we are free from them is in the hot sun outside. At night and on cloudy days they give us no peace. Their name is legion.
Monday. Charles Wardwell, and a fellow named Hamlin made me a call to-day. I was as much surprised as if they had risen right out of the ground before us. I did not know Charlie had enlisted. He is in the 2^d Connecticut, which is doing guard duty along the railroad between Algiers and Brashear City, which they say is not very far from here. It in a nine months' regiment and their time is out in August. Though the news they could tell was rather old, I was very glad to see someone from God's country again, and we had much to tell each other of our experiences. They had only about a week on the transport and came through in good shape. They swallowed hard and tried to take down what I told them of our experience on board the Arago and in camp and hospital since, but I don't feel like blaming them if they did think I was lying. But in the short time we were together the half could not be told.
Night. Marching orders. Three days' cooked rations and ten days' raw, to be packed for an early start to-morrow. Wardwell and his friend stay with us to-night.
"pass Man Shak," or South Pass,
* Spelled as they sound.
railroad is built on piles driven in the mud, sawed off on a line and huge hewn timbers laid on them to support the ties and track. Not a foot of dry ground anywhere and not a ray of sunshine could get through. But mosquitoes, I thought we had them in camp, but we did not. It was only the skirmish line; the main body is here. I am writing this with one hand while the other is waving a bush to keep them from eating me alive. The men were ferried across on a small steamer and they went on out of sight, scrambling over the ties as best they could, for in places the woodwork has been burned out and then they had to climb down and wallow through the mud and then up on the ties again until the last of them were out of sight. I have really no business to be here as the captain objected, fearing I would be more bother than I was worth. Dr. Andrus was not even consulted. When the train started I could not resist the temptation to go and I swung on and here I am with the quartermaster and the commissary stores, which are to go up the pass to where the men have gone. There is a large space planked over, and we are in the dry and waiting for the boat to come for us. Men are busy rebuilding the burned out places in the trestlework and bridging the river, which is narrow here. Everyone calls it a "pass," but it has quite a current and is a river just the same.
We heard firing this morning and think the boys may be at work. A man came back about last night. How he ever did it I don't see, but he said two soldiers fell through the trestlework and were hurt and had to be left behind.
jo a. m. The men who got hurt have crawled back and are here, just bruised up a little. I guess they didn't try very hard or they might have gone on.
2 p. m. Another straggler has come back and says the boys captured fourteen Indians after a short skirmish. They are being sent back under guard and will soon be here. Here they come, and a tough-looking lot they are; fourteen of them are said to be Indians, but they look more like plain niggers to me. There are three white men. Rebels I suppose, but they don't act like very ferocious ones.
We slept in a drizzling rain, but the mosquitoes kept us so busy we took no cold. A boat came in the morning and we loaded the stores and started up the river, reaching a small lake called
A cavalryman came in for a horse this morning, his having been killed in the night. We heard firing in the night, but it seemed a long way off. Company B went on the picket line this morning and I find being commissary in camp and being commissary in the field are two different things. The company must be fed no matter where they are. I got hold of a horse and cart and with it made the rounds. A couple of cavalrymen who were wounded during the night have been brought in. At night a report came that a rebel detachment had got past the vidette guard and would most likely be heard from before morning. Orders are being given out and ours is to stand fast in case of an attack. That sounds easy at any rate.
No attack came. The only enemies that found us were the mosquitoes and how they did punish us! My hands, face and ankles are swollen full, and this when I was awake all night and fighting them off in every way I could think of. Seventeen prisoners have just been brought in and after a feed started on toward Pass Man Shak.
There has been much shifting about to-day. Orderlies riding here and there, and a move of some sort is the next thing to look for. Have orders to be ready with coffee and a day's cooked rations. That doesn't mean a long journey.
Later. The quartermaster's stores have gone towards Wadensburgh.