Aunt Katy's Civil War Tale
Uncle Lonzo's diary written in indelible pencil becomes difficult to read in places as it is smudged and rain spattered. The whole corps was on the move and skirmishing was fairly constant.
Summit, Virginia, September 6, 1864
"We are almost constantly on the go first one way and then the other so we don't know one day where we will be the next. Yesterday our regiment went from here to Brucetown on a reconnaisance and we had a pretty wet time. We didn't find any rebels but it rained very hard and we didn't get back until after dark and no tents up so we had a pretty good view of the dark side of a soldiers life. It has been rather a wet day and is getting to be pretty muddy. The news is encouraging from the western army lately and I begin to have some hopes that there will be an end to this war some time.
"Perhaps if McClellan gets to be president the war will be over right off but I rather think he won't take 'Ole Abe's place just yet."
The rain fell continuously and through it all the fighting went on. September twenty-first Uncle Lonzo wrote:
"The old 9th added new laurels to its already long list by its gallantry at Winchester on Monday the 19th. We made two charges and captured about two hundred prisoners and a stand of colors. We first charged about double our number of cavalry with General Fitzhugh Lee himself to rally them and drove them before like a flock of sheep. We next charged upon a division of infantry which was retreating before our infantry and cut off and captured nearly a whole birgade. The rebs were very much demoralized and were soon in full retreat but as it was nearly night we couldn't follow them very close and the next morning there was none to be found."
The heavy fighting went on for several
days and on the twenty-sixth Uncle Lonzo got a
bullet through his nose. The next day he was
taken to a field hospital and the day after, he
"We were all loaded into Government wagons and started toward Winchester. B. died a few miles out and was buried at Lazy Springs."
Two days later they reached Winchester and were put into Sheriday Hospital where he found the "eatables rather slim."
Soon he left that hospital and after a two days rough train ride, brightened only by "handsome treatment by the Christian commission," reached Baltimore and from there went to a hospital at Philadelphia. Having only a minor wound Uncle Lonso expected a furlough soon and watched with impatience as men from Western Virginia, New Jersey, and Michigan were sent home ahead of the New York boys. Finally on November 4th his furlough of 20 days came through and he started for home.
He was home in time for the election and he and Bea were the center of a circle of happy, admiring friends. Sadly news arrived that his friend Will had been captured. Two days later came the good news, Lincoln elected by a large majority.
Visiting friends, hunting with Bert, which netted only a partridge or two, and a sleigh ride in a fresh fall of snow took part of the time. Lonzo spent hours with Bea talking, laughing, storing up memories to carry him through the rest of the war. Then came Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family seated around the big table in the kitchen. Wes and Louise radiantly expecting a baby in the spring, Min and Mary hovering over him like bees in a rose garden, Bea sitting close beside him and his Pa smiling as tho his face would crack. Bert content to have "little brother" home safe again and Granny, spry as a cricket, pulling his hair as tho he were three instead of twenty-three. And his Ma, with her bright eyes and warm smile, approving the 'children's' shenanigans.
A few days later, fit for duty again, he left home for the hospital where he joined a large group of men returning to duty. They rode in "soldier's cars", thirty to a car to Baltimore where they stayed all day with only "stinking beef, bread and coffee" to eat. The trip to Washington was made in passenger cars, an unusual luxury. From there he went to Dismounted Camp at Pleasant Valley where he "drew one tent, one pair drawers, and one pair sicks." (I assume he meant "socks".)
On December 7th, Uncle Lonzo "drew a horse and equitment and started for the front about sundown." Upon reaching camp he began building a shanty for his winter home, paying $1.50 for a hatchet to work with. On the 11th, two hundred recruits arrived and he commented "rather a cold time for them to lie out on the ground."
From a letter dated December 14,
"Perhaps you would like to know what I live on now days. Well I had ham and one warmed up potato and bread and coffee for breakfast. I drew two potatos yesterday and had one for supper and the other this morning. If I had had some of Ma's boiled cider applesauce I should have had as good a meal as a soldier could wish for."
Back at quartermaster's work Uncle Lonzo kept an unofficial record in his diary of the things used. December 17th they celebrated General Thomas' victory at Nashville with a one hundred gun salute.
The weather was miserably cold and Lonzo took sick. One night he had to get up and build a fire to keep from freezing his feet. On Christmas day he wrote to Aunt Bea:
"We had orders last night to saddle up and be ready to move at a moments notice. There had been an attack on the picket line and they expected every minute to see Moseby coming in upon us but he didn't come so we are here yet as comfortable as ever.
"Well, I had to stop a while and eat my Christmas dinner. 'What was it' did you say? It was a piece of cold beef steak and three or four swallows of coffee. That was all."
Uncle Lonzo's illness continued and the doctor came twice to dose him with "red pills, blue pills and oil". The company was to move and the doctor offered to send him to the hospital but Lonzo had had enough hospital life and refused the favor. So when they moved out New Years Eve for Charleston, he was riding with the troop.