Aunt Katy's Civil War Tale
Arriving in Baltimore about eleven PM the twenty-first, Uncle Lonzo noted in his diary,
"Had a very hard ride. think the next time I take a furlough will go home alone."
The next four days were spent in Soldiers Retreat in Washington, attending the theater twice. Thursday the 25th Lonzo and his companions went to Alexandria and the next day traveled for five hours on top of the railroad cars in a cold, raw wind, arriving at Culpepper about one in the afternoon.
The weather improved the next day but they discovered that their quarters in the old camp were entirely demolished. Lonzo, having been made Quartermaster Sargent in Pa's place, was busy drawing and issuing camp and garrison equipage. He joined with two friends to build a shanty. It was at this time that General Grant took over the Union Army.
March 10th he wrote:
"You wondered what kind of a bed I had to sleep on so I will tell you. Our bunks are raised about a foot from the ground and are made of small poles with fine brush on top of them and then our blankets. Perhaps you would like to know what we had for breakfast this morning. Well, we had buckwheat pancakes and butter, fried pork and coffee with condensed milk in it. We have baking powder to put in our pancakes which makes them a very little lighter than liver."
The twenty-second and twenty-third of March saw the worst snow storm of the winter. The miserable stuff piled up a foot deep but it came off warm and all thawed by the end of the week, leaving them in the old familiar mud which was increased by a hearty rain-fall on Friday. One can imagine the effect the dreary weather had on the new recruits who were also coming in at this time.
"There is not much news here. We are all well as common in spite of the vaccinations we had a few days ago.
"General Grant came here a few days ago and I understand is going to make this his Headquarters. There was 28 Rebel deserters came in to our lines day before yesterday. They were rather hard looking soldiers. But I must 'hurry up my cakes' for my candle is about on its last legs and I don't know as there is anything more I can think of this time."
The rain and snows continued alternating with the few bright pleasant days that are found in Virginia's winter months. April seventh Uncle Lonzo wrote:
"They are drawing off the manure and dirt and cleaning up the camp. It has been a long day to me. It seems as if the days were longer when it is pleasant than they are when it storms. As there is nothing to write I will tell you what we had for supper. We had cold beans, Sourkraut and bread and butter and coffee. The Sourkraut costs 20 cents per quart and is very good. Our Suttler brings it here.
"I must tell you what good luck I had cooking today. I put on some beans and had got them to cooking nicely when I went out and as Jim and Will were there I didn't hurry back supposing they would see to them. But they went off and when I got back the beans were burnt up so I had to throw them away and put on some more. I had better luck next time for I tended to them myself."
April plodded on with everything nearly at a standstill as the new general took over, issued orders and saw to the reorganization of the cavalry. Again they were short of horses and on the 23rd dismounted men were called out to see how many would go home and bring horses back. Most were willing to go but it was decided to give what horses there were to the veterans and leave the recruits dismounted until the government could provide more. The men made a ball and spent some pleasant hours playing.
end of April they were mounted again and began to
move. In diary entries of May 3 through 17
Lonzo mentions seeing General Grant and his
staff passing toward the front, viewing the
battlefield at Chancellorsville where he
"The dead are very poorly buried, most of the bones being on top of the ground. Pretty brisk musketry firing nearly all the afternoon. On picket tonight at United States Ford."
May 9, they marched from Fredericksburg toward Richmond and "recaptured several hundred of our prisoners. Had to walk eight or ten miles as my horse tired out." On the 14th, they moved to Malvern Hill and were shelled by Union gunboats, an example of "friendly fire".A letter sent from there reads:
"I am going to begin a letter to you but I don't know when I can send it. I will commence back when we started from Culpepper and tell you something about our campaign.
"We left our camp on the fourth, crossed the Rapidan on the fifth. There was nothing of interest these two days as we were in the rear of our army. We camped the night of the fifth on the battlefield of Chancelorsville and were within hearing of the musketry of our army. The next day we went off onto the left flank of our line and our division had a pretty sharp fight, but our reguiment was not engaged.
"Saturday we went on to a place called Todds Tavern and here we had pretty warm work. We dismounted and went in and had a pretty sharp skirmish. Jim was wounded and an other man. We had two men taken prisoners. Darkness put a stop to the fight and we fell back to where our horses were. The next morning we went in again and had another fight and were relieved by the infantry coming up. We now went back and took the road to Fredricksburg."