A Hawkins Zouave Meets with Sea Nettles

NH Civil War Gal

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Here is a picture of Charles F. Johnson who immigrated form Sweden with his parents at the age of 10. He wrote a wonderful diary called, “The Long Roll 1861-1863” and he fought with the Hawkins Zouaves.

Here is a story before he got into an amphibious attack at the Battle of Roanoke.

The boys would take swims in the evening after doing drill in the ocean and he had a very singular adventure by himself. I think it is very interesting to see what any of the boys were up to before they saw the elephant because “all of this” was a ”whole new world” to them. Otherwise, they would have been down on the farm or working in a factory and living in a tenement in the city, not having adventures.

”I was bathing from the dock. Not so terrible as an affair with a shark or a battle with a cuttlefish, but nevertheless an adventure, if you please—an attack of Sea Nettles. Caliph, Medusa, and many other names are given them, but of them all for reasons to be made obvious, I prefer the first. Those beautiful creatures we had watched with great pleasure as, with their slow and methodical motions, they propelled themselves about the Island, which seemed to them a favorite resort, for nowhere else have I seen them in such beautiful variety and so numerous. Out of water they become an indistinguishable shapeless mass of pulp, but in their clement, they have a bell or cup shaped head of a variety of colors, to which is appended, from the inside, a body terminating in loose streamers. They elongate themselves as much as possible, seeming to inhale the water as air is inhaled by the lung; then by bringing the rim forward until flattened into the shape of a saucer, they are able to push themselves along quite rapidly, though with nothing like the speed of fish or other active marine animals. They seem to be a family of living leeches of the sea, clinging to decaying substances; but whether the fact of fresh water here mingling with the salt has any influence in keeping them in this vicinity, I cannot tell.

It happened thus: In taking our usual evening’s swim off the dock, I found myself farther from shore than I intended, and made for a buoy a short distance out, to rest on it before returning. I hardly had touched it, however, before it seemed as if I were seized by a legion of little devils with pins in them. I knew at once that I had struck a colony of Sea Nettles and that until I could get out of the water, it would be useless to try to rid myself of them, as they are worse than leeches in their power of holding fast. They seem to glue themselves to the object of attack and then to fall to with all their power of suction, which, by my experience, I found to be tremendous. I made for shore as fast as possible, with every pin doing its worst. On every part of my body under water, they clung, pricking, biting, sucking and stinging, from which occupations, my plunging in the water did not in the least disturb them. One can easily imagine what I had to endure before gaining the dock. The moment I dragged myself out of the water, my persecutors let go, and though my body smarted for some time after, I could not but laugh at the ludicrousness of the adventure.
 

nc native

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There is a rather crude treatment for jellyfish stings I've heard of that involves pouring human urine on the wounds that may have worked if no vinegar or alcohol was available for treatment. I've never been stung by a jellyfish/man o' war but several of my friends and family members have and from what I've heard I would rather deal with the yellow jacket stings I receive when I'm working in my yard or garden at least once a year. Charles Johnson could be thankful that there are none of the box jellyfish off the North Carolina coast that plague the Australian coastal waters and can cause fatalities within fifteen minutes after a sting.
 

James N.

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A more "typical" experience for the Zouaves of Col. Rush Hawkins outside the town of Sharpsburg Sept. 17, 1862. They were part of Burnside's Ninth Corps and crossed Antietam Creek following the successful assault on the bridge. This engraving from Frank Leslie's or Harper's Weekly shows them approaching Lee's last line right before being struck by the vanguard of A. P. Hill's Division arriving from Harper's Ferry. In the distance can be seen the rooftops and church steeple in the town.
 

Stone in the wall

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A more "typical" experience for the Zouaves of Col. Rush Hawkins outside the town of Sharpsburg Sept. 17, 1862. They were part of Burnside's Ninth Corps and crossed Antietam Creek following the successful assault on the bridge. This engraving from Frank Leslie's or Harper's Weekly shows them approaching Lee's last line right before being struck by the vanguard of A. P. Hill's Division arriving from Harper's Ferry. In the distance can be seen the rooftops and church steeple in the town.
A P Hill saves the day again. Just as he had at Cedar Mountain.
 

Jim-Jammi

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I read his memoir a while back and I loved it!
I think it's interesting on many levels, but I really enjoyed how much detail he went into regarding his leisure time, and documenting his new experiences with the natural world. I feel like he had a lot of curiosity for nature. If I recall he also mentions seeing a cactus for the first time (though who knows what plant he was really looking at, as I'm skeptical if there are cactus in the region he served), and describes the officers fishing and catching sharks! I'm glad to see someone else read his incredible recounting. I bet you enjoyed it as much as I did.
I do have to say that I think the photo they used for the cover of the edition that you read is not actually Charles, which is odd that they would choose to make it the cover. In the edition I found online it included two pictures of him, one of him in civilian clothes shortly after his service, and one in his uniform recovering from a wound (sadly that one is blurry).This is the version I read and it has drawings from him throughout it as well. :smile: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Long_Roll/K29faB5xvPkC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

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