Humor in the ranks

Tom Elmore

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#1
Humor has helped soldiers through difficult times in every conflict. It would disappear when a battle was imminent, but would reappear once the fighting ended. Tough Confederate combat veterans seem to have possessed it in abundance. Here are a few examples.

Fred Colston, E. P. Alexander's Ordnance Officer, writes of having stopped off at his aunt's place in Martinsburg on the way to Pennsylvania: (I) had a good wash and "fixed up" nicely, clean linen collar, etc. Went up to Main Street the following morning. My appearance attracted the usual attention. Hood’s Texas "boys” were marching along, dirty and dusty. One of them called out, "Oh, Jiminy. Don’t he look nice." A comrade added, “Throw a louse or two on him.”

Colston writes of entering Chambersburg on 28 June: A squad of Maryland Cavalry got into a drug store. Phil Rogers of Baltimore, a druggist at home, was with the squad and promptly annexed a bottle labeled “Spirits Frumenti.” Phil said, “Well boys, it’s a peculiar kind of cordial, very good in small doses but very dangerous otherwise.” So each drank about a quarter of an inch, most of them remarking how much like good whiskey it tasted. This left four full fingers in the bottle which Phil swallowed in one large drink, to the amazement and succeeding disgust of his comrades!

Colston and Lt. John D. Smith of Jordan's battery encountered a farmer of German extraction while on the march: A farmer sitting on a porch watching the troops, who had trodden down a belt of wheat the width of a column of fours, and then swarmed into his front yard to get water, said in a feeling tone, "I have heardt and I have readt of de horrors of warfare, but my utmost conceptions did not equal dis.”

Colston recalled the dreary retreat from Gettysburg, when the army was in a bad humor: The dirt road was churned into a mud about the consistency of molasses and about six inches deep. A Texan with a ragged hat on, and a "don’t care" look called out to a comrade, “**** it, Bill, put your foot down flat and don’t kick up such a hell of a dust.”

Thomas Benton Reed, a private in the 9th Louisiana, also recalled the retreat: Rain began falling. In some places the mud was over our shoe tops and we were as wet as we could be. While marching in this plight some fellow would holler out, “Hello! John, how would you like to be a soldier boy?” Then someone else would say, “Knock that fool in the head.” That would get a big laugh and we would move on better. The soldier’s is the most miserable life that can be thought of.

Another source that I cannot attribute at the moment, observed a finely dressed officer pass by, and remarked to his comrades, "If I were a louse, I'd swim the Potomac River just to crawl on his head."

Ever the gentleman, General Lee invariably expressed himself in polite terms, but his message was always unmistakable: “Ah, General Hood, when you Texans come about, the chickens have to roost mighty high.”
 

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#2
Just before the Overland Campaign started in 1864, the Alabama Brigade of Cullen Battle had a new regiment assigned to them. On May 5, 1864, the upcoming engagement at the Wilderness was to be the first for the new regiment of the Brigade, the 61st Alabama Infantry. It was made up of men over forty-five and boys less than eighteen years of age. They were a replacement regiment for the 26th Alabama Infantry, which was sent south to recruit. The veterans of the 5th Alabama Infantry ridiculed the men of the 61st as they passed.

Captain Williams later recalled that “They presented quite a ludicrous appearance as they marched along with old quilts strapped across their shoulders, and little old fashioned canteens, etc., while the old regiments were well supplied with good blankets, etc., which they had taken from the dead Yankees on the battle fields. Consequently, the old soldiers made a great deal of sport of them, and would “guy” them by calling out: “Lie down 61st, I am going to pop a cap”, “what have you got that mattress on your back for?” In forming the brigade for line of march on the 5th day of May, the 61st regiment was put in the wrong place, and when we halted during the day it was moved, and on passing our regiment we began to guy them in a more serious way by telling them that they had better begin to make their final arrangements, for they would be dead before sunset. They took it all good-naturedly, and replied that “they would show the old regiments that they could do some fighting too.”[1]



[1]Greensboro Record, July 2, 1903 “Captain Jonathan Whiteside Williams, His Life And Times With The 5th Alabama, C.S.A. Company “D”, Greensboro Guards
 

AUG

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#3
I was just reading through Pvt. Frank H. Foote's (48th Miss. Inf., Harris' Brigade) reminiscences of the Siege of Petersburg, which can be read at Brett Schulte's The Siege of Petersburg Online. He recalls many fascinating details and stories in his account, some of which are quite amusing. Here's one paragraph on the 1864 Christmas in the trenches:

"Christmas with its joys to some, and sorrows to many, rolled around. This was the fourth Christmas from loved ones. When we set out for the war with light hearts, we never dreamed that a Christmas would be spent away from home. It was to be a pleasure trip we thought; we will see something of the world; aye, we did too, but not the way our youthful dreams had pictured it. This Christmas of the dark, dreary days of 1864, is fraught with the memory of probably the most gigantic undertaking of the kind ever thought of. The good citizens of Richmond and Petersburg would give Lee’s army a Christmas dinner. Contributions were freely given, though the people were as poor as we of the army, almost; provisions were extraordinarily high, even in coin. Fabulous prices were paid; but the project was carried through. Army wagons were utilized to bring the “goodies” to camp; and we patiently awaited. The third day rolled around; and we were drawn up in line to receive our share of turkeys, geese, ducks, mutton, etc. naturally expected from what had been seen and heard. When our turn came, one goose, some mutton, and about forty loaves of bread, fell to our lot. The problem to solve was how to dispose of the goose and little bit of mutton. The goose was voted to the officers of the Field and Staff. The mutton to the line officers—by the way very few of them left—and the bread was sliced up and divided among the rank and file. The bread was eaten and relished with jokes. A hearty “here’s to you” attested the humor of the matter. A too lavish hand at the outset had fed abundantly the beginning of the issuance, and thus it did not hold out."

In another paragraph, on foraging, Pvt. Foote says:

"Wild fruits never reached perfection, half-ripe it seemed was better than none. Persimmons were plentiful in Virginia, and helped the cause mightily. We recall the anecdote of Gen. Ed. Johnson, he who lost the salient at Spottsylvania, who espied a soldier apparently eating half-ripe persimmons, “my friend,” said the general, “don’t you know that those persimmons are not ripe, why do you eat them?” “General,” he drawled out, “I am eating these blasted things to draw my belly up to suit the rashuns I draw.” “Sold,” exclaimed the general, as he rode on, followed by a chuckle from his staff. The general assured me since the war that this was actually a fact."
 
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kholland

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#4
Humor has helped soldiers through difficult times in every conflict. It would disappear when a battle was imminent, but would reappear once the fighting ended. Tough Confederate combat veterans seem to have possessed it in abundance. Here are a few examples.

Fred Colston, E. P. Alexander's Ordnance Officer, writes of having stopped off at his aunt's place in Martinsburg on the way to Pennsylvania: (I) had a good wash and "fixed up" nicely, clean linen collar, etc. Went up to Main Street the following morning. My appearance attracted the usual attention. Hood’s Texas "boys” were marching along, dirty and dusty. One of them called out, "Oh, Jiminy. Don’t he look nice." A comrade added, “Throw a louse or two on him.”

Colston writes of entering Chambersburg on 28 June: A squad of Maryland Cavalry got into a drug store. Phil Rogers of Baltimore, a druggist at home, was with the squad and promptly annexed a bottle labeled “Spirits Frumenti.” Phil said, “Well boys, it’s a peculiar kind of cordial, very good in small doses but very dangerous otherwise.” So each drank about a quarter of an inch, most of them remarking how much like good whiskey it tasted. This left four full fingers in the bottle which Phil swallowed in one large drink, to the amazement and succeeding disgust of his comrades!

Colston and Lt. John D. Smith of Jordan's battery encountered a farmer of German extraction while on the march: A farmer sitting on a porch watching the troops, who had trodden down a belt of wheat the width of a column of fours, and then swarmed into his front yard to get water, said in a feeling tone, "I have heardt and I have readt of de horrors of warfare, but my utmost conceptions did not equal dis.”

Colston recalled the dreary retreat from Gettysburg, when the army was in a bad humor: The dirt road was churned into a mud about the consistency of molasses and about six inches deep. A Texan with a ragged hat on, and a "don’t care" look called out to a comrade, “**** it, Bill, put your foot down flat and don’t kick up such a hell of a dust.”

Thomas Benton Reed, a private in the 9th Louisiana, also recalled the retreat: Rain began falling. In some places the mud was over our shoe tops and we were as wet as we could be. While marching in this plight some fellow would holler out, “Hello! John, how would you like to be a soldier boy?” Then someone else would say, “Knock that fool in the head.” That would get a big laugh and we would move on better. The soldier’s is the most miserable life that can be thought of.

Another source that I cannot attribute at the moment, observed a finely dressed officer pass by, and remarked to his comrades, "If I were a louse, I'd swim the Potomac River just to crawl on his head."

Ever the gentleman, General Lee invariably expressed himself in polite terms, but his message was always unmistakable: “Ah, General Hood, when you Texans come about, the chickens have to roost mighty high.”
Nice stories, Tom. But we do like to have any quotes from a book or website attributed to the author and the name of the book or website link. :thumbsup:
 

Tom Elmore

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#6
Nice stories, Tom. But we do like to have any quotes from a book or website attributed to the author and the name of the book or website link. :thumbsup:
Just individual stories from sources in my personal collection. I'll post others in the future.
1. Colston references are from, Reminiscences of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, James Mercer Garnett Papers, Manuscript Collections, MSS-1719, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
2. Reed's story is found in, A Private in Gray, by Thomas Benton Reed (Camden, Arkansas, published by the author, 1905).
3. Lee's remark comes from John Bell Hood, Advance and Retreat ...
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

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#7
Historians of the 36th Illinois Volunteers recalled their first night in camp as a long and noisy one:

"This first night in camp will doubtless long be remembered by many. But few of the men had ever before experienced the luxury of a couch of straw, or the thrilling pleasure of reclining upon the bare bosom of Mother Earth, with a coat, a carpet sack or block of wood to serve as a pillow. To some, with whom the experiment was wholly new, the long hours of the night wore away dull and melancholy. Notwithstanding the scores of people in close proximity to them, it seemed lonely with but a thin sheet of cotton cloth between them and the great blue sky, flecked with stars, arching around and over them. Some were thinking of the homes they had just left, and many were the tender thoughts and loving wishes that were wafted thitherward. But the few who lay down to quiet rest and pleasant dreams were cruelly defrauded out of so laudable a purpose by the many who, unrestrained, gave full vent to their joyous hilarity and ceaseless mischief, deluging the camp with fun and noises the most hideous and unearthly, as if a new Pandemonium had at once broken loose. At times, profound silence would reign throughout the camp for the lengthened period of a minute and a-half, when some "rough" from an obscure corner would give a tremendous "Baa!" Another from an adjoining tent would respond, then the chorus would be taken up along the line of tents from all parts of camp, and in ten seconds from the first yelp the whole crowd would be "baaing" with the force of a thousand calf power.

"Again the lonely bark of a dog, faintly heard from some distant farm-house, would start some human hound or poodle in camp to bark response, and then the whole pack would take up the refrain until they had barked themselves hoarse. Then there were cat voices, sheep voices, turkey gobblings and cock crowings ad libitum. So it went until daylight. But few slept, some laughed a very little, others swore a very great deal, and thus the night wore away."​

From “History of the Thirty-Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, During the War of the Rebellion”
by By L. G. Bennett and Wm. M. Haigh, 1876.​
 

John Hartwell

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#8
You get a bunch of smart-a**ed youngsters together, and pranks are likely to erupt. In the fall of 1861, the 31st Mass. Volunteers (“the Western Bay State Regiment”) was still training at Camp Seward, in Pittsfield. The following story is from the narrative of Pvt. Adelbert Bailey, of Amherst:

In the third tier of bunks about half way down the hall were six as jolly good fellows as ever wore the blue, and we used to have our share of the fun, as well as the trials of Camp life.

One night we were having a good time after taps. The officers of the day came along and told us if we didn’t make less noise he would put us all in the guard house. Well we quieted down a little while and then Johnson said he would have the nightmare; we held him back awhile and then with nothing on but his shirt, he went over the side of the bunk with a yell that would have put a whole tribe of Indians to blush. Down the hall he went. The guard relief had just come in and they scattered as though the Destroyer was after them. Serg’t Canterbury finally caught him and when the Col. threw a dipper of water on him, he thought it was time to come to; the Col. took him into his quarters and gave him a dose of something to strengthen him, and a half dozen willing hands lifted him up into the bunk; of course, the other occupants of the bunk were very anxious to know what was the matter. Serg’t Canterbury in relating the affair next day said the cords stuck out in Johnson’s neck as big as his wrist, and he never got hold of a man in his life so hard to handle.

It was a long time before we told the bottom facts of this little frolic.
[https://31massinf.wordpress.com/narratives-letters-diaries/adelbert-bailey/]
 

AUG

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#9
Here's a good one that I always remember from A Soldier's Story of His Regiment by Pvt. G. W. Nichols. They encountered this fellow sometime after the retreat from Gettysburg.

On this march between Strasburg and Mt. Jaekson the brigade was marching along about eleven o'clock, it being very warm and dusty and a great many wanting water. Everyone was tugging along in the hot sun with seldom ever a word being spoken. A real fine looking man rode up along side of the Sixty-first Georgia Regiment. He had on a fine looking high crowned, broad brimmed, gray hat, the brim turned up on one side and a large silver looking star on it. He had on heavy calvary boots with a large pair of brass spurs, and a large white linen duster that reached very nearly to his feet, and was riding one of the poorest horses, almost, I ever saw any one riding. The poor old horse was so weak that his back was badly swayed.

I suppose he had ridden side of our regiment for more than a half mile. I saw several of the boys eying him and was expecting some of them to poke some fun at him. Finally one of them hollowed out: "Come down out of that gown mister; I know you are there for I can see your legs hanging out." The poor fellow took exceptions at it and apparently got very mad and used language that is not in the Bible. He turned and rode up near us and wanted to know who in the h—l it was that insulted him and used some bad language. We all marched along, no one apparently paying the least attention to him. He finally turned to ride off and one of the boys said, "Y-a-e-a-h!" It was a signal, for I suppose more than fifty of the regiment began "y-a-e-a-h!" "y-a-e-a-h!" and raised a big yell at him. We everyone had to laugh at him. I have never seen a poor fellow sold worse than he was. The boys asked him whose coat he had stolen, and what would that poor preacher do who he had stolen it from, and where he had gotten it, in Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia. Some one asked him if he was a feeling man and a friend to the poor. Others would advise him to get down and tote the poor old horse. They carried him so high until he would not say a word.

About that time the bugle was blown for a stop to rest ten minutes. He then rode up to Colonel Lamar and wanted him to punish the regiment for their insults. The colonel told him to go on and not notice the boys, for they were always going at every fool they met, and for him to pay no attention to them. He left very mad but some wiser than he was, for he had found out what the boys thought of him.
 

Championhilz

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#10
This is an article I posted on my blog back in 2011:

Sometimes you run across a story that makes you laugh; or in this case two stories involving a haughty South Carolina chaplain, a stolen buffalo robe, and a naughty member of the 16th Mississippi Infantry with an above-average writing ability.

Our tale begins with an article in the Richmond Enguirer (Richmond, VA), on June 10, 1863:

An Appeal to Conscience

We received a curious document, on yesterday, from the Rev. T. D. Gwin, Chaplain of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, dated Greenville, S.C., July 8, 1863. It makes an appeal to rather a doubtful sinner. We give the following extract:

‘To the Man who Stole my Buffalo Robe!’

Sir: The Holy God, our Judge, amid the thunderings of Sinai, gave this command: ‘Thou shalt not steal!’ On or about the first of April last, you stole my buffalo robe, with four or five blankets, a plush shawl, a pillow, and a pair of gray pants, from one of the hotels at Weldon, N.C.

On my arrival in camp near Franklin, Va, I found the ground covered with snow. For the want of my robe, I slept uncomfortably on the cold ground, caught a severe cold, and was, in consequence, sick and unable to do any work for more than a week. From that time to the present my health has been feeble and I have not been able to endure the hardships and privations of the camp life, as I did before, when I slept comfortably. I have been in the S.C. Hospital, at Petersburg, Va., suffering from a settled cold and bronchitis.

I am now, through the kindness of the surgeon and commanders of Jenkins’ Brigade, at home on sick furlough, endeavoring to regain my former health. You, by this act of theft, are the cause of my disability to discharge the sacred duties of my office.

Return the robe and contents to the hotel whence you stole them, and leave them in the care of the proprietor. The robe is marked on the flesh side thus: ‘Capt. T. D. Gwin, 1st S.C.V.’

Do this and steal no more, and you will have a better conscience, and oblige

T. D. Gwin

Chaplain 1st S.C.V.

Greenville, S.C. July 8, 1863

If the good Reverend Gwin was expecting his letter to cause a crisis of conscience in the thief of his buffalo robe, he was sorely mistaken. What it did was inspire the miscreant to compose his own letter in reply and send it to the Richmond paper. His writing was so good, in fact, that it was reprinted in newspapers near and far for years after the war, and this version I found in the Jamestown Journal (Jamestown, VA) from May 14, 1869:

A Good Joke on the Chaplain

During the war there was published in one of the Richmond papers a humorous letter from Rev. T. D. Gwin, Chaplain of the First South Carolina Regiment, calling upon ‘the man who stole his buffalo robe’ and sundry other baggage, to return the same, if he valued at all the blessings of a clear conscience and an improved prospect of future salvation. The response to the reverend gentleman will show that the appeal was not altogether unproductive;

Sixteenth Mississippi Regiment, Posey’s Brigade, Camp near Bunker Hill, Va, July 16, 1863 – My Dear Gwin: I was inexpressibly shocked to learn from your letter in the Enguirer of the 4th inst., that the temporary loss of your ‘buffalo robe’ blankets, pillow and shawl should have given you such inconvenience, and even suspend your arduous duties in the field for a week.

But supposing, from the mark, ‘Captain’ that it belonged to some poor officer of the line, and knowing that it was more baggage than he was entitled to carry, I relieved him of it from motives that will be appreciated by any officer of the line in the field.

On my arrival in camp I divided the blankets, among my mess, and in a sudden fit of generosity I retained the buffalo robe, shawl and pillow for my own use.

The other members now join me in returning thanks, and feel that to your warm and gushing heart these thanks will be the richest recompense.

We are all of us exceedingly anxious for you to change your field of labor to this army, where the duties of chaplains are much higher than they could possibly be any where else. Here they devote themselves to trading horses and collecting table delicacies with a zeal that eminently entitles them to the appellation of birds of prey.

I am now waiting patiently for your coat and boots, which I presume you will send me in accordance with the following instructions: ‘If any man takeaway thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.’ – Matt. chap. 5, verse 40.

For the regulation of the amount of baggage which a chaplain in the army should carry we refer you to the following: ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purse. Nor scrip for your journey, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat.’ – Matt. chap. 10, verses 9 and 10.

Anything you may have in excess of the above allowance will be most respectfully received by me.

I remain, my dear Gwinney, with sentiments of gratitude,

THE MAN WHO STOLE YOUR BUFFALO ROBE

Note: I looked up the service record of Reverend Gwin, and found that Thomas D. Gwin began his military career as captain of Company F, 1st South Carolina Infantry, on March 16, 1862. He served in that capacity until January 7, 1863, when he resigned to take the position of regimental chaplain for the 1st South Carolina. He served as the regiments chaplain until February 15, 1864, when he resigned from the service.
 

Sbc

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#12
This is an article I posted on my blog back in 2011:

Sometimes you run across a story that makes you laugh; or in this case two stories involving a haughty South Carolina chaplain, a stolen buffalo robe, and a naughty member of the 16th Mississippi Infantry with an above-average writing ability.

Our tale begins with an article in the Richmond Enguirer (Richmond, VA), on June 10, 1863:

An Appeal to Conscience

We received a curious document, on yesterday, from the Rev. T. D. Gwin, Chaplain of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, dated Greenville, S.C., July 8, 1863. It makes an appeal to rather a doubtful sinner. We give the following extract:

‘To the Man who Stole my Buffalo Robe!’

Sir: The Holy God, our Judge, amid the thunderings of Sinai, gave this command: ‘Thou shalt not steal!’ On or about the first of April last, you stole my buffalo robe, with four or five blankets, a plush shawl, a pillow, and a pair of gray pants, from one of the hotels at Weldon, N.C.

On my arrival in camp near Franklin, Va, I found the ground covered with snow. For the want of my robe, I slept uncomfortably on the cold ground, caught a severe cold, and was, in consequence, sick and unable to do any work for more than a week. From that time to the present my health has been feeble and I have not been able to endure the hardships and privations of the camp life, as I did before, when I slept comfortably. I have been in the S.C. Hospital, at Petersburg, Va., suffering from a settled cold and bronchitis.

I am now, through the kindness of the surgeon and commanders of Jenkins’ Brigade, at home on sick furlough, endeavoring to regain my former health. You, by this act of theft, are the cause of my disability to discharge the sacred duties of my office.

Return the robe and contents to the hotel whence you stole them, and leave them in the care of the proprietor. The robe is marked on the flesh side thus: ‘Capt. T. D. Gwin, 1st S.C.V.’

Do this and steal no more, and you will have a better conscience, and oblige

T. D. Gwin

Chaplain 1st S.C.V.

Greenville, S.C. July 8, 1863

If the good Reverend Gwin was expecting his letter to cause a crisis of conscience in the thief of his buffalo robe, he was sorely mistaken. What it did was inspire the miscreant to compose his own letter in reply and send it to the Richmond paper. His writing was so good, in fact, that it was reprinted in newspapers near and far for years after the war, and this version I found in the Jamestown Journal (Jamestown, VA) from May 14, 1869:

A Good Joke on the Chaplain

During the war there was published in one of the Richmond papers a humorous letter from Rev. T. D. Gwin, Chaplain of the First South Carolina Regiment, calling upon ‘the man who stole his buffalo robe’ and sundry other baggage, to return the same, if he valued at all the blessings of a clear conscience and an improved prospect of future salvation. The response to the reverend gentleman will show that the appeal was not altogether unproductive;

Sixteenth Mississippi Regiment, Posey’s Brigade, Camp near Bunker Hill, Va, July 16, 1863 – My Dear Gwin: I was inexpressibly shocked to learn from your letter in the Enguirer of the 4th inst., that the temporary loss of your ‘buffalo robe’ blankets, pillow and shawl should have given you such inconvenience, and even suspend your arduous duties in the field for a week.

But supposing, from the mark, ‘Captain’ that it belonged to some poor officer of the line, and knowing that it was more baggage than he was entitled to carry, I relieved him of it from motives that will be appreciated by any officer of the line in the field.

On my arrival in camp I divided the blankets, among my mess, and in a sudden fit of generosity I retained the buffalo robe, shawl and pillow for my own use.

The other members now join me in returning thanks, and feel that to your warm and gushing heart these thanks will be the richest recompense.

We are all of us exceedingly anxious for you to change your field of labor to this army, where the duties of chaplains are much higher than they could possibly be any where else. Here they devote themselves to trading horses and collecting table delicacies with a zeal that eminently entitles them to the appellation of birds of prey.

I am now waiting patiently for your coat and boots, which I presume you will send me in accordance with the following instructions: ‘If any man takeaway thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.’ – Matt. chap. 5, verse 40.

For the regulation of the amount of baggage which a chaplain in the army should carry we refer you to the following: ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purse. Nor scrip for your journey, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat.’ – Matt. chap. 10, verses 9 and 10.

Anything you may have in excess of the above allowance will be most respectfully received by me.

I remain, my dear Gwinney, with sentiments of gratitude,

THE MAN WHO STOLE YOUR BUFFALO ROBE

Note: I looked up the service record of Reverend Gwin, and found that Thomas D. Gwin began his military career as captain of Company F, 1st South Carolina Infantry, on March 16, 1862. He served in that capacity until January 7, 1863, when he resigned to take the position of regimental chaplain for the 1st South Carolina. He served as the regiments chaplain until February 15, 1864, when he resigned from the service.
That witty reply is priceless...
 

Tom Elmore

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#14
Previous to the battle of Fredericksburg, on the night of the 11th of December, 1862, the regiment (89th New York) was ordered to the banks of the Rappahannock River to support the 15th New York Engineers in building a pontoon bridge … The boys had been lying all night on the cold, frosty ground, no fires being allowed, and their very teeth chattering … All at once Stearns called out, “Boys!” Of course all attention was centered on him, as the silence had become oppressive. “How would you relish a dish of ice cream?"

(“Commodore,” Delaware, Iowa, The National Tribune, April 25, 1889, p. 4; a member of Company G, 89th New York, nicknamed “Stearns,” was a frequent jokester)
 

Tom Elmore

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#16
The following three all come from Walter A. Montgomery, a sergeant in Company F, 12th North Carolina, in his book, The Days of Old and the Years that are Past. It is a wonderful account that author and friend Robert J. Wynstra recently brought to my attention.

-A young staff officer was cavorting and plunging around and showing off, mounted upon the poorest old broken-down horse that every man got astride – every rib was sticking out. Private W. E. Darnell, always bright, jolly and good natured, flashed his quizzical eye upon him and said most seriously, “Mister, I’d like to get that job after the battle is over.” With great pompousness the horseman pulled the poor beast on its haunches, and thundered out, “What do you mean, sir? What job are you talking about?” “To weatherboard your horse, I see the scantling is all up,” was Darnell’s reply.

-Darnell once met a visiting preacher on the road, who asked in a very solemn manner and imposing manner, “What command do you belong to? “I belong to the 12th North Carolina, Rodes’ division. What army do you belong to?” replied Darnell, looking at the preacher’s long coat, big breeches and high beaver hat. The preacher answered in his most patronizing and devout tone, “I belong to the Army of the Lord.” As quick as a flash, Darnell said, “Well, my friend, you have got a d----d long way from headquarters.”

-Colonel Vance (afterwards Governor), who led the 26th North Carolina at Malvern Hill, said that in the onset the men, repulsed under a terrific rain of shot and shell, lay down in a field of plowed ground, between the rows, for protection, but unfortunately the furrows ran upwards toward the batteries and served as troughs for the projectiles. One fellow, long, lank and red-headed, said to him, “Colonel, them cussed Virginians have plowed this field the wrong way.”
 

AUG

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#17
Just reread this excerpt from Capt. Joseph Boyce's memoirs, Co. D, 1st Missouri Infantry (CS):

While we were in line of battle [forming for the charge at Franklin] some one in the company, impressed with the scene, quoted Nelson's famous order at Trafalgar: "England expects every man to do his duty." Sergt. Denny Callahan took it up at once, saying: "It's little duty England would get out of this Irish crowd." Nearly all the company and regiment were composed of Irishmen or their descendants. The laugh Denny raised on this was long and hearty. They were noble fellows, indeed, laughing in the face of death. Four years of war hardens men, and yet there were few in the command over twenty-two years of age.
- Captain Joseph Boyce and the 1st Missouri Infantry, C.S.A. edited by William C. Winter.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
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Location
Massachusetts
#18
From the Diary of Sergeant Charles Breck, Company B, 45th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The regiment spent most of their service in North Carolina. As Breck writes,

"One of the most ludicrous sights I ever saw was when we were leaving Trenton, the morning after we entered. That big, brawny stonecutter, Johnson, of Company B, had looted a medical office and found a skeleton. He was marching off, the skeleton hanging over his shoulder, with a bayonet through his mouth and his heels clattering on the ground, while a big leather-bound volume, some work on medicine was under Johnson's arm, giving the impression that private Johnson was going to set up in business when he got back to New Berne."
 
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
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Northern Alabama
#19
One of my favorite stories, and I apologize because I am paraphrasing it from memory and not necessarily precise quotes, involved the battle of Chickamauga and the Federal retreat. But there was a story told about a Confederate private who'd been captured by the Federals and then escaped when their army retreated. He made his way back to his unit and told his company commander about how he had escaped and that the Federals were throwing their guns and anything else away that might impede their speed of escape away in their hurry to get back to Chattanooga. His company commander brought him before his regiment's Colonel, to whom he repeated the story, telling how the Union army was in full retreat when he escaped. Well, so on it went up the organizational chain until finally he was brought to Bragg's headquarters to see the general in person. When he was brought into the presence of General Bragg, he told him that he'd won a great victory and that the Federal army was in full retreat. With Bragg's full staff around him and the private standing in front of him, the general then looked at him with that scowl on his face and growled at the young private, "How would you even know what a retreat looks like?." "I should know," the young private replied, "I've been in this army of yours almost two years now." Upon which even Bragg's staff couldn't stifle their laughter.
 

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