Drumming Another Soldier Out of Camp
Chapter 43 (November 30, 1863 – December 31, 1863)
The campaign just closed was entirely successful. In the official report of the recent battles, General Hooker says: “It has never been my fortune to serve with more devoted troops.”
On the 29th General Grant, declaring that he wished to see the troops that fought the battle of Lookout Mountain, reviewed General Geary’s White Star Division in Wauhatchie Valley, where it was then encamped. He was accompanied by his staff and all the generals of the combined armies of the Cumberland and Tennessee. No troops could have been more highly complimented than were those of the White Star Division on this occasion.
On December 9 we were visited by a committee, Dr. King, Surgeon General, Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Francis. They were sent by Governor Curtin of the great State of Pennsylvania to express the thanks and gratitude of the people of Pennsylvania to the Keystone boys, who participated in the battles which ended in such brilliant victories, and also to look after the welfare of her soldiers. We remember well, when the above commission visited the camp of the 147th Regiment, speeches were made by all of them, and responded to by General Geary. We recall the speech of one, who said that if General Geary’s life should be spared until the war had closed that he would be called upon to conduct the civil affairs of Pennsylvania. This was verified by being twice elected Governor of the State.
The proposition of the General Government for Veteran Volunteers was published early in December. On December 16, the 29th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, of our Second Brigade was the first regiment in the service of the United States to re-enlist as veterans, having served two full years. Two hundred and ninety reenlisted as veterans. A number who had not served the two years were rejected. The Government agreed a few days later to let these veteranize providing they would agree to serve their full two years and then re-enlist for three more years. It required a two years service to become a veteran. Here was a chance for Company G, a 90 day furlough and a $400 bounty, and all the good square meals in the next 90 days. The roll showed 57 present in Company G, not having served two years. We agreed to serve the balance of two years, and then re-enlist for three more years. All did so with the exception of William E. Fausnaucht, who positively refused to reenlist. The company was sworn to the above agreement, but in a very short time it was rejected by the Government, and our hopes of getting out of “Camp Starvation” and of having a good time and plenty to eat at home were frustrated.
Those who would not go, were to be transferred to the 11th Corps, which was composed of German troops. Fausnaucht, who could not speak German, was told that he had better book himself so that he would, at least, be able to ask for his rations. The boys told him to say to the German Commissary, “Ich will ouch mina rotzeona hauben.” [“I want to have my rations also.”] We had quite a good deal of fun with Fausnaucht about joining the Dutch.
On December 28, for the second time in our service, we witnessed the drumming of disgraced soldiers out of camp. This time the culprit was Silas C. Camp, of Company E, 111th Pennsylvania Regiment. He was arrested and found guilty by general court martial of cowardice and robbing the dead at the battle of Lookout Mountain. He was sentenced to have his head shaved, all the military buttons cut from his clothing, and drummed out of camp to the tune of The Rogue’s March. The division was drawn up in line, when boards were hung about the culprit’s neck with Robbing the Dead on one and Cowardice on the other, printed in large letters. His hands were tied behind his back; a guard placed in the rear with fixed bayonets to hurry him along and the drum corps in the lead. This weird march began at the right of the division and passed along the entire front to the left. Every regiment passed, hooted, hissed, and pelled until the picket line was reached, where he was hurried thru and left go. He was a rascal and deserved all he got.
In the evening after roll call, the boys would sneak down to Kelly’s Ferry, about two miles below camp, where the crackers, unloaded from the little steamboat, were piled up. Guards were placed about these crackers with orders to shoot any one who attempted to steal. Many risked their lives for the sake of getting a few crackers to eat.
The dark, corduroyed road to the ferry led thru a gap in the Raccoon Mountains. Here almost any hour the boys could be found, going back and forth seeking for something to eat and many so weak as to be scarcely able to walk. We did not consider this stealing, for Uncle Sam had hired us for $13 per month and board, and as we and the crackers belonged to the same firm we considered it all right to take what we could get. We were also in need of clothing, as the weather was very cold and disagreeable and we had barely enough to keep us warm. On New Year’s night, 1864, as the New Year was being ushered in a great storm arose and the cold winds blew. Trees were felled and many tents torn that they were almost worthless but fortunately no one was hurt.