In Camp at Dumphries
Chapter 8 (March 12, 1863 - April 19, 1863)
In our Dumphries camp our Company street was about 40 feet wide. The officers’ headquarters were located at the west end of the street. The street declined slightly toward the east from company headquarters. We had splendid drainage, but every precaution was taken to have our camp ground clean and in healthy condition.
The first thing in the morning was reveille at 6:00 o’clock. At 6:30 roll call by our orderly, Sergeant B. T. Parks; at 7:00 a. m., breakfast, if we had anything to eat. At 7:30 a. m. police call. At this call we would all get out each with a home made broom which we made ourselves, or with a bunch of brushes tied together, and sweep the company and regimental grounds. The sinks and slop pits would be looked after under command of a corporal and several men with shovels.
When this was done at 8:30 we had what was called guard mount. Those, who at the previous evening roll call were detailed for camp guard or picket duty, would assemble at regimental headquarters under command of an officer. There the camp guards were separated from the pickets, and under an officer, detailed for camp guard, were taken to their post of duty. Those detailed for picket marched to Brigade headquarters and there received their instructions, and under a proper officer were taken out and stationed on the picket line. Picket duty is always dangerous, but is necessary for the safety of the camp.
Let me say right here that when in camp this was the daily routine throughout our army service. No matter how the weather was, rain or shine, warm or cold, often drenched to the skin before we reached the picket line. When there we had no shelter, we had only a rubber blanket to throw over our shoulders. Generally 24 hours was the time for which we were detailed, but often we were out for three days in succession. While on this duty we would stand on post two hours, and off four hours, thus making eight hours on the lonely picket line out of 24.
At 10 a. m. drill call, when the companies would go out and have company drill by the officers for one hour. At 12 o’clock dinner. At 2:00 p. m. battalion or regimental drill for two hours. 6:00 p. m. supper, dress parade at 6:30; 8:30 roll call, and taps at 9:00 o’clock. That meant lights out and that the day’s work was done.
On Sunday we had no drill, only inspection at 10 a. m. Our tents, beds, clothing and guns were closely inspected, also our company grounds. Company G was quite often complimented for cleanliness, and the report read at dress parade in the evening. Many of the tents of the company were named Mess Number One, Cosy Nook, Kevic, Growlers’ Retreat, the Happy Family from Penn’s Creek, etc.
The life of a soldier is a busy one, and often a very hard one. Many people imagine it’s all fun. Those of old Company G, who had a continuous service of two years and nine months, know from experience that a soldier’s life is not an easy one.
On the 6th of April our company cook resigned. It was not necessary that Congress or the President accept his resignation, so he simply quit. Mr. Laubenstine was not sworn in as a soldier. Being blind of one eye, he was exempt from military duty. Therefore he could quit whenever he saw fit. He opened a suttlers tent and started by selling 3 cent postage stamps for 5 cents each. The colonel, hearing of it, notified him unless he stopped at once his whole outfit would be confiscated. After that we bought our stamps at the old United States price, 3 cents each.
After the resignation of Mr. Laubenstine each one became his own cook. We did not follow the recipes of Mrs. Roarer very closely. It took us some little time to know how to put up a meal.
We had pans with handles 12 or 15 inches long. We often came across flour or corn meal; sometimes bought it, sometimes otherwise. We would stir this up, make a batter of it, grease the pan well, hold it over the fire, keep shaking the pan to keep the slapjacks from burning fast. When we thought it time to turn the cake, with a slight twist of the wrist the cake would be thrown into the air, turn a somersault and be caught again in the pan. Sometimes half of it would hang out over the edge of the pan.
Sometimes it wouldn’t hang at all, but drop in the ashes. Then we would always make the best of it.
I think it would have pleased some of the large salaried cooks of our swell hotels to see how well we managed, and what grand meals we did get up. We always relished these meals because we were in good shape to receive them. No dyspepsia in Company G.
Someone of the mess would be selected to do the cooking for a little while, then another, taking turns. This gave us all a chance to become experts in the culinary department. Sometimes we had nothing but crackers. On one such occasion Solly App, who was messing with his brother, Jere App, and was cook at this time, said to him “Jere wos wella mere hovva fur suppe?” Jere replied, “I, ich denk grackers.” [“Jere, what do you want to have for supper?”] Jere replied, [“I think crackers.”]