In Camp at Ellis' Ford
Chapter 28 (August 2, 1863 – September 16, 1863)
On a Sunday morning while in this camp a half dozen or more of us wandered out a little from camp and found a cultivated field of a few acres surrounded with woods. We noticed a large cherry tree along the edge of the woods with several large limbs extending over the field and a nice green plot of grass beneath its shade. Here we lay down and were talking about our past experiences as soldiers; about friends at home and almost everything else boys would naturally talk about, when the writer turned on his back and looking up, saw a large black snake lying on a limb just above us with 12 or 15 inches of its head hanging over the limb and it appeared ready to jump down on us. We yelled Snake! And in less time than I could tell it we were from under that tree but we could see no snake. The top of the tree was broken off and was hollow. We drew sticks to see who should go to camp for an axe to cut down the tree. The one sent for the axe stayed too long for us so we discovered a pretty large hole near the bottom of the tree and decided that if we could find a few leaves and dry sticks we might burn out his snakeship. We did this and it proved a great success, for the old tree burned like a chimney soon began to waver and finally fell. Each had provided himself with a club and swore allegiance to stand by each other should the snake attack any of us. We supposed him to be in one of the hollow limbs but the tree having fallen no snake appeared. On examination of the stump we found the dead snake as he had no way of escape from the heat of the rotten parts of the tree which had fallen from the inside and were burning. Perhaps it was our good luck that he was burned. The snake measured over seven feet in length. The largest snake we ever saw. We also saw snake feet which were about three-fourth way back from its head and were about as thick as the end of a man’s finger and about three-fourth inch long. We had often heard of snakes having feet but unless they were burned to death they could not be seen. The burning of this snake proved the assertion beyond a doubt.
In this camp we were paid a few months wages, amounting to the enormous sum of $13 per month. This money was usually sent to Col. Henry C. Eyer of Selinsgrove, and he would attend to properly distributing it among the friends of the company, whom each one had selected to take charge of his cash. When the ten drafted men or bounty jumpers previously mention were assigned to the company, they were full of money and after our boys were paid off the gamblers of our regiment began playing cards for money; piles and piles of it lay before them as stakes and the camp, for a little while, was made a den of thieves. Fights and knockdowns seemed to be the order of the day, and the guard house was full of toughs. But Company G had no trouble in that direction, for while many played cards very few gambled and not one of the Company was placed in the guard house. The writer became so disgusted with the excessive card playing that he never even learned to know the names of the cards, and the truth of it is, since then he has never had any desire to learn to play. With few exceptions this is a true statement that those who played cards and carried a deck, whenever our skirmishers were sent out and a battle was imminent, would invariably throw the decks away. We have seen the roads strewn with cards for great distances. Each fellow seemed to think that, after all, it was not just the right thing to be found dead with a deck of cards in his pocket. And yet when the battle was over and these same fellows had escaped being hurt they would immediately gather up the cards until they had a full deck and when another battle was probable the above mentioned practice was repeated. But the boys were not all bad and I would judge, at least 95 per cent were good citizens and also good soldiers.
Tuesday, September 15 we broke camp at Ellis’ Ford after remaining here since August 2. A very pleasant time was spent while in this camp, and we were all loath to leave it. We marched to Kelley’s Ford and encamped, traveled five miles. Just one year ago today we were sworn into the United States service.
Yesterday, September 14, our very worthy Orderly Sergeant, B.T. Parks, was promoted to Second Lieutenant to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Lieutenant William H. Schroyer.