In Camp at Savannah
Chapter 64 (December 22, 1864 – January 22, 1865)
Some wag got together about 80 or 90 of the boys equipped with jews harps, violins, cornstalk fiddles, tin horns, triangles and any and everything to make a noise. The commander had the boys fall in, right dressed counted off in fours, right faced and forward down Bull street to General Sherman’s headquarters. The General and his staff were sitting on the front porch. The commander with a baton in his hand called halt! Front! Right dress! Front! He then stepped to the front and center and in imitation of a band leader with perhaps a few more curlicues he made use of his baton in grand style. At a certain signal all began the twistification and such a noise you never heard even outdoing the calithumpians of a Snyder county wedding.
A great crowd had gathered on the street: everybody enjoyed it and it made all feel happier. General Sherman and staff were more than pleased and when the performance was over the commander and the boys looked as sober as judges. The command was given Salute! Then in four ranks right face, forward march! The General and his staff clapped their hands as long as they were in sight.
Across the river east of the city was South Carolina, with its great rice plantations probably six or eight miles long by two or three wide. Up the river about four miles flood gates were placed along the river for the purpose of overflowing these rice tracts. It was said our first division crossed over the river one afternoon and when all were over the Rebels opened the flood gates and soon the rice plantations were covered with from four to six inches of water. It was necessary to send an armed force up to the flood gates and close them up but this required time and night coming on they did not get there until next morning, and the best thing the division could do was to stand there all night in the water.
The Savannah River was blocked to prevent our gunboats from coming up. The Rebels had placed torpedoes all along in the stream. Sherman took some prisoners that knew all about the location of the torpedoes. He placed these prisoners on our boats and had them pilot the boats and point out where the torpedoes were. They used what was called devil catchers which contrivance was placed on the bow of the boat extending under water and reaching in front raised the torpedoes. We saw them as they were placed upon the land.
In a very short time these obstructions were removed and steamers came up from New York and Philadelphia loaded with provisions and clothing and also brought papers from the North which we were glad to receive to learn what had been doing since we left Atlanta November 15. We had not seen a Northern paper since then.
During our stay here two of our boys, Edward Fisher and Calvin E. Parks were promoted to orderlies on the staff of General Ario Pardee commanding the first brigade of Geary’s White Star Division. This was quite an honor to Company G and especially so to Parks and Fisher.
A number of our boys were up the river guarding the rice mills which our army put into operation. During the siege of Savannah rice sold at $1 a pint. As our communications had not yet been opened we had no way of securing rations. After the city fell into our hands, we got along pretty well. Oysters were plentiful and a detail from Company G was made to go down the river to a place called Thunderbolt, where there was an oyster bed. The boat was loaded and the oysters issued to the boys. We had salt and pepper. Butter cost us $l.25 per pound, eggs 65 cents per dozen. We certainly enjoyed a change of diet. Salaratus was used in place of baking soda, for baking corn bread, and as much as we used to get at home for three cents we paid one dollar for in Savannah.
A large bakery was opened by a Dutchman on McCallister street, and this bread was sold, baked in one pan, sixteen loaves for one dollar. I think 1,000 of these pans were baked each day. Only one dollars worth was sold to a mess. To get bread the crowd would gather at the bakery as early as two and three o’clock in the morning. The bakery door would not be thrown open before six o’clock A. M. and such a rush you never saw. At the door guards were stationed with fixed bayonets, and they permitted the boys to pass in as fast as they could be served.
Our company generally was successful in getting a number of dollars worth, then in camp we divided with the rest of the hungry ones. One day Freddie Ulrich was coming along the iron fence surrounding the park, and which was at the foot of our company street, when someone of the company yelled out: “Rush on the Dutch baker!” Everyone started for Freddie, downed him and trampled him until finally he managed to get his head under the iron fence, and he always claims that the fence saved him from having “the blamed fools tramp him to death.”
Ed R. Smith, one of the drafted men of the company, who had been imbibing too much calamity juice, was taken in the city, and when he got back to camp he told of some of his exploits, which interested the boys very much. Among other things he said he had met General Sherman and the General talked to him. Someone asked what did he say to you? Smith said that the General saw that he was politely inebriated and said to him that if he did not get off the pavement he would kick him off.