In Camp Near Jasper, Tennessee
Chapter 45 (January 22, 1864 – March 26, 1864)
Many interesting incidents occurred while in this camp, but the recital of a few will suffice. On February 13, Andrew Duss, of Company H, suddenly lost his life. Duss was drafted in 1863, as was Adam Elseser, of Company F. They had been playmates in the Fatherland. These two happened to be attached to our regiment, one in Company H, the other in Company F. When they met and recognized each other, they were as happy as children and whenever duty permitted they were always together. On above date Elseser came over to see his old friend of Company H, and while walking along had a small pen knife with which he was whittling a piece of wood. Duss saw him coming, ran up to him and at the same time threw both arms around him. Elseser said: “Lookout, Duss, I have my knife open,” but he pulled himself up tight against him, holding his arms so he could not pull away his knife. The small blade penetrated the heart and with a shriek he fell, and shortly after exonerating his friend and telling it was his own fault, he died. Elseser worried very much about this sad affair, and on April 28, following, he disappeared, and many thought he drowned himself in the Tennessee River.
Bridgeport was the base of supplies for Sherman’s army. We had plenty to eat and to wear, quite an improvement on old “Camp Starvation.” Our camp suttler had just baked a lot of sole leather pies, as the boys called them. These he placed near the canvas of his tent, while the boys, who were on duty, went to investigate matters and, perhaps, be able to swipe a few pies. Quietly they went to the tent and found the exact spot where the pies had been stacked up, but the suttler had removed them and his dog, finding a warm place, lay down where the pies had been. One of the boys took his bayonet and ran it thru the canvas and hit the dog, which gave a number of unearthly yells, and the guards quickly scattered without the pies.
On February 17, we broke camp, crossed the Tennessee River on the pontoon bridge, ascended Raccoon Mountain, marched out on top of the mountain to where we could see down the valley into the town of Trenton at the base of Lookout Mountain. We encamped here for the night and returned next day to Bridgeport. The purpose of this march we never learned. Traveled 24 miles.
The marching was very difficult, it being impossible to keep in order. The officers had to dismount in ascending and also in descending the mountain. General Geary was very much out of humor that the men came down so scattered. We stacked arms along a run just in our front, when Daniel Gross, after breaking ranks, started to fill his canteen with water. The General halted him, saying, that if he did not return to his company at once he would blow out his brains. The General then called to Lieutenant Willit, of Company B, twice, but Willet did not hear him. Some one then told him that Geary wanted him. Then he arose, saluted the General and wanted to apologize, but the old fellow was wrothy and said he wanted no apology. He seemed to be beside himself that day.
On March 26, Lieutenant Nelson Byers was promoted to Captain to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Captain Davis, who was killed at Ringgold, Ga., November 28, 1863. Lieutenant B. T. Parks was promoted from Second to First Lieutenant. These were very worthy promotions, and the boys were all well pleased. We were fortunate in having brave and first class and considerate officers. Not one of the company was ever severely punished by them. But no doubt many deserved it.
This was also the writer’s 21st birthday and one of the happiest days of my life. I had now served Uncle Sam just one year and six months from date of enlistment. Our old regimental flag was now in tatters and a new one was sent to us from Harrisburg. The writer carried our first flag from Harrisburg to Harper’s Ferry, Va., in November, 1862, and handed it over to the regiment. The second one was sent to us while we lay at Bridgeport, Ala., and I carried it from the railroad station to the camp and handed it over to the proper officer.
Just above our camp along the Tennessee River was a large cane brake which was the means of a great deal of amusement. We cut down the reeds, took the larger sizes and made squirt guns of them. Then filled them with water and in the evening we would go around, while the boys would be having a game of cards or interested in some argument, which was very frequent. The tent would be slightly raised, when about a pint of cold water would be dashed into their faces and before the water could be wiped off the offenders would be gone. Another way was to cut large pieces off with the joints left of each end. These pieces were placed in the ashes where cooking was done and about the time the coffee was boiling they would explode throwing the dust and coffee in the air, and sometimes the cook on his back. All enjoyed the fun with the exception of the ones upon whom the tricks were played.