DISAGREEABLE EXPERIENCES IN WAR TIMES.
BY MAJ. E.B. CARRUTH, AUSTIN, TEX.
At the beginning of the Confederate war there were very few men in the South that knew anything of military tactics. Companies and battalions were drilled in camps of instruction. After the fall of Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, these green troops were hurried to Corinth, Miss., where Gens. Albert Sidney Johnston, Braxton Bragg, and Beauregard were mobilizing an army to check General Grant's movement into the South. The 7th Mississippi Regiment, to which I belonged, was sent from Bay St. Louis, on the coast, to reinforce the troops at Fort Donelson, and arrived at Jackson, Tenn., the day that Fort Donelson surrendered, and was ordered to Corinth. The regiment arrived there and bivouacked by the side of the railroad on Friday before the battle of Shiloh in the midst of a Cold, drizzly, sleety rain, About the same time a train load of provisions was shoved out on a switch of the railroad near by. Soon a staff officer from General Bragg's headquarters appeared and read an order to me to take charge of a large detail of men and to have these provisions unloaded from the cars and covered up with a tarpaulin. This was accomplished by dark, so after eating a hasty supper of crackers, broiled bacon, and coffee, I crawled under the edge of the tarpaulin that covered the provisions, and had myself comfortable for the night (?). The pattering rain and sleet upon the tent cloth would have been productive of a fine sleep, but just as I got comfortably straightened out in my blankets the same little staff officer appeared and called me again. I poked my head out from under the tarpaulin and answered like Samuel of old: "Here am I." He stooped down near me, and by the aid of a lantern read a long order. It was a "stunner." I was directed to go to the southern end of the western switch of the railroad, where I would find a detail of one hundred, and twenty men ready to report to me, also that I would find a train load of wagons all "knocked down," wheels in one car, axles in another, bodies, bows, and sheets in the other cars. And the harness was likewise "knocked down." There were bundles of harness, bundles of breeching, bundles of bridles and lines, large bundles of collars of all sorts and sizes. And, to cap the climax, on a cold, rainy night, the order called for one hundred and thirty mules that were in a field one half mile southeast of the switch.
The instructions were to have the provisions mentioned above all loaded and be ready to move at sunrise. The staff officer gave me a copy of the order and a lantern, and advised me that the order was "imperative." I felt that I was simply stranded. It seemed impossible in the cold, rain, and mud, with mules in the field and "knocked down" wagons, to load those supplies and move by sunup. Just then there was little prospect that the sun ever would shine again. However, I got out, put my boy Caleb in the warm nook that I left, and went to the south end of the western switch. Sure enough, there was the detail, well supplied with lanterns. I read the order to the detail. I called for wheelwrights and mechanics, and put fifty men to work getting out the wagons and fitting them together. Another large detail was made, each man being furnished with two bridles and sent to the field after the mules, while still others were directed to arrange the harness. Thus the work proceeded much more cheerfully than I had anticipated. Many jokes and witticisms kept the men's spirits up, while numerous inquiries were made as to "the cause of such a rush." Later in the night the mules arrived, wet, cold, and all drawn up, so it was not easy to fit the harness.
By four o'clock in the morning a number of wagons had been adjusted and fitted out with bows and sheets, and four strong mules to each wagon. Just as we were ready to start a little incident occurred that afforded considerable amusement. Four men of the detail who had shirked duty were found hid away in one of the wagons. As soon as they were discovered the other men of the detail caught them, dragged them out of the wagon, and treated them to a mud bath. Order having been restored, the first wagon started for the "grub pile" amid deafening applause and shouts of the men. The "impossible" had been accomplished. With a pilot carrying a lantern ahead and a man to lead each mule, the first wagon arrived at the "grub pile" and proceeded to load with flour. By sunup the stores were all loaded on the wagons and ready to move.
Daylight the next morning Sunday, April 6, 1862 found us in line of battle near. the Shiloh Church in front of General Grant's army. The sequel is well known.
[Confederate Veteran, Vol.16, No.8, P.408, August 1908]