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error, nor the failure other than an accident. The courage with
which you, in an open field, maintained the ntest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and recrossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympa. thizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparatively so small. I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
Christmas came but no stockings were hung up — except to dry. On the 30th we were reviewed by General Taylor, and on the same day Maj.-Gen. John C. Robinson took command of the division, to the disgust of General Taylor, who shortly after resigned.
New Year's day brought forcibly to mind that our serThursday, vice of three years was about half completed, though the Jan. 1.
remaining eighteen months seemed a long look ahead.
The regiment had been reduced from 1,038 to less than 350 men, the number now mustered at roll-call. Nearly all of this reduction had occurred during the last five months. Counted in with this reduction were the men who were detailed at brigade, division, or corps headquarters, performing services for which they had some special qualification, while a considerable number of the rank and file had received commissions as officers in other regiments. Officers' luggage had been so reduced that the distinction in rank was much less marked than during the early part of our service. Instead of one hundred men, some of the companies had only twenty to twenty-five. The officers of a company were little better off than the men, and as time wore on the difference became still less, while the hardships and privations increased, as will be seen farther along.
Having made our huts as comfortable as possible, we settled down for the winter, glad enough at the prospect of a respite, as we fondly imagined, from marching and fighting. Some of the boys had taken great pains in the construction of their huts, particularly in building fireplaces and other conveniences for their comfort and pleasure.
As long as the sutler remained with us, and our credit continued, we managed to live luxuriously, as compared with our experience of the last four months. We could always procure sugar and lemons from the sutler, to which we added water; and when our efforts were successful, a little stimulant, for the stomach's sake."
We had work enough during the day, chopping wood, policing camp, guard duty, etc., to keep us from despising our leisure. Our evenings were spent in reading or playing cards, or, as it often
1863 happened, in dropping into each others' huts for a chat
or to hear the latest news. Newspapers were exchanged and their contents discussed. The published letters from correspondents were always read with interest, particularly those which related to our own corps.
The qualifications of general officers, and plans of battles, were also freely discussed. Songs were sung and gossip repeated. At some of these camp-fires curiosity would often be expressed to know what had become of those shirks and bummers who believed with the Holy Writ that “ a living dog is better than a dead lion.” We had, like other regiments, some curious specimens of this genus, and our narrative would be incomplete without relating something about these patriots.
There was one in particular whose blundering ways, when recalled, afforded a good deal of amusement. He was about as much of a soldier as a hen, and his careless, bungling habits caused a good deal of friction in the daily life of some of us. No soldier likes to have his calves used as a door-mat for the feet of the man behind him. The champion of all offenders in this respect was a man who was called by the sweet name of “ Molasses.” He was thrust upon us the day before we left Fort Independence. No one knew him before he joined the regiment, and only one man sought his acquaintance afterward. He was homely in appearance, unshapely in form, awkward in gait, and as ignorant and dirty a slouch as could be found. His gait was like that of a man who, having spent his life in a ploughed field, could not divest his mind of the idea that he was still stepping over furrows. He was about fifteen years older than the rest of us, and his manly breast was undisturbed by a single thrill of patriotism ; each corpuscle of blood, as it flowed from his heart, carried to the remotest extremity of his body one desire, — “Put money in thy purse." His mercenary and penurious spirit prompted him to increase his income by the sale of small wares to his comrades, who despised him for his unsoldier-like thrift. He was generally absent when his services were needed, so that the man whose name was next on the list had to take his place, which always happened when the duty was unusually hard or dangerous, as occasionally