Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Three Months in the Southern States–Lieut. Col. Fremantle, Coldstream Guards.

Three Months in the Southern States–Lieut. Col. Fremantle, Coldstream Guards.

May 14, 2013

Three Months in the Southern States–Lieut. Col. Fremantle, Coldstream Guards

14th May (Thursday).—The officers and soldiers, about thirty in number, who came down the Wachita in my company, determined to proceed to Natchez today, and a very hard day’s work we had of it.

As the Louisianian bank of the Mississippi is completely overflowed at this time of year, and the river itself is infested with the enemy’s gunboats, which have run past Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the passage can only be made by a tedious journey in small boats through the swamps and bayous.

Our party left Trinity at 6 A.m. in one big yawl and three skiffs. In my skiff were eight persons, besides a negro oarsman named “Tucker.” We had to take it in turns to row with this worthy, and I soon discovered to my cost the inconvenience of sitting in close proximity with a perspiring darkie. This negro was a very powerful man, very vain, and susceptible of flattery. I won his heart by asking him if he wasn’t worth 6000 dollars. We kept him up to the mark throughout the journey by plying him with compliments upon his strength and skill. One officer declared to him that he should try to marry his mistress (a widow) on purpose to own him.

After beating up for about eight miles against one of three streams which units at, and give its name to, Trinity, we turned off to the right, and got into a large dense swamp. The thicket was so tangled and impenetrable that we experienced the greatest difficulty in forcing our way through it; we were often obliged to get into the water up to our middles and shove, whilst most of the party walked along an embankment.

After two hours and a half of this sort of work we had to carry our boats bodily over the embankment into a bayou called Log Bayou, on account of the numerous floating logs which had to be encountered. We then crossed a large and beautiful lake, which led us into another dismal swamp, quite as tangled as the former one. Here we lost our way, and got aground several times; but at length, after great exertions, we forced ourselves through it, and reached Lake Concordia, a fine piece of water, several miles in extent, and we were landed at dusk on the plantation of a Mr Davis.

These bayous and swamps abound with alligators and snakes of the most venomous description. I saw many of the latter swimming about exposed to a heavy fire of six-shooters; but the alligators were frightened away by the leading boat.

The yawl and one of the skiffs beat us, and their passengers reached Natchez about 9 P.M., but the other skiff, which could not boast of a Tucker, was lost in the swamp, and passed the night there in a wretched plight.

The weather was most disagreeable, either a burning sun or a downpour of rain.

The distance we did in the skiff was about twenty-eight miles, which took us eleven hours to perform.

On landing we hired at Mr Davis’s a small cart for Mr Douglas (the wounded Missourian) and our baggage, and we had to finish the day by a trudge of three miles through deep mud, until, at length, we reached a place called Vidalia, which is on the Louisianian bank of the Mississippi, just opposite Natchez.

At Vidalia I got the immense luxury of a pretty good bed, all to myself, which enabled me to take off my clothes and boots for the first time in ten days.

The landlord told us that three of the enemy’s gunboats had passed during the day; and as he said their crews were often in the habit of landing at Vidalia, he cautioned the military to be ready to bolt into the woods at any time during the night.

There were two conscripts on board my skiff to-day, one an Irishman and the other a Pole. They confessed to me privately their extreme dislike of the military profession; but at the same time they acknowledged the enthusiasm of the masses for the war.

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