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

Post image for Diary of David L. Day.

Diary of David L. Day.

August 15, 2013

David L Day–My diary of rambles with the 25th Mass

Waiting to be Relieved.

We keep a small camp guard during the night and this duty is assigned to the artillery detail, each gun’s company taking its turn, which brings us on every third night. There are only four posts, the guns and magazine, and as they only go on at tattoo and come off at reveille, the duty is not very arduous. The guard is divided into two reliefs, one going on the first part of the night and the other the latter part; the duty is simply to keep their ears open for any disturbance among the pickets out in the woods and alarm the camp. The reliefs sleep in their quarters and are called when wanted. The sergeant or corporal on duty occupies a small wall tent, in which a candle is kept burning through the night. Having my choice of time and it not making any difference to the corporal, I take the latter part, as I prefer sleeping the first part. I have a splendid corporal, I think the best in the service; we go along together, and agree first rate. He is willing to do all the work and I am willing he should. He posts the first relief and then keeps his eyes open until it is time to post the second relief, when he posts them and then comes and calls me, when I relieve him. My work is now all done; all I have to do is to lie down and go to sleep or busy myself with my reading or writing, and call off the relief at reveille. If I am too busy to attend to that duty (which I generally am), they take the responsibility of relieving themselves, which is a great help to me and relieves me of a great burden of care.

One night while on this duty the officer of the day came in and inquired if I would like to take a stroll and make a round of the pickets. I replied that I should. We started out making the round and not being in a hurry did not get back till daylight. I laid down and went to sleep, feeling that everything was all safe and quiet on the Pamlico. About 7 o’clock I was called up and told I was wanted at the magazine. I went out and there stood Charley, a Roman sentinel amid the wreck of worlds. I admired his fidelity, but I really couldn’t commend his judgment and no explanation or excuses of mine availed in the least; he was going to he relieved officially, and after he had got through with me I don’t think there were many more cuss words left in him. I certainly felt relieved if he didn’t.

The Rover.

Capt. Foss somewhere picked up an old boat and with Jed’s assistance put it in good repair, rigged up a sail, rated it A 1, and named it the Rover. The captain is skipper and Jed sailing master. She is a long, clipper-built craft, with a large spread of canvas and a carrying capacity of ten or twelve persons. With a spanking breeze she walks up and down the river like a thing of life and makes nothing of sailing right around the little steamer Undine. She makes frequent trips to Rodman’s and occasionally to town. The captain selects the party he wants to take out and I am sometimes honored with an invitation. We usually run alongside the gunboat that lays here and take aboard the second assistant engineer, who is a genial, good-natured old fellow, full of his fun and stories, and then put for Rodman’s. We stop there an hour and start for home. On the return trip, the old engineer’s inventive powers will be a good deal quickened and he will suggest various alterations in the rig and sail of the craft, which will improve her sailing qualities, all of which Jed readily accepts and is going to forthwith adopt, but the next day the improvements are all forgotten and never thought of again until another return trip from Rodman’s. A few days ago a small party of us made a halt at Rodman’s and found Sergeant Martin in command. He did the honors, showing us about the camp and extending hospitalities in a manner that would have done credit to a prince. To my notion Sergeant Martin has got the correct idea of holding a command, not to go dry himself nor let his friends.

Big Jim.

Big Jim, as he is called, is a character; genial, charitable, good-natured, humorous and generous to a fault. He is quite a theatrical character and loves to deal in romance and tragedy, and he caters to the mirthful and fun-loving among the boys. He does not amount to much as a soldier, but that is more his misfortune than from any unwillingness. He is of enormous proportions and very fat, tipping the scale at 250 pounds. He is sorely troubled with chafing when drilling or on the march, and for that reason is excused from pretty much all duty. He is a sort of independent corps, doing duty when he feels like it; he will often go out in the woods and relieve a man on picket who happens to be taken sick. He sometimes has a feeling come over him that he would like to get away from the noise and bustle of the camp, and be alone by himself. At such times he takes his rifle and goes to the little point, some 100 rods down the river, where there is a picket post. Here he will stay two or three days at a time, caring for no company except at night, and amuses himself with fishing, reading and writing. He has become so enamoured of this kind of life, that he has taken the contract to do the picket duty at that post and has made it his permanent residence, coming up to camp only two or three times a week to see the boys and get his rations. He has opened a trading post down there, and trades with the natives who touch there as they come in their boats from up the bay or cove which sets back from there. He has built himself a log house, and a sign over the door reads “Cash paid for coon skins,” of which and other peltries he has collected quite a quantity, and intends sending them to Boston, markets.

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