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.

January 25, 2014

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

The Famous March of the Famous Two Hundred.

Williamsburg, Va., Jan. 25. Leaving Newport News on the afternoon of the 21st, we made a march of about ten miles, reaching Little Bethel just before dark, when we halted and put up in an old church building for the night. Little Bethel contains beside the church an old grist and saw mill, a blacksmith shop and three small houses, all in a rather dilapidated condition. There was no enemy within 100 miles of us, but Capt. Parkhurst, either as a matter of form or through force of habit, put out a few pickets. The old church had long ago been stripped of its seats and pulpit, if it ever had any, leaving the whole floor unobstructed. After supper and getting a little rested, a dance was proposed. A gallery extended across one end, and on the front of this the candles were thickly set, lighting up the old church in fine style. One of our German comrades of Company G had a violin and furnished the music. Sets were formed and the fun commenced. The pickets outside, hearing the sounds of revelry within, left their posts and came in, and standing their rifles in a corner threw off their equipments and joined in the dance. The captain remonstrated at such unlawful proceedings, but the cry was “Never mind the pickets! on with the dance! let fun be unrestrained.” The dance was kept up until the candles burned low, when we spread our blankets and laid down for rest.

In the morning we found outside five men with their horses and carts, waiting to sell us oysters. Fortunately we were the possessors of a few scraps of paper bearing the signature of Uncle Samuel. With a portion of this paper we bought the men’s oysters, and after breakfast we chartered them to carry our knapsacks to Yorktown, thereby nullifying the order of the great Mogul at Fortress Monroe, and I have not the slightest doubt that if he knew of it he would hang every one of those men for giving aid and comfort to the incorrigible.

Leaving Little Bethel we marched over McClellan’s famous corduroy road through white oak swamp, coming out at Warwick court house. This is a county seat, containing a small court house situated in a pretty grove of trees, a jail, church, half a dozen houses and a blacksmith shop. We arrived at the forks of the roads, a mile below and in full view of historic old Yorktown, about the middle of the afternoon. Here we were met by an officer and commanded to halt till further orders. I thought this was as near as they dared have us come the first day for fear the malaria would strike us too suddenly.

From here the dim outlines of Washington’s old intrenchments could be traced and near by was what appeared to be an angle in the line on which guns were probably mounted and which commanded the whole open plain between here and town. Now it did not require a great stretch of the imagination to go back to those days and see those brave men toiling and suffering behind those works, to build up for themselves and their posterity a country and a name. I could see in my mind the haughty Cornwallis march out upon this plain, surrendering his army and his sword to Washington, in the last grand act in the drama of the American revolution. But how is it today? Yonder rebel fort tells in thunder tones how well their degenerate sons appreciate the legacy.

About dusk an orderly rode up, bringing an order for us to proceed to Williamsburg, some fifteen miles further up the country. We tried to get the captain to stop here till morning and go through the next day, but it was of no use; he had got his orders to march and was going through tonight. I could not see that it was a military necessity to force the march, raid after we had gone three or four miles my knapsack began to grow heavy and I grew tired. I halted by the roadside and said I was going to put up for the night and if any one would like to keep me company I should be pleased to have them. About twenty rallied to my standard. After the column had passed we stepped through a low hedge of bushes into a small open space, surrounded by high bushes which served as a shelter from the winds. Here we spread our blankets and laid ourselves down to forget in our slumbers the weight of our knapsacks. The stars looked down on us and the watchful eye of the Almighty was the only sentinel.

When we awoke in the morning the rising sun’s bright ray was peeping through the bushes. The first object which met our gaze was a lean, lank, sandy-complexioned, ion»-haired native, who stood peering over the bushes at us. The first salutation that greeted his ears was, .’Who are you and what do you want?” He replied, “I seed you was down yere, and thought I would come down and see if I could get some ‘baccer?” Looking up we saw a house out in the field some distance off, and asked him if he resided there. He said he did. We gave him some tobacco and inquired about the roads and distance to Williamsburg. We inquired if there were any bushwhackers about here? He said “There mought be once in a while one found.” Then we put on a ferocious look and said they had better not be found by us unless they wished to join the antediluvian society and have their bones scattered in every graveyard from here to Jerusalem. The old chap’s eyes stuck out and he began to edge off, thinking perhaps we had got on a thick coat of war paint. We made our coffee and started on our journey, and by easy stages came up with the boys in the afternoon. They had pitched the camp and got it all fixed up and named Camp Hancock.

I thought the captain was as glad to see us as anyone, but he put on a stern look and inquired where we had been and why we fell out. We told him we were tired and lay down by the side of the road to rest and take a nap. He lectured us on the enormity of such proceedings, telling us we had committed a very flagrant breach of good order and military despotism. We assented to all the captain said, but kept thinking all the time that as we were a sort of outcasts, did not belong anywhere and were under no particular command, there wouldn’t much come of it.

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