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.

February 27, 2014

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

Guard Duty.

Feb. 27. Our guard duty is just outside the town. There are three stations: one on the south side next the asylum, one at the college on the west side, and one on the north side on the Palace Green. This last station is the one I usually take charge of. At each station the guard is divided into three reliefs, and the duty is simply to keep a lookout for the approach of the enemy and turn out the guard in honor of the officer of the day and to Col. West, the post commander. Our quarters at this station are in a small house which was formerly negroes’ quarters. In the yard stands a large, unoccupied house owned by a Mr. Saunders, now a resident of New York. He is said to be a loyal man and a lawyer by profession. When McClellan passed through here, Mr. Saunders availed himself of the opportunity, and taking his family, went to New Fork. When I first took command of this station several mornings ago, the instructions given me were to keep a sharp lookout for the approach of the enemy. I had not been engaged in this business a great while, when the approach of Col. West was announced. I turned out the guard with a great dash, extending all the honors due his exalted rank. He inquired my instructions. I informed him of those I had received. He then inquired if I had not received instructions in regard to-this house in the yard. I said I had not. “Then I will give you some; I shall expect you to look after this house and see that no one goes in there or in any way disturbs anything around it, and shall hold you responsible for its safe keeping while you are on duty.” I promised to faithfully attend to that important duty. He then dismissed the guard and rode over to call on a lady friend of his.

A Frightened Darky.

I now had a very important trust imposed on me, and I naturally felt a sort of womanly curiosity to explore that sacred realm. Soon after daylight the next morning, I took three of the boys and went around to the back side of the house and effected an entrance, but it was evident we were not the first explorers. We found nothing but a few articles of heavy furniture until we went into the southwest corner room next to the veranda. Here was a rich find, a large library. This room was about 15 feet square, and on all sides were books from the floor to the ceiling. Here was history, biography, travels, fiction, religion, law and miscellaneous works, magazines of all kinds, public documents, reports on all manner of subjects, and a large quantity of letters and private papers.

We tarried here over an hour, and on coming out met a darky on the veranda. He put on one of his ugliest looks and said:

“Wot doin’ in dar? Mus keep out dar!”

“What’s that to you, you black cuss?”

“You fine out, you go in dar. Colonel West tole me look out for dis yer property an’ tole him wot I sees goin’ on roun yere.”

“And do you tell Colonel West what you see done here?”

“O, yas sah, yas sah, Ize tole him ebery ting Ize sees.”

“Look here, boy, do you want to live to be old?”

“O, yas sah, yas sah.”

“Well then, if you are cherishing any such desire, you must be a little careful what you say to West, for if he ever comes to us with any stories from you, we will take you out here into the woods and leave you for the buzzards to eat.”

“O, lorra golly mity, boss, Ize neber ses nosin’ bout de sogers, it’s on’y dese yere citizens roun yere Ise looks arter, fore de Lord, boss, Ise done sa nosin bout de sogers.”

“That’s right, boy; yon stick to that and keep it right on your mind when you see West, unless you want buzzards to your funeral.”

That darky came down from boiling heat to zero in a short space of time, and as we have heard nothing from him he probably keeps the buzzards on his mind.

Saluting the Post Commander.

A few mornings ago it was warm, sunshiny and spring-like. It was my turn on guard, and I was in command of the whole party marching through town. On the way I saw Col. West coming, and gave the order: “Shoulder arms; close up!” Just then we were passing a house on the right side of the street. On the veranda were several ladies taking their morning airing. I gave the order: “Eyes right!” West heard the order, and caught the idea; laughing, he touched his cap as he rode past us.

I reckon he was pleased with my style of soldiering as he called on me at the station a few hours afterwards. I turned out the guard and extended the customary honors. After looking us over he said:

“Sergeant, suppose you should see a force of the enemy file out of the woods over yonder, what would you do?”

“Well, sir, that would depend altogether on the size of the force.”

“Well, say one or two regiments of infantry.”

“In that case I should deploy my men among the buildings here, and skirmish with them until reinforcements arrived.”

“Very well. Suppose a brigade of cavalry should dash out, what then?”

“In that case we would empty our rifles on them once or twice, and cut and run like hell for Fort Magruder.”

“You’ll do, dismiss your guard;” and wheeling his horse he rode off laughing.

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