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.

June 29, 2012

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

An Excursion.

June 29. Companies C and B, together with Capt. Schenck’s New York battery company as infantry, returned yesterday afternoon from an expedition across the Neuse river, having been gone three days. We crossed the river Thursday morning, the 26th, and started out on a reconnoissance, tour of observation, scout, raid or whatever else it might be called, Capt. Schenck in command. We penetrated into the country some four or five miles, coming out at a cross road. There in the shade of the woods we halted for rest and lunch. Put out a few pickets to prevent surprise, I should think they were out about twelve rods from the column, which made it comparatively safe. After a little time, and while we were having a kind of picnic, there was a stir among the pickets in the rear and it was reported they had made a capture. The authorities went out to see what was up, and soon returned with an old horse and cart containing a few bags of meal and driven by a couple of grown-up girls, or more properly speaking, young ladies. They were returning from mill and were pretty badly frightened on finding themselves prisoners of war. The officers behaved towards them with the utmost gallantry, assuring them that no harm should come to them. On these assurances they were soon comforted and seemed to regard it as rather a good joke. After holding them close prisoners of war about a couple of hours, they were paroled and allowed to go their way.

We resumed our march and about two miles farther on came out at another cross road. Here we left a few pickets and proceeding a mile or so farther, came out to Latham’s plantation. This is the finest plantation 1 have yet seen, a large two-story modern-built house, with large, nice lawns and surroundings, the road and driveways set with shade and ornamental trees, and everything kept up sleek and nice, showing thrift, wealth and refinement. Here on the lawn in front of the house, we bivouacked for the night. This Latham is a battery captain in the Confederate service, and we had a hack at him, capturing his battery at the battle before Newbern. He is now somewhere in the Confederacy, but just where deponent saith not. Mrs. Latham was greatly surprised at seeing us, and had made no preparations to receive us. To relieve her embarrassment as much as possible, the boys left her to entertain the officers in the mansion while we took care of ourselves. The boys brought from the barn about two tons of husks and corn leaves, spreading them under the rosetrees on the lawn for beds. They then milked the cows, killed the chickens and pigs, emptied the hives of their honey and made all necessary preparations for our comfort during our stay. The darky women in the kitchen were kept busy with their fry-pans, hoe-cakes and coffee-pots until a late hour in the night, and never before were there guests at Latham’s whom they were more pleased to see or more willing to serve. This was truly the land flowing with milk and honey, and the boys revelled in luxury far into the night, after which they sought rest and repose under the roses. In the morning, the darky women asked if they might go with us over to Newbern. They were told they might and to pick up their traps and follow along. As we were about leaving, Mrs. Latham inquired of Capt. Schenck who was to pay her for the damage we had done. The captain told her to make out her bill and one of these days Uncle Sam and Latham would have a settlement, and she could then work it in. As we moved out of the yard we were joined by the darky women, toting big bundles on their heads. Mrs. Latham came running down the lawn, shouting after them at the top of her voice, “Here, Kitty, Peggy, Rosa, Dinah, where are you going with those horrid men? Come right back here this minute!” The women, looking back over their shoulders and showing immense rows of ivory, replied to her, “Goo-bye, missus, goo-bye! spec we’es gwine ober to Newbern; goo-bye, missus, goo-bye!” and we marched off down the road, leaving Mrs. Latham alone to reflect on the vicissitudes incident to a state of war. . I must needs say, however, that after being so hospitably entertained, it was a rascally, mean trick to run off the servants and leave our sleeping apartments in such a disordered condition. But then, Latham had no business to be away from home. He should have been there, ready to entertain company.

Arriving back at the cross roads, we found the boys all right and gave them a share of the good things they had been deprived of the night before. We stayed here all day and night, and not seeing or hearing anything, returned to camp yesterday afternoon. What the results of this expedition will be, remains for the future historian to record. The trophies were two prisoners of war paroled, four darky women, one horse, a big yellow dog and lots of fun. What the object of this expedition was, I presume will always remain among the mysteries of this cruel war, but there is little doubt but the object was accomplished, as the generals say.

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