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

Crab Orchard, Ky., August 30th, 1863.

We arrived at 10 a. m., making ten miles from Lancaster this morning. Crab Orchard is a lovely town of about one thousand inhabitants. We are encamped about one mile south of the village, in a lovely spot, shut in on all sides by high hills and forests. To the south, far in the distance, the Cumberland Mountains raise their blue peaks as landmarks to guide us on our course when next we move. From what I see and hear of the surrounding country, the boys will have to depend on their rations for food.

Soldiers are strange beings. No sooner were our knapsacks unslung than every man of us went to work as though his very life depended on present exertions. We staked out streets, gathered stakes and poles with which to erect our tents, and now, at 3 p. m., behold! a city has arisen, like a mushroom, from the ground. Everything is done as though it were to be permanent, when no man knows how long we may remain or how soon we may move on.

Part of our route from Camp Parks lay through a country made historic by the chivalric deeds of Daniel Boone. We passed his old log fort, and the high bluff from which he hurled an Indian and dashed him in pieces on the rocks below. At the foot of the bluff is the cave in which he secreted himself when hard pressed by savages. His name is chiseled in the rock above the entrance. The place is now being strongly fortified.

We had a lively skirmish in Company G this morning. About a week ago the Brigade Surgeon ordered quinine and whiskey to be issued to every man in the brigade, twice daily. During our march the quinine had been omitted, but whiskey was dealt out freely.

Solon Crandall—the boy who picked the peaches while under fire at South Mountain—is naturally pugnacious, and whiskey makes him more so. This morning, while under the influence of his “ration,” he undertook the difficult task of “running” Company G. Captain Tyler, hearing the “racket,” emerged from his tent and inquired the cause. At this Solon, being a firm believer in “non-intervention,” waxed wroth. In reply he told the Captain, “It’s none of your business. Understand, I am running this company, and if you don’t go back to your tent and mind your own business, I’ll have you arrested and sent to the ‘bull pen.'” At this the Captain “closed” with his rival in a rough-and-tumble fight, in which the Captain, supported by a Sergeant, gained the day.

I have the most comfortable quarters now I have ever had. Our tent is composed of five pieces of canvas, each piece the size of our small tents—two for the top, or roof, the eaves three feet from the ground. The sides and ends are made to open one at a time or all at once, according to the weather. Three of us tent together, and we have plenty of room. We have bunks made of boards, raised two feet from the ground. This, with plenty of straw, makes a voluptuous bed. I received a letter from home last evening, dated August 13th. Oh, these vexatious postal delays; they are the bane of my life. I wonder if postmasters are human beings, with live hearts inside their jackets, beating in sympathetic unison with other hearts. I wonder did they ever watch and wait, day after day, until hope was well-nigh dead, conscious that love had sped its message and was anxiously awaiting a return. A letter from home! What thrilling emotions of pleasure; what unfathomable depths of joy it brings the recipient. It is not altogether the words, be they many or few, but the remembrances they call forth; the recognition of the well’ known handwriting; old associations and past scenes are brought forth from the storehouse of the memory and held up to view. The joy of meeting—the agony of parting—all are lived over again.

We are having brigade inspection today, which is suggestive of a move, but our artillery has not turned up yet, and we will not take the field without it.

The health of our men has improved wonderfully since we reached Kentucky. A more rugged, hearty set of men I never saw than the few who are left. But, as I look around upon the noble fellows, now drawn up in line for inspection, a feeling of sadness steals over me. One short year ago nine hundred ninety-eight as brave, true men as ever shouldered gun marched forth to battle in their country’s cause. Of all that noble band, only two hundred in line today. Where are the absent ones? Some, it is true, are home on furlough, but not all. They have left a bloody track from South Mountain’s gory height through Antietam, Fredericksburg and Vicksburg to Jackson, Mississippi.

Oh, how I miss familiar faces!

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