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

Post image for The Color Guard, A Corporal’s Notes, James Kendall Hosmer.

The Color Guard, A Corporal’s Notes, James Kendall Hosmer.

March 31, 2013

The Color Guard, A Corporal's Notes, James Kendall Hosmer

March 31.—At Assumpçion (I guess at the spelling). Charming, — perfectly charming, — day, place, sensations. We have marched twelve or thirteen miles since nine o’clock this morning, through the sweetest of regions, with the sweetest of air. Now we pause for the night,—the landscape still the mild, verdant, level expanse which made me think of Holland at Donaldsonville, — the grand bayou, deep and swift, riding along above the heads of the people. Here and there, the current, eating into the bank, leaves only a mere spadeful between the rush of the stream and the plain below it. The army began its march this morning at half-past seven. Punctually at the time, we had cooked and eaten breakfast. Our knapsacks were to go in baggage-wagons,—we carrying only blankets, equipments, and weapons. Among our indispensables, however, a few of us carry certain new arrangements. At McGill’s suggestion, we have bought a coffee-pot, a frying-pan, and a kettle for boiling. Wivers carries the coffee-pot slung at his side: Sergeant Bivins carries the frying-pan strapped on his back, — handy, rather; for when the excellent sergeant, at a halt, under the hot noon, shall throw himself backward on the sod, as soldiers do, he shall broil himself in an appropriate dish. I have, strapped to my belt, the boiler; itscrocky bottom painting thunder-clouds on the blue of my right thigh, as it swings to and fro. It will hold two or three quarts, and is up to flour, meal, eggs, oysters, or any thing which shall come to the omniverous haversack of the campaigner.

We have been brigaded anew; being still in the second brigade of Grover’s division, but with the Twelfth Maine associated with us, instead of the Ninety-first New York. Col. Kimball, of the Twelfth Maine, is now our brigadier.

The conditions for marching to-day are excellent. Never did foot of military patriot press the broad sole of Uncle Sam’s army-shoe into road at once so softly yielding, yet so firmly resisting; and, for air, certain it is, that through scores and scores of leagues, in States openly or secretly secesh, — Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, — certain it is, that over all this distance, this 31st of March, a levée of atmosphere of equatorial fervor had been built up. But, lo! the currents of northern air broke through it in a perfect crevasse of coolness, inundating all these Louisiana lowlands with its refreshing tide; so that, although we marched fast, the drops of sweat were beaten back, and the locks of the soldier, not plastered to his forehead, danced in a jolly manner in the breeze of home.

I have seen this day what I have not seen before, — estates which come up to what I have imagined about the homes of princely planters, two or three of them. The first we came upon was on the opposite side of the bayou. I was marching, not in the road, but along the ridge of the Levee, whence I could overlook the long column, the sugar-fields, and the distant wood,—a wood as romantic in its dim blueness as if I looked at it, not through a league or so of space, but through time, and beheld the Forest of Ardennes or the Grove of Cicero by the Fibrenus. While thus marching, — the bayou a foot or two from my path on one side, the road six or eight feet down on the other, — I caught sight of thick shrubbery, a chenille embroidery of green tufting the bare level plain. Then came into view a towering roof, and the stately palings of an enclosure befitting a princely domain. As we came opposite, down a long avenue, the perspective led the eye within the open portal of a splendid mansion; from whose hall, ladies and children looked across at the marching army. Meantime, the air was full of sweet scents: for tropic plants, like Eastern princes, stretched forth their arms from the enclosure, and with odorous gifts flattered the passers-by; and a tree full of bell-shaped blossoms — the airy “campanile” of the garden showing rows on rows of little purple chimes — “tolled incense” to us. One or two domains like this I saw, and many more less splendid, yet which were neat and pretty.

Toward noon, it grew hotter again. The “crevasse” by which the north wind flowed in upon us was stopped up, and the hot, unfriendly air of the South had its own way with us. We were in light marching order; but the burden bore heavily down. I remembered how Don Fulano talked to John Brent on the ride to deliver Ellen Clitherœ.

“Courage, noble master! You ride me hard; but I have a great reservoir of strength here in my loins and limbs. Never fear, you can draw on me without danger.”

Something like that. I bestrode a more humble beast: “Shanks’s horse” we used to call it, when we were boys. He made no such fine speeches. In fact, sometimes I feared he might give it-up; but somehow the sinews and fibres always had a little more try in them.

The bands of the division are playing now at “tattoo.” They have been playing during the evening with great vigor, particularly one bass-drum. The drummer, I believe, had to fall out to-day, on account of his ponderous instrument; and to-night is wreaking vengeance upon it, until it bellows through the camps far and wide. Bivins, who sits just the other side of the candle from me, believes “the boys are killing pigs, and have hired the bands to play to drown the squealing.”

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