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

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

April 21, 2013

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

April 21. —As you see, during the past week or so, I have occasionally caught up my pencil among the most tremendous and unspeakable exertions, simply to record my whereabouts, and that I lived. We are in camp now at Opelousas, far toward Texas, in the back regions of Louisiana; having pursued the retreating enemy seventy-five miles. Remember, we have made this distance on foot, under a heavy burthen. Thank God with all my heart, I am perfectly well after the march, though I have been fearfully tired, and once was at the lowest point of exhaustion. We understand that we are to rest here, and prepare for a still further advance; but our forced marching, I presume, is for the present over.

I have now leisure to go back, and give the details of this experience of hardship.

On Saturday, April 11, Grover’s division embarked at Brashear City. Our brigade left a delightful camp for the transport “St. Mary’s,” a beautiful vessel, but one aboard which we underwent a packing, to which the stowage aboard the “Illinois” was nothing, and which certainly nothing could parallel but the packing of a slaver. Our boat carried three regiments, the horses and greater part of the men of a battery, and I know not how many more. I only know I took my post on a little rise in the deck, between the smoke-stack and engine, built up to cover the machinery. I was there with about ten others, and hardly left it from that Saturday night until near noon of Monday; not because I was shackled to the spot exactly, but because I could hardly take a step without treading on some one. By daytime, we sat with our legs curled under us, under a blazing hot sun, under which we almost popped out on the deck like kernels of corn on an iron plate. By night, we tried to sleep, with the plunging piston within reach of the hand. I lay with my head lower than my feet, my head on my knapsack, my feet passed up over the shoulders of Grider and another of our fellows, with Callighan’s elbow in one side, and Bivins’s head upon my breast. How dreary was Sunday! I awoke unrefreshed. There was water all about us, but none to be had for washing, and not much to drink. Toward noon, I managed to buy some fine oranges of a cabin-waiter, which helped my poor dinner of the hardest biscuit and coarsest salt beef. We were in a great strait for coffee, which, for a long time, seemed utterly out of the question. At length, however, Joe Pray, a “cute” genius, was inspired. Just in front of my place rose the escape-pipe of the steamer, ten or twelve feet above the deck: from this, hot steam was constantly issuing. Joe was seen to eye this, to grow thoughtful, then to pour a handful of ground coffee into his canteen, partly filled with water. With this he came to the foot of the pipe; and, after a few efforts, he tossed the canteen clear over its edge into the current of steam, holding it by its long white string. It was an entire success. Joe withdrew in a few minutes with a canteen full of hot, well-steeped drink. As he squeezed his way back to his place, there was a crowd to profit by his experiment. The old pipe puffed away, and many were the coffee-makers who invoked blessings upon the head of Joe Pray.

Night came again, and I slept as before, with men crowding everywhere; and, beneath me, four or five muskets not covered over. I got up in the morning tattooed like a Carib, where the steel projections of the muskets had pressed into my back and legs.

Meantime the sail was monotonous and uninteresting. We ploughed along, stirring into waves the sallow torpor of the bayou, — the low shores on either hand walled up with the massive vegetation of the climate. At length, we emerged into a broad lake, the “Grand Lake,” environed by what seemed to us only wilderness. The grim, battered old gunboat that bossed the expedition went ahead with cannon run out, examining narrowly each point for masked batteries.

At last, it was Monday morning. When the fog lifted, a regiment or two were put ashore from the fleet, and found a body of rebels on hand to oppose the landing in a sharp skirmish. “Bang!” went a field-piece on shore, which brought us all to our feet. Then followed a roll of musketry; then presently, with a heavier boom, the gunboat put in its word, — a puff of smoke ascending quickly from its rusty ports; then the crash of the explosion, — a long whistle from the flying shell, — presently a jet of fire against the dark thickets on shore; and, in a minute or two, the sound of the bursting coming faintly to us from afar. A planter’s mansion, with sugar-house and negro-cabins, stood on the shore; behind which buildings we could see columns of men in motion, under the white smoke of the skirmish, which now rose to the tall tree-tops. The grim gunboat, the “Clifton,” guided by signal-flags on shore, sent out, now a solitary puff, now three or four nearly together; while, in the pauses between these heavier firings, came from the shore the fainter fusillade, linking the peals into an uninterrupted concert. At length, it ceased. The enemy retired, and we had opportunity to land.

We marched back from the river into the cane-field, where I had time to write a line or two in my journal. A few regiments and batteries pushed ahead at once; but we remained long enough to have pailfuls of coffee made and passed from man to man, —delicious enough under the circumstances. Under the roof of the sugarhouse, Gen. Grover walked to and fro with his hands behind him, and head bent forward in anxious thought. Two rebel prisoners were under guard close by; and, from the vessels, horses and stores were being landed in all haste. It was a critical moment. We had come upon the rebels unexpectedly, and the general meant to profit by the surprise. One of the transports, however, with a brigade aboard, which could not be spared, was hard aground a league back in the lake. After some delay, however, it was afloat again, and came up.

In the early afternoon, we were on the march. We plunged into a tall forest, where there was a dense undergrowth of canes; the under and upper growth striking hands together to keep the sun out, and have the road underneath a perpetual quagmire. The road was heavy, and cut deep with artillery-wheels, through whose ruts we waded and jumped, with every now and then the sound of cannon (to stimulate us) from the advance. To the wood, a broad open space succeeded, on which were drawn up the regiments thrown forward in the morning. Here signs of strife appeared, — two wounded cavalry-men; one hurt in the leg, the other more dangerously wounded, muffled in his blanket upon a stretcher. We could look forward now a mile or two; and, when the reports came back, could see beforehand the white smoke of the discharge. We thought we had come into a savage region, so wilderness-like had been the shores of the bayou and the lake; but, once through the belt of woods, we found ourselves in a smiling land again. Presently we struck the Têche, — here not more than fifty yards broad, — flowing between banks, that, for a delightful wonder, sloped down from higher land on each side to the surface of the stream, — banks, with clumps and groves of trees, with sugarhouses to be seen here and there in the distance, and handsome mansions.

We were passing on in the direction of the firing, which gradually advanced as we pushed forward; not so fast, however, as to prevent our gaining upon it. At length we crossed the Têche by a bridge which had its timbers charred in several places. The advance found it in flames, and just saved it. The embers were hardly cold. Companies of the Fifty-second now deployed as skirmishers. A section of the Second Massachusetts Battery went out across a field, under charge of a straight, finely riding lieutenant; and presently they were at it, throwing shells into clumps of trees where there were suspicious signs. The skirmishers opened out into a long line, with intervals of two or three yards between the men; then advanced cautiously toward the buildings and fences. As the colonel galloped by, —

“I have one man wounded,” said the captain of the company behind the colors. “A shot just grazed his arm.”

We were close upon them, and came to a halt. It was nearly nightfall, and we could not advance in the darkness. Over the fence, in front of our line, twenty rods or so, was our line of skirmishers; and beyond them, in the gathering dusk, across the wide plain we strained our eyes to see the little moving spots, — the pickets of the enemy. A squad of rebel prisoners went by us, just taken, under convoy of cavalry. They were stout, well-fed men, — some in the butter-nut dress, some in gray. Their clothing looked serviceable and was in as good condition as the clothing of soldiers is likely to be during a hard campaign.

Here is something even more interesting. A short distance behind us, we noticed a very handsome plantation and mansion, down the road from which comes now, in haste and in much agitation, a stately lady. She is a matron of fine bearing, elegantly attired. Her face is full of character; she is bareheaded; in age, perhaps forty-five or fifty, but with hair still jet-black and abundant. She sweeps by us hastily, with the majesty of a noble mother of Rome, and stops at the stirrup of Gen. Grover, who has halted at the crossroads, just beyond where I am standing. She has come to intercede with the general for her son, who has just been taken prisoner, — a fine, fierce boy of nineteen or twenty, who stands, haughty and tall, close by, among a group of captive rebels.

“Do let him go, general: he is all I have!” (repeated again and again.)

Most earnest and stately intercession! But the boy has been taken in arms; and the general, I believe, refused to listen. The negroes say this matron owns two miles square of country here, and four hundred slaves.

We camp, as we often do, in a ploughed field. We are sadly in want of sleep; for, during the two previous nights, we have had almost none. We do not stop to pitch tents, but lie down on the furrows, trying to make provision against the impending rain. Down it comes at midnight, then at intervals until morning. Meantime, the wind blows fresh, and the rubber-blankets go flying off from us into the mud, leaving the water to pelt us as it chooses; another tough and almost sleepless night. Our equipments, of course, are all on, and our loaded guns at our sides, to guard against a night surprise. At four o’clock in the morning, wet and unrefreshed, we are on our feet again. There is no time for making coffee; we are ordered into line at once, and march forthwith into fearful scenes.

It appears now, that, when we landed from the transports, we were not many miles from a strong force of rebels posted near Franklin, which force Grover’s division was to assail on the flank or rear. Banks, with the main body of the army, had advanced up the Têche toward the same point, had driven back the rebels in our direction, and now the two Union armies were about to effect a junction; not, however, without sacrifice.

Day broke, as we marched out into the road, — a listless, half-exhausted body of men. During the three previous nights we had had little sleep, and but little food since the Saturday before. It was now Tuesday. We were all more or less drenched with the rain, and the blankets and clothing weighed double with the moisture. As the sun came up, however, and the morning damps steamed off, we felt better, and had our senses open a little to the beauty of the road, the sweetness of the blossoms, and the verdure of the slopes.

Presently we hear the sound of firing.

“They have found them again,” I say to the color-sergeant; and we look off over the woods to where the white cloud of the discharge can be seen rising among the trees. As we sweep along the road toward the firing, the day each minute becomes more and more beautiful. Each minute, too, the roar of cannon is more frequent, and becomes mingled at last with sharp, rattling volleys of small-arms.

We come, at last, into full view of the scene. We halt in the road; and leaning against a fence, looking southward through the rails, the whole combat is visible to us, who are now within cannon-range. We look down a gentle slope. To the left we can see a battery posted, which fires very vigorously; then bodies of infantry, in long, dark lines, moving upon an open field in front of a wood. In the lines are gaps, which may be caused by moving over rough ground, or by the plunge of shot and shell. To the right, again, we can see bodies of troops, and batteries. Hear that long crash of musketry! each individual discharge so blending into the others, that we can only hear one long sound, like the slow fall of some huge tower. It is a rebel volley, terribly effective, as we afterward hear; and, while the wind bears it to us, we are ordered forward, and presently are on the very field.

Ambulance-men, with stretchers, are hurrying across the field to a sugar-house in the rear, where a hospital is established. On each stretcher is a wounded man, and the number of these makes it certain to us that the engagement has reached the sad dignity of a pitched battle. We are passing ammunition wagons now; now a tree, beneath which is a surgeon at work; and, close where he stands, on his back, stiff and stark, dead, a tall, broad-chested man, with closed eyes. The column files to the right, out of the road; and we stand in line of battle just in the rear of the action, within rifle-range of the woods where the enemy lie concealed, expecting every moment the order to advance. The firing, however, slackens; and presently word comes that the enemy are withdrawing.

Between the color-company and the next company, through the centre of our line, runs the cart-track down into the field, along which now is constantly passing a stream of wounded men, on stretchers, or supported by comrades, and lines of rebel prisoners. I am close by, and can hear the talk of a sergeant, bloody, but able to walk, who is glad he has had a chance to do some service. I look, too, upon the ghastly head of a young lieutenant, who is dying upon his stretcher, and upon many others. Prisoners come by in squads, — sometimes five or six, sometimes twenty or thirty; some in gray, some in blue, some in faded brown. Once in a while, there is an intelligent, good-looking face; more often the features are unintelligent, — the brutish face of that deteriorating class, the white trash. Thus we stand close at hand to suffering and death.

The pursuit is being continued down the road. Hours pass, and we still remain in line. We cook, eat, and sleep. I get out my portfolio, and write a little. In the course of the day, up into the blue, calm sky go mighty columns of smoke, with deep reports, — the explosions of rebel gunboats and transports, overtaken in the Têche by the victorious army, and blown up by their crews as they flee. Within half a dozen rods of our line is a field-hospital, where lie, of one New-York regiment, the wounded colonel, the dead lieutenant-colonel, adjutant, and other officers and men. Of other regiments, too, are many wounded, federal and rebel, — some dying under the surgeon’s hands. I go over and see the writhing wounded, and the hospital attendants laying out the dead. An Irish private lies close by the straight young adjutant, whose face is reverently covered; and not far off is a rebel, covered thick with his own gore. Before death go down all distinctions and animosities.

Does it not seem, when the experiences are so out of the common course and so dreadful, as if there ought to be some change in outward circumstances to make them correspond? But no: it was a perfect summer day, — an almost cloudless sky, with a cool, sweet wind coming from the woods where the rebels had been hidden; the woods green and fresh and innocent, as if they were only a haunt for fairies.

Toward night, I go down the cart-path to the actual field, and see the broken muskets, the scattered knapsacks and clothing, the furrows where the enemy lay, the bloody pools where the dying fainted, the burial parties, and the piles of distorted corpses lying by the trenches just dug to receive them. I have wished, that, so long as Ed. was to die, he might have met his death in the front of battle, with a manly shout upon his lips, and the light and ardors of the conflict shining forth upon his face: but it is more dreadful than I had believed; and now I thank God that we could lay his fair young body in the grave, undesecrated,—with the limbs unbroken, with no gash upon his youthful brow, nor gory stain upon his noble breast.

They say we lost in the neighborhood of four hundred. Only one brigade was engaged. It was a bloody strife.

As the shadows grew long, we were ordered into line again. I had just returned from the edge of the woods where the conflict had been severest, and the dead were being buried. I cast a farewell glance at the fence, along the rails of which the rebels had rested their pieces in the morning; at the dense trunks filled in with broad palms and thick standing canes that had been their cover; at the group burying the dead, a rebel prisoner standing at the elbow of the sergeant in charge, giving him the names of a pile of the enemy about to be interred; then we marched off. As we passed the sugar-house, amputations and other severe surgical operations were being performed. We went only a short distance, then encamped in a broad field sloping down to the Têche. Permission was given to get from the neighboring plantations what was needed in the way of food; and, after an exciting day, the regiment was soon at rest, — rest we had earned by the hardships of the three or four previous nights, and which was invaluable to us as we came to undergo the privations and labors of the following days.

The camp was early astir on Wednesday. We bathed in the Têche, and watched the “Clifton,” our old, grim friend, which came steaming up; the coast being now clear for her through the explosions of the day before. As soon as she had passed, it was time for us to go; for word spread that the rebels were retreating into the interior, that we were to follow them at once, and that this gunboat in the bayou, which generally flows near the road, was to guard the flank of the pursuing column.

The march was most fatiguing; though in a proper conveyance, that glorious day, the road would have been very fine. Through some mistake, we had retained our knapsacks, and so were in heavy order, although the army in general only carried the lightest possible load. We passed the mansion of the stately lady who pleaded for her son, where, a few days before, it was said, the Confederate generals had been entertained at a splendid ball. The road here was bordered by a hedge of orange-trees, whose fruit the soldiers could pick as they passed. We saw signs everywhere along the road of great wealth. The country of the Têche, like that of the La Fourche, is a garden region; fine plantations succeeding each other continually; the sugar-houses looming large back on the estates; the negroes gathering upon the fences and gates by the roadside, of all shades, of all degrees of ugliness and beauty. Sometimes a hedge bordered the road, — of heavy, opulent foliage; sometimes rich fields spread away beyond the fences; sometimes the bayou opened a few rods away, the current flowing between the sloping oak-dotted banks. When the bayou was concealed, we could often hear the regular clank of the “Clifton’s” machinery, steadily keeping pace with us, as we plunged deeper and deeper into the heart of Rebeldom.

We came to a spot where the negroes say the rebels meant to make a stand, — then thought better of it. We imagined the sallow, haggard hosts waiting in their butternut-coats behind the fences; then panting forward again, as the hoof-beats of the Federal cavalry came within hearing. The day grew burning hot. We marched rapidly on, stopping occasionally to catch our breath. Under every tree lay a group of panting men. It was a forced march. Gen. Banks knows every commander has been censured for not following up successes; and now the successes were to be followed up. Right that it should be so! Honor to our leader’s energy! But, you people who clamor for rapid movements, how little do you know what these things cost the poor infantry-soldier! This day I felt well, and marched with the best; though, when it grew to be late afternoon, there was something cruel about the steadfastness with which the blue-and-white brigade-flag kept the road in advance. It was long before we saw it waver, then turn into a field to the right, where was to be our bivouac. We accomplished, that day, twenty-five miles, by universal agreement; marching from seven in the morning until near sunset, with an occasional rest of from two to fifteen minutes.

The trouble is, that, when the halt comes, you cannot begin your rest for a long time. First, wood must be got. The load must be unslung from the back and waist; then, no matter how weary you may be, your only chance is to run at full speed, with the rest, to the fence designated to be used for fuel. Then there is a tug for that; in which your temper must be chained to you, if it is not lost. Then the tent must be pitched; fresh water got; rations drawn; supper cooked; and perhaps, as happened to me this day, you have to sit up till midnight to get the company’s share of the beef that is being killed during the evening.

During the night, the enemy fled again; and early in the morning we were in pursuit. The road was still beautiful; the plantations, as before, rich with sugarhouses, gardens, and well-filled poultry-yards, which stragglers and negroes, who follow the army in hundreds, made free with. The heat became most oppressive. I have never found marching so difficult. Men, by platoons almost, exhausted by the rapid walk of the regiment, were turning in under hedge and bush. Some, too, not exhausted, put on the pretence of it, and fell behind, only to have opportunity to pillage when the army had passed. I was determined to stand it while I could: but hotter grew the sun; the dust filled the stifling air; the rests seemed infrequent. I was at the last point of exhaustion. I turned aside under a clump of bushes, and had just time to fling open my belts and straps, when my brain swam. I reeled, and had just consciousness enough to direct my fall so as to have my knapsack for a pillow; then down I went. — every pore a fountain, — completely used up. I lay in a stupor thus,—half conscious, half fainting by the roadside, in the shade,—while within a few feet rolled and rumbled onward the advancing and victorious army. Now the tramp of infantry; now the sound of batterywheels; now the white-covered wagons. “Yah moole!” — I heard the darkey-drivers say to their mules, — “I knows you’s tired an’ weak.” But there was no rest for man or beast. On they went, while I, lying there, half gave my mind to the passing host, half dreamt of sweet places, —home, and my cool, quiet study, far away.

Oh! well, it was soon over; and one ought to be willing to march, even till he faints, to make a victory gained in this cause more decisive. At length, members of the regiment began to come up, — farmers and farmers’ boys. These sat down in my nook to “vow” and “vum” and “van,” in the most solemn manner, that no hay-field or harvest experience ever came near this. So we rested. A negro came by with chickens and ducks slung on a pole. I got a duck from him; then, from another, I got a handful of onions to flavor the stew. Then we went leisurely forward, and soon were in the pleasant street of New Iberia; by the side of which, opposite a stately mansion, we found the regiment again.

Not far from here is a salt-mine; and a portion of our brigade was detached at once, and sent to destroy the works. Meantime, we picked my duck, under the thick shade that bordered the Têche; then bathed in the dark, smooth stream, among the empty whiskey-barrels, which the rebels, only a few hours before, had staved by the score, and emptied into the water.

We supposed we were to halt for a day or two in this pretty village; but the enemy fled fast: so the next morning, early, we set out on another tedious march, — the order to “fall in” coming so suddenly, that we had no time to make coffee or take any breakfast. The drums beat as we went with conquering flags down the village street, — past the few rich mansions; past the Union Hospital (for we leave a hospital full of sick and worn-out men wherever we stop); past the hospital the rebels left behind them, with a pink flag at the gate; past Capt. Morton and the four companies of the Fifty-second, which we left behind as provost-guard. Soon we were beyond the village; and, after a mile or two, came to a turn in the road, where the advance, a little while before, had had a sharp skirmish. Six or seven dead horses lay in the road: one poor fellow, in butternut, lay stretched on the sod, — the morning light, bright and unpitying, on his dead, uncovered face. Five or six more were in a gully close by. There had been no time yet to bury them. We, the living, had not even time to eat; and were sweeping onward, without food, in our pursuit. We halted a few moments in front of a plantation. Toussaint, a monkey-faced negro attached to Company D, came out with a basket full of elegant tapers; and soldiers, who left the ranks to fill their canteens, brought out word of the splendor of the furniture, and the pillage it had undergone.

The character of the country changed soon after. We found no longer rich plantations, but came into a region broad and prairie-like, where, on the far-stretching plains, were feeding vast herds of cattle. The broad pastures of Texas, now, were not very remote; and this region must resemble the land of the ranch and lasso. The habitations became fewer, and of a much poorer character. We had no longer the bayou to run to for water; and could only fill our canteens at stagnant slimy pools, or stand and fight, at the few wells we came to, by the half-hour, for a drink, while the army hurried on. It was dreadfully tedious and hot. We marched, by the hour together, over the flat, dusty plains, under the burning sun. How intolerable it was! It was noon; but we were still without breakfast. The cartridge-box on one side, and haversack on the other, pulled very heavily; and gun and blankets doubled their weight.

It is now two o’clock, and we have sweltered and hobbled on some fourteen miles. I am sadly footsore at last; though, until now, I have had no trouble. I do not want to do myself permanent injury, nor bring on premature age and breaking-down; which I fear I shall do, if I make a regular thing of marching until I faint. “Mr. Grosvenor, will you fall out if I will? ” Grosvenor is sick and weary, — not yet fully recovered from his fever in the winter, and only borne up by a most unconquerable spirit. He is more nearly spent than I am, and assents. We have half the regiment for company, strewn along the whole line of our march.

Pat O’Toole remarked the other night, referring to me, “Och! the cor-r-piral, shure, is tougher than a biled owl!” I shall lose such commendations in future, I fear.

Now that we have stopped, and left the dust and crowd of the column, the breeze blows cool. We lie and sleep under a little clump of trees for an hour or two, then make coffee in my boiler,—my dirty but invaluable utensil. I happen to have part of a fine chicken and some raw salt pork in my haversack. We find some onions in a garden near. At a poor house, close by, we fill our canteens at a well, among a struggling crowd of worn-out soldiers. The master, poor man! has lost almost every thing. We pity him and his little children, — all they have a prey to this thirsting and hungry soldiery. Grosvenor and I build our fire by ourselves, and presently we have a delicious soup bubbling. Grosvenor has salt and pepper; and, at the end of the afternoon, we have a grand dinner, steaming hot, — the first meal we have eaten during the day.

Sunset is not far off when we finish. We are now in better condition to move again, after our meal and sleep, though Grosvenor is really too sick and weak to stir. Two men, of a Maine regiment, come by with a handcart they have “confiscated.” We get permission to throw in our burdens, if we will help draw the cart. In this way we pull and push forward a mile or two, our blistered feet making us limp at every step. Then we come to a wide plain, where the road is swallowed up; and every trace of the army disappears. I am for pushing on during the twilight, which is now falling, though we run the risk of being lost; but Grosvenor is too ill. The Maine men are worn out; and the vote is, to stay until the next morning in a deserted house used to store cotton. We spread the cotton on the floor for a bed. During the evening, other stragglers arrive, — Billy Wilson’s men, Irishmen, negroes, — so that, by dark, the little house is full. One fellow has stolen a fiddle, on whose broken strings he manages to scrape out tunes. We listen to the fiddle a while, and wonder where the army is; but sleep comes very soon.

Next morning, we felt sure we had not far to go. We went two or three miles over the plain, guessing at the direction; and at length struck a road, along which it was plain an army had passed. Grosvenor fell by the roadside, too ill to go farther; while I set off to find water. I could find nothing but filthy pools of stagnant water, in which swine were wallowing, and into which bull-frogs large as chickens went floundering as I came up. The circumstances were forlorn enough for a sick man. At length, a train of battery-wagons passed. We “cheeked” it with a negro-driver, and jumped in over the tail-board of a forage-wagon, where we rode until we were ignominiously expelled by a sergeant. We had, however, reached the headquarters of Paine’s brigade, Emory’s division; and learned that Grover was just ahead, in the advance.

We managed to get hold of some beef and a spider, and cook a breakfast; Gen. Paine, in his spectacles, writing on the porch of a house close by. Then we tried to go forward again; but Grosvenor dropped after a few rods. I left him under a tree, and rushed back along the road to an approaching cart: “A sick sergeant; cannot walk; must join the regiment; will not take ‘ No’ for an answer.” So at last they took us both in. They were three soldiers of the One-hundred-and-fourteenth New-York, who had confiscated a good horse and a two-wheeled cart. They turned out to be good fellows; and now we got forward rapidly.

Gen. Banks and his staff went by us from the front. They all eyed us sharply, and we feared they had designs on our horse. The New-York men had had hard work to keep it out of the clutches of the cavalry; but this danger was passed like the previous ones. I watched the general’s cool, resolute face, for signs of exultation. He had beaten the enemy in three battles; was driving them pell-mell before him, and possessing himself of a vast region of country full of wealth of every kind. I remembered Napier’s description of Wellington after the battle of Salamanca, and looked to see a similar light on the countenance of our leader. He looked happy, certainly, and like a conqueror; though he was dirty and imbrowned, like the rest of us.

Soon after this, we halted in a grove, where were a large number of rebel prisoners under guard. Our companions cooked dinner, and I got out my portfolio. Sweat and rain had penetrated the pasteboard, and my little stock of paper was damp and discolored. I managed to write a few legible lines. From here it was only about a mile to the camp of the regiment, which had marched eighteen miles the day before. They were in a grove, on the Bayou Vermilion. So close were they the night before to the flying remnant of the rebel column, that the bridge here was still in flames, just becoming impassable. As they stacked arms, a huge round shot came tossing in from the opposite bank, knocking down the guns, and causing a great scattering among the men. Of Company D, only four were left besides the captain, and Rogers, the first sergeant; the rest having all fallen out. Of the color-guard, none were left; the adjutant getting off his horse, and bringing in the flags. Of the whole regiment which left Baton Rouge, about five hundred strong, there were left that night, I think, only fifty-nine.

It was hard. Remember our packing aboard the “St. Mary’s,” when rest was almost impossible, our exposure to the storm the night after we landed, and then the marches. Our food was poor and insufficient. We were in what is called “heavy order.” After the early morning, the sun became very hot; and the treading of the long columns soon beat the roads to dust. Wednesday, we accomplished twenty-five miles; Thursday, twelve or thirteen; Friday, without an opportunity to cook any thing, eighteen or nineteen.

There was more to be done, however.

“Which is best,” said the colonel, —”to undergo all this fatigue and labor, or to fight bloody battles, and lose half the regiment, besides giving the enemy time to prepare everywhere for our coming? ”

Banks had the alternative to follow by forced marches on the very heels of the rebels, or to fight battles. If we had gone more slowly, they would have stopped and fortified, and been prepared to fight us again and again. Saturday night, the bridge was rebuilt. The Fifty-second was ordered across in advance of every thing, to guard it. We lay down after dark on the opposite bank, and presently were drenched by torrents of rain in a furious tempest. We lay in the pools, under the storm, until morning; then, with all our baggage weighing double, we started off through deep mud for Opelousas; accomplishing the march of about twenty-five miles during Sunday and Monday. Have we not earned our present rest?

I have just had a glance at a map. How little one can tell! Louisiana is done up neatly in pink. There is a cool-looking sheet of water, — that dismal grand lake, where we came so near “going up,” all of us, aboard the ” St. Mary’s.” From Franklin to New Iberia is a little stretch-up through the pink. How small! with not a hint of those choking, dusty leagues, along which we almost left our lives as we limped over them. Nor toward Opelousas is there any suggestion of those parched and dreary plains. It is unsatisfactory; but catch us forgetting what ache and sweat and hunger that distance cost us!

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