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.

November 29, 2012

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

Nov. 29. — This is the steamer “Illinois,” in the stream, about half a mile off the Battery. The ship is preparing to sail. Evening; and by special courtesy, the surgeon being absent, I am invited to sleep in his berth to-night. No slight favor, you folks whose sheets are clean, to have a mattress softer than an oaken-deck plank; and a place to lay one’s head, sweeter than a bundle of old rope, soiled by the muddy feet of a trampling army. I stand up, portfolio in hand, half sitting, half leaning, against the cabin-table, with back toward the dim light. A throng of officers are writing, talking, and hurrying past. Now I am luckier: I have found a stool under a brighter light, and the cleanest and best place I have had to write my journal in since I began it.

Yesterday we marched to Brooklyn; then went off through lanterned vessels at dusk, past the glowing city, until at last the “Illinois” threw over us the shadow of her black hull and double stacks. We waited an hour in the cold, on the lighter; then another on the open deck, among the gun-carriages of a battery that was going with us. We were suffered at last to crowd into the cabin, all grumblers. Ed. could hardly make himself heard, though his lungs are good.

The wrath of the regiment vented itself in every form, — the oath, the deprecation, the remonstrance. Tom Barker fairly blued the air about him with vocal brimstone and sulphur, — a most accomplished and full-lunged blasphemer. From him, there was every gradation down to a little fellow who remonstrated with a gentle spill of milk and water.

Camp down, soldiers, where you can! This cabin is stripped of furniture and carpet: a mirror and the white paint are the only things to remind one of the old elegance of the packet. I glance at the glass as we crowd in. Which am I among the bearded, blue-coated, hustling men? I hardly know myself, sunburnt and muddied; the “52,” on the cap top, showing out in the lantern light. Sergt. Warriner, of Company A, — gentlemanly fellow, —left guide, whose elbow rubs mine at battalion-drill, offers me a place in a “bunk” he has found empty in one of the staterooms. Bias Dickinson, my wise and jovial file-leader, bunks over me. There is room for another: so I go out to where McGill is wedged into the crowding mass, and extract him as I would a tooth. Gradually the hubbub is quelled. The mass of men, like a river seeking its level, flows into “bunk” and stateroom, cabin and galley. Then the floors are covered, and a few miserable ones hold on to banisters and table-legs, and at last the regiment swears itself into an uncomfortable sleep.

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