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.

December 2, 2012

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

Dec. 2. — “Sail to-day!” That has been the morning song aboard the ” Illinois ” ever since the Fifty-second piled itself into its darknesses. It was so Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We came to believe it did not mean any thing: so, Tuesday morning being fair, Buffum and I got permission to go ashore, smiling at the superb joke of the officer when he warned us to be “back in a couple of hours, for we surely sail to-day.” But, when we came aboard again, the anchor was really up; and the “Illinois,” no longer twirled by the tide about its thumbs, began to show a will of its own, and was soon moving seaward with its deeply burdened bosom and swarming decks. Our orders were sealed, and the colonel could not open them until twenty-four hours after sailing. We could not know, then, until the morrow, whither the wheels, the tide, and the strong stern-wind, were bearing us; but the prow was southward, and the Fifty-second was content. Distance washes the spire of ” Trinity ” out of the northern sky; the Narrows, grim with forts and prisons, now grow narrower; and soon Sandy Hook, the beckoning finger which the old Navesink hills fling out for ever to invite inbound ships, lets us slide past its curving knuckle fairly out to sea. All goes well, with no motion but the throb of the engine. They light the lanterns on the wheel-house and in the fore-top; they light them between-decks, swinging gently while a soldier reads his Testament, or a party play cards.

I fear we are reduced to the condition of not having a single unprincipled fellow in our present mess of noncoms, — a very dire calamity to a party of campaigners. Rogers is a man of character and dignity, — an ex town-official; round-faced Sergt. Brown is far too exemplary to grumble much, or hook dainty morsels of prog for himself and his “pals;” Hannum never swears, but only “vans” and “vums;” while Grosvenor, the teacher, has walked in virtue so long before his pupils, he is much too far gone ever to be developed into your proper, easy-conscienced “soger-boy.” When beef is scarce, who shall bribe the cabin-waiters, or steal tidbits from the galley? Can we survive it, when the coffee fails, not to have one at least to be mouthpiece to the collective wrath of the company, through whom we may vicariously pour our choler upon the commissary?

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