LIFE IN THE ARMY
Being the Observations and Experiences
of a Private Soldier.
BY J. K. MAGIE.
In pursuance of a long cherished purpose, and a promise made to many of my fellow-soldiers, I commence this week the first chapter of a history of my observations and experiences in the army. I do not claim that I have seen or experienced more of the excitement and romance of the war than any other soldier who has served his three years; but in a war like the one which has just closed so happily, and which stands without a parallel in the history of the world, there was much to be seen and learned by every soldier, and a plain and simple narrative of the sights and scenes witnessed by him will not be void of interest to the general reader.
While I shall endeavor to record faithfully that which has come under my own personal observation, I do not mean to confine myself merely to a personal narrative, but shall embody in these chapters some history, although rude it may be, of the battles, marches, journeyings, &c., of the regiment and brigade to which I belonged, and I shall not hesitate to criticise freely the conduct of officers and men. I have in the course of my experience as a soldier seen much to praise, and not a little to condemn. The army is a good place to study human nature, and in this particular I have not been an idle student.
In the outset let me devote a paragraph to the reason why I became a soldier and some of the circumstances attending it. I I know that men generally act from interested or selfish motives, and I cannot claim to form an exception to the rule. I do claim, however, that from the commencement of the way my heart and soul was in the work of subduing the rebellion. I was one of the first editors in the State to place at the head of my paper the name of Abraham Lincoln as a candidate for the Presidency. This was done in 1859 while I was editor of the Oquawka Plaindealer. In the ever memorable Presidential campaign of 1860 as editor of the Carthage Transcript, and upon the stump, I advocated the election of that great and good man to the Presidency, and I rejoiced in his election as a triumph of right over wrong, of justice over oppression, and of freedom over slavery. A large number of the political opponents of Mr. Lincoln were profuse in their epithets of “abolitionists” and “disunionist” as applied to the supporters of Mr. Lincoln. Now I always claimed to be in favor of the Union and Constitution, and avowed my willingness to fight, when my services were needed, in their defence. – Upon the call of the President in 1862 for more men I began to think my services were needed, and after mature reflection I resolved to enlist. Knowing that an office in the army was a very good thing for a man’s family I accepted the offer of Capt. Wm. Ervin to raise twenty or twenty-five men for his company in the 84th Ill., and take the place of 1st Lieutenant in that company. I went over into Hancock county, and in about ten days I had the number of men required, but when I brought these men to Macomb I learned that Capt. Ervin’s company was full to repletion – not room for another man. I then told my men the situation of things, and as they were not sworn into the service advised them to do just as they pleased, but as for myself, I was booked for the war, and meant to join the first company that would take me as a humble private into their ranks. I then procured an enlistment blank called in the services of Justice Wyne and took the oath to serve the United States as a soldier for three years or during the war. Fifteen of the men who had signed my enlistment paper followed suite, and agreed to go with whatever company I did. About this time our late lamented fellow-citizen, Col. Carter Van Vleck, came home from Springfield with his commission as Lieut.-Colonel of the 78th Illinois regiment. He was very anxious to have a company in his regiment from Macomb, or at least from the county. It appeared as though Macomb and vicinity had been gleaned thoroughly of men, and that it was not possible to raise another company here. But the war excitement increased, and in three days after Col. Van Vleck’s return from Springfield we had upwards of fifty names upon the roll for a new company from Macomb. It was now about the 12th of August, and the newspapers announced that volunteering would cease after the 15th of August, and preparations for a draft commence. The prospect of filling up the company to the maximum in the three remaining days was not very flattering, but just at this time it was reported that there was about half a company raised at Industry, who would consolidate with another half company and thus form a full company. Communication was opened with them and the consolidation effected.
I and my fifteen comrades joined this company. I had offers at the same time time for a Lieutenancy in two other companies if I would bring my men and join then, but I had a partiality for Col. Van Vleck and for a Macomb company, and I resolved to forgo al aspirations for position and take my musket and perform my duty as a true and faithful soldier of my country.
The first gathering of this company was at Industry on Tuesday, August 19th. – The came together in response to an invitation of the citizens of that place to partake of a dinner and to receive a beautiful flag which had been prepared by the fair young ladies of that place as a present to the company. The day was auspicious, and the occasion drew together quite a large and respectable crowd of people. The members of the Macomb branch of the company accompanied by their families, went down in procession. The Macomb Brass Band, an institution which had an existence in those days, led the procession, and discoursed sweet music. The dinner was prepared in a beautiful grove in the east part of the town, and I remember that it was gotten up in excellent style, and was bountiful in supply and variety. Previous to partaking of the dinner the crowd was entertained with an excellent address from Rev. F. M. Chaffee, and one or two others whose names I do not remember. After dinner the presentation of the flag took place. It was borne to the stand by four young ladies, when the presentation speech was made by Rev. Mr. Platt, and responded to in behalf of the company by my humble self.
I remember to have met on that occasion the smiling faces of least a score who now are numbered with that long list of martyrs whose lives have been sacrificed upon the altar of their country. Their bones now crumble with mother dust; some upon the bloody battle fields of Georgia, and some in shallow graves contiguous to rebel prison yards. Others, broken down by disease or wounds, have died in hospitals and their remains have been consigned to the narrow tomb by strange and unknown hands. But their names will ever be cherished in sacred remembrance by their surviving comrades as heroes who died rather than that our glorious Union should be destroyed.
On the morning of the 26th of August this company left Macomb for Quincy. It then numbered one hundred and nineteen men. It was composed in the main of earnest, honest men – men who realized the sacrifices they were making – realized the magnitude of the contest before them, and the importance of the interests at stake. A majority of them were men of families, and well to do in the world. The company had not elected its officers, preferring to wait until it reached camp before organizing.
At the depot were hundreds of the weeping friends and relatives of the departing heroes. Here could be seen an anxious mother, with streaming eyes, bidding her son probably a last farewell. At another point in the throng would be seen the fond and loving wife hanging with agonizing feelings to the arm of her husband, as though her heart would break to give him up. But the moment of departure drew nigh, the train approached and then came the parting kiss, and the last adieu, and soon these brave and sturdy men were speeding on their way to Quincy where was located the camp of rendezvous.
While this company was being raised another company was organizing in the neighboring town of Blandinville, under Capt. C. R. Hume, designed for the same regiment. This company joined us at the depot and proceeded with us to Quincy. The camp was about a mile and a half from the heart of the city in the northern suburbs, in a beautiful piece of woods, not far from the banks of the Mississippi river. We found at the camp the 84th regiment, which had been raised by Col. L. H. Waters of this city. This regiment had its full complement of men, and had already organized its daily drills and other et ceteras of the military camp. Our first day in camp was occupied in erecting our tents, preparing our eating tables and places for our camp fires, &c.
The next morning we were marched down to the U. S. Hospital to pass inspection defore the examining surgeon of that institution. There were two or three persons in the company who had enlisted under the impulses of a spasmodic inspiration of patriotism, who had within the last twenty-four hours discovered that they were subject to all the ills that flesh is heir to, and had become thoroughly convinced in their own minds that they would never be able to stand the hardships and fatigues of a soldier’s life. When questioned in reference to their ailments it was found that they were suffering from rheumatism, pulmonary consumption, looseness of the bowels, costiveness, prolapses uteri, &c., besides not being very well themselves. These suffering invalids were permitted by the surgeon to rejoin their mammas in order to secure that care which their feeble health so much demanded. I have since learned that their health improved wonderfully under the kind nursing of their tender mammas.
There were, however, some half dozen or more in the company whose spirit of patriotism glowed as brightly as the most zealous, but whose feeble constitutions were so apparent that they were immediately set aside as unfit for soldiers. I remember the sincere feeling of regret which some of these persons manifested at being rejected. Although they were saved hardships, suffering, and most probably death, still they were willing to undergo trials for the good of the noble cause in which they had enlisted. Their hearts were in the right place.
On the second day after our arrival in camp the company proceeded to the election of their commissioned officers. I had been approached by some of the members of the company to know what I would do for them in the way of sergeantships and corporalships provided they gave me their votes for one of the commissioned offices. – My reply invariably to each and all was to vote for the men they thought best qualified to fill those offices – that I was willing enough to receive their votes if they thought I would do for one of their officers, but I would not purchase a vote by the promise of any position to a single individual. Before the election came off I noticed a great deal of wire-working and button-holing, and soon after learned that the matter was all fixed up. There were some who thought that if I were elected captain I would be partial to the little squad of men who had agreed to join their fortunes with mine in the service of the country, and that consequently they would not receive that consideration from me which was their due. – And there were some few in the company who had learned to look upon me as an “abolitionist,” a “black republican editor,” a horrible creature who loved the society of negroes better than of decent white folks. – It was even more than they could stomach to have me in the same company with them.
The election proceeded. There were some dozen or more candidates for the three commissioned offices. The election resulted in the choice of G. W. Reynolds for Captain, Hardin Hovey for 1st Lieutenant, and J. H. McCandless for 2d Lieutenant. I had looked upon the election of Mr. Reynolds as certain, and voted for him myself. My first impression of the man when I first saw him at the dinner at Industry were not favorable, as I thought he lacked energy and intelligence, and then I learned that his political antecedents were not of the highest order, he having a few months previous presided at an anti-war meeting held in Industry. He had grown in my favor in my few days’ acquaintance with him. I was disposed to regard all as sincerely loyal who were willing to brave the perils of the battle-field in upholding the honor and glory of our flag, notwithstanding what might have been their previous partialities or prejudices, and then I discovered that he was a man of more energy and intelligence than a first acquaintance would lead one to suppose. I confess that the election of Hardin Hovey was a surprise to me. I had never heard the name of this man mentioned before it was read from the ballots which had been deposited for him. Hovey was elected by one majority, and the other two candidates by very decisive majorities.
A day or two afterwards Capt. Reynolds was called upon by the Colonel of the regiment to appoint his non-commissioned officers. I was vain enough to suppose that in view of my efforts in behalf of the cause, having expended considerable time and money in recruiting service and having been agent in procuring board, transportation, &c., for the company, that I would be tendered at least a corporalcy, but alas for human expectations! There were not, it seems, half enough offices to go around, and several who had been promised positions were obliged to be left out in the cold. These were more to be commiserated than myself, for I had been promised nothing. I had a nice little arrangement prepared under the expectation of receiving a corporalcy by which I expected to surprise people. Among those from Hancock county, who had enlisted under me as a young man named Duffield, well educated, intelligent, and possessing excellent qualifications for a military officer. He was somewhat posted in the drill exercise, having enlisted in the three month’s service. With this young man I had agreed that whatever office was tendered me to resign in his favor, but we are told that the well laid schemes of mice and men are often interfered with; and we found it so, for I had no office to refuse, and he had none to accept.
→ We have received a communication from Col. M. R. Vernon, late of the 78th regiment, in answer to the card published two weeks since by the paroled prisoners of the 78th, at Camp Butler, but it comes too late for insertion this week. We will publish it next week. Col. Vernon is on a visit to his relatives at Ottumwa, Iowa, and did not see our paper until last week, or he would have given the matter earlier attention.
→ We publish this week the proceedings of the Board of Supervisors held nearly six weeks ago. The clerk of the Board furnishes these proceedings for publication. We do not understand why there should be so much delay in their publication. We would rather publish the proceedings the same week of the meeting of the Board, although it might hurry us a little to do so, than to wait a month or two months afterward.
Our Boys in Blue.
It is noteworthy fact that, taken as a class, there never was a better behaved set of men or boys in any community than are our returned soldiers. As far as we know and have heard in this county there has been no complaint by copperheads or other persons respecting our boys in blue, but on the contrary every body speaks in the highest praise of the good, orderly and steady conduct of these noble men. Even those who were a little wild and fractious before entering the service, have returned sober-minded quiet and peaceful citizens. It was thought by many that the excitement of the war, and the excellent opportunities the soldiers had for cultivating foraging propensities, and the scenes of bloodshed and suffering they were accustomed to look upon, would have a tendency to beget in them a rude and reckless spirit which would manifest itself in deeds of mischievousness and scenes of violence. But all honor to the gallant defenders of our country – they made the best soldiers the world ever saw, and now they return giving promise to make the best citizens of our country.
→ The Bushnell Union Press says it never knew us to be any other than “hard up.” With tears in our eyes we confess it. The birds of the air have their nests, the foxes have their holes, but we are often without a red cent.
→ The Bushnell Union Press editor says he did not go into the army and have a diarrhea every time a battle was to come off. If that’s the state of his bowels in view of a battle it was well enough that he staid at home.
Capt. H. C. Hawkins. – We learn from the Quincy Whig that this gentleman, who was formerly a captain in the 78th Ill., and who was for over a year a prisoner in rebel hands, is about to take up his residence in Missouri, having been appointed by Supt. Mead station agent at LaClede, on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad.
→ A copperhead print in Carthage refers to our paper as an “abolition print,” and says that we have misrepresented “Dr. Finch” of Dallas. We don’t know, nor never heard of Doctor Finch in Dallas, and we are sure we never said any thing in our paper about Doctor Finch or any other Doctor in Dallas.
Arrival of the 16th.
This veteran regiment has at length been mustered out of the service and paid off. – Those members of it living in this vicinity arrived home on the trains here on Tuesday and Wednesday last. They of course received a cordial welcome. Our citizens would have given them a public reception if it had been practicable, but the boys seem to have straggled considerably since their muster out, as every train brings fresh arrivals of them.
School Exhibition at Prairie City.
A correspondent of the Chicago Journal writing from Prairie City, in this county, mentions an interesting school exhibition recently held in the Congregational Church at that place.
The exhibition was composed of two schools, numbering about eighty children in all, who took part in the exercises. The teachers, Misses Emily Lockwood and Mattie Buck, deserve great credit for their perfect success and good taste in selecting and arranging the programme for the evening. The children all did exceedingly well. The exercises consisted of patriotic and other befitting recitations, spicy dialogues of various characters, a carefully written and well read paper, an oration showing a strong and fertile mind.
A very natural and picturesque scene of the ever loyal and once seceded States, the former represented by a large number of little girls, all neatly dressed, wearing blue scarfs and waving little flags, while their young hearts swelled up with joy and their musical tongues sang most patriotically; the latter States were represented by larger girls, rudely dressed, and in no special costume, some wearing glasses, and appearing very old and haggard, all lifting up their voices and most bitterly weeping, and some complaining of sister “Caroline.” In this scene the boots of Sir Old Mother Jeff. were exhibited, despite her crinoline (which was absent.)
Sold Again! – A lady of Carthage was exhibiting a piece of prints which she had purchased in Keokuk, the other day, as a miracle of cheapness and good quality. – She only paid 42 cents per yard for it! It so happened that our friend Dale, under this office, sold to another lady, the same say, a dress pattern of precisely the same prints, both in quality and figure, for 35 cts per yard! – Carthage Republican.
The merchants in this city sell that same kind of prints for 30 cents.
Destruction of Barnum’s Museum. – A fire broke out in Barnum’s Museum in New York on Thursday forenoon of last week which totally destroyed the building and nearly all its valuable contents. But Barnum is not squelched yet. He started agents the next day for Europe after new curiosities, and expects to erect a better museum than ever.
→ As the copperheads seem to have made up their minds that the negroes will presently be their associates in the social circle, it would be no more than fair to pass a law preventing them from associating with the negroes. And the negroes have a right to such a law in self-defense.
Camp 17th U.S.C.T.
Nashville, Tenn., July 10, 1865.
The weather is excessively hot just now. The Rock City apparently is enveloped in a smothering heat, especially the sidewalks around the pay department, where hundreds of soldiers are continually standing, lying or sitting. I have come to the conclusion that it is an easy matter to get into the United States service, but rather a tedious matter to get out of. I would about as soon make a charge upon the rebel works upon a cool day, when the lead was not flying too fast, as to wait the motion of some paymasters.
A soldier here who is mustered out, to get his pay has to go through with about as much formality, as one would to get an interview with Queen Victoria, and not only that, but it must be repeated for several days before the greenbacks will come. – Notwithstanding the tardiness of paymasters the work of mustering out soldiers at this post is progressing finely, and ere long the multitude of soldiers camped in Tennessee will most of them be permitted to join their friends at home. I of course refer to the boys in “blue.” The boys in “black” will probably be retained for some time yet.
The pleasure of remaining in the service would be better appreciated if we could see the paymaster a little more frequently. It is now eleven months since the 17th has been paid. If I had control of the pay department I know things would be different so far as this regiment is concerned, but as I have not I suppose I must bide my time.
I see they have commenced mustering out Major and Brigadier Generals. Major General Milroy arrived here last night on his way home. This looks like the end when the Generals are mustered out. I believe it would be entirely safe to leave this part of the country without a soldier. If I was whipped as the rebels are I am sure I would need no guard to preserve order. – They appear to have gone to work in good earnest to make citizens of themselves, fearing the darkies will become citizens first.
I was pleased to receive a few days since a copy of the Macomb Journal in its new dress. The appearance of the paper would do credit to any community. The editor is a worthy, energetic man, whose fidelity to the Union has been proved by three years hard service in the army. [Thank you, Mac. – Ed.]
I learn that the soldiers and their friends had a fine time at Industry on the 1st inst. Nothing could have given me more pleasure than to have been with them on that occasion.
Will the Journal be so kind as to insert the above that my old comrades in the 78th may know that “Promptly” is not dead, but still lives.”
J. C. M.
→ Rev. Daniel Harris, of the U. P. Church, will preach in the Congregational Church in this place next Sabbath afternoon at 5 o’clock.
Furniture. – We would call the attention of our readers to the advertisement of B. F. Martin & Son, which appears in another column. We have looked through their extensive establishment and find that their stock is extensive, and also large in variety. Their prices compare favorably with similar establishments in the larger cities of the State. Those in want of good, substantial furniture at fair prices, will read their advertisement and govern themselves accordingly.
A Useful Invention. – Out ingenious friend and fellow-citizen Dr. E. A. Floyd has just received a patent for a very simple and useful contrivance to prevent the water in pumps from freezing in cold weather. – Pumps are generally in more favor than any other means of raising water from wells, but the great objection to them has been their tendency to freeze in cold weather. This can now be entirely obviated by the application of Dr. Floyd’s new invention.
→ L. A Simmons, Esq., who has served his three years in the 84th Ill., has resumed the practice of law in this city. See card in another column.
Off for the East. – Lieut. E. Morse, late of the 78th Ill., and for nearly a year and a half a prisoner in rebel prisons, started this week with his family for a visit of two or three months to his aged father who lives in the State of Maine. We wish him a pleasant visit and safe future.
Macomb in Competition with New York, – For comparison see N. Y. quotations of Dry Goods, and then Johnson’s prices. Great closing out sale. Only a few days longer.
Car Burned. – A freight car was burned at Plymouth, on the C. B. & Q. railroad, one day last week. The car contained a large quantity of soldiers’ clothing; all of which proved a total loss.
The County Fair. – The officers of the McDonough County Agricultural Society inform us that the 27th, 28th, 29th days of September next are fixed upon as the most profitable time for holding the annual county fair. Premium lists can be had of the President, Joseph Burton, or at any of the principal places of business in this city. We are all interested in having our County fair be a success, as we are assured it will be. – Then let every citizen of McDonough county lend it his cordial support and patronage.
Macomb Male and Female Academy. – This institution will open on the first Monday in September next, under the superintendence of Mr. Gilbert D. Jackson, an accomplished teacher of several years’ experience. The building is to be refurnished and enclosed with a high board fence to [?] it off from the streets, and a good supply of Maps, Charts, Globes and other useful apparatus suited to the wants of the school is to be obtained. The Musical Department will be under the control of Miss. [?]ttie V. Jackson, with increased facilities for instruction in both vocal and instrumental music.
Side Walks. – We hope that our citizens generally will obey the mandate of our city fathers in relation to rebuilding their sidewalks. Our friend, Joseph Burton, Esq., is putting down, in front of his residence, on north Lafayette street, a substantial sidewalk, being of plank eight inches wide, and one and a half inches thick. Cattle can not break such walks, and therefore they are cheaper in the end.
Good Flour. – If bread is the staff of life, then how important that we select a staff of good material, which is just what Clisby & Trull are prepared to furnish at the City Mill.
→ “Billy, the barber,” is about to remove his shop to the east side of the square, next door to Wetherhold’s dry goods store. He is now engaged preparing the room, [?]ing, papering, &c., and in a few days he expects to be permanently located at the above place. In the meantime he will remain at the store room south-west corner of the square.