Pittsfield – 1861.
It always makes me shiver to think of Camp Seward. Co. F went into Camp, I think, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. There were no bunks built then, and the building set up from the ground allowing free circulation underneath and all through the wide cracks in the floor. There had been no snow then to bank up the building, so we got the benefit of every gentle breeze. Sleeping on the floor near the two or three red hot coal stoves, we roasted and froze our sides alternately. I have often passed more comfortable nights, and had pleasanter dreams. After the deep snow came and we got bunks made, we were more comfortable.
Guard duty was a bitter pill to me, and I do not think any of the Reg’t had an irresistible craving for it. I remember one very cold night I was on guard at the north side of the building from 11 o’clock until 1. I was not very robust then. I walked my beat nearly an hour, when overcome by the intense cold and fatigue, I sat down upon one of the dry-goods boxes that marked the limits of my beat, resolved to freeze for my country then and there. I was soon roused by the Grand Rounds, the commander of the post being with it. I was not much acquainted with such visitors, but knew enough of military etiquette to know that it was proper to present arms to the commander, so I got into as near an upright position as I could between shivers, and presented – they took it kindly and soon left me. I concluded to defer the freezing until some night when it wasn’t quite so chilly. I don’t think I ever presented arms to anybody afterwards at midnight.
Some of the Cos. got full (and I am sorry to say there were some of the men did also) the overplus transferred to those still lacking. One grim and bloodthirsty old warrior (Dennis Towne, with the love of carnage inherent in his breast, informed his Captain if he had got to be transported, he wished to be transported into an Artillery Co, – – fortunately for the fame of the Co. they retained his services, and at Port Hudson, if the Rebs had not surrendered just when they did, he had arranged his plans to blow their Forts, Garrison, and all on to the upper end of Ship Island. It would have been a sad blow to many of them.
I was amongst the first victims of the measles and my lungs still feel the effects of them. Orlando Wilson of F Co. and myself were taken down together and were the only occupants of the little loft in the building used, at first, for a hospital. We were not very patient patients. The only Dr. we saw was Geo. Sears, the hospital steward. Our nurse was Richardson of our Co. When we began to improve in health our appetites got the start, and the little piece of toast they would bring us for breakfast would aggravate us terribly. We were left alone at meal time while the nurse was filling up, and we were served afterwards. One morning we two held a little convention and resolved that we had been starved long enough, and that we would make a bold move for our rations, as soon as the coast was clear. It cleared, and we started, Wilson as rear guard. I got to the stairs, the long steep flight that led down into the quarters. My head swam. I sat down and slid gracefully to the floor. Wilson hadn’t any trumps, so he followed suit. The men had just got seated at the table, and we found a place and loaded our tin plates high with the luscious, greasy hash that was our usual breakfast. I had already crooked my elbow and parted my lips for the first invoice while the delicious perfume pervaded my whole being, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looking around, I saw the smiling face of the hospital steward. “Do you want to die?” said he. I told him I did not care, if I could have all the hash I wanted, but he was relentless as fate and marched us back hungrier, if not wiser boys. We got better after awhile and walked down, and the hash suffered.
We had a Lieutenant at that time, a great-hearted fellow, a real Darling [Lieutenant George Sumner Darling]. I looked so puny and coughed so bad that he was filled with pity for me — and told me if I did not feel able to drill, I could work in the cookhouse every day, and go on guard every night. Such generosity to a man just out of the hospital! My feelings quite overcame me and I am afraid I did not properly express my gratitude, for he told me I wasn’t good for nothing, and when we got to Lowell he was going to trade me for a decent man. He did not trade. I don’t think any decent man would care to have much dealings with him.