George Goodwin — Part 4, Fort Pike

Note: We recognize that some of the thoughts and language herein are considered racist by today’s standards, however we have not altered or edited them, preferring to let the reader discern the author’s intent and measure the progress made in the century since these narratives were written.

At Fort Pike – 1863

We lost our best blood at the Fort. The mosquito reigned supreme, there. Our first night there made a deep impression on us, and in fact we were all covered with impressions the next morning. The grass had been mowed that day and we thought it would make nice beds, so filled our ticks with it. Our slumbers were much disturbed, and curses loud, and as deep as the articles of war allowed, broke the stillness of the night air,- our soft beds were one mass of skeeters and they were hungry. We were the fattest looking set of men in the morn – Had the Prodigal’s Calf seen us he would have bellowed in shame – Some had faces swelled so badly as to nearly close their eyes. We were all a cheeky looking lot – We got used to the little musical insects, or they got used to us, and felt quite reconciled to them, after we got Bunks and Bars. I wonder if any of the Fort Pikers remember the expedition up Black Bayou on the steamer J. M. Brown. We got aground as usual and the deck hands were trying to push off with poles at the stern, the Captain stood there giving orders to Tom, the pilot. It would be “Go ahead on the starboard wheel” or “Back on the port wheel”. Our quartermaster was there and he was full of the condensed water from the Fort, or something else, and getting impatient at the slow progress, seized a pole and said “Now give her hell on both wheels, Tom.” The boat started and the Quartermaster’s pole stuck in the mud, and he, brave man, would not let go, and but for someone’s grabbing him by the coattails, the muddy bottom of Black Bayou would have been terribly stirred up.

The 4th of July that we celebrated at the Fort in ’63 is fresh in my memory. Capt. Bridgman’s experiment of trying to make white men of the darkeys by having them dive their heads in tubs of flour for coins. The dinner we were going to have, a square meal, but our Cook, it must have been the steam from the condensed water, got independent and met us at the door with a savage looking carving knife, and bloody threats to anyone crossing the threshold before he gave permission. The storm blowed over, we went to dinner. We were to have for a treat a real genuine plum pudding, but our hopes were crushed when we laid seige [sic] to it. I never saw a pudding wear such a sad and melancholy look. We took turns in attacking it, but it resisted to the bitter end, and I believe both ends were bitter. Co. F. met their first defeat – but they did their duty like little men.

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