Fun on the Rappahannock1
- A soldier of the Eighth
Ohio regiment, writing from Falmouth, makes the following notes on the
movements in that vicinity: —
- "Everything seemed to
be progressing finely until Tuesday night, when the "heavens opened and the
flood descended." "Eph" suggested that the flood gates must be entirely
off their hinges, as his sleeping apartment suddenly became a bath house, and
his bunk a bathing tub. Indeed our "brown stone front" came near being
dissolved, and the "aristocratic " inmates drowned. The storm continued with
very little cessation until Friday morning, and as every hour made the "soil"
more soft than "sacred," the roads soon became blocked with an
indescribable mass of artillery wagons, and "pontoons," hopelessly stuck in
the mud. It was very evident that this "delay of the pontoons" was not
attributable to a lack of energy on the part of Q. M. General Meigs, nor yet
on account of a misunderstanding between Messrs. Generals Halleck and
Burnside. "Eph" thinks a greater General than any of these had something to do
with it, and remarked that "it was undoubtedly on account of the same One to
whom Victor Hugo ascribes Napoleon's failure to win the battle of Waterloo."
- One thing is certain,
the artillery and "pontoon" could move no more at present. The "meeting" was
postponed, and after lying out in the mud and rain for three days and nights,
the troops that had moved up the river came back, probably believing
that it was "all for the best," but on account of the mud that obstructed
their vision they failed to "see it." As we were to have crossed the river
nearly opposite our camp, we did not leave our quarters, and had a good
opportunity to witness the return of the muddy, straggling mass. The scene was
anything but a pleasant one, yet there were many ludicrous incidents
connected with it. "Eph" and three or four of the "boys" were standing near
our mansion, looking at the floating mass of men, horses, mules, artillery,
and wagons, when we observed a conglomeration of blue cloth and mud
approaching. As it had on a gun, knapsack, haversack and canteen, we
concluded it was a "straggler," and "Eph" hailed him with —
- "Hallo! Earthen-ware!
what regiment do you belong to?"
- The figure never
paused, but the earth; visible under the visor of a cap, moved, displaying a
cavern from which issued the words;—
- "Don't speak to me!
I'm a spared monument! I've marched in mud, swam mud, drank mud, and slept in
mud for three days and nights. My colonel and regiment wore all drowned in
mud. I'm the only man left, and I'm demoralized as —"
- "Eph" extracted the
leather pontoons he wears from the rich soil in which he was standing,
retreated "without loss" to the "sitting room," threw himself into the " easy
" chair before the "coal grate," elevated his pontoons to the "mantel-piece,"
and remained in this position evidently meditating until we came in. After we
had requested him to remove his muddy "pontoons" from the "furniture," he
- "That's the first
demoralized monument, I ever saw. He was probably a brother of the
Fire Zouave we saw over in Fredericksburg the other day, and I am inclined to
believe most of his story." At this juncture some one called him out to look
at the new balloon which was going up from near General Sumner's headquarters.
On his return we asked him "what he supposed the professor saw that attracted
him to such a dizzy height so often ?" "Well," said "Eph," (at the same time
setting one of his soiled "pontoons" down on our boots just polished for
"inspection,") "I guess it ain't what he sees while he's up there so much as
it is the five thousand dollars he sees every time he comes down."
- To-day we rode down to
the river to look at the enemy's fortifications, see their cannon and ask
their pickets the price of cotton. At Falmouth we visited the ruins of an old
bridge, on the end of which we had a picket to watch a gray-back "picket who
was stationed at the opposite end, and whose duty was evidently to watch ours.
All along the river we found the pickets of the opposing armies within easy
hailing distance, and apparently quite friendly, but as conversation was not
allowed, we asked no questions.
- The hills back of
Fredericksburg looked as though they were in possession of an enterprising oil
company who were engaged in boring for "ile," but from the fact that the piles
of fresh earth increased daily we suspected they had not "struck a vein." On
our return we passed through the little hollow near General Sumner's
headquarters, where a part of our hospitals were located during the battle of
the 12th ult., and stopped to read some of the names appearing upon the
little headboards that were planted in a regular row on one side. "Eph" made
the discovery of several, that read "Private, Unknown," and one "Lieut.,
Unknown," whereupon he immediately seated himself upon a log, and crossing his
"pontoons" — upon each of which he had strapped a "buzz saw" the two
constituting what he calls his " spurs," and said:—
- "Death is a rude
customer to meet at any time and at any place; he is not welcome even at home
and among friends — but to think of a fellow dying as it were alone., with not
even an old comrade or a familiar face near, and upon whose monument — a pine
board two by three — appears the inscription 'Private or Lieutenant Unknown,'
reminds me that I am not well and ought to be discharged." Here he looked
pale, and we began to think he was unwell, but he continued: " I wonder if the
one who wrote those epitaphs had an idea that when the Chief Bugler comes to
sound the last 'reveille,' he would pause to learn whether the ashes that
slumber beneath these pine boards ever wore straps or not?" Here he paused
again and looked at his old blouse, shrugged his shoulders, and concluded —
- "When the
epauletted general who commands and the soldier without straps who obeys, both
stand before One in whose presence all
tinsel of time,
Must fade and die in the light of that region sublime,'
if they will remain Unknown?"
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