Foraging by Veteran Soldiers.—In March, 1862, in the advance upon Winchester, Brigadier-General Abercrombie commanded the first brigade, having Cochran's battery with it. Abercrombie was very strict, not allowing his men to forage. The next morning after we camped near Berryville, the general rode through the battery. The captain was in his tent Approaching it, he discovered the quarters of a fine young beef that the men had “foraged” the previous night, lying against a tree. The general's brow contracted as he demanded of Sergeant Leander E. Davis:
“Where the d—l did you get that beef? I gave the commissary no orders to issue fresh beef here.”
Davis, who was a very polite soldier, removed his cap, and saluted the general, saying, in a tone evincing perfect coolness and sincerity:
“General, I was sergeant of the guard last night, and about ten o'clock I heard a terrible commotion in the camp of the Twelfth Massachusetts, Colonel Webster's regiment, across the road. I rushed out to see what was going on, and just as I passed the captain's tent I saw a fine steer coming through the camp of the Twelfth Massachusetts, with about a hundred men after it. The animal appeared very much frightened, general, and, true as you live, it jumped clear across the road (about two rods), over both stone fences, and as it alighted in this lot it struck its head against this tree, and being so terribly scared, its head, hide, and legs kept right on running, while the quarters dropped down here, where they have remained ever since. It is very fine, tender beef, general, and I had just come here for the purpose of cutting off and sending you a fine sirloin roast for dinner. Will you be so obliging as to accept of it?”
“How long have you been a soldier?” demanded the old general.
“About six months general.”
“Well, sir, I perceive that you thoroughly appreciate the art of war, and have become a veteran in half a year. Were you a green soldier I should order you under arrest, and have you court-martialed; but, on account of your veteran proclivities, I shall recommend you for promotion!” and putting spurs to his horse he rode away, shaking his sides with laughter.
Brockett, Dr. L. P., The Camp, The Battle Field, and the Hospital; or, Lights and Shadows of the Great Rebellion, Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1866
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