Sunday, December 28, 2008

Enlisting in the Civil War

Hello! My name is Globee. Maybe you know my friends, Annie and Blue. Annie is from Mrs. Griffin’s class in New Haven. I am part of the Mrs. Griffin’s class, too. Annie has invited me to travel with her and Blue if I promised to write to you about our travels. What a great deal!
Sergeant Young barked. "Platoon Assemble! A sorry looking bunch of fresh fish if ‘er I saw one." "Fish" is the name for new soldiers. Sergeant taught us to say, "sir" when talking to him, the proper way to wear our uniforms, and instructed us in commands: "Form columns by platoons!" "Count off!" "Dress right!" "Right face!" "March! One! Two!"

We marched to our encampment where we were issued blankets and assigned our quarters (our huts). After our platoon assembled we were issued wooden muskets. Sergeant taught us to "load in nine." Following his commands we positioned our musket, took out a cartridge, tore off the paper with our teeth. He said, "All infantrymen must have at least four teeth, preferably two on the bottom and two on the top. Spit that paper out. I want to hear everyone spit!" We poured the black power into the barrel and rammed it in tight, moved the musket to our right hand, reached into the cap pouch, put a cap on the cone of the weapon, cocked the weapon, and aimed. We drilled and drilled some more. It was very hot in the open field. Then we marched to the firing range where we fired a real black powder musket and a mortar. That was very exciting. Then we marched some more.

By dinnertime we were hungry - and tired. We had a hearty dinner of beef stew, fruit, and hardtack. Hardtack is a very hard biscuit that often has bugs in it called weevils. Sergeant said, "If’n it has bugs dunk it in your hot coffee. The bugs will come to the top, then ‘em scoop off." After dinner we went on patrol. The moon was full. The only sound was an owl in the nearby woods. It was hard to stay awake because we very tired. We were happy when it was time to "hit the sack."
The morning tattoo – the bugle call to get up - sounded at 5:45. We barely had time to hike up the hill to the "sink" – military talk for toilet – before assembly. After assembly, we were issued field rations and marched off to battle. We were trying to break through General Robert E. Lee’s line near Petersburg, VA. Tension built. With a bloodcurdling rebel yell the Confederates broke out into the open. "Fire!" Using the buddy system we took turns firing and reloading. After a few scary minutes the skirmish was over. We marched back to camp where the "wounded" were treated by the company doctor.

Our 24 hours as a Civil War soldier was interesting but hot and exhausting. We gained a new respect for all soldiers.