Page images
PDF
EPUB

Lieut. Clark, who by unanimous consent had been appointed regimental wag, was heard discoursing thus: “Heaven forgive

us all our sins if we are to be sent among these rampageous, “half horse, half alligator, border ruffians with these old muskets "and triangular bayonets. If we are not kicked over the borders “at the first discharge it will be through the special interposi“tion of a kind Providence. Or it will be through the same “merciful influence if we are not all dead in three weeks from “lugging so much rusty iron among the black jacks and rocky “fastnesses of Missouri. We shall be equally in danger from “the muzzles of squirrel rifles and the breeches of our own mus“kets; and caught thus like a rat in a trap between muzzle and “breech, what possible earthly chance can there be for us?"

When the “Wayne Rifles” were humorously requested to walk up and take their muskets, with a look of injured innocence they peremptorily refused, and left the arsenal grounds in a huff and without a single gun. Re-embarked upon the Warsaw we steamed back to the city and passed another night upon the boat. A train of freight cars were shoved down to the levee to which the regimental stores were transferred, and at about 5 P. M. the Regiment was marched through the city with rattling drums and colors flying, to the depot of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, where we embarked for Rolla, then the terminus of the Southwestern Branch. There being no equipments nor sufficient transportation for the cavalry, they were sent to Benton Barracks, a beautiful location north-west of the city limits, where at that time 10,000 men were under the military instruction of Gen. Curtis, who was in command.

After eight of the infantry companies had taken their places in the cars, word came from the railroad officials that, for lack of transportation, two of the companies would be obliged to remain

COL. JOSLÝN AND THE RAILROAD OFFICIALS.

61

[ocr errors]

in St. Louis until the next day. Preparations were being made to proceed in accordance with this arrangement, when Col. Joslyn, having ascertained that there were cars enough upon the tracks, concluded that the two cavalry companies were enough to leave at that time, and proceeding to the engine, pulled the pin connecting it with the train, and with revolver in hand declared the train should not leave St. Louis until cars sufficient for the transportation of the infantry were furnished. The altercation became rather boisterous, and one of the railroad men threatened to thrash him. The Colonel doubted his ability to make the threat good, and reiterated the demand for more cars, which, after some delay, were forthcoming—the plucky Lieut. Colonel of the Thirty-sixth coming off victorious in the first campaign in Missouri.

At Franklin we were switched on the South-west Branch, over which we ran at little more than cart horse speed, affording abundant opportunity to speculate upon the dangers and trials of the future and wonder what fate had in reserve for us. The South-west Branch cannot easily be forgotten by those who in war times had the excruciating pleasure of riding over it. The men were penned in box cars like drovers' stock on its

way

to the slaughter pen. Every foot of space was occupied, and there was not a square inch of muscle that was not as tender as an ulcerated tooth at the termination of that ride. Passing through a rough, almost mountainous region, with its frequent intervals of steep grades, to a nervous man the speed was painfully slow; but when the heights were gained, and the clown grades reached, a rate of speed was at times attained calculated to lead to the suspicion that at that rate and over such a track we would soon be landed in a country of sultry climate, where secession had its birthplace and where, we hoped, it was destined

soon to have its burial. Then we would go up, up, winding around mountain gorges until one would have to watch the trees closely to determine if we moved at all.

The hills were usually covered with low, scrubby black jack ; the soil for the most part poor and thin, and scarcely worth the blood already shed in its defense. With an occasional clearing, comprising a few acres of sickly weeds, a log cabin with mud chimneys entirely outside, with now and then a dilapidated “butternut;' a smoke begrimmed, dejected woman and a swarm of halfclothed urchins, with unkempt, yellow heads protruding through the chinks, watching, with a vacant stare, the passing train, served to fill up the details of this picture of the region passed through. The bulk of native Missourians we saw were long, gaunt men and women, put together well enough, perhaps, originally, but now quite shaken to pieces with fever and ague, or trembling with terror and apprehension, in view of the speedy occupation of the country by federal troops and retribution which might at any time overtake them for participation in rebellion. As a rule, the houses of the country were small, dirty and dilapidated; each establishment worthy of its proprietor. Of thrift, comfort, and good farming, we saw none; the people barely existed—did not live. One meets many just such dwellings and just such people over the South. Men who lie around loose rather than stand erect on God's green earth; men who seem to have no heritage of ideas or manly aspirations, but manage in a very precarious way to keep body and soul together. Labor is degrading, so of course, they are idle; a slave or two becoming the hewers of wood, the drawers of water,” the scape goat of their master's idleness, and the occasional victims of their vindictive wrath. Men fresh from the busy scenes of the enterprising North had hard work to suppress a feeling of contempt for these, the worst

ARRIVAL AT ROLLA.

63

[merged small][ocr errors]

victims of slavery, stigmatized by the haughty slaveholders and by plantation negroes as “poor white trash.” The beautiful South lies sterile and her people semi-barbarous at the feet of her evil genius, Slavery, but will grow young, powerful and strong, and occupy a proud position by the side of the sister States of the North only after this race of do nothings is gone, when free labor comes to touch with new magic the springs of intelligence, enterprise and industry.

Finally, after surviving the perils of “riding on a rail," and after being jolted and pounded in the closely packed box cars until every joint from toe to crown was as “stiff as a poker," we reached Rolla shortly after noon of September 29th. ceeded to the recently vacated camp of the 13th Ill., and pitching our tents, were at home again. It required but a short time to understand that the pic-nic days of Camp Hammond were over, that playing soldier was played out, and that now to come down to genuine hard work.

1

We pro

1

we were

CHAPTER V.

ROLLA.

[graphic]

YOLLA, the county seat of Phelps County, Missouri,

at that time the terminus of the railroad, was an insignificant gathering of tumble down shanties, built of logs and boards, scattered here and there

in the brush as though they happened there by chance, and might have been very appropriately classed with those institutions so common in the South-west, known as “one horse towns.” Every other shanty was a whisky shop, from whence proceeded every form of loathsome disease and death which prevailed to an alarming extent among some of the regiments stationed there. The Court House, a large, brick structure, was used as a hospital. Of its two hundred sick and suffering inmates, three-quarters were Missourians, who were not considered in their normal condition unless saturated with whisky. One might pick up any of those lank, three-story-and-an-attic specimens of the genus Missouri, wring him out, and whisky would ooze from every pore. It was apparent that to a greater or less extent their example was contagious among the northern regiments, and exerted a powerful influence in persuading many to patronize the hospitals and graveyard, as well as those dead falls

« PreviousContinue »