Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/12

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

captured from the enemy, and the water of springs, creeks and rivers. No doubt there were other commands suffering the same privations.

A soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia was fortunate when he had his flour, meat, sugar and coffee all at the same time and in proper quantity. Having these, the most skillful axeman of the mess hewed down a fine hickory or oak, and cut it into "lengths." All hands helped to "tote it" to the fire. When the wood was convenient, the fire was large and the red coals abundant.

The man most gifted in the use of the skillet was the one most highly appreciated about the fire, and as tyrannical as a Turk; but when he raised the lid of the oven and exposed the brown, crusted tops of the biscuit, animosity subsided. The frying pan, full of "grease," then became the centre of attraction. As the hollow-cheeked boy "sopped" his biscuit, his poor, pinched countenance wrinkled into a smile and his sunken eyes glistened with delight.

The strong men squatted around, chuckling over their good luck and "cooing"—like a child with a big piece of cake. Ah! this was a sight which but few of those who live and die are ever permitted to see.

And the coffee, too—how delicious the aroma of it, and how readily each man disposes of a quart.

And now the last biscuit is gone, the last drop of coffee, and the frying pan is "wiped" clean. The tobacco bag is pulled wide open, pipes are scraped, knocked out and filled, the red coal is applied, and the blue smoke rises in wreaths and curls from the mouths of the no longer hungry, but happy and contented soldiers.

Songs rise on the still night air, the merry laugh resounds, the woods are bright with the rising flame of the fire, story after story is told, song after song is sung, and at midnight the soldiers steal away one by one to their blankets on the ground and sleep till reveille. Such was a meal when the mess was fortunate. How different when the wagons had not been heard from for forty-eight hours, and the remnants of stock on hand had to do. Now, the question is, how to do the largest amount of good to the largest number with the smallest amount of material? The most experienced men discuss the situation and decide that "somebody" must go foraging. Though the stock on hand is small, no one seems anxious to leave the small certainty and go in search of the large uncertainty of supper from some farmer's well filled table. But at