Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/15

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5
Detailed Minutiæ of Soldier Life.

It was no uncommon sight to see a brigade or division, which was but a moment before marching in solid column along the road, scattered over an immense field searching for the luscious blackberries. And it was wonderful to see how promptly and cheerfully all returned to the ranks when the field was gleaned. In the fall of the year a persimmon tree on the roadside would halt a column and detain it till the last persimmon disappeared.

The sutler's wagon, loaded with luxuries, which was so common in the Federal army, was unknown in the Army of Northern Virginia; and for two reasons, the men had no money to buy sutlers' stores and the country no men to spare for sutlers. The nearest approach to the sutler's wagon was the "cider cart" of some old darkey or a basket of pies and cakes displayed on the roadside for sale.

The Confederate soldier relied greatly upon the abundant supplies of eatables which the enemy was kind enough to bring him, and he cheerfully risked his life for the accomplishment of the two-fold purpose of whipping the enemy and getting what he called "a square meal." After a battle there was general feasting on the Confederate side. Good things, scarcely ever seen at other times, filled the haversacks and the stomachs of "Boys in Gray." Imagine the feelings of men half famished when they rush into a camp at one side, while the enemy flees from the other, and find the coffee on the fire, sugar at hand ready to be dropped into the coffee, bread in the oven, crackers by the box, fine beef ready cooked, desiccated vegetables by the bushel, canned peaches, lobsters, tomatoes, milk, barrels of ground and toasted coffee, soda, salt, and in short everything a hungry soldier craves. Then add the liquors, wines, cigars and tobacco found in the tents of the officers and the wagons of the sutlers, and remembering the condition of the victorious party, hungry, thirsty and weary, say if it did not require wonderful devotion to duty and great self denial to push on, trampling under foot the plunder of the camp, and pursue the enemy till the sun went down.

When it was allowable to halt, what a glorious time it was! Men who a moment before would have been delighted with a pone of corn-bread and a piece of fat meat now discuss the comparative merits of peaches and milk and fresh tomatoes, lobster and roast beef, and forgetting the briar-root pipe, faithful companion of the vicissitudes of the soldier's life, snuff the aroma of imported Havanas.