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In Their Own Words

September 29, 1861

Hardships and Humor of Civil War Camp Life Recorded in Letters

A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his father, telling him of the hardships endured by soldiers, and mentioned a general native to Georgia.

“…we never know what a day may bring forth, especially to soldiers. We are nothing but machines which are moved by our superiors at their will. Night before last a little after dark our regiment was ordered to get ready to march at a minute’s notice. We obeyed and were mustered into line in the street awaiting further orders. Artilley wagons and baggage wagons thundered by. Regiment after regiment marched past us and still we stod shivering the cold without overcoats. We were not allowed to make fires for fear the light would betray us to the enemy. Several rumors reached us. One was that we were to march with all the force under General Longstreet’s command across the Potomac and attack Washington on one side, while our other forces attacked it on the other. But that rumor was presently contradicted by another to the effect that we were all to retreat to Fairfax Courthouse. The latter report was true. But still we had to stand still in ranks out in the cold, and we stood there until the moon rose…”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 71.

Another Georgia soldier in Virginia also wrote to his father - relating a humorous incident.

“…Some of the sentinels are very awkward. One night the countersign (or password) was ‘Rockbridge.’ And a man attempted to cross over the line. the sentinel stopped him and said, ‘If you don’t say “Rockbridge,” I will shoot you!’ …”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 70-71.