Sunday, November 3, 2013

Civil War Block of the Month - November 1863 - Just Hominy

In this month's diary entries, we looked in on Sarah and her family, refugees scattered in Louisiana and hungry with only Hominy to eat.  They are facing the decision to starve, or to go back to Union-held New Orleans where they will have to pledge their loyalty to the Union.

I enjoyed making this block, even though it has four Y seams. It is more complex than the other blocks in this series. I've been using at least one stripe or plaid in each block. I started my fabric selection for this one with the wavy stripe that appears in the star points.

On November 15th 1863, Shep wrote to his family to say he had at last received their letter of October 20th. He explains it had been in the Mississippi River, sinking with the Transport City Alton, and was taken out of there and sent to Memphis before reaching him at Fort Pillow. The City of Alton was built in Madison Indiana on the Ohio River about 30 miles from Hayden/then Hardenburg, where Shep, Billy and John were from. I looked into the history of this riverboat and learned it was used as a troop carrier that at one point was operated by the Sanitary Commission and served to carry wounded soldiers away from Vicksburg. The River to Rail website about Madison Indiana also reports "This steamer was used to remove 10,000 muskets from the St. Louis Arsenal before a Confederate plot to seize them could be put into effect. The confiscation of these arms, carried out by city militia under cover of darkness, likely prevented the state of Missouri from joining the Confederacy." Evidently, the steamboat was recovered and repaired.

Shep compares his circumstances to brother Billy's saying "We get along first rate here, plenty to eat. Pleanty to wear and not much to do. Health generally good, for my part, I have no reason to complain of anything." He comments on the death of probably a comrade, "he has gone where this is no wars. I think that is a great consolation to the living." He has had his photograph taken and will send them home to be kept for him, "But if I never should call for them, you can keep them to remember me by."

In a letter to his brother Henry and an unnamed sister on the 21st, Shep reports on the excitement caused by General Hulbert's order to conscript all able bodied men in the department. He does not sympathize with the merchants who have been making money from the Army, "taking advantages, they are for smuggling and speculating while the soldiers protect them. It will go pretty hard with some of them, for they have rather stuck up their noses at the soldiers and now the boys have a chance of retaliation and they will not be backward about using it." He wishes Henry were there to attend the debating societies. and describes the music - "fiddles, banjos, bones, cow bells, and various other instruments. The Rebs may come and spoil our fun some of these old times but don't think there is much chances." 

At the end of November, the 52nd moved from St. Louis to Nashville.

Billy in Chattanooga wrote on November 12th to thank his family for the provisions they sent, all of which arrived in good condition except the loaf of bread that was entirely spoiled. The thread was just what he needed. The soldiers are still on half-rations but he claims they are doing very well. He is pleased that he has received one of Shep's photos. He asks his mother to knit him a pair of gloves because the mornings are cold, but he can get his socks there. On the 18th, he wrote to his sister Joanna complaining in the last three months he has had only the half dozen words from her that came in the box of things. He still had butter from that package, and would use it with the soft bread ration they drew that morning. He explains he was not with the regiment when they crossed into Rebel lines and drove them away because he had been guarding the supply train at Steveson. But he goes on to tell her "some of the particulars" -
"... our Brigade and one Brigade of Johnson's old Division went down there in the night and lay on the opposite side of the river until about 4 o'clock in the morning when 1200 men out of the 6th Ind. crossed in pontoon boats and landed in the Rebel picket line before the Rebs knew it. You may bet they had fun. They pitched into the Rebs and drove them back, meantime our Regt. and several others were crossing and soon we had a pretty strong force across. The Rebs were bound to retreat. Our boys put a pontoon bridge across the river immediately, then you see, our cracker line was opened but the Rebs still occupy Lookout Mountain. They keep shelling our supply trains from there every day but I have not heard of their doing any damage yet. Our picket lines in front of Chattanooga are but 30 or 40 steps apart. We can talk to each other, the Rebs say that their men still hold Vicksburg. They will not believe us when we tell them different. That is all they keep fighting for, they are kept in ignorance. One of them told George More that they were not fighting for country nor constitution, they were fighting to protect their women and children. If that is all they are fighting for, they had better quit. I would like to know what they leave their homes and families for if they want to protect them." 

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