Item description: Portions of “Leaves from a Diary Written While Serving in Co. E, 44 Mass., Dep’t of No. Carolina,” an account, written by John Jasper Wyeth of Co. E, of the experiences of the 44th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The book includes this letter written on 7 February 1863.
Item citation: From, “Leaves from a diary written while serving in Co. E, 44 Mass., Dep’t of No. Carolina, from September, 1862, to June, 1863.” by John Jasper Wyeth, Boston, L. F. Lawrence & Co., 1878. Catalog Number: C970.742 W97, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
February 7.- Freedom of the town for to-day, and all over town we went; had a dug-out race, and about all who were in it got a ducking. Our party went up the shore of the river some distance. We saw the ways where a ram had been started, but was destroyed to keep our gunboats from taking her. We then branched off into the woods and finally found a picket-post, where we got some good cider and had a chat, arriving home just in time to get our guns and “fall in.”
It seemed our right wing was “on a march.” Quartermaster Bush said we were going for wood, but we could not understand why it took four or five companies to escort an equal number of wagons a few miles from town, unless nothing there was a large force of the enemy about; and if there was, why had we heard nothing from them for five days? Our orders were “light marching order,” nothing but guns and ammunition; but most of “E” took haversacks and dippers, and were glad we did. We started about two o’clock this afternoon, and after marching about two miles we struck an “obstacle.” The road was completely barricaded by large trees felled across it; and as cutting would delay us the rest of the day, we turned into the woods and went through a swamp and sound found ourselves on the road again, marching towards “Long Acre.” We left “B” and “C” at the junction of two roads, near a blacksmith shop. We soon left the wagons also, they probably stopping for the wood which was piled up by the roadside. We still kept “marching on,” and by dark we were tired as well as hungry. There was worse for us in store, however. The boys ahead began to scatter and growl and soon we were in the water. It was icy-cold and waist deep. Some tried the runaway on the side, but it was slippery with ice. One of the boys made fruitless attempts to keep both feet on the rail. His efforts on that parallel bar were edifying; but being the youngest member of “E” (sweet seventeen), he will have more time than the rest of us to improve. After much struggling, down he went, gun and all. The water was three feet deep; and after fishing up his rifle he concluded to wade with us the rest of the way. We know “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” He was not in a beautiful or joyous mood then, but will probably be a Joy forever.
The ford seemed to us about a mile long. It was probably only a quarter, if that; but it came to an end at last, and we footed the rest of the way on dry land; varying the monotony by private details for forage at every house we came to; striving to get ahead of the officers in their attempts to save the cider from us. Between ten and eleven o’clock P.M. we halted, and were informed that the “object, &c., was accomplished,” “about faced,” which brought “E” to the front, and started for home. Twelve of our men went ahead as advance guard, under command to Lieut. Newell, and another twelve of us as support. A short distance behind came the column. We were on the same road, and knew we had the save ford to recross, and suffered torments until it was over with, and we fairly out of its sight. We foraged right and left; hardly a man of us without two or three old hens, dipper full of honey, and a few with ham or two. The advance and support had the most fattest pickings of course. We rejoined the other companies, “B” last, at the blacksmith shop; and about five o’clock A.M. came in sight of the picket and saw Plymouth.