Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)

Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)
CWLA seeks to provide an online resource of any and all material of the Civil War relating to Louisiana with a special interest in the war in Acadiana in southwest Louisiana.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Van Alystne's Diary, Part III

We continue with the diary of Lawrence Van Alystne was part of Co. B, 128th New York Infantry. His regiment was assigned to Louisiana in December of 1862. The 128th New York served in our state until July 1864, when it was transferred to Virginia. Van Alystne put together a book that included his diary he kept while serving in the 128th New York, Diary of An Enlisted Man(1910).

Camp Chalmette, La.

Spying out the land—Foiling an attempt at suicide—Clash with the 28th Maine—An interrupted sermon—Brownell's last words.

January 4, 1863.

SUNDAY. Hip, Hip, Hurrah! The Laurel Hill, a steamer, has stopped at our camp and we have orders to pack up for a move. All that are able are to be taken to Chalmette, the old battle ground below New Orleans. Anywhere but this God-forsaken spot, say I. Chaplain Parker preached hot stuff at us to-day. Says we don't take proper care of ourselves, that we eat too often and too much. That made me laugh. Dominie, if you lived with us a while, ate at the same table and had the same bill of fare to choose from, I think you would tell another story. Poor man, it is getting on his nerves sure. But it sets me to wondering if our officers all think that way. If they blame us for the condition we are in, who brought these conditions about? Did we from choice herd in between decks like pigs, while the officers, chaplain and all had staterooms and a bed and good food to eat, well cooked and at regular hours? If they blame us for our condition to-day, I can only hope that at some time they may get just such treatment and fare and that I may be there to remind them it is their own fault. Chaplain Parker must do some tall preaching to make good what he has lost by that tongue lashing. It was uncalled for and a sad mistake.

January 5, 1863.

Chalmette. Monday. Said to be just below the city of New Orleans. We left quarantine about 11 p. M. and reached here about 8 this morning. Many were left behind, too sick to be moved. We have put up our tents, and have been looking about. It is a large camp ground and from all signs was lately occupied and was left in a hurry. Odds and ends of camp furniture are scattered about, and there are many signs of a hasty leave-taking. A few of us went back across the country to a large woods, where we found many trees covered with long gray moss, hanging down in great bunches from the branches. We took all we could carry to make a bed of, for it is soft as feathers.

Later. The doctor won't allow us to use our bed of moss. Says it would make us sick to sleep on it, and much worse than the ground. This is said to be the very ground where General Jackson fought the battle of New Orleans and a large tree is pointed out as the one under which General Packenham was killed. Ancient-looking breastworks are in sight and a building near our tents has a big ragged hole in the gable which has been patched over on the inside so as to leave the mark as it was made, which a native tells me was made by a cannon ball during the battle of New Orleans. The ground is level and for this country is dry. The high bank, or breastworks, cuts off the view on one side and a board fence cuts off a view of the river. Towards the city are enough trees to cut off an extended view in that direction, so we have only the swamp back of us to look at. But this beats quarantine and I wish the poor fellows left there were well enough to get here. There are several buildings on the ground, which the officers are settling themselves in, while a long shed-like building is being cleared out for a hospital. It has been used for that, I judge, and is far better than the one at quarantine. We brought along all that were not desperately sick and have enough to fill up a good part of the new hospital. Walter Loucks has rheumatism in his arms and suffers all the time. He and James Story are my tent mates. We have confiscated some pieces of board to keep us off the ground. Company B has been hard hit. We left seven men at Baltimore, seven at Fortress Munroe and seven at our last stopping-place. It seems to go by sevens, as I find we have seven here in our new hospital. This with the four that have died makes thirtytwo short at this time.

January 8, 1863.

To-day is the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans and is celebrated here like the Fourth of July at home. Drill has been attempted, but only about 200 men were fit for it and our camp duties are about all we are able to do.

January 9, 1863.

Were paid off to-day and the peddlers that hang out just across the guard line have done a thriving business. Walter gets worse every day. His courage seems to be giving out and it is pitiful to see him suffer.

January n, 1863.

Meeting to-day. Some way they have lost their force. We attend because we have to. The sermon at the quarantine is remembered. We seem to have lost faith, not in God, but in ministers. Colonel Smith with all his cursing has done more for our care and comfort than those that profess so much and do so little.

January 17, 1863.

Saturday. On account of my cough, which is worse when I lie down, I have walked about evenings or sat and chatted with others about the camp fire until tired enough to sleep, and last night crawled in near midnight where my two bedfellows were asleep. Soon after I got into a drowse from which I was awakened by a coughing spell and saw Walt standing by the help of the tent pole and groaning in agony. Soon I heard him say "I'll end it all right now," and with that he pitched over towards his knapsack and by the noise I thought he was after his revolver. I jumped across Jim, who lay asleep in the middle, and snatched the gun out of his hand before he had it out of the case. Out in the company street I threw the three revolvers and then grabbed for a sheath knife which I knew was there, getting hold of the handle just as he grabbed the sheath. By this time Story was in the game and we both had our hands full getting him down and quiet. I went for Dr. Andrus, who after lighting a candle and looking in Walt's eyes, told us to take him over to the hospital. The struggle had put him in agony and it was pitiful to see how he suffered. We staid with him the rest of the night and by morning he was helpless. Every joint seemed as stiff as if no joint was there. For the next five days I did little but watch him and help in any way I could to make him more comfortable. Then he and others were taken to the general hospital in the city, where they will at least be warm. We have had a cold rain and the camp is a bed of mud. The wind sifts through the cracks in this old shed and although a stove was kept running, it was too cold for comfort. I have slept but little in the last five nights, but the doctor has kept dosing me and I feel better than when this time with Walter began. Letters from home have made the world seem brighter and the men in it better.

January 18, 1863.

Sunday. Yesterday the chaplain's tent for public worship came and this morning we were all gathered there and the chaplain was praying, when snap went something in the top and down came the tent upon us. He didn't have time to say "Amen," to say nothing of the benediction. In the afternoon Isaac T. Winans, Jim Story and I went to see Walter and found him in a good bed and in a warm room. He is much better, but his wrists are swollen yet and look as if the joints had been pulled apart.

January 19, 1863.

It rained hard last night and before the tents got soaked up enough water sifted through to wet our blankets and we hardly slept at all for the cold. Not being called on for anything I lay all day and dosed, trying to make up for the miserable night. Isaac Brownell, of Company B, who has done more to keep up the spirits of the men than anything else, is down and very sick. He is a mimic and could mimic anyone or anything. His antics have made us laugh when we felt more like crying, and we are all anxious about him. A case of smallpox was discovered yesterday and the man put in an outbuilding, where he died this morning. Dr. Andrus so far has been alone, and he looks like death.

Later. He has given out and another doctor from the hospital is coming to take his place. The sick list grows all the time.

January 27,

Two doctors came to take the place of Dr. Andrus and they have had plenty to do. For several days the weather has been hot, which opens the pores in our tents so the first rain sifts right through. Last night it rained and we had another night of twisting and turning and trying to sleep and with very poor success. I cough so when I lie down that I keep up and going all I can, for then I seem to feel the best. Dr. Andrus still looks after us. He is getting better and we are glad, for he is the mainstay in the family. Brownell died this forenoon and I shall never forget the scene. He was conscious and able to talk and the last he said was for us to stick and hang. "But boys," said he, "if I had the power, I would start north with all who wanted to go and as soon as we passed over four feet of ground I would sink it."

January 28, 1863.

Cold day. Ice formed on puddles last night. I am staying in my tent, keeping as warm as I can. I begin to feel I am going to give out. I have kept out of the hospital so far and hope to die right here in my tent if die I must. But to-morrow may be warmer and my cough better, and under such conditions my spunk will rise as it always has. So good-bye, diary. I am going to try for a nap.

January 29, 1863.

For excitement to-day a man in the tent next ours tried to shoot himself. He is crazy. He rolled himself up in his blanket and then fired his revolver, on purpose maybe, and it may be by accident. At any rate he put a ball in the calf of his leg which stopped under the skin near his heel, and the doctor cut it out with a jackknife. He has acted half crazy for some time and should be taken care of before he kills himself or someone else.

January 30, 1863.

The 28th Maine Regiment has encamped close beside us. They are well advanced in the art of taking care of themselves, for they stole everything loose in a short time after their arrival. Have been vaccinated again. This makes the third time since we left Hampton Roads.

January 31, 1863.

One of the Maine men put a bayonet through Charlie Tweedy's arm as he came from the river with a pail of water. Charlie crossed his beat, which he had no right to do. But it made bad blood and quite a quantity flew from the noses of the Maine men and some Company B blood flew too. Tweedy is the smallest man in the regiment, and has been plagued by all hands until he is very saucy and on account of his size is allowed to do about as he pleases. But it didn't work on the Maine men and may teach the Bantam a lesson.

February 6, 1863.

Friday. The days are so much alike I have given up noting the doings of each as it comes. Since February 1st our meeting-house tent has been repaired and raised again. Rumor of a move came early in the week and has kept us guessing ever since. I think it means something, for the sick in camp hospital have been sent to the general hospital in New Orleans. The weather has been of all sorts. Cold and windy and then a thunder and lightning storm that shook the very earth. The hospital is filling up again, too. Twenty men from Company K were reported to-day, and five from Company B. I fear my turn is coming, for in spite of all Dr. Andrus does, my cough does not let up.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Coppens' Zouave Battalion

Coppens' Zouave Battalion
Lt. Colonel George Coppens (seated) and brother, Captain Marie Alfred Coppens.Image sold at auction on Cowan Auctions, for $14,375