قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864
Devoted To Literature And National Policy

The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

advance of his main line. Precautions for security being thus adopted, more minute inspections of the ground are made, so that unhealthy positions may be avoided. The troops, being placed, immediately proceed to clear the sites of their respective encampments, and wagons are set to work to bring in logs with which huts may be constructed. In about a week thousands of diminutive log houses arise, roofed with the shelter tents of the soldiers, or, when the occupants have sufficient handicraft ability, with rough shingles. Shelters are erected, as far as possible, for the animals, generally being nothing more than frameworks covered with pine brush. If there are lumber mills in the vicinity, they are set to work, and boards sawed for floors to the tents and hospitals. The adjacent forests now begin to disappear rapidly, leaving nothing but an unsightly array of stumps; for a regiment is entitled to about two hundred cords of wood per month as fuel, and in a well-wooded country, where the men can conveniently cut for themselves, much more is consumed. Every regiment requires, therefore, about eight or ten acres of woodland per month. An army of a hundred regiments will, in the course of a winter, denude several square miles of trees, so that (in the proportion which woodland generally bears to that which is cleared) a space of country equal to a county may be stripped of its timber. The men, having made themselves comfortable, are now called on to form working parties, and put the roads leading to the depots and the various camps in good order, generally corduroying them, so as to be passable during the winter; bridges are made over streams, drainage perfected, &c. In a few weeks, the chief portion of the labor of preparing a winter's camp is completed.

The sanitary regulations for camps are very stringent and comprehensive. The suggestions of experience as to the details by which the diseases incident to camp life can be prevented, are embodied in orders, and it is the duty of the medical officers and of the inspectors to see that they are observed. For instance, it is not permitted to have the floors of the huts lower than the external ground, and the men are required to keep pine boughs between their blankets and the earth. The method in which a camp shall be drained, and the offal disposed of, is prescribed. The cleanliness of the men is enforced. A rigorous system of reports upon these and many other particulars exists, so that negligences are corrected.

The military occupations which relieve the monotony of camp life are drilling and picketing. It is in the latter that officers and men find change and freedom, though it often involves severe exposure. The ordinary detail for this duty in a corps averages perhaps eight hundred to one thousand men, who are changed usually every three days. If the country be well settled, some opportunities are presented during that interval for intercourse with the 'natives;' but in Virginia, it must be confessed, the attractions of this kind are few. The secession ladies are not over well disposed to any wearers of Yankee uniforms, and though many of them are willing to bestow a few soft words in exchange for tea, coffee, and sugar, they are not liberal of social courtesies. The young man who joins our armies expecting to realize for himself the love adventures he has seen recorded in novels, will find the Southern ladies less given to romance than the damsels of Spain or Mexico. They are inclined, also, to be treacherous, as the fate of several gallant officers, who have gone stealthily beyond the lines to spend an evening with fair rebel sirens, and found themselves delivered to guerillas, has shown. Nevertheless, the experience of others never warns an adventurous youth, and opportunities frequently arise for practical jokes. During the winter of 1862-'3, while the army was encamped on the Rappahannock, an officer was fascinated by the charms of a fair widow who resided just beyond the lines, and frequently made evening visits to her. His companions, being aware of this, formed a party, on a bitter January night, and proceeding to the widow's house, surrounded it, and sending within some who were strangers to him, they announced themselves as belonging to the rebel army, and captured the enamored lover, blindfolded, led him out, and mounted him. Crestfallen and moody with, thoughts of his disgraceful situation, cursing, perhaps, the wiles of the enchantress, to whom he attributed it, he was made to ride many weary miles, and then, being dismounted, and the bandage removed from his eyes, he found himself at his own camp, where he was greeted with uproarious laughter.

The duties incident to picketing and outpost stations are so important that several works by distinguished authors have been written concerning them, but most of the rules are of too technical a character for recital in these papers. The friends of soldiers will, however, take interest in some general statements. The picket line consists of three portions—first, the stations of the main guard; second, some distance in advance of these, the picket stations; and third, some two hundred yards in advance of these, the stations of the sentinels. If the country is open and hilly, the latter need not be posted closely together, but in a wooded country they must be quite numerous. It is their duty not to allow any person to pass their line; and if a force of the enemy, too strong to be resisted, approaches, they fall back on the pickets. These should be stationed where they can command the main avenues of approach, and offer resistance to the advanced parties of the enemy. After such resistance becomes useless, the various pickets fall back on the grand guard, which offers a more determined contest. The advance of the enemy should by these means have been delayed for a couple of hours, affording time for the troops to get under arms and take the order of battle.

The following diagram exhibits the general arrangement of picketing:

Let the line A B represent a chain of sentinels on a mile of picket front, C D a line of picket stations, and E the grand guard. The whole force of men may perhaps be three hundred, of whom two thirds will remain at E, posted advantageously upon some eminence protected in part by a stream and commanding an open country. The remaining one hundred will be distributed among the picket stations and thrown forward as sentinels. The whole arrangement is supervised by an officer of rank—usually a colonel. With a disposition like the above in front of every division in an army, it is obviously impossible for any considerable force of an enemy to approach without detection.

One of the greatest practical difficulties our armies have experienced has been connected with the system of picketing. The South having been greatly impoverished in those portions traversed by the contending armies, and the people entirely destitute of luxuries, there are innumerable applications from residents outside of the pickets for admission within the lines, in order to trade with officers, for the purpose of procuring in return articles from our well-supplied commissariat. Various other necessities of the people appeal for a modified degree of rigor in regard to picket arrangements, so that our armies are never free from the presence of rebel inhabitants, traversing them in all directions. Perfectly familiar with the country, they are able to detect any weakly guarded places, and undoubtedly, in frequent instances, after receiving the kindest treatment, return to their homes conveying such information to guerillas as enables these prowlers to penetrate through by-roads and seize animals and straggling soldiers. As a precaution against such annoyances, a very judicious