A soldier at the headquarters of the artillery brigade of the Fifth corps, at Culpepper, Va., gives the following account he amusements in camp:
“Almost the only diversion the soldiers have noway, is derived from the new recruits, constantly arriving. They are the butt of all jokes, and the easy prey of all sells and tricks. No class of men enjoy fun more heartily than the sole. They squeeze sport out of everything, and seem to have acquired the faculty of ascertaining, intuitively, where most of it is to be found. On drill, a new recruit is always sure to get his toes exactly where a ‘Vet.’ wishes to put the butt of his musket, as he ‘orders arms;’ and if there is a mud-puddle within a yard of him, he is sure to ‘dress’ into it. Captain Reynolds, of Battery ‘S,’ First New York artillery, has got a large number of recruits, and some of the jokes that the Veterans play on them are very amusing. The recruits are constantly sighing over departed luxuries, and are very easily duped into any sell, where the inner man is concerned. A mischievous ‘Vet.’ got a whole squad of them out in line the other day, when it was raining quite hard, to receive their ration of ‘warm bread.’ One fellow, greener than the rest, was sent to the Captain’s quarters for his ‘ticket for butter.’ Another one went to the Company Clerk with a two-quart pail for his ‘three days ‘ ration of maple-sugar.’ Some of them have very funny ideas of discipline in the army. In a newly arrived squad a few days since, was one of these, who thought he would ingratiate himself with the Captain by making him a call in the evening. Accordingly, he rapped at the door, walked in, took off his hat, made a very low bow, and replaced it on his head.
“‘Well, what do you want?’ said the Captain.
“‘O, nothing,’ says the fellow, at the same time seating himself in a chair opposite the Captain. ‘I thought I would come down and have a little chat with you.’
“‘O, that’s it,’ said the Captain. ‘Well, that isn’t the way t in the army. When a soldier comes into an officer’s quarters, he takes hs hat and stands at “attention,” with his heels together, his toes at an angle of forty-five degrees, hands at his side, and eyes to the “front.” He does not take a seat unless asked to, and when he has done his business, salutes the officer, makes an “about face,” and —-leaves.’
“The fellow did not wait for further instructions, but took his departure, having recieved his first lesson in the ‘school of the soldier.'”
In repartee and fun our soldiers are not behind any class of men living, and they have a most keen appreciation of the ludicrous and sarcastic. Chapman tells a good story:
“A few days ago, two soldiers were sentenced, for some trivial offence, to ten days in the guard-house; but they were taken out occasionally to do police duty about camp. One’s police duty, you must know, is not in the army what it is in the city; but consists in going about under guard and cleaning up the camp. These soldiers were put to cleaning away the mud from the front of the Colonel’s quarters. They were from a New York city regiment, and to judge from their dialect, might have been named Mose and Sykesy. At any rate, I shall call them so in the recital hey had worked well, and finally seated themselves on a log to await the arrival of the Sergeant of the Guard to relieve them, when the following conversation took place:
“Mose—‘Say, Sykesy, what you going to do when yer three years up? Goin’ to be a Vet.? Say.’
“Sykesy–‘Not if I know myself, I ain’t; no! I’m goin’ to be a citizen, I am. I’m goin’ back to New York, and am goin’ to lay off and take comfort, bum around the engine-house, and run wid der machine.’
“Mose–‘well, I tell yer what I’m agoin’ to do. I’ve jest been thinkin’ the matter all over, and got the whole thing fixed. In the first place, I’m goin’ home to New York, and as soon as I get my discharge, I’m goin’ to take a good bath, and get this Virginia sacred soil off me. Then I’m goin’ to have my head shampooed, my hair cut and combed forward and ‘iled, and then i’m goin’ to some up-town clothing store, and buy me a suit of togs. I’m agoin’ to get a gallus suit, too–black breeches, red shirt, black silk choker, stove-pipe hat, with black bombazine around it, and a pair of them shiny butes. Then I’m goin’ up to Delmonico’s place, and am goin’ for to order jest the best dinner he can get up. I’m goin’ to have all he has on his dinner ticket, you can bet. What? No! I guess I won’t have a gay old dinner, much; for I’ll be a citizen then, and won’t have to break my teeth off gnawin’ hard tack. After I’ve had my dinner, I will call for a bottle of wine and a cigar, and all the New York papers, and then I’ll jest set down, perch my feet up on the table, drink my wine, smoke my cigar, read the news, and wonder why the devil the army of the Potomac don’t move.'”
Originally posted 2009-09-15 19:19:21.