Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier, the memoir of my great grandfather, is on a Kindle Countdown deal this week. March 22 and 23, the Kindle version is only .99 cents. On March 24, it goes up to $1.99 for four days, before reverting back to its original price. If you haven’t downloaded the journal yet, here’s your change to take advantage of this special offer. The book is also available in paperback for $6.93.
Here’s an excerpt from 152 years ago this week. Harmon Camburn brings the sights, sounds, and sensibilities of the regular infantry soldier to light with his riveting prose.
March 21, 1862 – The bugle sounded “Strike Tents.” Taking the road up Hampton Creek a mile or so, we crossed the bridge and passed through the ruins of Hampton. This was the oldest town and had the oldest church in Virginia. The rebel cavalry general, Wade Hampton, occupied this place through the winter with the Hampton Legion. Upon the approach of the “Yankees,” he fired the town and retreated. The town was entirely destroyed, but the greatest regret felt for the loss of the old church, said to have been built by John Smith of brick brought from England.
Leaving the blackened ruins of this little hamlet behind, we soon pitched our tents near Back River about five miles form Newport News Point. In this camp, we passed the next two weeks. The rain fell almost continually and the ground became a sea of soft mud through which it was difficult to move. Troops were arriving and going into camp around us every day. The enemy was in possession of the other side of the river and picket duty came around often. A night on picket in the rain was not much relieved by a day under our pup tents. We were not yet used to accommodating ourselves to such close quarters, but it was discovered that a third half tent, turned corner-wise would button on to the others and close up the end. This and other discoveries afterward enabled us to make ourselves comparatively comfortable.
I had often noticed in Virginia a small thicket in the midst of cultivated ground. In an intermission between showers one day, I explored one of these and found it to be, as I did others after, a family burying ground. The tombstones were common sandstone and lay flat upon the ground. Rudely chiseled upon their rough surface was the name, date of birth, date of death, and sometimes a brief epitaph. The date of death on one was 1711. I saw others ranging along to 1790. It seems disgraceful that these old burial places should be neglected to grow up on tangled thickets and plowed around like any difficult obstruction.
While our regiment was on picket along the river one day, men were discovered lurking in the woods on the opposite bank. A peremptory order enforced with loaded muskets brought them over the river. There were seven of them, and they proved to be Negro slaves escaped from Yorktown. They were in a starving condition, and one of them died the same night. Twenty-four of them had escaped from Yorktown, an easy day’s march from us, four weeks before. They had concealed themselves by day in ditches and wandered by night in search of the “Yankees.” Seventeen had died by the way from hunger and exposure, and one died just after reaching the goal of their desire. They gave important information concerning the enemy’s fortifications, position, and strength. The survivors were employed as servants by our officers. This incident shows that slaves will risk their lives for freedom.