Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Diary of Alexander G. Downing: Wednesday, November 5, 1862

It was cold last night to lie in open bivouac. A cold northwest wind was blowing, and although we built fires to sleep by, yet the night was very uncomfortable, for while one was warm on the side next to the fire he was freezing on the other. We lay still all day to rest, but many of the boys slipped out in small squads for forage; they ran all over the country and fetched in fresh pork by the wholesale. I was in a squad of six with our corporal and we came in with our haversacks filled with sweet potatoes. On returning to camp, we passed too close to the colonel’s tent, and he happened to be standing outside taking a sun bath. He called the corporal to his side, asked him where he had been, where he belonged, and taking out his penknife, cut from the corporal's blouse his chevrons and gave him an order to his captain, reducing him to the ranks.1 The rest of us passed on to our tents. While we were out foraging, the colonel issued an order directing each orderly sergeant in the regiment to have his company fall in line every thirty minutes for roll call, and every man not answering to his name was either to be put in the guardhouse or on extra duty. I was caught, but being a pretty good friend of the orderly, I got off easy. He ordered me to carry a kettle of water to the company cook, telling me that since this was my first offense, he would let me off with that. None of the boys was punished very hard.

1 This, it has always seemed to me, was a mean, contemptible thing for the colonel to do. — A. G. D.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 81

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