Friday, September 2, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: October 29, 1862

Company E on picket duty, false alarm at night, cattle in canefield. Krause's mounted infantry rode out and ascertained the cause of the alarm. Nothing of importance occurring after this, I have not thought it proper to keep a minute daily account, but I will state something of what was going on in the interim. Many negroes flocked in from the plantations bringing their manners and customs with them, which gave infinite amusement to both officers and men. And these they furnished in almost every variety so as to suit all classes. In one house some old gray-headed patriarch would hold forth in a religious discourse to a noisy and delighted audience. In another a prayer meeting would be in progress. Further along might be heard the banjo and fiddle, and the sable virgins of Africa could be seen “tripping the light fantastic toe.” This last as may well be imagined formed the principal attraction, and not infrequently these sable nymphs would be led off by a partner in uniform. The contrabands increased so rapidly that something must be done with them. Colonel Holcomb set about making a fort. This gave employment to several hundred. General Butler conceived the idea of farming some of the deserted plantations, so he employed agents to see to the work, and sent negroes and their families to gather the cane and make it into sugar, paying them wages and feeding them. This was a nice arrangement and opened the way for self support to thousands that otherwise would be an expense to the government. As for myself I found plenty to do, for Captain Solomon and my Second Lieutenant were on the sick list most of the time with chills and fever contracted at Camp Williams, and my First Lieutenant was on detached service with the mounted infantry. This placed me in command of the company most of the time, and with the duties of Orderly Sergeant and the books of the company to keep was quite sufficient for one to do. But my officers were very kind to me, and I had all the privileges of a commissioned officer. Besides this I had a nice comfortable house built for myself, Lieutenant Gardner and Captain Solomon, the Captain occupying one room and Lieutenant Gardner and myself the other. Thus things went on quite harmoniously. During this time General Butler was superceeded by General Banks in the Department of the Gulf.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 34-6

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