« PreviousContinue »
Now this regiment had, for a long time, and for good reason, been much opposed to cheering at reports of this nature, which were often originated and set afloat in camp, and on the march, by mischievous soldiers.
The members of the Ninety-fifth had, on a former occasion during the war, during the celebrated march from Grand Gulf to the rear of Vicksburg, cheered themselves hoarse over the premature news received and announced at Big Sandy, that Richmond had fallen; and ever since that well-remembered time, each man of the organization had vowed that he would never again be inveigled into an expression of applause for any man, or any thing, or any event, until he should first be satisfied as to the reliability of what he was applauding. Many times, therefore, when the other regiments would raise a shout on the march or in camp, at some supposed occurrence, the Ninety-fifth uniformly maintained silence, and the reminiscence of “Big Sandy” taught them better than to strain their lungs by useless and unrequited excitement.
But when this important intelligence, which had been whispered at Blakely, .was now confirmed by an official dispatch from General Canby, who had received it direct from the War Department, the regiment, no longer doubting its truthfulness, broke over its longestablished rule of taciturnity, and sent up such a succession of deafening cheers as the great occasion demanded. chickens, pigs, and provisions of all kinds in this vicinity, and the abundance in which they were subsequently found, corroborated the entire truthfulness of the witticism.
The country through which this march was made, was the poorest portion of Alabama, only slightly cultivated in places few and far between, very sparsely inhabited by a few “poor whites," and was nothing but one vast, unbroken pinery and solitude, for the distance of more than a hundred miles after leaving Blakely. The distance to be marched was nearly two hundred miles, the weather was hot, the roads were hard and dusty, and many of the men were destined to be afflicted with sore feet before arriving at the journey's end.
It was reported at first that the troops would pass through Selma, and as the regiments were toiling along one day, some waggish soldier had posted a sign on a tree, where all passers-by could easily read it, bearing the following inscription : " To Selma, one hundred and fifty miles, sore feet or no sore feet," which the boys took as a good joke, but believed that the sentiment of their facetious friend contained much more solemn truth than poetry.
Still farther on, another pioneer guide-board appeared in conspicuous position, having this announcement: "To good living, one hundred and ten miles," and the scarcity of
Yet the men by no means suffered for want of plenty to eat, as a large wagon train followed the army, loaded with a sufficient supply of rations.
During the march through this pine region, one company of the Ninety-fifth decided that in the ab. sence of the luxuries commonly found along the route of such expeditions, they would partake of a rare article of food which came into their possession in the following manner: the 44th Missouri Infantry, after getting into camp one evening, had slain a huge rattlesnake, which measured full six feet in length, and whose tail contained a dozen rattles. It was a monstrous reptile, fat, sleek and scaly, and its appearance demonstrated fully that if human beings could not find enough in that barren country to grow fat on, rattlesnakes could. The company of the Ninety-fifth, above referred to, procured the snake from the 44th Missouri, for the purpose of trying his fat and making a meal out of his flesh. Before sleeping that night it was served up for their supper, and was declared the most delicious repast they had partaken of for a long time!
After the march had been continued for a number of days through the almost unbroken wilderness, the army entered a more open and cultivated country, which presented many more evidences of cultivation and civilization than that through which it had been passing. The inhabitants along the line of march appeared more intelligent than the few denizens of the pine forests, whom we had occasionally met with since leaving Blakely. Having heard of the approaching Federal column, they now, on our arrival, professed loyalty, and in few instances displayed the American flag from their residences. At almost every house a white flag appeared, which denoted submission and friendship on the part of the occupants, and claimed protection for their premises. At the residence of one old lady, who appeared very patriotic, was to be seen hung up over her doorway the following device, printed in large, though rough, unsymmetrical letters: “The United States of America forever," and as the Ninetyfifth passed by, the band, at her request, struck up “Yankee Doodle,” which seemed to please the aged matron exceedingly, for she had not heard that stirring national air in many a year, and, perchance, never before in her life.
On the 21st day of April, the advance of General Smith's command arrived at Greenville, formerly a thriving and beautiful village, forty-three miles from Montgomery. The Ninety-fifth was the first regiment to enter the town, and was assigned to perform all the provost duty therein, while the army halted and rested for a day near that place.
Much anxiety and fear was manifested on the part of the citizens, as the regiment took possession of the village, and quartered itself in the most important parts of it. The women cried, and supposed we had come to burn and sack the place. They soon had occasion to change their opinions, as guards were at once posted at each dwelling-house, order prevailed everywhere, and the timid inhabitants of Greenville, in a short time, acknowledged that they had never before during the war been so well protected, had never experienced such peace and safety as now reigned in their midst. They began to look upon the Yankee soldier with a more favorable opinion than they had before entertained of him from hearsay, and agreed that he was not such a fearful and destructive beast as had often been falsely represented.
The people were slow to believe the great news we brought concerning the capture of Richmond and the surrender of Lee's and Johnston's armies. They deemed it incredible and impossible, but after the soldiers, by General Smith's order, took possession of the