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Mobile Register

Mobile Register

June 28, 1861

Page 1


Camp Correspondence


            Great Battle Expected—Harper’s Ferry—General Scott’s Blunder—Defense of Norfolk—Mobile Boys at Winchester--Private Drisch of Washington Light Infantry Wounded—The “Sawyer Guns” at the Rip-Raps—The Battle of Bethel—Bombastes Butler—Miss Sloan and Mobilians—Expectations of Peace

NORFOLK, VA., June 17, 1861

            Probably before this reaches you, the news of a great battle will have sped over the wires.  Such at least is the general expectation here, based on the evacuation of Harper’s Ferry, a movement which public opinion explains with singular unanimity, and I hope correctly.  It is thought that the whole of our troops lately concentrated there will be thrown upon the Western division of the Federal army, which has to assail us in the flank and rear, and thus a force which might have been too powerful for us to cope with, will be annihilated in detail.  I have heard military men say that Scott committed a fatal blunder in dividing his forces where a concentrated attack alone could have afforded a chance of success, and that he has fallen into a trap set for him by President Davis and his Generals.

            While we thus confidently expect to hear of a brilliant and decisive victory in the Northwest, we have almost abandoned the hope of having a showing ourselves.  As every setting sun beholds our position stronger than the day before, we feel more and more like that Mississippian at Fort Morgan who expressed his disgust at guard mounting, “because,” said he, “I came here to fight the Yankees, and here you are putting sentinels to keep them off.”  We begin to think that we have taken so much trouble to “keep them off” that they have lost the notion of coming at all.  Certainly our field and harbor defences present a most formidable appearance and, to my inexperienced eye, look impregnable if held by even a small body of resolute men.  Our entrenched camp, which protects the land approach to Norfolk, is one of the most magnificent sights I have ever beheld.  The redans and lunettes, the high parapets and the deep, broad ditch seem designed rather as a permanent fortification that as a temporary work of defense.  Many hundred negro laborers are still daily employed in further strengthening and improving it.  In addition, two companies of the Alabama Regiment each day take their turn in making fascines.  These fascines are bundles ten feet long and eight inches in diameter, made of thin twigs and branches, and tightly compressed by numerous bands of tarred rope or twine, and sawed off even at the ends.  To make the fascines, the twigs (none of which must be more than an inch thick at the most) are laid on woodsawyer’s “horses” placed in a row.  When the proper quantity for a fascine is thus laid, they are compressed to the requisite size by a simple application of lever power.  The tying process is not unlike that of cotton bales in a cotton press.  Our Cadets, being Company A, had of course the first trial at faggotmaking, and though they spent the greater part of the first day in learning how and in preparing needful appliances, they turned out forty-five that day, and a full hundred (with a few thrown in for good measure) on the next.  Since then, the different companies have not probably averaged less than one fascine a day to each man.  So you see the “boys” know how to work.  Indeed, it would have delighted the hearts of many Mobile father, or mother, or sister, to see their sons and brothers, reared in wealth and ease, how zealously and cheerfully and handily they set themselves to these rougher duties of a soldier’s life.  Combining the ready intelligence of educated men with the strength and endurance of laborers, our volunteers are surely the most remarkable body of soldiers the world has ever seen, easily inured to hardship, self reliant, cheerful, and ever efficient in whatever duty may devolve upon them.

            The general health of our regiment still continues surprisingly good.  The number of deaths since its formation (only three, none of which are of Mobilians) is not much greater than might be expected of the number of men engaged in their peaceful pursuits at home.  It is a not known fact, that to the regimental sick list the city companies contribute greatly less than the country companies; and this has been the invariable during the campaign thus far.  My company has been peculiarly fortunate in this, particularly, the Cadets having invariably presented the fewest number of sick, though the largest company of the regiment.  The Rifles have been almost as fortunate.  The Guards and the Infantry have at times suffered a little more, but never____ nor to the extent of most of the companies in the country.   I believe similar observations of the relative health of volunteers from city and from rural districts have been made in the Mexican war.  If the fact is generally established I should like to see it expanded.

            Since beginning my letter I am informed that Private Drisch, of the Washington Light Infantry, was discovered this morning in the ____ near the camp, seriously, though not dangerously wounded in both thighs by a pistol ball.  It is supposed to be the cause, but the wounded man, in a spirit of chivalrous honor that ____ men will appreciate, has refused to give an explanation whatever, which possibly might indicate some one ____ in a violation of the articles of war, and the whole matter will probably remain in impenetrable secrecy.  No fears are entertained of his recovery, and all who ____ speak with admiration of the heroic fortitude and patience with which he endures his suffering.

            Last Sunday several shells were thrown toward the Georgia camp at Sewall’s Point, from Camp Calhoun, or “Rip Raps,” a little over three miles off.  “Nobody was hurt,” and the shells actually excited attention, to completely have ____ learned to despise the amazingly ineffectiveness of the Federals.  The gun from which so much range is obtained, and as appears with total precision, is the “Sawyer gun,” an intricately complicated invention which has been proven as tested and condemned by a U.S. Board of Ordnance, of which Brigadier General (the Confed.) Huger, who commands the forces in Norfolk harbor, was President.  He laughs at the idea of a long-ranged gun doing us any harm, though he thinks it admirably suited to the courage of the men that use it.  It can be fired only once in ____ minutes, gets out of order after a very few shots and is so intricate that none but the inventor manage it at all.  I have seen one of them, which differs not greatly from the conical ones (with leaden coat and percussion caps) used in our rifled cannon.

            I am still enjoying the treat of reading the Northern account of the Bethel Church battle.  My historical information is insufficient to supply me with a parallel to such a disgraceful defeat.  Think of one regiment firing at another (their own friends) nine rounds, making nine thousand shots, beside artillery, at 150 yards, and killing with all this shooting but one man and wounding five—six shots tolling out of nine thousand.  Then think of Regiment No. 2 running away in fright, having one man killed and five wounded!  Yet such was the great victory of the Dutch over the Albanians.  Think also, how completely these Northerners show the leaders to have lost their heads, and with what terror-stricken exaggeration they speak of our strength and our fire.  I know positively that we had but six pieces of artillery, five of which could not come into play until after the battle had been sometime in progress, and but 1200 men all told, one-third of whom were disappointed in having a shot at the enemy.  Since the world began, I do not believe that such monstrous ineptitude on the part of the commanders, and such cowardice on the part of the men, has ever scandalized a nation.  The official report of Bombastes Furioso Butler himself, shows that he had five regiments, and a reserve of two more, making between five and seven thousand men he sent against our twelve hundred.  But the richest of the whole of this abortive attempt to gloss over the disgrace, is the remark with which it concluded, that “the engagement has proved that the rebels dare not meet us (the Yankees) on the open field.
  Their papers say that he, this hero of Bethel Church, “the right man for the right place,” as the New York Herald most felicitously calls him—speaking the truth for once, though unintentionally—is preparing a grand expedition against Norfolk, in which he hopes to recover a reputation which he never had.  I pray to Heaven, and wish from my inmost heart, that he will make such an attempt, but it is too good to hope for.  So thoroughly have we frightened him, that his men sleep under arms even behind the walls of Fortress Monroe.  So say correspondents of United States papers.

            Miss Evans is still here, and so are most of the Mobilians whose presence here I have announced.  To-day, Hon. Howell Cobb pays us a visit, going to Sewall’s Point and other parts of the harbor.  Jones Hooper, the Secretary of the Congress, was also here on a flying visit a few days ago.

            For the first among our troops was there such expectation of speedy peace as now prevails, and visitors from other places inform us that the same impression prevails elsewhere.  It is thought that at least one great battle will be fought before the end of the month, and that this will suffice to convince the United States Congress, which meets on the 4th prox., of the hopelessness of the war.  So may it be, if only the 3d Alabama Regiment has a chance of proving their metal before the peace is made.



[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]


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