Mobile Advertiser & Register

June 9, 1861

Page 2

The Soldiers at Harper’s Ferry.


We take the following from the Harper’s Ferry correspondence of the Charleston Courier:

The number of troops at this point is probably not far from __ thousand.  Eleven hundred and sixty of these are Alabamians, fifteen hundred are Mississippians, five hundred are Kentuckians, and the balance is made of Virginians, sprinkled with more less from every State South of Mason and Dixon’s Line.  A considerable number, by the way, are Indians from North Carolina, vigorous, hearty looking red-men, but in what force they are here I am unable to say: also a goodly share of Baltimore boys, who have straggled hither by twos and threes, on foot and in the cars, impelled both by a desire to escape prosecution for participating in the riot of April 19th, and to take their place in the approaching contest.  These form, so to speak, a “cohort” by themselves, and if they fight as well as they talk, will do an immense amount of work.  Their distinguishing feature is generally an abbreviated crop of hair, which, to use their favorite expression, has been filed “down,” a nose which bears the mark of contact with that indefinite substance yclept a “brickbat,” before which the graceful proportions of that organ have ignominiously retreated, and a style of conversation so miscellaneous and emphatic, that it would require a thorough revision of Webster’s unabridged to embrace its numerous improvements on the Anglo Saxon.  Their most eloquent topic is “a muss,” and upon this theme they pour forth such a cascade of spluttering expletives as would make Parson Brownlow groan from sheer inability at successful imitation.  You will recognize this interesting species under the euphonic name “Plugs.”

The Alabamians are by this time safely ensconced in camp among the mountains on the Maryland side.  The locality is one which will first bring them in contact with an approaching enemy, and being a post of honor, they made the request that they should be permitted to occupy it as soon as they arrived.  The corps embraces some of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Alabama—lawyers, doctors, professors, editors, printers, merchants and planters together with a strong infusion of the hardy born and sinew of the country districts.  The Mississippians are of much the same character.  The Kentuckians are a class by themselves.  They are generally a large, well-formed, robust set of men, splendid marksmen, independent as the air; and in their careless, yet not ungraceful movements, one may almost carry his thoughts back into the past and imagine our forefathers of the forest borders around him.  When they first arrived, being without arms, it was proposed to give them muskets, but these were refused under any circumstances.  The boys said they didn’t know how to shoot “soger” tools, and if they couldn’t have rifles they “would rather throw rocks.”  Considering the length of time they have now been here, their regiment is probably the worst drilled at Harper’s Ferry.  But the fault is entirely their own.  They can’t see the use of it; they won’t be persuaded to learn, and as for attempting to force one of them into anything like systematic discipline, you might as well endeavor to put a hurricane in harness.  A military gentleman who visited their encampment in the mountains, remarked to a little group that he regretted they were not better drilled.  “What’s the good of that?” said one of the men.  “We come here to wade in any whar, and when we see a good shot, you may bet your life stranger, we’re goin to shoot.”  “See here,” continued the beefeater, “here’s our drill,” and taking his bowie knife from his belt he fixed it in a tree with the edge of the blade outwards.  Then marching off a distance of sixty or seventy yards, aimed his rifle and split a bullet upon the blade.  “You see stranger, if we ain’t much on sogerin, we are powerful good at drawin a bead.”

Col. Jackson, the commandant, is still busy erecting batteries.  He evidently believes as much in the shovel and pick as weapons of war, as he does in the rifle and musket.  Every morning a company of fifty or sixty darkies, whistling “dixie’s land,” file across the bridge over the Potomac, on their way into the mountains, where they are throwing up earth works; but the point of their destination and the character of their work is [tear in paper obscures half a line] who have the superintendence of affairs.  No one can [tear in paper obscures half a line] the bridges without a permit [tear in paper obscures half a line] and, consequently, every movement on the sides of the rivers is kept secret.

The manufacturing of Minie rifles is still actively going on.  One or two hundred are daily turned out.  Large numbers of balls and ball cartridges are also being made.  Of powder, I am informed there is an abundance.  Strange as it may seem a quantity was recently brought here from neighborhood of Baltimore by a couple of Irishmen, who drove it across the country in a horse team.  To conceal it from view, the load [was] covered with iron ore, and whenever a strange sail hove in sight the two Paddies suddenly appeared to be on the jolliest kind of a drunk, [and] so remained until the danger was passed, w___ they pushed forward with all speed.