10th Letter: Shoot a Deserter, Hire a Negro, Hang a Spy (November 14, 1861)

Camp Fisher. Nov 14th 1861

Dear Mother

I rcd yours of the 1st two days ago, which afforded me great pleasure, as it had been nearly a month scince I had heard from any of you.  As this leaves me in good health I hope it will find you + family enjoying the same blessing.  There is but very little sickness in camps at present.

Our Col came back about a week ago – stayed only two or three days – returned on leave of absence for two months and a half.  He was wounded at the battle of Mannassu in the foot, He is still lame and I think it doubtful about it ever getting well. On his way here – he took up a man that had deserted from this Regt and brought him here in chains.  He is now handcuffed and is in the Guard House.  The penalty is death but his case has not been settled yet.

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Last week a man was drummed out of a company in this Regt for ungentlemanly conduct.  They give him 25$, and told him to trot.

The weather has been very pleasant for the last two or three days –  but up to that time we had some very cold days.

November 14, 1861: page 1

November 14, 1861: page 1

Some one has hit upon a plan to make a fire place in tents and nearly all this Regt has caught the fever and gone to work at it.  It is a simple and I think a good institution.  The most that I have seen are made by digging the tent out inside about 2 ft deep, and digging out a square  hole for the fireplace within in a corner or side.  the hole is then slanted upwards through the bank of waste dirt on the top of which is sit a barrel for the top of the chimney. By digging the dirt out of the tent – it gives more room and eight men can sleep in it with all ease. The beds are made by sitting up forks and laying poles on them. By that means they can have one under another. We have not made one yet – waiting for colder weather.

MSH2345-linephpThumb_generated_thumbnailI rcd yesterday a bundle from home, which was certainly very acceptable. There was [was corrected with pencil to were] two shirts – home made Linsey I suppose – two pr drawers – two pr socks and a vest.  I also rcd a pr socks that came in a bundle for Walter about 3 weeks ago. That is all I have ever got, with my Over Coat. You can tell Uncle Newton I would like to have my boots as soon as possible – for I don’t think my shoes will last more than 3 weeks longer and I don’t want to buy another pair.  I took the cloth that was around the clothes and made a haversack and fixed it so as to have my name on it.

UnknownWe have hired a negro to do our cooking and washing for 12$ per month. There was another boy came into Tom Bufords mess that had a negro and he does the cooking for both Missrs.  It is only 2$ per month for each of us –  which I think is cheap enough.  Our Regt drew their pay last week for the month of July + August. Those of us that came in August drew 28$. I have only 15$ left, but I have got 10 owing to me – Which is good – I know. So that leaves me with 25$ which will do me for a while.

November 14, 1861: page 2

November 14, 1861: page 2

There has been nothing exciting in camps for a month nearly until day before yesterday. It was my day to cook. We had done with [done with scratched-out with pencil and replaced with finisheddinner and I was just taking my water off the fire to wash the dishes – when I saw a courier going toward the Col’s tent with all possible speed.  In less than two minutes I heard the order – “Turn out your companies immediately with their guns and cartridge boxes.”  In less than half an hour – we were on the march. The Yankees were supposed to be landing near Occoquan creek about 10 miles above us.

November 14, 1861: page 3

November 14, 1861: page 3

We went about 3 miles and stopped in an old field. As soon as we stopped in line, one company was detailed to throw down a fence near us – You could see couriers going in every direction. The cannon were roaring like thunder – but three times as fast as you ever heard it. Our Col rode out in front of the Regt, and told us it was his opinion that we were going to have a little fight – to obey our officers.  keep cool and if we meet the enemy to stand firm and aim low.  I was certain then that we would have a pull at them, from all I could see and hear. We stood in line of battle for half an hour.  We then left there and went 1/2 mile farther where we staid until nearly sundown.  The Yankees did not show themselves.

November 14, 1861: page 4

November 14, 1861: page 4

We the started back to camp – arriving here about 8 O’clock.  We made some coffee and fried beef liver – and with some cold-hard crackers. we had a good supper for hungry chaps.  About the time we had finished supper another order came to cook up two days rations. As we did not know when we might be called on to march, we had to go to cooking immediately. Cooked two ovens of biscuits – and put on some beef to boil. That was night before last, and we have rcd no marching orders yet, but not more than two minutes ago, we had another order to cook up all the provisions we had. Some think we will have a fight before many days.  Though I won’t believe it until I can see the white of a Yankees, eyes, as we have been fooled so often.

November 14, 1861: page 5

November 14, 1861: page 5

So you can see what a life a soldier leads. For weeks at a time he has nothing to do but cook and eat and drill about 3 hours in the day. And next week he does harder work than any negro in Miss. Running about over these rocky hills from one place to another – without sleep and a great many times nothing to eat. He is always in suspense, for he never knows, what he is going to do until he right at it. nor where he is going, until he is there, for there is [pencil correction of areno Sign Boards in this country. We may have to march from here to day and we may not go at all – no one knows.

November 14, 1861: page 6

November 14, 1861: page 6

I heard from Walter yesterday. He is still in Warrenton – and improving – he says he is going to the country in a few days.

I rcd a letter from Cousin Sarah last week.  They are all well.  She said John Toney had joined a company and would start for Mobile in a week.

I forgot to mention at the first – that you might send me a pr of pants – when Uncle Newton sent my boots. Also one flannel undershirt.  All of these and the Blankets might be sent in one box.

I must close for the present. Tell Mary Jane I will answer her letter next – at the first opportunity. Give all my love to all the family and best respects to all enquiring friends.  I remain your devoted son,

P M Buford

Click image to learn more.

Click image to learn more.

P.S. I would like for you to send me a pocket Bible as I have none, though there is [pencil correction of are] three in our mess – but I had rather have one of my own.

Click image of Sickles to learn more.

Click image of USA Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles to learn more.

N. B. While I was looking over this letter I heard that our pickets had brought in two Yankees, who said that they had deserted from Sickels Brigade which is on the other side of the River. opposite our Batteries one of our boys has seen them. I think I will go up directly and take a look at the gents.  I believe they are spies and ought to be hung

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Eating Cattle Feed

Photo Source: Click Image

Southerners throughout the United States traditionally eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.  Folklore dates its origin back to when Union troops waged total war upon the South.  During that time, invading Northern troops typically stripped the countryside bare of all stored food, crops, and livestock, destroying whatever they could not carry away.  Union soldiers did not bother with destroying black-eyed peas, also called cowpeas, because it was animal fodder.

Many Southerners on the brink of starvation discovered the spared cattle feed could sustain them.  Upon learning of the Northern invasion in his home town, Parham writes anxiously to his mother on January 17, 1863I almost shudder to hear of the condition those vile Yankees have left you in, but I hope they have left you all enough to subsist on. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that Parham’s family ate black-eyed peas during this time.

Black-eyed peas are typically cooked for New Year’s Day with pork flavoring, diced onion, and served with hot chili sauce or pepper-flavored vinegar.  The cooked black-eyed peas are usually accompanied with greens (e.g. collards, mustard, or turnip greens) or sometimes cabbage.  Cornbread is often on the side.  Black-eyed peas represent coins, greens represent paper money, and cornbread represents gold.  Some people serve with stewed tomatoes for good health.  The link below has further information and recipes for black-eyed peas.

http://gosoutheast.about.com/od/restaurantslocalcuisine/a/blackeyedpeas.htm

7th Letter: Bang Went a Cannon (October 16, 1861)

Oct. 16, 1861

October 16, 1861: page 1

October 16, 1861: page 1

I rcd your welcome letters to day, + as I have an opportunity of sending it tomorrow I will write as I do not believe half our letters will reach their destination by mail.  I had not rcd any before in over a month.

I am just tolerably well at present, having suffered a great deal from cold and sore throat, but I think I will be clear of it in a day or so.  Dick Shaw is complaining to day, though generally there is not much sickness in our company at present at this time.

Image source of

Click image to view source of “Blockade of the Potomac” cannon.

We have had no more marching scince the last trip, of which I spoke in a letter by Doak.  About day light this morning cannon commenced firing at the River and for 3/4 hour as fast as you could count- and we expected to march every minute, but the Yankees did not land and I don’t believe they are going to try, though We do not know at what minute we may be called to march.

Image source of Confederate mess mates: http://www.rourscivilwar.com/food.html

Click image to view source of Confederate mess mates.

I hardly know what to write as we are confined here in certain limits and never here any news and know nothing only what is going on just around us. We have six in our mess, every man does his own washing, but there is two to cook each meal. I am on the dinner Relief. Can make very good corn and wheat bread- beff hash, coffee + +. though half the time We cannot get enough meat to make our own bread greasy, our rations of bacon gave out and we have to fall back on the beef.  I made Rice Pudding yesterday for dinner, which I pronounced good as it was the first we had had.

We have a very nice bed to sleep on, considering the make, by putting four forks in the ground and arranging pine poles accordingly. and then pilling on a great supply of pine leaves and blankets which last article I am in need of though I spoke of it in letter by Doak.

I want a good brown or Grey lined with some thiner material and one other doublet- if can be had. I reckon I will get socks and drawers in a few days.  I suppose they are boxed.

October 16, 1861: page 2

October 16, 1861: page 2

We rcd our letters today from Ivan by a visitor.

Bang went a cannon just then down on the River.  I suppose our battery was let loose again on the Yankee vessels. During the time I was writing the above two lines not less than a dozen fired, and still they continue, but we have become used to that sound, and are ready to march at a moments warning if necessary.

I must close for want of something to write. Give my respects to all enquiring friends and receive a portion for yourself. It is now Roll Call, and lights put out directly after.

Write as often as  possible.

P M Buford

Tell Mary Jane I will write to her in a  day or two.

Camp Fisher Rediscovered

The following link (https://billriski.backpackit.com/pub/1191971) is an excellent source about the rediscovery of Camp Fisher which served as a site for infantry support during a blockade of the Potomac River.  Today a golf course in the Montclair area outside of Washington, D.C., Parham wrote from this camp in his fourth letter that we expect every day to hear that Battery set loose on their (Yankee) vessels.  Below is a quote from the before mentioned link which describes the economic impact of this blockade.

The batteries affected a logistical nightmare and subsequent economical downturn for the Union Capitol in Washington D.C. as prices of everyday goods like coffee, corn and sugar steadily increased. More importantly, it fostered a negative impact on the Northern sentiment and overall support for the war. For the young Confederacy, it was a capstone event ending this first chapter of the conflict in 1861.

Photo Source: https://billriski.backpackit.com/pub/1191971

Click image to view photo source.

4th Letter: Arrival at Camp Fisher (October 2, 1861)

Camp Fisher Oct 2nd 1861

Dear Sir

I wrote to you, Mary and Ma but as yet have rcd no answer.  I came to camp a few days sooner than I expected in the hope of getting letters from some of you- but as yet have received none in reply.  Though beforehand I rd one from each of you.  Yrs mentioning the coat which as yet I have not rcd.

I stayed away from camp 3 (?) weeks.  On my return from the company in good health excepting a few cases of the mumps- which disease I stand a good chance to take.  There are 7 or 8 of the company the company [crossed-out in ink] in the country yet I saw Joe Buford the day before I left. He looks worse than I ever saw him- but I think  he will recover in a few weeks.

I arrived here yesterday about 2OC thinking I would report myself ready for duty in a day or two.  I had just fried (?) myself on some cedar poles to sleep about 9OC, when the the [sic] order “Prepare to march in ten minutes” was given.  You can imagine the bustle that ensued.  They have never given me nothing but musket and you know I was somewhat a little in time in getting a bayonet caps and cartridges [sic]. In lefs [sic] than 3/4 of an hour 60 answered to their names and we were on the march for  _____ nobody knowd [corrected over in pencil with “knew”] but old Gen Whiting.  They did not give us time to get anything to eat.  Those that had any old bread left from supper took some in their pockets and haversacks. (I suppose you had heard of us being near Dumfries).

After marching 1/2 mile we saw we were going in the direction of the River.  There were a great many conjectures as to where we were going, but the majority thought that the Yankees were trying to land and we were going to support our batteries.  All seemed eager to meet them, as they were 60 in raks [sic] when the order was given to march, and that evening there were not exceeding 40 out on drill.

We had marched about 3 miles over a rough road at a rapid gate, when we were halted in an old field- which I supposed to be about 1 mile from the River. where we staid [sic] until morning, some sitting around the fire laughing and talking, others rolled up in their blankets sound asleep.  As unconcerned as if there was not a Yankee in a hundred miles.

At daylight, our Reg and the 2nd Miss were formed into a timeline [“time” smudged] and ordered to pile our blankets, on the ground, marching forward 200 yds, faced about and old Whiting drilled us about 2 hours and marched us back to camp.  I believe he did it to see how many men he could muster.  It was reported that a deserter said they were going to try to land, but I believe it was all a farce.  There were men in that march that hadn’t drilled in two weeks, therefore they will have no excuse next time from drill.  Everyone expected to engage the enemy at daylight.  It learnt [marked over with pencil as “learned”] me one lefsen [sic]-vis to be prepared next time.

We expect to hear that [crossed-out in ink] every day to hear that Battery set loose on their velles [crossed-out in ink] vessels, but I hardly think they will try to land there.  If they do you may look out for squally times.  It is thought they will have a fight shortly up about Fairfax, though every think [sic] is conjecture in the camps.

I want some clothing new [sic] soon.  I want one or two pr drawers of some warm material- one flannel undershirt- two thick flannel over ones- grey or brown and made plain- and if you think best a good pair of boots for winter use.  You can tell Uncle Newton what I want.  Also a good woolen jacket- round about fashion.

Love to all.  Tell them all to write and do so yourself as soon as possible. Respt. P M Buford

2 oct 1861 side 2

October 2, 1861: page 1 on right, page 4 on left

2 oct 1861

October 2, 1861: page 2 on left, page 3 on right

2 oct 1861 side 3

October 2, 1861: page 5