Reenlistment blues

The second year of secession was barely begun and 13th regiment troops already were discussing whether to reenlist when their old commitments expired in the spring.

It seemed to be a phony war, at best. Nothing much had happened since October. No attempt had been made to cross the Potomac River and capture Washington City, which many anticipated and some favored.

No available regiment diaries or letters complain of poor rations, though there was mention of gathering corn from a farmer’s field near Edwards Ferry—possibly for the animals.

Pay, however, was late, blankets, quilts and other personal property had been lost at First Manassas and again in the Leesburg marches and fights, and some of the volunteers were unused to the manual labor they were required to perform on the Leesburg fortifications.

Moreover, living conditions meant unaccustomed continued exposure to bad weather, and there was the constant threat of death from camp diseases. So more than a few men apparently were not impressed by Madame Rumor’s claim that there would  eventually be the enticement of a sixty-day furlough for every reenlistee.

“You ask me if we intend to enlist for [the duration of] the war,” Private Wilborn P. Smith of the Pettus Guards is quoted in McLean writing his brother Clay on Jan. 8. “Be assured that I shall certainly go home before I do and I think it is extremely doubtful if I do then.

“If I do it will be under different circumstances from what I went in before. I don’t think any of the PGs [would get] the benefit of the 60 day furlough. I think more of them will go into the war again, but they will have their eyes opened when they do…”

They still wanted to fight the Yankee invaders, but they were much more mindful of the many personal privations and dangers that military service involved.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Correspondence, Jess N. McLean, The Pettus Guards and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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