Merry Christmas?

log-huts-370x300This sketch of log huts is from Hardtack and Coffee by John D. Billings, an excellent book for learning about the day to day routine of a Civil War soldiers life.

The building of log huts for winter shelter was the first priority of the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut when they marched dejectedly into  camp early on the morning of Tuesday, December 16. Much work with the axe and spade was required—the felling of trees for timber, cutting the timber to length, notching both ends so they would interlock, and the excavation of the foundation. They also cut shorter logs to build a fireplace and when the log construction was finished, they filled the narrow gaps between the logs with mud to keep the cold wind out. They also covered the inside of the fireplace with a liberal coating of mud to keep the logs from catching fire and sending up the entire cabin along with it. Furnishings, such as bunks, a table, and a couple of stools, were made from whatever was available: saplings, hardtack crates, the staves of salt-pork barrels.

After the Battle of Fredericksburg, only about 100 men were fit for duty. Lt. Col. Perkins had been seriously wounded and it was not known if he would return to duty. Command of the regiment was passed back and forth between a few of the company captains. Capt. Samuel Fiske, too ill to take part in the battle, wrote the following to his readers in the Springfield Republican newspaper: “Oh, Republican! My heart is sick and sad. Blood and wounds and death are before my eyes; of those who are my friends, comrades, brothers; of those who have marched into the very mouth of destruction as coolly and cheerfully as to any ordinary duty. Another tremendous, terrible, murderous butchery of brave men has made Saturday, the 13th of December, a memorable day in the annals of this war.”

If crushing defeat was not enough, the regiment suffered an additional tragedy on December 23rd. Charles Page wrote: “A sad incident during the encampment at Falmouth was the death of two brothers, Francis and Frederick Hollister of Chatham, Company K, who died within half an hour of each other and are buried together. They lost their blankets at Antietam and for three months had to sleep out-of-doors or crouch scantily clad all night long over a smoky campfire, from which exposure they died.”



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