There seemed to be no shortage of whiskey in the Army of the Potomac, particularly among high-ranking officers, an indulgence the men of the Fourteenth would soon pay for in blood. But that’s next week. For now here’s an amusing story taken verbatim from Charles Page’s History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.
One day here at Stony Mountain General (Thomas) Smyth and his staff rode by the camp to the top of the hill. Old Pierce Barron, who was standing with a group of the men of the regiment, saluted and called out with all the true enthusiasm of a true son of Erin, “God bless ye’s, General Smyth.”
Smyth, who had Irish blood in his veins, and who felt in the humor to notice the old man, stopped and spoke to him. “What’s your name, my man?”
“Barron, sir, Pierce Barron, sir.”
“Barron—Barron, that’s a good name,” said the General. “Seems to me you look dry, Barron.”
“Ah, General, dear, I’m that dry I could hardly spake the truth,” said Barron.
And it is vouched for by the men of the Fourteenth that the General’s canteen furnished old Pierce with a drink that day. Another time as Smyth was riding by the camp, however, old Pierce was seen trotting along by his side, showering blessings and blarneyings on him, but the General took no notice of him, and the old fellow soon dropped away to one side, his mouth watering for the whiskey he did not get.
Note: Little is known about Pierce Barron. He was probably a draftee rather than a paid substitute. He was mustered into the regiment on July 25, 1863, and the use of “old” in the narrative implies that he was probably in his 40s, but may have appeared older.