A Civil War Story
As I look back at the year of 1864 I see I was wrong about war . . .
I was young then, about 12, when I was drafted into the Civil War as a drummer boy. I was eager for war and fighting.
Momma and Papa had told me about them bluebellies. Them bluebellies were mean beasts with horns and tails. They say my Papa can’t own slaves and make ’em work for ‘im. They say General Sherman gonna put an end to this nonsense. Momma says my Papa is a grown man and can do what he very pleases. I thought Momma was right. Wasn’t this country based on whites’ freedom? Weren’t people s’poss’ta own and work slaves? That’s the way it gotta be. Right?
When I heard them bluebellies from way up north was coming to Atlanta and that the Confederates needed drummer boys I told Momma and Papa I was off to war. They tried to tell me that war was bad and that I could get killed, but I had no intention in listening to them and their talk.
I thought war was for the best. So, the South could have their slaves and become a separate country. Right? Wrong. Them Yankees were just people with different opinions. Right? Right. Just people with different opinions, not beasts with tails and horns, but I didn’t know that when I went off to war.
When I reached the Confederate Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee I received a gray drum that read the words “Confederate Drummer Boy”. A tall, skinny man asked me what size I wore in shoes, shirts and pants. I shrugged. Then, he asked me how old I was and I said, “twelve”. So, he gave me a twelve in everything.
The boots were too big and made me stumble and fall. The shirt and pants were so tight they hurt. They were also too short. I tried to tell the man but he told me to shush and stop complaining.
Before I go on, let me tell you about my uniform. For my protection I was given a pistol, which I tied to my belt. I wore an ordinary white undershirt which I wore a jacket over. My jacket was gray with a collar up to my chin and brass buttons. There was navy blue trim on the cuffs and collar. I was also given a belt-like contraption to which I attached my drum. It was absurd; it reminded me of Momma’s purse. But, it had to be worn, for it was a requirement for a Confederate drummer boy. I also wore a simple gray pair of pants and a navy belt with a brass buckle. Papa would be so proud! I also had a gray cap with a brass cursive “C” embroidered on it. The “C” stood for “Confederates.” I also had black boots with the same “C” on each boot as the cap.
The man told me to go southeast to Franklin, Tennessee and join that army. My journey had begun as a drummer boy. For long, endless days I climbed the Appalachians, for what seemed eternity. It took me five days to reach Franklin. Partly, because I only walked three-and-a-half days and then a nice old peddler offered me a ride the rest of the way. His name was Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was very kind and gave me a blanket to sleep with and food and water for my journey. Several times the Yankees passed the wagon and when Mr. Smith saw ’em coming he’d point his thumb down and say, “hurry son, they’re a’coming”. Then when they were out of sight, he’d say, “A-OK, all clear!” And I’d lift my head up and look around checking just in case. Then Mr. Smith started singing “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall. (It’s his favorite song.)
When we reached Franklin I was told this army had enough drummer boys and to go to Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia. I started saying good-bye to Mr. Smith, but he said he was headed toward Kennesaw. I knew he was lying, but I accepted his generous offer.
Once again Mr. Smith and I traveled over rocky trails and treacherous hills. This journey was shorter, only three days. But, the Yankees were worse. They came more often and when they came they looked in the back, so, I couldn’t hide under the sacks. So, instead I hid in a bush near the wagon. One time a Yankee held a gun to Mr. Smith’s head while other soldiers checked the wagon. The Yankees threatened to kill Mr. Smith if they found anyone hiding in the wagon. Even though they didn’t find anyone they stole the better of the two horses, carrots, two blankets, salted pork and kitchen utensils.
Mr. Smith told me that the man who had held a pistol to his head was General Sherman! I’d seen General Sherman, the main general for the Yankees! He was the meanest man I’d ever heard of. From then on I listened to the Yankees talk to Mr. Smith. General Grant came too, but he wasn’t nearly as mean as General Sherman. General Grant only stole a sack of flour. He didn’t even ask Mr. Smith if he’d seen any northerners lately.
Finally, we reached Kennesaw Mountain. I met General Lee and he posted me at the top of the mountain. He said to be ready, because the battle could begin any time now. I said good-bye to Mr. Smith and promised to write.
General Lee was right. After about three hours I saw General Sherman leading his army of bluebellies. I thought we were ready, but we weren’t. As soon as the bluebellies and General Sherman started firing cannons and guns Confederates fell to the ground like leaves in Autumn. How could the bluebellies and General Sherman do this? Killing all these people and then robbing them of their goods. Right then and there I realized war was bad, and the bluebellies weren’t bad people that maybe they did bad things, but they weren’t really bad. As I ran off the battlefield I yelled with all my might, “I’m going home, I’m going home!” And I did go home.
The next few years were tough. Papa had lost the plantation and the slaves. He had trouble finding a job too. Food and water were scarce. I even had to get a job. But with the loving help and support from my family we made it!
The moral of this story is no matter how hard it gets stick with your family and you’ll be o.k.
By: Anna Claire Flood