JOTTINGS FROM THE 102 — No. 5.
For the Rock Island Argus.
CAMP NEAR FRANKFORT, Ky., Oct. 16.
I wish you could call into my sanctum this morning, Colonel, and make up your daily melange of items and editorials. A large white oak tree, forming a right-angle with the surface of mother earth, is the best substitute I could offer you for the chair editorial, for an office, a covering constructed mainly of cedar boughs. Rather rough quarters, most assuredly, but then, think of the romance of the situation! What pen would not fly more lightly over the paper, and receive fresh inspiration from the charms of camp life? Yet there are hours of trial, of gloom and depression, and an introduction to our camp this bright day, would furnish you with a more cheering picture than is usually presented. — The weather is sufficiently cool to create a demand for all the blankets and overcoats that the law allows, yet the atmosphere is dry and we experience little inconvenience from sleeping so much in the open air. At night a lively picture is sometimes presented. The rude supper over, the boys occupy the intervening period before "taps," in telling stories around the camp fires, singing good old methodist hymns or sentimental songs, and often we hear borne on the night air, those sweet words —
"Do they miss me at home — do they miss me?
'T would be an assurance most dear,
To know that this moment some loved one
Were saying ‘I wish he were here.’"
And again may be heard the more martial song of
At such a time the thoughts of the soldier will wander from the rough scenes around him to the dearly loved ones left behind, and while, perchance, he leaves the gay crowd to get beyond the sound of the memory awakening song, he turns his eye towards the north, and fixing it, perhaps, on the twinkling polar star, still will think of home, and wonder if there are those there who keep their night vigils in remembrance of him. Is it in exhibition of weakness? Me thinks not; or rather at such a moment the true soldier resolves to discharge his duty faithfully, and return to his home honorably, or not at all. But enough in this vein — we are endeavoring to act our part in the dark drama of rebellion, and many at home are anxiously inquiring "What of the night?"
In response I will say I have made the best possible use of my limited means of observation, since our arrival in Kentucky, and am forced to the conclusion that the war is being carried on at a great disadvantage on our side. Regard for the union element has been one of the main causes of our weakness. Now if there is a true union element in any part of secessia, it should be willing to submit to the greatest sacrifices as cheerfully as we do in the north, in order to aid in restoring the authority of the federal government. But has this petted "armed neutrality" element shown such a disposition? Let us see — Kentucky, I think, is claimed to have a union majority at the ballot box. But what treatment have the forces of the respective combatants received at the hands of the Kentuckians in this vicinity? We are told that the rebels were feasted on the fat of the land, when here, a few weeks since. The rebel sympathizers would make it their business to cook for them, and of course, means of transportation and negro muscle were as freely placed at their disposal. On the contrary, I may safely say that we are received by a majority of the people with indifference, and our best friends seem to be the poor people and the negroes. Although there is a large class that is professedly union in sentiment and willing to submit quietly to a restoration of federal authority, secessianity is seated in their bones, and would become fully developed, could they be assured of the final success of the rebellion.
Instead of being met with open arms, and offers of kindness, we often found guards stationed at the gates of the wealthier areas, and the weary, hungry and half-famished soldier had not the privilege of passing in to quench his thirst or obtain something to allay his hunger. It is true there were exceptions, and these shine out brightly, as stars through a clouded sky. One of these I will mention: During one of our most dusty marches, late in the night, a group stood at the gate of a dwelling by the roadside, handing out water to the thirsty soldiers. Half choked with dust as I was, I shall never forget the cooling draught received from the hands of these good Samaritans. But this does not change the general rule, and the position of thousands of non-combatants in this state may be summed up in the words of a contraband that came into our camp the other morning. He said, substantially, "Oh, massa, he good ‘cesh’ when do ‘cesh’ are about, and he good ‘cesh’ when ‘cesh’ are away; but when do union men come round, he be good union man, den." A second cause of inefficiency, I think, is a deficiency of cavalry. Let one half of our infantry force be placed on horseback, with liberty to subsist on the enemy, and trained to such work as has been accomplished by Stewart's rebel cavalry, and they would, with the aid of light artillery, sweep over the state with the force of an avalanche. We must strike sudden and unexpected blows, and this is generally impracticable with infantry. — That the rebellion will yet be effectually crushed, I still earnestly hope — but it is evident that we have to rely on our great strength rather than our military skill. It may be presumptuous to write thus, and doubtless is. Gen. Scott always entertained an opposite view in regard to the usefulness of cavalry, and possibly the present chief commander does, but they must permit an humble corporal to hold a different opinion. No apparent mismanagement, however, shall alter my determination to exert all my feeble energies in sustaining our noble government and its honored head, in suppressing the rebellion.
Our camp news is unimportant. The arrival of a contraband occasionally, and now and then a rebel prisoner, relieves the monotony of daily camp duties. Yesterday a scouting party brought in a real secesh flag — the stars and bars — made of coarse material, in size about 6 by 15 feet. It was taken from the house of an old secessionist, where it had been laid away, the old cuss having concluded, no doubt, to "play union" awhile. He was brought into camp, and doubtless fully appreciated the dismal groans that greeted the triple-barred emblem of hell. But my letter is long enough. Good bye.
S. F. F.