In Winter Quarters at Dalton, GA, 1863-64
Confederate Veteran, Vol. XXVI
FRANK S. ROBERTS, 2nd Georgia
Our brigade, Gen. John K. Jackson's, Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker's division, Lieut. Gen. William ]. Hardee's corps, was encamped about two miles east of Dalton on a slightly elevated plateau sloping generally in every direction, thus affording good drainage. Our cabins were built of split logs, the cracks being "chinked" during the severest weather with red clay, thus making a very comfortable house indeed. An ample chimney was constructed of sticks "chinked" in the same manner as the house; and when the fireplace was piled up with wood and set going, we had as comfortable quarters as to warmth as one could wish. Our bedsteads were four posts with end and side pieces nailed to them, and boards were placed so as to give us room to fill in with straw, and over this our quilts and blankets were spread.
I occupied a cabin with my brother Charlie, who was adjutant of the sharpshooters, 2d Georgia Battalion. We were as comfortable as the proverbial "bug in a rug." Our mess was composed of Adjutant Roberts, Color Sergt. (afterwards Orderly Sergt.) William Mulherin, Sergts. Martin V. Calvin and Henry Miller, Corps. Charlie Cheesborough and Mike Roulette, and Privates Tommy Brennau, Jimmy Robinson, and myself. Being a very large mess, our ration came in a good-sized chunk, especially beef. Sergeant Miller was an excellent cook, and he could bake or roast our ration of beef to "a turn," and, believe me, it was good. At times we had potatoes, which were "powerful" good with the savory gravy he made. Corn bread was our stand-by in that line. This was baked in a big old Dutch oven about fourteen inches in diameter, two bakings of three pones each being required at each of our three meals per day. He used liberally of the little Mexican red peppers for seasoning, which was a most healthy tonic for us. (Just here I shall digress to say that when we passed through Dalton in October, 1864, on our way into Tennessee, the previous winter's camps could be located by the sea of pepper plants full of peppers that covered the country from the seed that had fallen on the ground.) Occasionally bacon, with some kind of green vegetable, varied our bill of fare. We ordered a five-gallon keg of Georgia cane syrup (it cost us only $300), which went splendidly with our corn bread for dessert. I can now hear dear "Billy" Mulherin say: "Please pass me those molasses." He was a noble fellow, as true as steel. In fact, you could hardly get together a nobler band than our mess at Dalton was. Martin Calvin was correspondent for one of the Augusta papers, and for many years after the war he represented Richmond County, Ga., in the legislature. He and I are the only survivors of that mess, and I know of but two other members of our company (C) that are living. They are Capt. George F. Lamback and W. H. Hendrix, of Augusta, Ga. I met these two at the Reunion in Washington in June, 1917. It had then been fifty-three years since I saw Hendrix as he was leaving the field in front of Kenesaw Mountain, near Marietta, Ga., Sunday, June 19, 1864, with blood streaming down his neck from a wound in the head. Except that he was older and grayer, he had not changed since I last saw him. In this skirmish Sergeant Miller also received a severe wound in the leg, and I never saw him again after he was taken from the field. He died several years ago.
Not long after I joined the command at Dalton I was ordered to brigade headquarters to assist Capt. S. A. Moreno, adjutant general, in the clerical work of his office. This operated to relieve me of all camp duty. I had then done only one or two tours of guard duty. It came in mighty handy during the hard weather in January and February.
Our life in camp had its pleasant side, singing being the chief feature. I had a high, clear falsetto voice, and, knowing all the popular songs of the day, I was constituted leader of the gang. Buchanan (dear old Buck!), one of our musicians, had a sweet tenor, my dear friend "Griff" (Orderly Sergt. W. A. Griffin) had a lovely voice, and my brother Charlie held up the bass end of the line. One of our songs was "Annie Darling," which began,
"The watchdog is snarling for fear, Annie darling,
Some Yank would come and steal her away";
and the refrain was,
"Come, come, come, rain, come, come, flow to the top of my boots;
O come, and I'll thank ye to keep back the Yankee until our ranks are filled up by recruits,"
and that beautiful song, "Silence, Silence, Make No Noise Nor Stir." Many were the nights we sang these songs and many others, and hundreds of the boys from the adjoining camps came over to hear us sing. And now that is only a sweet memory.
About the end of February, 1864, we were called from our quarters by a demonstration in force in our front at Rocky Face Ridge, near Dalton, which was vigorously met and frustrated, Gen. M. A. Stovall's brigade taking a very active part in the defense of the position. After remaining there a few days, we were ordered back to our camps. However, I had developed a fever and was put in the hospital at Dalton, sent from there to Marietta, Ga., and placed in a ward there on the square which had been the store of Mr. D. M. Young, whom I had known in the fifties, when I was a small boy. I remained there until the early part of April, returning then to camp at Dalton. Shortly after my return another demonstration was made on our right over near Spring Place, in Murray County. Our division (Walker's) was sent over there to see what it meant, but we returned to camp in a few days and settled down to our usual duties. But it was not to be for long. About the first of May General Sherman "got busy," shortly after sending General McPherson down to Snake Creek Gap to attack us at Resaca. General Johnston was alive to his tactics and at once made disposition to meet him, which was done at Resaca on May 14-16, 1864, inflicting heavy loss on Sherman. With this began the heavy and continuous fighting that ensued for nearly one hundred days, until General Johnston was taken away from us, which worked disaster to us to the end.
A sad and pathetic accident occurred in April, 1864. The brigade which had occupied the camp next to ours moved out, and a brigade of General Walthall's division moved into it; I cannot recall whose brigade it was. They busied themselves in getting the camp in thorough order, and by Saturday this was done. That night the men were gathered together holding a prayer meeting by the light of the camp fires. During the clean-up a fire had been built at the foot of a large dead oak tree, and this had burned until it was standing with only a shell at the base. Suddenly in the midst of the service this old tree swayed and fell with a crash into the midst of the worshipers. Nine men were killed and a number injured, casting a terrible pall over the camp and the surrounding ones. The next evening, Sunday, as the sun was nearing its setting, three army wagons moved from the camp, each bearing a coffin with a body in it. The procession moved across our drill and parade field, headed by one of our finest bands playing that beautiful funeral march, "Pleyel's Hymn," to a grove of oaks, and there as the sun was sinking they were laid to rest. Three volleys were given, and then "taps" was sounded. It was the most beautifully sad sight I ever witnessed as the war-worn veterans, with bared heads and tear-dimmed eyes, paid this last mark of love and respect to their dead comrades, left to their rest far from home and loved ones.