BLTC Press Titles

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The Characters of Theophrastus


The Bhagavad Gita


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Knapsack and rifle; or, Life in the Grand Army, war as seen from the ranks

by Unknown



Fifty loud roars of laughter, all put into one, waked up the echoes.

"Why, you fool, that's nothing but a screech-owl giving us a serenade!"

Brixy was nervous doing military duty; the sound, it must be confessed, was a most unearthly one; and, expecting that the enemy might appear at any moment, it was not so difficult to imagine that there had been a redoubtable invasion.

The "Confederate yell" became notorious during the war—a wild scream that seemed to come from demons rather than from human beings, and Brixy on more than one occasion found there wa» something more frightful about it than there was about the harmless hooting of the bird that he mistook for the whole Southern army.

To a veteran who has crawled under his tent, and taken his dry rations and contrasted them with the Thanksgiving dinners he used to get at home, a description of camp life and camp fare will not be of special interest, but the children of the Grand Army veterans, and others of the rising generation, may be curious to know how our men spent their time, and in what way they were occupied from day to day.

It must be understood that our camp was a very busy place. We did not have many idle hours, although there was daily opportunity for something in the way of recreation.

At sunrise came the reveille, the beat of the drum, to let us know it was time to awake and prepare for duty. To most of us, the sun seemed to be a very early riser, got up, infact, long before there was any real necessity for it. What was wanted, was a sun that could lie abed in the morning, and not get up an hour or two ahead of time and disturb everybody. With the beat of the drum there was an instant stir. The camp took on the appearance of life. Sleepy eyes opened, frowzy heads were thrust out from the tents, toilets were hastily made, or were left unmade, and those who were disposed toforget themselves and enjoy the luxury of a second nap were aroused by their wide-awake comrades.

Immediately after the reveille came the roll-call. Then we repaired to the camp grounds for drill, which lasted two hours. This exercise prepared us for breakfast, and it was no uncommon thing to feel that the preparation would have been sufficiently complete if we had not been two hours in making it.

Breakfast consisted of coffee and hard-tack, with either pork or fresh meat . "We were not in the habit of having a printed bill of fare; neither did we consider it necessary to send an order for what we wanted; there was a singular agreement to the effect that hard-tack and pork were just the things for breakfast. Fresh meat was not apt to be abundant, and required no directions as to cooking; tenderloin steaks were always rare. The hardtack was the grand stand-by, only the boys thought the Government ought to furnish hammers and hatchets to break it up into mouthfuls. Our men went into hospital on account of fevers, colds, wounds, overwork and general debility, but seldom on account of dyspepsia. We were not in any special danger by reason of high living.

The doctor's call came at half-past eight. The sudden change of the men from citizens to soldiers rendered them liable to various disorders, and the most stringent precautions as to health were adopted and enforced. The sanitary condition of the camp was a matter of diligent concern.

Guard mount came at nine o'clock, and there was drill again from half-past nine to half-past eleven. Then we were ready for dinner. If the commissary was well supplied we had bean soup and pork; if not, we had what we could get. We contented ourselves with the thought that soup is always fashionable, and forms the first course at the "Fifth Avenue," the "Continental," and the "Palmer,'' and if it was not always thick, it was so much the better for softening the hard-tack. A little ingenuity could discover various advantages in thin soup. "We were well behaved, took what was given us, and did not cry for more as children sometimes do when treated to only one plate of ice cream.

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