Sunday, July 26, 2009
Washing Day In Camp
" This is washing day' with us," writes a soldier of the Forty-first Onio regiment " Washing day! You know at home what a terrible disturber of domestic comfort it is. My recollections of it are associated with cold feet, damp floors, meagre dinners, cros* mothers, and birch rods. The servant girls and I used to fight more on washing days than on any other. Washing is as much a duty as fighting. Woe to the unlucky sloven that appears at Sunday morning inspection with dirty clothes, dirty hands, long hair, or untrimmed beard. We are expected to bathe all over once or twice a week. This requirement is one of the soldier's greatest blessings. At first, clothes washing was o difficult and tedious operation; but now there is not one of us that is not thoroughly initiated into the mysteries of washing, rinsing, and wringing. It is genuine satisfaction to see a fastidious youth, who, perhaps, has often found fault with his mother or sister on account of fancied imperfections in his linen, knee deep in water, worrying about some garment, in vain endeavors to wash it. Justice comes round at last. When I was a little brat I frequently used to throw down my bread and butter when it was not sugared to suit my whim. My mother would then say, ' You'll see the day, my boy, when you'll be glad to get that crust.' I have realized the truth of her words scores of times within the last year. Washing day with us has its amusements. On one occasion, last summer, while we were stationed at Murfreesboro', a party of about a hundred of us were washing at a large spring on the opposite side of the town from where we were encamped. Buell's army was, at that time, exceedingly short of supplies. But few of us had more than one shirt — some were not even that fortunate. It was a warm, pleasant day. We had removed our clothes, placed them in kettles, built fires, and were boiling them out, busying ourselves, meanwhile, in playing ' leap-frog,' ' tag,'' blackman,' and divers other games, when lo! a party of rebel cavalry came thundering down upon us in pursuit of a forage train that had been sent out in the morning. What were we to do ? We had no arms with us ; our clothes were in boiling hot water; the enemy were drawing near, fearfully near. Jumping over the fence, the whole party of us scud right through the town for camp like* so many wild Indians, as fast as our legs could carry us. The citizens, supposing we would all be captured, came out in great glee, shouting,' Run, Yanks! run Yanks!' as we fled through the streets. We reached camp in safety, to the great astonishment and amusement of our comrades. It was a long time before we heard the last of that washing day. I asked one. old black woman if she didn't blush when she saw us running through town. She replied, ' Why, de Lord God A'mi'ty bress ye, child — I couldn't blush for laughing.'"