Rifle ball, beaver tracks, a Beeff

Front cover of William Davies' diary

February 9, [1864]…considerable skirmishing done between our forces and the Secesh Cavalry about 3 P.M. a Bushwacker from across the River fired at our men around the fire the ball proved to be from a Skuirrel Rifle struck into some blankets on a stump

I find these details among the most compelling aspects of my great great grandfather’s diary. He is rarely in the thick of battle, or if he is, he declines to describe the action. Usually he tells how he marches, camps, forages, guards.

In early 1864, his company is tramping back and forth across northern Mississippi, “scouring” the countryside for “guirriles that might be lurking around”—in particular, members of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry, which has been wreaking havoc with Union supply lines. Provisions, therefore, are sparse, as Davies mentions that “our Co killed a beeff that happened to come by we also killed 2 hogs”. On February 10, he writes:

our squad search through the thick forest for 2 miles found nothing we come across 2 or 3 houses the occupants poor clear conscience told us not to take anything from them not even a chicken

Later that day, they sight four horses living wild in the forest. Then:

returning along the banks of the winding and muddy stream found a tree 2 ft in diameter cut (knaued) by Beavers…we saw their tracks in the soft mud by the water

On the way back to Memphis, they camp for the night at the town of Bucksnack, where

we captured a furloughed Rebel soldier from Lee’s Army he had been 3 years in the Service

As usual, he does not express an emotion, but the fact that he includes the detail of “3 years in the Service” makes me suspect he feels compassion for this enemy soldier, who has survived three years of war, only to fall into Federal hands while heading home.

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