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Story Archives: Wisconsin Pvt. Rood's story: Harrisonburg march, Natchez 'soldiering' in 1863
|Wisconsin Pvt. Rood's story: Harrisonburg march, Natchez 'soldiering' in 1863|
(24th in a series)
Hosea Whitford Rood was 16-years-old when he entered the Civil War in 1861. Two years later in mid-August 1863, the private arrived in Natchez as a member of Company E of the 12th Wisconsin, which had been a part of the Union force that claimed victory at Vicksburg on July 4.
Rood wrote about his Civil War experiences in a book with a long title, "Story of the service of Company E and the Twelfth Wisconsin Regiment, Veteran Volunteer Infantry, in the War of the Rebellion, Beginning with September 7th, 1861, and ending with July 21st, 1865."
Excerpts from the book provide a glimpse of the Civil War locally, detailing Rood's months of service in Natchez, including the Union's march to Harrisonburg, La., in late summer 1863 to take out Fort Beauregard, a Confederate artillery stronghold. Rood was one of about 4,000 Union troops on that expedition, and he was a part of a smaller force that skirmished with Gen. Wirt Adams' Confederate cavalry in Adams County in late 1863.
To follow is a snapshot of Civil War life in this region in the words of Rood, then 18, who realized even then that the great conflict would be the greatest and most important experience of his life.
FEAST OF CHICKENS
Rood recalled that in late August 1863 "we had orders to cross the river and make an expedition to Harrisonburg...in Louisiana...We started in the afternoon and went into camp at night on the banks of Lake Concordia (at present day Ferriday), a small body of water four or five miles from the Mississippi. I think the lake is a part of the old bed of the river."
The Union force under Gen. Marcellus M. Crocker included two brigades. Gen. U.S. Grant called Crocker one of the two best division commanders he had ever known. One of Crocker's brigades was under the command of Gen. Cyrus Hall of the 16th Illinois and included four Illinois regiments and a battery of the 2nd Illinois Artillery. The other brigade was commanded by Gen. Walter Gresham, who for several months was in charge of the federal occupation of Natchez. On the Harrisonburg expedition, Crocker commanded the 12th Wisconsin (Pvt. Rood's regiment), the 53rd Indiana, the 20th Illinois, the 50th Ohio Battery and the 17th Illinois Cavalry.
Rood wrote: "There was a great plantation lying on the borders of Lake Concordia, where there was the largest cotton we ever saw growing in the South. There was something else on that plantation—an immense crop of fowls. There were hen-coops and hen-coops, and when we went to take a look at them the fowls scattered in every direction—and so did we. It was growing dark, and they felt a little bewildered as they ran here and there against things.
"Oh, what a catch was that! There was music in the air as the boys went to camp. Hundreds of the terrified chickens took to the cornfield, but they were hotly pursued, and despairing squalls from all parts of the field told how fruitless had been their endeavors to escape, and how fruitful had been the endeavors of the boys not to let them get away.
"There was a feast in camp that night; savory smells pervaded the atmosphere and feathers covered the ground. The boys ate their fill and slept as if they had dined virtuously. Our bivouac on Lake Concordia was long remembered on account of the feast of chickens. I suppose there was much indignation and some mourning on that plantation on account of it.
"There were fishes in that lake. After all was quiet at night we could hear a constant splashing of water as they jumped above the surface to catch the small flies and other insects that were flitting about. We saw very many signs of fish in all the waters we passed on this trip, from which we concluded that Louisiana is well supplied with one sort of food at least. We saw but few alligators anywhere along the Mississippi, and they were mostly small ones."
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