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February, 1864 – Going on R & R

A soldier cannot fight day in and day out. The need for rest and relaxation is as real as the need for food and water. February of 1864 found the boys from Will County finding that needed rest and relaxation, but not without a cost.

The 100th Civil War soldier in his book Fifteen Years Ago, Will County in the Civil War.

“The sojourn of the regiment in East Tennessee during the winter of 1863 and 1864 was a tedious one. It was bard work to make the time pass profitably and pleasantly. The weather was much of the time cold and rainy; the men were deficient in clothing and often the rations were poor and scanty.”

“And although they had to forage, and to cut and haul their wood, and to gather and grind their corn, yet much of the time they were idle.”

“One of the great comforts of the soldier while in winter quarters, as well as when on his campaigns, was his coffee. If the boys could get plenty of bacon and hardtack, and rail fences to make their fires, and water to make their coffee, they would never grumble or sigh for the luxuries of civilized life.”

Meanwhile the men of the 39th the move. In his book Dr. Charles Clark, surgeon of the 39th “During the time that we remained on the island the regiment was induced to re-enlist for 3 years or the continuance of the war, with the exception of about 100 who preferred to remain in this department until the term of their service expired and then proceed home for good.”

“Two large propellers, had been assigned to carry us to New York, and the regiment was divided for the passage. The right wing of the regiment and the regiment staff took passage on the City of Bath, while the other wing took the Mary Boardman.”

“We left the harbor at about t10 o’clock P.M. About 9 o’clock in the morning we neared “Frying Pan shoals,” and those on deck had their attention called to what was considered a school of porpoises disporting, but we were not quite certain in the matter, and went forward to the pilot-house to make inquiry.”

“The man at the wheel did not know exactly what it was, at least he said so, but as we approached nearer and nearer we became convinced that it was shoal water; and our conjectures and fears were more than realized in a moment more when the ship struck the bar with a dull heavy thud which brought us to our knees.”

“After striking, the ship careened over at an angle of 45 degrees, and we all rushed to the opposite side in the endeavor to balance her. The sea was calm and smooth when we struck, but there was evidence of an approaching storm in the light puffs of wind that occasionally reached us.”

“Under the orders of the captain we rushed from side to side of the ship and full steam was put upon the reversed propeller. The wind continued to freshen and the waves became quite respectable in size, and we began to feel a little uneasy at the prospect, when all at once, at the expiration of the third hour, the cry came, “She moves! She moves!!” was finally in its winter quarters. George Woodruff describes what that meant to a who had been stationed on Folly Island near Charleston were on recalls why.

“Such a glad shout of thanksgiving as went up from the hearts of 250 war-worn soldiers never was listened to before or since.”

“The captain of our vessel was an Englishman and had, in conversation, expressed his sympathy for the South, and when we struck the bar we did not know but what it was a pre-concerted plan to wreck us. We held a short consultation and came to the conclusion that, if he did not make the proper endeavor to extricate the vessel we would, before compelled to leave the vessel, hang him and his officers to the yard-arm.”

“Our trip was destined to be an eventful one, for in a short time after the late disaster we discovered the ship on fire around the smokestack on the second deck, but a few pails of water sufficed to extinguish it.”

“The storm came on apace, as we rounded Cape Hatteras it seemed to reach its greatest fury and it became impossible to keep a footing. The vessel rolled fearfully, and at times we had some fears of completely rolling over.”

“Later in the clay, another and more grievous calamity befell some of the men of Company I, who mere located in the vicinity of some huge water-casks which broke away from their lashings and came like an avalanche upon them. Six men were seriously injured-broken ribs, arms and collar bones, and it was with the utmost difficulty that we got them aft into the cabin where their injuries could be attended to.”

The 39th finally reached New York, and from there to Chicago and some on to their homes. On the 28th of February the 39th received orders to go back to the front and to another long summer of war.