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War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children by B. M. Zettler

War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children
B. M. Zettler


"Preparing For War"

When I reached home from college I found the war spirit and excitement as high in Springfield and throughout the county as it was in Newberry. In every district in the county the militia was organized and having frequent meetings for drill. I was given a first lieutenant's place in the Springfield district company and got a copy of "Hardee's Tactics" and began to study the manual of arms and company movements.

But my whole thought was on getting into active service by joining some fully equipped company like those in Savannah. Every day I went over to Springfield to get the news. For a while it looked as though there would be no war. Leading men in Virginia had proposed a convention of delegates from all the States to try to agree on some plan by which matters could be reconciled. In the meantime the seven seceding States had sent delegates to Montgomery, Alabama, to form a new government. The new government was called "The Confederate States of America," and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected President and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia Vice-President. The delegates declared that in forming a new government it was not the purpose of the Southern people to make war on the United States, and they appointed a committee to go to Washington to arrange about Sumter and other forts and property in the seceded States that were claimed by the United States Government. And so it looked very much as if there would be no war. I was very sorry, for I thought the Abolitionists deserved to be punished for their meddling in our affairs, and I was sure a battle would teach them a good lesson and "bring them to their senses."

"Star of the West"

But soon news came that the conference called by Virginia had failed to agree on any plan of reconciling matters, and, further, that an attempt had been made by President Buchanan to reinforce Sumter by sending a ship, The Star of the West, loaded with troops and supplies, and it had been driven back by the batteries in Charleston harbor. 

It had been said that Lincoln would never be permitted to take his seat, but he slipped into Washington disguised and was inaugurated President.

Of course everybody wanted to know what he would say in his inaugural address; and when the news came that he had said he would not only hold Fort Sumter, but would retake all the other forts that had been taken possession of by the States that had seceded, the war fever rose higher.

One day news came that Beauregard in command of the Southern forces at Charleston had learned that a fleet of ships was on the way to reinforce Fort Sumter, and he demanded of Major Anderson the surrender of the fort or a promise not to take part in a fight of our batteries with the ships. It was said Anderson had refused to do either, and Beauregard was firing on the fort. The next day news came that it had been taken.

In a few days Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand troops from the different States to Invade the South and compel the Southern States to return to the Union.

Then the report came that President Davis was calling for volunteers to be ready to meet them. The Effingham Hussars were talking of offering their services, and a movement was started in Guyton—a small town on the railroad in the western part of the County—to organize a company of infantry. But I knew that in Savannah there was a large number of well-drilled military companies, and I felt sure some of these would be the first to go "to the front"; so I told Major Porter in command of the militia to get another lieutenant for my company, and not to depend on me, for I expected to join the first Savannah company that got orders to leave.

Governor Brown had ordered a number of companies from North Georgia to assemble at Savannah for drill and to be organized into regiments. I went down to see them drill. I also visited Fort Pulaski and saw the big columbiads in position and ready for the Yankee ships that might attempt to come up the river.

The "Georgia Hussars," "The Guards," "The Blues," "The Oglethorpes," "The Jasper Greens," and other Savannah companies were vying with one another for a place In the Confederate army, but it was impossible to tell which stood the best chance. I returned home and impatiently waited.

Next came the news that Virginia had refused to furnish her quota of troops called for by Lincoln, and had seceded.

Joins Bartow’s Company

In a few days word came from Savannah that Bartow's company, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, had been ordered to report in Virginia. I was over in the village. I went home in a run and announced the news, and told mother I could not wait for dinner; in fact, I did not want any; that I was going to start at once down the Middleground road, afoot, for Savannah. She reminded me that it was twenty-six miles, and that I could not possibly walk that distance; that I should wait till my father came home and he would take me over to Guyton and I could go to Savannah on the train.

I reluctantly yielded, and set about getting a few more of my things together that I would probably need in the army. When father came home he convinced me of the folly of going on foot to Savannah, and agreed to take me to Guyton for the early through train from Macon next morning, which would land me in Savannah before eight o'clock. I was dreadfully afraid that every vacancy in the company would be taken before I could get there, but to my great gratification I found, when I reached the armory, that a resolution had been passed by the company the night before rejecting the married men, and that there were in consequence several vacancies. One of the rejected married men offered me his uniform. I was accepted by the company and ordered to call on the proper company officers for a gun and other equipments.

Bartow arrived from Montgomery, and the next day we were escorted through the principal streets of the city by the entire military of Savannah, and somewhere on the march we were halted to receive the flag that had been made for us by the ladies of Savannah. It was on this occasion that Captain Bartow used those memorable words, "I go to illustrate Georgia." I felt that he included me, and it was the proudest day of my life.

We passed through Charleston and on to Richmond. At every station there were crowds of people, among them young ladies with dainty little rosettes that they pinned on the lapels of our coats. At first an effort was made by the officers to keep the men in the cars when we stopped at a station, but at some places the waits were so long and, from other causes, discipline relaxed and generally when v/e reached a station the boys rushed out and mingled with the people.

On the third day, I think it was, we arrived at Richmond, and were drawn up in front of the Exchange Hotel. A guard was detailed to take care of the guns, and we "stacked arms" and went in for a "square meal." It was a royal meal, and we were in condition to do it justice. Then we went out to Howard's Grove and pitched tents.

Every day a new company or two would arrive, and finally after about ten days the regiment was formed and officers appointed. Bartow, captain of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, became colonel; Montgomery Gardner, a Mexican War veteran, lieutenant-colonel; Thomas Cooper, of the Atlanta Grays, major; and John Branch, of our company, adjutant.

In the afternoons the ladies of Richmond by hundreds would visit the camp to see "dress parade." The Oglethorpes, ''the B. B. B.'s,"—Bartow's Beardless Boys,—with their handsome blue-black uniforms, with buff trimmings, and the Zouave bayonet drill, "caught the crowd," and more than one Oglethorpe took with him when he left for the front a tiny photograph or a card with a name on it.

I had the good fortune to form the acquaintance of the family of Mr. M. W. Yarrington, treasurer of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, of whom I shall have occasion to speak again in these war stories.

B. M. Zettler, War Stories and School-Day Incidents For the Children (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), 39-46.


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