Saturday, December 22, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Sunday, Dec. 22, 1861

And the Rains Came

Cpl. Robert Caldwell, 21, youngest son of William and Jane Caldwell of Elmore, Ohio, had worked in his father’s lumber mill before joining the 21st Ohio, now in Kentucky.. His older brother, William C., serves as a hospital steward with the 72nd Ohio and their only sister, Juliet, is a student at Oberlin College.

On this Sunday, Corporal Caldwell and the 21st Ohio, part ofo Buell’s Army of the Ohio, are enduring a rainy day in camp near Leesville, Kentucky. The 21st Ohio is camped near the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, with eight other regiments within sight, all of which are protected by three batteries of artillery on a hill overlooking the camp.

The day starts badly and gets worse. With the rain descending “in torrents” (Caldwell writes his parents), the company cook—working outdoors—has to “take the rain as it came.” On returning to his tent, Caldwell discovers a stream of water running through it. Racing to get a spade, he furiously enlarges the ditch that had already been dug around the tent, and then notices that “the whole camp was alive with soldiers engaged in the same occupation and…the dirt flew….”

This is only one of many ways in which the young soldiers learn that army life is usually less than glamorous.

THE BIG PICTURE: In Washington, all minds are on the headache du jour: what to do about the Navy’s capture of two Confederate envoys, removed forcibly from a British ship. Britain is furious and threatening war; the Confederacy is delighted at the Union’s discomfiture and is hoping war between the Union and Britain will, in fact, break out. Time is running out for a decision by the Lincoln administration as Britain’s deadline for a solution approaches.

No comments: