Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Soldier's Christmas

For Civil War soldiers in the field, Christmas could be a joyous occasion, or just another day of marching depending on their orders. For Lt. Charles Morfoot and his comrades in the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry on December 25, 1864, it was the later. Writing to his wife, Elizabeth, the day after Christmas, from “7 miles Southwest of Columbia, Tenn,” Morfoot and the Union army was in hot pursuit of Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee after a decisive Federal victory just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15-16.

After describing leaving Nashville and continuously pushing the Confederates, Morfoot wrote, “Yesterday, Christmas was a hard day on us. It was wet and muddy.” He stated that “it was very cold,” and that the ground was frozen, with “snow storms” thrown in for good measure. The veteran soldier Morfoot understood it did little good to complain, but he also seemed to want those at home to know his trials. “It is not pleasant lying out on the cold, frozen ground, but it is done, and no grumbling, for we are doing good work now.”

Morfoot explained to Elizabeth about the damages the Union army had inflicted on the Confederate Army of Tennessee. “We have killed or captured over one-third of Hood’s army and taken about all of his artillery,” he wrote. The Federal pursuit had caused the Southerners to destroy many of their supply wagons to prevent capture and to speed their escape. Morfoot hoped he could go into winter quarters soon. He stated, “I will be glad to get the rest, we have been going so long.”

Soon though, Morfoot turned his thoughts back to Elizabeth. “Well, I hope you had a Merry Christmas and plenty to eat.” However, he again seemed to seek acknowledgement of his sacrifices for the good of the country. “I can’t say so much for myself. I had enough for breakfast yesterday. . . . I had coffee alone this morning. I had coffee and fresh beef since, nothing else. We are lying still today, waiting for the supply train to come up. It will be here tonight. Then we are to get 3 day’s rations to last 5.” Morfoot’s exasperation with army life, and probably being away from loved ones at this time of year, caused him to unveil his frustrations. “Curse them – let them rip; only 8 months more [to serve].”

Morfoot ended his letter by describing the horrific sights of the Franklin, Tennessee battlefield as they passed through that town in pursuit of Hood’s army. He also mentioned seeing a couple of friends now in the army that he had known back home. He closed, “I say farewell until we meet again, and remain yours.”

Lt. Charles Morefoot would not need to wait eight months to end his army career. He mustered out at Camp Harker, Tennessee, on June 12, 1865, and returned home. Morfoot’s holiday missive reminds us to be thankful for those who presently serve to defend our freedoms and to count our blessings, particularly at this time of year.

The Morfoot letter is among those in the Wiley Sword Collection, held and preserved by Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this article for the "Behind the Scenes at Pamplin" section published regularly in the Petersburg Progress Index newspaper. 

No comments:

Post a Comment