Civil War Journal of Samuel Oliver Bereman, page 10
In the 4th Iowa Cavalry
December, 1863-January 13, 1864
The 5th Ill. Cav. and our regt. started out on a scout yesterday morning. Marched twenty five miles when we ran on to a big force of rebels, we waited till dark and started back. Marched 10 miles and camped. I had Just made my bed and was anticipating a good nights rest for I was very tired when I was detailed with four others to take a dispatch back to Natchez.
We had a long tiresome & a very dangerous ride - expecting every movement to meet a squad of rebels. We arrived here just as "jocund day stood tiptoe on the misty mountain top." I was nearly wore out. We sat down to rest while one of the boys went in to the house to deliver the message. I was asleep the moment I touched the ground. It proved to be the wrong place and the man coming out mounted his horse & started off, but I was sound asleep, & Ritcheson stopped to wake me up which proved to be a hard matter. I could not understand for several minutes where I was & what he wanted me to do, or even who I was. But at last I was made to understand and mounting my horse I started off - but the other men were out of sight, and we tried to find Hd. Qrs. Riding up in front of a big house I saw what I supposed to be a man but which proved to be a gate post. I asked "Do you know where Gen. Wallace Hd. Qrs. are?" receiving no answer I asked again. Ritcheson commenced laughing and asked me what I was talking to that gate post for.
Not finding Hd. Qrs. we concluded to go back to the pickets and remain till the other men came along. Arrived at the picket post we lay down and slept till after sunup, when we concluded the other boys were not coming & not liking to be so far alone we came back to Natchez under the hill and put-up at an old livery stable and went to bed. Rained hard all forenoon.
Went to the Theater last night. Got aboard the Steamer "Choteau" and started up river at 4 P.M.
Arrived at Vicksburg last night at dark and immediately started out to our old camp. There has been quite a flood here since we left and all the bridges are washed out. Arriving at Bear creek we found the bridge gone and the creek unfordable. We concluded we would have to stay here all night, and most of the men laid down to sleep, but three other boys and myself knowing of another bridge two miles above this and thinking it might not be gone started for it and found it all right, except that it was covered with water. We crossed it all right and sending one man back to inform the command of our discovery, we started on to camp, but alas "The well laid plans of men and mice gang aft aglee". Clear creek was on a bender - the bridge gone and it unfordable! There lay our camp within a hundred yards on the other sideof the creek, but for all the good it would do us that night it might as well be a hundred miles away. Pretty soon the regt. was heard coming and not liking to hear men swear, we decamped and went upon the hill where we camped while body-guard for Gen. Tuttle and went into our old quarters and fared very well. By morning the creek had fallen so we could ford it. Got in in time for breakfast.
Well this is Christmas. The weather is very nice and warm for the time of the year. Our mess had a big dinner today. We had turkey (we brought two from Natchez - will have one on New years.) and a great variety of pies & cakes, the like of which I hav'nt seen for many a day. Our cook - old aunt Sally is a regular baker - "used to cook for de white folks." Had oysters too! living pretty high for soldiers. On patrol guard tonight. There was a lot of co. S. got on a big drunk and we were ordered to arrest them. We got there after the very ones who brought the whiskey into camp, and took them to Hd. Qrs. of the regt. Col. Winslow hates a drunken man as bad as a snake. He ordered us to strip them and tie their hand and foot and let them lie on the ground all night in which case, they would certainly have frozen. They were allowed to retain their clothes but were tied & left on the ground without any cover. I guess they will remember this Christmas. Some one of them while under the influence of the whiskey, fired a brick at Major Spearman inflicting a bad wound on the head.
Jan. 1st 1864
Our co. on picket. It is very cold and disagreeable. We had a regular snow storm yesterday and now every thing is frozen up tight. Did'nt sleep any at all. We had but a little fire at the reserve and none at the outpost. But we have the consolation of hoping that we will not come on again soon as we are talking of going home on veteran furlough soon as that was one of the conditions of our reenlistment. We were to have our other turkey today but had to postpone it on account of going on picket. It is a big fat gobler & we have it already dressed. "Oh tomorrow would than went here."
Came into camp this morning feeling much the "worse for wear". We are certainly out of luck. It was bad enough to have to go on picket on New years day cold as it was - but to cap the climax we found, to our chagrin and mortification, that some graceless unfeeling wretch had stolen our turkey! Well I suppose we will have to put up with it. It was not so fat after all and perhaps was old & tough!
January 13th 1864
Still in camp on Clear creek and as one might naturally suppose on picket. The ground has thawed out and we have had considerable rain lately so that the roads are in an impassable condition, some of our teams went out after forage & had to leave the wagons in the mud.