After being awakened this morning at 4:30 by a violent thunderstorm, I was more than ready to wish away the rest of February. Then I was reminded that February rains and mud also discombobulated the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment 150 years ago. Here's the story, taken from Chapter 5 of A Scratch with the Rebels.
"Without warning the weather could turn cold and wet. Camellia blossoms, touched by frost, turned an ugly shade of brown, collapsed under the beating rain, and fell off the bushes in mushy wads. The rain itself mixed with the fine sand that covered the ground to form a viscous layer of mud that oozed into every crevice and squelched underfoot, threatening to suck the shoes off one's feet. Sweet flowery breezes lost out to the subtle reek of decaying vegetation and the fishy stench of the coastal waters. Many of the Roundhead soldiers were still housed in makeshift tents, described as "little pouchons—soldier's gum blankets weaved together by the eyelets, two of them elevated on poles with a slope each way, making a tent." Water leaked through the holes, soaked everything inside, and allowed every loose grain of sand to attach itself to the soldiers sheltering there.
"A serious charge of mutiny was brought against some Roundheads in February. The proximate cause was the weather. Several companies of the regiment, including Company H, were still living in leaky tents, and the constant rain had turned the floors of the tents into virtual quagmires. Apparently the company officers gave the men permission to go to town to get lumber with which to floor the their quarters. Now, ever since their first day of active duty, the Roundheads had efficiently employed their appropriating system to provide for their own needs, and this occasion was no exception. Finding no fresh lumber for sale in Beaufort, they turned to a couple of abandoned buildings and ripped up the planks to take back to camp. They had installed their new floors and were enjoying a touch of comfortable dryness when Gen. Stevens learned of their activities.
"Descending upon their camp, he raged that they had violated the rules against destroying buildings, and he demanded that they immediately rip up the floors and return the boards to the town. Facing their first real reversal of expectations, the men reacted exactly as a one might have expected—they refused loudly and profanely. The crisis escalated rapidly, as Gen. Stevens, also realizing that his expectation of instant obedience was not to be realized, called out "three regiments of infantry, a battery of four guns, and two companies of Cavalry" to take away their officers' swords and surround the camp. Eventually Col. Leasure was able to calm his men, the boards were loaded back onto the wagons, and no one was punished. "Still," reported Lt. Applegate, "the curses that were heaped on General Stevens were not loud but deep." Rev. Browne referred to the incident as "General Stevens' folly" and described it as "calculated to provoke a mutiny in our regiment under pretext of quelling one that had no existence . . ."
I shall try to learn from their example and hope for sunshine rather than cursing the gloom.