THE ACORN’S SILENT MESSAGE FROM THE DRUMS OF THE 47TH

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Posted : January 31, 2024

By Robert J. Burdette

We found a dead Confederate lying on his back, his outspread fingers stretched across the stock of the rifle lying at his side. He was one of Rogers’ Texans. Fifty-seven of them we had found lying in the ditch of Battery Robinette. I covered his face with the slouch hat still on his head and took off the haversack slung to his neck so that it might not swing as we carried him to his sleeping chamber, so cool and quiet and dark after the savage tumult and dust and smoke of that day of horror.
“Empty, isn’t it?” asked the soldier working with me. I put my hand in it and drew forth a handful of roasted acorns. I showed them to my comrade. “That’s all,” I said.

“And he’s been fighting like a tiger for two days on that hog’s forage,” he commented. We gazed at the face of the dead soldier with new feelings. By and by my comrade said: “I hate this war and the thing that caused it. I was taught to hate slavery before I was taught to hate sin. I love the Union as I love my mother better. I think this is the wickedest war that was ever waged in the world. But this” and he took some of the acorns from my hand “this is what I call patriotism.”

“Comrade,” I said, I’m going to send these home to the Peoria Transcript. I want them to tell the editor this war won’t end until there is a total failure of the acorn crop. I want the folks at home to know what manner of men we are fighting.”

That was early in my experience as a soldier. I never changed my opinion of the cause of the Confederacy. I was more and more devoted to the Union as the war went on. But I never questioned the sincerity of the men in the Confederate ranks. I realized how dearly a man must love his section who would fight for it on parched acorns. I wished that his love and patriotism had been broader, reaching from the Gulf to the Lakes – a love for the Union rather than for a state. But I understood him. I hated his attitude toward the Union as much as ever, but I admired the man. And after Corinth, I never could get a prisoner halfway to the rear and have anything left in my haversack.

Oh, I too have suffered the pangs of hunger for my dear country, as all soldiers have done now and then. But not as that Confederate soldier did. We went hungry at times when rain and mud or the interference of the enemy detained the supply trains. But that man half-starved. That’s different. After the battle of Nashville, in December 1864, we marched in pursuit of Hood as far as the Tennessee River. There, for more than a week, we subsisted on corn – not canned corn and not even popcorn, but common, yellow, field corn on the cob. And the row we suffering hero-martyrs made about it! A soldier was carrying a couple of ears of corn to a campfire to prepare for his supper. A mule tethered nearby saw him and lifted its dreadful voice in piteous braying. The indignant warrior smote him in the jaw, crying, “You get nine pounds a day and I get only five, you long-eared glutton, and now you want half of mine!” 

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