The Whole Shebang

So, I’m having a conversation one day with my firstborn daughter (4 years old) when she realizes that a “navel” can be your belly button or a type of orange. Likewise, in reading American Civil War diary entries, I recognized that “shebang” can mean “a matter, operation, or set of circumstances” or “a rough hut or shelter.”

The Whole Shebang (Photo: michaelshannon.wordpress.com)

Although not an enlisted man, Samuel Andrew Agnew wrote from the perspective of a resident in Corinth, MS of the war’s goings on there, noting that current operations needed to change:

Seals were in the crowd. Norton tells me that Jettie Richey got home last night from Ham’s Camp. He reports that on Saturday next they will reorganize the whole “shebang” in pursuance of Gov. Clark’s orders. In reorganizing they enlist for 2 years. (Source: The Civil War Day by Day)

Shebang can also be the most humble dwelling quarters of a weary soldier during the war. I’m always amazed at the details at length that soldiers recorded in order to paint a clear picture of their temporary residence. I think this reflects the significance of their need for a home away from home. Our bodies need familiarity, I think, when it comes to the specific place where we lay our heads every night. More so, I believe soldiers needed this comfort, considering the fact that the nature of their circumstances could change at a minute’s notice. If you will, a change in one’s shebang could alter their other shebang. This is what “Jenk” writes about his setup:

Busy most of the time completing “shebang”. Very small, but quite cozy for two soldiers. It is 6 ft. by 8 ft., 4½ ft. high on the side. Door is in front, 18 in. by 30 in., by side of which is chimney—18 in. stack. Bunk in back, 4 ft. wide. At the foot of it is the writing desk, opposite is hardtack box for cupboard, etc. (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War)

Until next time, SHEBANG!

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Beating a Dead Horse, Literally!

This has been a week of reading about how dead horses were handled in the American Civil War.

Dead Horse by Alfred R. Waud

The first case of dead horse I read about was from my boy, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who I’ve posted from before. He mentions how 8 of their artillery horses died on the road, where an even greater number of horses lined the sides of the road, dead from starvation to be sure. I imagine that must have been some sight to behold, even amidst the stench!

The second piece of dead horse I read was from a book my wife recently bought me for my birthday: Hardtack & Coffee. This book is right up my alley; it’s the quintessential book on what day-to-day life was like for the American Civil War soldier. I encourage you to take a gander.

Background: In chapter 6, Billings writes in length about the necessary yet awful task of burying a horse and the diverse crew of soldiers recruited, mostly kicking and cussing, to carry it out. After the hole is dug and the body of the horse is rolled in,

the noxious gases begin to make their presence manifest, and the Hardened Wretch [the commanding officer overseeing yet not participating in the work] hands him [a new Army recruit, eager to be considered a comrade so much so that he signs up for this dreadful task, not knowing what it entails] an axe to break the legs that would otherwise protrude from the grave… turning his back on the deceased, he utters something which sounds like ‘hurrah! without the h,’ as Mark Twain puts it, repeating it with increasing emphasis. (Page 106)

Suffice it to say, everyone standing around the grave joins in the vomiting! I never would have thought about how dead horses were dealt with during the war. Then again, this is the benefit of Billings’ work and the diaries of soldiers, letting us in on what life was really like for the everyday soldier.

Until next time, DO NOT beat a dead horse!

Dead Horse!

Received Packages are Sweet, Even If Opened Later

I received a package today and, as usual, had to wait to open it. The surprise of discovering what lies inside excites me. Having to wait to open it just makes the anticipation grow all the more. Even if it’s a present for someone else, like today’s was (we’ve done a majority of our Christmas shopping online this year; Amazon Prime baby!), I’m thrilled just knowing that someone I care for deeply will soon open a wrapped present this Christmas and receive the gift with wonder and joy.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, received a package from home on August 28, 1863. Jones had to wait to open his package on account of rain. Here’s how it went down:

Fine day. Just before dinner I was informed that there was a box for me at the express office… Found it “a good large one,” but just as I got in the wagon it commenced raining, and did rain all the way back, giving us as good a wetting as ever a soldier had… Obliged to lay the box away for two hours before the storm abated so as to open it… But at last it stopped and we found lots of good things, butter, cake, dried fruit, cheese, etc. Much obliged to you. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

When you’re fighting in the American Civil War, miles and miles from the ones you love, received packages from home are oh so sweet. Jones must have sat pondering for two straight hours what was in that box. Perhaps that added to his gratitude when he discovered the thoughtful and even literally sweet contents found inside from the ones who love him.

Many of us will be receiving gifts this Advent / Christmas season. Whether big or small, what you hoped for or not, I hope that each one is as dear to you as the one Jenkins Jones received in love. Perhaps its just the pastor in me, but please do take the time to reflect upon Jesus Christ amidst every gift you get this Christmas. He is the sweetest gift you can ever receive from God, or anyone else for that matter; for he too was given in love, from the very One who is love.

Until next time, Anticipate gifts of love…

Prayer for a Safe Return

In reading About me, you’ll discover that I’m a pastor in the United Methodist Church. Every week, a group of church members at FUMC Monroe pray for me and the other pastors before we lead in worship, preaching, etc. on Sunday mornings. And, boy do we need those prayers!

One of the people who regularly prays for us is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force. Yesterday, as usual, I was reminded how families of soldiers in the American Civil War must have prayed the same type of prayer that Charlie offers up for those in service to our country.

Lord, we ask a special blessing upon our men and women in uniform. Keep them out of harm’s way until they arrive home to the families who await their safe return. (Source: Charlie Moore)

Every time I hear Charlie pray this, I think of similar sentiments I’ve previously read in Civil War soldiers’ diary entries. One Union soldier by the name of Jenkin Lloyd Jones records this in his diary on September 14, 1863:

And now we are off again, we know not where, but we know it is for war, marching, fatigues, battles and perhaps wounds and suffering, and that, while the anxious heart of an invalid mother, an aged father, sisters and brothers dear, are waiting my return. And I am comparatively alone, and the only happiness I derive is in the indulgence of hope of the realization of the good time coming. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Jones was a Wisconsin man in the state of Mississippi when he wrote this; he certainly was a long way from being safe at home! Another Union officer by the name of Luman Harris Tenney noted a sort of blessing that someone spoke over him and his fellow comrades on September 18, 1863:

Woman said, “Noble and brave Union boys, God grant you may all return home safely, our country at peace.” (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Perhaps you’re a family member of or you know someone who is currently serving. Do them a favor, pray for them and their families. They sure do need the comfort of God, the Father, the peace of Christ Jesus, His Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you…