It took us but an hour or so to find and walk to the Kentucky Brigade at its temporary quarters in Camp Boone. Once there, we swore an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and that was it. We were now enlisted soldiers, with all the privileges or lack thereof enlistment implied.
So the first thing we were taught was marching. I never did so much walking around in my life, not even the time I walked from Resolute to Louisville on a dare. I wasn’t too surprised to find the sergeant in charge of us was named Walker.
I guess they were training us to go walking a lot shoulder to shoulder, making pretty formations. We’d wake up at dawn, five thirty or so, do some drill, then go to breakfast. That was usually a bit of hardtack with some vile brew calling itself coffee to wash it down with. If we were lucky and Tommy Purcell was cooking, it might be biscuits. If we were really lucky, there’d be some squirrel or rabbit thrown on top of it. Then it was back to drill for most of the day. So it was march until the sun came up, and when it went down, it said goodbye to us poor fools marching around in all sorts of weather.
Some times, just to liven things up, we’d go out shooting. I think that happened once or twice. The goal was to get us good enough to hit Federals, and I guess it was a good thing that we did some shooting, because it told us that maybe two or three people were going to be crack shots. The rest, myself included, had better be relying on the bayonet.
The other thing that took up most of our time was guard duty. i suppose Federals might have made it all the way into Tennessee, and then somehow gotten the idea that our camps were worthy targets for attack, because every night a group of us were selected to stand at points around the camp. We were to shout out a question to anyone who came near, then they would give an answer that we would have been told at dinner. So one night I drew the onerous task.
I was given the question: what was the name of Napoleon’s horse, and its answer, Marengo, then told to stand near a wooded spot and watch for anyone coming. If someone did, I was to ask the question. If they couldn’t answer, I was to shoot, then raise the alarm. This went as well as you would expect.
One night I found myself standing guard, stalwart defender of the Confederacy, when I heard a noise like someone stepping on a twig.
“Who’s there?” I shouted.
“It’s me, Jack.”
“Who’s me? You sound like Walter Hartley.”
“That would be me, Jack.”
I smiled. Sure it was him – Federals hadn’t come this way yet, but Sergeant Walker had been most adamant that I follow the procedure for admitting a fellow to camp.
“What’s the password?” I shouted.
“Yeah, when you leave camp, you’re supposed to tell me the password. Then I let you return.”
“I don’t know. Come on Jack, just let me on by.”
I kept the rifle I had borrowed from one of the Holden twins level. “You know I have to have the password to let you by, Walter.”
“Mississppi,” Walter replied.