After hard fighting at Chickamauga and Chattanooga, General James Longstreet’s troops camped for the winter of 1863-64 a couple of miles south of Russellville, Tennessee, on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad line.
Francis M. and John F. Poore and the other men began building houses on December 23 to shelter them until the spring campaigns. Two days later the 13th Mississippi Infantry’s William H. Hill noted in his diary that “This is a very dull Christmas. The men can’t get any liquor to enjoy themselves with so they are spending the day working on their winter quarters.”
The winter shelter probably came as a welcome relief to Francis, John and the others. The men badly needed shoes and clothing. Out of the 300 men in the 13th Mississippi, only 32 had shoes, according to Hill, who as the quartermaster clerk was in a position to know.
Many had gone barefoot for the last two months. The records don’t tell us if Francis and John were among the barefooted, but Hill wrote in his diary that “I have seen [the soldiers] marching on the frozen ground with their feet bleeding at every step.”
Many of the men had no blankets and the rest just one. “No one, who has not experienced it,” wrote Hill, “can imagine the suffering that this Regiment and the balance of the Army have endured during the last two months for the want of shoes, clothing and blankets.”
What was Christmas like for your Civil War ancestor?
Jess McLean, The Official Records of the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment—as told by those who were there. CD-rom. 2001