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"My knapsack looks like an elephant had stept on it," Si said, as he ruefully regarded it in the evening.
"You're just a little bit brash," said his veteran friend, who had just been through the long, hungry march from Huntsville, Ala., to Louisville. "Better eat all you can lay yer hands on now, while ye've got a chance. One o' these days ye'll git into a tight place and ye won't see enough hog's meat in a week to grease a griddle. I've bin there, myself! Jest look at me and see what short rations 'll bring you to?"
He hung the kettle on the fire and stepped out to the edge of the parade-ground to watch the boys drilling. It was the first time he had had the sensation of pleasure of seeing them at this without taking part in it himself, and he began to think that he would not mind if he had to cook most of the time. He suddenly remembered about his rice and hurried back to find it boiling, bulging over the top like a small snowdrift.
He sweat and dipped, and dipped and sweat; burned his hands into blisters with the hot rice and hotter kettles, kicked over one of the largest kettles in one of his spasmodic rushes to save a portion of the food that was boiling over, and sent its white contents streaming over the ground. His misery came to a climax as he heard the quick step of his hungry comrades returning from drill.
The fact was that Si and his companions hardly had a fair shake in this respect, and entered the field at a decided disadvantage. It had been customary for a regiment to be constantly drilled for a month or two in camp in its own State before being sent to the front; but the 200th was rushed off to Kentucky the very day it was mustered in. This was while the cold chills were running up and down the backs of the people in the North on account of the threatened invasion by Bragg's army. The regiment pushed after the fleeing rebels, but whenever Suell's army halted to take breath, "Fall in for drill!" was shouted through its camp three or four times a day. It was liable to be called into action at any moment, and it was deemed indispensable to begin at once the process of making soldiers out of those tender-footed Hoosiers, whose zeal and patriotism as yet far exceeded their knowledge of military things. Most of the officers of the 200th were as green as the men, though some of them had seen service in other regiments; so, at first, officers and non-commissioned officers who had been in the field a few months and were considered veterans, and who knew, or thought they knew, all about tactics that was worth knowing, were detailed from the old regiments to put the boys through a course of sprouts in company and squad drill.
"Shorty," said he, between the gripes, to his comrade, "I'm afeared I'm goin' to peter out. After I'm gone you write to—to—Annie and tell her I died for my country like a man. I'd ruther been shot than die with the colic, but I 'spose 'twont make much difference after it's all over!" 9 "I'll do it," replied Shorty. "We'll plant you in good shape; and Si, we'll gather up the corn-cobs and build a monument over you!"
"Well, graybacks was what ailed 'em. The fellers with their shirts on their knees was killin' 'em off. That's what they calls 'skirmishin'. There's other kinds o' skirmishing besides fitin' rebels! Ye'd better git rid of that one on yer arm, if he hasn't got inside already; then there'll be one less of 'em."
Schweitzer-ksse und pret-zels,
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