Wednesday, November 23, 2011

They Fought Barefooted.

Shoes are such common place one gives them little thought, until one has to fight without them.  When the Civil War started neither side was will equiped with the bare necessities.  Oh they were readly with guns, canons and ammunition, but when it came to the bare necessities both armies were in short supply.  By the end of 1861, Just about ever commanding officer was asking for shoes, clothing and food.

In November of 1861, Colonel John S. Williams of the C. S. A. watch a number of his men leave blood in their tracks as the march.

Captain Will Rumsey, reported in 1864, that a number of his men were barefooted.  they were the Second regiment West Virginia 188, men and the thirty-fourth regiment Ohio, Mounted Infantry had 190 men without shoes.

Many of the commanding officers would send in a requests asking for shoes and other of the bare necessities, only to find them rerouted to another brigade.  There were on going reports asking command why one brigade was being better equiped then others.  One colonel who's name was forgotten said if he could find shoes he would bury them with his own money.  When ever either army went into a town they asked for shoes and many of the community would give their old second hand shoes.

Which battle in the Civil War was started over a rumor of a supply of shoes in the town?

Gettysburg. General Heth had heard there was a warehouse full of shoes there, and moved to procur them for his men, when they encountered Union troops.

It is a myth that the battle of Gettysburg started over shoes.

The fact is Heth was told there were shoes there, and although they were never located, mainly because Jubal Early's troops had been through the town a few days before, and would have certainly taken everything of worth.

Sources;Bruce Catton's Civil War, James Longstreet's From Manassas to Appomattox, Civil War Battlefields by Frank Vandiver.

Report of Lieutenant Colonel Carter Van Vleck, Seventy-eighth Illinois Infantry, including march to the relief of Knoxville.

At no time since the organization of the regiment have we been so poorly equipped for such a trip. Many of the men were barefooted and a majority of them without shirts and overcoats, but they all understood the importance of their mission and went with alacrity and cheerfulness. On two different days we were without rations of any kind, and for many days had nothing but unbolted corn meal, or fresh meat and corn meal without salt. The roads were very muddy, and the weather, a portion of the time, cold and wet. The men necessarily suffered a great deal, but I heard no murmurings or complaints.

Report of Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Buckner's division.

The pickets of Johnson's brigade were withdrawn from the rifle-pits in front of Fort Loudon at 11 p. m. by Major Lowe, of the Twenty-third Tennessee, and brought up to the column. Many of my men were barefooted and poorly clad, and the weather was chilly and damp. I regret to state that during this and the subsequent march, as well as during the operations before Knoxville and the march to that place, many desertions occurred in this division, especially among the Tennessee troops.


In future no man will be excused from any duty whatsoever on the ground of being barefooted.

Report of Colonel John S. Fulton, Forty-fourth Tennessee Infantry, commanding Johnson's brigade.

The numbers of the different regiments of this command were thus small, the barefooted men having been sent to the rear, by order from division commander, as follows: Forty-fourth Tennessee,56 men; Twenty-fifth Tennessee, 23 men; Twenty-third Tennessee, 26 men; Seventeenth Tennessee, 120 men and 2 officers. Aggregate, 227.

Numbers 506. Report of Major General R. E. Rodes, C. S. Army, commanding division.

The division arrived at Madison Court-House, By way of Thornton's Gap and Sperryville, on July 29. In concluding what I have to say about this campaign, I beg leave to call attention to the heroes of it; the men who day by day sacrificed self on the altar of freedom; those barefooted North Carolinians, Georgians, and Alabamians, who, with bloody and swollen feet, kept to their ranks day after day for weeks. When the division reached Darkesville, nearly one-half of the men and many officers were barefooted, and fully one-fourth had been so since we crossed the Blue Ridge.

Saint Louis, March 24, 1863.

There is an effort, as you know, to get all the Federal force out of the State (a communication devoutly desired by me), and those who cater to this idea may make a showing of the sick, the broken regiments, and paroled prisoners to some effect; but, in fact, my force has been relieved from battle to press forward through rain and mud and snow, barefooted, to meet your utmost expectations.

Numbers 20. Report of Lieutenant Colonel James W. Langley, One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois Infantry, commanding THIRD Brigade.

The men were drenching wet, adding greatly to the weight of their loads, and their sleep, though sound, was the sleep of exhaustion and afforded them but little rest; besides, many were barefoot and footsore. Those who fell sick by the wayside were left in houses to the care of the citizens, as we had no means of transportation.

Numbers 84. Annual report of Captain S. G. Lynch, assistant quartermaster and assistant superintendent of U. S. Military Telegraphs, Department of West Virginia, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865.

At about 11 a. m. November 28 the rebels, in U. S. uniform, under General Rosser, surprised the Federal force at New Creek, Va., and took possession of the place. The rebel force consisted of a division of cavalry. Much Government property was destroyed. The military telegraph office was seized so quickly that the operator had not time to escape and was carried off by the retreating rebels. He was robbed of his valuables and clothing, compelled to march barefoot to Harrisonburg, given nothing to eat until the third day of his captivity, and then merely three-quarters of a pound of fresh beef, which had to suffice until the evening of the fifth day, was confined in Castle Thunder, Richmond, and by sharing the blanket of a prison camp was kept from freezing.

Camp Sumter, Ga., February 26, 1865.
Lieutenant G. W. McPHAIL,
Aide-de-Camp and [Acting] Assistant Adjutant-General:

SIR: I have the honor to call your attention to the following facts: There are a large number of paroled prisoners of war who are doing work for the Government which if not done by them would have to be done by impressment or other hire and thus be a heavy wxpense to the Government. These men are, almost without exception, barefooted, having been so long at work that what shoes they had are entirely worn out.

September 16, 1862.

The men are barefooted and naked, although requisitions have been made time and again for clothing. when I send for clothing for three companies I almost invariably, if I receive any at all. 


Some thirty-six hours after reaching this post a fatigue to work on the earth-works being thrown up around the place. If the spirit that prompted the detail expected to feast its purposes through insubordination or rebellion it was egregiously disappointed. What a sight was here. Four hundred ragged, barefooted men, emaciated with fatigue and the dangers of a four months' campaign, who had met and worsted an enemy on three several occasions, marched up in the face of a garrison of 2,000 more well appointed idle troops to work as actors, while these idle troops played the audience. Nobly and without a murmur of discontent did these ragged, war-worn veterans respond to orders, carrying the lesson to the hearts of those who chose to view them that they had learned a soldier's first duty was to obey and could be as successful in this as they had been during their late campaign. The total absence of tools naturally caused some speculation as to the cause of the detail. As the mystery was transparent, it is well enough to add that the ragged and barefooted veterans spent the allotted time at the designated place, tools or no tools.

Authors note.  This page showed no favoritism for either side it was to show that men will fight under any hardships if they believed their cause is just.

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