Diary of David L. Day.

I Get Arrested.

April 20. Not caring to trouble the captain all the time for passes I have got in the habit of going about town on my sagacity, and I have not yet discovered but it answers the purpose as well as a pass, but I was brought up a day or two ago, when I ran against Charley of company D, who was standing sentinel on the corner of Broad and Middle streets. I was walking leisurely along, when coming to Charley’s post, he halted me and demanded my pass. I said I had not got any. He replied if that was the case it was his duty to march me to the provost’s office. Rather than have any trouble with him, and to have it military in form, I handed him an old pass I happened to have in my pocket. He looked at it and tearing it up, took the position of a soldier, saying. “You non-coms are getting too big for your clothes, you are putting on altogether too many airs, but I will let you know that you can’t put them on over me.” I said, “Perhaps there is a shadow of truth in what you say. It is possible that they maybe somewhat afflicted with inflation, but you know I am one of the meek and lowly kind.” “You? You are the worst pill in the box, you never have a pass, but are all over town, in the back rooms of all the sutler’s stores and taking more liberties and putting on more style than half the commissioned officers.” “Now, Charley, that is a sad state of affairs indeed; but you are the first one that has found any fault with it, but if you desire the honor of escorting me to the provost’s office you can have the job. After you get me there, Old Dan will give you the biggest setting up you have had recently.”

He marched me over, and as we entered, Old Dan looked up and, addressing my escort, asked, “What are you here for? What do you want?” “I found this man running at large without a pass, and thought it was my duty to bring him here.” “Without a pass? Was he making any disturbance?” “No sir.” And so you arrest one of your own regiment because he happens to be without a pass and then come here to interrupt me. If you come here again on such an errand I will put you in the guard house. Go to your post.”

After my escort had gone out with a flea in his ear, Capt. Dan removed his spectacles, and wiping his eyes, which a good deal resembled gashes cut in ripe tomatoes, pointed to the table, saying, “I reckon there is something left in the bottle, help yourself.” I did as the captain requested. After chatting a little with him, a couple of officers came in, and I touched my cap, bade the captain good-day and made my escape.

Poor White Trash.

Among the white people about here, are very few who would be ranked among the first or even second class. Nearly all of them are what is called the poor white trash or clay-eaters. I am told they actually do eat clay, a habit they contract like any other bad habit. Now I cannot vouch for the truth of this, never having seen them eating it, but some of them look as though that was about all they had to eat. They are an utterly ignorant set, scarcely able to make themselves intelligible, and in many ways they are below the negroes in intelligence and manner of living, but perhaps they are not wholly to blame for it, the same principle that will oppress a black man, will a white one. They are entirely cut off from the means of acquiring land or an education, even though they wished to. Public schools are unknown here and land can only be purchased by the plantation. That leaves them in rather a bad fix; poor, shiftless and ignorant. Their highest ambition is to hunt, fish, drink whiskey and toady to their masters. You speak to one of them and he will look at you in a listless sort of way as though unable or undecided whether to answer or not. Ask one of them the distance across the river, and he will either say he don’t know, or “it is right smart.” Ask one of them the distance to any place or house out in the country, and he will tell you it is “a right smart step,” or “you go up yer a right smart step, and you will come to a creek,” and from there it will be so many looks and a screech; meaning from the creek that number of angles in the road and as far beyond as the voice will reach. They do not seem to have any intelligent idea about anything, and in talking with the cusses, one scarcely knows whether to pity them or be amused.

Snuff Dipping.

The women here have a filthy habit of snuff chewing or dipping as they call it, and I am told it is practiced more or less by all classes of women. The manner of doing it is simple enough; they take a small stick or twig about two inches long, of a certain kind of bush, and chew one end of it until it becomes like a brush. This they dip into the snuff and then put it in their mouths. After chewing a while they remove the stick and expectorate about a gill, and repeat the operation. Many of the women among the clay-eaters chew plug tobacco and can squirt the juice through their teeth as far and as straight as the most accomplished chewer among the lords of creation.

David L Day–My diary of rambles with the 25th Mass

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