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Oral and Written Histories
George Powell Clarke
From Reminiscence and Anecdotes of the War for Southern Independence by George Powell Clarke, Sgt. Company C. 36th Mississippi Infantry, Harper Reserves, Decatur, Mississippi.
The warehouse is believed to have been in the vicinity of the depot or even the depot itself. Later, Mr. Clarke refers to the building as the depot.
“On the night of December 1, 1862, we went into camp, or rather bivouac, at Oxford, having retreated from Abbeville that day. Here on the following day occurred a scene that I shall find it difficult to describe. It was ludicrous and shameful- it was both amusing and vexatious- it was disgraceful and placed us in great danger. It will require a little stretch of faith on your part, dear reader, in order to believe part of the narration, but let me assure you that the whole scene is true and historical.
Now, if I can find language to describe it I will give it to you. In a large warehouse at Oxford was stored a large quantity of Government supplies, mostly of the commissary department. It was evident that within two or three days this would all fall into the hands of the enemy, and therefore it was ordered that what could not be removed should be destroyed.
Now, among other stores, was a large quantity of whiskey, perhaps a dozen barrels. The commanding officer ordered the heads to be knocked out of the barrels, and let the whiskey run out. A certain officer was entrusted with the duty of seeing this business attended to. This officer of course filled his canteen and let every other officer, that wanted to do so fill his. But mind you, no private need apply; but mind you again, they were not to be cheated in any such way as that.
Now in times past divers hogs had slept under the warehouse, and you are well enough acquainted with the habits of that dainty animal to know, that where he sleeps under a house, he is given to rooting out numerous holes for better accommodation of his rotund person. Such was the case under the warehouse in question. The officers within the house were getting hilarious, as barrel after barrel of the exhilarating fluid was bursted, and were paying no attention to what was going on outside, where a large number of soldiers had gathered, lured there by the delightful odor that had greeted their nostrils from afar.
I suppose by this time the reader would like to know what use I had for the hog holes under the house. Well, you see the floor of that house like the floors of a great many other houses, was well striped with cracks, and you see further, that the whiskey ran through the cracks and filled the hog holes under the house. This was soon noticed by the crowd of thirsty soldiers around the house, and I then witnessed the funniest, the most ludicrous, the most ridiculous performance that ever came under my observation. There was at once an almost universal change from an upright, to a horizontal position gone through by the crowd of soldiers around the house. This movement was accompanied by an unslinging of canteens. A crawling motion was next noticed, followed by the disappearance of a myriads of heels under the house. Then heard from under the house that peculiar sounds you use to hear, when a schoolboy, filling your bottle in the spring, or branch. The soldiers were filling their canteens from the hog holes under the house.
The officers above, all unconscious of the performance going on under the house, were wading in the ‘Oh be Joyful,’ and getting on an extensive drunk as fast as the liquor could do it. Finally the gurgling noise ceased under the house, and looking under I saw the men drinking from the holes, as you have often drunk from a spring...I was an eye witness to the scene...
I never knew how it was exactly, but it seems our Regiment was left at Oxford that day, and the whole thing nearly got so drunk, including a majority of the officers. There was no discipline, no order...Late in the afternoon of the same day, the Federal cavalry began to pour into town, throwing bombshells as they came. We had one field officer who had either not been drunk, or had got sober, who got the men together, tumbled the drunk officers into ambulances, and struck out...Perhaps the reader can hardly credit the statement that officers in high positions, wearing brilliant uniforms, were so beastly drunk that they had to be picked up by the arms and feet, and tumbled, like so many hogs, into ambulances and wagons to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy; but as before stated the writer was an eye witness to the whole scene. Someone may be inquisitive enough to want to know if the writer drank any of the ‘red liquor’, as a prominent judge calls it.
Well, I have come to the conclusion long ago that it is not best to tell too much, but for the benefit of those who may want to know, I will say, that while I did not get drunk, I did drink some of the ‘red liquor’, and I will state further, that what I drank did not come out of the hog holes under the depot.”