FROM THE RAPIDAN TO RICHMOND
THE SPOTTSYLVANIA CAMPAIGN
A Sketch in Personal Narrative of the
... Scenes a Soldier Saw
WILLIAM MEADE DAME, D. D.
Spring Sprouts and a “Tar Heel” Story
The winter had now worn away and the spring had come. Vegetation began to show signs of life. Its coming bore us one comfort in one way—among others. It was not so cold, and we did not have to tote so many logs of wood to keep up our fires. Down on the river flats, where vegetation showed sooner than it did on the hills, green things began to shoot up. Dandelions, sheep sorrel, poke leaves and such, though not used in civil life, were welcome to us, for they were much better than no salad at all. The men craved something green. The unbroken diet of just bread and meat—generally salt meat at that—gave some of the men scurvy. The only remedy for that was something acid, or vegetable food. The men needed this and craved it—so when the green shoots of any kind appeared we would go down on the flats, and gather up all the green stuff we could find, and boil it with the little piece of bacon we might have. It improved the health of the men very much.
At this time, there was a North Carolina Brigade of Infantry at the front furnishing pickets for the river bank. They were camped just back of our winter quarters. Those fellows seemed to be very specially strong in their yearning for vegetable diet, so much so that they attracted our attention. Every day we would see long lines of those men passing through our camp. They would walk along, one behind another, in almost unending procession, silent and lonesome, never saying a word and never two walking together—and all of them meandered along intent on one thing—getting down to the flats below “to get some sprouts” as they would say when asked where they were going.
Later on, we would see them in the same solemn procession coming back to camp—every man with a bunch of something green in his fist.
This daily spectacle of Tar Heels swarming through our camp interested us; we watched them mooning along. We tried to talk with them, but all we got from them was, “We’uns is going to git some sprouts. Don’t you’uns love sprouts?”
We did, but we didn’t go after them in such a solemn manner. Our “sprout” hunts were not so funereal a function; rather more jovial, and much more sociable. Also this devotion to the search for the herb of the field excited our curiosity. They were all the time craving green stuff, and going after it so constantly. We had a story going around which was supposed to explain the craving of a Tar Heel’s insides for greens.