We again took up the march to Ft. Smith; went several miles, perhaps a day's march, camped in a mountainous country.
We spent Christmas of 1862 here. They issued pork, something very rare. Here I was on guard at least one night, and I yet remember the countersign, it was "Moscow". Here Joe Bailey, a member of our Company, who was detailed as nurse at hospital at Little Rock, ran away, came to camp, and the hospital authorities sent a guard and took him back.
We again marched back to Little Rock, crossed the river, went two or three miles in the direction of Pine Bluff, remained a day. I procured a permit, and went to town. I roamed the place over in the forenoon, in search of the penitentiary, something I then had never seen. Did not find it, but in all the changes incident to soldier life, I was afterward permitted to see one -- the peculiar circumstances I will relate in its proper place. After 12:00 o'clock, others and I began to look about for dinner, but failed entirely in the town. We then came out one mile from town to the "Traveler's Rest". Here, by the nicest management, we got a very good meal for $1.00 each, in Confederate money. After dinner, we went back and strolled over town; saw many things, among them, a gambling salloon where I saw my first games of Faro, Monte and Roulette. From there, I went to the River Bluff, where some drivers were trying to cross a drove of beeves on a Pontoon bridge, which they failed, in part, to do, owing to the beeves crowding to one place, and breaking through. Many swam to the shore from which they started, and many were drowned.
I returned to camp, wearied from my day's tramp. That night occurred an incident that I will here relate. On the road between camp and town was placed a guard, I suppose to keep the men in camp, who had orders to shoot anyone who would not halt. It so happened that a man from Co. E, of our Reg't. was on post about nightfall, when a man, who was a grave digger, was passing that way from his work going home, and failing to halt when challenged once, twice and three times, was shot by the guard, and killed. It was learned afterwards that he was deaf.
At this time, the enemy was threatening the Ark. Post, consequently we were ordered to Pine Bluff -- we reached there, after two or three days march. Camped, but in an hour or two were ordered forward on forced march. We travelled part of that night, next two days, and a part of each night, which brought us within twenty miles of the conflict. We expected to reach there next day, but we received news early of the surrender of the fort, whereupon we marched five miles in retreat. We halted at a place called Three Levies, threw up some entrenchments, and felled the timber around our fortifications and awaited the enemy. For several days, during our stay here, we were drenched by the heaviest rain I most ever saw. I was on post at the time, and it seemed the two hours never would pass. I could hold up my hand, and the water would run from the elbow of my sleeve in a stream; and when my time was out, the fires in camp were all drowned out, and I really felt fears of freezing to death before I could start one up, but after some effort I started it, and lived to get warm again. On top of this tremendous rain that night, there fell a heavy snow, and with this we had to burn ash wood entirely,