Diary of a Yankee Engineer: The Civil War Story of John H. Westervelt, Engineer, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps

By John H. Westervelt; Anita Palladino | Go to book overview

Journal of an expedition against
Charleston

No. 24.

Dec. 18. Clear with a sudden change to severe cold again. 19th Sharp cold but no ice. This morning the body of a sailor was found washed on shore in front of our camp. Nothing was found on his person to identify him by, but it is supposed he is one of the ill-fated crew of the Weehawken. The body was in too good a state of preservation almost to have been in the water so long, but still this may be owing to the cold weather and excessive saltiness of the water. Yesterday the body of a negro washed up.1 He was drowned by the capsizing of a boat a day or two previous. Today men are employed in pulling on shore the great quantities of timber broken loose from the harbor obstructions, many bundles which scarcely able to float have lodged on the sand bars. Government has here in its employ two or three hundred civilians (a hand set) for this kind of labor under the pay of 30 dols per month and rations. This relieves the soldiers of considerable heavy work, But I agree with them that it is not just. Why should these men get more pay than the soldiers, and escape the draft in the bargain. Why should government employ carpenters at 3 dols per day and rations. Why does the soldier be compelled to do the same kind of work under fire from the enemys guns, while the civilian cannot be sent there. Why are those who do the real work paid so little while those who do next to nothing are paid such extravagant wages. Echo answers why. Were I honorably out of the service no consideration of duty would induce me to enter it again. Were things conducted with more justice to the soldier, there would be no need of a draft or such heavy bounties to fill places of men out of their time.

1. Black men served as sailors on navy ships before the army permitted their enlistment; recruiting of former slaves began September 1861. Unlike black soldiers, black sailors received identical treatment, quarters, and pay from the beginning of their service. Zak Mettger, Till Victory is Won: Black Soldiers in the Civil War (New York: Dutton, 1993).

-75-

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