Oregon City Enterprise
OREGON CITY RECALLS WHEN OLD CO. E. LEFT
Departure of Troops for Mexico Laden With Delicacies Is Contrasted With Simple Fare Given First Oregon as They Started for Civil War.
OREGON CITY, Or., July 3. – The recent departure of Company G, Oregon National Guard, from this city for the Mexican line, brings back to memory of two members of old Company E, First Oregon Infantry. George A. Harding and his brother, Henry J. Harding of this city, the time when they enlisted in that company in December 1864, to fight for their country in the Civil War.
At the departure of this company in the early days there was no demonstration such as was given the boys who left this city during the week. These soldiers were not bestowed with flowers, fruits or delicacies, but instead were given a cup of black coffee in a tin cup, and one slice of bread without butter upon their arrival in Portland, after making the trip by boat.
This was the meal served the boys upon their arrival in the building between Alder and Morrison street, which was the headquarters for the volunteers. Bunks were constructed on each side of the building, and these were anything but comfortable. Each man was allowed 22 ounces of bread, but only 18 were given. If this amount was partaken of for breakfast, it was necessary for the soldier to do without at the next two meals.
There was no complaint from the soldiers, who had enlisted to fight for their country, and after remaining in Portland for about two months, this company, which was composed of 75 men from Oregon City and Astoria, together with Company D from Portland, were transferred to Vancouver Barracks, Wash., there being ten companies in all stationed at that fort.
At Vancouver Barracks, Henry Harding, at that time a boy of 17, was detailed to assist in the bakeshop, and was allowed 50 cents extra each day for his services. This amount with his monthly salary was sent regularly to his mother, a widow in this city, his brother, George Harding, also sending his mother his monthly allowance.
The soldier boys from this city were not forgotten by their comrade in the bakeshop, and were remembered from time to time by being presented with extra loaves of bread.
At this time it was decided to allow the sale of bread from bakeshop, and the proceeds therefrom were to be used in the purchase of delicacies for the soldiers. Each day, Henry Harding would turn over to the commissary department the money from the sale of this bread, but this is still due the old soldiers, as the money in some manner disappeared and soldiers were forced to go without their delicacies that they had so long looked forward to getting and instead were given poor food.
At the barracks in Vancouver visitors were allowed, but few visitors called. Money was scarce and few could afford the fare on the boats. During the stay at Vancouver Barracks the soldiers were kept busily engaged some of the time being put to work cutting large slabs of ice from the stream nearby for the consumption of the officers’ families in Summer. This work was tedious, but the soldiers continued without complaint.
The work of the guardsmen at night was not pleasant either. It was lonely and cold, and the big forest at the fort was patrolled during the night by a few guardsmen, who were relieved in the early morning by others. Soldiers who had stood guard all during the night were poorly fed, and were on many occasions weak with hunger.
They wondered if others, who passed the barracks, were as hungry as they were. They often thought of the cupboards and warm fires at home, but none deserted. They had enlisted for their country’s sake and meant to “stay with it.”
At Vancouver Barracks the soldiers received their first pay and $100 Government bounty, $50 state bounty, and three months’ pay. Privates received $16 a month, and this was paid in greenbacks, but when he was given his pay eh was allowed but 35 cents on the dollar, making a very small amount due him at the end of the month.
The officers and soldiers waited patiently for months at Vancouver, expecting daily to be called East. Finally they were ordered to The Dalles, and later to Walla Walla. The distance was made partly by boat and partly on foot. Many a soldier was sore-footed when night came, after walking over rough roads and fording streams. There were not tents, and when Mr. Harding, of this city, was asked, “What did you do for tents,” he said: “The sky was our tent.”
Night after night these soldiers, hungry and tired, remained out in the rain and snow without protection. At The Dalles the soldiers remained for a few days, and one of the members of Company E went out “foraging,” and upon his return had fresh eggs, beefsteak and onions. The smell of the onions cooking on the campfire brought other soldiers to the spot, and soon one of the sandstorms arose, and within a few minutes the eatables on the campfire were ruined by the sand.
Walla Walla being reached, where barracks were in excellent condition, the soldiers were relieved. In order to reach Walla Walla, the Touchet River had to be crossed. There were no bridges at this point, and it “was up to the soldiers” to get across. This stream was about 30 feet wide, and the soldiers waded to their necks in the cold water. Many suffered from the effects.
At Walla Walla the soldiers remained for about eight weeks, and later were transferred to Fort Colville, Wash. After the Spokane country was reached, the soldiers decided to have meat. They were hungry for meat, and were bound to have it. While marching along a bull was spied. One of the soldiers suggested that the bull be shot. A stop had been made nearby, and during the absence of the Captain (F. O. McCown, formerly of Oregon City, and now deceased) the bull was shot and divided among the companies. There was meat all over the camp.
Upon investigation by the Captain, who returned shortly, and who was enraged at the act of his men, the animal was found to be a prize animal owned by a Catholic priest.
Six months having been spent at Fort Colville the soldiers were ordered back to Fort Vancouver, where they were mustered out of service. The only man lost during the time was a young soldier who fell from the boat after leaving The Dalles and was drowned. His relatives were unknown.
The return of the troops to this city in 1865 was great event. Relatives of the returning soldiers gathered at the wharf and with a band gave the soldier boys a great welcome. Uniforms that were once attractive were faded and worn. These were made of the best of material of navy blue, heavy overcoats with brass buttons, and the large black hats adorned with black ostrich feather at the side. A reception was given the soldiers upon their return at the Washington hall, and a banquet was enjoyed.
“During the absence of the boys while they were in service the women gave weekly entertainments in what was known at Washington Hall near where the old Armory now stands, and the proceeds sent to the soldiers to be used in purchasing delicacies, but the money did not reach the soldiers. It was appropriated in some manner unknown to the boys in blue.
Many of those enlisting in Company E in this city have gone beyond. Captain F. O. McCown, Sidney Richardson, First Lieutenant J. B. Dimick, father of Judge Grant B. Dimick, of this city: D. J. Slover, Morris Athey and Berry Buckner are dead. George A. Harding and Henry J. Harding of this city, are enjoying the best of health, the former having just completed his year’s term as department commander of the G. A. R.