Lieutenant Daniel Harvey Hill, Fourth Artillery
It becomes our painful task to allude to the sickness, suffering and death, from criminal negligence. Two-thirds of the tents furnished the army on taking the field were worn out and rotten, and had been condemned by boards of survey appointed by the proper authorities in accordance with the provisions of the army regulations on that subject. Transparent as gauze, they afforded little or no protection against the intense heat of summer, or the drenching rains and severe cold of winter. Even the dews penetrated the thin covering almost without obstruction. Such were the tents, provided for campaigning in a country almost deluged three months in the year, and more variable in its climate than any other region in the world, passing from the extreme of heat to the extreme of cold within a few hours. During the whole of November and December, either the rains were pouring down with violence, or the furious "northers" were shivering the frail tentpoles, and rending the rotten canvass [sic]. For days and weeks, every article in hundreds of tents was thoroughly soaked. During those terrible months, the sufferings of the sick in the crowded hospital tents were horrible beyond conception. The torrents drenched and the fierce blasts shook the miserable couches of the dying. Their last groans mingled in fearful concert with the howlings of the pitiless storm.
Every day added to the frightfulness of the mortality. The volley over one grave would scarce have died on the air when the ear would again be pained by the same melancholy sound. One procession would scarcely have been lost to sight when the solemn tread of the dead-march would announce another. At one time, one-sixth of the entire encampment were on the sick report, unfit for duty, and at least one half were unwell. Dysentery and catarrhal fevers raged like a pestilence. The exposure of the troops in flimsy tents, and their being without fires, aggravated these diseases if they did no superinduce them. The encampment was on the edge of a vast prairie, sparsely covered with little "mottes" of muskeet trees. To obtain a sufficiency of wood from these "mottes," for cooking and camp fires, required a large number of excellent teams and wagons. But this did not accord with the peculiar notions of econoy entertained by our Quarter-Masters' Department, whose policy is to save pence, if possible, and squander pounds any how - to require a strict accountability for empty cornsacks, worth six cents a piece, whilst chartering condemned steamboats at hundreds per day....
As the winter advanced, the encampment now resembled a marsh, the water at times being three and four feet in the tents of whole wings of regiments. All military exercises were suspended, the black gloomy days were passed in inactivity, disgust, sullenness and silence. The troops, after being thoroughly drenched all day, without camp fires to dry by, lay down at night in wet blankets on the well soaked ground. We have seen them bouyed up with the hope of a fray, cheerful and hopeful, when certain death seemed to impend over them. But without occupation, without excitement, without the prospect of meeting the foe; to sit, day after day, and week after week, shivering in wet tents, and listening to the low wail of the muffled drum, as fellow-soldiers, perhaps beloved companions, were carried to their last resting place, was not this enough, more than enough, to try the discipline and fortitude of the best troops in the world? If, under such painful and trying circumstances, the "mercenary soldier" murmured not, and was prompt, cheerful and zealous, in the discharge of duty, of what stern stuff must his revilers be made! If the men who at tattoo lay gasping for breath in the sultry night air, and found, at reveillee, their wet blankets frozen around them, and their tents stiff with ice, uttered no word of complaint, we certainly must confess that the "bone and sinew," the "sovereigns" themselves, could scarcely have excelled these "hireling soldiers" in manly fortitude, inflexible firmness, and unmurmuring obedience.
D.H. Hill. "The Army in Texas," Southern Quarterly Review, Volume 9 (April 1846):448-450.