Our Knife

I recently found this article in the Natchez Daily Courier, June 20, 1866. The author is unidentified, but he spins a wonderful little story about that most common, yet useful, of items carried by a soldier: the pocket knife:

We came very near a doleful article yesterday about our knife. We missed it and felt sad. Comfort was not to be had; nor was the three-bladed, pearl-handled, plated-tipped friend that had been with us so long, to be had either.

Pocket Knife similar to the one mentioned in the article

Pocket Knife similar to the one mentioned in the article

It was an army knife, and never could have deserted. It was bought in Atlanta; cost $75

Ad for pocket knives from the Augusta Chronicle, March 6, 1863

Ad for pocket knives from the Augusta Chronicle, March 6, 1863

Confed., and considered cheap. It ran the blockade, and we thought the fellow who sold it, a blockhead, for not asking $100. It cut rough lead pencils at Chattanooga, and rough beef and hard tack at Missionary Ridge. One thing it did not do; it never cut tobacco. Like its owner, it neither chewed nor smoked.

At Chickamauga Station, the morning after the Missionary Ridge affair, when almost all had left – the last train gone – Lieut. Col. McMicken, and one or two others, the knife and its owner being of the party, pushed up the long ascending grade a solitary flat car filled with sick and disabled, the last left, and then returned to the Station to know whether duty required longer stay. The knife and the little remaining party, concluded if they did not want to be captured, it was best to whittle – in other words to cut stick, and the knife did it. It was made to cut.

Lithograph depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge - Library of Congress

Lithograph depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge – Library of Congress

The knife walked some seven miles to the next station on railroad cross ties. It crossed five bridges, with nothing but string pieces to cross on. For crossing safely the last string piece, some fifty yards long, it was indebted to a comrade. He walked the other string piece. One held to the butt of a musket; the other to the end of a bayonet. And they crossed safely; the swollen, angry and blood-crimsoned River of Death boiling some thirty feet below them. The knife thought it disagreeable; but it would have been more horrible to have been stolen by a Yankee.

Railroad Bridge at Whiteside, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga - Library of Congress

Railroad Bridge at Whiteside, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga – Library of Congress

So the knife got safely at last to head-quarters, and went to work again cutting rough pencils and poor beef, and tough bread, and doing its duty in sunshine and in rain, and in twenty hours out of the twenty-four, and in every hour it was called upon. Though not of much account itself, it is a good knife and reliable. It has seen so much, that one of its blades only appears in the past tense of the verb ‘to see;’ it is a saw.

But this story about a knife is no saw, reader. We should have advertised for it, payable in its cost, $75 Confed., but for the lucky accident of finding it after three hours search, where it was left on our table; with this difference only; it was placed on an editorial article; the article contrary to usual habit, was so cutting, that it made a hole in the paper, and the knife went through; and we found it under the paper. Good Knife! It shall be long before you or your owner cut acquaintance!

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