One of my pre-occupations is the cycle of novels that I wrote concerned with what I think I learned in life. It is set in the American Civil War and called "Strike the Tent." Why? If I knew why perhaps I could have set it in some other time and place. I have been writing at this for a long time. In one of the books, there is the story of a French professional soldier (John Balthazar), an officer with much service in Africa, who is sent to America to "observe" Lee's army for his government. Once here, he becomes ever more involved until he ends by being asked to form a provisional battalion of infantry from men nobody else knows what to do with. Line crossers, men from broken units, disciplinary problems, etc. He sets out to do that. In this passage we see his battalion going into Winter Quarters in November, 1863 south of Culpeper. Virginia. They have just made a long withdrawal to the south, away from the disastrous field of Rapahannock Station. Pat Lang
"Throughout the army, soldiers started to construct their winter quarters. They had lived so long in the forest that they could build solid little houses of sticks and mud if they had a couple of weeks in which to work. Small towns arose in the woods. They filled up the forests that sloped away to the northwest from the foot of Pony Mountain. Smoke drifted in the wind, eddying and streaming, bringing an acrid bite of wood taste in the air. Oak and hickory, maple and poplar, the smoke brought the smell of their little communities so like those their ancestors had made in the beginning of their new life in America. The men thought of Thanksgiving; some reached out beyond that to remember Christmas. Balthazar watched his troops build their winter town. He had never seen soldiers do such a thing. In Europe, soldiers on campaign lived under canvas or in requisitioned houses.He thought their skill a marvelous thing, and told them so.