Roasting-ear time was a trying time for the hungry private. Having been fed during the whole of the winter on salt meat and coarse bread, his system craved the fresh, luscious juice of the corn, and at times his honesty gave way under the pressure. How could he resist? He didn't,—he took some roasting ears! Sometimes the farmer grumbled, sometimes he quarreled, and sometimes he complained to the officers of the depredations of "the men." The officers apologized, ate what corn they had on hand, and sent their "boy" for some more. One old farmer conceived the happy plan of inviting some privates to his house, stating his grievances, and securing their cooperation in the effort to protect his corn. He told them that of course they were not the gentlemen who took his corn! Oh no! of course they would not do such a thing; but wouldn't they please speak to the others and ask them please not to take his corn? Of course! certainly! oh, yes! they would remonstrate with their comrades. How they burned, though, as they thought of the past and contemplated the near future. As they returned to camp through the field they filled their haversacks with the silky ears, and were met on the other side of the field by the kind farmer and a file of men, who were only too eager to secure the plucked corn "in the line of duty."
A faithful officer, worn out with the long, weary march, sick, hungry, and dejected, leaned his back against a tree and groaned to think of his inability to join in the chase of an old hare, which, he knew, from the wild yells in the wood, his men were pursuing. But the uproar approached him—nearer, nearer, and nearer, until he saw the hare bounding towards him with a regiment at her heels. She spied an opening made by the folds of the officer's cloak and jumped in, and he embraced his first meal for forty-eight hours.
An artilleryman, camped for a day where no water was to be found easily, awakened during the night by thirst, went stumbling about in search of water; and to his great delight found a large bucketful. He drank his fill, and in the morning found that what he drank had washed a bullock's head, and was crimson with its blood.
Some stragglers came up one night and found the camp silent. All hands asleep. Being hungry they sought and to their great delight found a large pot of soup. It had a peculiar taste, but they "worried" it down, and in the morning bragged of their good fortune. The soup had defied the stomachs of the whole battery, being strongly impregnated with the peculiar flavor of defunct cockroaches.
Shortly before the evacuation of Petersburg, a country boy went hunting. He killed and brought to camp a muskrat. It was skinned, cleaned, buried a day or two, disinterred, cooked, and eaten with great relish. It was splendid.
During the seven days' battles around Richmond, a studious private observed the rats as they entered and emerged from a corn-crib. He killed one, cooked it privately, and invited a friend to join him in eating a fine squirrel. The comrade consented, ate heartily, and when told what he had eaten, forthwith disgorged. But he confesses that up to the time when he was enlightened he had greatly enjoyed the meal.
It was at this time, when rats were a delicacy, that the troops around Richmond agreed to divide their rations with the poor of the city, and they were actually hauled in and distributed. Comment here would be like complimenting the sun on its brilliancy.
Orators dwell on the genius and skill of the general officers; historians tell of the movements of divisions and army corps, and the student of the art of war studies the geography and topography of the country and the returns of the various corps: they all seek to find and to tell the secret of success or failure. The Confederate soldier knows the elements of his success—courage, endurance, and devotion. He knows also by whom he was defeated—sickness, starvation, death. He fought not men only, but food, raiment, pay, glory, fame, and fanaticism. He endured privation, toil, and contempt. He won, and despite the cold indifference of all and the hearty hatred of some, he will have for all time, in all places where generosity is, a fame untarnished.
COMFORTS, CONVENIENCES, AND CONSOLATIONS.
Have you ever been a soldier? No? Then you do not know what comforts are! Conveniences you never had; animal consolations, never! You have not enjoyed the great exceptional luxuries which once in a century, perhaps, bless a limited number of men. How sad, that you have allowed your opportunity to pass unimproved!
But you have been a soldier! Ah, then let us together recall with pleasure, the past! once more be hungry, and eat; once more tired, and rest; once more thirsty, and drink; once more, cold and wet, let us sit by the roaring fire and feel comfort creep over us. So!—isn't it very pleasant?
Now let us recount, repossess rather, the treasures which once were ours, not forgetting that values have shrunk, and that the times have changed, and that men also are changed; some happily, some woefully. Possibly we, also, are somewhat modified.
Eating, you will remember, was more than a convenience; it was a comfort which rose almost to the height of a consolation. Probably the most universally desired comfort of the Confederate soldier was "something to eat." But this, like all greatly desired blessings, was shy, and when obtained was, to the average seeker, not replete with satisfaction.
But he did eat, at times, with great energy, great endurance, great capacity, and great satisfaction; the luscious slapjack, sweetened perhaps with sorghum, the yellow and odoriferous soda-biscuit, ash-cake, or, it might chance to be, the faithful "hardtack" (which "our friends the enemy" called "crackers") serving in rotation as bread.
The faithful hog was everywhere represented. His cheering presence was manifested most agreeably by the sweet odors flung to the breeze from the frying-pan,—that never failing and always reliable utensil. The solid slices of streaked lean and fat, the limpid gravy, the brown pan of slosh inviting you to sop it, and the rare, delicate shortness of the biscuit, made the homely animal to be in high esteem.
Beef, glorious beef! how seldom were you seen, and how welcome was your presence. In the generous pot you parted with your mysterious strength and sweetness. Impaled upon the cruel ramrod you suffered slow torture over the fire. Sliced, chopped, and pounded; boiled, stewed, fried, or broiled, always a trusty friend, and sweet comforter.
Happy the "fire" where the "stray" pig found a lover, and unhappy the pig! Innocence and youth were no protection to him, and his cries of distress availed him not as against the cruel purpose of the rude soldiery.
What is that faint aroma which steals about on the night air? Is it a celestial breeze? No! it is the mist of the coffee-boiler. Do you not hear the tumult of the tumbling water? Poor man! you have eaten, and now other joys press upon you. Drink! drink more! Near the bottom it is sweeter. Providence hath now joined together for you the bitter and the sweet,—there is sugar in that cup!
Some poor fellows, after eating, could only sleep. They were incapable of the noble satisfaction of "a good smoke." But there were some good men and true, thoughtful men, quietly disposed men, gentle and kind, who, next to a good "square" meal prized a smoke. Possibly, here begins consolation. Who can find words to tell the story of the soldier's affection for his faithful briar-root pipe! As the cloudy incense of the weed rises in circling wreaths about his head, as he hears the murmuring of the fire, and watches the glowing and fading of the embers, and feels the comfort of the hour pervading his mortal frame, what bliss!
But yonder sits a man who scorns the pipe—and why? He is a chewer of the weed. To him, the sweetness of it seems not to be drawn out by the fiery test, but rather by the persuasion of moisture and pressure. But he, too, is under the spell. There are pictures in the fire for him, also, and he watches them come and go. Now draw near. Are not those cheerful voices? Do you not hear the contented tones of men sitting in a cosy home? What glowing hopes here leap out in rapid words! No bitterness of hate, no revenge, no cruel purpose; but simply the firm resolve to march in the front of their country's defenders. Would you hear a song? You shall,—for even now they sing:
"Aha! a song for the trumpet's tongue! For the bugle to sing before us, When our gleaming guns, like clarions, Shall thunder in battle chorus!"
Would you hear a soldier's prayer? Well, there kneels one, behind that tree, but he talks with God: you may not hear him—nor I!
But now, there they go, one by one; no, two by two. Down goes an old rubber blanket, and then a good, thick, woolen one, probably with a big "U.S." in the centre of it. Down go two men. They are hidden under another of the "U.S." blankets. They are resting their heads on their old battered haversacks. They love each other to the death, those men, and sleep there, like little children, locked in close embrace. They are asleep now,—no, not quite; they are thinking of home, and it may be, of heaven. But now, surely they are asleep! No, they are not quite asleep, they are falling off to sleep. Happy soldiers, they are asleep.
At early dawn the bugle sounds the reveille. Shout answers to shout, the roll is called and the day begins. What new joys will it bring? Let us stay and see.
The sun gladdens the landscape; the fresh air, dashing and whirling over the fields and through the pines is almost intoxicating. Here are noble chestnut-oaks, ready for the axe and the fire; and there, at the foot of the hill, a mossy spring. The oven sits enthroned on glowing coals, crowned with fire; the coffee boils, the meat fries, the soldier—smiles and waits.
But waiting is so very trying that some, seizing towels, soap, and comb from their haversacks, step briskly down the hill, and plunge their heads into the cool water of the brook. Then their cheeks glow with rich color, and, chatting merrily, they seek again the fire, carrying the old bucket brimming full of water for the mess. All hands welcome the bucket, and breakfast begins. Now see the value of a good tin-plate. What a treasure that tin cup is, and that old fork! Who would have a more comfortable seat than that log affords!
But here comes the mail,—papers, letters, packages. Here comes news from home, sweet, tender, tearful, hopeful, sad, distressing news; joyful news of victory and sad news of defeat; pictures of happy homes, or sad wailing over homes destroyed! But the mail has arrived and we cannot change the burden it has brought. We can only pity the man who goes empty away from the little group assembled about the mail-bag, and rejoice with him who strolls away with a letter near his heart. Suppose he finds therein the picture of a curly head. Just four years old! Suppose the last word in it is "Mother." Or suppose it concludes with a signature having that peculiarly helpless, but courageous and hopeful air, which can be imparted only by the hand of a girl whose heart goes with the letter! Once more, happy, happy soldier!
The artilleryman tarrying for a day only in a camp had only time to eat and do his work. Roll-call, drill, watering the horses, greasing caissons and gun-carriages; cleaning, repairing, and greasing harness; cleaning the chests of the limbers and caissons; storing and arranging ammunition; and many little duties, filled the day. In the midst of a campaign, comfortable arrangements for staying were hardly completed by the time the bugle sounded the assembly and orders to move were given. But however short the stay might be, the departure always partook of the nature of a move from home. More especially was this true in the case of the sick man, whose weary body was finding needed rest in the camp; and peculiarly true of the man who had fed at the table of a hospitable neighbor, and for a day, perhaps, enjoyed the society of the fair daughters of the house.
Orders to move were frequently heralded by the presence of the "courier," a man who rarely knew a word of the orders he had brought; who was always besieged with innumerable questions, always tried to appear to know more than his position allowed him to disclose, and who never ceased to be an object of interest to every camp he entered. Many a gallant fellow rode the country over; many a one led in the thickest of the fight and died bravely, known only as "my courier."
When the leaves began to fall and the wind to rush in furious frolics through the woods, the soldier's heart yearned for comfort. Chilling rains, cutting sleet, drifting snow, muddy roads, all the miseries of approaching winter, pressed him to ask and repeat the question, "When will we go into winter quarters?"
After all, the time did come. But first the place was known. The time was always doubtful. Leisurely and steady movement towards the place might be called the first "comfort" of winter quarters; and as each day's march brought the column nearer the appointed camp, the anticipated pleasures assumed almost the sweetness of present enjoyment.
But at last comes the welcome "Left into park!" and the fence goes down, the first piece wheels through the gap, the battery is parked, the horses are turned over to the "horse sergeant," the old guns are snugly stowed under the tarpaulins, and the winter has commenced. The woods soon resound with the ring of the axe; trees rush down, crashing and snapping, to the ground; fires start here and there till the woods are illuminated, and the brightest, happiest, busiest night of all the year falls upon the camp. Now around each fire gathers the little group who are, for a while, to make it the centre of operations. Hasty plans for comfort and convenience are eagerly discussed till late into the night, and await only the dawn of another day for execution.
Roll-call over and breakfast eaten, the work of the day commences with the preparation of comfortable sleeping places, varying according to the "material" on hand. A favorite arrangement for two men consisted of a bed of clean straw between the halves of a large oak log, covered, in the event of rain, with a rubber blanket. The more ambitious builders made straw pens, several logs high, and pitched over these a fly-tent, adding sometimes a chimney. In this structure, by the aid of a bountiful supply of dry, clean straw, and their blankets, the occupants bade defiance to cold, rain, and snow.
Other men, gifted with that strange facility for comfort without work which characterizes some people, found resting-places ready made. They managed to steal away night after night and sleep in the sweet security of a haystack, a barn, a stable, a porch, or, if fortune favored them, in some farmer's feather bed.
Others still, but more especially the infantry and cavalry, built "shelters" open to the south, covered them with pine-tags and brush, built a huge fire in front, and made themselves at home for a season.
But all these things were mere make-shifts, temporary stopping-places, occupying about the same relation to winter quarters as the boarding-house does to a happy and comfortable home. During the occupancy of these, and while the work of building was progressing, the Confederate soldier wrote many letters home. He saw an opportunity for enjoyment ahead, and tried to improve it. His letters were somewhat after the following order:—
CAMP NEAR WILLIAMS' MILL, December 2, 1864.
DEAR FATHER,—You will no doubt be glad to hear that we are at last in winter quarters! We are quite comfortably fixed, though we arrived here only two days ago. We are working constantly on our log cabins, and hope to be in them next week. We are near the —— railroad, and anything you may desire to send us may be shipped to —— depot. If you can possibly spare the money to buy them, please send at once four pounds ten-penny nails; one pair wrought hinges (for door); one good axe; two pairs shoes (one for me and one for J.); four pairs socks (two for me and two for J.); five pounds Killickinick smoking tobacco; one pound bi-carb. soda. Please send also two or three old church music books, and any good books you are willing to part with forever. Underclothing of any sort, shirts, drawers, socks,—cotton or woollen,—would be very, very acceptable, as it is much less trouble to put on the clean and throw away the soiled clothes than to wash them. Some coffee, roasted and ground, with sugar to match, and anything good to eat would do to fill up. Do not imagine, however, that we are suffering or unhappy. Our only concern is for all at home; and if compliance with the above requests would cost you the slightest self-denial at home, we would rather withdraw them.
Why don't —— and —— go into the army? They are old enough, hearty enough, able to provide themselves with every comfort, and ought to be here.
Many furloughs will be granted during the winter, and we may get home, some of us, before another month is past.
Love to mother, dear mother; and to sister, and tell them we are happy and contented. Write as soon as you can, and believe me, Your affectionate son,
—— —— ——.
P.S. Don't forget the tobacco. W.
And now another night comes to the soldier, inviting him to nestle in clean straw, under dry blankets, and sleep. To-morrow he will lay the foundation of a village destined to live till the grass grows again. To-morrow he will be architect, builder, and proprietor of a cosy cabin in the woods. Let him sleep.
A pine wood of heavy original growth furnishes the ground and the timber. Each company is to have two rows of houses, with a street between, and each street is to end on the main road to the railroad depot. The width of the street is decided; it is staked off; each "mess" selects its site for a house, and the work commences.
The old pines fall rapidly under the energetic strokes of the axes, which glide into the hearts of the trees with a malicious and cruel willingness; the logs are cut into lengths, notched and fitted one upon another, and the structure begins to rise. The builders stagger about here and there, under the weight of the huge logs, occasionally falling and rolling in the snow. They shout and whistle and sing, and are as merry as children at play.
At last the topmost log is rolled into place and the artistic work commences,—the "riving" of slabs. Short logs of oak are to be split into huge shingles for the roof, and tough and tedious work it is. But it is done; the roof is covered in, and the house is far enough advanced for occupancy.
Now the "bunks," which are simply broad shelves one above another, wide enough to accommodate two men "spoon fashion," are built. Merry parties sally forth to seek the straw stack of the genial farmer of the period, and, returning heavily laden with sweet clean straw, bestow it in the bunks. Here they rest for a night.
Next day the chimney, built like the house, of notched sticks or small logs, rises rapidly, till it reaches the apex of the roof and is crowned with a nail keg or flour barrel.
Next, a pit is dug deep enough to reach the clay; water is poured in and the clay well mixed, and the whole mess takes in hand the "daubing" of the "chinks." Every crack and crevice of house and chimney receives attention at the hands of the builders, and when the sun goes down the house is proof against the most searching winter wind.
Now the most skillful man contrives a door and swings it on its hinges; another makes a shelf for the old water bucket; a short bench or two appear, like magicians' work, before the fire, and the family is settled for the winter.
It would be a vain man indeed who thought himself able to describe the happy days and cozy nights of that camp. First among the luxuries of settled life was the opportunity to part forever with a suit of underwear which had been on constant duty for, possibly, three months, and put on the sweet clean clothes from home. They looked so pure, and the very smell of them was sweet.
Then there was the ever-present thought of a dry, warm, undisturbed sleep the whole night through. What a comfort!
Remember, now, there is a pile of splendid oak, ready cut for the fire, within easy reach of the door—several cords of it—and it is all ours. Our mess cut it and "toted" it there. It will keep a good fire, night and day, for a month.
The wagons, which have been "over the mountains and far away," have come into camp loaded with the best flour in abundance; droves of cattle are bellowing in the road, and our commissary, as he hurries from camp to camp with the glad tidings, is the embodiment of happiness. All this means plenty to eat.
This is a good time to make and carve beautiful pipes of hard wood with horn mouth-pieces, very comfortable chairs, bread trays, haversacks, and a thousand other conveniences.
At night the visiting commences, and soon in many huts are little social groups close around the fire. The various incidents of the campaign pass in review, and pealing laughter rings out upon the crisp winter air. Then a soft, sweet melody floats out of that cabin door as the favorite singer yields to the entreaty of his little circle of friends; or a swelling chorus of manly voices, chanting a grand and solemn anthem, stirs every heart for half a mile around.
Now think of an old Confederate veteran, who passed through Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness, sitting in front of a cheerful fire in a snug log cabin, reading, say, "The Spectator!" Think of another by his side reading a letter from his sweetheart; and another still, a warm and yearning letter from his mother. Think of two others in the corner playing "old sledge," or, it may be, chess. Hear another, "off guard," snoring in his bunk. Ah! what an amount of condensed contentment that little hut contains.
And now the stables are finished. The whole battalion did the work, and the poor old shivering and groaning horses are under cover. And the guard-house, another joint production, opens wide its door every day to receive the unhappy men whose time for detail has at last arrived. The chapel, an afterthought, is also ready for use, having been duly dedicated to the worship of God. The town is complete and its citizens are happy.
Men thus comfortably fixed, with light guard duty and little else to do, found time, of course, to do a little foraging in the country around. By this means often during the winter the camp enjoyed great abundance and variety of food. Apples and apple-butter, fresh pork, dried fruit, milk, eggs, risen bread, and even cakes and preserves. Occasionally a whole mess would be filled with the liveliest expectations by the information that "Bob" or "Joe" was expecting a box from home. The wagon comes into camp escorted by the expectant "Bob" and several of his intimate friends; the box is dropped from the wagon to the ground; off goes the top and in go busy hands and eyes. Here are clothes, shoes, and hats; here is coffee, sugar, soda, salt, bread, fresh butter, roast beef, and turkey; here is a bottle! marked "to be used in case of sickness or wounds." Here is paper, ink, pen and pencil. What shall be done with this pile of treasure? It is evident one man cannot eat the eatables or smoke the tobacco and pipes. Call in, then, the friendly aid of willing comrades. They come; they see; they devour!
And now the ever true and devoted citizens of the much and often besieged city of Richmond conclude to send a New Year's dinner to their defenders in the army. That portion destined for the camp above described arrived in due time in the shape of one good turkey. Each of the three companies composing the battalion appointed a man to "draw straws" for the turkey; the successful company appointed a man from each detachment to draw again; then the detachment messes took a draw, and the fortunate mess devoured the turkey. But the soldiers, remembering that in times past they had felt constrained to divide their rations with the poor of that city, did not fail in gratitude, or question the liberality of those who had, in the midst of great distress, remembered with self-denying affection the soldiers in the field.
Not the least among the comforts of life in winter quarters, was the pleasure of sitting under the ministrations of an amateur barber, and hearing the snip, snip, of his scissors, as the long growth of hair fell to the ground. The luxury of "a shave;" the possession of comb, brush, small mirror, towels and soap; boots blacked every day; white collars, and occasionally a starched bosom, called, in the expressive language of the day, a "biled shirt," completed the restoration of the man to decency. Now, also, the soldier with painful care threaded his needle with huge thread, and with a sort of left-handed awkwardness sewed on the long-absent button, or, with even greater trepidation, attempted a patch. At such a time the soldier pondered on the peculiar fact that war separates men from women. A man cannot thread a needle with ease; certainly not with grace. He sews backwards.
In winter quarters every man had his "chum" or bunk-mate, with whom he slept, walked, talked, and divided hardship or comfort as they came along; and the affectionate regard of each for the other was often beautiful to see. Many such attachments led to heroic self-denials and death, one for the other, and many such unions remain unbroken after twenty years have passed away.
It was a rare occurrence, but occasionally the father or mother or brother or sister of some man paid him a visit. The males were almost sure to be very old or very young. In either case they were received with great hospitality, given the best place to sleep, the best the camp afforded in the way of eatables, and treated with the greatest courtesy and kindness by the whole command. But the lady visitors! the girls! Who could describe the effect of their appearance in camp! They produced conflict in the soldier's breast. They looked so clean, they were so gentle, they were so different from all around them, they were so attractive, they were so agreeable, and sweet, and fresh, and happy, that the poor fellows would have liked above all things to have gotten very near to them and have heard their kind words,—possibly shake hands; but no, some were barefooted, some almost bareheaded; some were still expecting clean clothes from home; some were sick and disheartened; some were on guard; some in the guard-house, and others too modest; and so, to many, the innocent visitor became a sort of pleasant agony; as it were, a "bitter sweet." Nothing ever so promptly convinced a Confederate soldier that he was dilapidated and not altogether as neat as he might be, as sudden precipitation into the presence of a neatly dressed, refined, and modest woman. Fortunately for the men, the women loved the very rags they wore, if they were gray; and when the war ended, they welcomed with open arms and hearts full of love the man and his rags.
Preaching in camp was to many a great pleasure and greatly profitable. At times intense religious interest pervaded the whole army, and thousands of men gladly heard the tidings of salvation. Many afterwards died triumphant, and many others are yet living, daily witnesses of the great change wrought in them by the preaching of the faithful and able men who, as chaplains, shared the dangers, hardships, and pleasures of the campaign.
To all the foregoing comforts and conveniences must be added the consolation afforded by the anticipation and daily expectation of a furlough; which meant, of course, a blissful reunion with the dear ones at home,—perhaps an interview or two with that historic maid who is "left behind" by the soldier of all times and lands; plenty to eat; general admiration of friends and relatives; invitations to dine, to spend a week; and last, but not least, an opportunity to express contempt for every able-bodied "bomb-proof" found sneaking about home. Food, shelter, and rest, the great concerns, being thus all provided for, the soldier enjoyed intensely his freedom from care and responsibility, living, as near as a man may, the innocent life of a child. He played marbles, spun his top, played at foot-ball, bandy, and hop-scotch; slept quietly, rose early, had a good appetite, and was happy. He had time now comfortably to review the toils, dangers, and hardships of the past campaign, and with allowable pride to dwell on the cheerfulness and courage with which he had endured them all; and to feel the supporting effect of the unanimity of feeling and pervasive sympathy which linked together the rank and file of the army.
Leaving out of view every other consideration, he realized with exquisite delight, that he was resisting manfully the coercive force of other men, and was resolved to die rather than yield his liberty. He felt that he was beyond doubt in the line of duty, and expected no relief from toil by any other means than the accomplishment of his purpose and the end of the war. To strengthen his resolve he had ever present with him the unchanging love of the people for whom he fought; the respect and confidence of his officers; unshaken faith in the valor of his comrades and the justice of his cause. And, finally, he had an opportunity to brace himself for another, and, if need be, for still another struggle, with the ever increasing multitude of invaders, hoping that each would usher in the peace so eagerly coveted and the liberty for which already a great price had been paid. Was he not badly disappointed?
FUN AND FURY ON THE FIELD.
A battle-field, when only a few thousands of men are engaged, is a more extensive area than most persons would suppose. When large bodies of men—twenty to fifty thousand on each side—are engaged, a mounted man, at liberty to gallop from place to place, could scarcely travel the field over during the continuance of the battle; and a private soldier, in the smallest affair, sees very little indeed of the field. What occurs in his own regiment, or probably in his own company, is about all, and is sometimes more than he actually sees or knows. Thus it is that, while the field is extensive, it is to each individual limited to the narrow space of which he is cognizant.
The dense woods of Virginia, often choked with heavy undergrowth, added greatly to the difficulty of observing the movements of large bodies of troops extended in line of battle. The commanders were compelled to rely almost entirely upon the information gained from their staff officers and the couriers of those in immediate command on the lines.
The beasts of burden which travel the Great Desert scent the oasis and the well miles away, and, cheered by the prospect of rest and refreshment, press on with renewed vigor; and in the book of Job it is said of the horse, "He saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha! and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shoutings." So a soldier, weary and worn, recognizing the signs of approaching battle, did quicken his lagging steps and cry out for joy at the prospect.
The column, hitherto moving forward with the steadiness of a mighty river, hesitates, halts, steps back, then forward, hesitates again, halts. The colonels talk to the brigadier, the brigadiers talk to the major-general, some officers hurry forward and others hurry to the rear. Infantry stands to one side of the road while cavalry trots by to the front. Now some old wagons marked "Ord. Dept." go creaking and rumbling by. One or two light ambulances, with a gay and careless air, seem to trip along with the ease of a dancing-girl. They and the surgeons seem cheerful. Some, not many, ask "What is the matter?" Most of the men there know exactly: they are on the edge of battle.
Presently a very quiet, almost sleepy looking man on horseback, says, "Forward, 19th!" and away goes the leading regiment. A little way ahead the regiment jumps a fence, and—pop! bang! whiz! thud! is all that can be heard, until the rebel yell reverberates through the woods. Battle? No! skirmishers advancing.
Step into the woods now and watch these skirmishers. See how cheerfully they go in. How rapidly they load, fire, and re-load. They stand six and twelve feet apart, calling to each other, laughing, shouting and cheering, but advancing. There: one fellow has dropped his musket like something red hot. His finger is shot away. His friends congratulate him, and he walks sadly away to the rear. Another staggers and falls with a ball through his neck, mortally wounded. Two comrades raise him to his feet and try to lead him away, but one of them receives a ball in his thigh which crushes the bone, and he falls groaning to the ground. The other advises his poor dying friend to lie down, helps him to do so, and runs to join his advancing comrades. When he overtakes them he finds every man securely posted behind a tree, loading, firing, and conducting himself generally with great deliberation and prudence. They have at last driven the enemy's skirmishers in upon the line of battle, and are waiting. A score of men have fallen here, some killed outright, some slightly, some sorely, and some mortally wounded. The elements now add to the horrors of the hour. Dense clouds hovering near the tree tops add deeper shadows to the woods. Thunder, deep and ominous, rolls in prolonged peals across the sky, and lurid lightning darts among the trees and glistens on the gun barrels. But still they stand.
Now a battery has been hurried into position, the heavy trails have fallen to the ground, and at the command "Commence firing!" the cannoniers have stepped in briskly and loaded. The first gun blazes at the muzzle and away goes a shell. The poor fellows in the woods rejoice as it crashes through the trees over their heads, and cheer when it explodes over the enemy's line. Now, what a chorus! Thunder, gun after gun, shell after shell, musketry, pelting rain, shouts, groans, cheers, and commands!
But help is coming. At the edge of the woods, where the skirmishers entered, the brigade is in line. Somebody has ordered, "Load!"
The ramrods glisten and rattle down the barrels of a thousand muskets. "F-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-w-a-a-a-r-r-r-d!" is the next command, and the brigade disappears in the woods, the canteens rattling, the bushes crackling, and the officers never ceasing to say, "Close up, men; close up! guide c-e-n-t-r-r-r-r-e!"
The men on that skirmish line have at last found it advisable to lie down at full length on the ground, though it is so wet, and place their heads against the trees in front. They cannot advance and they cannot retire without, in either case, exposing themselves to almost certain death. They are waiting for the line of battle to come to their relief.
At last, before they see, they hear the line advancing through the pines. The snapping of the twigs, the neighing of horses, and hoarse commands, inspire a husky cheer, and when the line of the old brigade breaks through the trees in full view, they fairly yell! Every man jumps to his feet, the brigade presses firmly forward, and soon the roll of musketry tells all who are waiting to hear that serious work is progressing away down in the woods. All honor to the devoted infantry. The hour of glory has arrived for couriers, aides-de-camp, and staff officers generally. They dash about from place to place like spirits of unrest. Brigade after brigade and division after division is hurried into line, and pressed forward into action. Battalions of artillery open fire from the crests of many hills, and the battle is begun.
Ammunition trains climb impassable places, cross ditches without bridges, and manage somehow to place themselves in reach of the troops. Ambulances, which an hour before went gayly forward, now slowly and solemnly return loaded. Shells and musket balls which must have lost their way, go flitting about here and there, wounding and killing men who deem themselves far away from danger. The negro cooks turn pale as these unexpected visitors enter the camps at the rear, and the rear is "extended" at once.
But our place now is at the front, on the field. We are to watch the details of a small part of the great expanse. As we approach, a ludicrous scene presents itself. A strong-armed artilleryman is energetically thrashing a dejected looking individual with a hickory bush, and urging him to the front. He has managed to keep out of many a fight, but now he must go in. The captain has detailed a man to whip him in, and the man is doing it. With every blow the poor fellow yells and begs to be spared, but his determined guardian will not cease. They press on, the one screaming and the other lashing, till they reach the battery in position and firing on the retiring enemy. A battery of the enemy is replying, and shells are bursting overhead, or ploughing huge furrows in the ground. Musket balls are "rapping" on the rims of the wheels and sinking with a deep "thud" into the bodies of the poor horses. Smoke obscures the scene, but the cannoniers in faint outline can be seen cheerfully serving the guns.
As the opposing battery ceases firing, and having limbered up, scampers away, and the last of the enemy's infantry slowly sinks into the woods out of sight and out of reach, a wild cheer breaks from the cannoniers, who toss their caps in the air and shout, shake hands and shout again, while the curtain of smoke is raised by the breeze and borne away.
The cavalry is gone. With jingle and clatter they have passed through the lines and down the hill, and are already demanding surrender from many a belated man. There will be no rest for that retreating column. Stuart, with a twinkle in his eye, his lips puckered as if to whistle a merry lay, is on their flanks, in their rear, and in their front. The enemy will send their cavalry after him, of course, but he will stay with them, nevertheless.
Add now the stream of wounded men slowly making their way to the rear; the groups of dejected prisoners plodding along under guard, and you have about as much of a battle as one private soldier ever sees.
But after the battle, man will tell to man what each has seen and felt, until every man will feel that he has seen the whole. Hear, then, the stories of battle.
An artilleryman—he must have been a driver—says: when the firing had ceased an old battery horse, his lower jaw carried away by a shot, with blood streaming from his wound, staggered up to him, gazed beseechingly at him, and, groaning piteously, laid his bloody jaws on his shoulder, and so made his appeal for sympathy. He was beyond help.
The pathetic nature of this story reminds a comrade that a new man in the battery, desiring to save the labor incident to running up the gun after the rebound, determined to hold on to the handspike, press the trail into the ground, and hold her fast. He did try, but the rebound proceeded as usual, and the labor-saving man was "shocked" at the failure of his effort. Nothing daunted, the same individual soon after applied his lips to the vent of the gun, which was choked, and endeavored to clear it by an energetic blast from his lungs. The vent was not cleared but the lips of the recruit were nicely browned, and the detachment greatly amused.
At another gun it has happened that No. 1 and No. 3 have had a difficulty. No. 3 having failed to serve the vent, there was a premature explosion, and No. 1, being about to withdraw the rammer, fell heavily to the ground, apparently dead. No. 3, seeing what a calamity he had caused, hung over the dead man and begged him to speak and exonerate him from blame. After No. 3 had exhausted all his eloquence and pathos, No. 1 suddenly rose to his feet and informed him that the premature explosion was a fact, but the death of No. 1 was a joke intended to warn him that if he ever failed again to serve that vent, he would have his head broken by a blow from a rammer-head. This joke having been completed in all its details, the firing was continued.
Another man tells how Eggleston had his arm torn away by a solid shot, and, as he walked away, held up the bleeding, quivering stump, exclaiming, "Never mind, boys; I'll come back soon and try 'em with this other one." Alas! poor fellow, he had fought his last fight.
Poor Tom, he who was always, as he said, "willing to give 'em half a leg, or so," was struck about the waist by a shot which almost cut him in two. He fell heavily to the ground, and, though in awful agony, managed to say: "Tell mother I died doing my duty."
While the fight lasted, several of the best and bravest received wounds apparently mortal, and were laid aside covered by an old army blanket. They refused to die, however, and remain to this day to tell their own stories of the war and of their marvelous recovery.
At the battle of the Wilderness, May, 1864, a man from North Carolina precipitated a severe fight by asking a very simple and reasonable question. The line of battle had been pressed forward and was in close proximity to the enemy. The thick and tangled undergrowth prevented a sight of the enemy, but every man felt he was near. Everything was hushed and still. No one dared to speak above a whisper. It was evening, and growing dark. As the men lay on the ground, keenly sensible to every sound, and anxiously waiting, they heard the firm tread of a man walking along the line. As he walked they heard also the jingle-jangle of a pile of canteens hung around his neck. He advanced with deliberate mien to within a few yards of the line and opened a terrific fight by quietly saying, "Can any you fellows tell a man whar he can git some water?" Instantly the thicket was illumined by the flash of a thousand muskets, the men leaped to their feet, the officers shouted, and the battle was begun. Neither side would yield, and there they fought till many died.
Soon, however, the reserve brigade began to make its way through the thicket. The first man to appear was the brigadier, thirty yards ahead of his brigade, his sword between his teeth, and parting the bushes with both hands as he spurred his horse through the tangled growth. Eager for the fight, his eyes glaring and his countenance lit up with fury, his first word was "Forward!" and forward went the line.
On the march from Petersburg to Appomattox, after a sharp engagement, some men of Cutshaw's artillery battalion, acting as infantry, made a stand for a while on a piece of high ground. They noticed, hanging around in a lonely, distracted way, a tall, lean, shaggy fellow holding, or rather leaning on, a long staff, around which hung a faded battle-flag. Thinking him out of his place and skulking, they suggested to him that it would be well for him to join his regiment. He replied that his regiment had all run away, and he was merely waiting a chance to be useful. Just then the enemy's advancing skirmishers poured a hot fire into the group, and the artillerymen began to discuss the propriety of leaving. The color-bearer, remembering their insinuations, saw an opportunity for retaliation. Standing, as he was, in the midst of a shower of musket balls, he seemed almost ready to fall asleep. But suddenly his face was illumined with a singularly pleased and childish smile. Quietly walking up close to the group, he said, "Any you boys want to charge?" The boys answered, "Yes." "Well," said the imperturbable, "I'm the man to carry this here old flag for you. Just follow me." So saying he led the squad full into the face of the advancing enemy, and never once seemed to think of stopping until he was urged to retire with the squad. He came back smiling from head to foot, and suffered no more insinuations.
At Gettysburg, when the artillery fire was at its height, a brawny fellow, who seemed happy at the prospect for a hot time, broke out singing:—
"Backward, roll backward, O Time in thy flight: Make me a child again, just for this fight!"
Another fellow near him replied, "Yes; and a gal child at that."
At Fredericksburg a good soldier, now a farmer in Chesterfield County, Virginia, was desperately wounded and lay on the field all night. In the morning a surgeon approached him and inquired the nature of his wound. Finding a wound which is always considered fatal, he advised the man to remain quietly where he was and die. The man insisted on being removed to a hospital, saying in the most emphatic manner, that though every man ever wounded as he was (his bowels were punctured by the ball) had died, he was determined not to die. The surgeon, struck by the man's courage and nerve, consented to remove him, advising him, however, not to cherish the hope of recovery. After a hard struggle he did recover, and is to-day a living example of the power of a determined will.
At the Wilderness, when the fight was raging in the tangled woods and a man could scarcely trust himself to move in any direction for fear of going astray or running into the hands of the enemy, a mere boy was wounded. Rushing out of the woods, his eyes staring and his face pale with fright, he shouted, "Where's the rear. Mister! I say, Mister! where's the rear?" Of course he was laughed at. The very grim fact that there was no "rear," in the sense of safety, made the question irresistibly ludicrous. The conduct of this boy was not exceptional. It was no uncommon thing to see the best men badly demoralized and eager to go to the rear because of a wound scarcely worthy of the name. On the other hand, it sometimes happened that men seriously wounded could not be convinced of their danger, and remained on the field.
The day General Stuart fell, mortally wounded, there was a severe fight in the woods not far from the old Brook Church, a few miles from Richmond; the enemy was making a determined stand, in order to gain time to repair a bridge which they were compelled to use, and the Confederate infantry skirmishers were pushing them hard. The fighting was stubborn and the casualties on the Confederate side very numerous. In the midst of the fight a voice was heard shouting, "Where's my boy? I'm looking for my boy!" Soon the owner of the voice appeared, tall, slim, aged, with silver gray hair, dressed in a full suit of broadcloth. A tall silk hat and a clerical collar and cravat completed his attire. His voice, familiar to the people of Virginia, was deep and powerful. As he continued to shout, the men replied, "Go back, old gentleman; you'll get hurt here. Go back; go back!" "No, no;" said he, "I can go anywhere my boy has to go, and the Lord is here. I want to see my boy, and I will see him!" Then the order, "Forward!" was given and the men made once more for the enemy. The old gentleman, his beaver in one hand, a big stick in the other, his long hair flying, shouting, "Come on, boys!" disappeared in the depths of the woods, well in front. He was a Methodist minister, an old member of the Virginia Conference, but his carriage that day was soldierly and grand. One thought—that his boy was there—made the old man feel that he might brave the danger, too. No man who saw him there will ever forget the parson who led the charge at Brook Church.
At the battle of Spottsylvania Court House, a gun in position somewhat in advance of the line was so much exposed to the enemy's fire that it was abandoned. Later in the day the battery being ordered to move, the captain directed the sergeant to take his detachment and bring in the gun. The sergeant and his gunner, with a number of men, went out to bring in the gun by hand. Two men lifted the trail and the sergeant ordered, "All together!" The gun moved, but moved in a circle. The fire was hot, and all hands were on the same side—the side farthest from the enemy! After some persuasion the corporal and the sergeant managed to induce a man or two to get on the other side, with them, and they were moving along very comfortably when a shrapnel whacked the sergeant on his breast, breaking his ribs and tearing away the muscle of one arm. He fell into the arms of the corporal. Seeing that their only hope of escaping from this fire was work, the cannoniers bent to the wheels, and the gun rolled slowly to shelter.
It was at Spottsylvania Court House that the Federal infantry rushed over the works, and, engaging in a hand-to-hand fight, drove out the Confederate infantry. On one part of the line the artillerymen stood to their posts, and when the Federal troops passing the works had massed themselves inside, fired to the right and left, up and down the lines, cutting roadways through the compact masses of men, and holding their positions until the Confederate infantry reformed, drove out the enemy and re-occupied the line. Several batteries were completely overrun, and the cannoniers sought and found safety in front of the works, whence the enemy had made their charge.
At another point on the lines, where there was no infantry support, the enemy charged repeatedly and made every effort to carry the works, but were handsomely repulsed by artillery alone. An examination of the ground in front of the works after the fight, disclosed the fact that all the dead and wounded were victims of artillery fire. The dead were literally torn to pieces, and the wounded dreadfully mangled. Scarcely a man was hurt on the Confederate side.
At Fort Harrison, a few miles below Richmond, in 1864, a ludicrous scene resulted from the firing of a salute with shotted guns. Federal artillery occupied the fort, and the lines immediately in front of it were held by the "Department Battalion," composed of the clerks in the various government offices in Richmond, who had been ordered out to meet an emergency. Just before sundown the detail for picket duty was formed, and about to march out to the picket line, the clerks presenting quite a soldierly appearance. Suddenly bang! went a gun in the fort, and a shell came tearing over. Bang! again, and bang! bang! and more shells exploding. Pow! pow! what consternation! In an instant the beautiful line melted away as by magic. Every man took to shelter, and the place was desolate. The firing was rapid, regular, and apparently aimed to strike the Confederate lines, but ceased as suddenly as it had begun. General Custis Lee, whose tent was near by, observing the panic, stepped quietly up to the parapet of the works, folded his arms, and walked back and forth without uttering a word or looking to the right or to the left. His cool behavior, coupled with the silence of the guns, soon reassured the trembling clerks, and one by one they dropped into line again. General Butler had heard some news that pleased him, and ordered a salute with shotted guns. That was all.
Two boys who had volunteered for service with the militia in the same neighborhood, were detailed for picket duty. It was the custom to put three men on each post,—two militia boys and one veteran. The boys and an old soldier of Johnston's division were marched to their post, where they found, ready dug, a pit about five feet deep and three feet wide. It was quite dark, and the boys, realizing fully their exposed position, at once occupied the pit. The old soldier saw he had an opportunity to have a good time, knowing that those boys would keep wide awake. Giving them a short lecture about the importance of great watchfulness, he warned them to be ready to leave there very rapidly at any moment, and, above all, to keep very quiet. His words were wasted, as the boys would not have closed their eyes or uttered a word for the world. These little details arranged, the cunning old soldier prepared to make himself comfortable. First he gathered a few small twigs and made a very small fire. On the fire he put a battered old tin cup. Into this he poured some coffee from his canteen. From some mysterious place in his clothes he drew forth sugar and dropped it into the cup. Next, from an old worn haversack, he took a "chunk" of raw bacon and a "pone" of corn bread. Then, drawing a large pocket knife, in a dexterous manner he sliced and ate his bread and meat, occasionally sipping his coffee. His evening meal leisurely completed, he filled his pipe, smoked, and stirred up the imaginations of the boys by telling how dangerous a duty they were performing; told them how easy it would be for the Yankees to creep up and shoot them or capture and carry them off. Having finished his smoke, he knocked out the ashes and dropped the pipe in his pocket. Then he actually unrolled his blanket and oil-cloth. It made the perspiration start on the brows of the boys to see the man's folly. Then taking off his shoes, he laid down on one edge, took hold of the blanket and oil-cloth, rolled himself over to the other side, and with a kind "good night" to the boys, began to snore. The poor boys stood like statues in the pit till broad day. In the morning the old soldier thanked them for not disturbing him, and quietly proceeded to prepare his breakfast.
After the fight at Fisher's Hill, in 1864, Early's army, in full retreat and greatly demoralized, was strung out along the valley pike. The Federal cavalry was darting around picking up prisoners, shooting drivers, and making themselves generally disagreeable. It happened that an artilleryman, who was separated from his gun, was making pretty good time on foot, getting to the rear, and had the appearance of a demoralized infantryman who had thrown away his musket. So one of these lively cavalrymen trotted up, and, waving his sabre, told the artilleryman to "surrender!" But he didn't stop. He merely glanced over his shoulder, and kept on. Then the cavalryman became indignant and shouted, "Halt, d—n you; halt!" And still he would not. "Halt," said the cavalryman, "halt, you d—n s— of a ——-; halt!" Then the artilleryman halted, and remarking that he didn't allow any man to speak to him that way, seized a huge stick, turned on the cavalryman, knocked him out of his saddle, and proceeded on his journey to the rear.
This artilleryman fought with a musket at Sailor's Creek. He found himself surrounded by the enemy, who demanded surrender. He refused; said they must take him; and laid about him with the butt of his musket till he had damaged some of the party considerably. He was, however, overpowered and made a prisoner.
Experienced men, in battle, always availed themselves of any shelter within reach. A tree, a fence, a mound of earth, a ditch, anything. Sometimes their efforts to find shelter were very amusing and even silly. Men lying on the ground have been seen to put an old canteen before their heads as a shelter from musket balls; and during a heavy fire of artillery, seemed to feel safer under a tent. Only recruits and fools neglected the smallest shelter.
The more experienced troops knew better when to give up than green ones, and never fought well after they were satisfied that they could not accomplish their purpose. Consequently it often happened that the best troops failed where the raw ones did well. The old Confederate soldier would decide some questions for himself. To the last he maintained the right of private judgment, and especially on the field of battle.
Sunday, April 2, 1865, found Cutshaw's battalion of artillery occupying the earthworks at Fort Clifton on the Appomattox, about two miles below Petersburg, Virginia. The command was composed of the Second Company Richmond Howitzers, Captain Lorraine F. Jones, Garber's battery, Fry's battery, and remnants of five other batteries (saved from the battle of Spottsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864), and had present for duty nearly five hundred men, with a total muster-roll, including the men in prison, of one thousand and eighty.
The place—the old "Clifton House"—was well fortified, and had the additional protection of the river along the entire front of perhaps a mile. The works extended from the Appomattox on the right to Swift Creek on the left. There were some guns of heavy calibre mounted and ready for action, and in addition to these some field-pieces disposed along the line at suitable points. The enemy had formidable works opposite, but had not used their guns to disturb the quiet routine of the camp. The river bank was picketed by details from the artillery, armed as infantry, but without the usual equipments. The guard duty was so heavy that half the men were always on guard.
The huts, built by the troops who had formerly occupied the place, were located, with a view to protection from the enemy's fire, under the hills on the sides of the ravines or gullies which divided them, and were underground to the eaves of the roof. Consequently, the soil being sandy, there was a constant filtering of sand through the cracks, and in spite of the greatest care, the grit found its way into the flour and meal, stuck to the greasy frying-pan, and even filled the hair of the men as they slept in their bunks.
At this time rations were reduced to the minimum of quantity and quality, being generally worm-eaten peas, sour or rancid mess-pork, and unbolted corn meal, relieved occasionally with a small supply of luscious canned beef, imported from England, good flour (half rations), a little coffee and sugar, and, once, apple brandy for all hands. Ragged, barefooted, and even bareheaded men were so common that they did not excite notice or comment, and did not expect or seem to feel the want of sympathy. And yet there was scarcely a complaint or murmur of dissatisfaction, and not the slightest indication of fear or doubt. The spirit of the men was as good as ever, and the possibility of immediate disaster had not cast its shadow there.
Several incidents occurred during the stay of the battalion at Fort Clifton which will serve to illustrate every-day life on the lines. It occurred to a man picketing the river bank that it would be amusing to take careful aim at the man on the other side doing the same duty for the enemy, fire, laugh to see the fellow jump and dodge, and then try again. He fired, laughed, dropped his musket to re-load, and while smiling with satisfaction, heard the "thud" of a bullet and felt an agonizing pain in his arm. His musket fell to the ground, and he walked back to camp with his arm swinging heavily at his side. The surgeon soon relieved him of it altogether. The poor fellow learned a lesson. The "Yank" had beat him at his own game.
The guard-house was a two-story framed building, about twelve feet square, having two rooms, one above the other. The detail for guard duty was required to stay in the guard-house; those who wished to sleep going up-stairs, while others just relieved or about to go on duty clustered around the fire in the lower room. One night, when the upper floor was covered with sleeping men, an improvised infantryman who had been relieved from duty walked in, and, preparatory to taking his stand at the fire, threw his musket carelessly in the corner. A loud report and angry exclamations immediately followed. The sergeant of the guard, noticing the direction of the ball, hurried up-stairs, and to the disgust of the sleepy fellows, ordered all hands to "turn out." Grumbling, growling, stretching, and rubbing their eyes, the men got up. Some one inquired, "Where's Pryor?" His chum, who had been sleeping by his side, replied, "there he is, asleep; shake him." His blanket was drawn aside, and with a shake he was commanded to "get up!" But there was no motion, no reply. The ball had passed through his heart, and he had passed without a groan or a sigh from deep sleep to death. The man who was killed and the man who was sleeping by his side under the same blanket, were members of the Second Company Richmond Howitzers. The careless man who made the trouble was also an artilleryman, from one of the other batteries.
Shortly after this accident, after a quiet day, the men retired to their huts, and the whole camp was still as a country church-yard. The pickets on the river's edge could hear those on the opposite side asking the corporal of the guard the hour, and complaining that they had not been promptly relieved. Suddenly a terrific bombardment commenced, and the earth fairly trembled. The men, suddenly awakened, heard the roar of the guns, the rush of the shots, and the explosion of the shells. To a man only half awake, the shells seemed to pass very near and in every direction. In a moment all were rushing out of their houses, and soon the hillsides and bluffs were covered with an excited crowd, gazing awe-struck on the sight. The firing was away to the right, and there was not the slightest danger. Having realized this fact, the interest was intense. The shells from the opposite lines met and passed in mid-air—their burning fuses forming an arch of fire, which paled occasionally as a shell burst, illuminating the heavens with its blaze. The uproar, even at such a distance, was terrible. The officers, fearing that fire would be opened along the whole line, ordered the cannoniers to their posts; men were sent down into the magazine with lanterns to arrange the ammunition for the heavy guns; the lids of the limbers of the field-pieces were thrown up; the cannoniers were counted off at their posts; the brush which had been piled before the embrasures was torn away; and, with implements in hand, all stood at "attention!" till the last shot was fired. The heavens were dark again, and silence reigned. Soon all hands were as sound asleep as though nothing had occurred.
The next morning an artilleryman came walking leisurely towards the camp, and being recognized as belonging to a battery which was in position on that part of the line where the firing of the last night occurred, was plied with questions as to the loss on our side, who was hurt, etc., etc. Smiling at the anxious faces and eager questions, he replied: "When? Last night? Nobody!" It was astounding, but nevertheless true.
On another occasion some scattering shots were heard up the river, and after a while a body came floating down the stream. It was hauled on shore and buried in the sand a little above high-water mark. It was a poor Confederate who had attempted to desert to the enemy, but was shot while swimming for the opposite bank of the river. His grave was the centre of the beat of one of the picket posts on the river bank, and there were few men so indifferent to the presence of the dead as not to prefer some other post.
And so, while there had been no fighting, there were always incidents to remind the soldier that danger lurked around, and that he could not long avoid his share. The camp was not as joyous as it had been, and all felt that the time was near which would try the courage of the stoutest. The struggles of the troops on the right with overwhelming numbers and reports of adversities, caused a general expectation that the troops lying so idly at the Clifton House would be ordered to the point of danger. They had not long to wait.
Sunday came and went as many a Sunday had. There was nothing unusual apparent, unless, perhaps, the dull and listless attitudes of the men, and the monotonous call of those on guard were more oppressive than usual. The sun went down, the hills and valleys and the river were veiled in darkness. Here and there twinkling lights were visible. On the other side of the river could be heard a low rumbling which experienced men said was the movement of artillery and ammunition trains bound to the enemy's left to press the already broken right of the Confederate line.
Some had actually gone to sleep for the night. Others were huddled around the fires in the little huts, and a few sat out on the hill-side discussing the probabilities of the near future. A most peaceful scene; a most peaceful spot. Hymns were sung and prayers were made, though no preacher was there. Memory reverted fondly to the past, to home and friends. The spirit of the soldier soared away to other scenes, and left him to sit blankly down, gaze at the stars, and feel unspeakable longings for undefined joys, and weep, for very tenderness of heart, at his own sad loneliness.
At ten P.M. some man mounted on horseback rode up to one of the huts, and said the battalion had orders to move. It was so dark that his face was scarcely visible. In a few minutes orders were received to destroy what could be destroyed without noise or fire. This was promptly done. Then the companies were formed, the roll was called, and the battalion marched slowly and solemnly away. No one doubted that the command would march at once to the assistance of the troops at or near Five Forks. It was thought that before morning every man would have his musket and his supply of ammunition, and the crack of day would see the battalion rushing into battle in regular infantry style, whooping and yelling like demons. But they got no arms that night. The march was steady till broad day of Monday the 3d of April. Of course the men felt mortified at having to leave the guns, but there was no help for it, as the battery horses which had been sent away to winter had not returned. It was evident that the battalion had bid farewell to artillery, and commenced a new career as infantry.
As the night wore on the men learned that the command was not going to any point on the lines. That being determined, no one could guess its destination. Later in the night, probably as day approached, the sky in the direction of Richmond was lit with the red glare of distant conflagration, and at short intervals there were deep, growling explosions of magazines. The roads were filled with other troops, all hurrying in the same direction. There was no sign of panic or fear, but the very wheels seemed turning with unusual energy. The men wore the look of determination, haste, and eagerness. One could feel the energy which surrounded him and animated the men and things which moved so steadily on, on, on! There was no laughing, singing, or talking. Nothing but the steady tread of the column and the surly rumbling of the trains.
As morning dawned the battalion struck the main road leading from Richmond. Refugees told the story of the evacuation, and informed the boys from the city that it was in the hands of the enemy and burning, and the chances were that not one house would be left standing. Here it became clearly understood that the whole army was in full retreat. From this point the men began to say, as they marched, that it was easier to march away than it would be to get back, but that they expected and hoped to fight their way back if they had to contest every inch. Some even regretted the celerity of the march, for, they said, "the further we march the more difficult it will be to win our way back." Little did they know of the immense pressure at the rear, and the earnest push of the enemy on the flank as he strove to reach and overlap the advance of his hitherto defiant, but now retreating, foe.
A detail had been left at Fort Clifton with orders to spike the guns, blow up the magazine, destroy everything which could be of value to the enemy, and rejoin the command. The order was obeyed, and every man of the detail resumed his place in the ranks.
From this point to Appomattox the march was almost continuous, day and night, and it is with the greatest difficulty that a private in the ranks can recall with accuracy the dates and places on the march. Night was day—day was night. There was no stated time to sleep, eat, or rest, and the events of morning became strangely intermingled with the events of evening. Breakfast, dinner, and supper were merged into "something to eat," whenever and wherever it could be had. The incidents of the march, however, lose none of their significance on this account, and so far as possible they will be given in the order in which they occurred, and the day and hour fixed as accurately as they can be by those who witnessed and participated in its dangers and hardships.
Monday, the 3d, the column was pushed along without ceremony, at a rapid pace, until night, when a halt was ordered and the battalion laid down in a piece of pine woods to rest. There was some "desultory" eating in this camp, but so little of it that there was no lasting effect. At early dawn of Tuesday, the 4th, the men struggled to their feet, and with empty stomachs and brave hearts resumed their places in the ranks, and struggled on with the column as it marched steadily in the direction of Moore's Church, in Amelia County, where it arrived in the night. The men laid down under the shelter of a fine grove, and friend divided with friend the little supplies of raw bacon and bread picked up on the day's march. They were scarcely stretched on the ground ready for a good nap, when the orderly of the Howitzers commenced bawling, "Detail for guard! detail for guard! Fall in here; fall in!" then followed the names of the detail. Four men answered to their names, but declared they could not keep awake if placed on guard. Their remonstrance was in vain. They were marched off to picket a road leading to camp, and when they were relieved, said they had slept soundly on their posts. No one blamed them.
While it was yet night all hands were roused from profound sleep; the battalion was formed, and away they went, stumbling, bumping against each other, and sleeping as they walked. Whenever the column halted for a moment, as it did frequently during the night, the men dropped heavily to the ground and were instantly asleep. Then the officers would commence: "Forward! column forward!" Those first on their feet went stumbling on over their prostrate comrades, who would in turn be awakened, and again the column was in motion, and nothing heard but the monotonous tread of the weary feet, the ringing and rattling of the trappings of the horses, and the never-ending cry of "Close up, men; close up!"
Through the long, weary night there was no rest. The alternate halting and hurrying was terribly trying, and taxed the endurance of the most determined men to the very utmost; and yet on the morning of Wednesday, the 5th, when the battalion reached the neighborhood of Scott's Shops, every man was in place and ready for duty. From this point, after some ineffectual efforts to get a breakfast, the column pushed on in the direction of Amelia Court House, at which point Colonel Cutshaw was ordered to report to General James A. Walker, and the battalion was thereafter a part of Walker's division. The 5th was spent at or near the court house—how, it is difficult to remember; but the day was marked by several incidents worthy of record.
About two hundred and twenty-five muskets (not enough to arm all the men), cartridges, and caps were issued to the battalion—simply the muskets and ammunition. Not a cartridge-box, cap-box, belt, or any other convenience ornamented the persons of these new-born infantrymen. They stored their ammunition in their pockets along with their corn, salt, pipes, and tobacco.
When application was made for rations, it was found that the last morsel belonging to the division had been issued to the command, and the battalion was again thrown on its own resources, to wit: corn on the cob intended for the horses. Two ears were issued to each man. It was parched in the coals, mixed with salt, stored in the pockets, and eaten on the road. Chewing the corn was hard work. It made the jaws ache and the gums and teeth so sore as to cause almost unendurable pain.
After the muskets were issued a line of battle was formed with Cutshaw on the right. For what purpose the line was formed the men could not tell. A short distance from the right of the line there was a grove which concealed an ammunition train which had been sent from Richmond to meet the army. The ammunition had been piled up ready for destruction. An occasional musket ball passed over near enough and often enough to produce a realizing sense of the proximity of the enemy and solemnize the occasion. Towards evening the muskets were stacked, artillery style of course, the men were lying around, chatting and eating raw bacon, and there was general quiet, when suddenly the earth shook with a tremendous explosion and an immense column of smoke rushed up into the air to a great height. For a moment there was the greatest consternation. Whole regiments broke and fled in wild confusion. Cutshaw's men stood up, seized their muskets, and stood at attention till it was known that the ammunition had been purposely fired and no enemy was threatening the line. Then what laughter and hilarity prevailed, for a while, among these famishing men!
Order having been restored, the march was resumed, and moving by way of Amelia Springs, the column arrived near Deatonsville, about ten o'clock, on the morning of Thursday the 6th. The march, though not a long one, was exceedingly tiresome, as, the main roads being crowded, the column moved by plantation roads, which were in wretched condition and crowded with troops and trains. That the night was spent in the most trying manner may best be learned from the fact that when morning dawned the column was only six or seven miles from the starting point of the evening before.
This delay was fatal. The whole army—trains and all—left Amelia Court House in advance of Walker's division, which was left to cover the retreat, Cutshaw's battalion being the last to leave the court house, thus bringing up the rear of the army, and being in constant view of the enemy's hovering cavalry. The movement of the division was regulated to suit the movements of the wagon trains, which should have been destroyed on the spot, and the column allowed to make its best time, as, owing to the delay they occasioned, the army lost the time it had gained on the enemy in the start, and was overtaken the next day.
At Deatonsville another effort to cook was made, but before the simplest articles of food could be prepared, the order to march was given, and the battalion took the road once more.
A short while after passing Deatonsville the column was formed in line of battle,—Cutshaw's battalion near the road and in an old field with woods in front and rear. The officers, anticipating an immediate attack, ordered the men to do what they could for their protection. They immediately scattered along the fence on the roadside, and taking down the rails stalked back to their position in line, laid the rails on the ground and returned for another load. This they continued to do until the whole of the fence was removed. Behind this slim defense they silently awaited the advance of the enemy.
Soon it was decided that this was not the place to make a stand. The first detachment of the Second Company of Richmond Howitzers, and twenty men each from Garber and Fry, under the command of Lieutenant Henry Jones, were left behind the fence-rail work, with orders to resist and retard the advance of the enemy while the column continued its march.
This little band was composed of true spirits,—the best material in the battalion. Right well did they do their duty. Left alone to face the advance of the immense host eagerly pursuing the worn remnant of the invincible army, they waited until the enemy's skirmishers appeared in the field, when, with perfect deliberation, they commenced their fire. Though greatly outnumbered, and flanked right and left, they stubbornly held on till the line of battle following the skirmishers broke from the woods, and advancing rapidly poured into them a murderous volley. And yet, so unused were they to running, they moved not till the infantry skirmishers had retired, and the word of command was heard. Then stubbornly contesting the ground, they fought their way back through the woods. The gallant Lieutenant Jones fell mortally wounded, having held control of his little band to the moment he fell. His friend Kemp refused to leave him, and they were captured together, but were immediately separated by the enemy. Pearson was pierced through by a musket ball as he was hurrying through the woods, and fell heavily to the ground. Binford was severely wounded, but managed to escape. Hamilton was killed outright.
The battalion had left this point but a short time, marching in column of fours with the division, and had reached the brow of a gently sloping hill, perfectly open for perhaps a mile, with a broad valley on the left, and beyond it a range of hills partly wooded. In an open space on this range the enemy placed a battery in position, and, in anticipation of doing great slaughter from a safe distance, opened a rapid fire on the exposed and helpless column. The shells came hurtling over the valley, exploding in front, rear, and overhead, and tearing up the ground in every direction. Ah! how it grieved those artillerymen to stand, musket in hand, and receive that shower of insolence. How they longed for the old friends they had left at Fort Clifton. They knew how those rascals on the other side of the valley were enjoying the sport. They could hear, in imagination, the shouts of the cannoniers as they saw their shells bursting so prettily, and rammed home another shot.
There was some impediment ahead, and there the column stood, a fair mark for these rascals. There was no help near, and all that could be done was to stand firm and wait orders; but help was coming.
A cloud of dust was approaching from the rear of the column. All eyes were strained to see what it might mean. Presently the artillerymen recognized a well-known sound. A battery was coming in full gallop, the drivers lashing their horses and yelling like madmen. The guns bounded along as though they would outrun the horses, and with rush, roar, and rattle they approached the front of the battalion. Some fellow in the Second Company Howitzers sung out, "Old Henry Carter! Hurrah! for the Third Company! Give it to 'em, boys!" It was, indeed, the Third Company of Howitzers, long separated from the Second, with their gallant captain at their head!
Not a moment was lost. The guns were in battery, and the smoke of the first shot was curling about the heads of the men in the column in marvelously quick time. Friends and comrades in the column called to the men at the guns, and they, as they stepped in and out, responded with cheerful, ringing voices, "Hello, Bill!" "How are you, Joe?" Bang! "Pretty"—Bang!—"well, I thank you." Bang! "Oh! we're giving it to 'em now." Bang!
As the battalion moved on, the gallant boys of the Third Company finished their work. The disappointed enemy limbered up, slipped into the woods and departed. Cheered by this fortunate meeting with old comrades, with the pleasant odor of the smoke lingering around them, these hitherto bereft and mournful artillerymen pushed on, laughing at the discomfiture of the enemy, and feeling that though deprived of their guns by the misfortunes of war, there was still left at least one battery worthy to represent the artillery of the army.
As the column marched slowly along, some sharp-eyed man discovered three of the enemy's skirmishers in a field away on the left. More for amusement than anything else, it was proposed to fire at them. A group of men gathered on the roadside, a volley was fired, and, to the amazement of the marksmen, for the distance was great, one of the skirmishers fell. One of his comrades started on a run to his assistance, and he, too, was stopped. The third man then scampered away as fast as his legs could carry him. The battalion applauded the good shots and marched on.
At Sailor's Creek the detachment which had been left at Deatonsville, behind the fence rails, to watch and retard the approach of the enemy, having slowly retired before their advance, rejoined the command. Indeed, their resistance and retreat was the beginning of and ended in the battle of Sailor's Creek.
The line of battle was formed on Locket's Hill, which sloped gently down from the line to the creek, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards in rear of and running nearly parallel with the line of battle. A road divided the battalion near the centre. The Howitzers were on the left of this road and in the woods; Garber's men were on the right of the Howitzers, on the opposite side of the road, in a field; Fry's men on the extreme left. To cross the road dividing the line was a hazardous experiment, as the enemy, thinking it an important avenue, swept it with musketry.
It was amusing to see the men hauling out of their pockets a mixture of corn, salt, caps, and cartridges, and, selecting the material needed, loading. They were getting ready to stand. They did not expect to run, and did not until ordered to do so.
The enemy's skirmishers advanced confidently and in rather free and easy style, but suddenly met a volley which drove them to cover. Again they advanced, in better order, and again the improvised infantry forced them back. Then came their line of battle with overwhelming numbers; but the battalion stubbornly resisted their advance. The men, not accustomed to the orderly manner of infantry, dodged about from tree to tree, and with the deliberation of huntsmen picked off here and there a man. When a shot "told," the marksman hurrahed, all to himself. There was an evident desire to press forward and drive the advancing foe. Several of the men were so enthusiastic that they had pushed ahead of the line, and several yards in advance they could be seen loading and firing as deliberately as though practicing at a mark.
Colonel Cutshaw received a wound which so shattered his leg that he had to be lifted from his horse into an ambulance. He was near being captured, but by hurrying away the ambulance at a gallop, he escaped to a house a short distance in the rear, where he fell into the hands of the enemy. The same night he suffered amputation of a leg. Captain Garber was struck, and called for the ambulance corps, but on examination found the ball in his pocket. It had lodged against the rowel of a spur which he found the day before and dropped in his pocket.
At last the enemy appeared in strong force on both flanks, while he pushed hard in front. It was useless to attempt a further stand. The voice of Captain Jones, of the Howitzers, rang out loud and clear, "Boys, take care of yourselves!" Saying this, he planted himself against a pine, and, as his men rushed by him, emptied every chamber of his revolver at the enemy, and then reluctantly made his way, in company with several privates, down the hill to the creek.
At the foot of the hill a group of perhaps a dozen men gathered around Lieutenant McRae. He was indignant. He proposed another stand, and his comrades agreed. They stood in the road, facing the gentle slope of the hill from which they had been ordered to retire. The enemy's skirmishers were already on the brow of the hill, dodging about among the trees and shouting to those behind to hurry up. Their favorite expressions were, "Come along, boys; here are the damned rebel wagons!" "Damn 'em shoot 'em down!"
In a few moments their line of battle, in beautiful order, stepped out of the woods with colors flying, and for a moment halted. In front of the centre of that portion of the line which was visible—probably a full regimental front—marched the colors, and color-guard. McRae saw his opportunity. He ordered his squad to rise and fire on the colors. His order was promptly obeyed. The color-bearer pitched forward and fell, with his colors, heavily to the ground. The guard of two men on either side shared the same fate, or else feigned it. Immediately the line of battle broke into disorder, and came swarming down the hill, firing, yelling, and cursing as they came. An officer, mounted, rode his horse close to the fence on the roadside, and with the most superb insolence mocked McRae and his squad, already, as he thought, hopelessly intermingled with the enemy. McRae, in his rage, swore back at him, and in the hearing of the man, called on a man near him to shoot "that —— ——," calling him a fearfully hard name. But the private's gun was not in working order, and the fellow escaped for the time. Before he reached the woods, whither he was going to hurry up the "boys," a Howitzer let fly at him, and at the shock of the bullet's stroke he threw his arms up in the air, and his horse bore him into the woods a corpse.
A little to the left, where the road crossed the creek, the crack of pistols and the "bang" of muskets was continuous. The enemy had surrounded the wagons and were mercilessly shooting down the unarmed and helpless drivers, some of whom, however, managed to cut the traces, mount, and ride away.
In order to escape from the right of the line, it was necessary to follow the road, which was along the foot of the hill, some distance to the left. The enemy seeing this were pushing their men rapidly at a right oblique to gain the road and cut off retreat. Consequently those who attempted escape in that direction had to run the gauntlet of a constant fusilade from a mass of troops near enough to select individuals, curse them, and command them to throw down their arms or be shot.
Most of McRae's squad, in spite of the difficulties surrounding them, gained the creek, plunged in, and began a race for life up the long, open hill-side of plowed ground, fired upon at every step by the swarm of men behind, and before they reached the top, by a battery in close proximity, which poured down a shower of canister.
The race to the top of the long hill was exceedingly trying to men already exhausted by continual marching, hunger, thirst, and loss of sleep. They ran, panting for breath, like chased animals, fairly staggering as they went.
On the top of this long hill there was a skirmish line of cavalry posted, with orders to stop all men with arms in their hands, and form a new line; but the view down the hill to the creek and beyond revealed such a host of the enemy, and the men retiring before them were so few, that the order was disregarded and the fleeing band allowed to pass through.
The men's faces were black with powder. They had bitten cartridges until there was a deep black circle around their mouths. The burnt powder from the ramrods had blackened their hands, and in their efforts to remove the perspiration from their faces they had completed the coloring from the roots of the hair to the chin. Here was no place for rest, however, as the enemy's battery behind the creek on the opposite hills, having gotten the range, was pouring in a lively fire. Soon after passing the brow of the hill darkness came on. Groups of men from the battalion halted on the roadside, near a framed building of some sort, and commenced shouting, "Fall in, Howitzers!" "This way, Garber's men!" "Fry's battery!" "Fall in!" "Cutshaw's battalion, fall in here!" thus of their own accord trying to recover the organization from its disorder. Quite a number of the battalion got together, and in spite of hunger, thirst, defeat, and dreadful weariness, pushed on to the High Bridge. So anxious were the men to escape capture and the insinuation of desertion, that when threatened with shooting by the rear guard if they did not move on they scarcely turned to see who spoke: but the simple announcement, "The Yankees are coming!" gave them a little new strength, and again they struggled painfully along, dropping in the road sound asleep, however, at the slightest halt of the column.
At the bridge there was quite a halt, and in the darkness the men commenced calling to each other by name—the rascally infantry around, still ready for fun, answering for every name. Brother called brother, comrade called comrade, friend called friend; and there were many happy reunions there that night. Some alas! of the best and bravest did not answer the cry of anxious friends.
Before the dawn of day the column was again in motion. What strange sensations the men had as they marched slowly across the High Bridge. They knew its great height, but the night was so dark that they could not see the abyss on either side. Arrived on the other side, the worn-out soldiers fell to the ground and slept, more dead than alive. Some had slept as they marched across the bridge, and declared that they had no distinct recollection of when they left it, or how long they were upon it.
Early on the morning of the 7th the march was resumed and continued through Farmville, across the bridge and to Cumberland Heights, overlooking the town. Here, on the bare hill-side, a line of battle was formed, for what purpose the men did not know—the Howitzers occupying a central place in the line, and standing with their feet in the midst of a number of the graves of soldiers who had perished in the hospitals in the town.
While standing thus in line a detail was sent into the town to hunt up some rations. They found a tierce of bacon surrounded by a ravenous crowd, fighting and quarreling. The man on duty guarding the bacon was quickly overpowered, and the bacon distributed to the crowd. The detail secured a piece and marched back triumphantly to their waiting comrades.
After considerable delay the line broke into column and marched away in the direction of Curdsville. It was on this march that Cutshaw's battalion showed itself proof against the demoralization which was appearing, and received, almost from the lips of the Commander-in-Chief, a compliment of which any regiment in the army might be proud.
All along the line of march the enemy's cavalry followed close on the flanks of the column, and whenever an opportunity offered swooped down upon the trains. Whenever this occurred the battalion, with the division, was faced towards the advancing cavalry, and marched in line to meet them, generally repulsing them with ease. In one of these attacks the cavalry approached so near the column that a dash was made at them, and the infantry returned to the road with General Gregg, of the enemy's cavalry, a prisoner. He was splendidly equipped and greatly admired by the ragged crowd around him. He was, or pretended to be, greatly surprised at his capture. When the column had reached a point two or three miles beyond Farmville, it was found that the enemy was driving in the force which was protecting the marching column and trains. The troops hurrying back were panic-stricken; all efforts to rally them were vain, and the enemy was almost upon the column. General Gordon ordered General Walker to form his division and drive the enemy back from the road. The division advanced gallantly, and conspicuous in the charge was Cutshaw's battalion. When the line was formed, the battalion occupied rising ground on the right. The line was visible for a considerable distance. In rear of the battalion there was a group of unarmed men under command of Sergeant Ellett, of the Howitzers. In the distribution of muskets at Amelia Court House the supply fell short of the demand, and this squad had made the trip so far unarmed. Some, too, had been compelled to ground their arms at Sailor's Creek. A few yards to the left and rear of the battalion, in the road, was General Lee, surrounded by a number of officers, gazing eagerly about him. An occasional musket ball whistled over, but there was no enemy in sight. In the midst of this quiet a general officer, at the left and rear of the battalion, fell from his horse, severely wounded. A messenger was sent from the group in the road to ask the extent of his injury. After a short while the enemy appeared, and the stampeded troops came rushing by. Cutshaw's battalion stood firmly and quietly, as if on parade, awaiting orders. General officers galloped about, begging the fleeing men to halt, but in vain. Several of the fugitives, as they passed the battalion, were collared by the disarmed squad, relieved of their muskets and ammunition, and with a kick allowed to proceed to the rear. There was now between the group in the road and the enemy only the battalion of improvised infantry. There they stood, on the crest of the hill, in sharp relief. Not a man moved from his place. Did they know the Great Commander was watching them? Some one said, "Forward!" The cry passed from lip to lip, and, with cheers, the battalion moved rapidly to meet the enemy, while the field was full of the stampeded troops making to the rear. A courier came out with orders to stop the advance, but they heeded him not. Again he came, but on they went. Following the line was the unarmed squad, unable to do more than swell the volume of the wild shouts of their comrades. Following them, also, was the commissary department, consisting of two men, with a piece of bacon swung on a pole between them, yelling and hurrahing. As the line advanced, the blue-jackets sprang up and ran through the broom-straw like hares, followed by a shower of balls. Finally an officer—some say General Gordon, and others an aide of Longstreet's—rode out to the front of the battalion, ordered a halt, and in the name of General Lee thanked the men for their gallant conduct and complimented them in handsome style. His words were greeted with loud cheers, and the battalion marched back to the road carrying several prisoners and having retaken two pieces of artillery which had been abandoned to the enemy. After the enemy was driven back out of reach of our trains and column of march, and the troops were in line of battle, General Lee in person rode up in rear of the division, and addressing himself directly to the men in ranks (a thing very unusual with him) used language to this effect: "That is right, men; that is all I want you to do. Just keep those people back awhile. I do not wish you to expose yourselves to unnecessary danger." Mahone's division then coming up took the place of Walker's, and the march was resumed. The battalion passed on, the men cutting slices from their piece of bacon and eagerly devouring them. As night came on the signs of disaster increased.
At several places whole trains were standing in the road abandoned; artillery, chopped down and burning, blocked the way, and wagonloads of ammunition were dumped out in the road and trampled under foot. There were abundant signs of disaster. So many muskets were dropped on the road that Cutshaw's unarmed squad armed itself with abandoned muskets, ammunition, and equipments.
There was a halt during the night in a piece of stunted woods. The land was low and soggy. In the road passing through the woods were several batteries, chopped down and deserted. There was a little flour on hand, which had been picked up on the road. An oil-cloth was spread, the flour placed on it, water was found, and the dough mixed. Then some clean partition boards were knocked out of a limber chest, the dough was spread on them and held near the fire till partially cooked. Then with what delight it was devoured!
At daybreak, Saturday, the march was resumed, and continued almost without interruption during the whole day; the men, those whose gums and teeth were not already too sore, crunching parched corn and raw bacon as they trudged along. Saturday night the battalion rested near Appomattox Court House, in a pine woods. Sunday morning, April 9th, after a short march, the column entered the village of Appomattox Court House by what seemed to be the main road. Several dead men, dressed in the uniform of United States regular artillery, were lying on the roadside, their faces turned up to the blaze of the sun. One had a ghastly wound in the breast, which must have been made by grape or canister.
On through the village without halting marched the column. "Whitworth" shots went hurtling through the air every few minutes, indicating very clearly that the enemy was ahead of the column and awaiting its arrival. On the outskirts of the village the line of battle was formed. Indeed, there seemed to be two lines, one slightly in advance of the other. Wagons passed along the line and dropped boxes of cartridges. The men were ordered to knock them open and supply themselves with forty rounds each. They filled their breeches' pockets to the brim. The general officers galloped up and down the line, apparently hurrying everything as much as possible. The shots from a battery in advance were continually passing over the line, going in the direction of the village, but without harm to any one. The more experienced men predicted a severe struggle. It was supposed that this was to be an attack with the whole army in mass, for the purpose of breaking through the enemy's line and making one more effort to move on.
Finally the order "Forward!" ran along the line, and as it advanced the chiefs of detachments, gunners, and commissioned officers marched in rear, keeping up a continual cry of "Close up, men; close up!" "Go ahead, now; don't lag!" "Keep up!" Thus marching, the line entered a body of woods, proceeded some distance, changed direction to the left, and, emerging from the woods, halted in a large open field, beyond which was another body of woods which concealed further view in front.