previous next
[276] take a shot at the gentlemen in front, while all had occasion to look about very sharply to keep their own brains from being knocked out. The rage after plunder was often fatal to some of our very best men. Some incidents of this passion are worth relating. A sergeant, named Warren, during the day killed a man a short distance in front of his pit, and at night, just before the command was relieved, moved quickly forward and possessed himself of the dead man's effects. It proved to be a rich haul, and next morning the men were wild for an attack, beholding in each hostile form the bearer of property, of which they burned to possess themselves. All daylong they were taking what I may call pot-shots at the enemy's videttes, and in keeping away their friends, who might have otherwise removed the spoils. The impatience of the sportsmen was too great that night to wait till it was fully dark; they stole off in the gray dusk of the evening, and some of them-among whom was Sergeant Warren-returned no more. We passed, next morning, their bloated corpses, on the very spot where their operations had been so rashly begun. After this occurrence, stringent orders were issued against the practice of going outside of and beyond the lines. In this manner the command spent its days; sometimes on the outposts, sometimes in the rear; but always prepared to move at an instant's warning. It so happened that we were not on picket service on the 12th of May, a day long to be remembered as the bloodiest of all the horrible fights that raged along the lines, and only equaled in mortality, in proportion to the numbers engaged, by Cold Harbor, of the same year. The sharpshooters, however, saw and acted an important part of this stubborn engagement. Our position having been changed the night of the 11th to a road in rear of the works, we were startled the morning of the battle by the sudden apparition of a mounted officer, who dashed forward and shouted-without speaking to the general in command-“Right shoulder shift, arms! File left! Double quick, march!” “This way!” and away the sharpshooters went after him, not stopping to ask for his authority, or otherwise to “reason why.” As the command hurried through the woods, the ears of the men were saluted with the familiar roll of musketry, and the occasional thunder of a big gun. As we debouched from the woods into the open, we came upon that fatal angle — the error, it is said, of General M. L. Smith, engineer-in-chief of the army — which gave so much trouble, and lost so many men, and which has passed into history as Johnson's salient. This angle had been early recognized as the weak point of our line, and was so much feared that the artillery which

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
G. K. Warren (2)
M. L. Smith (1)
Edward Johnson (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 12th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: