It was the morning of the day on which the battle of Williamsburg
was fought that the following incident occurred.
Late in the afternoon of the preceding day, general orders had been issued by General Joseph E. Johnston
, informing us of the intended retrograde movement on the next morning.
Among the instructions was one to the effect that any gun caisson, quartermaster, or commissary wagon which might become set in the mud so as to impede the line of march must be destroyed at once.
In other words, the road must be kept clear.
At that time the writer was a lieutenant in Snowden Andrews
's battery of light artillery, and, as such, commanded one section of 2 guns, which, with their caissons, required 4 teams of 6 horses each.
Of these 4 teams, 3 were in fair condition for service, but the fourth was notoriously weak.
When the general's order
was read, I became very anxious about this team, especially as nothing is considered more humiliating to a battery than to have to part with a portion of its equipment, no matter what the cause may be; so that when the retreat was commenced the next morning I endeavored to keep all the men of my section well in hand, and ready to assist at a moment's notice.
For six miles north of Williamsburg
the entire army was falling back over a single road, and as there had been frequent rains, this road was badly cut up, and the mud in many places was up to the axles of the auns.
Finally my weak team balked with the gun — a 1 2-pounder Napoleon
— in a deep hole.
Every effort was made by the drivers to dislodge the gun, but without avail; and I found when I got to the wheels, with as many men as could be utilized, that the horses could not be made to work in concert.
The whole line to the regr was at a dead stand-still, when I observed a party of mounted officers coming down the road from the front, and in a few moments more I recognized General Johnston
at their head.
We all were covered with mud and straining every muscle to e xtricate the gun, when the general, resplendent in uniform, white gauntlets, and polished cavalry boots, rode up and halted by our side.
I gave the military salute and stood like a criminal awaiting sentence.
To my surprise he remarked in a very kindly tone: “Well, Lieutenant
, you seem to be in trouble.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied; “and I am afraid we shall have to abandon this gun.”
“Oh, no; I reckon not!
Let me see what 1 can do.”
Whereupon he leaped from his horse, waded out in the mire, seized one of the wheel-spokes, covered as it was with mud, and called out, “Now, boys, altogether!”
The effect was magical, and the next moment the gun jumped clear of the mud-hole.
After that our battery used to swear by “Old Joe.”
Santa Rosa, Cal.
, August 10th, 1886.