previous next

[103] enemy. With a single volley they swept the guns of men and horses. The infantry sustaining them gave way before the charge of bayonets, and raising their colors over one, and not knowing in exactly what form to assert a priority of claim to the other, Capt. Gary got astride of it, and thus, for the first time, the line of battle of the enemy was broken. The fighting was not ended. It raged with unabated fury on either side, and great destruction of life. The guard that undertook to defend Rickett's battery were at last driven off by the regiments of Kershaw and Cash; and thus in the hands of these Carolinians the possession of this battery permanently rested; and then, turned upon the flying enemy, it contributed, in no slight degree, to swell the current of mortality that flowed upon them.

At the crisis of this contest, it happened also to Gen. Bee to have contributed, in a special way, to the result, which it were but just to his memory to mention. He it was who had the office of assigning positions to the batteries which were first in position after those sustaining Gen. Evans, and upon a field so swept by musketry and ordnance he had little leisure for selection. Dashing over the field with Imboden, he gave him in an instant a position, which was the very best that could have been selected. The slight elevation just before and on either side of him gave many of the advantages of an embrasure, while his position commanded the entire field of operations of the enemy. When forced to retire, the same advantages facilitated his escape. The next position on the eminence, to the rear, upon which other batteries had been placed, and to which Imboden was also ordered, was equally as fortunate. Without these positions it might have been impossible to have kept the enemy in check while our shattered regiments were reforming and the conquering reinforcements arrived; without these advantages it would have been impossible to hold them. The least mistake might have been fatal; and the promptness of his action, under such particularly trying circumstances, was more like the inspiration of genius than the ordinary exercise of skill and judgment.

I spoke of the efficiency of Capt. Kemper's action on the flying enemy, but I did not mention that the captain was himself taken prisoner. Early in the day, when the fight was fiercest, and matters were so mixed that it was difficult to distinguish enemies from friends, Capt. Kemper was surrounded by about twenty Zouaves, and his sword was demanded. He asked for an officer, declaring that he would only surrender to an officer. They told him to follow, and they would take him to one; he saw a column moving near them, whom he recognized as friends; pointing to these he said, “There is one of your regiments, take me to it.” They started, and approaching a few steps nearer, he told them they were mistaken, and it was for them to surrender, which, seeing themselves under the guns of an enemy, they promptly did. It improves our feelings towards them to fight them, so it is said, at least, and so it seemed to be in this case. At the crisis of the fight, when it was doubtful if we would not be whipped, and when men, sinking from their wounds, were coming from a fight in which their friends and relations had been cut to pieces, some three or four prisoners brought in were rather in the way of being roughly treated. The proposition was made and responded to, to shoot them. I passed them on the way when the fight was going on, and greatly feared that something might be done to shame us, but a few words brought the sufferers to their senses, and the prisoners were spared. In every other instance, however, after the act of battle was over, the feeling was kinder than it could have been before the fight began. I saw the soldiers share their water with them, which they could hardly spare themselves. Many of them were taken and cared for by the very men who shot them, and a friend, passing through the field when the fight was over, passed two wounded men, the one from Georgia, the other from New York. The New York man asked for water, and the wounded Georgian begged my friend for God's sake to give it to him; for that he himself had called upon a soldier from New York for water when his column was in retreat, and, though it was at the risk of his life, he ran to the trench and brought it.

It was in search of water that Adjutant S. M. Wilkes, of the Fourth regiment, lost his life. He had escaped the perils of the fight, and rode to the camp for a drink of water; when starting back, he met a party of the flying enemy, who shot him. Col. Johnson fell the instant he entered into battle. They marched down to take position in the Warrenton turnpike, and before the legion had fired a gun, he was struck by a ball in the forehead, and fell without a word.

When the fire so raged around the house of Henry in the effort to take the batteries, the family were in it; they were utterly unconscious it was to be the theatre of battle, and made no effort to escape until it was too late to do so. Among them was an aged mother, whom the son and daughter carried to a gully, and for the first charge kept her out of the way of balls; but when the fight pressed on, they brought her in again; and when it returned they could not move her again. She lay in bed, therefore, until the batteries were taken. The house was literally riddled with balls, and when the old lady was looked for, she had been sent to her long account. Many balls passed through her, and she was perfectly at rest.

Of individual experience, there were scarcely room to speak. One lad, Oakley, from Alabama, taken prisoner, was tied; but, when the enemy was fighting, he cut the cords, found a musket, plunged it in a Zouave endeavoring to detain him, and started to his friends on the


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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

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.
J. L. Kemper (2)
John D. Imboden (2)
S. M. Wilkes (1)
Rickett (1)
Oakley (1)
Kershaw (1)
Andrew Johnson (1)
Gary (1)
Nathan G. Evans (1)
Cash (1)
Barnard E. Bee (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: