from sharp-shooters on each side of the railroad, became so continuous and heavy that it was difficult to tell whether moving along or lying still was most dangerous; but the brave men of the Seventeenth thought not of danger, kept pressing on, returning the fire wherever a rebel showed himself as a mark. An incident here occurred, which shows how the ludicrous is often mixed with the terrible, and that humorous incidents will occur even in the heat and carnage of battle. A poor dog, who found that he had unwittingly strayed into rather a rough place, and seeming, with almost human instinct, to realize his danger, crept in under one of our boys, who was a few yards in advance of me, and persistently endeavored to keep his position. The soldier, not relishing the companionship, endeavored to make him get from under, wishing himself to be next the ground; for an inch of elevation in such a position is often so much of a mark for a bullet or a piece of shell. But the dog would not be repulsed, but as often as he was dislodged he returned to the charge, and I could not help laughing at hearing the half-fearful expressions of impatience from the soldier in his endeavors to dislodge the animal: “Clear out of this, d---n you!” etc. Finally the dog was repulsed. But to return to the battle. The regiment having progressed in the manner described about half a mile, the order was given to form on the railroad, charge across the bridge and take the battery which annoyed us so much. The brave fellows immediately formed, and were on the point of advancing when they were saluted by two tremendous volleys of musketry, from two rebel regiments, which lay concealed in a wood at the extremity of a corn-field on the left. And now commenced a scene that it would be vain to attempt a description of, especially by an actor in it. In about half the time it takes to tell it, every man of them had jumped, tumbled, or rolled over into the ditch to the right of the track, and were, it seemed, thrown into inextricable confusion; but whoever supposed such a thing or thought the regiment would skedaddle, did not know the Seventeenth, for immediately after they could pick themselves up they commenced a rapid and well-directed fire upon the rebels, who were no doubt much surprised to see the men they thought they had annihilated so suddenly rise to life. But the strangest part of the story remains to be told — only two men of the Seventeenth were wounded by these destructive volleys. The Ninth New-Jersey, which was posted on the right of the railroad and in the line of the rebel fire, had several men wounded, and retired out of range. But the Seventeenth, using the elevated bed of the railroad as a breastwork, kept up a heavy fire upon the rebels, and still advanced until the head of the regiment reached the bridge. About this time Belger's Rhode Island battery came up and took position on the right of the railroad, and commenced shelling the woods opposite — sending in an occasional dose of grape and canister — until the rebel fire was almost entirely silenced. The battery on the other side of the bridge was silenced and withdrawn after the second or third fire, and ceased to trouble us. Faint cheers were now heard from the rebels, and on looking to ascertain the cause, it was discovered that a train had arrived with reenforcements, which could be seen rapidly defiling from the cars and forming in line of battle across the railroad. Captain Belger, on learning this, immediately jumped upon the railroad and directed the fire of his battery. The first shell fired fell rather to the left of the rebel line. The second fell in their midst almost on the railroad track, and the way they scattered into the woods was a caution. A “monitor” or battery came up with this train, and immediately commenced shelling us, every shell bursting directly above our heads. At the third fire from Belger's battery, the shell exploded the engine, and a column of white smoke shot up into the air, carrying with it, no doubt, the lives of many a poor rebel. The rebel fire slackened somewhat, and the Seventeenth were formed, and marched out from their intrenchments behind the battery. While lying in a hollow, behind the battery, the rebels seemed endowed with new life, and sent shot and shell thick and fast into and around them. At this time Lieut. B. N. Mann, who had command of the skirmishers on the left of the railroad, returned with his company, and reported himself to the Colonel. The bridge was to be fired at all hazards, and a captain and two men from the Ninth New-Jersey had volunteered to go and fire it, with a like number from the Seventeenth. Lieut. Mann volunteered, with two men from company A, and the brave fellows set forward on their perilous expedition. On their way they were met by a perfect storm of bullets from the enemy's sharp-shooters, but succeeded in firing the bridge. Lieutenant Mann was wounded in the abdomen, but not dangerously, and is now doing well. The Seventeenth received great praise for good behavior, while under the fire of the enemy ; when ordered from the field, they marched out from under the enemy's fire with files dressed up as neatly as if coming off dress-parade. Colonel Fellows was, throughout the action, with his regiment, encouraging his men, and acted as cool and self-posessed, as if directing the ordinary movements of a battalion drill. The other officers of the Seventeenth also acted well, and stood by their men like bricks. Captain Belger, of the Rhode Island battery, is a splendid fellow, and deserves well of his country. His coolness and undaunted bravery did much, very much toward the success of the enterprise. In the mean time the work of tearing up the rails and sleepers of the railroad and setting them on fire was efficiently performed by the Fifth Massachusetts and the New-York cavalry, the latter destroying another railroad bridge about two miles north of the great bridge; and when the fight was concluded, I had time to notice the
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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.