previous next

[169] light artillery and light infantry, so far as arms and munitions of war were concerned. In a brief space of time most of the army had come up. But everything was out of joint and in a sad plight. Some men had hats on, and some hadn't. Some rode horses and mules with saddles and bridles, and some didn't. A great many, having exhausted their ammunition the day before, had thrown away their arms and accoutrements, as useless encumbrances in their flight.

The wagon train had all been lost. A caisson having stuck fast, the road was completely obstructed, and all the wagons and ambulances, with commissary stores, ammunition, hospital and medical supplies, and officers' baggage, were necessarily abandoned. The officer in charge of the ambulance train, and the surgeons who were along, exhausted every means in fruitless efforts to bring it forward, but after two hours of toil were compelled to leave it. There in the wilderness, in the darkness and gloom of midnight, our wounded companions were taken out and gently laid upon the bosom of mother earth — the precious trust left to the tender mercies of the pursuing foe I In anticipation of such an event, I had, just before night, addressed a respectful note to the surgeons of the Confederate army, requesting their kind offices in behalf of such of our wounded men as we could not remove, and I have already learned with much satisfaction that these men have received the kindest treatment.

We had not long been at Ripley before the pursuing column was upon us. Our cavalry, with a short supply of ammunition, quickly formed in line of battle, while several shattered regiments, without ammunition, hastened to their support. After a vigorous show of resistance, maintained for some time, our dispirited troops slowly fell back. Quite a number of men, with only flesh wounds, had managed, by the aid of horses and mules picked up on the road, to keep along with their friends to this place. But here it became necessary to leave the graver cases, and, acting under an order from the division commander, I detailed two assistant surgeons to remain in charge of them. The citizens to whose houses they were taken gave every assurance that our wounded, whether white or black, should be well cared for — and I have good reasons for believing this promise has been fulfilled. It was here I joined for a brief period my own regiment, from which I had necessarily been separated for a time. I had seen it as it moved unflinchingly into the hottest of the fight, but had heard little of its casualties. I knew not who of my friends and companions had fallen, and great was my joy to meet my Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, Adjutant, Captain, and Lieutenant, not one missing, though some of them wounded. I need hardly say it was to me an affecting meeting.

My duties to others, which hitherto had called me everywhere, appeared now to be wholly at an end. I had now at my command neither ambulance, dressings, medicines, nor instruments. I had “turned over” all my supplies to the “rebs;” and believing in the philosophy that teaches that “self-preservation is the first law of our nature” I resolved to put it into practice. and so John and I mounted our horses, agreeing we would not stop until we reached Memphis, notwithstanding the distance was seventy-five miles, and our horses had not been fed for twenty-four hours. As we passed rapidly by many a weary footman, and some who were more poorly mounted than we, but one idea seemed to engross their mind — and that was, that salvation depended wholly on works, wholly on getting within our lines before the “rebs” caught them; and I confess I shared largely in this feeling myself, as my poor horse would testify, could he speak.

As “birds of a feather flock together,” and as “misery loves company,” so the stragglers who had managed to mount themselves, from all regiments, and of all complexions, began to consolidate their forces, until we numbered about one hundred and fifty, without counting mules. As good fortune would have it, we were soon overtaken by about an equal number of cavalry, who had been cut off from their main body. They had but two or three rounds of ammunition, and we had neither arms nor ammunition — but it was proposed by us, and accepted by them, that for purposes of mutual protection, we keep together. I was appointed to the command of the “regiment of mounted men without arms,” with an imperative order to keep my men from straggling. And so we rode on and on, weary and sleepy, and hungry. One of my darkies fell asleep on his mule, and then he fell on to his head in the middle of the road. This awoke him, when he mounted again and came on. We had travelled all the night before, and were now entering upon another, and finding it a delusive hope to reach Memphis without stopping, it was concluded to halt for a few hours during the night, and rest ourselves and animals; and on arriving at a place three miles west of LaGrange, at one o'clock at night, having travelled over all the by-roads and cow-paths in the country, we “went into camp.” This consisted in lying down without your supper, upon a blanket if you had one, and upon the ground if you hadn't.

At dawn of day, having been perfectly refreshed by a hard shower, we started off on our march, without “surgeon's call,” and without breakfast. At Moscow, we crossed Wolf river where it divides into two branches, making an island. The branch nearest us was bridged; we passed over it to the island and pulled it up after us — the bridge, not the branch — in order that we might bridge the other. This was abetter philosophy than the Irishman's, whose blanket being too short at the bottom, lengthened it with a piece cut from the top. It was now nine o'clock A. M., and we still had twenty-four miles to make before reaching our lines at Collierville. But we were encouraged. We felt sure we had outstripped every body else in this race for dear

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 Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: