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With Archer's brigade. [from the Atlanta, Ga., Journal, November, 1901.]

Battle of Gaines's Mill and Mechanicsville well described.

I was a private of Company C, Fifth Alabama battalion, General Archer's brigade. On the evening of June 25, 1862, near sunset, our brigade received orders to cook rations and be ready to march at a moment's warning. On that order we boys began to hustle, for we believed that a big battle was upon us. We could see it in the air. Before we had time to start fires even, we received orders to ‘fall in!’ ‘fall in!’ You could hear the order in every direction. We were directed, also, to relieve ourselves of all baggage. Well did we know that this order meant a battle. Our knapsacks, blankets, etc., were all soon tumbled into baggage wagons, and we were quickly in line with our guns glittering in the light of the setting sun, ready to march, or do anything else. [350]

Starting on the march, our battalion was ordered to ‘front face!’ and the various company officers made known the cause of the stir and confusion. We were told that fighting would begin on tomorrow, and that we must be ‘brave boys’ and stand firm, be true to our country, etc. That was a solemn time to me; I will never forget it. After this another thing was done that made me more solemn than ever, and it had the same effect upon the other boys. Our commander appeared in our front, with our battle-flag in his hand, and said: ‘Boys, this is our flag; we have no regular color-bearer; who will volunteer to carry it? Whoever will, let him step out.’

The ‘god of day’ was now setting behind the western horizon. All nature seemed to be draped in mourning. It was only a moment, though, before I stepped out and took it. The officer told me to stand still until he made another call. He then said: ‘I want five men to volunteer to go with this color-bearer as guard.’ It was not long before the required number volunteered. I repeat, it was one of the most solemn moments of my life. I knew that to stand under it in time of battle was hazardous, but I was proud that I had the courage to take the position, for it was a place of honor. The officer in charge ordered us to take our places in line, and soon we were on the march.

We marched all night slowly, occasionally halting. The entire army seemed to be on the move. Everything indicated a great battle. We continued our march until about noon next day, when we halted and laid down by the roadside. I dropped down by my flag, and was so worn out that I was soon sound asleep. Oh, I was sleeping so good! Suddenly I was awakened from my sweet rest by some of the boys ‘pounding’ me in the side. ‘Get up! Get up! There is a big battle raging, and we are getting ready to go into it.’ I jumped up quickly, rubbed my eyes, and was soon in place. We moved off in the direction of heavy firing. Cannon were booming and small arms could be heard distinctly. It was now after 4 o'clock P. M., and in less than one hour we had crossed the Chickahominy and were into the thickest of the engagement at Mechanicsville. The battle raged furiously until about 9 o'clock at night. The casualties of my old battalion were very heavy. We fought under many disadvantages. The enemy had felled large trees in their front, and it was with great difficulty that we made our way through this entanglement of tree tops, saplings, vines, and every other conceivable obstruction, under a heavy fire. Many of [351] the boys were killed in trying to get through. I had to wrap my flag around the staff while crawling through this abattis.

My flag was riddled in this battle, having been pierced with ten bullet holes through its folds, while a splinter was torn out of the staff about six inches above my head, I came out, though, without a ‘scratch,’ and was ready for duty the next day. In this engagement some of the boys were shot down by my side—comrades that I dearly loved. Two of them, Murphy and Lambert, were killed.

When the firing ceased, our lines fell back a short distance, in a thick woods, and huddled around, talking over the various incidents of the battle. I soon went to sleep and knew nothing more until morning. I awoke much refreshed, and felt very thankful that I had escaped unhurt, while so many of my comrades were lying cold in death, and many others badly wounded. Early that morning the enemy shelled the woods we were in furiously, cutting the branches of the trees off over our heads. We could do nothing but stand and take it. They kept up this terrific cannonade about one hour. The piece of woodland was full of troops. To our surprise the cause of all this cannonading was to protect their retreat to the next line of fortifications at Gaines' Mill. About 9 o'clock we moved out after them, goving over a considerable portion of the battlefield. I well remember passing over that part of the field, near Meadow bridge, where it was said General Lee led a charge in person. I saw many of the soldiers near this famous bridge stuck in the bog up to their knees and dead.

Pursued them to Gaines' Mill.

We passed over the bridge and pursued the enemy on to Gaines' Mill. Here we found them strongly protected behind triple lines of heavy earthworks, with headlogs to protect them. It looked like foolishness to undertake to move them, but they had to be moved. Our brigade crossed the bridge that spans the bridge near Gaines' Mill, and we were soon in a deep-cut road. We followed this road about four hundred yards, when we halted and formed a line of battle and moved off in the direction of an old apple-orchard, which was on the top of a little knoll about two hundred yards in front. At the foot of this knoll our line halted and we were ordered to lie down. This order was obeyed quickly. The little knoll afforded very little protection, but we used it for all it was worth. We got down to our knitting, you bet. We buried ourselves in the ground for an hour [352] or so. Finally a courier galloped up to General Archer, delivered a message, and then galloped off. Then the General walked in front of us and gave the command, ‘Attention!’ in a loud, commanding tone. At this command the whole line arose. The next command was: ‘Forward, march.’ We moved out in regular line of battle toward the enemy's impregnable lines of breastworks. Our general was in front regarding the charge. About the time we got to the top of the little knoll the command was given: ‘Right shoulder, shift arms, charge!’

An incessant fire was being poured into our lines. Young Jim Crow, of Company B, was here shot through the arm, right by my side. The regular rebel yell was then raised. Then across a level plain, through an old field, over deep gullies, for about six hundred yards we charged the enemy in his stronghold. We got to within about one hundred and fifty yards of their lines, when we delivered our first fire. At this time I kept moving on toward them, not thinking that our lines would retreat or fall back after getting that near, although the fire from the enemy's triple lines was furious, and the boys began to waver. Just then General Archer waved his sword over his head, and gave the command: ‘Follow me!’ That command was ringing in my ears until I was shot. I moved on—my color-guard was near me—until within about fifteen or twenty paces of their front line, when I looked back to see if the boys were coming; just then I was shot through my right hip. I did not know how badly I was wounded; I only knew that I was shot down. I raised on my hands like a lizzard on a fence rail and took in the situation as best I could. I soon decided if I could get up I had better do so. It seemed like death either way, but I determined to make the effort to get away. I got up but I found I could not walk, and if I made the trip at all I would have to drag my leg. I grasped my wounded leg with my right hand and started. Just then I saw four of the boys lying down, but I could not tell whether they were all dead or not. I made my way back, dragging my leg, under a galling fire, when a minie ball struck my left wrist, and tore it up and took off my thumb at the same time. I mended my gait a little toward a deep gully. Before I reached it I looked back to see if the ‘Yanks’ were coming, and just at that moment a ball drew a little blood from under my chin. A few more hops and I tumbled down into the deep gully. I wanted to stay there, but the boys insisted that as I was badly wounded I had better try and get to the rear or I would be captured. [353]

That scared me up. The thought of being captured and lying in a northern prison in my condition was horrible. I could not stand the thought of such a fate. So I did not remain in the deep gully but a minute or so. Sergeant George Williams, who was afterward killed at Gettysburg, assisted me out of the gully. I had now about six hundred yards to go before I could reach the deep-cut road near the mill. I knew if I could make it there that I would be pretty safe. My route was strewn with the dead and wounded. They lay so thick that it was with great difficulty, under the withering fire of grape and canister, that I made it back to the deep-cut road. Over this entire route I dragged my hapless leg. I took shelter behind a large oak tree that stood by the roadside, in sight of Gaines's Mill. I lay down and felt pretty safe, although the shells were bursting all around me. I lay here an hour or more, watching the great number of reinforcements that were passing by, going into the battle that was raging furiously. Another charge was being made. I could hear them yelling. The wounded were carried back to the mill along this road. I kept a steady watch for our litter-bearers. I was anxious to be removed further to the rear, and I was now in a helpless condition, and it seemed I was dying, dying of thirst.

I would have freely given the whole world for a drink of water. Finally four of our litter-bearers came along, making their way back to the field. I halted them. They had lost their litter in the charge, and were using as a makeshift a big United States blanket. They spread the blanket down and placed me on it. About this time Sergeant Mattison, of Company B, came along, wounded in the foot by a piece of shell. He gave them orders to carry me clear out of all danger. They did so. In the darkness of the night they missed their way, and I was carried to a North Carolina battle-field hospital, and on that account failed to receive the attention that I should have had.

I remained at this battle-field hospital from Friday evening, June 27, 1862, until about 4 o'clock Sunday evening, when I was placed in an ambulance, with a Dutchman, who had his leg cut off. He died that night. We arrived in Richmond about midnight. The hospitals in the city were all full. We were hauled around the city from hospital to hospital, and, failing to find any room, we were then carried out to Chimborazo, a suburban hospital. Here I found a resting place in ward No. 32. It was now about 2 o'clock A. M. [354] Monday. I was very hungry by this time, having eaten nothing since I was shot Friday.

I called a servant to my ‘bunk’ and told him I wanted something to eat, that I was starving to death. He said: ‘I am sorry for you, but you will have to do without until regular breakfast.’ I then called for the ward-master. I made an earnest appeal to him, but without any success. He said: ‘It is positively against the rules, etc.’ I told him that it was hard, but I guessed I could stand it. Breakfast came about 7 o'clock. The servants waited on me nicely and brought me in plenty to eat. My wardmaster was a wholesouled and jolly kind of a fellow. I became very much attached to him. His name was Caldwell and he belonged to the First Georgia regulars. My earnest appeals for something to eat the night I was brought in caused him to become very much attached to me. Frequently the servants would fail to bring me enough to eat.

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