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Chapter VIII

on April 2, 1862, we received orders to prepare three days cooked rations. Through some misunderstanding, we did not set out until the 4th; and, on the morning of that day, the 6th Arkansas Regiment of Hindman's brigade, Hardee's corps, marched from Corinth to take part in one of the bloodiest battles of the West. We left our knapsacks and tents behind us. After two days of marching, and two nights of bivouacking and living on cold rations, our spirits were not so buoyant at dawn of Sunday, the 6th April, as they ought to have been for the serious task before us. Many wished, like myself, that we had not been required to undergo this discomfort before being precipitated into the midst of a great battle.

Military science, with all due respect to our generals, was not at that time what it is now. Our military leaders were well acquainted with the science of war, and, in the gross fashion prevailing, paid proper attention to the commissariat. Every soldier had his lawful allowance of raw provender dealt out to him; but, as to its uses and effects, no one seemed to be concerned. Future commanding generals will doubtless remedy this, and when they meditate staking their cause and reputation on a battle, they will, like the woodman about to do a good day's work at cutting timber, see that their instruments are in the best possible state for their purpose.

Generals Johnston and Beauregard proposed to hurl into the Tennessee River an army of nearly 50,000 rested and well-fed troops, by means of 40,000 soldiers, who, for two days, had subsisted on sodden biscuit and raw bacon, who had been exposed for two nights to rain and dew, and had marched twenty-three miles! Considering that at least a fourth of our force were lads under twenty, and that such a strenuous task was before them, it suggests itself to me that the omission to take the physical powers of those youths into their calculation [187] had as much to do with the failure of the project as the obstinate courage of General Grant's troops. According to authority, the actual number of the forces about to be opposed to each other was 39,630 Confederates against 49,232 Federals. Our generals expected the arrival of General Van Dorn, with 20,000 troops, who failed to make their appearance; but, close at hand to Grant, was General Buell's force of 20,000, who, opportunely for Grant, arrived just at the close of the day's battle.

At four o'clock in the morning, we rose from our damp bivouac, and, after a hasty refreshment, were formed into line. We stood in rank for half an hour or so, while the military dispositions were being completed along the three-mile front. Our brigade formed the centre; Cleburne's and Gladden's brigades were on our respective flanks.

Day broke with every promise of a fine day. Next to me, on my right, was a boy of seventeen, Henry Parker. I remember it because, while we stood-at-ease, he drew my attention to some violets at his feet, and said, “It would be a good idea to put a few into my cap. Perhaps the Yanks won't shoot me if they see me wearing such flowers, for they are a sign of peace.” “Capital,” said I, “I will do the same.” We plucked a bunch, and arranged the violets in our caps. The men in the ranks laughed at our proceedings, and had not the enemy been so near, their merry mood might have been communicated to the army.

We loaded our muskets, and arranged our cartridge-pouches ready for use. Our weapons were the obsolete flintlocks,1 and the ammunition was rolled in cartridge-paper, which contained powder, a round ball, and three buckshot. When we loaded we had to tear the paper with our teeth, empty a little powder into the pan, lock it, empty the rest of the powder into the barrel, press paper and ball into the muzzle, and ram home. Then the Orderly-sergeant called the roll, and we knew that the Dixie Greys were present to a man. Soon after, there was a commotion, and we dressed up smartly. A young Aide galloped along our front, gave some instructions [188] to the Brigadier Hindman, who confided the same to his Colonels, and presently we swayed forward in line, with shouldered arms. Newton Story, big, broad, and straight, bore our company-banner of gay silk, at which the ladies of our neighbourhood had laboured.

As we tramped solemnly and silently through the thin forest, and over its grass, still in its withered and wintry hue, I noticed that the sun was not far from appearing, that our regiment was keeping its formation admirably, that the woods would have been a grand place for a picnic; and I thought it strange that a Sunday should have been chosen to disturb the holy calm of those woods.

Before we had gone five hundred paces, our serenity was disturbed by some desultory firing in front. It was then a quarter-past five. “They are at it already,” we whispered to each other. “Stand by, gentlemen,” --for we were all gentlemen volunteers at this time,--said our Captain, L. G. Smith. Our steps became unconsciously brisker, and alertness was noticeable in everybody. The firing continued at intervals, deliberate and scattered, as at target-practice. We drew nearer to the firing, and soon a sharper rattling of musketry was heard. “That is the enemy waking up,” we said. Within a few minutes, there was another explosive burst of musketry, the air was pierced by many missiles, which hummed and pinged sharply by our ears, pattered through the tree-tops, and brought twigs and leaves down on us. “Those are bullets,” Henry whispered with awe.

At two hundred yards further, a dreadful roar of musketry broke out from a regiment adjoining ours. It was followed by another further off, and the sound had scarcely died away when regiment after regiment blazed away and made a continuous roll of sound. “We are in for it now,” said Henry; but as yet we had seen nothing, though our ears were tingling under the animated volleys.

“Forward, gentlemen, make ready!” urged Captain Smith. In response, we surged forward, for the first time marring the alignment. We trampled recklessly over the grass and young sprouts. Beams of sunlight stole athwart our course. The sun was up above the horizon. Just then we came to a bit of packland, and overtook our skirmishers, who had been [189] engaged in exploring our front. We passed beyond them. Nothing now stood between us and the enemy.

“There they are!” was no sooner uttered, than we cracked into them with levelled muskets. “Aim low, men!” commanded Captain Smith. I tried hard to see some living thing to shoot at, for it appeared absurd to be blazing away at shadows. But, still advancing, firing as we moved, I, at last, saw a row of little globes of pearly smoke streaked with crimson, breaking-out, with spurtive quickness, from a long line of bluey figures in front; and, simultaneously, there broke upon our ears an appalling crash of sound, the series of fusillades following one another with startling suddenness, which suggested to my somewhat moidered sense a mountain upheaved, with huge rocks tumbling and thundering down a slope, and the echoes rumbling and receding through space. Again and again, these loud and quick explosions were repeated, seemingly with increased violence, until they rose to the highest pitch of fury, and in unbroken continuity. All the world seemed involved in one tremendous ruin!

This was how the conflict was ushered in — as it affected me. I looked around to see the effect on others, or whether I was singular in my emotions, and was glad to notice that each was possessed with his own thoughts. All were pale, solemn, and absorbed; but, beyond that, it was impossible for me to discover what they thought of it; but, by transmission of sympathy, I felt that they would gladly prefer to be elsewhere, though the law of the inevitable kept them in line to meet their destiny. It might be mentioned, however, that at no time were we more instinctively inclined to obey the voice of command. We had no individuality at this moment, but all motions and thoughts were surrendered to the unseen influence which directed our movements. Probably few bothered their minds with self-questionings as to the issue to themselves. That properly belongs to other moments, to the night, to the interval between waking and sleeping, to the first moments of the dawn — not when every nerve is tense, and the spirit is at the highest pitch of action.

Though one's senses were preternaturally acute, and engaged with their impressions, we plied our arms, loaded, and fired, with such nervous haste as though it depended on each [190] of us how soon this fiendish uproar would be hushed. My nerves tingled, my pulses beat double-quick, my heart throbbed loudly, and almost painfully; but, amid all the excitement, my thoughts, swift as the flash of lightning, took all sound, and sight, and self, into their purview. I listened to the battle raging far away on the flanks, to the thunder in front, to the various sounds made by the leaden storm. I was angry with my rear rank, because he made my eyes smart with the powder of his musket; and I felt like cuffing him for deafening my ears! I knew how Captain Smith and Lieutenant Mason looked, how bravely the Dixie Greys' banner ruffled over Newton Story's head, and that all hands were behaving as though they knew how long all this would last. Back to myself my thoughts came, and, with the whirring bullet, they fled to the blue-bloused ranks afront. They dwelt on their movements, and read their temper, as I should read time by a clock. Through the lurid haze the contours of their pink faces could not be seen, but their gappy, hesitating, incoherent, and sensitive line revealed their mood clearly.

We continued advancing, step by step, loading and firing as we went. To every forward step, they took a backward move, loading and firing as they slowly withdrew. Twenty thousand muskets were being fired at this stage, but, though accuracy of aim was impossible, owing to our labouring hearts, and the jarring and excitement, many bullets found their destined billets on both sides.

After a steady exchange of musketry, which lasted some time, we heard the order: “Fix bayonets! On the double-quick!” in tones that thrilled us. There was a simultaneous bound forward, each soul doing his best for the emergency. The Federals appeared inclined to await us; but, at this juncture, our men raised a yell, thousands responded to it, and burst out into the wildest yelling it has ever been my lot to hear. It drove all sanity and order from among us. It served the double purpose of relieving pent — up feelings, and transmitting encouragement along the attacking line. I rejoiced in the shouting like the rest. It reminded me that there were about four hundred companies like the Dixie Greys, who shared our feelings. Most of us, engrossed with the musket-work, had forgotten the fact; but the wave after wave of [191] human voices, louder than all other battle-sounds together, penetrated to every sense, and stimulated our energies to the utmost.

“They fly!” was echoed from lip to lip. It accelerated our pace, and filled us with a noble rage. Then I knew what the Berserker passion was! It deluged us with rapture, and transfigured each Southerner into an exulting victor. At such a moment, nothing could have halted us.

Those savage yells, and the sight of thousands of racing figures coming towards them, discomfited the blue-coats; and when we arrived upon the place where they had stood, they had vanished. Then we caught sight of their beautiful array of tents, before which they had made their stand, after being roused from their Sunday-morning sleep, and huddled into line, at hearing their pickets challenge our skirmishers. The half-dressed dead and wounded showed what a surprise our attack had been. We drew up in the enemy's camp, panting and breathing hard. Some precious minutes were thus lost in recovering our breaths, indulging our curiosity, and re-forming our line. Signs of a hasty rouse to the battle were abundant. Military equipments, uniform-coats, half-packed knapsacks, bedding, of a new and superior quality, littered the company streets.

Meantime, a series of other camps lay behind the first array of tents. The resistance we had met, though comparatively brief, enabled the brigades in rear of the advance camp to recover from the shock of the surprise; but our delay had not been long enough to give them time to form in proper order of battle. There were wide gaps between their divisions, into which the quick-flowing tide of elated Southerners entered, and compelled them to fall back lest they should be surrounded. Prentiss's brigade, despite their most desperate efforts, were thus hemmed in on all sides, and were made prisoners.

I had a momentary impression that, with the capture of the first camp, the battle was well-nigh over; but, in fact, it was only a brief prologue of the long and exhaustive series of struggles which took place that day.

Continuing our advance, we came in view of the tops of another mass of white tents, and, almost at the same time, were met by a furious storm of bullets, poured on us from a [192] long line of blue-coats, whose attitude of assurance proved to us that we should have tough work here. But we were so much heartened by our first success that it would have required a good deal to have halted our advance for long. Their opportunity for making a full impression on us came with terrific suddenness. The world seemed bursting into fragments. Cannon and musket, shell and bullet, lent their several intensities to the distracting uproar. If I had not a fraction of an ear, and an eye inclined towards my Captain and Company, I had been spell-bound by the energies now opposed to us. I likened the cannon, with their deep bass, to the roaring of a great herd of lions; the ripping, cracking musketry, to the incessant yapping of terriers; the windy whisk of shells, and zipping of minie bullets, to the swoop of eagles, and the buzz of angry wasps. All the opposing armies of Grey and Blue fiercely blazed at each other.

After being exposed for a few seconds to this fearful downpour, we heard the order to “Lie down, men, and continue your firing!” Before me was a prostrate tree, about fifteen inches in diameter, with a narrow strip of light between it and the ground. Behind this shelter a dozen of us flung ourselves. The security it appeared to offer restored me to my individuality. We could fight, and think, and observe, better than out in the open. But it was a terrible period! How the cannon bellowed, and their shells plunged and bounded, and flew with screeching hisses over us! Their sharp rending explosions and hurtling fragments made us shrink and cower, despite our utmost efforts to be cool and collected. I marvelled, as I heard the unintermitting patter, snip, thud, and hum of the bullets, how anyone could live under this raining death. I could hear the balls beating a merciless tattoo on the outer surface of the log, pinging vivaciously as they flew off at a tangent from it, and thudding into something or other, at the rate of a hundred a second. One, here and there, found its way under the log, and buried itself in a comrade's body. One man raised his chest, as if to yawn, and jostled me. I turned to him, and saw that a bullet had gored his whole face, and penetrated into his chest. Another ball struck a man a deadly rap on the head, and he turned on his back and showed his ghastly white face to the sky. [193]

“It is getting too warm, boys!” cried a soldier, and he uttered a vehement curse upon keeping soldiers hugging the ground until every ounce of courage was chilled. He lifted his head a little too high, and a bullet skimmed over the top of the log and hit him fairly in the centre of his forehead, and he fell heavily on his face. But his thought had been instantaneously general; and the officers, with one voice, ordered the charge; and cries of “Forward, forward!” raised us, as with a spring, to our feet, and changed the complexion of our feelings. The pulse of action beat feverishly once more; and, though overhead was crowded with peril, we were unable to give it so much attention as when we lay stretched on the ground.

Just as we bent our bodies for the onset, a boy's voice cried out, “Oh, stop, please stop a bit, I have been hurt, and can't move!” I turned to look, and saw Henry Parker, standing on one leg, and dolefully regarding his smashed foot. In another second, we were striding impetuously towards the enemy, vigorously plying our muskets, stopping only to prime the pan and ram the load down, when, with a spring or two, we would fetch up with the front, aim, and fire.

Our progress was not so continuously rapid as we desired, for the blues were obdurate; but at this moment we were gladdened at the sight of a battery galloping to our assistance. It was time for the nerve-shaking cannon to speak. After two rounds of shell and canister, we felt the pressure on us slightly relaxed; but we were still somewhat sluggish in disposition, though the officers' voices rang out imperiously. Newton Story at this juncture strode forward rapidly with the Dixies' banner, until he was quite sixty yards ahead of the foremost. Finding himself alone, he halted; and turning to us smilingly, said, “Why don't you come on, boys?” “You see there is no danger!” His smile and words acted on us like magic. We raised the yell, and sprang lightly and hopefully towards him. “Let's give them hell, boys!” said one. “Plug them plum-centre, every time!”

It was all very encouraging, for the yelling and shouting were taken up by thousands. “Forward, forward; don't give them breathing time!” was cried. We instinctively obeyed, and soon came in clear view of the blue-coats, who were scornfully unconcerned at first; but, seeing the leaping tide of [194] men coming on at a tremendous pace, their front dissolved, and they fled in double-quick retreat. Again we felt the “glorious joy of heroes.” It carried us on exultantly, rejoicing in the spirit which recognises nothing but the prey. We were no longer an army of soldiers, but so many school-boys racing, in which length of legs, wind, and condition tell.

We gained the second line of camps, continued the rush through them, and clean beyond. It was now about ten o'clock. My physical powers were quite exhausted, and, to add to my discomfiture, something struck me on my belt-clasp, and tumbled me headlong to the ground.

I could not have been many minutes prostrated before I recovered from the shock of the blow and fall, to find my clasp deeply dented and cracked. My company was not in sight. I was grateful for the rest, and crawled feebly to a tree, and plunging my hand into my haversack, ate ravenously. Within half an hour, feeling renovated, I struck north in the direction which my regiment had taken, over a ground strewn with bodies and the debris of war.

The desperate character of this day's battle was now brought home to my mind in all its awful reality. While in the tumultuous advance, and occupied with a myriad of exciting incidents, it was only at brief intervals that I was conscious of wounds being given and received; but now, in the trail of pursuers and pursued, the ghastly relics appalled every sense. I felt curious as to who the fallen Greys were, and moved to one stretched straight out. It was the body of a stout English Sergeant of a neighbouring company, the members of which hailed principally from the Washita Valley. At the crossing of the Arkansas River this plump, ruddy-faced man had been conspicuous for his complexion, jovial features, and good-humour, and had been nicknamed “John bull.” He was now lifeless, and lay with his eyes wide open, regardless of the scorching sun, and the tempestuous cannonade which sounded through the forest, and the musketry that crackled incessantly along the front.

Close by him was a young Lieutenant, who, judging by the new gloss on his uniform, must have been some father's darling. A clean bullet-hole through the centre of his forehead had instantly ended his career. A little further were [195] some twenty bodies, lying in various postures, each by its own pool of viscous blood, which emitted a peculiar scent, which was new to me, but which I have since learned is inseparable from a battle-field. Beyond these, a still larger group lay, body overlying body, knees crooked, arms erect, or wide-stretched and rigid, according as the last spasm overtook them. The company opposed to them must have shot straight.

Other details of that ghastly trail formed a mass of horrors that will always be remembered at the mention of Shiloh. I can never forget the impression those wide-open dead eyes made on me. Each seemed to be starting out of its socket, with a look similar to the fixed wondering gaze of an infant, as though the dying had viewed something appalling at the last moment. “Can it be,” I asked myself, “that at the last glance they saw their own retreating souls, and wondered why their caskets were left behind, like offal?” My surprise was that the form we made so much of, and that nothing was too good for, should now be mutilated, hacked, and outraged; and that the life, hitherto guarded as a sacred thing, and protected by the Constitution, Law, Ministers of Justice, Police, should, of a sudden,--at least, before I can realise it,--be given up to death!

An object once seen, if it has affected my imagination, remains indelibly fixed in my memory; and, among many other scenes with which it is now crowded, I cannot forget that half-mile square of woodland, lighted brightly by the sun, and littered by the forms of about a thousand dead and wounded men, and by horses, and military equipments. It formed a picture that may always be reproduced with an almost absolute fidelity. For it was the first Field of Glory I had seen in my May of life, and the first time that Glory sickened me with its repulsive aspect, and made me suspect it was all a glittering lie. In my imagination, I saw more than it was my fate to see with my eyes, for, under a flag of truce, I saw the bearers pick up the dead from the field, and lay them in long rows beside a wide trench; I saw them laid, one by one, close together at the bottom,--thankless victims of a perished cause, and all their individual hopes, pride, honour, names, buried under oblivious earth. [196]

My thoughts reverted to the time when these festering bodies were idolized objects of their mothers' passionate love, their fathers standing by, half-fearing to touch the fragile little things, and the wings of civil law out-spread to protect parents and children in their family loves, their coming and going followed with pride and praise, and the blessing of the Almighty over-shadowing all. Then, as they were nearing manhood, through some strange warp of Society, men in authority summoned them from school and shop, field and farm, to meet in the woods on a Sunday morning for mutual butchery with the deadliest instruments ever invented, Civil Law, Religion, and Morality complaisantly standing aside, while 90,000 young men, who had been preached and moralized to, for years, were let loose to engage in the carnival of slaughter.

Only yesterday, they professed to shudder at the word “Murder.” To-day, by a strange twist in human nature, they lusted to kill, and were hounded on in the work of destruction by their pastors, elders, mothers, and sisters. Oh, for once, I was beginning to know the real truth! Man was born for slaughter! All the pains taken to soothe his savage heart were unavailing! Holy words and heavenly hopes had no lasting effect on his bestial nature, for, when once provoked, how swiftly he flung aside the sweet hope of Heaven, and the dread of Hell, with which he amused himself in time of ease!

As I moved, horror-stricken, through the fearful shambles, where the dead lay as thick as the sleepers in a London park on a Bank Holiday, I was unable to resist the belief that my education had been in abstract things, which had no relation to our animal existence. For, if human life is so disparaged, what has it to do with such high subjects as God, Heaven, and Immortality? And to think how devotional men and women pretended to be, on a Sunday! Oh, cunning, cruel man! He knew that the sum of all real knowledge and effort was to know how to kill and mangle his brothers, as we were doing to-day! Reflecting on my own emotions, I wondered if other youths would feel that they had been deluded like myself with man's fine polemics and names of things, which vanished with the reality.

A multitude of angry thoughts surged through me, which [197] I cannot describe in detail, but they amounted to this, that a cruel deception had been practised on my blank ignorance, that my atom of imagination and feeling had been darkened, and that man was a portentous creature from which I recoiled with terror and pity. He was certainly terrible and hard, but he was no more to me now than a two-legged beast; he was cunning beyond finding out, but his morality was only a mask for his wolfish heart! Thus, scoffing and railing at my infatuation for moral excellence as practised by humanity, I sought to join my company and regiment.

The battle-field maintained the same character of undulated woodland, being, in general, low ridges separated by broad depressions, which sunk occasionally into ravines of respectable depth. At various places, wide clearings had been made; and I came across a damp bottom or two covered with shrubs. For a defensive force there were several positions that were admirable as rallying-points, and it is perhaps owing to these, and the undoubted courage exhibited by the Federal troops, that the battle was so protracted. Though our attack had been a surprise, it was certain that they fought as though they were resolved to deny it; and, as the ground to be won from the enemy was nearly five miles in depth, and every half mile or so they stood and obstinately contested it, all the honours of the day were not to be with us.

I overtook my regiment about one o'clock, and found that it was engaged in one of these occasional spurts of fury. The enemy resolutely maintained their ground, and our side was preparing for another assault. The firing was alternately brisk and slack. We lay down, and availed ourselves of trees, logs, and hollows, and annoyed their upstanding ranks; battery pounded battery, and, meanwhile, we hugged our resting-places closely. Of a sudden, we rose and raced towards the position, and took it by sheer weight and impetuosity, as we had done before. About three o'clock, the battle grew very hot. The enemy appeared to be more concentrated, and immovably sullen. Both sides fired better as they grew more accustomed to the din; but, with assistance from the reserves, we were continually pressing them towards the river Tennessee, without ever retreating an inch.

About this time, the enemy were assisted by the gun-boats, [198] which hurled their enormous projectiles far beyond us; but, though they made great havoc among the trees, and created terror, they did comparatively little damage to those in close touch with the enemy.

The screaming of the big shells, when they first began to sail over our heads, had the effect of reducing our fire; for they were as fascinating as they were distracting. But we became used to them, and our attention was being claimed more in front. Our officers were more urgent; and, when we saw the growing dyke of white cloud that signalled the bullet-storm, we could not be indifferent to the more immediate danger. Dead bodies, wounded men writhing in agony, and assuming every distressful attitude, were frequent sights; but what made us heart-sick was to see, now and then, the well-groomed charger of an officer, with fine saddle, and scarlet and yellow-edged cloth, and brass-tipped holsters, or a stray cavalry or artillery horse, galloping between the lines, snorting with terror, while his entrails, soiled with dust, trailed behind him.

Our officers had continued to show the same alertness and vigour throughout the day; but, as it drew near four o'clock, though they strove to encourage and urge us on, they began to abate somewhat in their energy; and it was evident that the pluckiest of the men lacked the spontaneity and springing ardour which had distinguished them earlier in the day. Several of our company lagged wearily behind, and the remainder showed, by their drawn faces, the effects of their efforts. Yet, after a short rest, they were able to make splendid spurts. As for myself, I had only one wish, and that was for repose. The long-continued excitement, the successive tautening and relaxing of the nerves, the quenchless thirst, made more intense by the fumes of sulphurous powder, and the caking grime on the lips, caused by tearing the paper cartridges, and a ravening hunger, all combined, had reduced me to a walking automaton, and I earnestly wished that night would come, and stop all further effort.

Finally, about five o'clock, we assaulted and captured a large camp; after driving the enemy well away from it, the front line was as thin as that of a skirmishing body, and we were ordered to retire to the tents. There we hungrily sought after provisions, and I was lucky in finding a supply of biscuits [199] and a canteen of excellent molasses, which gave great comfort to myself and friends. The plunder in the camp was abundant. There were bedding, clothing, and accoutrements without stint; but people were so exhausted they could do no more than idly turn the things over. Night soon fell, and only a few stray shots could now be heard, to remind us of the thrilling and horrid din of the day, excepting the huge bombs from the gun-boats, which, as we were not far from the blue-coats, discomforted only those in the rear. By eight o'clock, I was repeating my experiences in the region of dreams, indifferent to columbiads and mortars, and the torrential rain which, at midnight, increased the miseries of the wounded and tentless.

An hour before dawn, I awoke from a refreshing sleep; and, after a hearty replenishment of my vitals with biscuit and molasses, I conceived myself to be fresher than on Sunday morning. While awaiting day-break, I gathered from other early risers their ideas in regard to the events of yesterday. They were under the impression that we had gained a great victory, though we had not, as we had anticipated, reached the Tennessee River. Van Dorn, with his expected reinforcements for us, was not likely to make his appearance for many days yet; and, if General Buell, with his 20,000 troops, had joined the enemy during the night, we had a bad day's work before us. We were short of provisions and ammunition, General Sidney Johnston, our chief Commander, had been killed; but Beauregard was safe and unhurt, and, if Buell was absent, we would win the day.

At daylight, I fell in with my Company, but there were only about fifty of the Dixies present. Almost immediately after, symptoms of the coming battle were manifest. Regiments were hurried into line, but, even to my inexperienced eyes, the troops were in ill-condition for repeating the efforts of Sunday. However, in brief time, in consequence of our pickets being driven in on us, we were moved forward in skirmishing order. With my musket on the trail I found myself in active motion, more active than otherwise I would have been, perhaps, because Captain Smith had said, “Now, Mr. Stanley, if you please, step briskly forward!” This singling-out of me wounded my amour-propre, and sent me forward like a rocket. In a short time, we met our opponents in the same formation as [200] ourselves, and advancing most resolutely. We threw ourselves behind such trees as were near us, fired, loaded, and darted forward to another shelter. Presently, I found myself in an open, grassy space, with no convenient tree or stump near; but, seeing a shallow hollow some twenty paces ahead, I made a dash for it, and plied my musket with haste. I became so absorbed with some blue figures in front of me, that I did not pay sufficient heed to my companion greys; the open space was too dangerous, perhaps, for their advance; for, had they emerged, I should have known they were pressing forward. Seeing my blues in about the same proportion, I assumed that the greys were keeping their position, and never once thought of retreat. However, as, despite our firing, the blues were coming uncomfortably near, I rose from my hollow; but, to my speechless amazement, I found myself a solitary grey, in a line of blue skirmishers! My companions had retreated! The next I heard was, “Down with that gun, Secesh, or I'll drill a hole through you! Drop it, quick!”

Half a dozen of the enemy were covering me at the same instant, and I dropped my weapon, incontinently. Two men sprang at my collar, and marched me, unresisting, into the ranks of the terrible Yankees. I was a prisoner!

When the senses have been concentrated upon a specific object with the intensity which a battle compels, and are forcibly and suddenly veered about by another will, the immediate result is, at first, stupefying. Before my consciousness had returned to me, I was being propelled vigorously from behind, and I was in view of a long, swaying line of soldiers, who were marching to meet us with all the precision of drill, and with such a close front that a rabbit would have found it difficult to break through. This sight restored me to all my faculties, and I remembered I was a Confederate, in misfortune, and that it behoved me to have some regard for my Uniform. I heard bursts of vituperation from several hoarse throats, which straightened my back and made me defiant.

“Where are you taking that fellow to? Drive a bayonet into the----------! Let him drop where he is!” they cried by the dozen, with a German accent. They grew more excited as we drew nearer, and more men joined in the opprobrious [201] chorus. Then a few dashed from the ranks, with levelled bayonets, to execute what appeared to be the general wish.

I looked into their faces, deformed with fear and fury, and I felt intolerable loathing for the wild-eyed brutes! Their eyes, projected and distended, appeared like spots of pale blue ink, in faces of dough! Reason had fled altogether from their features, and, to appeal for mercy to such blind, ferocious animalism would have been the height of absurdity, but I was absolutely indifferent as to what they might do with me now. Could I have multiplied myself into a thousand, such unintellectual-looking louts might have been brushed out of existence with ease — despite their numbers. They were apparently new troops, from such back-lands as were favoured by German immigrants; and, though of sturdy build, another such mass of savagery and stupidity could not have been found within the four corners of North America. How I wished I could return to the Confederates, and tell them what kind of people were opposing them!

Before their bayonets reached me, my two guards, who were ruddy-faced Ohioans, flung themselves before me, and, presenting their rifles, cried, “Here! Stop that, you fellows! He is our prisoner!” A couple of officers were almost as quick as they, and flourished their swords; and, amid an expenditure of profanity, drove them quickly back into their ranks, cursing and blackguarding me in a manner truly American. A company opened its lines as we passed to the rear. Once through, I was comparatively safe from the Union troops, but not from the Confederate missiles, which were dropping about, and striking men, right and left.

Quickening our pace, we soon were beyond danger from my friends; after which, I looked about with interest at the forces that were marching to retrieve their shame of yesterday. The troops we saw belonged to Buell, who had crossed the Tennessee, and was now joined by Grant. They presented a brave, even imposing, sight; and, in their new uniforms, with glossy knapsacks, rubbers undimmed, brasses resplendent, they approached nearer to my idea of soldiers than our dingy grey troops. Much of this fine show and seeming steadiness was due to their newer equipments, and, as yet, unshaken nerves; but, though their movements were firm, they were [202] languid, and lacked the elan, the bold confidence, of the Southerners. Given twenty-four hours rest, and the enjoyment of cooked rations, I felt that the Confederates would have crumpled up the handsome Unionists within a brief time.

Though my eyes had abundant matter of interest within their range, my mind continually harked back to the miserable hollow which had disgraced me, and I kept wondering how it was that my fellow-skirmishers had so quickly disappeared. I was inclined to blame Captain Smith for urging me on, when, within a few minutes after, he must have withdrawn his men. But it was useless to trouble my mind with conjectures. I was a prisoner! Shameful position! What would become of my knapsack, and my little treasures,--letters, and souvenirs of my father? They were lost beyond recovery!

On the way, my guards and I had a discussion about our respective causes, and, though I could not admit it, there was much reason in what they said, and I marvelled that they could put their case so well. For, until now, I was under the impression that they were robbers who only sought to desolate the South, and steal the slaves; but, according to them, had we not been so impatient and flown to arms, the influence of Abe Lincoln and his fellow-abolitionists would not have affected the Southerners pecuniarily; for it might have been possible for Congress to compensate slave-owners, that is, by buying up all slaves, and afterwards setting them free. But when the Southerners, who were not averse to selling their slaves in the open market, refused to consider anything relating to them, and began to seize upon government property, forts, arsenals, and war-ships, and to set about establishing a separate system in the country, then the North resolved that this should not be, and that was the true reason of the war. The Northern people cared nothing for the “niggers,” --the slavery question could have been settled in another and quieter way,--but they cared all their lives were worth for their country.

At the river-side there was tremendous activity. There were seven or eight steamers tied to the bank, discharging troops and stores. The commissariat stores and forage lay in mountainous heaps. In one place on the slope was a corral of [203] prisoners, about four hundred and fifty in number, who had been captured the day before. I was delivered to the charge of the officer in command of the guards, and, in a few minutes, was left to my own reflections amid the unfortunates.

The loss of the Union troops in the two days fight was 1754 killed, 8408 wounded, and 2885 captured; total, 13,047. That of the Confederates was 1728 killed, 8012 wounded, and 959 missing; total, 10,699.

The loss of Hindman's Brigade was 109 killed, 546 wounded, 38 missing; total, 693,--about a fifth of the number that went, on the Sunday morning, into action.

Referring to these totals, 1754+1728=3482, killed, General Grant, however, says, in his article on Shiloh:

This estimate of the Confederate loss must be incorrect. We buried, by actual count, more of the enemy's dead in front of the divisions of McClernand and Sherman alone than here reported; and 4000 was the estimate of the burial parties for the whole field.2

Nine days after the battle of Shiloh, a conscript law was passed by the Confederate Congress which annulled all previous contracts made with volunteers, and all men between eighteen and thirty-five were to be soldiers during the continuance of the war. General T. C. Hindman, our brigade [204] commander, was appointed, fifty days after Shiloh, commanding general of Arkansas, and enforced the conscript law remorselessly. He collected an army of 20,000 under this law, and such as deserted were shot by scores, until he made himself odious to all by his ruthlessness, violence, and tyranny.

While at Atlanta, Georgia, in March, 1891, I received the following letter (which is copied verbatim) from “old Slate,” as we used to call him, owing to a certain quaint, old-mannish humour which characterised him.

blue ridge, Ga. March 28th, 1891.
dear Sir,--I am anxious to know if you enlisted in Company E., Dixie Greys, 6th Arkansas Regiment, Col. Lyon commanding, Lieut.-Col. Hawthorn, Capt. Smith commanding Dixie Greys, Co. E. Col. Lyons was accidently killed on the Tennessee River, by riding off Bluff and horse falling on him.

On the 6th April, 1862, the Confederates attacked the Yankees at Shiloh. Early in the morning I was wounded, and I never saw our boyish-looking Stanley no more, but understood he was captured, and sent North. I have read everything in newspapers, and your Histories, believing you are the same Great Boy. We all loved you, and regretted the results of that eventful day. This is enough for you to say, in reply, that you are the identical Boyish Soldier. You have wrote many letters for me. Please answer by return mail.

Very truly yours,

James M. Slate. Address: J. M. Slate, blue ridge.

1 Beauregard (Military Operations, vol. i, p. 300), writing of the battle-field of Shiloh, says, “One cheering feature, however, was the strewing of old flint-locks and double-barrelled shot-guns, exchanged for the Enfield and Minie rifles abandoned by the enemy.” --D. S.

2 Stanley, now having become a prisoner, is not able to conclude his personal account of this historical contest. It may be of interest to the reader if I briefly summarise the final result.

On Sunday, April 6, 1862, was fought the greatest battle of the war. As General D. C. Buell says in a magazine article: “The battle of Shiloh was the most famous, and, to both sides, the most interesting of the war.” The Confederate army advanced upon the Federal army, penetrated its disconnected lines, assaulted its camps in front and flank, and drove it from position to position, towards the Tennessee River.

At the close of the day, when the retreating army was driven to take refuge in the midst of its magazines, a re-enforcing army was marching to its assistance, and an advance division, on the opposite bank of the river, checked the attacking force.

At dawn, the next morning, Monday, April 7, General Buell heading the reenforcing army, and with a fresh division of the defeated force, drove the Confederates from the field and recaptured the camps, after ten hours desperate fighting.

Whereupon General Beauregard, seeing the hopelessness of prolonging the contest, withdrew his army, in perfect order, and unmolested, to Corinth. There was no pursuit; and this was afterwards much commented on. But both armies appear to have been utterly spent, the Federal troops being as much outdone as the Confederates. General Grant stated that, though desirous of pursuing the retreating army, he “had not the heart to order it to men who had fought desperately for two days, lying in the mud and rain, whenever not fighting.” --D. S.

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