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Chapter 20: from Spottsylvania to Cold Harbor

  • Another Slide to the east, and another, and another
  • -- the armies straining like two Coursers, side by side, for the next goal -- Grant waiting for reinforcements -- Lee seriously Indisposed -- one of his three corps commanders disabled by wounds, another by sickness -- Mickey and the children -- “it Beats a furlough Hollow” -- a baby in battle -- death of Lawrence M. Keitt and demoralization of his command -- splendid services of Lieut. Robt. Falligant, of Georgia, with a single gun -- hot fighting the evening of June 1st -- building roads and bridges and getting ready June 2d -- removal of Falligant's lone gun at night.

After feeling our lines, feinting several times, and making, on the 18th, what might perhaps be termed a genuine attack, Grant, on the evening of the 20th, slid off toward Bowling Green; but although he got a little the start of Lee, yet, when he reached his immediate objective, Lee was in line of battle at Hanover Junction, directly across the line of further progress. It is the belief of many intelligent Confederate officers that if Lee had not been attacked by disabling disease, the movements of the two armies about the North Anna would have had a very different termination. Grant ran great risk in taking his army to the southern bank of the river with Lee on the stream between his two wings; it is fair to add that he seems to have realized his peril and to have withdrawn in good time.

General Lee's indisposition, about this time, was really serious. Some of us will never forget how shocked and alarmed we were at seeing him in an ambulance. General Early, in his address before mentioned, says of this matter:

One of his three corps commanders had been disabled by wounds at the Wilderness, and another was too sick to command his corps, while [267] he himself was suffering from a most annoying and weakening disease. In fact nothing but his own determined will enabled him to keep the field at all; and it was there rendered more manifest than ever that he was the head and front, the very life and soul of his army.

It was about this date that General Lee, as I remember a second time, broached the idea that he might be compelled to retire — an idea which no one else could contemplate with any sort of composure; happily, as soon as the disease was checked his superb physical powers came to his aid, and he soon rallied and regained his customary vigor and spirits.

Perhaps no other position of equal labor and responsibility can be mentioned, nor one which makes such drafts upon human strength and endurance, as the command of a great army in a time of active service. I recall during the Gettysburg campaign being equally impressed with the force of this general proposition, and with the almost incredible physical powers of General Lee. On two occasions, just before and just after we recrossed the Potomac, I was sent upon ali errand which required my visiting army, corps, and division headquarters, and, so far as practicable, seeing the respective commanding officers in person. On the first round I did not find General Lee at his quarters, and was told that he had ridden down the road to the lines. When I reached the lines I heard he had passed out in front. Following him up, I found him in the rain with a single piece of horse artillery, feeling the enemy. My second ride was made largely at night, and, as I remember, every officer I desired to see was asleep, except at Army Headquarters, where I found Colonel Taylor in his tent on his knees, with his prayer-book open before him, and General Lee in his tent, wide-awake, poring over a map stretched upon a temporary table of rough plank, with a tallow candle stuck in a bottle for a light. I remember saying to myself, as I delivered my message and withdrew, “Does he never, never sleep?”

Again General Grant slid to the east, and we moved off upon a parallel line. I think it was during this detour-or it may have been an earlier or a later one--that I was sent ahead, upon a road which led through a tract of country [268] which had not been desolated by the encampments or the battles of armies, to select a night's resting place for the battalion. Forests were standing untouched, farm lands were protected by fences, crops were green and untrampled, birds were singing, flowers blooming — Eden everywhere. Even my horse seemed to feel the change from the crowded roads, the deadly lines, the dust, the dirt, the mud, the blood, the horror. We were passing through a quiet wood at a brisk walk, when suddenly he roused himself and quickened his gait, breaking of his own accord into a long trot, his beautiful, sensitive ears playing back and forth in the unmistakable way which, in a fine horse, indicates that he catches sounds interesting and agreeable to him. It was, perhaps, several hundred yards before we swung around out of the forest into the open land where stood a comfortable farm house, and there in a sweet and sunny corner were several chubby little children chatting and singing at their play. Mickey, dear old Mickey, trotted right up to the little people, with low whinnies of recognition and delight, and rubbed his head against them. They did not seem at all afraid, but pulled nice tufts of grass for him, which he ate with evident relish and gratitude.

If I remember correctly, it was the evening of the same day, after Mickey and I had kissed and left the children, and I had found a beautiful camping ground for the battaliona succession of little swells of land crowned with pine copses and covered with broom-sedge, with a clear, cool stream flowing between the hills; and after the batteries were all up and located in this soldier paradise-guns parked, horses watered and fed and all work done — I say, I think it was after all this, that the bugles of each of the batteries blew such sweet and happy notes as I never heard from any one of them before, and then, while I was lying on the broomsedge, bathing my soul in this peace, and Mickey was browsing near-by, over across the stream, the Howitzer Glee Club launched out into a song, the first they had sung since we broke camp at Morton's Ford, three weeks before.

As the song ceased and the day was fading into the twilight, I caught, up the road, the low murmur of conversation and the rattle of canteens, and following the sound [269] with my eye, saw two infantrymen, from a command that had followed us and camped further back from the stream, wending their way to water. Just as they came fully within sight and hearing, two of the Howitzer Club struck up “What are the wild waves saying?” --one of them, in a fine falsetto, taking the sister's part. As the clear, sweet female voice floated out on the still evening air my two infantrymen stood transfixed, one putting his hand upon the other's arm and saying with suppressed excitement, “Stop, man; there's a woman!” They were absolutely silent during the singing of the sister's part, but when the brother took up the song they openly wondered whether she would sing again. “Yes, there she is; listen, listen!”

And so, until the song was done, and they had waited, and it had become evident she would sing no more-and then a deep sigh from both the spell-bound auditors, and one of them, making use of the strongest figure he could command, exclaimed, from the bottom of a full heart, “Well, it beats a furlough hollow!”

We almost began to hope that Grant had gotten enough. Even his apparent, yes, real, success at the Salient did not embolden him to attack again at Spottsylvania. He had retired without any serious fighting at Hanover Junction or North Anna, and after feeling our position about Atlee's, he had once more slipped away from our front. Where was he going? What did he intend to do? Anyone of his predecessors would have retired and given it up long ago. Was he about to do so?

The fact is, Grant was waiting for reinforcements. He had been heavily reinforced at Spottsylvania after the 12th of May, but not up to the measure of his desires, or of his needs, either; for he really needed more men-and more, and more. He needed them, he asked for them, and he got them. He had a right to all he wanted. His original contract so provided; it covered all necessary drafts. He wanted especially Baldy Smith and his men from the transports, and they were coming. They were stretching out hands to each other. When they clasped hands, then Grant would attack once more; would make his great final effort. When and where would it be? [270]

When Grant slid away from Lee at Atlee's, we felt satisfied that he was, as usual, making for the south and east, so Hoke was ordered toward Cold Harbor, and Kershaw (now our division general, McLaws never having returned from the West) toward Beulah Church. Colonel Cabell received orders on the evening of the 31st of May, or early on the morning of the 1st of June, to make for the latter point; but he was not upon the same road as Kershaw's division, and our orders said nothing about joining it. They seemed to contemplate our going by the most direct route, and we went --that is, as far as we could. No infantry apparently had received any orders to go with us, certainly none went, and we soon passed beyond the apparent end of our infantry line, at least on the road we were traveling. Very soon we reached a stout infantry picket, which I interviewed, and they said there were no Confederate troops down that road, unless perhaps a few cavalry videttes.

I was on very intimate terms with my colonel, and I went to him and suggested whether there was not danger in our proceeding as we were, a battalion of artillery unaccompanied by infantry, out and beyond the last picket post. The colonel was a strict constructionist, and he shut me up at once by saying: “Stiles, that is the responsibility of the general officer who sent me my orders. I am ordered to Beulah Church and to Beulah Church I am going. This is the nearest road.” I looked up at him in some little surprise, but said no more; having fired, I now fell back on my reserves, in pretty fair order, but slightly demoralized.

My reserves were the officers and men of the battalion, all of whom I think were fond of me. If I mistake not, Frazier's battery led the column. I am certain it did a little later. Calloway, its commanding officer, to whom we have already been introduced, was one of the very best of soldiers, as the reader will soon be prepared to admit. He was the first man I fell in with as I fell back, Colonel Cabell and little Barrett, his courier, being ahead of the column. Calloway asked me if I didn't think we were running some risk, entirely unsupported as we seemed to be, and outside our lines. I told him what had occurred, and he smiled grimly. [271]

Then I fell back further to the old battery. The column was pretty well closed up that morning; everybody seemed to feel it well to be so. I was strongly attached to the old company and particularly to the captain, who was a magnificent fellow. It was early on a beautiful spring morning, and we were again passing through a tract of undesolated, undesecrated country-greenness, quiet, the song of birds, the scent of flowers, all about us. Captain McCarthy was on foot, walking among his men, his great arms frequently around the necks of two of them at once — a position which displayed his martial, manly figure to great advantage. I dismounted, one of the fellows mounting my horse, and walked and talked and chatted with the men, and particularly with the captain.

He was altogether an uncommon person, marked by great simplicity, sincerity, kindliness, courage, good sense, personal force, and a genius for commanding men. He had been rather a reckless, pugnacious boy, difficult to manage, impatient of control. The war had proved a real blessing to him. It let off the surplus fire and fight. Its deep and powerful undertone was just what was needed to harmonize his nature. His spirit had really been balanced and gentled and sweetened by it. He was not essentially an intellectual man, nor yet a man of broad education, and he had under him some of the most intellectual and cultivated young men I ever met, yet he was easily their leader and commander; in the matter of control and for the business in hand, “from his shoulders and upward, taller than any of the people.” And these intellectual and cultivated men freely recognized his supremacy and admired and loved him. He seemed to be somewhat subdued and quiet that morning; even more than ordinarily affectionate and demonstrative, but not cheerful or chatty. Several of us noticed his unusual bearing and speculated as to the cause.

As the morning wore on and we were leaving our infantry further and further behind, my uneasiness returned; and besides, I had been away long enough from the colonel, so I remounted and rode forward to the head of the column. He had been very emphatic in repelling my suggestions, but [272] I thought it my duty to renew them, and I did. He was even more emphatic than before, saying he had been ordered to take that battalion to Beulah Church, and he proposed to do it, and he even added that when he wanted any advice from me he would ask it. I felt a nearer approach to heat than ever before or after, in all my intercourse with my friend and commander, and I assured him I would not obtrude my advice again.

I reined in my horse, waiting for Calloway, and rode with him at the head of his battery. I had scarcely joined him, when Colonels Fairfax and Latrobe, of Longstreet's staff, and Captain Simonton, of Pickett's, dashed by, splendidly mounted, and disappeared in a body of woods but a few hundred yards ahead. Hardly had they done so, when pop! pop! pop! went a half dozen carbines and revolvers; and a moment later the three officers galloped back out of the forest, driving before them two or three Federal cavalrymen on foot-Simonton leaning over his horse's head and striking at them with his riding whip. On the instant I took my revenge, riding up to Colonel Cabell, taking off my hat with a profound bow, and asking whether it was still his intention to push right on to Beulah Church? Meanwhile, minie balls began to drop in on us, evidently fired by sharpshooters from a house a short distance to our left and front. The Colonel turned toward me with a smile, and said, in a tone that took all the sting out of his former words, if any was ever intended to be in them: “Yes, you impudent fellow, it is my intention, but let's see how quickly you can drive those sharpshooters out of that house!”

Scarce sooner said than done. I sprang from my horse. Calloway's guns were in battery on the instant, I, by his permission, taking charge of his first piece as gunner. Making a quick estimate of the distance, I shouted back to No. 6 at how many seconds to cut the fuse, and the shell reached the gun almost as soon as I did. A moment-and the gun was loaded, aimed and fired; a moment more and the house burst into flame. The shell from the other three guns were exploded among the retiring skirmishers, who ran back toward the woods; while from the side of the house nearest to us [273] two women came out, one very stout and walking with difficulty, the other bearing a baby in her arms and two little children following her. Calling to the gunner to take charge of his piece, I broke for these women, three or four of the men running with me. There was a fence between us and them that could not have been less than four and a half feet high, which I cleared, “hair and hough,” while the rest stopped to climb it. I took the baby and dragged the youngest child along with me, telling the other to come on, and sent the younger woman back to help the elder. When the reinforcements arrived we re-arranged our convoys, I still keeping the baby. By the time we reached the battery more of the guns were in action, shelling the woods, and I became interested in the firing. The number fives as they ran by me with the ammunition would stop a moment to pat the baby, who was quite satisfied, and seemed to enjoy the racket, cooing and trying to pull my short hair and beard. This thing had been going on for several minutes, and I had not been conscious of any appeal to me, until one of the men ran up, and, pulling me sharply around, pointed to the two women, who were standing back down the hill, and as far as possible out of the line of the bullets, which were still annoying us. There was a rousing laugh and cheer as I started back to deliver the little infant artilleryman to his mother. It turned out that the elder of the two women was the mother of the other, and had been bedridden for several years. We were exceedingly sorry to have burned their little house, but some of the boys suggested that if the cure of the mother proved permanent, the balance, after all, might be considered rather in our favor.

I do not recall the events of the next few hours with any distinctness, or in any orderly sequence, nor how we got into connection with our division, Kershaw's; but we (lid so without serious mishap; so, perhaps, Colonel Cabell may have been more nearly right than I after all. The first definite recollection I have, after what I have just related, is of the breaking of Col. Lawrence M. Keitt's big South Carolina regiment, which had just come to the army and been entered in Kershaw's old brigade, and probably outnumbered [274] all the balance of that command. General Kershaw had put this and another of his brigades into action not far from where we had burned the house to dislodge the skirmishers. Keitt's men gave ground, and in attempting to rally them their colonel fell mortally wounded. Thereupon the regiment went to pieces in abject rout and threatened to overwhelm the rest of the brigade. I have never seen any body of troops in such a condition of utter demoralization; they actually groveled upon the ground and attempted to burrow under each other in holes and depressions. Major Goggin, the stalwart adjutant-general of the division, was attempting to rally them, and I did what I could to help him. It was of no avail. We actually spurred our horses upon them, and seemed to hear their very bones crack, but it did no good; if compelled to wriggle out of one hole they wriggled into another.

So far as I recollect, however, this affair was of no real significance. Our other troops stood firm, and we lost no ground. I think none of the guns of the battery were engaged. Meanwhile the three divisions of our corps-the First, since Longstreet's wounding, under command of Major-General R. H. Anderson-had settled into alignment in the following order, beginning from the left: Field, Pickett, Kershaw. On the right of Kershaw's was Hoke's division, which had been under Beauregard and had joined the Army of Northern Virginia only the night before. The ground upon which our troops had thus felt and fought their way into line was the historic field of Cold Harbor, and the day was the first of June, 1864.

In the afternoon a furious attack was made on the left of Hoke and right of Kershaw; and Clingman's, the left brigade of Hoke and Wofford's, the right brigade of Kershaw gave way, and the Federal troops poured into the gap over a marshy piece of ground which had not been properly covered by either of these two brigades. Both Field and Pickett sent aid to Kershaw, and several of the guns of our battalion — I am not sure of which batteries, though I think two belonged to the Howitzers, came into battery on the edge of a peach orchard which sloped down to the break, [275] and poured in a hot enfilade fire on the victorious Federals, who, after a manly struggle, were driven back, though we did not quite regain all we had lost, and our lines were left in very bad shape.

While Wofford was bending back the right of his line to connect with Hoke, who, even with the aid sent him, had not quite succeeded in regaining his original position, Kershaw's old brigade, which had more perfectly recovered from its little contretemps, was pressing and driving the enemy, both advancing and extending its line upon higher and better ground, a feat it would never have been able to accomplish but for the aid of one of Calloway's guns, which, under command of Lieutenant Robert Falligant, of Savannah, Ga., held and carried the right flank of the brigade, coming into battery and fighting fiercely whenever the enemy seemed to be holding the brigade in check, and limbering up and moving forward with it, while it was advancing; and this alternate advancing and firing was kept up until a fresh Federal force came in and opened fire on the right flank, and all of Falligant's horses fell at the first volley. The enemy made a gallant rush for the piece, but they did not get it. It was in battery in a moment and belching fire like a volcano, and very hot shot, too. The brigade, whose flank it had held, now sprang to its defense, and after a furious little fight the gun was for the present safe, and everyone began to dig and to pile up dirt.

The brigade did not, however, advance one foot after Falligant's horses were shot; but it was already considerably in advance of Wofford's left, with which it was not connected at all, until the entire line was rectified on the night of the 2d-nor was there at any time a Confederate infantry soldier to the right of this piece, nor a spadeful of earth, except the little traverse we threw up to protect the right of the gun. It may just as well be added now that this lone gun held the right of Kershaw's brigade line that evening and night — it was getting dark when the extreme advanced position was reached-and all the next day, and was moved back by hand the night of the 2d of June. I have no hesitation in saying that in all my experience as a soldier I never witnessed [276] more gallant action than this of Lieutenant Falligant and his dauntless cannoneers, nor do I believe that any officer of his rank made a more important contribution than he to the success of the Confederate arms in the great historic battle.

Both sides anticipated battle on the 3d, as it really occurred. General Grant in his memoirs says in express terms, “The 2d of June was spent in getting troops into position for attack on the 3d;” and the “Official journal” of our corps says, under date of June 3d, “The expected battle begins early.” This journal also notes the weakness of “Kershaw's Salient,” and that the enemy was aware of it, and was “massing heavily” in front of it. Three brigades were sent to support Kershaw-Anderson's, Gregg's, and Law's. We also set to work to rectify the lines about this point. Gen. E. M. Law, of Alabama, is probably entitled to the credit of this suggestion, which had so important a bearing upon our success. He laid off the new line with his own hand and superintended the construction of it during the night of the 2d. The record of the 3d might have been a very different one if this change had not been made. Under Colonel Cabell's instructions and with the aid of the division pioneer corps, I opened roads through the woods for the more rapid and convenient transmission of artillery ammunition, and put up two or three little bridges across ravines with the same view.

While I was superintending this work, the fire at the time being lively, I heard someone calling in a most lugubrious voice, “Mister, Mister, won't you please come here!” I glanced in the direction of the cry and saw a man standing behind a large tree in a very peculiar attitude, having the muzzle of his musket under his left shoulder and leaning heavily upon it. Supposing he was wounded, I went to him and asked what he wanted. He pointed to the butt of his gun, under which a large, vigorous, venomous copperhead snake was writhing; and the wretched skulker actually had the face to whine to me, “Won't you please, sir, kill that snake?” I knew not what to say to the creature, and fear what I did say was neither a very Christian nor a very [277] soldierly response; but no one who has not seen a thoroughly demoralized man can form the slightest conception of how repulsive a thing such a wretch is.

The headquarters of General Kershaw at Cold Harbor was close up to the lines and just back of the position of some of our guns. It was but a short distance, too, from where the caissons bringing in ammunition turned to the right, on a road I had cut, running along the slope of a declivity at the crest of which our guns were stationed, some of them before and all of them after the lines were rectified. He might have found a safer place, but none nearer the point of peril and the working point of everything. The position, however, was so exposed that he found himself compelled to protect it, which he did by putting up a heavy wall of logs, back of which the earth was cut away and pitched over against the face, which was toward the lines. His quarters were thus cut deep into the hillside, and had besides, above the surface and toward the enemy, this wall of logs faced with earth. Thus he had a place where he and his officers could safely confer and at a very short distance from their commands; but it was after all a ghastly place, and very difficult and dangerous of approach. All the roads or paths leading to it were not only swept by an almost continuous and heavy fire of musketry, but I had to keep a force of axe-men almost constantly at work cutting away trees felled across the ammunition roads by the artillery fire of the enemy. Col. Charles S. Venable, reputed to be one of the roughest and most daring riders on General Lee's staff,later, professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia, and chairman of the faculty,--told me he believed this headquarter position of Kershaw's at Cold Harbor was the worst place he was ever sent to. Colonel Cabell was necessarily a great part of the time at these headquarters, and I also, when not engaged at some special work, or with some of the guns, or on the way from one to another. At Cold Harbor these journeys had to be made on foot, and necessarily consumed a good deal of time, an artillery battalion frequently covering, say, half a mile of the line.

Up to the night of the 2d of June, when it was moved back, every time Falligant's gun fired while I was at headquarters, [278] General Kershaw would repeat his admiration of his courage, and ask me to explain to him again and again the isolated and exposed position of the piece, and then he would express his determination that Falligant's gallantry and services should receive their merited reward. Once, when I happened to be there, a soldier from a South Carolina regiment in Kershaw's old brigade, one of those supporting Falligant's gun, came in, reporting that his part of the line was almost out of ammunition, and asking that some be sent in at once. He may have had a written order, but at all events he represented that the case was urgent; that they could not trust to getting it into the line at some safe point and having it passed along by hand, because it would take too long, and besides all the troops were scantily supplied and it would never get to his regiment; and lastly, because the officer who sent him had ordered him to bring it himself. The man was intelligent, self-possessed, and determined. I well remember, too, how pale and worn and powder-begrimed he looked. He confirmed all I had said as to the position and services of Falligant's gun, and was enthusiastic about him and his detachment.

I told him I was going down there and would help him. Boxes of ammunition were piled up in a corner of the cellar, as it might be called, in which we were sitting, and we knocked the top from one, and putting two good, strong oilcloths together, poured into them as many cartridges as either of us could conveniently carry at a pretty good rate of speed. We then tied up the cloths, making a bag of double thickness and having two ends to hold by. Together we could run quite rapidly with it, and in case either of us should be killed or wounded, the other could get along fairly well. We then took the course I had already several times taken in reaching the gun — that is, we went down behind Wofford's left flank, and from that point ran across a field covered with scattering sassafras bushes, to a point on Kershaw's line, a little to the left of our gun. This route afforded the best protection, but after we left Wofford's position the “protection” amounted to nothing. The sharpshooters had two-thirds of a circle of fire around the piece, and [279] they popped merrily at us as we stepped across the field, but they never touched either of us; we got in safe and each of us “counted a coup,” as the French Canadian trappers used to say.

After shaking hands with the infantry, hearing my plucky comrade complimented on his quick and successful trip, and seeing the men draw their rations of powder and ball, I made my way to the gun, told Bob and his gallant detachment what the General had said about them, looked to their fortification and ammunition, and was just about to take the perilous trip back again when the enemy began to press us in a very determined way. There was heavy timber immediately in front, and their mode of attack was to thicken a skirmish line into a line of battle behind the trees, and then try to rush us at very short range. The infantry ammunition had been replenished just in time, but it must be remembered there was not an infantry soldier to our right. If the woods had been as close upon us in that direction they would undoubtedly have captured the piece, but they did not relish coming out into the open.

I was struck with the splendid fighting spirit of Campbell, the tall, lean, keen-eyed, black-haired gunner of the piece; but he was entirely too reckless, standing erect except when bending over the handspike in sighting the piece, and not much “sighting” is done at such short range. Every time the gun belched its deadly contents into the woods Campbell would throw his glengary or fez cap around his head and yell savagely. I cautioned him again and again, reminding him that the other men of the detachment were fighting, and fighting effectively, on their hands and knees. When his commanding officer or I ordered him to “get down” he would do so for a moment, but spring up again when the gun fired. Suddenly I heard the thud of a minie striking a man, and Campbell's arms flew up as he fell backward, ejaculating, “Oh, God! I'm done forever!” We lifted the poor fellow around, across the face of the little work, under the mouth of the piece, and Falligant kneeled by him and pressed his finger where the blood was spouting, while I took the gunner's place at the trail. Every time the gun [280] was discharged I noticed how Campbell's face — which was almost directly under the bellowing muzzle — was contorted, but he urged me to keep up the fire, until finally, observing a sort of lull in the fight, I proposed to cease firing and note the effect, and the poor fellow said brokenly, “Well, if you think it's safe, adjutant!” Then he added, “Tell my mother I died like a soldier” --and he was gone.

During this flurry one of the enemy bounded over the work and landed right in among us; but he ran on toward the rear and brought up in a sitting posture on a pile of earth one of the infantry had thrown out of a hole he had dug to cook in — a sort of safety-kitchen. The man's back was turned toward us, his elbows were on his knees, and his head sunk in his hands. After Campbell's death, as he was still sitting there, thinking he must be wounded, I proposed to one of the men to run out and bring him back into the work. We tried it, but he cast off our hands and we had to leave him to his fate. In a few moments he was shot in the head and tumbled in upon the cook in the kitchen-dead.

The 2d of June, 1864, was the heaviest, the hardest-worked and the most straining day of my life. Not only did I have my ordinary duties of a day of battle to perform, but I had, in addition, to open and to keep open roads for getting in ammunition, to bridge two or three ravines, to visit Falligant's gun several times and to keep it supplied with ammunition, which had to be passed along the infantry line by hand for quite a long distance. When night came I believe I was more nearly wornout than on any other occasion during the entire war. Colonel Cabell insisted I should go back to our headquarters camp, which was about midway between the lines and the drivers' camp, and sleep; and, in view of what impended on the morrow, I consented to do so. But first, and just before dark, I took Calloway over all the confusing and obscure part of the road to Falligant's gun and the road by which he was to bring it out later. I omitted to say that General Kershaw highly approved our determination to save that piece, if at all possible. I greatly disliked not going with the party to fetch the gun out, but Calloway and everyone concerned insisted that I must not think of attempting [281] it, fearing that I would utterly give way if I did so. So I yielded, and after showing and explaining everything to Calloway, I went back to camp and laid down.

I had scarcely gotten to sleep when I had to get up to pilot an officer who had important orders for General Kershaw, and had been unable to find his headquarters. Once more I stretched out and dozed off. How long I dozed or slept I cannot say, but I was awakened by Calloway bending over me and saying, “Adjutant, I never was so sorry about anything, but in those woods it is now as dark as Erebus! Nobody but yourself can find and keep the road you showed me, and I don't believe even you can do it.”

The noble fellow was evidently much mortified and troubled at being compelled to rouse me, but he well knew I had much rather this should be done than that the chance of saving the gun should be abandoned. So I got up and mounted Mickey, and off we started.

It was very dark. Just before reaching the point where the road turned to the right along the slope of the hill we found the gun horses and drivers, Calloway and I passing and directing them to follow us, and to keep absolutely quiet. I experienced little difficulty in finding the road, having superintended the cutting of it and being very familiar with it, and we passed on over the little bridge, and were just passing out from behind Wofford's left flank and heading for Kershaw's line, when someone seized my bridle rein and abruptly stopped my horse; at the same time asking who I was and what I intended to do, and what I meant by bringing artillery horses through his lines without his permission.

The manner and tone of this address was irritating, but suspecting who my interlocutor was and knowing something of his temperament, I answered quietly that I was adjutant of Cabell's Battalion of Artillery, and that the commanding officer of one of our batteries was with me; that the gun out there, which had protected this part of the line all day, belonged to his battery; that we proposed to save it, and that we had brought the horses for the purpose of hauling it off. I could see nothing, but by this time my suspicion had become conviction and I felt sure I was talking with General [282] Wofford. He positively forbade the attempt, and did not seem disposed to yield until my cousin, Col. Edward Stiles, of the Sixteenth Georgia, of-his brigade, who knew the General well, joined us and suggested as a compromise that we should make the attempt without taking the horses any further; to which I agreed, upon condition that he would furnish me with, say twenty men, to get the gun off by hand, and that in the event of their failing I should then make the effort with the horses, as we had General Kershaw's positive orders to save the gun if possible.

We got the men and started up the hill, leaving drivers and horses to await our return. It was now absolutely dark. I remember putting my hand before my face and being unable to see it. Calloway and I rode side by side, inclining to the left, so as to guard against running out into the enemy through the gap in the lines. There was absolute silence, save the soft tread of our horses' feet in the sandy soil. In a few moments their heads rustled against dry leaves-the leafy screen which the troops had put up to protect themselves from the baking sun. We knew we were at the infantry line and turned to the right and toward the gun. There was a good deal of smoke in the air from the woods afire out in front, and we soon became conscious of an insufferable odor of burning flesh. My horse being a rapid walker, I kept a little ahead of Calloway, and very soon was stopped again, by someone who spoke almost in a stage whisper. It turned out to be the commanding officer of Kershaw's old brigade, and he, too, forbade our attempt and ordered us back; but the direct authority of his major-general satisfied him, and he begged only that we should wait until his men could be thoroughly roused and ready to resist any attack that might be made; adding that the poor fellows were utterly exhausted by the unrelieved strain of the past thirty-six hours. All true; yet it was fearful to contemplate the risk they ran in sleeping. The colonel told us, too, what we already suspected, that the odor which so offended our nostrils was that of human bodies roasting in the forest fires in front. We plainly heard the officers passing along the lines and rousing the men, and we feared the enemy heard it, [283] too; but preferred this risk to that of a sudden rush upon a slumbering brigade just as we were drawing the gun off.

Soon after we started again, my horse snorted and sprang aside. I knew this meant we had reached the dead horses, and told Calloway we were almost upon the gun. He dismounted, handing his bridle rein to me, and I heard him enter the little trench and feel and fumble his way along it for a few steps, and then heard him call, in a low tone, “Falligant, Falligant!” Then I heard the sort of groan or grumble a tired man gives out when he is half roused from a sound sleep, and after that a low hum of conversation. Then Calloway came up out of the trench, and, groping his way to me, said: “Adjutant, do you know every man in that detachment was fast asleep and the enemy is lying down in line of battle between here and that low fire out there!” I said he must be mistaken, that I could toss a cracker into that fire. He insisted he was right and urged me to dismount and go into the trench and stoop till I could see under the smoke. I did so, and there, sure enough, was a continuous line of blue which the flickering of the flames beyond enabled me to see. My heart stopped beating at the sight, but this was no time for indulgence of over-sensibility, physical or emotional.

As quietly and rapidly as possible we got everything ready for fight or retreat. Our twenty men had brought their muskets and Kershaw's brigade was up in the trench and on their knees. The gun was backed out of the little work, limbered up, and the ammunition chest replaced; some of the men took hold of the wheels and some of the tongue, and the piece was soon moving after us almost noiselessly, along the sassafras field toward Wofford's line. In a few moments we reached the goal, returning our thanks to the General, and to my cousin and the sturdy, gallant men they lent us; the horses were hitched up and we were rolling over the little bridges and up to the new line and the position selected for this now distinguished piece.

I trust I am not small enough to indulge in any vulgar pride in my part of the trying experiences of this day; yet I scarce recall another day for which I so thank God, or which [284] has had a greater influence on my life. Often, when depressed and disposed to question whether there is, or ever was, in me the salt of a real manhood, I have looked back to the first three days of June, 1864, and felt the revival of a saving self-respect and the determination not to do or suffer anything unworthy of this heroic past of which I was a part.

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