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War's bravest deeds. [from the Richmond, Va., dispatch, January 30, 1894.]

The heroism of private Chew Coleman, of Crenshaw's Battery, at Spotsylvania Courthouse, May, 1864.

In the desperate battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, in May, 1864, when Grant and Lee were approaching Richmond on parallel lines, the Crenshaw Battery, of Pegram's Battalion, Army of Northern Virginia, was ordered by General Harry Heth to change its position to another part of the field. While the guns were being limbered up, General Jubal Early rode up and asked the captain of the company where he was going. The captain pointed to the position assigned him, when General Early asked him who had ordered him to go there. The captain replied, ‘General Heth.’ ‘Well,’ says General Early, ‘if he has ordered you there, you would better go, but I don't see how you will ever get there.’ 'Twas a pretty warm place to have called forth such a remark from General Early. [375]

The guns were pulled out, the cannoneers mounted, and the horses went galloping down a lane formed by a row of cedars on each side to the new position assigned the battery. Notwithstanding the company faced three Federal batteries of six guns each, which had an enfilade of fire on us for probably four hundred yards, for some unaccountable reason we escaped injury until we had gotten within six hundred yards of the enemy's batteries, when their shells were skimming so close to the mounted cannoneers and the horses' heads that, as if by intuition, the men on the caisson in front of me dismounted, without the orders to do so, while the remainder of the company kept their seats on the limber-chests. Scarcely half a minute had elapsed after the men, who had dismounted, touched the ground when a shell from one of the enemy's guns came plunging through the particular caisson that nobody was on. When it struck it exploded one chest of the caisson, and the heat set fire to the next one, but it did not explode immediately. The driver of the lead team, in his fright, tumbled from his horse, and the team made straight for the enemy's lines. The wheel driver, however (Chew Coleman, of Spotsylvania, by name), kept his seat, although next to the exploded chest, and the heat set fire to his jacket, which burned through to the skin, and, notwithstanding the flesh was crisping up, and he was suffering the most excruciating pain, he did not let go the reins, but stopped the horses, thereby preventing them from taking the team into the enemy's lines.

He then fell or jumped from his horse nearly exhausted. While this was going on two or three of the cannoneers jumped between the exploded ammunition chest (which was now harmless) and the one on fire and unlimbered it and got out of the way before the fire communicated with the powder, which occurred two or three seconds after, when up went the other two chests with a terrific noise.

These I regard as the bravest exploits that came under my observation in the four years of the war—from Bethel to Appomattox.

Charles P. Young, Late of Crenshaw Battery, C. S. A.

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