Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a fact

1863. listened in silence to the words of that noble hymn. It

was a graceful thing, which the lapse of time cannot efface from our memory.

Marched in a drenching rain through Bealsville and Wednesday, Middletown, halting about four hours in the latter place; July 8. then continued our march through South Mountain Gap,

where we halted after dark. Distance, fourteen miles. Upon our arrival we threw up works in anticipation that the enemy might dispute our advance, as some of our artillery had become engaged with him just outside of Boonsboro'. We finished our line of breastworks about midnight.

At daylight we found ourselves lying in line of battle Thursday, on the Boonsboro' side of the mountain, about half-way July 9. down in the rear of three lines already formed,

we were ignorant of on our arrival last night. Until reaching Middletown yesterday, our direction had been southerly; but on leaving that town we changed it to north-west, our noses pointing toward Hagerstown, about twelve miles away. That is to say that we were within twelve miles of the point where we landed Aug. 1, 1861, on our journey from home

almost two years before. Verily we must make better time if the rebellion was to be crushed before our term of service expired. We remained all day in this position.

The enemy having fallen back, we marched down the Friday,

mountain to Boonsboro', that pleasant little town, through July 1o.

which we marched in the days when we were a thousand

strong, now with only seventy-eight men. We found that the people still held us in kindly remembrance, and opportunity was afforded of renewing our acquaintances of two years back. We proceded to a spot near Funkstown, about four miles from Hagerstown, on the Baltimore Pike, where we camped for the night. This country was as familiar to us as the scenes of our childhood, and the old friends we met set our hearts beating with pleasure.

The people were glad enough to supply us with milk and bread, and in fact with luxuries, such as pies and cakes.

During the last two or three days our artillery had been doing 1863. considerable “barking,” but, like a young terrier dog,

it was all bark and no bite. On the with of July General Lee issued to his soldiers the following stirring appeal :

GENERAL ORDERS,
No. 76.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,

July 11, 1863 After long and trying marches, with the fortitude that has ever characterized the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, you have penetrated the country of our enemies, and recalled to the defence of their own soil those who were engaged in the invasion of ours.

You have fought a fierce and sanguinary battle, which, if not attended with the success that has hitherto crowned your efforts, was marked by the same heroic spirit that has commanded the respect of your enemies, the gratitude of your country, and the admiration of mankind.

Once more you are called upon to meet the army from which you have won on so many fields a name that will never die.

Once more the eyes of your countrymen are turned upon you, and again do wives and sisters, fathers and mothers, and helpless children lean for defence on your strong arms and brave hearts.

Let every soldier remember that on his courage and fidelity depends all that makes life worth living, - the freedom of his country, the honor of his people, and security of his home. Let each heart grow strong in the remembrance of our glorious past, and in the thought of the inestimable blessings for which we contend, and, invoking the assistance of the Divine Providence, which has so signally blessed our former efforts, let us go forth in confidence to secure the peace and safety of our country.

Soldiers ! your old enemy is before you! Win from him honors worthy of your righteous cause — worthy of your comrades dead on so many illustrious fields.

R. E. LEE,

General.

The South was bound to have honor and peace, if it had to smash everything in the house.

Last night we were on picket, but were withdrawn this Sunday, morning, when we moved across Antietam Creek and July 12. built earthworks, facing Hagerstown. We were called upon to-day by Senator Wilson.

As Company H was from Natick, his place of residence, it was expected that he would favor us with some remarks, but the rain prevented.

1863.

All day long could be heard firing by the skirmishers Monday,

of both armies, and there were expectations that a battle July 13.

would be fought. The enemy was making earnest efforts

to get across the river at Williamsport, but the water had risen so high that it was a dangerous undertaking without bridges.

In order to test the depth and current from time to time, the enemy would make a “nigger” attempt to ford the river daily ; threatening him with his life if he didn't comply, according to the testimony of one of our boys, who was there as a prisoner.

Fresh troops were constantly arriving to increase our numbers, and if the enemy would only wait long enough we would make bold to attack him. In the meantime we became impatient at our delay.

We have heard men say that they would as lief fight as to eat. We are not prepared to dispute the existence of such a propensity, though we believe it was extremely rare. We have in mind one of these heroes, who, previous to his desertion, had excited our admiration by his expressions of impatience because the opportunity for fighting had been so long delayed. We couldn't understand why, having enlisted as a soldier, all our fighting blood seemed to have vanished, and we hoped that some of the overflow from his abundant supply of courage might reach us; but it didn't, because, as will be seen, there wasn't any to overflow. When we came within range of the enemy's fire at the battle of Cedar Mountain, this hero clapped his hand on his dipper, exclaiming, “ By Gad! I've lost my dipper !" and “lit out” to find it. Three days after, he returned to relate the wonderful deeds he had performed while fighting in another regiment. He was not court-martialed, though he ought to have been. It irritated him very much to hear repeated day after day the stories he had related of his valor, polished and exaggerated by the wit of others; and so he decamped, and we never saw him any more. His name may be found among those patriots who “struck for home,” having escaped being a hero for the lack of a good pair of legs. One satisfaction we got out of this exhibition of heroism was that we were a little less ashamed to say we preferred eating to fighting. Furthermore, we began to ponder on this abnormal 1863. appetite for human gore, which was said to exist, until

we became convinced that few men desired to fight for the love of fighting.

According to our experience the present situation was one of the very few occasions during three years' service when the army really wanted to fight, excepting of course those particular moments when men are wrought to a high pitch of excitement, such as the moment of Pickett's repulse on the third day of Gettysburg. Lee was now about to cross the Potomac, and the opportunity seemed at hand when we might finish up the job so far as his army was concerned. Here he was, his movement south retarded by a swollen river; his men demoralized; encumbered with a large wagon train, including ambulances loaded with wounded and sick, and Lee himself most likely disheartened. Our army did not want to go back into Virginia to engage in another series of unsuccessful campaigns. For these reasons the army was anxious to fight, and our commanding officers were condemned in harsh and bitter terms by the rank and file, when it was learned that Lee had crossed the river.

Discovering that the few troops of the enemy that Tuesday,

had been left in our front to scare us from activity had July 14. disappeared, we soon learned that the rebel army had

succeeded in crossing into Virginia, making it perfectly safe for us to advance to the river without molestation. As one of the boys facetiously said, “We act like a lot of scared monkeys."

In the afternoon we marched to within a mile and a half of Williamsport, which town we left March 1, 1862. Being disappointed that Lee was allowed to cross without a battle, the regiment was hardly in a mood to visit its old friends with whom we spent nearly five pleasant months. Visits were paid us, however, by several persons, from whom we heard about the boys of the Thirteenth who were captured at Gettysburg, and who passed through the town with the division under General Imboden. We got considerable information about the enemy, and learned how much they feared we would attempt to stop their flight, as they were in no condition to make much of an opposition. This news had a still further depressing effect on us, and all night long we did penance by fighting

« VorigeDoorgaan »