Saturday, July 14, 2018

A 'humble instrument': Echoes of Nashville's Hospital No. 8

Circa-1860s image of Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church, used as a Union hospital during the war.
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
A present-day image of  Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville.
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At the corner of 5th and Church streets in downtown Nashville, two blocks from the honky-tonks on Broadway, a tour bus creeps through busy traffic. Nearby on the steamy Saturday morning, diners sip coffee at outdoor tables while three young men jostle for a spot on a bench next to the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church. A giant sign on front of the unusual Egyptian Revival-style building notes its history, but few seem to notice it.

A large sign on the church notes its use as a
Federal hospital during the Civil War.
During the Civil War, life-and-death decisions played out at the church, one of at least 25 Nashville structures commandeered by the U.S. government for use as a hospital. Pews were removed from the church sanctuary, creating room for 206 beds for sick and wounded soldiers, and the Union army used the basement as a stable for horses. The Presbyterian church, along with the four-story Masonic Hall across the street, was designated Hospital No. 8.

Near the end of the war, a "very pleasant affair" -- a small slice of humanity -- took place in Ward 5 at Hospital No. 8, either at the church or the long-gone Masonic Hall. On behalf of the attendants and patients, acting assistant surgeon George Duzan, a 23-year-old from Indiana in charge of the ward, was presented a "beautiful" inscribed silver watch, chain and key that cost $75 (a little more than $1,000 today). The gift, the hospital chaplain noted, was in recognition of Duzan's "kind attention and skillful treatment" and "gentlemanly deportment" during his service at the hospital. Duzan, who served with the 52nd Indiana, became emotional during the presentation, according to this account of the event published in the Nashville Daily Union on March 28, 1865:


COMPLIMENTARY TO A SURGEON

Post-war image of George Duzan,
Federal surgeon during the Civil War.
U.S. General Hospital No. 8, Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 1865 -- A very pleasant affair came off this afternoon in ward 5 of our hospital, showing the feeling existing between Dr. Duzan, A. A. Surgeon, U. S. A., in charge of the ward, and attendants and patients he daily comes in contact with. At  4 o'clock all were assembled, when Chaplain Goodfellow presented the Doctor with a beautiful American Silver watch, chain and key, costing 75 dollars with the following inscription engraved upon it:

"Presented to G. U. Duzan, A. A. Surgeon, U. S. A, by attendants and patients of ward 5, Hospital No. 8, Nashville, Tenn., March 25th, 1865."

In the following words:

Dr. Duzan: "It is my pleasant duty to present you this watch and chain in the name, and in behalf of the ward-master attendants, and patients of ward 5, as a testimonial of their respect, for your kind attention and skillful treatment, as well as your gentlemanly deportment, since you have been on duty among them. May you when you look on the figures indicating the hours of the day, and the minutes comprising those hours, remember that one represents your days and the other the hours of those days and may you be thereby taught a profitable lesson. And when these brave but afflicted donors have separated, this ward broken up, and this cruel rebellion crushed -- may you look upon this gift as a kind remembrance of these men, as is now felt by them, in presenting it."

Duzan may have received
a pocket watch similar
 to this one.
The Doctor with emotion responded in the following words:

Attendants and patients: Your afflictions, the result of privations endured for our country's good have caused our association. You as patients, the suffering subject of disease, I as an humble instrument, employed to alleviate your sufferings and to minister to your physical wants. That our association with each other has been an agreeable one, this gift will testify. I accept it as testimonial of your appreciation of my services; as such it will be preserved and cherished with feelings of gratitude and pride."

POSTSCRIPT: After the Civil War, Duzan continued to practice medicine and surgery in Zionsville, Ind. A "man of pleasant address and commanding appearance," he died Nov. 6, 1893. "His death was sudden," the Indianapolis News wrote about the 51-year-old doctor. "He rose in fright from his bed, and was caught by his friends and returned to the bed -- dead." The primary cause of death was heart disease. The whereabouts of the precious watch he received during the Civil War are unknown.


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SOURCES:


-- Indianapolis News, Nov. 6, 1893.
-- Nashville Daily Union, March 28, 1865.
-- National Historic Landmark nomination form, Old First Presbyterian Church, National Park Service. Accessed July 14, 2018.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Captain to mother: 'Corpse will be sent to you ... by express.'

4th Vermont soldiers in Camp Griffin, Va., where Private Benjamin Stafford "breathed his last."
(George Harper Houghton | Library of Congress)

Like this blog on Facebook | Read more condolence notes here.

In the middle of a letter to widow Laura Stafford regarding the rapidly declining health of her youngest child, a 4th Vermont private, the soldier's commanding officer received breaking news.

Marker for Benjamin Stafford and his
mother and father in Tabor Cemetery
in Mount Tabor, Vt. (Find A Grave)
"While I have been writing the last few words of the previous sentence," Captain John E. Pratt of Company A wrote from Camp Griffin, Va., "one of my officers informed me that Benjamin  had breathed his last." The cause of death was typhoid fever, a "very severe case." The date and time: Feb. 2, 1862, at 2 p.m.

The next day, Pratt planned to send the 25-year-old soldier's body from Washington via express to Vermont for burial. On March 17, 1862, the Rutland (Vt.) Daily Herald, under the headline "Tribute to a Faithful Soldier," printed an excerpt from Pratt's condolence letter to Mrs. Stafford.

"While you have lost a true and faithful son," the officer's short note read, "I have lost a noble soldier. No man in his company was more beloved by the officers, no man more cheerful and ready to do his duty."

Deep into the winter of 1862, Benjamin's remains arrived in Vermont, where he was buried in Tabor Cemetery in Mount Tabor.

(National Archives via fold3.com.)

North Dorset

Camp Griffin, Va.
Feb. 2, 1862

Mrs. Stafford

It is with feelings of great sadness that I now find myself obliged to write you of the severe illness of your son Benjamin Stafford. I am informed by the surgeons that it is impossible for him to live but a very short time. The disease is typhoid fever, a very severe case. I visited him at the hospital last evening. I found him eating his supper ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... feeling better, but this morning I find him very much worse. He does not recognize anyone. He has not been considered dangerous before to-day. He will not in all probability live through the day. I shall not be able to send this letter before tomorrow morning and will not seal it before that time and then state his condition.

Dear madam I beg leave to join you in your affliction. While you have lost a true and faithful son, I have lost a noble soldier. No man in his company was more beloved by the officers, no man more cheerful and ready to do his duty ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
...I never had an occasion to reprove him. No better soldier ever left the green hills of Vermont to fight the battles of his country. He has also been noticed and excused from duty as a mark of merit for the neatness of his person and equipment by the commander of the regiment. His death will be deeply felt by his comrades who all respect and love him.

While I have been writing the last few words of the previous sentence one of my officers informed me that Benjamin had breathed his last. May God sustain you through this hour of affliction. The corpse will be sent to you at North Dorset by express. ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... I shall have it sent from Washington tomorrow. You will please write in regards to the disposition of his effects. He probably has more money by him and there will more due him from government. Any assistance that I can lend you, you will inform me and it shall be done.

Benjamin died Sunday 2 o'clock P.M. Feb 2nd.

I remain very truly Obt.

J.E. Pratt
Capt - Co. A. 4th Vt.Regt.


-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


SOURCE:

-- Benjamin Stafford pension file (WC10792), National Archives & Records Service, Washington, D.C. via fold3.com.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Chaplain to private's widow: '...you have a house in Heaven'

(National Archives via fold3.com)
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Mortally wounded in the bowels during a skirmish near Kingston, Ga., on May 19, 1864, 77th Pennsylvania Private David Neely died the next day with 74 cents, a receipt and a "discharge" in his pocketbook. If it were indeed an army discharge document, the soldier's death must have been especially heart-breaking for Neely's family in Landisburg, Pa., near the state capital of Harrisburg.

Shortly after David died in Erwin Hospital, a 21st Kentucky chaplain offered condolences (above and below) to the soldier's 45-year-old widow, Elizabeth. "Madam it becomes my painful duty to announce ...," M.H.B. Burket's short note began on U.S. Christian Commission stationery.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Neely left behind three children: Sarah, 13; John, 12; and William, 9. A wooden headboard with Neely's name, company and regiment etched on it was placed atop his grave in the regimental cemetery. But the soldier's final resting place today is unknown.


Kingston, Ga., May 20, 1864
Mrs. Elizabeth Neely

Madam it becomes my painful duty to announce to you the death of your husband David Neely private in Co. A 77 Reg. Pa. Vol. On yesterday while skirmishing with the enemy near this place and driving him howling before us your companion was shot through the bowels and died this morning in Erwin hospital. I find in his pocket book 74 cents, his discharge and one receipt from H.P. Lightner for $200. I also find on his person one pocket knife, pocket handkerchief and three letters on business -- all of which I will hand over to the surgeon of his Regt. to be sent to you. I had no acquaintance with the deceased but I entered ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... the hospital this morning and found your husband dying. I interogated him as to the relations he sustained to the army. After he died I examined his person and found as above stated. All I can say by way of consoling you is this: God who hears the young ravens cry will be to you the "Widow's God and to your children the orphans father. If you will trust his promises and after the toils of life are ended and your trust is stayed in God through his son Jesus you have a house in Heaven, where friends will never more be parted by cruel war.

Respectfully

M.H.B. Burket
Chaplain 21st Regt. KY Vet. Vol. In., 2nd Brig, 1st Div 4th A.G. D.C

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


SOURCE:

-- David Neely widow's pension file (WC48480), National Archives & Records Service, Washington, D.C. via fold3.com.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Video: A short walk on hallowed ground at Franklin


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This sliver of land, part of the old Fountain Carter farm, included a convenience store, a house and two pizza restaurants until it was reclaimed by preservation organizations. Some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War occurred here near the Carter cotton gin on Nov. 30, 1864. Confederate dead and wounded, according to an Ohio officer, “lay in perfect heaps” in the immediate distance.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Letters to Mrs. Donley: 'They told me that he was no more'

65th Illinois Corporal James Elliot Donley may be buried with other unknowns
at Nashville National Cemetery. (Find A Grave | Click on images to enlarge.)

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On the day wave after wave of Confederates crashed into Union earthworks at Franklin, Tenn., 65th Illinois Sergeant George Haywood wrote a letter with terrifying news to the mother of a soldier in his regiment. Four days earlier, as John Schofield's Army of the Ohio aimed to head north toward Nashville, Corporal James Elliot Donley was among 55 casualties in the 65th Illinois, the "Scotch Regiment," at the Battle of Columbia (Tenn.).

"Whilst under heavy fire of shot & shell on the 26th," Haywood informed Eliza Donley in the letter dated Nov. 30, 1864,  "James was shot in the leg by a shell cutting it off between the foot & knee. He bore it bravely like a good soldier as he is." (See transcript below.)

Maddeningly for Eliza Donley, the orderly sergeant had no news of her son's ultimate fate. Was the wound mortal? Was James alive in a hospital? Or could he be in enemy hands? A mother of three other children, Eliza had already endured trying times. In 1861, she was granted a divorce from her husband, James Sr., who was "guilty of habitual drunkenness for a space of two years."

Sgt. George Haywood wrote a short letter to Eliza Donley while he was in a battle line at Franklin 
on Nov. 30. 1864. (CLICK TO ENLARGE | Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com)

In agonizing limbo, perhaps for weeks, Eliza received a heartbreaking note after Christmas 1864. After a resounding victory at Nashville on Dec. 15-16, the Union army chased John Bell Hood's depleted Army of Tennessee south toward Alabama. In a letter to Eliza from Columbia on Dec. 27, Haywood wrote:
"I found three of our company who were left here when your son was. I asked them about your son & they told me that he was no more, I was surprised and sorry to hear it. I did not expect that he would die but he did."
After the war, 65th Illinois Private Alexander Henderson claimed Donley died "almost immediately" after both his legs were severed by enemy artillery. As the Union army headed north toward Nashville, he noted, James' body was left behind enemy lines.

Struggling to support her family on $1.50-a-week wages she earned as a seamstress, Eliza filed for a dependent's pension. As required, Mrs. Donley provided evidence she relied financially on James, who before he enlisted gave her money he earned working for a local farmer. A "frugal, careful, industrious woman," Mrs. Donley also provided in her pension claim James' war-time letters in which he noted sending his mother his army wages. Eliza's claim was approved at the standard $8 a month.

In a massive effort shortly after the war, the federal government disinterred remains of Union soldiers from battlefields, hospital sites, church graveyards and elsewhere for re-burial in newly created national cemeteries. If James' remains were recovered, he may have been buried in an unknown grave at Nashville National Cemetery.

LETTERS TO MRS. DONLEY: "He bore it bravely like a good soldier"


(National Archives via fold3.com)
In line of battle near Franklin, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864

Mrs. E. Donley

Madam

I take this first opportunity of informing you of the fate of your son James. Whilst under heavy fire of shot & shell on the 26th James was shot in the leg by a shell cutting it off between the foot & knee. He bore it bravely like a good soldier as he is. We were driven from the field and out of 19 men in the company 7 were wounded & one killed. It left us so small that we could not bring them off. Besides were we exposed to a murderous fire of shot, shell & musketry. This was near to ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... Columbia, Tenn. We have been driven from there to here since and expect to fall back to Nashville, Tenn. I have his pocket book and (indecipherable) in money. The money I send enclosed. It was his wish that it should be sent home. One of our sergeants has got his watch. He does not know yet what is best for him to do with it. Should like to know your wishes in regards to the pocket book & watch.

I am madam your most respectful & obedient servant

George W. Haywood
O.S. Company G, 65th Reg. Vol. Inf.

Charles Liber
204 S. 5th St.
14 Cedar & Mulberry, St. Louis, Mo.

(National Archives via fold3.com)

Columbia, Tenn.
Dec. 27, 1864

Dear madam,

Your letter to me and also one from your pastor were received some time ago. We were on the march then toward this place and I have not had the opportunity to write before. I went to the hospital as soon as I got here. I found three of our company who were left here when your son was. I asked them about your son & they told me that he was no more, I was surprised and sorry to hear it. I did not expect that he would die but he did. He died that night about midnight. ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... I have not yet learned yet where (he) is buried but when we get settled here I will try. I know none of the particulars of his death. I have his watch and pocket book which I will send as soon as I can. I shall have to wait until I get to Nashville I think as there are no Express office here.

I remain with much sympathy for your loss. Yours respectfully

George W. Heywood
First Sergt. Co. G 65. Ills Infty.

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SOURCE:

-- James Donley pension file (WC83877), National Archives & Records Service, Washington, D.C. via fold3.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Potty words: Where to find Union soldiers' graffiti in Franklin

In 1863,  John Cottrell of the 14th Michigan wrote his name on the wall of Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 7.
(CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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Many of us have enjoyed the beauty of Burnside Bridge from the bluff above Antietam Creek, marveled at the spectacular view of the Valley of Death from the summit of Little Round Top at Gettysburg or been transfixed by the scenery from atop Lookout Mountain.

But history often isn't pretty. Case in point: The second-floor men's room in historic Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 7 in Franklin, Tenn. On a wall next to the urinal there, you'll find graffiti by 14th Michigan Sergeant John Cottrell and other Union soldiers who occupied the town from 1862-63. The 14th Michigan was one of several regiments garrisoned at nearby Fort Granger.

Protected by a large sheet of plastic, Union soldiers' graffiti
 appears on a wall next to a urinal in the second-floor men's room.
Of course Cottrell -- quite a ladies' man according to a diary the Masons purchased on eBay -- and his comrades had no idea at the time they were defacing a restroom. The bathroom was added sometime in the 20th century, well before the Federals' graffiti was uncovered during a 1970s renovation. On the same wall where Cottrell wrote his name, rank, regiment, company and date of defacement (Aug. 25, 1863), even more soldier graffiti was recently uncovered.

The Masonic Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, has a rich history. Built in the 1820s, it once was the tallest building  in Tennessee. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson, a Tennessean and a Mason, met members of the Chickasaw Nation there during treaty negotiations with the tribe. During the Battle of Franklin, the building was struck by errant Union cannon fire, and in the aftermath of the fighting on Nov. 30, 1864, it was used as a Federal hospital. The Union army also used it as a barracks.

But my favorite historical nugget about the Lodge involves a Civil War-themed, Hollywood-produced movie. Early on the morning of Sept. 27, 1923, thousands of soldier extras for "The Human Mill" received Civil War uniforms and accoutrements at the Lodge, a wardrobe depot for the movie. Later that morning, a spectacular Battle of Franklin scene was to be filmed about a mile from town.

As the movie's wardrobe man, a World War I veteran from Germany, handed out uniforms, the faux soldiers became unruly. Most of them wanted to play Johnny Rebs. "Gentlemen please, gentlemen!" the German shouted, according to the Nashville Tennessean. "How vill de pig-ture be made if no vun vill be a Vederal?" The director of  "The Human Mill" died during production, and the movie was never completed.


MORE: The Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation has ambitious plans to renovate the Lodge. Go here for information.

Purchased by the Masonic Lodge on eBay, this is the war-time diary of  Sergeant John Cottrell,
who wrote his name on a wall in the historic building in 1863.
Although difficult to read, more Union graffiti was recently uncovered in the Lodge's men's room.
Built in the 1820s, the Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 7 in Franklin, Tenn., was once the state's tallest building.

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


SOURCE:

-- Nashville Tennessean, Aug. 6, 1950.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Video: A walk in the Hornet's Nest at Shiloh

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On a rainy morning, I walked in the footsteps of the Union soldiers who defended this densely wooded thicket along an old farm lane. Confederates made repeated attacks at the Hornet's Nest on April 6, 1862, eventually forcing the surrender of more than 2,000 Federals.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

'Spectres and ghosts': A Union veteran's 1883 Shiloh 'vacation'

Old War Department sign for Hornet's Nest at Shiloh. 11th Illinois Private Christian Kuhl, who fought at
Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, visited the battlefield in the spring of 1883. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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After disembarking from a steamer at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River and exchanging pleasantries with another veteran, 54-year-old Christian Kuhl paid respects to "fallen heroes" at Shiloh National Cemetery. Neither his wife nor daughter nor any of his former Union army comrades accompanied him to his old battleground that spring morning in 1883. The battlefield was simply too remote after all -- and thus too expensive -- to visit easily.

Headlines in The National Tribune, a newspaper 
for Civil War veterans, for Christian Kuhl's account
 of his two-day "vacation" to Shiloh in the spring of 1883. 
Still, this was a special trip for Kuhl, a former 11th Illinois private. A surreal one, too.

"Beautiful as this [Shiloh] cemetery is by daylight," he wrote in a letter to The National Tribune, a popular Civil War veterans' newspaper, "it has a solemnly weird look by night. The dark green grass and evergreens contrasted with the innumerable white headstones are calculated to make the visitor, if he is at all superstitious, think of spectres and ghosts."

Eleven years before the battlefield became a national military park and monuments and cast iron tablets sprouted in its fields and thickets, Shiloh bore many battle scars. Bullet- and shell-riddled trees were everywhere, Kuhl noted, and "immense quantities of lead and iron" were still unearthed by farmers and others. An enterprising merchant shipped "over three thousand pounds of bullets" the previous year from the killing fields, presumably making a handsome profit for his investment. In a serendipitous discovery in his 1862 camp, Kuhl found a tin drinking cup that belonged to a 14th Illinois comrade. "He is welcome to the relic," he wrote, "if he is still alive."

Accompanied by present-day images of still-remote Shiloh, here's Kuhl's account of his "vacation" to the battleground -- "two delightful days" at the place where so much blood was spilled April 6-7, 1862:



By C. A. Kuhl
14th Illinois

Several vain attempts have been made to organize excursions to the great battle-fields of West Tennessee. The remoteness of most of these historic fields from ordinary routes of travel makes it seem difficult to reach them except at great expense of time and money, and thus far the visitors have been from the near neighborhood only.

Having long felt a great desire to visit Pittsburg Landing, and despairing of being able to go in company of a large number of veterans, I set out alone to spend a vacation in once more roaming over the old battle-field.

At Evansville, Ind., I embarked on the Tennessee River packet "Clyde." Captain Duncan, and a day's ride brought me to Fort Henry, which is the first point of interest to those who were engaged in the campaign of 1862. The old fort is unrecognizable. Immense cottonwood trees have grown up along the river bank and, while the earthworks along the river are plainly visible, a large cotton field has obliterated the rest of the fort. From Fort Henry to Pittsburg Landing the country has changed very little. Savannah, the place where General Grant established his headquarters before the battle, has become quite a thriving town, and a large business is done there. I met several of the oldest inhabitants and found their conversation replete with reminiscences of Grant's stay at their town. In most of their stories, however, the interest centered around and in the guard-house.

The National Cemetery


During his 1883 visit to Shiloh National Cemetery,
Christian Kuhl visited the grave of Henry Burke,
the so-called "Drummer Boy of Shiloh."
(More on Burke | Photo: Find A Grave)
It was by the early light of Thursday, April 5th, that I caught sight, from the steamer's deck, of the tall flag-staff in the cemetery at Pittsburg Landing. The staff stands on the spot, almost, where the old log hospital once stood, and around it are arranged, in regimental groups, the remains of the soldiers who were killed in the battles and skirmishes and who died in the hospitals between Fort Henry and Florence, Ala. I was met at the Landing by Captain L. J. Doolittle, superintendent of cemetery and a veteran of the Ninety-sixth Illinois infantry. After a short stay at the Captain's beautiful home, just outside the cemetery walls, I took a stroll through the cemetery. After entering through the massive iron gate and passing an immense cannon set on end, I stood in the midst of fallen heroes. The first grave is that of little Harry [Henry] Burke, of Ohio, better known as the "Drummer Boy of Shiloh." On the 30th of May of each year the Union people from far and wide assemble here, to the number of many thousands, to decorate the graves. Do you wonder when I tell you that on these occasions the little hero's grave is fairly smothered in flowers?  A little farther on are two iron slabs, one of which contains these lines:
"The muffled drum's sad roll has beat. The soldier's last tattoo. No more on life's parade shall meet The brave and fallen few."
The other slab contains this legend: "Established 1866. Interments, 3,590; known, 1,229; unknown, 2,361."

All were Union soldiers, except four women, who lie buried under some beautiful evergreens, on the outside line of graves. These heroines lost their lives by disease while attending the wounded after the battle, but for some reason the War Department has refused to put headstones over their graves. Beautiful as this cemetery is by daylight, it has a solemnly weird look by night. The dark green grass and evergreens contrasted with the innumerable white headstones are calculated to make the visitor, if he is at all superstitious, think of spectres and ghosts. One of the boats on this river has a mate, a large, powerful man, whom neither threats nor entreaties can induce to go ashore here at night. He tremblingly relates how, one dark night, he saw several soldiers in full uniform come aboard the boat and disappear over the bow. He also strongly claims to have seen whole regiments of spirit soldiers drill on the brink of the bluff, and to have heard the hollow, solemn voices of the officers giving commands.

The Confederate dead


Hundreds of soldiers are buried in the five known Confederate burial pits at Shiloh battlefield ...
... while Federals, such as these Illinois comrades of Christian Kuhl, are buried in Shiloh National Cemetery.
The Confederate dead remain where they were buried. A few years ago the leading men in this part of the country arranged an immense mass-meeting and barbecue at the spring, near the old Shiloh Church. Resolutions were passed, subscriptions raised and committees appointed to take up and reinter all the Confederate dead that could be found. Many thousand people came here from far and wide, and the undertaking would have been a grand success, but about noon a most terrible storm arose and dispersed the crowd. In attempting to get home, a number of people, among them several children, were killed, and others badly hurt. This dampened the ardor of the projectors, and stopped, perhaps forever, the project of reinterring the Confederate dead.

I spent two delightful days at Shiloh, the last being April 6th, the twenty-first anniversary of the fight, and I was during that time accompanied in my rambles by Captain Doolittle and Rev. Thomas Cotton, late chaplain of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Illinois infantry. Naturally enough, the first spot I wished to see was my own old camp ground, (that of the Fourteenth Illinois infantry,) and I found it without much trouble, for all the old camps are in a good state of preservation. There, in front of our quarters, is the old cotton field where we drilled and went through dress parade. Still plainly to be seen is our company well, now still two feet deep. Plainly visible are the circles of our Sibley tents, with here and there a tent-pin remaining. The most remarkable relic of the past is a tin cup I picked up in our company quarters. Although badly rusted, it is still plainly recognized as an army tin cup, and bears on the bottom the initials "J. L. A." rudely scratched on with a pointed instrument. It no doubt belonged to my old comrade, John L. Alver, of company A, and he is welcome to the relic if he is still alive.

Relics of the battlefield


In 1883, a tree stump marked the spot where Albert Sidney Johnston was mortally wounded. This massive
monument marks the approximate spot today.
A close-up of the mortuary cannon on the Albert Sidney Johnston monument at Shiloh.
I very readily found the camps of [John] Logan's, [Benjamin] Prentiss' and [William] Sherman's divisions, and where the ground has not been plowed up the field is still littered with the very slowly decaying debris of the army. The old field where General [Stephen] Hurlbut's headquarters were located was especially familiar to me. On account of a defective title it has no owner and has not been plowed up since the battle. The tent squares and circles, cess-pools, wells and bake-ovens are plainly visible, while innumerable tent-pins, camp-kettles, leather straps, cartridge boxes, canteens, shoes, beef bones, harness, camp stoves, bayonets and other war material cover the ground. I found several well-preserved fragments of army clothing, tin plates, cartridge boxes and brass shoulder-straps. The field where General Grant reviewed the army a few weeks before the battle is in cultivation and is now owned by Mr. Thomas Walker, who has lived here, grown well off, and raised a bright family since the battle.

Not far from Mr. Walker's plantation stands the stump of the tree under which General Albert S. Johnston died. Someone has planted a small evergreen tree there to mark the spot. Near the site of the old Shiloh Church I was shown one of the most remarkable landmarks of this historic field. It is the grave of a Confederate major, whom his comrades buried, under a beautiful oak tree, then probably eighteen inches in diameter. A round place was cut smooth on the face of the tree and engraved thereon was the inscription, "T. B. Monroe, C. S. A., killed April 6th, 1862." The tree has since then grown in thickness fully six inches and the bark has gradually swelled, out and over the tablet, so as to leave now only an aperture of about six inches in diameter, through which, the old inscription is plainly visible.

Iron and lead abundant


In 1883, Christian Kuhl wrote of "immense quantities of lead and iron" -- bullets, shot and shell --
  unearthed by farmers and others at Shiloh. These bullets were also recovered at the Tennessee battlefield.
Immense quantities of lead and iron are being gathered on the field. One merchant shipped last year over three thousand pounds of bullets, and the farmers put in a great deal of idle time gathering lead. On the day before my arrival some children found an unexploded shell, which they threw onto a pile of burning brush. While away at dinner the shell exploded, after being buried twenty-one years. It is needless to say that in my search for relics I avoided unexploded shells as I would the pest.

The large trees that were so badly scarred by shot and shell still bear the marks very plainly, but the small saplings were all killed and a new growth has taken their places. The spots where minie balls lodged are grown over, but over each bullet there is a slight raise and the bark is smoother than elsewhere, so they can easily be found.

The road cut into the bluff by [Don Carlos] Buell's army on Sunday night is still in good shape, although never used. Even the indentations made by the steamers in landing are plainly visible in the tough clay bank. Near the top of the hill on the Buell road stand a number of splendid beach trees, cut all over with the names of soldiers. I plainly read the following: "O. F. Smith, Co. D, 24th Missouri, 1862; A. J. Pummer, T. Donahoe, W.P. Dean, 6th La., 1861."

Old Shiloh Church


The old Shiloh Church was torn down two years ago, and a neat frame church built in its place. It is needless to say that relic hunters have carried off every vestige of the old one. The new church is owned by the Southern M. E. Church, but to keep matters even the old (Northern) M.E. Church has a little chapel within half a mile of the former.

I quaffed a long, strong draught from the old Shiloh spring, and, sitting on a stump near its brink, I tried to discern in the ground the various deeply beaten paths that once led off to the numerous camps and to hear the foot-falls of the soldiers coming for water; but the paths are obliterated, and the only sound that greeted my ear was the creaking of an approaching cotton wagon on its way to the landing. I shall never regret the trouble and expense of my visit to Pittsburg Landing.

It would have been delightful to have had the company of a number of old veterans in my rambles over the ground; and I hope at no distant day to see a grand encampment of the Grand Army held on the old "Cloud field" at Shiloh.

Pekin, Ill., April 12, 1883.

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SOURCE

-- The National Tribune, May 3, 1883.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

'Their eyeless skulls seemed to stare steadily at us'

Unburied remains of soldiers in Federal lines near Orange Plank Road in the Wilderness. 
 (Library of Congress | CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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More than 150 years after two Union soldiers died at Second Manassas, their skeletal remains were unearthed from a limb pit near the infamous Deep Cut on the battlefield. Recently published stories about the grisly finds -- a leg bone with amputation saw marks, an Enfield bullet embedded in a severely fractured femur, Yankee buttons among bones -- fascinate many of us. Horrify some of us, too.

Which brings us to the excerpt below from the book Recollections of a Private Soldier by Union veteran Frank Wilkeson, a gifted writer and storyteller. In early May 1864, he was a 16-year-old private in the 11th New York Light Artillery. A day or two before the Battle of the Wilderness, Wilkeson and his comrades camped near the Orange Turnpike on the Chancellorsville battleground, where a year earlier, on May 2, 1863, Stonewall Jackson's flank attack there led to a crushing Union defeat. As Wilkeson and another Federal soldier walked the old battlefield, they discovered gruesome remains of that day -- leg bones, arm bones, skulls, a "grinning, bony, flesh-less face."

Later than evening, Wilkeson and his comrade were joined by "many infantrymen," perhaps, like some of us, also drawn to the horrific aftermath of battle.




"In the evening, after supper, I walked with a comrade to the spot where General [Alfred] Pleasanton had massed his guns and saved the army under [Joseph] Hooker from destruction, by checking the impetuous onslaught of Stonewall Jackson's Virginian infantry, fresh from the pleasures of the chase of the routed Eleventh Corps. We walked to and fro over the old battle-field, looking at bullet-scarred and canister-riven trees. The men who had fallen in that fierce fight had apparently been buried where they fell, and buried hastily. Many polished skulls lay on the ground. Leg bones, arm bones, and ribs could be found without trouble. Toes of shoes, and bits of faded, weather-worn uniforms, and occasionally a grinning, bony, flesh-less face peered through the low mound that had been hastily thrown over these brave warriors.

1865 image of unburied soldiers south of Plank Road in Wilderness.
(Library of Congress)
"As we wandered to and fro over the battle-ground, looking at the gleaming skulls and whitish bones, and examining the exposed clothing of the dead to see if they had been Union or Confederate soldiers, many infantrymen joined us. It grew dark, and we built afire at which to light our pipes close to where we thought Jackson's men had formed for the charge, as the graves were thickest there, and then we talked of the battle of the preceding year. We sat on long, low mounds. The dead were all around us. Their eyeless skulls seemed to stare steadily at us.

"The smoke drifted to and fro among us. The trees swayed and sighed gently in the soft wind. One veteran told the story of the burning of some of the Union soldiers who were wounded during Hooker's fight around the Wilderness, as they lay helpless in the woods. It was a ghastly and awe-inspiring tale as he vividly told it to us as we sat among the dead. This man finished his story by saying shudderingly: 'This region,' indicating the woods beyond us with a wave of his arm, 'is an awful place to fight in. The utmost extent of vision is about one hundred yards. Artillery cannot be used effectively. The wounded are liable to be burned to death. I am willing to take my chances of getting killed, but I dread to have a leg broken and then to be burned slowly; and these woods will surely be burned if we fight here. I hope we will get through this chapparal without fighting,' and he took off his cap and meditatively rubbed the dust off  of the red clover leaf which indicated the division and corps he belonged to.

"As we sat silently smoking and listening to the story, an infantry soldier who had, unobserved by us, been prying into the shallow grave he sat on with his bayonet, suddenly rolled a skull on the ground before us, and said in a deep, low voice: 'That is what you are all coming to, and some of you will start toward it to-morrow.' "

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Video: Walk to crest of Shy's Hill, a Battle of Nashville site


Channeling my inner Sherpa mountain guide, I climbed to the crest of Shy’s Hill, where the Federals’ assault on the cold, rainy afternoon of Dec. 16, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville was a decisive blow to the out-manned and out-gunned Army of Tennessee.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tiny treasure from a Battle of Franklin hot spot

Unfired Union bullet from the Battle of Franklin. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
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While reporting a story recently in Franklin, Tenn., a homeowner near the Carter house, epicenter of the battle on Nov. 30, 1864, gave me this unfired Union bullet that was discovered on her family’s property. The 6th Ohio Independent Battery Light Artillery, whose battlefield position is denoted by the cannon seen in the background, was among the units that defended ground at the infamous Carter cotton gin, near where the one-ounce treasure was unearthed.

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'I am a disarmed prisoner!' Sad life of General Thomas Smith

Thomas Benton Smith, shown in a war-time image, spent more than half his life in an insane asylum.
(CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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On a winter day in 1876, former Confederate brigadier general Thomas Benton Smith armed himself with a bow and arrows, mounted a horse and rode near Nashville "attacking everyone he met." Among the 37-year-old veteran's victims was his cousin, struck in the thigh with a steel-tipped arrow and nearly killed. "Imagining himself to be the Indian Emperor of America," Smith fled into the hills around the city, where he finally was captured with "great difficulty."

In 1876, Thomas Benton Smith became "hopelessly
insane," leading to his sister having him committed.
This story was published in many U.S. newspapers.
Obviously unwell, the Tennessee native was committed by his sister to the Central Hospital for the Insane in Nashville, a foreboding, castle-like building southeast of the city. For the next 47 years, Smith was held there, reportedly leaving only once or twice a year for Confederate veterans' reunions. He was a "pathetic figure," the local newspaper wrote of the bachelor who once was one of the top generals in the Army of Tennessee.

After Smith was committed, the reunions apparently became the highlights of his life. At an early-20th century event, he became a commander again, running old soldiers through drills from Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics manual. Although he suffered from depression, "General Smith was self-poised” that day, according to an account, "as full of the animation of the old days as could be imagined." Despite his dementia, he showed off a "remarkable memory" at another reunion by calling all his old comrades by name.

But at another gathering of former Southern soldiers in 1901, Smith bemoaned his circumstances. "This is the only free day I have in the year," the 63-year-old told an acquaintance. "All of you should be happy, for you are free every day. When this day is ended, I will have to go back to those terrible prison walls."

How did the once-promising life of Thomas Benton Smith -- who rose from captain in the 20th Tennessee to colonel and finally to "Boy General" -- take such a terrible turn? For the answer to that question, we must go back to another winter day, Dec. 16, 1864, atop a hill near Granny White Pike during the Battle of Nashville.

"When this day is ended," Thomas Benton Smith told an acquaintance in 1901 at a Confederate 
veterans' reunion,  "I will have to go back to those terrible prison walls" of the insane asylum.
The steep slopes of Compton's Hill, better known as Shy's Hill, defended by General Smith's soldiers.
        PANORAMA: Crest of Shy's Hill, known as Compton's Hill during the Civil War.
                                     (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

Out-gunned, out-manned perhaps 3-to-1 and nearly surrounded on the rainy afternoon, the Confederates atop Compton's Hill (Shy's Hill) were desperate. In command of a brigade in William Bate's division, 26-year-old Thomas Benton Smith had somehow held out against the Federals, leaving the steep hillside strewn with their dead and wounded. But it was obvious he had no chance of victory, and at about 3:30 p.m., a portion of the line occupied by his soldiers gave way.

"The enemy," Army of Cumberland commander George Thomas wrote, "was hopelessly broken."

Explained Army of Tennessee commander John Bell Hood in his after-action report: "The position gained by the enemy being such as to enfilade our line caused in a few moments our entire line to give way, and our troops to retreat rapidly down the pike in the direction of Franklin, most of them, I regret to say, in great confusion, all efforts to reform them being fruitless."

Besides losing 54 cannon, more than 1,500 soldiers Hood could ill-afford to lose became prisoners of war -- including Smith. As the general was marched to the rear, probably down Granny White Pike north toward Nashville, a Federal officer approached him. Perhaps drunk or simply incensed by Union losses -- no one knows for sure -- Colonel William L. McMillen of the 95th Ohio struck Smith on the head with his saber.

Then he struck him again.

Post-war image of William McMillen,
the colonel who slashed
Thomas Benton Smith with his saber.
Seething, the former Union army surgeon hit Smith, who stood a little over 6 feet, one more time with his weapon.

"I am a disarmed prisoner!" Smith cried out during the beating, witnessed by at least two soldiers in the 20th Tennessee, the general's former regiment.

A witness, 20th Tennessee Private Monroe Mitchell, recalled in 1891:
"Gen. Smith had just gotten through a gap in a rock fence, when I saw a Federal Major, his rank being indicated by his uniform, approach him. This officer was a man probably of 150 pounds in weight and perhaps 5 foot 11 inches or thereabouts. He was very angry and said to Gen. Smith, 'Come here, you d----d rebel s-- of a b----. Here you are living, and (he called some Federal Colonel's name which I did not catch) is dead or dying!' "
McMillen, according to Mitchell, then drew his sword and struck Smith on the head, the first blow knocking off the general's hat. The blows were so hard they bent the colonel's saber. "Yes, G-d d----- you, I mean what I say," McMillen said. Smith fell to his knees, Mitchell recalled, "perfectly erect and calm while receiving the blows."

Rushed to a Federal field hospital, Smith was examined by a surgeon, who gave him no hope. "Well," he said, "you are near the end of your battles, for I can see the brain oozing through the gap in your skull."

"Is it possible that this cowardly wretch could have been anything other than a Yankee bounty jumper," a 20th Tennessee regimental historian wrote about McMillen, "or perhaps a Southern deserter? One is as good as the other." (McMillen, in fact, was accused of cowardly conduct for actions during a battle near Richmond in 1862. He was court-martialed, tried and acquitted.)

Miraculously surviving the brutal attack, Smith was sent first sent to a Federal prison in Nashville.  Later, he was held at Johnson's Island in Ohio and then at Fort Warren in Boston. In a plea for his release, Smith wrote to President Andrew Johnson in June 1865: "I ... have been severely wounded several times, lost killed, the only brother I had, and am the only son of an aged widowed Mother, who is in moderate circumstances."

Released July 24, 1865, Smith returned home, but the effects of the attack in Nashville haunted him the rest of his life.

Front-page story about Thomas Benton Smith in the Nashville Tennessean on June 30, 1907.
After the war,  Smith ran for Congress in 1870 (he lost) and worked in various roles, including conductor, for the railroad. But he eventually was crippled by bouts of depression, perhaps caused by the brain injury suffered in 1864, and could not take care of himself.

Sometimes, Smith was blunt with others about his mental health. While wandering the grounds of the asylum one day, he encountered a hunter. After Smith asked to examine his weapon, the young man handed it to the old soldier. "You have done a foolish thing. You have put a loaded gun in my hands. I live over there," he told the hunter, pointing to the asylum, "and I'm crazy at times. I might shoot you. Don't ever give your gun to a stranger." Most of the time Smith was "perfectly rational," according to a newspaper account, "although occasionally he has an attack of homicidal mania."

In 1907, the Nashville Tennessean published a lengthy, front-page feature about Smith under the headline "A Gallant Confederate Soldier Who Suffered Worse Than Death."

"Although for nearly thirty years Gen. Smith has been in retirement, he is still in the most affectionate remembrance by those of his comrades who are still living," the newspaper wrote. "This fact alone seems a guaranty of his noble courteous nature, as well as his invincible spirit. Whenever the name of this brave Confederate soldier is mentioned the men who spent four terrible years fighting by his side seem eager to add to his meed of praise. They all love 'Tom Smith' and seem to think it particularly hard that he should have been singled out as the victim of fate's cruel trick."

Thomas Benton Smith's gravestone at Mt. Olivet Cemetery
in Nashville (Find A Grave)
Ten years later, at the height of World War I, a Confederate veteran from Tennessee lamented the beating Smith took at the hands of McMillen, whom he called a "German soldier." The federal government, the man wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Tennessean, should "atone in some way for the infliction of this great wrong on an honorable and defenseless soldier, fighting for his country in a cause he believed to be just and right.

"It is none too late to do the right thing."

Although there is no known record of the government doing the "right thing," the Grand Army of the Republic post in New Orleans reportedly revoked McMillen's membership when it got wind of his barbarous treatment of Smith during the war. Perhaps that brought the general a small measure of satisfaction. McMillen, who had moved to Louisiana in 1866, died in Ohio in 1902.

Smith outlived his Civil War tormentor by 21 years, dying at 85 of chronic myocarditis on May 21, 1923, at the insane asylum that was his home more than half his life. His passing was a big deal, meriting Page 1 coverage in the Tennessean and a service with military honors in the State Capitol Building in Nashville. While Smith's remains lay in state there under military guard, the bier was draped with two flags -- the Stars and Stripes and Stars and Bars.

"... I was often at reunions with him," a gray-bearded 20th Tennessee veteran near the coffin at the State Capitol Building told a reporter. "I loved him; we all loved him."

A prisoner no more, Smith was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.


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SOURCES

-- Confederate Veteran, December 1910.
-- The News Journal, Wilmington, Del., Jan. 29, 1876.
-- Nashville Tennessean, April 12, 1891, Sept. 21, 1901, Sept. 22, 1906, June 30, 1907, Feb. 27, 1913, Aug. 22, 1917, May 27, 1923, Dec. 6, 1964.
-- McMurray, William J., History of the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A,, Nashville, The Publication Committee, consisting of W.J. McMurray, D.J. Roberts, and R.J. Neal, 1904.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

'Dreadfully distorted visages': How soldiers die in battle

A fallen Confederate at Petersburg in 1864. (Thomas C. Roche | Library of Congress)
CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.
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When Frank Wilkeson's eloquent, unvarnished account of his service in the Army of the Potomac  was published in 1886, it received reviews any author would crave.

"No book about the war for the Union can compare either style or in readableness ...," the Philadelphia Times wrote about Recollections of a Private Soldier in the Army of the Potomac. "Mr. Wilkeson's style is as crisp as a new treasury note. It is as clear as a trumpet-call. It is as deliciously breezy as a morning in May.  It is impossible to take up his book and put it down without reading it.

Frank Wilkeson
"Its interest is a thoroughly human interest. He  takes his reader to the camp-fire and does not so much as let him have a peep at headquarters. It is simply a private soldier's book about private soldiers."

Noted the Baltimore Sun: "Mr. Wilkeson occupies a rank as a writer which entitles his opinions to be weighed as those of a man of recognized ability, and his fearlessness in publishing them, when he knew they will be unpalatable to most of his readers and probably expose him to much obloquy, deserves respect."

"Everyone," a Montana newspaper wrote, "will gain a prize by possession of this book."

A son of a well-known journalist, Wilkeson enlisted at 16 in 1864 after running away from home. On July 1, 1863, his older brother Bayard, a lieutenant in the 4th United States Regular Artillery, was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. As a private in the 11th New York Light Artillery, Frank witnessed some of the worst fighting of the war, at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna River, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. He somehow finagled his way onto the battlefield and fought as infantry at the Wilderness.

Wilkeson -- who became a well-known journalist in his own right in the 1880s -- wrote compelling  chapters on the major Overland Campaign battles in Recollections. But it's an 11-page chapter entitled "How Men Die in Battle," as raw and ugly as a large, open wound, that captivates — and horrifies — me most. Here's the excerpt from Wilkeson's work:



Famous "Harvest of Death" photo of Union dead at Gettysburg. (Alexander Gardner | Library of Congress)
Almost every death on the battle-field is different. And the manner of the death depends on the wound and on the man, whether he is cowardly or brave, whether his vitality is large or small, whether he is a man of active imagination or is dull of intellect, whether he is of nervous or lymphatic temperament. I instance deaths and wounds that I saw in Grant's last campaign.

On the second day of the battle of the Wil­derness, where I fought as an infantry soldier, I saw more men killed and wounded than I did before or after in the same time. I knew but few of the men in the regiment in whose ranks I stood; but I learned the Christian names of some of them. The man who stood next to me on my right was called Will. He was cool, brave, and intelligent. In the morning, when the Second Corps was advancing and driving Hill's soldiers slowly back, I was flurried. He noticed it, and steadied my nerves by saying, kindly: "Don't fire so fast. This fight will last all day. Don't hurry. Cover your man before you pull your trigger. Take it easy, my boy, take it easy, and your cartridges will last the longer." This man fought effectively.

Close-up of fallen young Confederate at Antietam.
(Alexander Gardner | Library of Congress)
During the day I had learned to look up to this excellent soldier, and lean on him. Toward evening, as we were being slowly driven back to the Brock Road by Longstreet's men, we made a stand. I was behind a tree firing, with my rifle barrel resting on the stub of a limb. Will was standing by my side, but in the open. He, with a groan, doubled up and dropped on the ground at my feet. He looked up at me. His face was pale. He gasped for breath a few times, and then said, faintly: "That ends me. I am shot through the bowels." I said: "Crawl to the rear. We are not far from the intrench­ments along the Brock Road; I saw him sit up, and indistinctly saw him reach for his rifle, which had fallen from his hands as he fell. Again I spoke to him, urging him to go to the rear. He looked at me and said impatiently: "I tell you that I am as good as dead. There is no use in fooling with me. I shall stay here." Then he pitched forward dead, shot again and through the head. We fell back before Long­street's soldiers and left Will lying in a windrow of dead men.

 When we got into the Brock Road intrenchments, a man a few files to my left dropped dead, shot just above the right eye. He did not groan, or sigh, or make the slightest physical movement, except that his chest heaved a few times. The life went out of his face instantly, leaving it without a particle of expression. It was plastic, and, as the facial muscles con­tracted, it took many shapes. When this man's body became cold, and his face hard­ened, it was horribly distorted, as though he had suffered intensely. Any person, who had not seen him killed, would have said that he had endured supreme agony before death re­leased him. A few minutes after he fell, an­other man, a little farther to the left, fell with apparently a precisely similar wound. He was straightened out and lived for over an hour. He did not speak. Simply lay on his back, and his broad chest rose and fell, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, and more and more feebly, until he was dead. And his face hardened, and it was almost terrifying in its painful distortion.

I have seen dead soldiers' faces which were wreathed in smiles, and heard their comrades say that they had died happy. I do not believe that the face of a dead soldier, lying on a battle-field, ever truthfully indicates the mental or physical anguish, or peacefulness of mind, which he suffered or enjoyed before his death. The face is plastic after death, and as the facial muscles cool and contract, they draw the face into many shapes. Sometimes the dead smile, again they stare with glassy eyes, and lolling tongues, and dreadfully distorted visages at you. It goes for nothing. One death was as painless as the other.

Skulls and bones of unburied soldiers in the Wilderness in 1865. (Library of Congress)

After Longstreet's soldiers had driven the Second Corps into their intrenchments along the Brock Road, a battle-exhausted infantry­man stood behind a large oak tree. His back rested against it. He was very tired, and held his rifle loosely in his hand. The Confederates were directly in our front. This soldier was apparently in perfect safety. A solid shot from a Confederate gun struck the oak tree squarely about four feet from the ground; but it did not have sufficient force to tear through the tough wood. The soldier fell dead. There was not a scratch on him. He was killed by concussion.

While we were fighting savagely over these intrenchments the woods in our front caught fire, and I saw many of our wounded burned to death. Must they not have suffered horribly? I am not at all sure of that. The smoke rolled heavily and slowly before the fire. It enveloped the wounded, and I think that by far the larger portion of the men who were roasted were suffocated before the flames curled round them. The spectacle was courage-sapping and pitiful, and it appealed strongly to the imagination of the spectators; but I do not believe that the wounded soldiers, who were being burned, suf­fered greatly, if they suffered at all.

Wounded soldiers, it mattered not how slight the wounds, generally hastened away from the battle lines. A wound entitled a man to go to the rear and to a hospital. Of course there were many exceptions to this rule, as there would necessarily be in battles where from twenty thousand to thirty thousand men were wounded. I frequently saw slightly wounded men who were marching with their colors. I personally saw but two men wounded who continued to fight.

During the first day's fighting in the Wilderness I saw a youth of about twenty years skip and yell, stung by a bullet through the thigh. He turned to limp to the rear. After he had gone a few steps he stopped, then he kicked out his leg once or twice to see if it would work. Then he tore the clothing away from his leg so as to see the wound. He looked at it attentively for an in­stant, then kicked out his leg again, then turned and took his place in the ranks and resumed firing. There was considerable disorder in the line, and the soldiers moved to and fro-now a few feet to the right, now a few feet to the left. One of these movements brought me directly behind this wounded soldier.

Skulls and bones inside Federal lines near Orange Plank Road in the Wilderness, (Library of Congress)
I could see plainly from that position, and I pushed into the gaping line and began firing. In a minute or two the wounded soldier dropped his rifle, and, clasping his left arm, exclaimed: "I am hit again!" He sat down behind the battle ranks and tore off the sleeve of his shirt. The wound was very slight-not much more than skin deep. He tied his handkerchief around it, picked up his rifle, and took position alongside of me. I said: "You are fighting in bad luck to-day. You had better get away from here." He turned his head to answer me. His head jerked, he staggered, then fell, then regained his feet. A tiny fountain of blood and teeth and bone and bits of tongue burst out of his mouth. He had been shot through the jaws; the lower one was broken and hung down. I looked directly into his open mouth, which was ragged and bloody and tongueless. He cast his rifle furiously on the ground and staggered off.

The next day, just before Longstreet's sol­diers made their first charge on the Second Corps, I heard the peculiar cry a stricken man utters as the bullet tears through his flesh. I turned my head, as I loaded my rifle, to see who was hit. I saw a bearded Irishman pull up his shirt. He had been wounded in the left side just below the floating ribs. His face was gray with fear. The wound looked as though it were mortal. He looked at it for an instant, then poked it gently with his index finger. He flushed redly, and smiled with satisfaction. He tucked his shirt into his trousers, and was fight­ing in the ranks again before I had capped my rifle. The ball had cut a groove in his skin only. The play of this Irishman's face was so expressive, his emotions changed so quickly, that I could not keep from laughing.

Cropped enlargement of an image of a Union field hospital at Savage Station, Va. (Library of Congress)
Near Spottsylvania I saw, as my battery was moving into action, a group of wounded men lying in the shade cast by some large oak trees. All of these men's faces were gray. They si­lently looked at us as we marched past them. One wounded man, a blond giant of about forty years, was smoking a short briar-wood pipe. He had a firm grip on the pipe-stem. I asked him what he was doing. "Having my last smoke, young fellow," he replied. His dauntless blue eyes met mine, and he bravely tried to smile. I saw that he was dying fast. Another of these wounded men was trying to read a letter. He was too weak to hold it, or maybe his sight was clouded. He thrust it unread into the breast pocket of his blouse, and lay back with a moan. This group of wounded men numbered fifteen or twenty. At the time, I thought that all of them were fatally wound­ed, and that there was no use in the surgeons wasting time on them, when men who could be saved were clamoring for their skillful atten­tion.

None of these soldiers cried aloud, none called on wife, or mother, or father. They lay on the ground, pale-faced, and with set jaws, waiting for their end. They moaned and groaned as they suffered, but none of them flunked. When my battery returned from the front, five or six hours afterward, almost all of these men were dead. Long before the cam­paign was over I concluded that dying soldiers seldom called on those who were dearest to them, seldom conjured their Northern on South­ern homes, until they became delirious. Then, when their minds wandered, and fluttered at the approach of freedom, they babbled of their homes. Some were boys again, and were fish­ing in Northern trout streams. Some were gen­erals leading their men to victory. Some were with their wives and children. Some wandered over their family's homestead; but all, with rare exceptions, were delirious.

Union wounded at Fredericksburg in 1864. (Library of Congress)
At the North Anna River, my battery being in action, an infantry soldier, one of our sup­ports, who was lying face downward close be­hind the gun I served on, and in a place where he thought he was safe, was struck on the thighs by a large jagged piece of a shell. The wound made by this fragment of iron was as horrible as any I saw in the army. The flesh of both thighs was torn off, exposing the bones. The soldier bled to death in a few minutes, and be­fore he died he conjured his Northern home, and murmured of his wife and children.

In the same battle, but on the south side of the river, a man who carried a rifle was passing between the guns and caissons of the battery. A solid shot, intended for us, struck him on the side. His entire bowels were torn out and slung in ribbons and shreds on the ground. He fell dead, but his arms and legs jerked con­vulsively a few times. It was a sickening spec­tacle. During this battle I saw a Union picket knocked down, probably by a rifle-ball striking his head and glancing from it. He lay as though dead. Presently he struggled to his feet, and with blood streaming from his head, he staggered aimlessly round and round in a circle, as sheep afflicted with grubs in the brain do. Instantly the Confederate sharp-shooters opened fire on him and speedily killed him as he circled.

Wounded soldiers almost always tore their clothing away from their wounds, so as to see them and to judge of their character. Many of them would smile and their faces would bright­en as they realized that they were not hard hit, and that they could go home for a few months. Others would give a quick glance at their wounds and then shrink back as from a blow, and turn pale, as they realized the truth that they were mortally wounded. The enlisted men were exceedingly accurate judges of the probable result which would ensue from any wound they saw. They had seen hundreds of soldiers wounded, and they had noticed that certain wounds always resulted fatally. They knew when they were fatally wounded, and after the shock of discovery had passed, they generally braced themselves and died in a man­ly manner. It was seldom that an American or Irish volunteer flunked in the presence of death.


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SOURCES

-- Helena (Mont.) Weekly Herald, Dec. 30, 1886.
-- Philadelphia Times, Dec. 19, 1886.
-- The Baltimore Sun, Dec. 23, 1886.