Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hard Hit On The Field

Wounded soldiers during the Wilderness Campaign.

I found this interesting article in the Miners Journal. A sensation many a Schuylkill soldier experienced during the Civil War.



We had been held in reserve for five hours while cannon thundered and muskets crackled spitefully along the front a mile away. A procession of dead and wounded had filed past us until we were sick with horror. Shot and shell and bullet had fallen upon us behind the woods until the dry dead grass bore many a stain of blood.
“Attention! Forward-guide-Right March!”
Our Brigade was going in at last, and there was a look of relief on the face of the officers and man as we got the word.
“Guide Right-Front-Forward-March!”
As we swung clear of the woods a gust of wind raised the smoke for a minute and I saw the plain in our front blue with dead and wounded. Away beyond them was a line of earthworks, and I had one swift glimpse of a thin blue line kneeling behind the cover.
“Steady! Right Dress! Double Quick-March!”
The air was alive with the ping of bullets and the whiz and shriek of shot and shell. We bend our heads as if breasting a fierce gale laden with icy pellets. There is a wild cry-a shriek-a groan as men are struck and fall to the earth, but no one heeds them-no one hesitates. It is a hurricane of death, but we feel a wild exultation in breasting it. Men shout curse, sing, swing their hats and cheer.
We are driving through the smoke cloud when there is a flash of fire in front! I seem to rise into the air and float hither and thither, and the sensation is so dreamy and full of rest that I wish it could last forever. It is suddenly broken by the sound of my own voice. Is it my voice? It sounds so strange and afar to me. Why should I cheer and curse by turns? What has happened?
Ah! Now I come back to earth again! Above and around me is the smoke-the earth trembles under the artillery-men are lying about and beside me. Where is the Brigade? Why did I drop out? I am lying on my back, and I struggle to sit up and look around. I rise to my knees-weave this way and that-topple over and struggle again. There is red, fresh blood on the grass-on my hands –on my face. I taste it on my lips parched as my parched tongue thrusts itself out in search of moisture.
Who is groaning? Who is Shrieking? Who is cheering? And why should I laugh and exult? Have we held the line against a grand charge? Did we scatter and decimate the legions hurled against us? Have we won a great victory to be flashed over the country and cause the bells to ring with gladness? Let me think. Give me time to remember how it all happened. Strange that my thought s should be so confused, and the the desire to sleep be so strong upon me when I should be up and doing. I will shake it off. I will spring up and follow on after the Brigade. Here-
“How do you feel?”
My eyes are wide open and I am lying on a cot in a large room. I see people walking about-other people lying on cots like my own.
“I feel all right. Why?”
“You were hard hit in the fight four days ago, my boy.”
“So there was a battle?”
“And I was wounded?”
“Had your left arm shattered by a piece of shell and we had to amputate it.”

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