This is an interesting statement by a Civil War soldier, on how it feels to kill a man in battle.
Miners Journal February 1892:
A conscientious soldiers description of the horrors of battle.
They do not call it murder when men meet to slaughter each other in battle. They simply report so many dead, wounded and missing. When you fire into the smoke concealing you other battle lines, you fire in the hopes to kill or wound. It is your duty. Battles cannot be one without killing, and the result of battles changes the whole system of governments. You load and fire load and fire moved to the right or left advance or retreat and when the battle is over you may have fired 50 rounds, and yet you have not had a near site of the enemy. You have simply fired at him, and you cannot vouch that a single one of your bullets has found a living target.
Here is a brigade of us in battle line across an old meadow: our right and left joining other brigades. We have thrown down the rail fences gathered logs and brush and sod and erected a breastwork. It is only a slight one, but enough to do shelter bias while lying down. A division of the enemy breaks over cover half a mile away and comes marching down upon us. The field pieces behind us open on their solid columns but they are not checked. Under the smoke we can see the work of the shells but they cannot halt that mass of men. The grape and canister does awful execution, but there should be a dozen guns behind us instead of six.
They are going to charges. The guns cannot prevent that. Orders run along the line and we are waiting until every bullet, no matter if fired a soldier with his eyes shut, must hit a foe. I select my man while he is yet beyond range. I have eyes for no other. He is a tall, soldierly fellow wearing the stripes of a Sgt. And he comes nearer I imagine that he is looking as fixedly at me as I am at him. I admire his coolness, he looks neither to the right nor to the left. The man on his right is hit and goes down, but he does not falter.
I am going to kill that man! I have a rest for my gun on the breastwork, and when the order comes to fire I cannot miss him. He is living his last-minute on earth! We are calmly waiting until our folly shall prove a veritable flame of death. Now they close up the gaps and we can hear the shouts of their officers as they make ready to charge. My man is still opposite me. He still seems to be looking at me and no one else. I know the word is coming in a few seconds more, and I aim at his chest.
I could almost be sure of hitting him with a stone when we get the word fire. There is a billow of flame, a billow of smoke, and a fierce crash, and 4000 bullets are fired into that compact mass of advancing men. Not one volley alone, though that worked horrible destruction, but another and another until there was no longer a living man to fire at.
The smoke drifts slowly away, men cheer and yell, we can see the meadow before us heaped with dead and dying men. We advance our line. As we’re going forward I look for my victim. He is lying on his back, eyes half shut and fingers clutching at the grass. He gasps draws up his legs and straightens them out again and again and is dead as I pass them on. I have killed my man!
My bullet alone struck him, tearing that ghastly wound in his breast, and I am entitled to all the honor. Do I swing my And cheer? Do I point him out and expect to be congratulated? No! I have no cheers. I feel no elation. I feel that I murdered him, war or no war, and that his agonized face will haunt me through all the years of my life.