Memoir Chapter 20

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 20 – June 1864


Sunday, June 5th.
3 o’clock P.M. We left our works last night, as ordered and traveled about nine miles through rain and mud, and are now resting near a little town called Lost Mountain. Last night was dark and roads miserable, I walked all the way and got only one fall. We were ordered to cook up some rations this morning, but the order came to harness up, we packed our cooking utensils in the wagon, having cooked only one days rations. The order was soon countermanded, horses unharnessed and we have had plenty of time to cook, but were too lazy. Our infantry, had a worse time last night, than we battery boys, they just waded in mud and marched about a mile an hour, they are now in line of battle. This division Frenche’s were issued whiskey enough to give each man a small dram, hundreds of us do not drink the soul destroying beverage, but it was hoped that the men in their wet and muddy condition, would be benefited thereby. The crops of wheat and corn, oats and potatoes, are very fine, all along our line of retreat, but partial destruction is in the line of our march, fences are thrown down, and wagons pass through the crops in places, and men in line of battle walk over them, and camp and build breastworks through them. The fence rails are burnt from around other fields, most of the damage cannot be avoided, what will be the condition of this fine country and its crops when the enemy leaves it? My battery is now in camp in a cornfield, the fencing has been burned from around it. We are nine miles from Marietta. This is a fine rich country, Lost Mountain is beautiful, it is perfectly round stands alone in a valley, and rises several hundred feet, and seems to come almost to a point at the top. Small cedars and bushes cling to its sides all the way. It is about 1000 feet high.

Monday, June 6th. I was detailed for guard duty last night, after I was in bed, had to get up and go on post. I suppose the foe is advancing as I hear artillery and musketry firing in front of our lines. We were not retreating last night, but changing our front. Had a hard rain today. I wrote a letter to send home, by flag of truce today. My friend Kirkpatrick came to see me today, we love each other so dearly, that we want to hear from each other every day if possible, to see if all is well with us.

Tuesday, June 7th. I wrote a letter today, to send through the lines to mail to my homefolks, but the party left without it. We moved some five miles further, and are now building works, a detail from our Brig. are assisting. I received a letter from Leut. Kearney today, he is wounded and in Selma, Ala. He will never be able to do duty any more, he was 3rd, Lieut. in Wade’s Battery.

Wednesday, June 8th. Still making breastworks, all quiet along our line.

Thursday, June 9th. Have orders to get ready to move. We surely hate to be continually building works and by the time we get them done, be ordered to go just a little further one way or the other, it looks like bad management, to work the life out of a fellow, to benefit no one as we can see. Firing in our front.

Friday, June 10th. It continues to rain almost every day and night. Moved one mile, and occupied a position with works partially built, but we had to complete them, and will of course leave them to go to the right place soon. Heavy skirmishing in front.

Saturday, June 11th, I received a letter from my Alabama girl, her sweet cheering words are sunshine to my spirits at this time, when it is rain, rain, work, work, march, march, day and night, and a little fighting for lagniappe. Heavy skirmishing and artillery firing going on this evening. Received orders to harness up, and get ready to move, and so soon as the order was obeyed, it was countermanded, and the horses were unharnessed. This is rather provoking. I was on guard last night, and it rained nearly all night.

Sunday; Monday, June 12 and 13th. Rained all day. Firing still going on in our French’s Division front. Sunday is not respected any more than other days, in such times as these.

Tuesday, June 14th. 11 A.M. My gun, gun No. 1, commanded by Sargent Lawrence Murphy, and myself as Corporal, moved about one hundred yards to our right, and had to go to work and build a redoubt, for our gun, all alone. We now occupy a salient, and a very hard one to hold, if attacked in force. I suppose Gen. Polk is aware of this fact, for he ahs placed Gen. Frensh’s Division to hold it, composed of Sears, Ector’s, and Cockrell’s Brigds. Hundreds of men will have to die, before we will be driven out I can assure any one of that fact. I firmly believe that if any body of men ever get the 1st Mo. Brig. out of their trenches by a front attack, they will have to lift them out with the bayonet. During their three years of hard service, most of that time spent on the firing line, they have never been forced back a foot, by a front attack, and their 1st Mo. Battery, as they very well know, was never driven from the field, nor had its fire silenced for one minute by the enemy in its many hot engagements. Without boasting I will write, we are here to stay until we receive orders to come out.

Leuit. Gen. Polk, our corps commander, and his staff, passed us just now going towards our right, we all took off our hats and saluted. He is such a fine specimen of noble manhood, large and handsome, with an impressive commanding appearance. We have warm sunshine today, it is so beautiful and refreshing, after thirteen days of rain. Considerable artillery firing, at different points along the line. One o’clock P.M. have just heard that Gen. Polk was killed a few minutes ago, struck by a random shell that passed through his body, killing him instantly. He was a good man, and a good general. Truly, “In the midst of life we are in death”, one hour ago he passed up his line of battle, deeply engrossed in the affairs of this life, and now he has been called into the presence of his God, to be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body, the light of another home, has been extinguished, and grief and sorrow, will be the results. Our loss is his gain. We cannot say who will be appointed to take his place.

Wednesday, June 15th. We finished our redoubt last night, about midnight. The enemy has kept up artillery fire along most of our line this morning, in order to locate our batteries, we have made no reply. Gen. Lorring has charge of our corps for the present.

Thursday, June, 16th. Another lovely day. I have spent part of this day in reading and writing. I went over into the Brig. and spent a while with Kirkpatrick and others. The enemy has done nothing today but shell our lines, but we are used to that, they knock out a man occasionally, and we are used to that also. But we would rather not have it so, as we are very short of men. I think we need at least 40,000 to make our army equal to Gen. Sherman.

Friday, June 17th. The ususal roar of artillery, commenced early and has continued all day. We had rain this evening. There has been quite a heavy artillery dual to our right. Have spent the day in reading and writing.

Saturday, June 18th. About eight o’clock this morning, the skirmish line on the left of our Brig. gave way without much resistance, and let the enemy’s line in behind our Mo. boys, and several of them were captured, before they discovered their situation, and fell back. The enemy followed their success and planted their skirmish line, within two hundred yards of our works. My 1st. Mo. Battery, now known as Guibors’ Battery opened on them, and also on a battery they established under cover of their picket fire within eight hundred yds of us. We silenced the battery once and drove every cannoneer from the guns, but after a while they returned and commenced firing again, and they kept it up all day. We managed our guns under much difficulty, it poured down rain most all day, and we never ceased firing, working our guns in mud and water ankle deep. There was a shower of minnie balls flying around us all day, from the enemy’s skirmish lines, many balls coming from our left enfilating our line. But not withstanding the deadly missels coming among us from left and front, we had but three men killed and ten wounded, but every cannoneer had several close calls during the day. The trenches of our infantry were filled to the top with water and the men had to stand in it as there was no protection for them out of the trenches. A man going to the rear was under a cross fire for two hundred yards, before finding shelter.

A very amusing circumstance took place today, which brought forth a roar of laughter from cannoneers and infantry men, while the minnie balls were hissing around us. An infantry man near my gun in Ector’s Brig. received a slight wound in the arm or hand and jumped up and started for the rear, another man, in violation of orders, jumped out of the trenches, and grabbed the wounded man to assist him to the hospital. They both started full speed under fire, the well man holding the wounded one by his well hand, they had not gone more than fifty yards before the well man stumped his toe and fell, the wounded one jerked loose and continued to race for a place of shelter. When the other man got up the man he was trying to assist to the hospital, had gotten some ten yards the start, and the race to catch the wounded man to take him to the hospital is what brought forth the shouts and laughter. It was the most amusing and exciting footrace I ever saw.

Hear what Gen. French says in his History of Two Wars, quoting from his diary, he says, June 18th 1864, “Early this morning, both pickets and skirmishers on my left, (Walkers Division), gave way, and let the Federals in behind Cockrell’s skirmishers and thus the enemy gained possession of the Latimer House, in my front. Ector’s skirmishers also came in, the way being clear. The enemy soon advanced in line of battle, and with many guns enfilated my line all day. This constant firing never ceased, but I could not induce them to come out and make an assault on my front, with infantry, and ere night came my loss was two hundred and fifteen men. Capt. Guibore Battery has lost more men (thirteen) today than it did during the entire seige of Vicksburg. Men became in time so familiar with danger and death, that Gallio like, they ‘care for none of those things”. Towards evening I was ordered to withdraw from this line and occupy Kennesaw Mountain.” Note 1

The three killed were Sargent Frank Froter, Frank Shields, and a handsome fine looking young man by the name of Johnston, who had lately joined our battery, he was from Maryland. The former two were members of Wade’s old battery, Froder was a Frenchman, a gay happy fellow, brave and true, and of the Catholic faith, Shields was from Southeast Mo. and was at one time a member of Jeff Thompson’s command, he joined us at Springfield Mo. and was a good soldier.

Saturday, June 19th. We fell back a little ways last night, and are now in position on a reserve line. The enemy is up with us again, and there is popping all along the line as usual, they are kicking up considerable racket with artillery also. It rained quite hard most of the day and evening. The skirmish lines in our front are engaged in deadly combat charging and recharging for more than two hours, before they concluded to be quiet, and allow each other a place on the field. Gen. Cockrell received a slight wound, but will not leave the field, to the joy of the Brig.

Monday, June 20th. I learned this morning, with deep heartfelt grief and sorrow, that my bosom friend Kirkpatrick, is perhaps mortally wounded in the skirmish battle in our front, on yesterday evening. He has been sent to the hospital at Atlanta, Ga. I was so overcome that I had to go aside and weep like a child, and pray God to save him. He is such a pure true friend, and I love him dearly, he was with our skirmish line in a charge. A concealed foe rose up within forty feet of him and fired and then threw down is gun and surrendered; the ball struck Kirkpatrick in the right breast, passing clear through his body. He stopped turned around and walked back nearly to our line of battle before he fainted and fell.

We are still here in reserve, except one gun, which was dragged up to the top of the mountain last night, we are told that the remainder of our guns, as well as some others, will be taken up tonight. I was up to the top of Little Kennesaw, a few hours ago, and had a view of the country for twenty miles around. The mountain is about eight hundred feet high and the view is grand and imposing, I looked down upon Gen Sherman’s army and encampments and concluded he would have to make some changes, if we ever get the 1st Mo Battery in position on that perch. There is room for three or four guns on the top, and several others can be placed a little lower down to the left on a parallel with our line of battle. Any one that loves the beautiful, and sublime paintings of nature can have their souls satisfied with the wonderful handy work of God, as viewed from the top of Little Kennesaw mountain. I was reluctant to leave the scene today, but how will it be, when my battery gets up there, and Sherman turns half a hundred cannon upon us, nothing but stern duty will hold me there then.

The enemy has kept up a heavy artillery fire all day and the shots and shells are flying rapidly around me and above me, as I sit here upon a rock writing these notes, but we battery boys have actually gotten accustomed to this kind of life and give but little regard to the bellowing of artillery and the screeching of bursting shells. Our commissary isued us bacon, flour, sugar, and coffee, and whiskey today, truely Gen. Sherman is good to us once in a while even if he does love to turn our women out of doors and burn their houses, Gen Johnston will go to him for rations occasionally. I had no use for the coffee or whiskey, as I never use either, but the sugar, Oh, my I just eat it by the hand full. Our coffee drinkers just went wild, over the genuine article. We make Confederate coffee every meal, when in camp, and on the march if we have time, by parching, or rather browning corn meal in a frying pan, until it becomes black, and then put it in water and boil it a while, and then set off and let it settle. It looks like coffee, and when drank hot with food, makes a good substitute.

 


Notes

  1. Page reference pending

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