Memoir Chapter 21

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 21 РATOP LITTLE KENNESAW 
Tuesday, June 21st. Our other three guns were hauled to the top of the mountain last night, together with two guns of Capt. Haskins Battery, we now have six ten pound Napoleon guns on the top of Little Kennesaw. Our infantry helped us drag them up, and we worked the whole of last night, with the help of a detail of infantry in getting our guns in position, and building some kind of breastworks, out of logs and rocks as we had no dirt. We have worked a great deal on our works today, when the enemy were not shellin g us, they do not see our guns, as they are behind the mountain enough to be out of view, but they seem to be suspicious of our maneuvors up here, and many of their batteries have been engaged in target practise, useing us for their target, but not a target has been touched today.

Wednesday, June 22nd. This has been a warm bright day and one long to be remembered by the 1st Mo. Battery boys, and the men of Haskin’s two guns, we had gotten our guns ready for action and as the sun rose and revealed Gen. Sherman’s army all spread out before us, his acres of white tents, his parks of artillery, and wagons and moving trains, and speeding courriers rushing to and fro from the quite headquarters, where breakfast was being prepared, and eaten, his serpent like line of breastworks, manned by thousands of trained brave men, his skirmish lines in front popping away at the Confederates all loomed up before us. They seemed to treat with silent contempt and indifference the eighty Confederate artillerymen, with their six ten pound Napoleon guns, perched some eight hundred feet in the clouds above them, but to be charitable will say that I believe they were ignorant of the volcano that was going to burst upon them, and their subsequent actions proved this to be correct. We were eager for orders to commence firing, that we might see the movements below, as we were sure that we would see much, that a soldier would enjoy. Gen. French soon gave the order, “to open fire, and to fire at will”, which was just the order we wanted. The six guns belched forth their death dealing shells at the same time upon the heads of the unsuspecting foe. I aimed my gun upon a generals headquarters that had a large flag floating above it, and then upon the flying officers and men and flying headquarters wagons, artillery, ambulances, wagons, and cavalry. The ambulances were rushed to the officers headquarters, and hastily loaded with baggage, and then rushed away at full speed, we knocked the wheel off of many of them, as well as other vehicles, and they were abandoned with their contents. Thousands of men rushed wildly for shelter, abandoning everything, and in thirty minutes all was quiet in the camps below us, seldom a man could be seen. Their artillery did not dare fire a shot at us, today, they are not prepared for us yet. Many ludicrous scenes happened below us, that earth will never see again. We continued our target practise during the whole day, I fired one hundred and sixty-seven rounds to my gun, and doubtless the other guns fired as many. Our infantry men carried ammunition up the mountain to us. Gen. French gave us orders about dark not to allow the enemy to light a camp fire during the night. So when our General saw a light he would notify us, and we would get up, and fire upon it until it was put out. This we did several times last night. In this I do not think Gen. French was obeying the golden rule.

Thursday, June 23rd, 1864. The enemy removed all of their tents and vehicles of every kind out of sight last night, we can see nothing to fire on but their breastworks. We cannot see the men that are in them but we know that they are there, and will plunge our shell into the work. We fired three or four rounds to a gun this morning, and then had to stop until twelve o’clock for a supply of ammunition. The enemy replied to us with about twelve guns, which seemed to be well concealed behind works. At two o’clock this evening we were ready, and opened fire, the enemy reply with twelve guns, the contest was kept up for two hours, before we were ordered to cease firing, having fired sixty rounds to a gun. When we quit, the enemy was replying with only three guns. Our commander Lieut. McBride was killed this evening, and four men were wounded. McBride had his right side, torn away by a shell, I saw right inside of a living human being, every movement of his lungs, as he struggled for breath, were visible. He called for his spiritual adviser, Father Donnelly, but the brave jolly priest could not reach him before he became unconcious. He was the only commisioned officer with our battery, Capt. Guibore, is on the sick list, and we very seldom see or hear from him. Harris, whom we have nick named Little Toby, our 3rd Lieut. is absent on the sick list also, and Sargent Murphy, the sargent of my gun is now in command of our battery. The fact is, every man knows his duty perfectly, and does it faithfully, and our own battery officers are merely figure heads, through which we receive orders from higher officers, after we get orders, a sargent and corporal is all the officers we need.

Friday, June 24th. Two of our guns and Capt. Haskin’s two guns, were taken down from here last night, leaving us but two guns up here. The artillery is quiet along our whole line, the batteries that shelled us so vigerously on yesterday have not fired a shot today, neither have we.

Saturday, June, 25th. The weather warm and showery, we can make it rain any time up here, by firing about ten rounds to a gun, the clouds rush together with a low rumbling sound, and soon begin to pour out the rain upon us. When we stop firing, the rain will cease. We have gushing wet weather springs all around the sides of this mountain, some of them not more than twenty feet below the summit, and as we make it rain nearly every day, our springs continue to gush, and give us good water in abundance.

The four guns that were taken down last night were returned, with four others, placed in position, and we opened fir e on the enemy this morning, with ten guns, and kept it up as long as we had a round of ammunition, which was about two hours. The last twenty rounds were fired very slowly and deliberately, as our guns were so hot, it was dangerous to load them, although the tactics say, they may be fired until they droop at the muzzle. We could only get six of our guns to bear on the enemy’s batteries, the other four were used upon their entrenchments. We were quickly replied to by a great many guns, I had no chance to count them, but the whole valley below, seemed a blazing furnace. Gen French, who was watching the contest through his glasses, says, he counted forty guns trained upon us. We know that the shells came by cart loads, over, below, and around us, and strange to say, not a man was killed, only a few slightly wounded. One on my gun, and myself, were knocked down by the concussion of a shell, I was rolled over and down the side of the mountain a few yards, and when I jumped up and the boys saw I was allright, they had a big laugh at my expense. Blakely, who was, No. 1, was hurt more severely and it took him several hours to recover. At one time after I had sighted my gun, and stepped aside to order fire, a shell struck the muzzle tearing off a piece, and almost closing the opening, but as she was loaded, I ordered fire and my old gun had a hard time to bring forth she jumped about two feet high, and when delivered, started down the mountain in a run. I examined her and found she was not wounded bad enough to leave the field, so hauled her into position, and continued to fight. Another shell bursted in our midst, and tore the crown out of James Bybee’s wool hat, he was No. 3 on my gun, he took off his hat and looked at it, and said, “Confound those Yankees, if they had ripped my scalp I would not have cared so much, as that would grow up, but my hat is ruined forever”. The boys on my gun all had a laugh at him, we can laugh at such things, in the midst of a hurrican of bursting shells, we have become used to our occupation, and some what enjoy the excitement. If we do not damage the enemy any more than they do us, we are wasting much ammunition and doing a lot of hard work for nothing.

One of Capt. Haskin’s ammunition chests on the limber of the piece was blown up today by a shell form the enemy’s gun, and dreadfully burned two men from the waist of their pants to the rim of their caps, they were carried to Gen. French’s headquarters and no doctor being there, a man was despatched to the firing line. The men were suffering great agony and W.L.P. Leigh of 32 Texas Ector’s Brig. happened to be there, and remembering his mother’s remedy for burns, molasses and cotton, rushed into the doctor’s tent, but not finding any grabbed a bottle of castor oil poured it over their bodies, then sifted flour over them, as long as any would stick, the air was excluded and the men became eased of their misery. When the doctor arrived, he commended Leigh for his wisdom, saying, he could not have done better.

Our orderly Sargent John Dickerson took charge of gun No. 2, today as Sargent William Roberson, had his leg broken. When we quit firing this morning, the enemy was replying with about six guns, and ceased firing soon after we did. After resting and eating dinner. we fired six rounds for each gun, and stirred up the enemy’s ill will again and they played ball with us for a while. About two or threee o’clock this evening we noticed quite a number of men walking about, which we did not allow, so gave them three rounds to a gun, and stirred them up a third time today. I would judge they have fired two thousands shell at us today, and not a man on the 1st. Mo. Battery has been killed. Capt. Ward’s Battery cannot say so much, do not know how many men he has lost, now I cannot say as to Capt. Haskin’s Battery. My battery will elect officer tomorrow so we are told.

Sunday, June 26th. Every thing is quite quiet except along the skirmish line. I wish Johnston and Gen. Sherman would agree to be good, on the Lord’s day, and let our ministers preach to us. My battery has not fired a shot today. Considerable firing to our extreme left late this evening. My friend Frank Carr, spent an hour or more with me this morning he was on his way to Cockrell’s Brig., to see our freind Kirkpatrick, and was much grieved when I informed him that Kirkpatrick was perhaps mortally wounded, and at the Atlanta Hospital. I received a note from him last night, dated on the 21st, from Atlanta, he said he was doing well and was well treated.

Monday June 27th. There was a considerable battle fought this morning along our lines, by infantry, the affair did not last long. I would judge it lasted about two hours, from beginning to end, it opened by heavy artillery fire from the enemy all along our lines, and our lofty position received it douple potion. We were ordered to keep quiet for a while as we knew by experience that there was something more to be dreaded behind all that noise, and we had not long to wait. The batteries ceased, except a few that were trained upon us, to keep us from giving our attention to more important matters, but they utterly failed in their object, and thousands of men, leaped from their entrenchment, and came in a run towards our line. Our skirmish line delivered its fire, and then fell back as best they could, to our main line. Some fifty of our Missouri boys were captured, and many killed, before they could make their way up the steep rough sides of the mountain, to our main line. As we looked over the valley to our left, we saw a long line of Northern Infantry, with flaunting banners, moving at a double quick, towards a smoking, blazing volcano, in their front. Quickly we wheeled three of our guns to the left, and opened fire, enfilating the enemy’s advancing lines nearest to the mountain, who were attacking Walker’s Division. Gen. Cockrell’s Brig. who was on the right of Walker could not be seen, as it was too close to the mountain, but in front of Walker’s and Bate’s Division we could see the charging thousands, as they would rush up to our smoking lines, hault for a moment wheel, and go back, and then again and again come forward in a run, and at times the whole line would drop, and remain down for a minute and then arise and forward again in a run, only to be broken and scatterred to the rear, before they reached the smoking breastworks of our men. We plunged the shells among them, as fast as we could load, and perhaps added to their rout. I saw their flag go down three times , and as often picked up and kept in front, it was to me an awful sight, to witness so many men being killed and wounded, but strange to say, the greater the victory, which generally means the greater the slaughter, the greater will be the joy, either at the North or at the South, just as to which side is victorious, or slaughtered. This rejoicing comes from the saints as well as the sinners. Now how can these things be? This contest of small arms was soon over, but the hundreds of wounded were left upon the field, all day to suffer more than words can tell.

French’s Division all had a hand in the fight, and lost some good brave men whose places will never be filled. I will quote what Lieut. Warren, of the 1st Mo. Brig. says of that battle, he was in that fight, with the Brig, on the side of the mountain, and could see what took place in front, this quotation was taken from, R.S. Bevier’s History of the 1st, and 2nd Mo. Brig. C.S.V. page 236-7 he also refers to my battery Guibore’s, “Those of us that were sleeping late having been on picket for three consecutive days, were aroused by the terrific outburst of artillery that the enemy has yet treated us to, every gun that could reach us was brought to bear on Little Kennesaw, we knew what the shelling foreboded, every man sprang to his arms. Canniff shouted for each to take his place in the trenches, and in a minute all was ready. I shall always wonder how I got safely across that bald mountain top, through the flying mass of shells, and rocks. The artillery soon slackened its fire, and we could hear the volleys delivered by our skirmishers, as they met the first line of the enemy. Poor fellows but few of them could get back up that ragged mountain side, in time to save themselves, In a few minutes the enemy made their appearance, a solid line of blue emerging from the woods a hundred yards below us. We gave them a volley that checked them where they stood, as this line was melting away where it stood under our steady fire another presses forward, and reached the foot of the mountain. Behind this came yet another line but our fire was so steady and so accurate that they could not be induced to advance, though their officers could be plainly seen trying to urge them up the hill. Then came another column the heaviest that had yet appeared, which made the final as well as the most determined assault, and which stood their ground longer than the others. Some of these men came twenty or thirty yards up the side of the mountain, but they were nearly all shot down, which deterred the other from following. Our men shot with unusual accuracy, because they had the low stone breastworks which we had constructed with such care and labor, on which to rest their guns. In three fourths of an hour the attack was over and the Federals were gone leaving large numbers of their dead lying at the bottom of the hill. I never saw our boys behave with greater coolness and courage, the enemy renewed and kept up their shelling, until night, which was most efficiently and gallantly replied to, by the batteries Bledsoe, and Guibore.”

We will now let Gen. French tell how he enjoyed the fight, and how the enemy tried to silence our three guns, on the mountain near where he was sitting, he says, “We sat there perhaps an hour enjoying a birds eye view of one of the most magnificant sights ever allotted to man, to look down upon a hundred and fifty thousand men engaged in the strife of battle below, twas worth ten years of peaceful life, one glance at that array.” “Better an hour on this mountain top, Than an age on a peaceful plain.” “As the infantry closed in the blue smoke of the musket marked out the line of battle, while over it rose in cumulative clouds, the white smoke of the artillery. So many were the guns concentrated to silence those three guns of ours on the mountain brow behind us, and so incessant was the roar of cannons and explosion of shells, passing over our heads or crashing on the rocks around us, that naught else could be heard, and so with a roar as constant as Niagra and a sharp as the crashing of thunder with lightning yet in the eye, we sat in silence watching the changing scenes of this changing panorama.” Page 208, History of Two Wars.

My battery kept up the fire from early morn to late in the evening then knocked off tired and hungry. But the enemy hurled the shells at the mountain top until dark. Late this evening I went out, down the mountain side to the entrenchments of the Mo. Brrig, to see how the boys came and to try to learn some news of my friend Kirkpatrick, they said it was not much of a fight, and they were not half satisfied. They thought about their heaviest loss, was in prisoners on their skirmish lines, they stayed in their works too long, and let the enemy get so close before they started to retreat, they could not make it up the mountain. I learned that my precious friend Kirkpatrick was dead, my sorrow was so great that I was overcome and wept like a child. He was a good pure man and I loved him with my whole soul.

Tuesday, June 28th. All quiet except artillery firing at different points along our lines and Gen. Sherman does not forget to pay his daily regards to the Mo. Battery on the top of Little Kennesaw. I wrote a letter to Dr. Lewis Hadden, telling him of the death of Kirkpatrick, it will be sad news to him and his family, as they thought so much of him. As I wrote the shells were flying over and around me, and we do not know what moment we may be taken away, and what is strange none of us seem to think along that line, but we cannot know the thought of the spirit of man, wherefore we cannot judge. In the note my friend wrote me after he was wounded, he requested me to write to Dr. Hadden and tell him how he was getting along. Capt. Burk of the 1st Mo. infantry was with the battery this evening and said he heard that Kirkpatrick was doing finely, I do wish this last news is true.

June 29th. Weather warm, things were tolerbly quiet with us until we opened fire upon the enemy this evening. We warmed up their batteries by giving our whole attention to them and after firing some twenty rounds to a gun took a recess for the balance of the day. They gave us Hail Columbia in return for our smartness and knocked out one of our boys, but he will recover.

Thursday, June 30th., Sherman has behaved well to-day. I fear he has arranged a flanking movement, as he certainly knows, he can never move us out of this position any other way. He has so many men we can hardly prevent a flank move. I went down to the 2rth. Arkansaw regiment a few minutes and had a chat with friend Carr. We had muster to-day. Rain, rain, we have it all to ourselves up here on this mountain.

Friday, July 1st, Every thing quiet until this evening, when Sherman got mad about something and commenced to throw shells at us fellows, we stayed in a good humor for a while, but he kept it up until he got Sargent Murphey, who was in command of the battery mad, and he said, “Boys those Yanks want a fight and let us give them what they want[.”] We were soon ready and the order was given. Our guns belched forth in response to their challenge, and then the fight was on in dead ernest until nearly two hours after dark before Murphy ordered us to cease fireing. We were hot, tires, thirsty and hungry. Many new guns were brought to bear upon us and the odds were so great against us that it seems nothing short of a miracle that we were not all killed. It seemed like nothing could live up here, the mountain trembled like it had a volcano under it. But as they could not knock us out, we kept up the fight. We had accepted the challenge, and would not come down off of the perch, without being knocked off, that they failed to do. More than five hundred pounds of shells were bursting over and around Little Kennesaw every minute for three hours this evening, and not a man was killed, only a few slightly wounded. How wonderful that such could be the case, amidst such a storm of deadly iron.

General French has an eye for the sublime and I will quote what he says of that artillery battle, on that evening of July 1st, 1864. ” This afternoon the enemy turned fifty two pieces of artillery on the three guns (we had four) I have on the west brow of little Kennesaw and continued the fire until long after dark. Seldom in war have there been so insatnces where so many guns have been trained on a single spot. But it was only in the darkness of the night that the magnificence of the scene was displayed. Grand beyond imagination, beautiful beyond description, Kennesaw usually invisible from a distance at night, now resembles Vessuvius in the beginning of an eruption. The innumerable curling rings of smoke from the incessant bursting of shells over the mountain top added to the volumes belching fourth from our guns reathe Kennesaw in a golden thunder cloud in the still sky from which came incessant flashes of irridiscent light from shells like bursting stars. The canopy of clouds rolled around the peak looked softer than the downy cotton but ever changing in color. One moment they were as crimson as the evening clouds painted by the rays of the summer setting sun, and the next brighter than if lit by the lightnings flash or bursting mettors. However brilliant and varied and beautiful to the sight it was not one of pure delight, because it was not a grand display in the clouds for amusement, and when it died away, when silence came, and night threw her dark mantle over the scene, there was no feeling of joy, only one of relief from the excitement of hope and fear, ever incident to the wager of battle.”

Saturday, July 2nd. The enemy opened fire on us quite early this morning without cause, as we were attending to our own business, cooking our hoe-cake and making corn meal coffee. They made the mountain ring and the dirt and rocks fly for about two hours. We had great trouble to keep the dirt and fine pieces of stone out of our food. We can seldom cook and eat a meal up on this mountain, without being annoyed in this manner. They have wasted tons of ammunition trying to knock Guibore’s 1st, Mo. Battery off this mountain, I would judge Sherman was thrown from his forty or fifty cannons, bearing on our battery on the top of this mountain, on an average of at least five hundred shells and solid shot, per day during the last ten days, making five thousand shells at ten pounds each, and there were none less, we would have fifty thousand pounds of iron hurled at the First Mo. Battery of C.S.V. for their destruction. We have lost a few brave men but are still in good fighting trim.

We held an election today, for Battery officers, and we elected Sargent Murphy for 2nd Senior Lieut., and Corporal Sam Kennard, was elected 2nd, Junior Lieut., Merphy was immediately promoted to Junior 1st Lieut. and placed in command of the battery, by Maj. Storrs, Harris who is Senior 1st, Lieut. is sick at the hospital. Corporal Ward Childs, was appointed Sargent of my gun, which does not give satisfaction, he is a brave intelligent, high toned young man, but belongs to gun No. 3, and we think the appointment should have been from our own gun.

Three o’clock PM we have orders to take our guns down off this mountain, and will commence to do so in about thirty minutes, I expect Sherman ahs out flanked us, and we will have to leave a strong position. I hope this move does not mean a retreat. We hate to leave our perch, it is such a lovely and exciting place, exciting to be a target up in the clouds, with half a hundred cannon trained upon us for ten days on a stretch, and besides we can see and enjoy so much, we witness artillery dueling and skirmishing all along the line, and the Rebel Yell has been heard from this lofty peak, as it floated on the breeze, from the valley of death below. I will quote what Gen. French says of the Rebel Yell, in his History of Two Wars, “The Rebel Yell was born amidst the roar of cannon, the flash of the muskets the deadly conflict, comrades falling and death in front, then, when rushing forward, that unearthly Yell rose from a thousand Confederate throats, loud, above the thunder of the captains and the shoutings and with the force of a tarnado, they swept in over the field to death or victory. Oh, how the heart throbs and the eye glares, as that Yell is the offspring of the tempest of the battle and death, it cannot be heard in peace, no, never, never. The Federal cheer lives on and is heard daily in the land. That Confederate was never as far as I know made while standing still, it was really and inspiration, a rising from facing danger and death, which as brave men they resolved to meet. We children of peace can never hear it; wherefore I write of a sound that was produced by the environment, ye will never have it, it died with the cause that produced it. The Yell produced awe; the cheer indicated joy.” Gen French is about right I believe that awful Yell did produce Awe, in the hearts of the enemy, as it banashed all thought of death and fear, from the soul of the Confederate and made him a fearful animal to meet. To meet him was death to one or both parties. Up to this date the 1st. Mo. Brig. has never been able to get close enough to lock bayonets, with the enemy.

 


Notes

  1. Page reference pending

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