AN INCIDENT OF ROMNEY.–

While the National forces were standing under the enemy’s fire, on the day of the battle at Romney, Va., and the shot and shell were flying in every direction around us, a little incident occurred which is worthy of notice.

Capt. Butterfield, of the Eighth Ohio regiment, (being one of the ranking Captains,) acted as Major upon that occasion, and was obliged to ride an old sorrel horse, which had been used as a team horse, and required both spurs and whip, which the Captain had provided himself with, the latter cut from a tree, and about five feet long. It was found that our small six-pound guns would not reach the enemy’s battery, and Col. Mason ordered Capt. B. to bring forward a brass twelve-pounder, which was in the rear. Off sped the old sorrel and his brave rider, and in a few moments up came the gun. Its position was assigned, and made ready for the match, but the Captain came dashing back in front of the gun, and the smell of powder, or something else, had made the old sorrel almost unmanageable, for in trying to wheel him from the front of the gun, the more the Captain applied the whip and spur, the more the old sorrel would not go. This kept the gunners in terrible suspense, for much depended on that shot. Finally, the Captain finding his efforts to move his steed fruitless, he sang out, at the top of his voice, “Never mind the old horse; blaze away;” and, sure enough, they did blaze away, and it proved a good shot, for it caused the rebels to limber up their battery, and take to their heels. At that moment, orders came to charge, and off dashed the old sorrel, frightened at the discharge of the gun, which had scorched his tail, and mingled in the charge. He was lost to view until he arrived in the town, where he was brought to a halt, and the Captain, standing in his stirrups, with his cap flying, cheered for the glorious victory that had been achieved.

Originally posted 2008-06-15 13:04:34.

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THE TONE OF BULLETS.–

A soldier, writing from one of the camps on the Potomac, thus alluded to the peculiar music made by bullets passing through the air: “It is a very good place to exercise the mind, with the enemy’s picket rattling close at hand. A musical ear can study the different tones of the bullets as they skim through the air. I caught the pitch of a large-sized Minie yesterday–it was a swell from E flat to F, and as it passed into the distance and lost its velocity, receded to D–a very pretty change. One of the most startling sounds is that produced by the Hotchkiss shell. It comes like the shriek of a demon, and the bravest old soldiers feel like ducking when they hear it. It is no more destructive than some other missiles, but there is a good deal in mere sound to work upon men’s fears.

“The tremendous scream is caused by a ragged edge of lead, which is left on the shell. In favorable positions of light, the phenomenon can sometimes be seen, as you stand directly behind a gun, of the clinging of the air to the ball. The ball seems to gather up the atmosphere, and carry it along, as the earth carries its atmosphere through space. Men are frequently killed by the wind of a cannon-shot. There is a law which causes the atmosphere to cling to the earth, or which presses upon it with a force, at the surface, of fifteen pounds to the square inch; does the same law, or a modification, pertain to cannon-balls in flight? I do not remember of meeting with a discussion of the subject in any published work. It is certainly an interesting philosophic question.”

Originally posted 2008-06-14 14:15:56.

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THE PICKET GUARD.

BY MRS. HOWLAND.

“All quiet along the Potomac,” they say,
“Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat to and fro,
By a rifleman in the thicket.
’Tis nothing–a private or two, now and then,
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost–only one of the men,
Moaning out, all alone, the death-rattle.”

All quiet along the Potomac to-night,
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
Their tents, in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
Or the light of the watch-fires, are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh, as the gentle night wind
Through the forest leaves softly is creeping:
While stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard–for the army is sleeping.

There’s only the sound of the lone sentry’s tread,
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two in the low trundle-bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.
His musket falls slack–his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep–
For their mother–may Heaven defend her!

The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then,
That night, when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips–when low, murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.
Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place,
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.

He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree–
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Towards the shades of the forest so dreary.
Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle–“Ha! MARY, good-by!”
And the life-blood is ebbing and plashing.

All quiet along the Potomac to-night–
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead–
The picket’s off duty forever.

Originally posted 2008-06-13 12:21:39.

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INCIDENTS OF THE FORT DONELSON FIGHT.–

Immediately after the surrender, Capt. T. L. Newsham (Gen. Smith’s Assistant Adjutant General) rode up to the headquarters of Gen. Buckner, where he was introduced to the rebel commander. Capt. Newsham was mounted on a splendid white charger. Buckner, noticing the horse, inquired if he was the individual who rode that horse during the battle the day previous. Capt. N. replied yes. “Then,” said Buckner, “you certainly bear a charmed life. You attracted my attention during the entire day. I ordered and saw our most experienced gunners fire at you six times from a six-pounder rifled gun, and noticed other gunners aiming at you also.” Capt. Newsham informed me that two rifled ten-pound solid shots passed close by his back, between it and his horse’s rump. Several passed above his head, the wind of which was felt by him. Another passed so near to his face that he felt the gust of the concussion of the air. Several others passed between his body and his horse’s head, and a charge of grape passed under his horse without injuring him. The skin of his horse, however, was barked in several places, but the animal was not disabled.

When Capt. N. was riding into the fort, he discovered a very remarkable looking gun lying near the breastworks. Near by was a rebel who had it in charge. The Captain told the rebel he would take it in charge, when the rebel told him that it was the property of his Captain, named Naughton. Capt. Newsham replied that it would be safer in his hands than in those of the rebels, and giving the rebel his name, and telling him he would be responsible for it, he rode on. The gun referred to is most remarkable; it is a Turkish arm, the stock of which is of a peculiar shape, and very bulky. The bands of the piece are of pure silver, inlaid with figured gold and ivory. The barrel is of Damascus steel, three-quarters of an inch bore, and rifled. The gun is said to have cost eleven hundred dollars. The owner of it, Capt. Naughton, upon learning who had possession of it, Capt. Newsham having been described to him, said that Capt. N. was welcome to keep it; adding, at the same time, that he had taken deliberate aim at him with it eleven times, and had seldom before been known to miss his mark. Quite as much astonishment may be felt at the miraculous escape of General Smith, as he never for a moment screened himself from the continuous fire of the rebel cannon and musketry. It is said of him, that he was never seen to dodge a shot during the entire fight, while all the officers around him kept ducking their heads whenever the enemy’s cannon belched forth their fearful messengers, but rode majestically along his lines and among his men, where ball, and shot, and shell fell like showers of hail around him, as though some revelation had given him assurance of safety.

At one time, while swinging his sword above his head, a ten-pound solid shot passed between his arm and head, another passed in such close proximity to his head as to raise his cap, and a spent grapeshot struck him in the stomach. There were fourteen mounted men, his staff, and orderlies, attending upon Gen. Smith, and, strange to relate, not one of them was hit, although men were struck down by shot and shell between their horses and on all sides of them. Gen. Smith showed himself a true soldier in sharing the same hardships with his men, as on the night of the battle, and preceding the surrender, he slept by the side of a log, wrapped in his blankets, without any tent to cover him from the inclemency of the weather, his feet towards his camp-fire, with the cold so intense that his blankets caught fire at his feet and burned into his boots before he felt the heat.

The following is a statement of a very remarkable and praiseworthy case of a young man attached to the Thirty-first regiment of Illinois volunteers (Colonel John A. Logan). He received a musket-shot wound in the right thigh, and ball passing through the intervening flesh, and lodging in the left thigh. The boy repaired to the rear, and applied to the doctor to dress his wound. He, however, manifested a peculiar reserve in the matter, requesting the doctor to keep his misfortune a secret from his comrades and officers.

He then asked the surgeon if he would dress his wound at once in order that he might be enabled to return to the fight. The surgeon told him that he was not in a condition to admit of his return, and that he had better go to the hospital; but the young brave insisted upon going beck, offering as an argument in favor of it the fact that he had fired twenty-two rounds after receiving his wound, and he was confident he could fire as many more after his wound should be dressed. The surgeon found he could not prevent his returning to the field; so he attended to his wants, and the young soldier went off to rejoin his comrades in their struggle, and remained, dealing out his ammunition to good account until the day was over, as if nothing had happened to him. Several days after, he returned to the doctor to have his wound re-dressed, and continued to pay him daily visits in his leisure hours, attending to duty in the mean time.

A case in some particulars not dissimilar to the above is related of a boy about eleven years old, whose father, a volunteer, had been taken prisoner by the rebels some time before. the boy smuggled himself on board one of the transports at Cincinnati, laden with troops for this point. On the field, the morning of the great fight, he joined the Seventy-eighth Ohio, and being questioned by one of the officers, he told him of his father having been taken prisoner, and, having no mother, he had no one to care for him, and he wanted to fight his father’s captors. The officer tried to get him to turn back, but he was not to be denied. So he succeeded in obtaining a musket, and went into the thickest of the battle. He finally by degrees crept up within a short distance of the rebel intrenchments, and posted himself behind a tree, from which he kept firing as often as he could see a head to fire at. He was soon discovered by the enemy’s sharpshooters, who endeavored to drive him away from his position, as he kept picking them off very frequently. One of the rebels, who was outside of the work, got sight on the boy with his rifle, but before he got his piece off, the little warrior fired, and down went Mr. Rebel. As the rebel had a fine Minie rifle, the boy ran out and picked it up, taking time to get pouch and balls, together with his knapsack, while the bullets were flying on all sides of him; and then he retreated to his wooden breastwork, where he renewed his fire, and with a little better success; and, after being in the fight all day, he returned to the Seventy-eighth at night with his prizes. This story might appear incredible for one so young to be the hero, but it is vouched for by a number of officers and men who saw the boy on the field and in the position mentioned, and many saw him shoot the rebel referred to, besides several others.

Another case, very similar to the last, is that of one of Birge’s sharpshooters, who succeeded in getting within speaking distance of the fort, where he planted himself behind a stump, and by his unerring aim, succeeded in keeping one of their guns silent during the whole day. As fast as the men appeared to man it, they were let down by a shot from his rifle. Every effort was made to dislodge him from his death-dealing position, but without effect. He kept it until the rebels, finding it to be certain death to attempt to man the gun, completely abandoned it. This case has been presented to General Grant, and will doubtless receive, as it should, special mention.

A surprising case of escape from instantaneous death is presented by one of the surgeons who was on the field during the day. A private in the Eighteenth Illinois regiment was struck in the thigh by a twelve-pound round shell, which buried itself in the thigh, but did not explode. It was cut out on the field by Dr. Davis, surgeon of the Eighteenth Illinois regiment. The limb was, of course, terrible shattered, rendering amputation necessary.

An instance of unprecedented endurance and patience occurred at the hospital on the right wing. The columns having been forced back, the hospital, which was a little up from the road, had come within range of the rebel’s fire, and was fast becoming an unpleasant position, but no damage was done to it. Just about this time, a poor fellow came sauntering leisurely along, with the lower part of his arm dangling from the part above the elbow, it having been struck with a grape-shot. Meeting the surgeon in the house, who was busily attending to other wounded, he inquired how long it would be before he could attend to him, and was told, in a few minutes. “All right,” said the wounded man, and then walked outside and watched the progress of the battle for a short time, and then returned and waited the surgeon’s opportunity to attend to him. The arm was amputated without a murmur from the unfortunate man. After the stump was bound up, the young man put his good hand into his pocket and took out a piece of tobacco, from which he took a chew, then walking over to the fire, he leaned his well arm against the mantel-piece, and rested his head against his arm, and kept squirting tobacco-juice into the fire, whilst his eyes were cast into the flames, all with the most astonishing composure, as though he was indulging in some pleasant reverie. He remained in this position for some time, then walked off, and went out of sight near where the fighting was going on.

A young man came strolling down to the transport with one arm amputated; and in the well hand he held three chickens, which he had captured. A steward of one of the boats stepped up to him, and asked him if he wanted to sell the chickens. He looked at the chickens for a little while, and replied, “Well, no. I had so much trouble in catching the d—d things, I believe I’ll eat ’em myself;” and off he went with his fowl prisoners.

Orderly-Sergeant Charles A. Bedard, Company H. of the immortal Eleventh Illinois, was killed in the morning fight of the 15th inst. He was a brother of Frank W. Bedard, of the St. Charles Hotel, at Cairo. His bravery and coolness on the field during a most terrific fire from the enemy are spoken of in the most praiseworthy terms by officers and men. His only attention during the severest of the fight appeared to be in keeping his men in line, and preventing disorder in the ranks, moving along in the face of the foe, watching with jealous care his men in charge, as on he pushed, loading, firing, and reloading his piece.

Originally posted 2008-06-12 12:08:28.

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