BEFORE THE BATTLE OF BETHEL.-

Just as we halted to start to the rear on hearing firing, said Adjutant Stevens of the First Vermont, a rebel scoundrel came out of a house and deliberately fired his gun at us. The ball passed so close to me that I heard it whiz–on its way going through the coat and pants, and just grazing the skin of, Orderly Sergeant Sweet, of the Woodstock company. The rascal was secured, and is a prisoner; and what was done, by way of stern entertainment, to one of the F. F. V.’s, you will hear if I ever live to return. I then, as the firing to the rear had ceased, with revolver in hand, accompanied by Fifer, approached the fellow’s house, having some expectation of an once of lead being deposited in my tall body without asking my permission. By this time all our troops were out of sight in the woods, by a turn in the road, and I was alone with Fifer, when some negroes came from the house, having less fear of two men than of two thousand. On inquiry, the slaves told me that Adjutant Whiting, whom we had just taken prisoner, was the owner, that he belonged to the secession army, and that no white folks were in the house, all having left. Without the ceremony of ringing, I entered and surveyed the premises, and found a most elegantly furnished house. I took a hasty survey in search of arms, but, finding none, left the house, and started to overtake our column. On reaching the bend in the road, I took a survey of the rear, to “see what I might see,” and discovered a single soldier coming towards me, and waited for him to come up. I found it was Clark, of the Bradford company. Before he reached me, I observed a horseman coming at full speed towards me. On reaching the house, he turned in, which induced me to think him a secessionist. I ordered Clark to cover him with his rifle, and revolver in hand, ordered him to dismount and surrender. He cried out, “Who are you?” Answer, “Vermont!” “Then raise your piece, Vermont; I am Col. Duryea, of the Zouaves;” and so it was. His gay-looking red boys just appeared turning the corner of the road, coming towards us. He asked me the cause of the firing in the rear, and whose premises we were on. I told him he knew the first as well as I did, but as to the last, could give full information; that the house belonged to one Adjutant Whiting, who, just before, had sent a bullet whizzing by me, and shot one of my boys, and that my greatest pleasure would be to burn the rascal’s house in payment. “Your wish will be gratified at once,” said the Colonel. “I am ordered by Gen. Butler to burn every house whose occupant or owner fires upon our troops. Burn it.” He leaped from his horse, and I upon the steps, and by that time three Zouaves were with me. I ordered them to try the door with the butts of their guns–down went the door, and in went we. A well-packed travelling bag lay upon a mahogany table. I tore it open with the hopes of finding a revolver, but did not. The first thing I took out was a white linen coat: I laid it on the table, and Col. Duryea put a lighted match to it. Other clothing was added to the pile, and soon we had a rousing fire. Before leaving, I went into the large parlor in the right wing of the house–it was perfectly splendid. a large room with a tapestry carpet, a nice piano, a fine library of miscellaneous books, rich sofas, elegant chairs, with superior needle-work wrought bottoms, whatnots in the corners, loaded with articles of luxury, taste, and refinement, and upon a mahogany centre-table lay a Bible and a lady’s portrait. The last two articles I took, and have them now in my possession. I also took a decanter of most excellent old brandy from the sideboard, and left the burning house. By this time the Zouave regiment had come up. I joined them, and in a short time came up with our rear guard, and saw a sight, the like of which I wish never to see again–viz: nine of Col. Townsend’s Albany regiment stretched on the floor of a house, where they had just been carried, and eight of them mortally wounded, by our own men. O, the sight was dreadful. I cried like a boy, and so did many others. I immediately thought of my decanter of brandy, took a tin cup from a soldier and poured into it the brandy, and filled it (the cup) with water from a canteen, and from one poor boy to another I passed and poured into their pale and quivering lips the invigorating fluid, and with my hand wiped the sweat-drops of death from their foreheads. O, how gratefully the poor fellows looked at me as they saw, by my uniform, that the usually stern officer and commander had become to them the kind and tender-hearted woman, by doing for them woman’s holy duty. One strong fellow, wounded in the head, and bloody as a butcher’s floor, soon rallied, and was able to converse with me. I asked him if he knew the poor fellows around him. He said yes, and pointing to one, he said, “That man stood at my side–he was my section man–I saw his gun fly out of his hands, being struck by a grape shot, and a moment after we both tumbled to the ground together.” I went out and picked up an Enfield rifle, nearly cut in two by a ball; said he, “that is his gun.” I saw its owner die, and brought the gun with me back to my camp, and have it in my possession.

Originally posted 2008-07-08 12:02:55.

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I'm a lover of God and His Son Jesus Christ. In addition I love to make yesterday's words come alive through the republishing of good and profitable books of old. The Civil War project is an ongoing labor of love. - Karan
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