A soldier who participated in the storming of Port Hudson, on the 14th of June, 1863, gives the following account of that unfortunate affair: “I have been in many battles, but I never saw, and never wish to see, such a fire as that poured on us on June 14th. It was not terrible—it was HORRIBLE.
“Our division (Second) stormed about a mile from the Mississippi. We left our camp at twelve o’clock, midnight, on the 13th, and proceeded to the left, arriving just at daylight, where the balance of our brigade (Second) awaited us.
“Colonel Benedict arrived from opposite Port Hudson on the 12th, and our regiment was transferred from the First to the Second brigade, and he placed in command. The movement to the left took all by surprise; but we got in shape behind a piece of woods which concealed the enemy’s works, and rested. The First brigade went in first, and we followed–the Third brigade being a reserve. I saw the First brigade file left and move on, but saw no more of it. When the order came to move on, we did so in ‘column of company,’ at full distance. Ask some good military man what he thinks of a brigade moving to a charge in that manner. The One Hundred and Sixty-second leading, the One Hundred and Seventy-fifth (Bryan’s) after us; then the Forty-eighth Massachusetts, and Twenty-eighth Maine. We were in a road parallel to the enemy’s works, and had to change direction to, or file left round the corner of the woods, and then started forward by a road leading up. The ground rose gradually, and away above, the rebel works were in plain sight. The moment we turned into the road, shot, shell, grape, and canister fell like hail, in, amongst, and around us. But on we went. A little higher, a new gun opened on us. Still farther they had a cross-fire on us–O! such a terrible one; but on we went, bending as, with sickening shrieks, the grape and canister swept over us. Sometimes it fell in and about us; but I paid no heed to it.
“After the first, my whole mind was given to the colors, and to keep my men around them; and they did it well. I wonder now, as I think of it, how I did so. I walked erect, though from the moment I saw how they had us, I was sure I would be killed. I had no thought (after a short prayer) but for my flag. I talked and shouted. I did all man could do to keep my boys to their ‘colors.’ I tried to draw their attention from the enemy to it, as I knew we would advance ore rapidly. The brave fellows stood by it, as the half-score who fell attest. The ‘color-bearer’ fell, but the ‘flag’ did not. Half the guard fell, but the “flag’ was there. Ask (if I never come home) my Colonel or Lieutenant-Colonel if any one could have done better tan I did that day. I do not fear their answer. When about three hundred yards from the works, I was struck. The pain was so intense that I could not go on. I turned to my Second Lieutenant, who was in command of company C, as he came up to me, and said: ‘Never mind me, Jack; for God’s sake,jump to the colors.’ I don’t recollect any more, till I heard Colonel B. say: ‘Up, men, and forward.’ I looked, and saw the rear regiments lying flat to escape the fire, and Colonel B. standing there, the shot striking all about him, and he never flinching. It was grand to see him. I wish I was of ‘iron nerve,’ as he is. When I heard him speak, I forgot all else, and, running forward, did not stop till at the very front and near the colors again. There, as did all the rest, I lay down, and soon learned the trouble. Within two hundred yards of the works was a raving parallel with them, imperceptible till just on the edge of it, completely impassable by the fallen timber in it. Of course we could not move on. To stand up was certain death; so was retreat. Naught was left but to lie down with what scanty cover we could get. So we did lie down, in that hot, scorching sun. I fortunately got behind two small logs, which protected me on two sides, and lay there, scarcely daring to turn, for four hours, till my brain recked and surged, and I thought I should go mad. Death would have been preferable to a continuance of such torture. Lots of poor fellers shot as they were lying down, and to lie there and hear them groan and cry was awful. Just on the other side of the log lay the gallant Colonel Bryan, with both legs broken by shot. He talked of home, but bore it like a patriot. Near him was one of my own brave boys, with five balls in him. I dared not stir, my hand ached so, and it would have been death also. Well, the Colonel got out of pain sooner than some, for he died after two hours of intense agony. Bullets just grazed me as they passed over, and one entered the ground within an inch of my right eye. I could not go that. Our boys had run back occasionally, but got a volley as they did so from the rebels, who would curse them. I waited till our cannon fired a round at them, then up and ran across the road, and fell flat behind some low bush or weeds; ad well I did. They saw my sword, and fired several volleys after me. As my hand was very lame, I crawled several rods back, then under a big log, got behind it, and, for the first time in five hours, sat up. I bathed my hand, and after a while made my way to the rear, got it dressed, and was on my way back, when I learned that the men were to work in, by one and twos; so I staid. I then learned of poor Bryen’s fate, and one by one came the tidings of my own men, and when the word came of them I cried like a child. Some of them passed me on the way to have their wounds dressed, and blessed me as they passed by. When night came, the troops came in and line was formed, and a small one we had. The Major’s body was brought in to be sent home, and my pet favorite, Sergeant Fred. Mitchell (who, as a favorite to us, Colonel Benedict had made an acting Lieutenant–he was so good a soldier, and handsome and talented), the last I saw of him, was his sword flashing in the sunlight as he urged the men forward; but he was brought in with half his head torn off, and it was hard to recognize him. But God bless him! He was true, for his right hand grasped his award firmly in death. I have it stored to be sent to his friends. Colonel B. and Lieutenant-Colonel B. came out safe. The Lieutenant-Colonel had been sick for some time, and this finished him. So I took command of the regiment, brought it to the mortar battery, and bivouacked for the night.
Originally posted 2009-09-28 14:33:42.