The following extract gives the experience of one shot in battle:
“I remember no acute sensation of pain, not even any distinct shot, only an instantaneous consciousness of having been struck; then my breath came hard and labored, with a croup-like sound, and with a dull, aching feeling in my right shoulder; my arm fell powerless at my side, and the Enfield dropped from my grasp. I threw my left hand up to my throat, and withdrew it covered with the warm, bright-red blood. The end had come at last! But, thank God, it was death in battle. Only let me get back out of that deathly storm, and breathe away the few minutes that were left me of life in some place of comparative rest and security. It all rushed into my mind in an instant. I turned and staggered away to the rear. A comrade brushed by me, shot through the hand, who, a moment before, was firing away close at my side. I saw feeble reenforcements moving up, and I recollect a thrill of joy even then, as I thought that the tide of battle might yet be turned, and those rebel masses beaten back, broken, foiled, disheartened.
“But my work was done. I was growing faint and weak, although not yet half way out of range of fire. A narrow space between two massive bowlders, over which rested lengthwise the trunk of a fallen tree, offered refuge and hope of safety from further danger. I crawled into it, and lay down to die. I counted the minutes before I must bleed to death. I had no more hope of seeing the new year on the morrow than I now have of outliving the next century. Thank God, death did not seem so dreadful, now that it was come. And then the sacrifice was not all in vain, falling thus in God’s own holy cause of freedom. But home and friends! O, the rush of thought then!
“Let the veil be drawn here. The temple of memory has its holy place, into which only one’s own soul may, once in a great season, solemnly enter.
“And so I lay there, with my head pillowed on my blanket, while the battle swelled again around and over me–bullets glancing from the sides of stone that sheltered me, or sinking into the log above me, and shot and shell crashing through the tree-tops, and falling all about me. Two shells, I remember, struck scarcely ten feet from me, and in their explosion covered me with dirt and splinters; but that was all. Still I lived on. I smile now as I think of it, how I kept raising my left hand to see if the finger nails were growing white and purple, as they do when one bleeds to death, and wondering to find them still warm and ruddy. Hemorrhage must have ceased almost, and the instincts of existence said, ‘Live!” Then came the agony of waiting for removal from the field. How I longed and looked for some familiar face, as our men twice charged up into that wood, directly over me! But they belonged to another division, and had other work to do than bearing off the wounded.”
Originally posted 2009-06-25 18:12:21.