A soldier, who was in this battle, relates the following incidents:
A young man, named Greenhall, of the California regiment, missing, secreted himself, with three comrades, in some underbrush. Greenhall was an excellent marksman, and picked off seven of the enemy who had got between them and the river. One of them, he thinks, was an officer. The rest then briefly vacated the spot, and, with his comrades, Greenhall managed to make his way back to our lines.
The number of those killed while recrossing in the boats must have been quite large. In one of the boats, a Philadelphian, name unknown, and two men of the Tammany regiment, were pulling at the oars. They were compelled to stand upright, and their shoulders were used as rests by their comrades, who kept up a continuous fire. Singular to say, the boat had reached the middle of the stream before one of the oarsmen was struck. They finally fell simultaneously. Their places were instantly supplied; the boat, however, turned with the current, drifted, as they thought, out of danger. In less than fifteen minutes, however, a terrific fire was poured into it from the skulking enemy, and, filling slowly, it began to sink. The scene then presented was fearful beyond conception. A shriek of horror went up from the crew. Men clutched each other in despair, and went down together. Voices that strove to shout for help were drowned in the rushing waters, and died away in gurgles.
Among the rebels was one prominent individual, who wore a red handkerchief tied round his head, but was utterly hatless, coatless, and reckless, standing out in advance of his line. He loaded, and deliberately fired at our men for nearly an hour before he was struck down. He was shot by a member of the Tammany regiment, who, almost at the same moment, was pierced by a rebel musket ball.
Another rebel was observed to be ensconced on the top of a tree, and seldom fired without inflicting a death-wound. Capt. Keffer, of company K, directed one of his men to shoot him. An instant after, the rebel fell from his perch, and went crashing like a log through branch and foliage. Several other adjacent trees were observed to be vacated before much time had elapsed.
After the battle, one of our men was found stark dead in the hollow of a log! The manner of his death is supposed to have been as follows: At the commencement of the battle, while a general confusion prevailed, he probably crept into the log (which lay near the bank) for the purpose of “picking off the enemy.” This shelter was very much decayed and worm-eaten, and was speedily pierced by a rifle-ball. When dragged out, his musket was found to have been recently discharged. The rifle-ball had entered his breast, and passed through the left lung.
In the panic that ensued upon the discovery that the rebels had been reenforced, and could not be driven from their cover, many scenes, that might have seemed ludicrous in many other junctures, occurred upon the hill-side. It was not uncommon for frantic men to leap the whole distance of the bluff, and plant their feet on their comrades’ backs. A lusty loyalist, who had pounced upon a prisoner, slipped at the top of the bluff, but still keeping a desperate hold upon his prey, the two rolled to the bottom in a firm embrace!
There was in the California regiment a gray-haired private from our city. He had fought hard all day, and had been twice wounded, the last shot carrying away his trigger-finger. He stood upon the banks of the stream, divesting himself of his surplus clothing, when a burly fellow, belonging to a New York regiment, leaped upon him, knocking the breath out of the old man’s body. In the hurry and excitement consequent upon the fight, Unionists and rebels frequently fell into each other’s lines, and began to fire at their own columns. In this way several of our soldiers were captured.
A man named Stokes, who was among the list of prisoners, seeing no chance of escape, lay down in an open field among a number of the dead, as though he were really hors de combat. At length a rebel sharpshooter, stumbling upon his body, selected it as an excellent one for a foot-rest. Poor Stokes was in tribulation, but held his peace. At length, the rebel, having made a very successful shot, sprang up and danced around for joy, well nigh kneading his footstool into a jelly! “Stop! for God’s sake!” shouted Stokes. The sharpshooter drew back, perfectly thunderstruck; then, divining the true state of affairs, he shouted out, “You sneaking Yankee cuss, git up here!” The ejaculation brought a score of rebels to the spot, and Stokes, when last seen, was going off under a guard, with a very crest-fallen face.
The most deadly contest of the day occurred between a member of the Massachusetts Fifteenth and Eighth Virginia regiments. The latter, as is well known, were at the time retreating, with the Fifteenth hotly pursuing. The rebel rear was brought up by a most determined fellow, who turned repeatedly, and discharged his musket in our ranks. Animated by the same personal daring, a Union soldier rushed beyond the head of his column, firing continually. After the pursuit had continued for some distance, it being feared that our men were to be drawn into a trap, they were ordered to retire. The order was obeyed by all save the volunteer, who had led the advance, and before many minutes, he was seen struggling with the laggard Virginian, whose own column had gone ahead. Three barrels of a revolver were discharged at the rebel without seeming effect, and the Virginian, rushing upon his assailant with a huge knife, was about to stab him. His knee was on the other’s breast, and the loyalist had shut his eyes. The knife, however, fell from the other’s grasp, and he reeled over, lifeless. All three of the pistol shots had actually taken effect upon him, yet such was his overmastering brute ferocity, that for some instants his wounds were without effect.
It is related of Sewall Randall, of company D, California regiment, that the night before the engagement he had a singular dream. Next morning, so vivid was the impression left on his memory, that he related it to a companion, and added a belief, that it was an unfavorable omen. Neither ridicule nor reason could move him from this strange conviction; and when the advance had been made, he went into action as though he had received his death-warrant. He had crossed the river, but had barely reached the top of the opposite bluff, when he fell, shot through the side. He lingered for some time in great agony, but before death his pain was somewhat abated.
Originally posted 2008-10-02 11:53:50.