Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 16, 1863

June 16, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 25

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 20

---Charles H. Lynch, a young officer in the 18th Connecticut Infantry, was with Milroy’s troops at Winchester, and he describes what happens to the little of his regiment that got away from capture by the Rebels:

June 16th. Up very early this morning. All Major Peale could muster of the 18th Regiment was only thirty members. The rest of those who escaped were with Captain Matthewson, they taking a different route from Major Peale who followed the route taken by General Milroy.

After breakfast of hardtack and coffee, the Major marched us on through Harper’s Ferry, crossing the Potomac River on a pontoon bridge. On, up Maryland Heights, halting under low pine trees, well up to the top of the Heights. Here we were allowed to remain for rest and sleep. General Dan Tyler, a Connecticut man, was in command of a large force at this point. From the top of the Heights we could see the enemy crossing the Potomac River at Williamsport into Maryland. Our detachment was detailed for headquarters guard at the quarters of General Tyler. The duty was easy and made very interesting about all the time.

---Corporal James Kendall Hosmer, a Union soldier with Gen. Banks’ Army of the Gulf besieging Port Hudson, writes of the miseries of serving in the infantry investing a besieged fortress, and of the graphic experience of making an assault:

 The Fifty-second Regiment are holding an advanced position here, and, ever since daylight of the morning of the 14th, have lived in the midst of a rain of rifle-balls. At the bottom of the little ravine, I am secure; but if I should put my head up to the surface, climbing up the bank six or eight feet, I should be in the midst of flying bullets, and a fair mark for the rebel sharpshooters who are close at hand. Our brigade is thrown out into the very teeth of the enemy, on ground our troops have never before occupied. This little corner is occupied by the color-guard. If I go to the company, I must go stooping or crawling on my stomach; I must run from a stump to a trunk, and from that to a clump of bushes, and hear all the time the “zip” and “hum” of the rifle-balls. . . .

The work of death had begun; for ambulance-men were bringing back the wounded: and, almost before we had time to think we were in danger, I saw one of our men fall back into the arms of his comrades, shot dead through the chest. The banks of the ravine rose on either side of the road in which we had halted: but just here the trench made a turn; and in front, at the distance of five or six hundred yards, we could plainly see the rebel rampart, red in the morning-light as with blood, and shrouded in white vapor along the edge as the sharpshooters behind kept up an incessant discharge. I believe I felt no sensation of fear, nor do I think those about me did. Wilson and Hardiker carried the flags, and their faces were cheerful and animated. . . . .

In a minute or two, the column has ascended, and is deploying in a long line, under the colonel’s eye, on the open ground. The rebel engineers are most skilful fellows. Between us and the brown earth-heap which we are to try to gain to-day, the space is not wide; but it is cut up in every direction with ravines and gullies. These were covered, until the parapet was raised, with a heavy growth of timber; but now it has all been cut down, so that in every direction the fallen tops of large trees interlace, trunks block up every passage, and brambles are growing over the whole. It is out of the question to advance here in line of battle; it seems almost out of the question to advance in any order: but the word is given, “Forward!” and on we go. Know that this whole space is swept by a constant patter of balls: it is really a “leaden rain.” We go crawling and stooping: but now and then before us rises in plain view the line of earth-works, smoky and sulphurous with volleys; while all about us fall the balls, now sending a lot of little splinters from a stump, now knocking the dead wood out of the old tree-trunk that is sheltering me, now driving up a cloud of dust from a little knoll, or cutting off the head of a weed just under the hand as with an invisible knife. I see one of our best captains carried off the field, mortally wounded, shot through both lungs, — straight, bright-eyed, though so sadly hurt, supported by two of his men; and now almost at my side, in the color-company, one soldier is struck in the hand, and another in the leg. . . . Presently we move on again, through brambles and under charred trunks, tearing our way . . . creeping on our bellies across exposed ridges, where bullets hum and sing like stinging bees; and, right in plain view, the ridge of earth, its brow white with incessant volleys. . . . Down into our little nook now come tumbling a crowd of disorganized, panting men. They are part of a New-York regiment, who, on the crest just over us, have been meeting with very severe loss. . . . From time to time, afterwards, wounded men crawl back from their position a few yards in front of where we are, — one shot through the ankles, who, however, can crawl on his hands and knees; one in the hand; one with his blouse all torn about his breast, where a ball has struck him, yet he can creep away. . . .

It is now noon and after. The sun is intolerably hot, and we have no sufficient shade. That, however, is nothing for us who are unhurt; but we hear of poor wounded men lying without shelter, among them Gen. Paine, whom the ambulance-men cannot yet reach on account of the enemy’s fire. We begin to know that the attack has failed. . . . We have not been as much exposed as some other regiments, and our loss has not been large. The fire, however, seemed very hot, and close at hand; and the wonder to us all is, that no more fell. Darkness settles down; shots are received and returned, but only at random now; and, ever and anon, from the batteries goes tearing through the air a monstrous shell, with a roar like a rushing railroad-train, then an explosion putting every thing for the moment in light. . . . For food to-day, I have had two or three hard crackers and cold potatoes. We have no blankets: so down I lie to sleep as I can on the earth, without covering; and, before morning, am chilled through with the dew and coldness of the air. . . .

[At night] I climbed up from the ravine, and sat alone, upon the hill on the field, under the starlight. It was a sweet night, and only once or twice came to my sense the taint of unburied slain. For the rest, all was pure. In a half-comic way, the whippoorwill changed his song into “Whipped you well, whipped you well!” I will never believe the bull-frogs that night croaked any thing but “Rebs, rebs!” and the jeering owls hooted out from the tree-tops, “What can you do-o-o?” All about the horizon, fringing the starlit space of blue, a storm was gathering; and behind the black clouds shook the lightning, like the menacing finger of an almighty power threatening doom to this obstinate stronghold. . . .

---Gen. Grant issues an order to the commander of one of his districts concerning mixing white and negro regiments:

Negro troops should be kept aloof from white troops, especially in their camps, as much as possible. Wherever the movements of the enemy require a concentration of your forces, bring them together without regard to color.


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