During the Battle
Chapter 50 (May 25, 1864 – June 1, 1864)
A little incident occurred here that caused a good deal of merriment among the boys. When General Hooker and his staff were fired into by the Rebels, a woman living there was very much put out about General Hooker. She said: Captain Hooker came along with his critter company and formed two rows of fight and marched endways and upset her ash hopper, for which she would not have taken two dollars and a half, and she talked it off in double quick time, just as fast as a woman can talk when she is excited. We all know how fast that is. The boys all enjoyed it, and the old lady’s little speech was often repeated during the balance of our term of service.
Soon the first division of our corps got into line in advance of us and lay down. General Geary for some reason commanded our division to advance, passing over First Division. We moved rapidly toward the enemy’s fortifications and came to a low, marshy place, when Colonel Pardee gave command, by the right flank; Lieutenant Colonel Craig by mistake commanded by the left flank which action separated our regiment. At this time it began to rain but beyond the marsh we again got into good shape and moved toward on a charge on a battery posted in a fort. We advanced so close to the cannon’s mouth that the sparks of the discharged pieces were flying all around us. Scarcely would a shell leave the cannon’s mouth until it exploded.
The fighting was severe and we were repulsed. Eighteen hundred men were killed and wounded in our corps in less than three hours. The loss in Company G was: Ed Fisher, wounded in the foot; Elias Noll, wounded in the foot; William Seesholtz, leg shot off at ankle, died from amputation, and buried in National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tenn., and William E. Fausnaucht, leg shot off just below the knee.
We fell back only a short distance, where we lay for the night, and in the morning we began building works and I want to say that men under fire work with double energy when erecting works for their protection. During the night the writer, who had been to the rear, was coming along with some other soldiers when one of them stumbled over someone lying under a tree with a rubber Poncho over him to protect him from the rain. He said, “Where is this?” The Poncho was thrown back and the reply was General Hooker’s headquarters. The General came close up to the line of battle and there lay down with his troops in order to share their hardships. No wonder the boys always cheered him, when he would ride by us!
We remained in this position from May 25th to June 1st, under fire continually day and night. On June 1st we were moved about three miles to the left of the line of breastworks.
On the night of May 28, Saturday, the enemy charged our works just to our right, but were repulsed with heavy loss. Our front rank fixed bayonets, while the rear rank was to do the firing. They expected to carry our works but failed. It takes all the nerve the troops have to charge a battery as we did here and being fortified as they were and we out in the open woods. Sometimes we hear soldiers say they “would just as lief go into battle as to eat a meal.” When I hear talk of this kind I am always reminded of the Irishmen, who were talking about the war. When Pat said to Jamie: “Whiniver I get into battle, O’im always where the bullets are the thickest,” and Jamie said: “And where is that Pat?” Pat replied: “Under the ammunition wagon be jabers.” There is the place I think all these brave fellows would be found that would rather fight than eat.
In front of our regiment and close by the works was a large oak tree on line with the skirmishers. The enemy hand an enfilade fire upon this place, and seven men were killed behind this tree. A board was nailed up marked “The Fatal Tree.”
While in this line of works on May 29th, Sunday, we noticed an unusual bustle and activity about 10 A. M., among the officers and their aids. We knew that something more than ordinary was brewing, but could not tell what it all meant. Soon, however, orders were received at regimental headquarters for the command to be in readiness to move upon the enemy’s works precisely at one o’clock. These works and fort were charged upon just four days before, and were repulsed. Now four days later, when the enemy had strengthened their position, we were again to make another attempt to capture the same. This was indeed trying on the nerves of the boys, for well we knew that it would end in a fearful slaughter, and likely a failure to carry the trenches and forts. When this order to assault was received, we all knew what would be required of us, and that we were taking our lives in our hands, not knowing who would live thru it. But while we were quietly waiting for the time to move and the regiments were getting ready for the command forward. General Sherman had heard of General Hooker’s orders having been issued to assault at one O’clock. Sherman at once countermanded Hooker’s rash order. And how glad we all were, and how soon the pale and worried faces of the boys were changed to a more contented expression.