Skirmishing on the Way to Kennesaw
Chapter 53 (June 15, 1864 – July 17, 1864)
Captain John Q. Mercer, of Company E, next adjoining on the right of Company G, had his leg knocked off from the explosion of a shell, many of company G witnessing the wounding of the captain. We all thought a great deal of him and were sorry to have him meet with this misfortune. Only a few days before the wounding of the captain, Sergeant Riley, of the same company, was killed while lying in his tent. The Sergeant’s tent and the writer’s at one corner were held down by the same tent pin. The writer was lying in his own tent when the Sergeant was shot. Dead men were not allowed to be placed upon a stretcher during a battle, but if placed on before being dead the body could be taken away for burial. The Sergeant’s brother, who was present, had him placed upon the stretcher and carried to the rear and decently buried.
As the morning of the 17th dawned it was discovered that the enemy had fled and we soon took possession of his works. Firing was continuous, and Will Keller, while frying liver had a bullet pass through his frying pan. This was close enough for comfort.
On June the 19th, Sunday, we found the enemy had again evacuated its works. We at once followed, driving the foe until about noon, when we came to a halt. Colonel Candy, our brigade commander, directed Colonel Pardee to send out three men to discover the location of a certain road which his brigade was to take up position. The Colonel ordered Captain Byers, of Company G, to take such a detail. J. A. Lumbard, W. S. Keller and Jas. W. Smith were sent out. These were instructed to move very cautiously until they came to the first cross road, when one should return and report.
They advanced until they reached an open field when they halted and consulted as to whether they should go any further. Finally it was thought best to advance, when in the middle of an open field Smith discovered that they were running into a trap and with a low whistle notified Lumbard and Keller of the fact, when they about faced and started for the rear. The enemy opened fire upon them and the bullets whistled all around them, striking the ground in front and behind. Several bullets had passed through their clothing, but soon they were under cover of the woods. It was marvelous that these three men made their escape.
The brigade now advanced rapidly, halting in the edge of the woods and under fire proceeded to put up a strong line of earth works.
On Monday, June 20th, we were relieved by the Fourth Army Corps and erected another line of works in advance of the one we had occupied. The order of the day was fighting, building works and pushing on towards Atlanta, the goal of this wonderful campaign.
The 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th, fighting and skirmishing day and night. We are now in sight of Kennesaw, well fortified position of the enemy. The railroad was repaired up to our skirmish line which was close to the base of Kennesaw. A loaded train of cars came to Big Shanty, the locomotive detached, was run forward to a water tank within range of the enemy’s guns on Kennesaw, when the enemy opened fire on the locomotive, but the engineer was not afraid, went to the tank, got water and returned safely to his train, answering the guns with the screams of his whistle, aided by the cheers and shouts of the boys in the trenches.
On the 24th, Friday, Jack Grant, drafted, a member of Company G, was killed on the skirmish line. He was in a rifle pit with Jacob Garman. A bullet pierced his breast, while at the same time a Minnie ball plugged itself into the muzzle of his gun. When shot, he fell, but instantly rose to his feet, took off his blouse, layed it down on the ground, placed his cap on the blouse, layed down and immediately expired. He was buried that night and, while digging the grave, noise of the operation attracted the attention of the enemy, who opened fire on them. Hurriedly the grave was finished, his body placed into it, when it was found too small, as his arm was sticking above the ground. One of the boys took hold of and pressed it down to his side, breaking it off with a snap. Hastily he was covered with a few inches of earth. Corporals Fred B. Ulrich and J. A. Lumbard and W. S. Keller were those who buried him. They placed him, in a shelter tent, brought him from the advanced line to the breastworks, where he was buried. Lumbard says: “I never witnessed a more pitiable sight than the burial of poor Jack Grant.” We have no knowledge of his being disinterred and placed in any National cemetery. His bones no doubt still rest where they were placed that dreary night. He was an entire stranger to us. We knew nothing of where he came from.
Saturday, June 25th. We could see from our position the movements of our army and that of the enemy, along Kennesaw Mountain for probably two miles. The boys would get upon our works, even though it was dangerous, to take in the sights, along the lines of battle. Our brave little Lieutenant, B. T. Parks, got upon the works, his left foot on the head log, with his hand under his chin, his elbow resting his knee and taking in the sight, towards Kennesaw, when off to his right and rear a sharp shooter took aim at him, the ball entering near his right eye, coming out near his left ear, passing clear thru his head. He fell and rolled out over the works, when a number of the boys hurriedly brought him inside. They placed him on his back with his head slightly down hill, blood flowing from his ears, nose and mouth. Captain Fair, who just arrived from Philadelphia with company I, for the regiment, said, “turn the Lieutenant around or he will strangle for you” and then asked for water. He washed his wound and placed him in as comfortable a position as it was possible to do, until he was carried away. The captain was a physician and I think the Lieutenant owes his life to Captain Fair even tho he lost the sight of his right eye, and the hearing of his left ear. This sad occurrence cast a gloom over every member of company G, for we all loved our brave commander. It was said at the time of the Lieutenant’s wounding that Levi J. Romig, just back of Parks in the breast works, was hunting for graybacks in his shirt, and when the ball struck Parks, his legs slipped out from under him and a number of the boys thought he was wounded, until Jim Smith gave the alarm that it was Lieutenant Parks. As the Lieutenant, was taken away upon a stretcher, we never expected to see him again. But we are glad to state that he is still among the living.
The day following the wounding of Lieutenant Parks, Sunday, June 26th, John Mull, while on the skirmish line, received a gun shot wound in the foot and was sent back to the hospital, disabling him for future service. On top of Kennesaw mountain stands Marietta College. A number of us were looking at the artillery duel and the advancing of our troops up the hill, as some officer stood by with a field glass. He asked the writer to take a look. I did so and we could plainly see the college the top of which was covered with men and women taking in the battle.
The road leading by was covered with Confederate soldiers, wagons and artillery, all moving towards the rear. We were satisfied that a retreat of the foe was again contemplated, and so it proved.
On Monday the 27th, a general advance was made of only a short distance when a new line of works was created. We remained in these on the 28th and 29th. On Thursday June 30th, the 14th army corps relieved us and our corps, the 20th relieved the 23rd Corps occupying their works. Traveled 5 miles.
July 1st and 2nd, fighting all along the line. On July 1st Corporal George W. VonNeida was wounded in the arm. Knapp’s battery was placed on a knoll in rear of us and fired over our heads. A piece of lead from one of our own shells flew off and hit him. He was sent to the hospital, thus disabling another of our men for the balance of the war. Rebels retreated on night of the 2nd. We followed closely the retreating foe skirmishing with them all day, traveled five miles.
Monday, July 4th. Today we celebrated our nation’s birthday. The day was bright and warm. The bands played the national airs and every one seemed encouraged upon the success of Sherman’s army thus far, and as now we could see in the distance the church spires of Atlanta, we felt that before many days the city would be ours. Some of the boys of company G were so filled up with patriotism that in many cases it overflowed. The reason of this excess was that whiskey was issued to the boys and those who drank seemed to enjoy it better on the Fourth than they did the fifth.
A stream was near by camp and a goodly number went in bathing. I don’t think the whiskey and the water agreed with some of the boys for they came near drowning. A certain corporal of the company and an editor and publisher of a Snyder county paper for many years (I have no grudge against him therefore will not mention his name but might later point him out to the reader) was one of the number who went in bathing, and who was so overcome with the spirit of ’76 that he managed to crawl upon the bank and lay there upon his stomach until the hot southern sun had blistered his back, which took days to heal.
Toward evening all this fun ceased and the forward command was again given. Skirmishing began at once but the foe were pushed from one position to another, until the Chattahoochie river was reached. This was only eight miles from Atlanta. The Rebels made a strong stand here, but General Sherman, by one of his flank movements, succeeded in getting into their rear and they had to retreat. Pontoons were thrown across the river on Sunday, July 17th we crossed to the Atlanta side of the Chattahoochie river at Isham’s Ferry.