May 13

May 13, 1863

We heard firing this morning and think the boys may be at work. A man came back about midnight last night. How he ever did it I don't see, but he said two soldiers fell through the trestlework and were hurt and had to be left behind.

10 a. m. The men who got hurt have crawled back and are here, just bruised up a little. I guess they didn't try very hard or they might have gone on.

2 p. m. Another straggler has come back and says the boys captured fourteen Indians after a short skirmish. They are being sent back under guard and will soon be here. Here they come, and a tough-looking lot they are; fourteen of them are said to be Indians, but they look more like plain niggers to me. There are three white men. Rebels I suppose, but they don't act like very ferocious ones.

May Thirteenth

Good is the Saxon speech! clear, short, and strong,
Its clean-cut words, fit both for prayer and song;
Good is this tongue for all the needs of life;
Good for sweet words with friend, or child, or wife.
········
'Tis good for laws; for vows of youth and maid;
Good for the preacher; or shrewd folk in trade;
Good for sea-calls when loud the rush of spray;
Good for war-cries where men meet hilt to hilt,
And man's best blood like new-trod wine is spilt,—
Good for all times, and good for what thou wilt!
James Barron Hope

 

Landing at Jamestown, 1607

Texas troops, C. S. A., defeat Federals in last battle of the War, at Palmito Ranch, 1865, the victors learning from their prisoners that the Confederacy had fallen (Chas. Wm. Ramsdell)

 

 

May 13

May 13, 1869.--A break in the clouds, and through the blue interstices a bright sun throws flickering and uncertain rays. Storms, smiles, whims, anger, tears--it is May, and nature is in its feminine phase! She pleases our fancy, stirs our heart, and wears out our reason by the endless succession of her caprices and the unexpected violence of her whims.

This recalls to me the 213th verse of the second book of the Laws of Manou. "It is in the nature of the feminine sex to seek here below to corrupt men, and therefore wise men never abandon themselves to the seductions of women." The same code, however, says: "Wherever women are honored the gods are satisfied." And again: "In every family where the husband takes pleasure in his wife, and the wife in her husband, happiness is ensured." And again: "One mother is more venerable than a thousand fathers." But knowing what stormy and irrational elements there are in this fragile and delightful creature, Manou concludes: "At no age ought a woman to be allowed to govern herself as she pleases."

Up to the present day, in several contemporary and neighboring codes, a woman is a minor all her life. Why? Because of her dependence upon nature, and of her subjection to passions which are the diminutives of madness; in other words, because the soul of a woman has something obscure and mysterious in it, which lends itself to all superstitions and weakens the energies of man. To man belong law, justice, science, and philosophy, all that is disinterested, universal, and rational. Women, on the contrary, introduce into everything favor, exception, and personal prejudice. As soon as a man, a people, a literature, an epoch, become feminine in type, they sink in the scale of things. As soon as a woman quits the state of subordination in which her merits have free play, we see a rapid increase in her natural defects. Complete equality with man makes her quarrelsome; a position of supremacy makes her tyrannical. To honor her and to govern her will be for a long time yet the best solution. When education has formed strong, noble, and serious women in whom conscience and reason hold sway over the effervescence of fancy and sentimentality, then we shall be able not only to honor woman, but to make a serious end of gaining her consent and adhesion. Then she will be truly an equal, a work-fellow, a companion. At present she is so only in theory. The moderns are at work upon the problem, and have not solved it yet.

May 13, 1864

Friday. Eight miles below Alexandria. The Jay-hawkers kept their promise to burn the place rather than have it go into the hands of the enemy again. About daylight this morning cries of fire and the ringing of alarm bells were heard on every side. I think a hundred fires must have been started at one time. We grabbed the few things we had to carry and marched out of the fire territory, where we left them under guard and went back to do what we could to help the people. There was no such thing as saving the buildings. Fires were breaking out in new places all the time. All we could do was to help the people get over the levee, the only place where the heat did not reach and where there was nothing to burn. There was no lack of help, but all were helpless to do more than that. Only the things most needful, such as beds and eatables, were saved. One lady begged so for her piano that it was got out on the porch and there left to burn. Cows ran bellowing through the streets. Chickens flew out from yards and fell in the streets with their feathers scorching on them. A dog with his bushy tail on fire ran howling through, turning to snap at the fire as he ran. There is no use trying to tell about the sights I saw and the sounds of distress I heard. It cannot be told and could hardly be believed if it were told. Crowds of people, men, women, children and soldiers, were running with all they could carry, when the heat would become unbearable, and dropping all, they would flee for their lives, leaving everything but their bodies to burn. Over the levee the sights and sounds were harrowing. Thousands of people, mostly women, children and old men, were wringing their hands as they stood by the little piles of what was left of all their worldly possessions. Thieves were everywhere, and some of them were soldiers. I saw one knocked down and left in the street, who had his arms full of stolen articles. The provost guards were everywhere, and, I am told, shot down everyone caught spreading the fire or stealing. Nearly all buildings were of wood; great patches of burning roofs would sail away, to drop and start a new fire. By noon the thickly settled portion of Alexandria was a smoking ruin. The thousands of beautiful shade trees were as bare as in winter, and those that stood nearest the houses were themselves burning. An attempt was made to save one section by blowing up a church that stood in an open space, but the fuse went out and the powder did not explode until the building burned down to it, and then scattered the fire instead of stopping it, making the destruction more complete than if nothing of the kind had been attempted.

Having done all that could be done for the place and the people, the call sounded and, as soon as we could get together and call the roll, we came on to this place, where we hope to stay to-night, for we certainly are in need of a rest. It is said the ironclads got over the rapids this morning and that we are to start on our long tramp early to-morrow morning.

My prayer for Lee's withdrawal last night was granted. Our Division moved to the "Bloody Angle" this morning; it virtually joined our regiment's left last night. The enemy abandoned the angle during the night after three days'desperate  fighting. No pen can fully describe the appearance of the battlefield—and yet our wounded and dead have been cared for, and some of the enemy's, by us and such  are mostly out of view. The sight of the enemy's dead is something dreadful. There are three  dead lines of battle a half mile more or less in length—men killed in every conceivable manner. The wounded are fairly bound in by the dead. Lee abandoned his works leaving most of his wounded, and all his dead in our hands unburied. Several pieces of artillery were taken. Prisoners say that General Lee fought in person as it meant the loss of his army if his line was broken here, as well as Richmond.

No wonder from its present appearance this place has been christened the "Bloody Angle" and the "Slaughter Pen." For several hundred yards—fully a half mile or more—in the edge of the heavy oak forest of immense trees skirting an open field, the enemy's works are faultlessly strong of large oak logs and dirt shoulder high with traverses fifty feet back every sixty feet or so. This breastwork is filled with dead and wounded where they fell, several deep nearly to the top in front, extending for forty feet more or less back gradually sloping from front to rear, to one deep before the ground can be seen. The dead as a whole as they lie in their works are like an immense wedge with its head towards the works. Think of such a mass of dead! hundreds and hundreds piled top of each other! At the usual distance in rear of these breastworks—about ninety feet—are two more complete dead lines of battle about one hundred feet apart the dead bodies lying where the men fell in line of battle shot dead in their tracks. The lines are perfectly defined by dead men so close they touch each other. Many of the bodies have turned black, the stench is terrible, and the sight shocking beyond description. I saw several wounded men in the breastworks buried under their dead, just move a hand a little as it stuck up through the interstices above the dead bodies that buried the live ones otherwise completely from sight. Imagine such a sight if one can! It is indescribable! It was sickening, distressing and shocking to look upon! But, above all, think if one can of the feelings of the brave men who, regiment after regiment, were marched up in line of battle time and again for several days to fight with such a sight confronting them! Could anything in Hades be any worse? Only the misery I imagine, of an uneasy conscience at some great wrong done an innocent person could exceed it. It seems like a horrible nightmare! Such intrepidity is worthy of a better cause. Was there ever before such a shocking battlefield? Will the historian ever correctly record it? No pen can do it. The sight of such a horror only  can fully portray it.

The First and Second Divisions of the Sixth Corps and Hancock's men have done most of the fighting today at the "Bloody Angle." The Sixth Corps has lost eight hundred and forty wounded and two hundred and fifty killed. The loss of our army at Spottsylvania Court House has been five thousand two hundred and thirty-three of which number nine hundred have been killed. Our Division has lost in this fight to-day twenty-three killed and one hundred and twenty-three wounded. I examined this forenoon an oak tree fully eighteen inches in diameter felled by being cut off by minie bullets at the apex of the "Bloody Angle" occupied by the enemy. I could hardly believe my eyes, but there stood the stump and the felled tree with the wood for two feet or more all eaten away by bullets.[1]

[1]The stump of this tree is on exhibition at the War Department in Washington, D. C., or was a few years since—L. A. A.

Thursday, May 13th, 11 a.m.—Can't face the graves to-day; have had an awful night; three died during the night. I found the boy who brought his officer in from between the German line and ours, on Sunday night, crying this morning over the still figure under a brown blanket on a stretcher.

Of the other two, brought straight in from the other dressing station, one only lived long enough to be put to bed, and the other died on his stretcher in the hall.

The O.C. said last night, "Now this War has come we've got to tackle it with our gloves off," but it takes some tackling. It seems so much nearer, and more murderous somehow in this Field Ambulance atmosphere even than it did on the train with all the successive hundreds.

We can see Notre Dame de Lorette from here; the Chapel and Fort stand high up in that flat maze of slag-heaps, mine-heads, and sugar-factories just behind the line on the right.

p.m.O.D.S.—Everything very quiet here.

A gunner just admitted says there will probably be another big bombardment to-morrow morning, and after that another attack, and after that I suppose some more for us.

Another says that the charge of the Black Watch on Sunday was a marvellous thing. They went into it playing the pipes! The Major who led it handed somebody his stick, as he "probably shouldn't want it again."

It is very wet to-night, but they go up to the trenches singing Ragtime, some song about "We are always—respected—wherever we go." And another about "Sing a song—a song with me. Come along—along with me."

11 p.m.—Just heard a shell burst, first the whistling scream, and then the bang—wonder where? There was another about an hour ago, but I didn't hear the whistle of that—only the bang. I shouldn't have known what the whistle was if I hadn't heard it at Braisne. It goes in a curve. All the men on the top floor have been sent down to sleep in the cellar; another shell has busted.

12.15.—Just had another, right overhead; all the patients are asleep, luckily.

1.30 p.m.—There was one more, near enough to make you jump, and a few more too far off to hear the whistling. A sleepy major has just waked up and said, "Did you hear the shells? Blackguards, aren't they?"

The sky on the battle line to-night is the weirdest sight; our guns are very busy, and they are making yellow flashes like huge sheets of summer lightning. Then the star-shells rise, burst, and light up a large area, while a big searchlight plays slowly on the clouds. It is all very beautiful when you don't think what it means.

Two more—the last very loud and close. It is somehow much more alarming than Braisne, perhaps because it is among buildings, and because one knows so much more what they mean.

Another—the other side of the building.

An ambulance has been called out, so some one must have been hit; I've lost count of how many they've dropped, but they could hardly fail to do some damage.

a.m.—Daylight—soaking wet, and no more shells since 2 a.m. We have admitted seven officers to-night; the last—just in—says there have been five people wounded in the town by this peppering—one killed. I don't know if civilians or soldiers.

That bombardment on Sunday morning was the biggest any one has ever heard,—more guns on smaller space, and more shells per minute.

Nine officers have "died of wounds" here since Sunday, and the tenth will not live to see daylight. There is an attack on to-night. This has been a ghastly week, and now it is beginning again.

The other two Sisters had quite a nasty time last night lying in bed, waiting for the shells to burst in their rooms. They do sound exactly as if they are coming your way and nowhere else!

I rather think they are dropping some in again to-night, but they are not close enough to hear the whistle, only the bangs.

There is an officer in to-night with a wound in the hand and shoulder from a shell which killed eleven of his men, and another who went to see four of his platoon in a house at the exact moment when a percussion shell went on the same errand; the whole house sat down, and the five were wounded—none killed.