May 16

May Sixteenth

I refuse to make any acknowledgments for what I have done. My blood will be as seed sown in good ground, which will produce a hundred fold.

James Pugh
(Before execution under Gov. Tryon, North Carolina, 1771 )

 

Battle of Alamance Creek, 1771

 

 

It was sultry and warm until 4 o'clock p. m. when relief came through a fierce thunder-storm; no fighting; remained quietly in camp all day; much appreciated mail came to-night; got two letters from Pert, one from Abby and one from Dr. J. H. Jones. I know not how long we shall remain in this position, but God grant that this suspense will soon be ended. I dread another such battle as that of last week and hope we may avoid one for a while, anyway.

May 16, 1863

A cavalryman came in for a horse this morning, his having been killed in the night. We heard firing in the night, but it seemed a long way off. Company B went on the picket line this morning and I find being commissary in camp and being commissary in the field are two different things. The company must be fed no matter where they are. I got hold of a horse and cart and with it made the rounds. A couple of cavalrymen who were wounded during the night have been brought in. At night a report came that a rebel detachment had got past the vidette guard and would most likely be heard from before morning. Orders are being given out and ours is to stand fast in case of an attack. That sounds easy at any rate.

Sunday, 11.30 a.m. May 16th.—They began coming in at 3.30, and by 8 a.m. the place was full to bursting. We managed to get all the stretcher cases to bed, and as many of the others as we had beds for, without sending for the other two Sisters, who came on at 8.15, and are now coping. Most of them were very cheery, because things seem to be going well. Two lines of trenches taken, all the wire cut, and some of the earthworks down; but it is always an expensive business even when successful—only then nobody minds the expense. There are hundreds more to come in, and the seriously wounded generally get brought in last, because they can't get up and run, but have to hide in trenches and shell holes. One man, wounded on Sunday and found on Friday night, had kept himself alive on dead men's emergency rations. They were all sopping wet with blood or mud or both.

The —— lost heavily. I heard one officer say, "They drove us back five times."

After breakfast I went to the Cathedral, and then boldly bearded the big dressing station at the French Hospital, where all the dressings are done and the men evacuated, armed with a huge linen bag of cigarettes, chocolate, and writing-cases which came last night. I met the C.O., who said I could have a look round, and then rowed me for not being in bed, and said we should be busy to-night and for some time. It was very interesting, and if you brought your reason to bear on it, not too horrible.

Every corridor, waiting-room, ward, and passage was filled with them, the stretchers waiting their turn on the floors, and the walking cases (which on the A.T. we used to call the sitting-ups) in groups and queues. No one was fussing, but all were working at full pitch; and very few of the men were groaning, but nearly all were gruesomely covered with blood. And they look pretty awful on the bare gory stretchers, with no pillows or blankets, just as they are picked up on the field. Many are asleep from exhaustion.

What cheered me was one ward full of last Sunday's bad cases, all in bed, and very cheery and doing well. They loved the writing-cases, &c., and said it was like Xmas, and they wouldn't want to leave 'ere now.

A great many of this morning's had already been evacuated, and they were still pouring in. One has to remember that a great many get quite well, though many have a ghastly time in store for them in hospital.

The barge is in the canal again taking in the non-jolters.

Some stalwart young Tommies at No. 4 were talking about the prisoners. They told me there weren't many taken, because they found one in a Jock's uniform.

I've drawn my curtain so that I can't see those hateful motor ambulances coming in slowly full, and going back empty fast, and must go to sleep. I simply loathe the sight of those M.A.'s, admirable inventions though they are. Had a look into a lovely lorry full of 100-lb. shells in the square.

p.m.—Only one officer has died at the O.D.S. to-day, but there are two or three who will die. They have evacuated, and filled up three times already.

The news from the "scene of operations" is still good, so they are all still cheerful. The difference to the wounded that makes is extraordinary. That is why last Sunday's show was such a black blight to them and to us.

May 16, 1864

Monday. Reveille at 3.30 did not awaken the feather-bed brigade. Colonel Parker pulled me off just in time to fall in line, and without a mouthful to eat or drink I started on another hard day's tramp. Passing through Marksville, which I found to be much more of a place than I thought last night, we found the artillery stationed on a rise of ground, beyond which was a hollow and thick woods beyond it. We passed the artillery and were in the hollow beyond when the Rebs opened fire from the woods, and soon a big gun fight was on, the shot and shells passing directly over us, but doing us no harm. We parked the train and formed in front of it. Soon after the lines were pushed forward, and again the enemy opened on us and the same performance was gone through with. As we lay on the ground in front of the train, a goose, from no one knows where, came squawking down the line in front of us and I captured it. I cut its throat with my sword, and as it was the first blood drawn by the 90th I let the blood dry on. Aside from the goose, the only casualty I know of was the killing of four artillery horses. They were all killed instantly by the same shot. Two pairs happened to be standing side by side and broadside to the enemy, when what must have been a three-pounder went through three of them and stopped in the fourth one, dropping the four dead in their tracks. The men behaved splendidly. The shots that missed the rise of ground behind us went on in the direction from which thousands were coming, but I don't know what harm they did.

About noon the enemy was driven out of the woods and we went on, I picking my goose as we went. While going through the woods we came to a sluggish stream too deep to cross without a bridge and a halt was made for some pontoons to be put across. I gathered some kindlings and made a fire to cook my goose, and was swinging it around my head to let all see what a prize I had, when a cavalry officer riding past caught it by one leg and riding on, took me and the goose with him. The leg I had hold of finally pulled off and the rascal went on with all the rest of it. While it was roasting, I washed my pocket handkerchief in the stream, and was holding it by two corners, dipping it up and down in the water to rinse it, when, as I pulled it up the head of a great big snake came up after it as if he wanted to get hold of it, or perhaps to see what it was. He went right back and I saw no more of him. Just then "Attention" sounded and I grabbed the goose leg and tried to eat it. Hungry as I was, raw goose was too much for me. I went around begging a hard-tack here and there and in that way got quite a meal, and also got the goosey taste out of my mouth. I no longer begrudged the fellow that stole my goose, but did wish he had to eat it raw.

The troops were all across at 9 p. m. and the pontoons were soon emptied and loaded on the wagons. Then began such marching as we never before had done. No attention was paid to the files. Those that could keep up did so, and the rest fell out by the way. The whole army was ahead of us and we must get to the front for the next crossing. We went on until midnight and then halted for an hour. "Fall in" again sounded and away we went, passing the thousands upon thousands of sleeping men and beasts. At 3 a. m. we reached Yellow Bayou, the biggest stream we had so far met with. Excepting in the traveled path, men were sleeping all over the ground. My blanket was on some wagon, but I was too tired to look for it. Crawling in between some men who were sleeping on a blanket, I made out to get my body out of the wet grass and was soon sound asleep. When I awoke the sun was shining in my face. My bedfellows had gone and taken the bed with them. Whether they pulled me off the blanket or pulled it from under me, I shall never know. The heavy dew and the chill night air had gone through my clothing, which was already wet with sweat, and I found myself about helpless, so sore and stiff were my joints.

As soon as I got my stiffened joints working, I looked around for the 90th and found them across the bridge on the bank of the bayou. More than half our men were missing, having fallen out by the way and been left to sleep it off. A detail was at the bridge to pick up stragglers and direct them where to go. Tony was among the first to get in and was dreadful sorry he had missed me in the night. I started right in for another nap and was next awakened by Tony, who had found a chicken that the others had missed and had it cooked. As soon as that was disposed of, I continued my nap, sleeping until night, when I was sent to the bridge to pick out our men as they came straggling in. I had five sergeants, and posting one at each end of the bridge, I went and sat down on a knoll to watch them work. I finally lay down and in spite of myself dropped off again and slept all night. The sergeants had relieved each other and had gathered in nearly or quite all of our missing men. The troops were still crossing the bridge in a steady stream and the end was not yet in sight. We of the 90th had nothing more to do but wait for the troops to pass and then hustle for the front again. But we were rested and ready for it, and put in the day talking about our first experience on a forced march. The opinion was that if the next was any worse than this had been we wouldn't all be there to tell about it.