"He asked to be laid down in some sheltered place, for, said he, 'I have but a few moments to live.' I well remember his refined, gentlemanly appearance, and how profoundly sorry I felt for him." Before the Civil War, Dr. Reuben Battle Nisbet was a trained physician, but he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a Captain, was promoted to Lt. Col., and was severely wounded at the Bloody Lane during the Battle of Sharpsburg. In fact, he was wounded "several times," and his wounds were thought to be mortal.
He was presumed dead for some time. At least until his wife received a letter from him.
...the wife of Col. Reuben Nisbet, has received a letter from her husband, dated at Hagerstown, Maryland, the 25th of September. In it, he states that he was carried a mile from the field of Sharpsburg, on the back of a Federal soldier, and fell into the hands of Army Surgeons who were old medical classmates. At writing, he was domiciled in the house of a lawyer at Hagerstown - his wounds rapidly healing, and he hoped to be able to travel, on parole in four weeks. [The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), October 21, 1862, page 3.]
Lt. Col., 3rd Georgia Infantry, Wright's Brigade, Anderson's Division, Longstreet's Corps
In his memoirs, War from the Inside, Frederick Lyman Hitchcock of the 132nd Pennsylvania wrote from his diary:
...Their first line in the sunken road seemed to be all dead or wounded, and several of our men ran down there, to find that literally true. They brought back the lieutenant-colonel, a fine-looking man, who was mortally wounded. I shook his hand, and he said, "God bless you, boys, you are very kind." He asked to be laid down in some sheltered place, for, said he, "I have but a few moments to live." I well remember his refined, gentlemanly appearance, and how profoundly sorry I felt for him. He was young, lithely built, of sandy complexion, and wore a comparatively new uniform of Confederate gray, on which was embroidered the insignia of the "5th [sic] Ga., C. S. A." He said, "You have killed all my brave boys; they are there in the road." And they were, I saw them next day lying four deep in places as they fell, a most awful picture of battle carnage.
In later years, Hitchcock evidently recognized his mistake - the 5th Georgia was a part of the Army of Tennessee and so was not present at the Battle of Sharpsburg. In his footnotes, Hitchcock suggests that the Lt. Col. might have been of "the 6th Ga., and this officer was probably Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Newton of that regiment."
I believe that Hitchcock's diary entry actually describes Lt Col Reuben Nisbet, 3rd Georgia Infantry. Lt. Col. Vincent M Wilcox, commanding the 132nd Pennsylvania, noted the capture of Lt. Col. Nisbet in his after-action report. I think its highly unlikely that the 132nd Pennsylvania captured TWO Lt Colonels. And if they did, why would Wilcox mention one, but fail to mention the other? Unfortunately, we may never know the identity of the soldier who carried Nisbet off the field, for a mile on his back.
According to the report of Lt Col Vincent M Wilcox, commanding 132nd Pennsylvania:
...When our men were nearly exhausted of strength and ammunition, you directed me to fix bayonets and charge upon the rifle-pits, but at this moment the Irish Brigade came up and joined our men in the charge. They drove the enemy from their stronghold and captured some 300 prisoners, including a number of officers, among them Lieutenant-Colonel [Reuben B.] Nisbet of Macon, Ga., all of whom were sent to the rear.
Among Nisbet's records, this letter, dated May 13, 1863, summarizes the situation:
When he fell, as it was supposed mortally wounded, at Sharpsburg he received several wounds, two of them very dangerous - fell into the hands of the enemy, was reported killed & we believed it for a month. He remained a prisoner for two or three months, came home & almost died after he got home, of his wounds. He has recovered his general health, but his ancle and foot are paralised by a wound in the leg & he is incapable of field service.
Lt. Col. Reuben B Nisbet, the subject of this sketch, had a cousin, Col. James Cooper Nisbet, who also served in the CS Army. Here is what he had to say about Reuben Battle Nisbet's experiences.
My cousin, Col. R. B. Nisbet (Eatonton, Georgia), commanding the 3rd Georgia Infantry (Wright's Brigade) received three severe wounds and fell into the hands of the enemy. He was taken off the field and sent to Baltimore, where, by permission of the officer in charge of the ambulances containing the wounded prisoners, he was taken to the private residence of Col. Robt. Brent, a prominent lawyer of that city; furnished the best medical attention, and tenderly nursed back to health by the daughters of Colonel Brent. Col. Nisbet was finally exchanged, returned to his Regiment, and was wounded again. He rose from the rank of Captain. There was no better soldier! After the War, he practiced his profession of medicine, except when called to represent his constituents in various positions of trust. He died a few years ago, at the age of seventy-five. Handsome, brilliant, chivalrous, this was one of Nature's noblemen.
"Col. Nisbet Not Killed," The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), October 21, 1862, page 3.
Portrait from Find-a-grave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20123510/reuben-battle-nisbet
War From the Inside:The Story of the 132nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Suppression of the Rebellion, 1862-1863, Frederick Lyman Hitchcock, J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, PA, 1904. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29313/29313-h/29313-h.htm#FNanchor_C_3
Four Years on the Firing Line, Col. James Cooper Nisbet, Imperial Press, Chattanooga, TN., 1914, page 157. https://archive.org/stream/fouryearsonfirin00nisb/fouryearsonfirin00nisb_djvu.txt
Transactions of the Medical Association of Georgia, Volume 52, Published by the Association, 1901. pp. 42-43. https://books.google.com/books?id=X94CAAAAYAAJ&dq=Reuben+Battle+Nisbet&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Antietam on the Web http://antietam.aotw.org/officers.php?officer_id=699&from=results
BIO Reuben Battle Nisbet (6 February 1830 - 10 April 1901)
A graduate of Oglethorpe College, he attended a series of lectures at Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia, PA, and graduated from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta. He began the practice of his profession in partnership at Macon GA and removed to Eatenton, GA where he began his own practice. At the outbreak of the war, Nisbet enlisted 26 April 1861 as Captain of the Brown Rifles which became Company B, 3rd Georgia Infantry. Wounded at Malvern Hill, 1 July 1862, he recovered and returned to his regiment in time to participate in the Maryland Campaign. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel December 1862, to rank from 1 July 1862. He was wounded again at Sharpsburg, in the combat at the Bloody Lane. His wound was presumed mortal, but he was captured on the field and taken prisoner by men of the 132nd Pennsylvania. He recovered, was paroled, and eventually retired to the Invalid Corps 16 May 1864. After the war, he returned to the practice of Medicine at Eatenton, which he continued until his death 10 April 1901.
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