Act of Kindness at Shiloh

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lelliott19

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Joe T. Williams, of Montgomery, AL
Company D, 21st Alabama, Gladden’s brigade, Withers’ division

Confederate Veteran, Vol. IX, No. 5 Nashville, Tenn., May, 1902, page 163.

"After the battles are over there still exists that tender tie between mankind and human sympathy which is wondrous kind."


"A comrade and I were searching the battlefield of Shiloh for some missing men of our company, D, of the Twenty-First Alabama Regiment. In passing through a swampy thicket near where that regiment charged the Fourth Ohio Regiment early in the morning, we heard the voice of a wounded man crying: "Boys! boys!"

Thinking it might possibly be one of our men we went to him. He first begged for a drink of water, which I gave him out of my canteen. After he was wounded, he had rolled into the edge of this thicket in order to protect himself from being run over by the flying ambulances, artillery, and cavalry constantly passing near. His left knee cap was entirely shot off and he was extremely weak from loss of blood.

His pitiful appeal to help him we could not and would not resist after talking to him. His name was John Burns, of Cincinnati, Ohio, Company B, Fourth Ohio Regiment. He begged to be carried to our field hospital where he might receive attention, and if possible get word to his loving mother, being her only son. He had a small Bible in his hand with his thumb resting inside on the fourteenth chapter of St. John. His thumb being bloody it made a bloody spot on this chapter. He desired that this Bible should be sent to his mother, showing where he last read.

Our field hospital being a few hundred yards in the rear, we carried him there and requested our surgeon. Dr. Redwood, of Mobile, to examine him, which he did in a few minutes, the hospital being crowded with patients. On examination the doctor found his wound to be fatal and his physical condition too weak for an operation. He was eighteen years old.

When the doctor told him there was no hope, he inquired if there were any Christians present. We told him yes. In the meantime several of our comrades had gathered around him. He requested a prayer, to which one of us responded, all being deeply touched, then repeating a few lines of his mother's favorite song: "There is a land of pure delight, Where saints immortal stand" which he requested us to sing with him. This song begun there was taken up through the entire camps, even back among the Federal prisoners. All around then bid him good by. He handed me his Bible and requested me to hand it to Sergeant Stevenson of Company B, Fourth Ohio Regiment. This sergeant knew his family, and he wanted him to send it to his mother and tell her he "died a Christian."

The next morning I went to the hospital and learned that he was dead. As his body lay there I thought his face bore the most peaceful look I ever saw. I learned this Fourth Ohio Regiment was a part of Gen. Prentiss's Brigade which we had almost entirely captured and had them corralled near our lines. I told my captain about the incident and requested a pass to the prisoners to see if I could find Sergeant Stevenson. He granted my request, and I soon located the Fourth Ohio Regiment and inquired for Company B.

On approaching their squad I asked for the sergeant, calling his name. He came forward to know what I wanted. I inquired if he knew John Burns. He said, "Yes; have you all got him?" I replied: "No, he is in glory." I then told him of his death. He was visibly affected, and I could not restrain myself. He said: "Johnnie Burns was the best boy I ever saw; he was a pet with the company. I boarded with his family in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was his Sunday school teacher in the Baptist Church." Other comrades gathered near and heard of his death, all being very much affected, and expressed their gratitude to me for what I had done. During my entire service of three years I frequently noticed the fondness which existed between Ohio and Alabama soldiers.

This narrative I have frequently told, and now, in my declining years, I desire it published."
 

Patrick H

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Dang, Laura, you post some of the most heartrending stuff that I see on these boards. I always appreciate your posts. I never skip over them, even when they tear my heart out and bring me nearly to tears. Keep posting--but, once in a while, take it easy on an old softy like me!
 
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