Canteen Mishap in the Wheatfield - 18th Georgia Wofford's Brigade

lelliott19

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"I'm hit and I fear badly." These words, uttered by Captain James Lile Lemon (A/18th GA) during the fighting on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, were likely repeated by thousands of others of both sides fighting in the wheatfield that day - and most of them were not nearly as lucky as he. Captain Lemon was a compelling story-teller and his memoirs shed important light on this understudied brigade of McLaws' Division of Longstreet's Corps.

"As we made our way back across the wheat, I took the opportunity to relieve a dead Yank of his canteen and threw away my old one. This was made necessary by another embarrassing incident one often experiences in war. During our initial advance into the wheat [field], my trusty old tin canteen took a bullet and flew up and struck me in the head with such force I thought for an instant I had been shot in the head. Of course, I was instantly covered with the warm liquid contents of the canteen and thinking it was blood exclaimed to my pard Art Nichols, "I'm hit and I fear badly." He looked at the water running down my face and then the dripping canteen by my side and near doubled over with fits of laughter. This, of course, caused me to investigate the situation by wiping at the moisture on my face and looking at my hand. My folly was at once apparent and if I could have dug myself a hole and crawled inside I would have. Good old Art, he never let my secret out, but this didn't prevent him from thereafter remarking to me, whenever we would meet (always with a sly smile) "Say, Captain, I'm a bit fagged. Mind if I have a swig from your canteen? By the by, how's your headache?"​
Wofford's Georgia brigade, which included the 18th Georgia, initially reported 30 killed, 192 wounded, and 112 missing in the Battle of Gettysburg - or 334 total casualties. The 16th Georgia, advancing in the center of Wofford's line, sustained 31.5% of the 334 total casualties in the brigade. The 24th Georgia, to their right, sustained 27.5% of the 334. Together, these two regiments, the 16th and 24th Georgia, advancing in the center/right center of the brigade, sustained nearly 60% of the 334 casualties reported by the brigade that day. Casualties in Captain Lemon's regiment [18th Georgia], on the far right of the brigade, were comparatively light.
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[Chart by the author utilizing data from The Savannah Republican. (Savannah, Ga.), August 07, 1863, page 1. It should be noted that, although the chart shows the 3d Battn SS on the far right, the regt. was likely deployed out front, as skirmishers.]
Quote Source: Feed Them the Steel! Being the Wartime Recollections of Capt. James Lile Lemon, Co A 18th Georgia Infantry, CSA. Mark H. Lemon, privately published, 2016.
Image Credits:
Advancing Confederate Infantry https://images.history.com/images/media/pdf/CivilWar150Guide.pdf
Portrait James Lile Lemon https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10378383/james-lile-lemon
Canteen: Note this is not the actual canteen of James Lile Lemon. It is a representative item from the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum, Madison, WI. Confederate Canteen, Item number V1998.1.266, Description: Confederate tin drum canteen; three piece construction, bullseye, "CS" and one concentric ring are stamped on the two end pieces, soldered to a curved piece of tin which is perforated for a soldered tin spout with folded lip, three tin loops are soldered to the sides for a strap. A leather cavalry sword knot runs through the loops and is not original to the canteen. A bullet entry hole is on one side and an exit hole on the other.
 
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Tom Elmore

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I have some theories regarding the casualty percentages. The two Legions were relatively light because they were on the left, and passed through the woods north of the Wheatfield road until arriving at a point northeast of the Wheatfield, there being protected by a rise south of the John T. Weikert place. The 16th and 24th in the center and center right went through the Wheatfield against relatively light opposition, but probably moving ahead of the rest of the brigade while passing through the open Wheatfield, they faced the brunt of McCandless' countercharge in plain view near Plum Run, besides receiving the full attention of adjacent infantry and artillery. The 18th on the right was held up to deal with the 4th Michigan, and while that encounter was intense it was relatively brief. Being thus delayed, the 18th might not have gone beyond the stone wall marking the eastern boundary of the Wheatfield, and so avoided the worst the Federals dished out. My attached draft map I think illustrates these points at the moment just before McCandless advanced:
 

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lelliott19

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I have some theories regarding the casualty percentages. The two Legions were relatively light because they were on the left, and passed through the woods north of the Wheatfield road until arriving at a point northeast of the Wheatfield, there being protected by a rise south of the John T. Weikert place.
As always, thanks for taking the time to provide this excellent and easy to understand explanation. It is always helpful to have interpretation of the terrain and the protection provided by the elevation near John T Weikert's place is something I had not taken into account. Is this the rise youre taking about?
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https://www.gettysburgdaily.com/the-weikert-lane-from-united-states-avenue-to-the-wheatfield-road-part-2/
 
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Tom Elmore

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As always, thanks for taking the time to provide this excellent and easy to understand explanation. It is always helpful to have interpretation of the terrain and the protection provided by the elevation near John T Weikert's place is something I had not taken into account. Is this the rise youre taking about?
This photograph is looking south I believe. In this view the open low ground beyond the buildings (circled) would be where the 24th and 16th lost heavily, in my estimation. The two Legions would have come from the right (west), across low ground through which Plum Run flowed.
 

Ole Miss

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@lelliott19 a great story and information regarding Wofford's Brigade. I have read and studied Barksdale's Brigade which was next to Wofford's. Nice to widen my knowledge, no chuckles please, about Longstreet's Corps attack on the 2nd day. Thank you for this thread.

Cousin Elmore
As always an excellent map which is informative and easy to read and adds greatly to the story of Wofford's Brigade.
Regards
David
 

lelliott19

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@lelliott19 a great story and information regarding Wofford's Brigade. I have read and studied Barksdale's Brigade which was next to Wofford's. Nice to widen my knowledge, no chuckles please, about Longstreet's Corps attack on the 2nd day. Thank you for this thread.
You are most welcome @Ole Miss I am pleased to learn that others are interested in McLaws' Division of Longstreet's Corps. And yes, many of the accounts from members of Wofford's brigade, and those from others who describe Wofford's assault at Gettysburg, also mention Barksdale's brigade. In fact, I have gleaned quite a bit of information about my brigade from accounts penned by Barksdale's men and those of other brigades in the Division - especially lesser known (or less written about) battles like Fort Sanders, Cedar Creek, and Sailor's Creek.
 

ucvrelics

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Great Thread. Are there any photos of the back of the canteen, Did it go all they way thru. It looks like a straight on shot and very easily could have killed or produced a Major wound. He was VERY Lucky.
 

lelliott19

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Great Thread. Are there any photos of the back of the canteen, Did it go all they way thru. It looks like a straight on shot and very easily could have killed or produced a Major wound. He was VERY Lucky.
Hey Richard Thanks for your reply.

The canteen picture is not the actual one belonging to James Lile Lemon. He threw his away and took a replacement from a dead Union soldier. I just used it as a representative image. The artifact is from the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum, Madison, WI. Confederate Canteen, Item number V1998.1.266, located here https://wisvetsmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/70A8B52B-FA35-40F3-BDEA-495428982722 There is a bigger picture at the site, but unfortunately, there is not an image of the back.

The description of the canteen pictured says: "Confederate tin drum canteen; three piece construction, bullseye, "CS" and one concentric ring are stamped on the two end pieces, soldered to a curved piece of tin which is perforated for a soldered tin spout with folded lip, three tin loops are soldered to the sides for a strap. A leather cavalry sword knot runs through the loops and is not original to the canteen. A bullet entry hole is on one side and an exit hole on the other." https://wisvetsmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/70A8B52B-FA35-40F3-BDEA-495428982722
There is a link at the bottom of the item page to request an image. If you request one of the back, please share it so we can all see it too!
 

Lubliner

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I really like the photo to the right of the canteen of the men coming through the field. It gives the impression of the smoky air and a perspective of men coming through high grass (wheat). Eerily reminiscent of 'fear in the eye of the beholder'.
Lubliner.
 


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