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Close Calls

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Tom Elmore, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Here are a few examples that I have come across at Gettysburg. More to come in the future.

    Lt. Hopkins Hardin, Company C, 19th Virginia: Lt. Hardin's life was saved once by a note-book. It arrested the flight of a minie ball speeding straight for his heart. A jagged hole was torn through a number of the leaves. The bullet stopped when reached an old yellow paper, which it cracked in four parts without penetrating. The yellow paper was a document authorizing Hopkins Hardin to exhort in the Methodist Episcopal Church. (The Missouri Civil War Museum; http://www.missouricivilwarmuseum.org/hardin-hopkins.htm)

    Capt. Robert McEldowney, Company G, 27th Virginia: On July 3, a rifle ball struck the rim of a buckskin purse in his pocket, inflicting a contused wound, which disabled him for several weeks. (Confederate Military History, Extended Addition (CMHEA), vol. III (WV), pp. 234-235)

    Maj. Daniel Washington Hurtt, 2nd North Carolina: On July 1, struck on lower part of breast by minie ball, which, after penetrating a package of letters and a memorandum book, inflicted such injuries that he was incapacitated for further service. (CMHEA, vol. V (NC), pp. 567-568)

    Lt. Isaac Plumb, 61st New York: Lt. Plumb was struck and knocked down, and he supposed a bullet had gone through him, and he was done for. He clapped his hands over the place of the supposed wound … but he retained consciousness, and after a while, lifted his hands, expecting to see an eruption of blood, but he did not. He began to move his body with no bad results, and, finally, got onto his feet, resumed his place and left the field with his men. He did not discover what had happened until he prepared to bunk down for the night, when he unbuckled his sword belt he discovered a strange formation in his vest pocket. In it he had a bunch of small keys on a ring. A minie bullet had struck his belt plate square and had glanced so as to go under the plate into his vest pocket, where it met the bunch of keys. There was enough force and resistance to bed the bullet into the ring and the key heads, and there the keys stood out, held in place by the embedded bullet. (Personal Recollections of the War of 1861, Charles A. Fuller, Lt., 61 NY)

    Christopher B. Heffelfinger, Company D, 1st Minnesota: A [minie] ball pierced his coat and made a hole at the top of the pocket-book where it broke a pencil on the inside cover, and glanced off, searing the skin of his chest, and almost knocking him down. (Heffelfinger Papers (diary), Minnesota Historical Society, Minneapolis)

    Charles A. Price, 3rd Michigan: One ball went through my rule book and some letters I had in my side pocket. I will not complain if they do not come any nearer. (Letters of Charles A. Price, 3rd Michigan, July 30)

    Lt. Chatfield, 17th Connecticut: Lt. Chatfield had his knapsack and uniform riddled, and his sword – a relic of Revolutionary [War] history – broken by splinters, but received not a scratch. (History of Fairfield County, by William N. Noble, 17th Connecticut) ... Col. Fowler fell from his horse, which galloped away. Chatfield, who had just had his light saber cut in two by a ball, hastily dismounted. With the enemy within hailing distance, Chatfield mounted his house and escaped. (Journal of William H. Warren, Company C, 17th Connecticut)

    William Henry Bower, Company H, 107th Ohio: On July 1 he was struck in the breast by a bullet, but saved by the buckle on his uniform. (History of Summit County, Ohio, p. 474)

    Lt. Z. Clark Scripture, Capt. Dilger's Battery I, 1st Ohio: A twenty-pound Parrott shell struck Lt. Scripture’s pistol case hanging over his left hip, inflicting no injury save a bruise, but shattering the pistol, and passed on. (The Portage County Democrat, August 5, 1863)
     

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  3. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Major Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Great stories all, especially the one about
    Lt. Isaac Plumb.
    Thanks for posting!
     
  4. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    There was one from Gettysburg about a young private who was given the unenviable assignment of filling up canteens - which meant running a gauntlet of enemy fire. He got down all right and filled the canteens, but halfway back a random shell came by and exploded near him, a piece of it apparently striking him mid-side. He was stunned by the blast and turned completely around, then continued on up the hill. The shell fragment had passed harmlessly between his back and his haversack!
     
  5. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    It wasn't during the battle but it was in the campaign. On the 25th, when the division was near Hagerstown, General Ambrose Wright and his staff were at the rear of his brigade when some bushwhackers fired at the party before disappearing into the countryside. One of their balls passed through Wright's beard without scratching him.

    Ryan
     
  6. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Stranger then Fiction. I'm partial to Lt. Z. Clark Scripture happening. Playing tag with a 24lb. shot is not my idea of a good time. I hope he purchased a lottery ticket after the battle.
     
  7. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Two of his men were not as fortunate. The same shot wounded a fellow named McLaughlin, and took off Alonzo Slisby's hand.
     
  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Oh, I think he used up his luck right there.

    Ryan
     
    Cavalry Charger, mofederal and diane like this.
  9. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    I always like reading about these instances. With so much lead flying through the air those who made it out often had such close calls. Lots of accounts of bullet-torn clothing, and equipment, books and other trinkets stopping (probably spent) bullets.

    Here's another one from Gettysburg:
    Capt. Charles P. Mattocks, 17th Maine: "Many of my men [in Co. A] had narrow escapes. The bullet holes in clothing are numerous. Marston had a ball put through his coat and vest on the breast, cutting his suspender off."
    (Unspoiled Heart: The Journal of Charles Mattocks, p. 51.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  10. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Part II:

    Capt. W. L. Rowe, Company L, 6th Alabama, wounded July 1 in left breast by a minie ball, a button and a comb which he had in his pocket caused the bullet to range downward. Left on field and captured. (Memorial Record of Alabama, part II, p. 1012)

    Corporal Batkes had a piece of shell strike the eagle on his breast – the eagle probably saved his life. (Union County Star and Lewisburg Chronicle, July 24, 1863, p. 1)

    One ball went through the waist band of my pants, cutting my belt, and lodging in my cartridge box, coming as near to me as I cared about having them. (Private John L. Street, Letters, Company A, 145th Pennsylvania)

    I was slightly wounded in the right side, my cartridge box and plate probably saved my life. (Diary of Thomas White Stephens, Company K, 20th Indiana)

    During a sortie on July 3, none were hurt, but there were narrow escapes, one man being saved by his frying pan (for they carried their cooking kit always), and another by his rifle stock, the ball flattening on the barrel. (Berdan’s United States Sharpshooters, by Capt. C. A. Stevens, 1892, p. 340)

    Company I, 17th Maine – Tasker’s gun had a Rebel bullet welded into it. (John Haley, The Rebel Yell and the Yankee Hurrah, p. 103)

    While moving back, one of the men caught me by the leg, exclaiming, “Captain, you’re shot!” Glancing down I saw that the boot was covered with blood, and located the supposed wound in the calf of the right leg. The limb began to pain, and I plainly felt the blood running into the boot. I moved my toes and the red liquid swashed between them. The foot and limb were much swollen, I imagined, and I became anxious to ascertain the extent of the damage. Calling one of the men to assist in drawing off the boot (I scolded him for causing unnecessary extra pain by his carelessness), I patiently and calmly resigned myself to the inevitable. The boot being removed, and no sign of blood found, I quickly glanced at the man who had drawn it and saw on his face a broad grin. Searching for an explanation, it was discovered that the horse was shot in the flank, and by spurring, the boot-leg had come in contact with the blood which flowed from the wound. Imagination accomplished the rest. (James Smith, 4th New York Battery, New York at Gettysburg)

    During the fight a ball passed through my vest watch-pocket, breaking things pretty lively. I send a piece of the pencil N--- gave me. You see it is not bullet proof. Another bullet passed through my pants, just behind the knee. And a third just grazed my little finger. (July 10 letter of Lt. Col. Sherwin, 22nd Massachusetts)

    Thomas J. Wrangham of Company C was in charge of a section of the picket line, which fell back over the breastworks. A bullet struck the “U.S.” brass plate on his tin cartridge box, passed through the box, and lodged in the leather next to his hip. (Reminiscences of the 123d Regiment, N.Y.S.V., by Sgt. Henry C. Morhous, p. 52)
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  11. Rio Bravo

    Rio Bravo First Sergeant

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    Gen.Lee had a real Close Call during the battle of the Wilderness.
    He was riding along the line of the 16th Mississippi when a Cannon ball passed right under his horse, just missing his stirrups, and it then struck the ground, and bounded over the writer’s head missing it by about 6 foot.
    Gen. Lee did not seem to lose his composure !
    The writer was Pvt. Buxton Ryves Conerly, Co E, 16th Mississippi and this was mentioned in the book:
    Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray by Miss Mamie Yeary.
     
  12. Cavalry Charger

    Cavalry Charger 2nd Lieutenant

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    I wonder if he became a minister after the war?
     
  13. Patrick H

    Patrick H Major

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    These are great stories. I don't have any from the Civil War to share. (I've read some particularly good ones from WWI.)
    I've read the story about Gen. Lee and the cannon ball--probably in another thread here a couple of years ago. Please post more.
     
  14. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    Not from Gettysburg, but then Colonel Micah Jenkins had a lot of close calls at the battle of Glendale/Frayser's Farm in the Seven Days.

    Longstreet's aide Thomas J. Goree wrote about his near misses in a letter home:
    His own escape was almost miraculous. His horse was shot twice. A hole was shot through his saddle blanket, his bridle reins cut in two near his hand. An India rubber overcoat tied on behind his saddle had 15 holes through it made by a musket ball & piece of shell. His sword was shot off at the point, & shot half in two near the hilt, & his sword knob was also shot off. Besides all this he was struck on the shoulder with grape shot (which bruised it severely) and was also struck on the breast & leg with fragments of spent shell.

    I believe his bullet-damaged sword is at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room in Columbia.
     

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