- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
By daylight we had our earthworks finished, and were safe. The heavy artillery, armed as infantry, were some sixty or seventy yards in front of us. We being on the crest of the hill, they were below. Behind were a couple of Delaware regiments, the two having about 140 men combined. Back of us was a ravine, an alder swamp, and in the thickets bordering on the swamp was a spring of clear, cold water. The men in front of us had to go to this spring for water. They would draw lots to see who should run across the dangerous open ground. This settled, the victim would hang fifteen or twenty canteens around him; then, crouching low in the rifle-pits, he would give a great jump, and when he struck the ground, was running at the top of his speed for our earthworks. Of course every rebel sharpshooter in range fired at him. Some of these men were shot dead; but generally they ran into the earthworks with a laugh. After filling the canteens they would go out of the works on a run, and run back over the bullet-swept course. Sometimes they would come to us in pairs.
Cold Harbor by Alfred Waud
Cold Harbor by Alfred Waud
One day two Albany men came leaping into our battery. After filling their canteens, they sat and talked of the beautiful city on the Hudson, and finally started together for the rifle-pit. I watched through an embrasure and saw one fall. Instantly he began to dig a little hollow with his hands in the sandy soil, and instantly the rebel sharpshooters went to work on him. The dust flew upon one side of him and then on the other. Tho wounded soldier kept scraping his little trench in the sand. We called to him. He answered that his leg was broken below the knee by a rifle ball. From the rifle-pit we heard them call to him to take off his can-teens, tie the strings together, and set them on one side. He did so, and the thirsty men in the rifle-pits drew lots to see who should risk his life for the water.
I got keenly interested in this dicing with death, and watched intently. A soldier springs out of the pit. Running obliquely, he stoops as he passes the canteen, grasps the strings, turns, and in a flash is safe. Looking out I see the dust rise in little puffs around the wounded man, and with quickening breath feel that his minutes are numbered. I note a conspicuous man in the rifle-pit, and recognize him as the comrade of the stricken soldier. He calls to his disabled friend saying that he is coming for him and that he must rise as he comes near, and cling to him when he stoops.
The hero leaves the pit on a run; the wounded man rises up; the runner clasps him in his arm, the arms of the wounded one twine about his neck, and he is carried into our battery at full speed.
To the honor of the rebel sharpshooters be it said that when they understood what was being done they ceased shooting.
Rifle Shots and Bugle Notes