Brass Napoleon Award Last Words and Moments of Soldiers

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Tom Elmore

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Often the last words (or nearly last words), or otherwise memorable actions of men whose lives were tragically cut short at Gettysburg were recorded for posterity by comrades, or even opponents, who were fortunate to have survived this particular battle, if not the war. Below is but a small sample to launch this thread. Some reflect thoughts of family, others of duty, or maybe just the realities of a brutal conflict. Yet each instance reveals a particular pathos in the final moments of a soldier who dies far from home for his country, regardless of the color of his uniform.
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Boys, I trust you will all behave like southern soldiers.” Captain Thomas Gordon Pollock, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General, Kemper’s brigade, July 3: [The University Memorial, Biographical Sketches, by Rev. Lipscomb Johnson, Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1871, pp. 437-444]

Dearing, where is the colors?” Colonel Robert Clotworthy Allen, 28th Virginia, July 3. [Calvin P. Dearing, Company G, 28th Virginia, On the Bloodstained Field, by Greg A. Coco, p. 31]

I am going home, good-by.” Unidentified Confederate, possibly of Kemper’s brigade, July 3. [Adjutant A. R. Small, 16th Maine, Confederate Veteran magazine, vol. 35 (1927), p. 477]

Major, tell my father that I died with my face to the enemy.” Colonel Isaac Erwin Avery, written note, July 2. [Saga of a Burke County Family, by Edward M. Phifer, The North Carolina Historical Review, vol. 39, no. 2, Spring 1962, published by the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, p. 331]

All is right.” Private John Preskitt, Company F, 12th Alabama. [Sketch of the Twelfth Alabama Infantry, by Robert Emory Park, Reprinted from Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 33, Richmond, William Ellis Jones, Book & Job Printer, 1906]

No matter how many close escapes one has in a particular battle, the next will be just as dangerous, and it is impossible to pass unscathed through them all. (Paraphrasing) Captain William E. McCaslan, Acting Adjutant General of Lang’s Florida brigade, July 3. [Memoir of C. Seton Fleming, pp. 79-80]

Tell my mother I died like her boy.” Sergeant Robert W. Hubbard, Company E, 7th Wisconsin, July 1. [Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion, by William DeLoss Love, Chicago: Church and Goodman, Publishers, 1866, p. 419]

Isn’t this glorious?” Second Lieutenant Sumner Paine, Company A, 20th Massachusetts, July 3. [July 13 letter of Capt. Abbott to Charles C. Paine, father of Sumner Paine.]

Bury me as near where I fell as possible.” Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell A. Thoman, 59th New York, mortally wounded July 2. [KAOD, July 22, In the Field, Near Bloomfield, Virginia, Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, ed. by William B. Styple, Kearny, NJ: Bells Grove Publishing Company, 2000, p. 205]

I’m as dead a man as Julius Caesar.” Brigadier General Stephen Weed, July 2. [Oliver Willcox Norton, The Attack and Defense of Little Round Top, Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.]
 
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lelliott19

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"Tell my wife I fought like a man and will die like one." Brigadier General William Barksdale, mortally wounded July 2, reportedly delivered this dying declaration to Sergeant Vaughn of the 14th Vermont. [Vermont at Gettysburg, July, 1863, and Fifty Years Later. Thomas C. Cheney, Tuttle Company, 1914, p. 11]

"My dear Mother, This is the last you may ever hear from me. I have time to tell you that I died like a man." Jeremiah Gage, Company A, 11th Mississippi Infantry, mortally wounded July 3. [Jeremiah Gage letter to his mother, Patience W.S. Gage, dated Gettysburg, Penn., July 3, 1863. Gage Family Collection, University of Mississippi Libraries.]

"Good bye, Billy, I shall never see you again." Captain Lucius Sherman Larrabee, Company B, 44th New York Infantry. After expressing a premonition of his own death that day, Capt. Larrabee's men advanced about 200 yards where they encountered the enemy. Larrabee was killed in the first volley. [A History of the Forty-fourth Regiment: New York Volunteer Infantry, in the Civil War, 1861-1865, by Eugene Arus Nash, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1910, p. 154]
 
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lelliott19

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"Tell my mother I did not die a coward!" Sergeant George Washington Buck, Company H, 20th Maine. Mortally wounded July 2. In addition to recording his dying declaration, Chamberlain honored Buck’s “faithful service and noble courage on the field of Gettysburg” by promoting him back to the rank of Sergeant, from which he had been unfairly demoted. ["Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg," by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Hearst's International, Volume 23, International Magazine Company, 1913, p. 905.]

"Tell my mother I died a true soldier, and I hope a true Christian." Major Nathaniel Claiborne Wilson, 28th Virginia Infantry, mortally wounded July 3, his dying declaration was given to the Regimental chaplain. When the command was given for "Pickett's Charge" Wilson, acting as Lieut. Col. of the regiment, called to his men, "Now boys, put your trust in God, and follow me." ["N. Claiborne Willson," Memorial, Virginia Military Institute: Biographical Sketches of the Graduates and Élèves of the Virginia Military Institute who Fell During the War Between the States, Charles D. Walker, J. B. Lippincott & Company, 1875, p. 538.]

"Tell my mother I died doing my duty." Private Hugh Thomas Pendleton, 2nd Company, Richmond Howitzers, Virginia Artillery, mortally wounded July 3. According to his obituary, he was "nobly discharging his duty when the messenger of death struck him." His comrades who came to his aid reported these as his last words. ["Obituary," The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.,) August 18, 1863, page 2, column 2.]
 
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lelliott19

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"Tell my wife I died at my post." Private W. F. Ramsey, Capt. Basil C. Manley's Battery, 1st North Carolina Artillery. Mortally wounded on July 2 and gave his dying declaration to a friend, as recorded in his obituary. He was survived by his wife and an "only babe" in Raleigh, a brother in the army, and an aged mother in Beaufort. ["Obituary," Spirit of the Age, (Raleigh, NC), August 10, 1863, page 3, column 3.]
 
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Coonewah Creek

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I remember from book, The Red Badge of Courage, the description of the death of the Tall Soldier always stuck with me, although so did the death of the Tattered Man. The former scene was played well in the movie (John Dierkes) I thought. I think I remember reading somewhere that they'd filmed it, but cut the death scene of the Tattered Man from the movie (Royal Dano). Maybe a little off topic, but it just sprang to mind.
 

lelliott19

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"I am killed." 1st Lieutenant Henry Ropes, Company K, 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Killed July 3 by a defective shell fired by a New York battery, just behind him on Cemetery Ridge, which exploded prematurely. He was an 1862 graduate of Harvard University, just 24 years old. ["Henry Ropes," Harvard Memorial Biographies with Supplementary Biographies, edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, University Press, Welch, Bigelow & Co., Cambridge, 1867, p. 311]
 
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rpkennedy

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Bury me as near where I fell as possible.” Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell A. Thoman, 59th New York, mortally wounded July 2. [KAOD, July 22, In the Field, Near Bloomfield, Virginia, Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, ed. by William B. Styple, Kearny, NJ: Bells Grove Publishing Company, 2000, p. 205]
Interestingly, Max Thoman was a veteran of the Schleswig-Holstein War and William Walker's Filibuster Expedition. He was eventually buried in the National Cemetery, lying amongst his men, as he wished and he and Lieutenant Colonel George Stephens of the 2nd Wisconsin are the highest ranking casualties buried at Gettysburg.

Ryan
 
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Tom Elmore

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I am going to handle them in gloves today.” Unidentified Lieutenant, Davis’ brigade, who had just put his gloves on when he was struck by a shell that tore him into fragments; July 3. [Memoir of James Eldred Philips, 12th Virginia]

I am very much obliged to you, but give it to those around, who are worse, and need it more.” Colonel Hugh R. Miller, 42nd Mississippi, after being offered food and drink as a wounded prisoner; he died on July 18. [Andrew B. Cross, The War; Battle of Gettysburg and the Christian Commission, p. 15]

All is right.” Private John Preskitt, Company F, 12th Alabama; July 1. [Robert Emory Park, Sketch of the Twelfth Alabama Infantry, reprinted from Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. XXXIII, Richmond: Wm. Ellis Jones, Book and Job Printer, 1906, p. 54]

Tell her I forgive her.” Unidentified color bearer of a New York regiment, who had been born in England, after his sweetheart declined to continue their relationship upon learning that he lost a leg in the battle. He buried his head in the pillow and wept like a child … lingered two days longer. [Hospital Scenes After the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863, by the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster. 1864]

Father, do not worry at my being in a dangerous position. I believe, as you say, I can die in no nobler cause; and, to tell you the truth, I would as soon die on the battle-field as I would a natural death. Last letter of Color Corporal Adon G. Wills, Company B, 72nd Pennsylvania. [Gregory A. Coco, Killed in Action]

Not while I have my sword arm left.” Adjutant William Henry Pohlman, 59th New York, after refusing to leave for the hospital when his left arm was shattered by a minie ball. About an hour later he was shot through the wrist of his sword arm and was compelled to retire; he died on July 21. [59th New York Infantry Regiment, Civil War Newspaper Clippings, New York Military Museum]

Take the gun!” Unidentified Confederate officer, Pickett’s division, calling his men’s attention to a cannon at the copse belonging to Captain Andrew Cowan’s 1st New York Independent Artillery; July 3. [Captain Andrew Cowan, consolidated account, July 13, 1863, Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, ed. by Janet B. Hewitt, Noah Andre Trudeau and Bryce A. Suderow, Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1995, vol. 5, serial no. 5, p. 214]

Captain, this is our last round.” Private Jacob Y. “Jake” McElroy, serving a cannon at the copse, to Captain Andrew Cowan, 1st New York Independent Artillery; July 3. [Captain Andrew Cowan, consolidated account, July 13, 1863, Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, ed. by Janet B. Hewitt, Noah Andre Trudeau and Bryce A. Suderow, Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1995, vol. 5, serial no. 5, p. 214]

Are you friends or enemies?” Color Sergeant Philip N. Howard, Company A, 16th Vermont, as his eyes grew dim so that he could not determine who was trying to take the colors from him; July 3. The reply was, “Friends; give us the colors.” “Then, friends, I am mortally wounded, let me hold up the flag till I die.” [Alfred E. Rand, A Gallant Sergeant, The National Tribune, October 22, 1885, p. 3]

Tell my mother, tell … my.” Private Thomas Jefferson Brainard, Company F, 14th Connecticut; July 3. Chaplain Stevens of the regiment recorded his last words. [Elwood Christ, The Struggle for the Bliss Farm at Gettysburg, p. 70]
 
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Coonewah Creek

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I am very much obliged to you, but give it to those around, who are worse, and need it more.” Colonel Hugh R. Miller, 2nd Mississippi, after being offered food and drink as a wounded prisoner; he died on July 18. [Andrew B. Cross, The War; Battle of Gettysburg and the Christian Commission, p. 15]
Tom...just a slight correction to Colonel Miller's regiment at Gettysburg...Colonel Miller had been Captain of Company G, 2nd Mississippi, before he resigned after losing in a three-way election to Colonel Stone, and went back to Mississippi to raise the 42nd Mississippi. So, when he was mortally wounded and captured, he was actually Colonel of the 42nd, not the 2nd. Colonel Stone was still nominally in command, although he had been wounded on July 1st. Since Colonel Stone was disabled, Lt. Colonel Humphrys led what was left of the 2nd during Pickett's Charge where Colonel Miller was wounded.

Great post BTW!

Mike
 
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Ole Miss

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"Men, save yourselves or sell your lives as dearly as possible." Colonel William P, Rogers of the Second Texas Infantry as they charged Battery Robinett during the October assault on Corinth, MS. [Lens of War Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War Edited by J. Matthew Gallman and Gary W. Gallagher, University of Georgia Press (April 15, 2015) p. 182]

Yes, yes I’m dead. Tell the boys if I can’t be with them in body I shall be with them in spirit.” Major General Jesse L. Reno [Our Boys Did Nobly Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam by John David Hoptak, 2009. Page 93]

"I am going fast now; I am resigned; God's will be done." Major General J.E.B. Stuart[Christ in the Camp:Or, Religion in Lee's Army, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 10, 2012. Page 103
Regards
David
 

Coonewah Creek

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At Shiloh, Albert Sidney Johnston's last words were in response to the question of was he wounded, "Yes... and I fear seriously." He was the highest ranking officer killed in the War.
Regards
David
General Johnston was not initially aware of the severity of the wound due to a previous injury to that leg which left the nerves damaged IIRC. Therefore, what you would think would have been a painful wound cutting the femoral artery to the leg was apparently not recognized until he had bled out.
 
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Tom Elmore

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Lay me down to die.” John Morrison, Company H, 22 Massachusetts; July 2. [Gregory A. Coco, On the Bloodstained Field, Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1987, p. 20]

A dead man is better than a living coward.” Lieutenant Edward H. Ketcham, Company A, 120th New York; July 2. [C. Van Santvoord, The One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, Cornwallville, NY: Hope Farm Press, 1983, p. 75]

It is just four minutes past 3 o’clock.” Private William G. Monte, Company G, 9th Virginia; July 3. Monte called out the time on his watch when his regiment approached within 200 yards of the Federal batteries on Cemetery Ridge. [Major William H. Stewart (61st Virginia), A Pair of Blankets, New York: Broadway Publishing Company, 1911, p. 111]

Mother, you and I will meet in heaven.” Private John S. Lynch, Company I, 3rd Alabama. Lynch died at Camp Letterman U.S. General Hospital near Gettysburg on August 1, 1863. [Harriet Dada (nurse), Ministering Angels, The National Tribune, March 6, 1884, p. 3]

Tell all my relatives and friends good bye, and tell them how I died.” Sergeant William H. Copelan, Company K, 44th Georgia; July 1. [James W. Beck (Major, 44 GA), The Southern Recorder, Millegeville, Georgia, September 15, 1863]

Tell my wife I died at my post like a man.” (see lelliott's post #4 above) Private Frank Ramsey, Manly’s Company A, 1st North Carolina Artillery; July 2. His effects were subsequently given to his widow, Martha. A testament that he carried in his pocket was saturated with his blood. [Captain J. C. Gorman, 2nd North Carolina Infantry, The North Carolina Standard, Raleigh, August 5, 1863, p. 3; Busey and Busey, Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg, 3:1271]

Men, remember your mothers, wives and sisters at home, and do not halt here.” Captain WilliamThomas Magruder, Acting Adjutant General to Brig. Gen. Davis; July 3. Magruder was near the Brien barn at the time. [Andrew J. Baker, Tribute to Capt. Magruder and Wife, Confederate Veteran magazine, vol. 6 (1898), p. 507]

Oh, nothing’s going to hurt Sam! Sam’s going to Baltimore!” Corporal Samuel Thompson, Dement’s 1st Maryland battery; July 2. A comrade had warned Thompson that he was running a great risk by not promptly closing the lid on the ammunition box, moments before an enemy shell detonated it. (Memoir of John William Ford Hatton, Dement’s Maryland Battery)

Captain, if you should get home, tell my poor old father I died endeavoring to do my duty.” Captain William Dawson Brown, Chesapeake Artillery (4th Maryland battery); mortally wounded July 2, died July 10. (Journal of George Washington Hands, Company D, 2nd Maryland Battalion.)

An unidentified soldier of the 12th Georgia tried to tell his lieutenant to tell his mother and sister something but passed on before he could finish. [Lt. J. A. Walker, History of Jones County, Georgia, by Carolyn White Williams, Macon, GA: The J. W. Burke Company, 1957, p. 121]
 

lelliott19

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"Boys, they've killed me now." Lt. Col. John Clarke L. Mounger, 9th Georgia Infantry; killed July 2 in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg. Mounger fell, pierced by a minie ball through the right breast and a grape shot through the bowels, at the head of the regiment. He expired within a few minutes in the arms of his son, Pvt. Thomas J. Mounger (H/9thGA).
[The Confederate Union. (Milledgeville, Ga.), August 11, 1863, page 3., Letter, John and Tom Mounger to Dear Mother, dated Camp near Martinsburg, Va., July 18th 1863., https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/51731864/john-clarke-mounger ]
 
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Silverfox

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"O God, that I could see my mother!"-----Last words from Capt. Henry C. Brainard storming Little Round Top ---twenty-one year old leader of company G 15th Alabama.---- Lieutenant John Oates younger brother of Colonel Oates commanding the regiment took over command of company G and continued the climb---He was wounded eight times until dragged behind a large rock---He was captured and later died of blood poisoning.
 
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