Saved by a Bedroll at Battle of Olustee, FL

Jan 14, 2018
Adirondacks-New York
The story of Oscar Kemp of the 115th NY and his brush with death at the Battle of Olustee, FL Feb. 20, 1864 155 years ago today. The story is related by a fellow soldier in a newspaper after the war:

"In active campaigning he was an expert. He had no use for a knapsack. Under clothing had to be worn until a chance to wash, whether of a longer or a shorter time; therefore his rubber and woolen blanket generally constituted his wardrobe, and when moving these were rolled and hung over his left shoulder, tied at the ends on his right hip. We remember him thus attired in the battle of Olustee, and being struck square in the roll over his breast by a musket ball he escaped from even a slight wound."

The story makes sense as Oscar grew up in NY's Adirondack mountains and would have no doubt been resourceful in the outdoors. Oscar would serve with the 115th in VA with Butlers' forces before being detached for service at the Bermuda Hundred bakehouse in late 1864. He would survive the war but with a wounded hand and a testicular hernia. He moved from NY to KS and took up farming, married and was active in the G.A.R until his death in 1927.

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Brigadier General
Forum Host
Nov 20, 2012
Here's another story of a blanket roll stopping a bullet. By Pvt. Silas C. Turnbo, 27th Arkansas Inf., at the battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Ark., April 30, 1864:

"One little incident that occurred during the fight seemed very amusing now, though it wasn't then. At one time our part of the line, while in a heavy growth of timber, was hotly pressed. The firing was so heavy that the words of the commander could not be heard. The Federals advanced and we were ordered back. The writer just then was posted behind a large tree uncomfortably well to the front, and did not discover his regiment falling back. Directly on peeping out for a chance to shoot, a mini ball just missed his jaw and took effect in his shoulder, or rather in a tightly patted and rolled wet blanket that hung over his shoulder. The shock and force of the blow completely paralyzed the left shoulder, and supposing I was shot through the left breast, I fell on my back and gave a yell, 'Oh, Lord, I'm killed!' I was too much scared even to pray. I discovered that our men had dropped back, but that didn't matter to me, as I was waiting only to die.

"A soldier of my company, named Parker, who lay near with his leg shattered below the knee, called out to know where I was hit. I told him in the breast. He suggested that I find the hole, and, perhaps it wasn't as bad as it felt. Acting on this I began to hunt. The whole shoulder was numb, but there was no wound. Just as I made this pleasing discovery, I also found that the Federal line was close at hand. This gave me new life at once, and I speedily found that I could use my legs well. Probably I did the fastest running that was done that day. It seemed as though every Federal sight gave me a parting shot. Going under a sapling I lost my hat, but I didn't stop to pick it up. And a little farther and I left my left shoe in a mud-hole, but eventually I reached our line unhurt. Parker had his leg amputated and recovered."

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