Take Things Cool and Keep a Stiff Upper Lip: Kershaw's Brigade at Gettysburg

lelliott19

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This terrific Image through a window of the Rose Barn is by @Gettysburg Greg
...I saw a sight and heard a sight and thought a sight. Shells were cutting off the arms, legs and heads of our men, cutting them in two and exploding in their bodies, tearing them to mincemeat. Then there was the solemn thud of the minie balls, men crying for water, groaning, praying and so much that was harrowing that my speech fails to describe it all. I am not writing as a soldier now, but simply as a tourist.

William A. Johnson was 20 years old when he enlisted as a Private into Company F, 2nd South Carolina at Greenwood, SC on August 9, 1862. Joseph Brevard Kershaw was the original Colonel of the regiment. Kershaw was soon promoted to Brigadier General and the 2nd SC was one of the regiments in his brigade. At Gettysburg, the brigade was comprised of the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 15th South Carolina Infantry and the 3rd Battalion SC Infantry. Thirty-eight years later, William A. Johnson submitted reminiscences of his experiences on July 2, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg to the Atlanta Journal. The article was reprinted in Winnsboro, South Carolina's The News and Herald.

AT GETTYSBURG
In the Atlanta Journal, W. A. Johnson gives the following partial account of the fight at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg was simply Malvern Hill No. 2. McLaws' division, of which my regiment and brigade was an humble part, was in line so that its right was about opposite Devil's Den. It was formed into two lines on the left of Hood's division.

The front line was: Kershaw's South Carolinians on the right and Barksdale's Mississippians on the left. The two Georgia brigades [Semmes and Wofford] were in the second line. As we marched up the slope to take position, I noticed Generals Lee and Longstreet standing in the shade of a tree looking at a map which spread on the ground. Not far from this point our brigade was formed in line of battle. My regiment was posted in a clearing between two bodies of woods, and on the edge of the wheat field. The field was inclosed [sic] with a stone fence and we sat on the ground so that the fence would shield us from the enemy's skirmishers, who were thickly posted in our front. We were near the woods on our right, and in the angle nearest us of these woods one of our batteries was unlimbered and went into action.

As soon as they began firing the Federals returned the fire from a number of batteries, and in a few minutes the air was full of fluttering, bursting shells. I noticed the Georgians in the woods behind the battery, dodging the falling limbs. The Federals had too many guns playing on our guns, and our folks were forced to retire. After a while, General Lee rode along the line, and then after a while Hood's division advanced to the attack. Between us and the Federals was an open field without any sort of protection to an advancing force, and the distance across was about one mile and a quarter. As soon as Hood started the music began. I was sitting behind the stone fence talking to Captain George McDowell, of my company [F], and Captain Pulliam, of the Butler Guards [Company B] of my regiment. I made the observation to these two that we would fail unless our division was moved forward with Hood. Both of these men were killed, and I think they had that presentment from the way they looked and talked.
<To be continued.> [Source: The News and Herald. (Winnsboro, SC), August 09, 1901, page 1.]
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lelliott19

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Always like reading an account by the enlisted personnel. The photo is a fantastic piece of art/battle interpretation!
Thanks @Gettysburg Guide #154 The image above is a terrific, artistic interpretation of the scene by @Gettysburg Greg that he posted in a previous then and now thread. When I was looking for an image showing the view that William A Johnson and the rest of the 2nd SC would have had, looking towards the Peach Orchard, there was definitely nothing better to match the quote I wanted to use at the top of the post - "I saw a sight and heard a sight and thought a sight." Be sure to take a look at @Gettysburg Greg 's fantastic thread that will shed some additional light on Johnson's reminiscences.
_______________________________________________________________________________
William A Johnson F/2ndSC continues:

...The Yankees moved troops from our front and attacked Hood's left flank. This compelled that flank to give way. At this juncture, we started in. We jumped the wall, and the Yankees at once began to fire on us. We had orders not to fire, yell or charge, but to take things "cool" and keep a stiff upper lip at the common time gait. Under the pressure, I forgot all about my pack, although it had been reinforced with sixty rounds of fresh ammunition. To make room for this in my haversack I had unloaded my "grub," some beef tallow biscuit, fit more for cannon balls than food.

We were forbidden to fire, consequently I was simply a packmule sightseer. Yes, and I saw a sight and heard a sight and thought a sight. Shells were cutting off the arms, legs and heads of our men, cutting them in two and exploding in their bodies, tearing them to mincemeat. Then there was the solemn thud of the minie balls, men crying for water, groaning, praying and so much that was harrowing that my speech fails to describe it all. I am not writing as a soldier now, but simply as a tourist.

This thing went on until we got within about four or five hundred yards of the batteries; then we began to get grape shot fired into us. More horrors! But horror or no horror, we made straight for the batteries, and I did long for the order to fire and charge, so that we could raise the "yell!" But no, we were simply on exhibition. On we went, leaving the field behind us covered with heads, arms, legs, mangled bodies and the like. About 300 yards from the guns now, when we got the order to move by the right flank. [See @infomanpa 's thread Kershaw's Brigade splits into chaos]

Guess they thought we had had enough sight-seeing from the front, and now we were to have a side view. Moving by the flank, there was a depression through which the men passed. In this depression, the men were out of the fire of the grape shot. But the depression ran right up to a Yankee battery, and they quickly placed a gun so as to rake it. I noticed that about every other squad which got in it was decimated, and I saw that the men about me would be the unfortunate ones.

We got in it, and while crossing it I kept my eye on the gun. As I saw the man about to pull the lanyard, I stopped still and turned my thin edge to the fire. Bang! went the gun, and then the grape reaped the harvest of souls. I was the only man left unhurt. <To be continued>
[Source: The News and Herald. (Winnsboro, SC), August 09, 1901, page 1.]
 
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rpkennedy

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Guess they thought we had had enough sight-seeing from the front, and now we were to have a side view. Moving by the flank, there was a depression through which the men passed. In this depression, the men were out of the fire of the grape shot. But the depression ran right up to a Yankee battery, and they quickly placed a gun so as to rake it. I noticed that about every other squad which got in it was decimated, and I saw that the men about me would be the unfortunate ones.

We got in it, and while crossing it I kept my eye on the gun. As I saw the man about to pull the lanyard, I stopped still and turned my thin edge to the fire. Bang! went the gun, and then the grape reaped the harvest of souls. I was the only man left unhurt. <To be continued>

This part of his story is in just about every account of Kershaw's attack at Gettysburg. It paints an incredibly vivid picture of what the right regiments faced when they split off from the rest of the brigade.

Ryan
 

Ole Miss

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"Yes, and I saw a sight and heard a sight and thought a sight." One of the greatest understatements I have ever read! I am sure I would have seen and heard nothing! I would have been burrowed down with the moles!!
Great article about a brave man.
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Tom Elmore

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His description sounds to me like he was one of those who attempted to move up on the 9th Massachusetts Battery just before it retired by prolong toward the Trostle buildings - shown near the bottom edge of my attached draft map as "Kershaw SC skirmishers." The 2nd South Carolina, being located in the center of the brigade, had moved by the right flank into the far western portion of the woods almost due south of the 5th and 9th Massachusetts batteries.
 

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Ole Miss

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One thing that always impresses me looking at Gettysburg maps is how well suited the terrain is for artillery. Shiloh has fields interspaced between copses of woods but not the open spaces like Gettysburg. Artillery played such a large part in the battle
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lelliott19

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<continued from post 3>
Poor John Fourchee, of my company [F/2ndSC, age 18], fell behind me, his leg broken by a grape.
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Poor Whig Cheney, of my company, fell on my right. He got a grape which frazzled my jacket behind. Fourchee looked up at me with such a pleading look and asked for water. I gave him my canteen. I can now see him just as he looked then. He died. [If Whig Chaney is R Elmore Chaney, he didn't die - but I'm sure it probably looked like he was going to.]
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Then there was Jimmie Cason [James H. Casson, A/2nd SC, age 21, died July 7] of my regiment, one of my schoolmates. He was on his hands and knees with a portion of his skull shot away above one eye. He was out of his mind instantly. He died.
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Then my bosom friend, George McKenzie, of my company, had his gun knocked across his chest, which almost finished him.
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Although marked as sick in camp, it seems that McKenzie was present and wound up with pneumonia as a result of the trauma to his chest.

Then William Lomax, [age 20] of my company, who with me sat up as pickets all night at Fredericksburg on the dead bodies of Yankee soldiers, was killed.
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But I had to go, and go quickly.

After a little, we got orders to lie down. Up to this time, I had acted tourist to perfection and according to orders. But I had come to the point where I intended to play soldier and general on my own account.

I turned toward the Yanks and standing there alone I opened fire on them at the battery what had graped us so heavily. I had a rifle which I got out of a dead Yank's hand at Fredericksburg. This Yank was one of Meager's Irish brigade. The inspector general of our army informed me in an inspection near Fredericksburg that I had the finest gun in the army. It was a beauty.

With this gun, I took aim at a Yankee officer, who was riding a white horse. He was riding back and forth behind the infantry which was supporting the battery afore mentioned. The distance was about three hundred yards. I guessed I could not miss the whole crowd. I fired 12 rounds as fast as I could load the gun, the men lying down [unreadable text] on me to desist as I was drawing the fire of the enemy. They were doing their level best in that line before I fired a shot.

As I was loading my gun the Yankees charged us and came out of a piece of woods to our right. They got up pretty close before I could load, and one fellow, who was in advance of the rest, stopped about 30 yards from us and pulled down on me as I was capping my gun. I thought my occupation as a tourist was gone. He missed the mark. About this time the men lying down arose. We raised a yell and fired into them. We downed the most of them, and of the others, a great many threw down their arms and ran into our lines. We followed those who fled, and it resembled a rabbit hunt. <To be continued.>
[Source: The News and Herald. (Winnsboro, SC), August 09, 1901, page 1.]
 

lelliott19

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His description sounds to me like he was one of those who attempted to move up on the 9th Massachusetts
Moving by the flank, there was a depression through which the men passed. In this depression, the men were out of the fire of the grape shot. But the depression ran right up to a Yankee battery, and they quickly placed a gun so as to rake it.
From your map. Is this the depression that he's talking about?
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rpkennedy

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Poor Whig Cheney, of my company, fell on my right. He got a grape which frazzled my jacket behind. Fourchee looked up at me with such a pleading look and asked for water. I gave him my canteen. I can now see him just as he looked then. He died. [If Whig Chaney is R Elmore Chaney, he didn't die - but I'm sure it probably looked like he was going to.]

I read that as him referring back to Fourchee, who did die at Gettysburg, and not Cheney.

Ryan
 

lelliott19

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<continued from post #9>
We about cleaned this line up. We soon encountered another. We got a volley and returned it and the carnage in their line was heavy. Great numbers of the unhurt threw down their guns and fell flat on the ground. When we passed over them they arose and ran into our lines. We ran afowl of a third line, and it shared the fate of the other two. Then over and past their batteries, up to the round top. Here we encountered several lines of battle posted on the hillside so that they could shoot over the heads of the men in front.

We got close up and kept the men who were attempting to fire some guns which were posted there thinned out so much that they could not do much. But the lines of battle fired into us and many of our men fell. Col. J. D. Kennedy, of my regiment, who was by my side, got hit and had his hat knocked off. He turned to leave the field and told me that he was wounded, and instructed me to go and tell Lieutenant Colonel [Franklin] Gaillard to take command of the regiment. I started on a run down the line to find him.

When I got about the center of the regiment the men began to fall back, and of course I did too. I was then in a road which wound its way behind the round tops. We retreated in good order, loading and firing on the Yanks. We reached the edge of a woods and here we made a stand, and Colonel D. Wyatt Aiken, of the Seventh South Carolina, as he jumped over a long[sic; log], called to his regiment to rally on us. Here, while in the act of capping my gun, I was knocked senseless. This put an end to my participation in the battle. <End of article.>
[Source: The News and Herald. (Winnsboro, SC), August 09, 1901, page 1.]
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William A Johnson was wounded and captured. He was imprisoned at Fort Delaware and exchanged October 31, 1864.
 

Tom Elmore

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<continued from post 3>
Poor John Fourchee, of my company [F/2ndSC, age 18], fell behind me, his leg broken by a grape.
View attachment 365871
Poor Whig Cheney, of my company, fell on my right. He got a grape which frazzled my jacket behind. Fourchee looked up at me with such a pleading look and asked for water. I gave him my canteen. I can now see him just as he looked then. He died. [If Whig Chaney is R Elmore Chaney, he didn't die - but I'm sure it probably looked like he was going to.]
View attachment 365876View attachment 365877
Then there was Jimmie Cason [James H. Casson, A/2nd SC, age 21, died July 7] of my regiment, one of my schoolmates. He was on his hands and knees with a portion of his skull shot away above one eye. He was out of his mind instantly. He died.
View attachment 365872
Then my bosom friend, George McKenzie, of my company, had his gun knocked across his chest, which almost finished him.
View attachment 365873View attachment 365874
Although marked as sick in camp, it seems that McKenzie was present and wound up with pneumonia as a result of the trauma to his chest.

Then William Lomax, [age 20] of my company, who with me sat up as pickets all night at Fredericksburg on the dead bodies of Yankee soldiers, was killed.
View attachment 365875
But I had to go, and go quickly.

After a little, we got orders to lie down. Up to this time, I had acted tourist to perfection and according to orders. But I had come to the point where I intended to play soldier and general on my own account.

I turned toward the Yanks and standing there alone I opened fire on them at the battery what had graped us so heavily. I had a rifle which I got out of a dead Yank's hand at Fredericksburg. This Yank was one of Meager's Irish brigade. The inspector general of our army informed me in an inspection near Fredericksburg that I had the finest gun in the army. It was a beauty.

With this gun, I took aim at a Yankee officer, who was riding a white horse. He was riding back and forth behind the infantry which was supporting the battery afore mentioned. The distance was about three hundred yards. I guessed I could not miss the whole crowd. I fired 12 rounds as fast as I could load the gun.[unreadable text] me to desist as I was drawing the fire of the enemy. They were doing their level best in that line before I fired a shot.

As I was loading my gun the Yankees charged us and came out of a piece of woods to our right. They got up pretty close before I could load, and one fellow, who was in advance of the rest, stopped about 30 yards from us and pulled down on me as I was capping my gun. I thought my occupation as a tourist was gone. He missed the mark. About this time the men lying down arose. We raised a yell and fired into them. We downed the most of them, and of the others, a great many threw down their arms and ran into our lines. We followed those who fled, and it resembled a rabbit hunt. <To be continued.>

When he mentions infantry support for the battery, I suppose Johnson means a remnant from Graham's brigade that had fallen back from the Peach Orchard and rallied in support of the 9th Massachusetts Battery. Then a new threat emerged from the advance of the 140th Pennsylvania of Zook's brigade on his right, the three right companies (G, F and C) moving out into the field from the woods, with Company C being closest to Johnson. The moment "the men lying down arose" may have coincided with the arrival of Wofford's brigade on the scene, when the "rabbit hunt" began. Sweitzer's line was soon driven back, followed by the U.S. Regulars, and Johnson made it into Plum Run valley in front of Little Round Top, where the Pennsylvania Reserves stood firm. Here, we learn from Johnson, is where Col. Kennedy was wounded. When their retreat began, Johnson must have gone back along the Wheatfield road from his description, and the Confederates made a stand when they reached the woods bordering the west side of the Wheatfield. We learn that Col. Aiken and the remnant of his command that had previously rallied near the Rose buildings joined them here. At least that is how I interpret Johnson's narrative. My attached draft map goes back to the moment when the right three companies of the 140th were in the field. Johnson would have been a short distance off their right flank based on his description, in the lower ground that he had (presumably) traversed to approach the left gun of the 9th Massachusetts Battery.
 

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rpkennedy

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When he mentions infantry support for the battery, I suppose Johnson means a remnant from Graham's brigade that had fallen back from the Peach Orchard and rallied in support of the 9th Massachusetts Battery. Then a new threat emerged from the advance of the 140th Pennsylvania of Zook's brigade on his right, the three right companies (G, F and C) moving out into the field from the woods, with Company C being closest to Johnson. The moment "the men lying down arose" may have coincided with the arrival of Wofford's brigade on the scene, when the "rabbit hunt" began. Sweitzer's line was soon driven back, followed by the U.S. Regulars, and Johnson made it into Plum Run valley in front of Little Round Top, where the Pennsylvania Reserves stood firm. Here, we learn from Johnson, is where Col. Kennedy was wounded. When their retreat began, Johnson must have gone back along the Wheatfield road from his description, and the Confederates made a stand when they reached the woods bordering the west side of the Wheatfield. We learn that Col. Aiken and the remnant of his command that had previously rallied near the Rose buildings joined them here. At least that is how I interpret Johnson's narrative. My attached draft map goes back to the moment when the right three companies of the 140th were in the field. Johnson would have been a short distance off their right flank based on his description, in the lower ground that he had (presumably) traversed to approach the left gun of the 9th Massachusetts Battery.

He also mentioned firing at an officer on a white horse when talking about the battery. Wasn't Lt. Milton of the 9th Massachusetts Battery riding a white horse? And he was shot through the lung.

Ryan
 

Gettysburg Guide #154

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He also mentioned firing at an officer on a white horse when talking about the battery. Wasn't Lt. Milton of the 9th Massachusetts Battery riding a white horse? And he was shot through the lung.

Ryan
If you are referring to Lt. Richard S. Milton, then perhaps not. Lt. R. S. Milton filed the report for the 9th Mass. Bty. that appears in the O.R. The report is dated July 17, 1863. So if shot through the lung, he recovered rather quickly. Milton does not mention being wounded, and few Civil War officers seem to have failed to mention it, if they continued in command of a unit after being wounded. The report states that one commissioned officer was killed and two wounded. Johnson does not say that he hit the officer on the white horse. It is my impression that Milton had command of the left section, so it could have been Milton that Johnson fired at and missed. I have no idea whether Milton's horse was white.

It is also noteworthy that Johnson recalled the officer on the white horse as riding behind some infantry. Working from Tom Elmore's map, this would likely be an officer attached to Company G, F, or C of the 140th PA. If we can rely on the company rosters linked to the FamilySearch website, Company C lost Capt. David Acheson, killed; and Lt. Isaac Vance wounded (lost an arm) on July 2. Company G lost two officers wounded: Capt. Henry Bingham and Lt. John Wilson. Johnson may have inflicted one of these casualties.
 

rpkennedy

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If you are referring to Lt. Richard S. Milton, then perhaps not. Lt. R. S. Milton filed the report for the 9th Mass. Bty. that appears in the O.R. The report is dated July 17, 1863. So if shot through the lung, he recovered rather quickly. Milton does not mention being wounded, and few Civil War officers seem to have failed to mention it, if they continued in command of a unit after being wounded. The report states that one commissioned officer was killed and two wounded. Johnson does not say that he hit the officer on the white horse. It is my impression that Milton had command of the left section, so it could have been Milton that Johnson fired at and missed. I have no idea whether Milton's horse was white.

It is also noteworthy that Johnson recalled the officer on the white horse as riding behind some infantry. Working from Tom Elmore's map, this would likely be an officer attached to Company G, F, or C of the 140th PA. If we can rely on the company rosters linked to the FamilySearch website, Company C lost Capt. David Acheson, killed; and Lt. Isaac Vance wounded (lost an arm) on July 2. Company G lost two officers wounded: Capt. Henry Bingham and Lt. John Wilson. Johnson may have inflicted one of these casualties.

I was thinking of Lt. Charles Erickson, not Lt. Milton. My mistake.

Ryan
 

Tom Elmore

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If you are referring to Lt. Richard S. Milton, then perhaps not. Lt. R. S. Milton filed the report for the 9th Mass. Bty. that appears in the O.R. The report is dated July 17, 1863. So if shot through the lung, he recovered rather quickly. Milton does not mention being wounded, and few Civil War officers seem to have failed to mention it, if they continued in command of a unit after being wounded. The report states that one commissioned officer was killed and two wounded. Johnson does not say that he hit the officer on the white horse. It is my impression that Milton had command of the left section, so it could have been Milton that Johnson fired at and missed. I have no idea whether Milton's horse was white.

It is also noteworthy that Johnson recalled the officer on the white horse as riding behind some infantry. Working from Tom Elmore's map, this would likely be an officer attached to Company G, F, or C of the 140th PA. If we can rely on the company rosters linked to the FamilySearch website, Company C lost Capt. David Acheson, killed; and Lt. Isaac Vance wounded (lost an arm) on July 2. Company G lost two officers wounded: Capt. Henry Bingham and Lt. John Wilson. Johnson may have inflicted one of these casualties.

I read Johnson's account as associating the officer on a white horse with the troops supporting the battery. Of course the officer may have been with the battery itself. Incidentally, Lt. Milton's section was on the left of the battery, although I don't know the color of his horse. I do think it quite possible that it was a soldier from Company C, 140th who took a shot at Johnson. Also, I guess Johnson was absorbed by, and fought with, a Georgia regiment in the right wing of Wofford's brigade. John Coxe (Confederate Veteran, vol. 21:435) and other men from the 2nd South Carolina joined the right of the 18th Georgia as it advanced. Johnson does clearly indicate that his regiment remained rather organized when it pursued the Federals to the base of Little Round Top, which is also supported by Coxe's account, and is more than can be said about Kershaw's other regiments (through no fault of their own). Nevertheless, Col. Kennedy evidently deserves a lot of credit for keeping his command largely intact for much of the fight, despite his regiment being badly battered from the outset.
 

lelliott19

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He also mentioned firing at an officer on a white horse when talking about the battery.
Johnson recalled the officer on the white horse as riding behind some infantry.
Johnson's account as associating the officer on a white horse with
"With this gun, I took aim at a Yankee officer, who was riding a white horse. He was riding back and forth behind the infantry which was supporting the battery afore mentioned. The distance was about three hundred yards. I guessed I could not miss the whole crowd. I fired 12 rounds as fast as I could load the gun, [unreadable text] me to desist as I was drawing the fire of the enemy. They were doing their level best in that line before I fired a shot."

Does the [unreadable text] say: ...as fast as I could load the gun, [the men lying down ??? on] me to desist, as I was drawing the fire of the enemy.
1594398426718.png
 
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