2nd Manassas The Fight for the Roasting Ears

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 27, 2017

This episode took place on or about August 23rd. I have found a couple of recollections about this event, which are below.

James Lemon, 18th Georgia:

"We soon drew near a body of Yanks and drove them across the Rapahannock River. We pursued them closely, catching their rearguard at Kelly's Ford. Here a sharp little fight occurred after they had crossed, the firing passing to and fro across the river. On the 22nd of August, we crossed the river at Freeman's Ford with the 5th Texas in the lead of the briggade, and our briggade at the head of the Corps. We drove the Yankees entrenched there over a mile of field and timber, causing them.many more casualties than they did us. The next morning our men, both Texans and Georgians, who among our army were known as excellent foragers (and having not received rations) decided to forage into a nice looking corn field for roasting ears. Little did we know that a large party of Yanks also had a similar plan, and were 'advancing' into the field from the other side, unseen by us. Very few of the men, on either side had brought muskets with them, as they would only serve to hinder the harvest. Of course, these two parties met, astonished, at mid-field and all hell broke loose. Rocks, fists, and even ears of green corn were used to vicious affect, many men fighting hand-to-hand and rolling about locked in furious combat. After a very sharp engagement, the Yanks retired on the run, leaving us the 'spoils of war.' We carried the corn by the armful back to our camp and spent the day roasting them and eating them. Our triumph was short-lived however, as the corn had been planted late and was green and not fit to eat. This caused many of the boys to get sick, which dampened our 'victory' a bit."

John Stevens, 5th Texas:

"Our movements are very cautious; we know the enemy is near but our knowledge is very limited as to particulars. Suddenly, about noon as we cross a good large river, known as Hazel Run, a tributary of the Rapahanock. We are suddenly thrown into line of battle in a large cornfield, in full roasting ear, this is known as the roasting ear fight.... Here we fight a very brisk battle for about one hour or more, losing several of our men, among them Major Whaley, of the fifth regiment. Finally the battle was brought suddenly to a close by a severe thunder storm and rain, which raised the river so our wagons could not get over for 15 or 18 hours, and here we are, both parties with their lines of battle in the cornfield, and we could not see over forty or fifty feet in front of us.

Our rations were beyond the river, nothing to eat—the mud in the field was half leg deep, if we set down it was in the mud, to stand up was terrible, but it is a poor soldier who can’t do impossible things when they have to be done. Finally night closed down upon us, and as soon as it was dark this soldier with others, was detailed to go on picket duty. Our lines I suppose were not more than one hundred and fifty or one hundred and seventy-five yards apart. I well remember that Nath Oats, a nephew of Ex-Gov. Oats, of Alabama, and John P. Kale and this writer were on a post together. Kale was about 45 years old and a little hard of hearing, we three were carried down by an officer and posted in thirty or forty steps of the enemy’s line, in high corn. The mud was awful, the air was quite cool after night-fall. I have often thought of this night, it was certainly the terriblest night I ever spent, we could not sit down without being in the mud, but we did sit down in the mud. Our orders were if the enemy attempted to advance, to wait until they were in twenty feet then fire into them and fall back, we were not to speak above a whisper. We were so close to the enemy that we could hear their feet pop in the mud as they moved around in line. We could hear, all night, the low rumbling sound of their voices in suppressed tones as they conversed. Occasionally we could hear them pull a roasting ear and slip the shuck from it and eat it raw from the cob.

Kale, poor fellow, could not hear as well as myself and Nath, which was a great discomfort to him and us as well. The slight breeze that came through the corn, sawing the blades against each other, made a noise very much like a man slipping up on us. Kale, every few minutes, would insist that the rascals —as he called them—were coming and at times we could hardly restrain him from raising his gun to fire but all things have an end so this night terminated. Just before the first streaks of day light were visible in the east we could hear a movement of some sort begin, but to our great gratification they were moving in an opposite direction from us. One thing I failed to mention in the proper place, was the moans, groans and calls for help of a poor Dutchman with his thigh broken. He lay in front of our lines and a little to our left, I suppose some twenty paces, all night calling to his boys to bring him water, he “vas tying mat thirst, bring me vone blanket. I ish freezin' to death.” Then for a few minutes all would be still then he would break out again in the most piteous pleadings for help; my heart went out in strongest sympathy for him. He was a member of the Ohio regiment, a German regiment, as we afterward learned. After daylight we sent out and brought him in and did all we could for him. Reader, if you have never been in war, you have no conception of its horrors."

Lemon, Feed Then the Steel
Stevens, John Stevens' Civil War in Hood's Brigade
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Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
May 5, 2017
Green corn like green spuds will make you sick. Tales of the brawl however are really amusing! I am fascinated by the story of the poor German fellow, and the fact that the narrator did a remarkable job of imitating the accent within the narrative. No broken bone is fun, and I cannot imagine the femur being broken. Either a really bad fall, or ammunition broke it for him.