Monday, August 10, 2015

"It was a perfect blaze": The Battle of Wilson's Creek

To commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Wilson’s Creek here are the words of “M,” a soldier from Company G of the 2nd Kansas Infantry, taken from a letter he wrote to a newspaper eight days after the battle:

“This was my first battle—the first time in my life that I had men shoot at me, I returning their shots as well as I could, and seeing men fall dead at my side. I cannot say that I was frightened, for there is an excitement about the matter that completely banishes fear, and makes one blind to the danger around him. I saw the men fall, heard their groans, saw the enemy and heard their bullets whistling around me, with, I believe, as much unconcern as I would at witnessing a fire into a covey of quails. I had too much to attend to, to think of getting frightened.

For about half an hour, we held the ground undisturbed. Not a gun was fired. In the mean time, I drew some ‘grub’ from my ‘harversack,” and made a tolerably comfortable meal. It was rather a novel ‘hotel’ in which to ‘dine,’ but still I relished it, not withstanding cannon were booming from the opposite hills, with an occasional ‘shell’ whizzing over my head.

But this calm did not last long…[Going to the support of part of Captain James Totten’s battery, the enemy] advanced [toward it] and soon opened upon us one of the most terrific fires I had heard during the day. Before the firing had commenced, we had been ordered to lay down. By this means we were not so much exposed. Part of the boys went down, others standing, all busy pouring a hot volley into the enemy. Co. G was in the rear of the two pieces, and it seemed to me as if the main fire was directed at this point. It was a perfect blaze, and the balls flew like hail over our heads, cutting the limbs off the trees over our heads at a fearful rate. The artillery soon left…But the Kansas Second stood firm, and soon after had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy retreat down the hill” (pages 74-75).

M’s article was from Richard W. Hatcher, III and William Garrett Piston, eds., Kansans At Wilson’s Creek: Soldiers’ Letters from the Campaign For Southwest Missouri (Springfield, MO: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation, 1993).

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