BLACK WATER MARCHES, AND THE BATTLE OF DESERTED HOUSE
Table of Contents
No experiences connected with our sojourn at Suffolk will be better remembered than those long and wearisome Black Water marches which so sorely tried the physical endurance of the men. All the country adjoining Suffolk for thirty or forty miles west, northwest, and southwest down into North Carolina, was traversed through sand or mud, sometimes knee-deep. While some of these expeditions were uneventful, others were full of interest and excitement. They averaged about one a month, but we can only notice a few of them. Those who made these tramps will recall the names of several places we visited, – Carsville, Holland’s Corners, Franklin, Black Water Bridge, Somerton, Quaker Settlement, Providence Church, Blanchard’s Corners, Zuni, Deserted House, Windsor, and South Quay.
The first march of which I find any record occurred on Oct. 3, 1862. Our regiment was not under fire, but the Thirteenth Indiana lost one killed and five wounded. It was a hurried march of about fifty miles, and we returned to camp well worn out.
With one exception, our next march was perhaps the hardest we ma4e. At 3 P. M. Oct. 30, 1862, the long roll was sounded, and every able-bodied man was ordered at once into the battalion line. We were then directed to break ranks and prepare to march in half an hour, at the tap of the drum. At four o’clock the command, “Forward -Marchi”rang out. The writer, in charge of the drum corps, received this order: “Play a quickstep, and a mighty quick one, too.”We carried three days’ rations, consisting of thirty hardtacks; a piece of salt beef, some coffee, salt, and sugar; also sixty rounds of ammunition.
When about four miles out we halted a few minutes to let the cavalry and artillery pass us, which they did on the gallop. Resuming the march, the column was pushed ahead at a rapid pace, with a persistent “Close up! Double-quick I “for twenty-one Virginia miles,- twenty-five miles in all,-with but three or four five-minute halts since leaving camp. A person who never experienced a long, tiresome march of this character can have but the faintest conception of its wearisomeness. In some of the regiments the poor, tired, and foot-sore men fell out and dropped by the roadside by the score. Some of the officers on horseback were yelling at and cursing the poor fellows, ordering them to ” get up and go on.”Some succeeded in staggering on, others could not take another step, although in some instances prodded with the sword or bayonet. This statement is made from the writer’s own observation. Although there was but little straggling from the ranks of the One Hundred and Thirtieth, we all regarded such treatment as inhuman, and wholly uncalled for. Had there been any great interest at stake, it would have been different.
At two o’clock the next morning we halted for a couple of hours in an old cornfield, and, with canteens for pillows, some of us lay down upon the cold, damp ground to try to get a little sleep. Awakened at four o’clock by the roar of cannon, we were hurriedly called into line, expecting an encounter; but there was no enemy on our side of the Blackwater, and all the roar and racket was caused by our artillery shelling a force of the enemy across the river at Franklin.
Our next order sent us flying some four miles in a direction directly opposite the firing, and it was thought we would come upon the enemy from a different point. Instead of a battle, however, we were turned and marched by our unfeeling commander at a furious rate toward Suffolk, without a halt for sixteen miles. One would have supposed we were being pursued by all the forces of the Confederacy. It was about 11 A. M. when we halted for breakfast, having marched not less than forty five miles in nineteen hours, not having tasted food since leaving Suffolk. After a good rest, the march resumed, reaching Suffolk at midnight. We had traveled fifty-four miles in thirty-two hours, with but one meal, and, with many of the men, no sleep. I subsequently learned that there was not the slightest excuse for this cruel treatment of the men. It was only a freak of the general to see how great a strain they could endure in case of an emergency. It was very easy for him, seated upon his horse, to gallop along the column, giving his heartless commands: “Move up there faster;”or, “Captain, keep your men closed up;”or, “Lively there, you men, a step faster.”
Doubtless to others of the regiment, as with myself, the object of those long, severe marches has been somewhat of a mystery. Recently, however, it has all been made clear. General Dix, in three of his official reports to Halleck, refers to the matter, he says: “I have directed Major-General Peck to keep his forces constantly in motion, so as to accustom them to marching instead of rusting in camp.”It is needless to remind any of the old One Hundred and Thirtieth that Peck carried out that particular order of his chief to the fullest extent, for between marching and building forts the men got an all-sufficiency of exercise. General Peck gives a twofold reason for these expeditions; namely, to cooperate with General Foster down in North Carolina, by drawing off the enemy, and also to keep himself informed as to what forces threatened Suffolk.
In my research of the voluminous official reports and correspondence of Generals Peck, Foster, and others with General Dix; as well as that between Dix and the war department, I have learned that the forces at Suffolk, instead of being a side-show, were regarded as vastly important in planning the great campaigns of the war; far more important than any of us had a conception of at the time.
The night of December I found us again on the march and rapidly pushing out from Suffolk on the Franklin road. By morning we were in the vicinity of Franklin, some twenty-five miles distant, and on the ground just occupied by the enemy, who retired as we advanced. While breakfasting we were startled by rapid firing not far away and were quickly formed in line of battle. A furious charge of five hundred Confederate cavalries had been made upon gallant old Sam Spear’s Pennsylvania troopers, who were instantly drawn up for a countercharge, which was made with such impetuosity that the rebels were thrown into confusion, chased to the Black Water, and across their floating bridge .under the guns at Franklin. Within twenty minutes our men commenced bringing in prisoners and spoils. Among the trophies was the recapture of the famous Rocket Battery, taken from McClellan during the seven-day fight before Richmond. Twelve of the enemy were killed, and twenty-one prisoners were captured, besides horses, saddles, guns, etc. To us at that time this splendid charge was a thrilling spectacle, although later on in our experiences cavalry charges ceased to be a novelty.
The secesh batteries across the river opened upon us, and we enjoyed the novelty of hearing a few screaming shells pass harmlessly over om- heads and burst beyond us. Our boys also had the satisfaction of witnessing the working of the rocket battery. Among the prisoners were the gunners who worked it, and for a joke, they were ordered to return the fire, in answer to the rebel guns across the Blackwater.
But none of our long tramps ever tested the marching qualities of the men as did that never-to-be-forgotten night of suffering known as “The Windsor March, “made Jan. 10, 1863, at the closing up of a three-days reconnaissance in the enemy’s country. We had been tramping around in various directions in search of General R. A. Pryor and his rebel forces, which were fully as large as ours, if not larger, but who refused to give battle and eluded us at every point.
It should be borne in mind that on the day in question we were called up at midnight and stood in line of battle until 4 A. M., when the march for the day commenced, and continued without a halt until I P. M., and then for only ten minutes. Our route had taken us from Quaker Church to Blanchard’s Corners and McClenna’s Station, then via Deserted House and Western Branch church on to Windsor. We had tramped through deep sand in a burning sun, bl’1t a heavy storm set in, and the last eight miles before reaching Windsor were made over wretchedly muddy roads. At Windsor, we were formed in line of battle, where we stood in the pouring rain for nearly an hour, when we broke ranks to get supper, and as we were supposed to encamp for the night, as we had tramped twenty-eight miles, and eaten nothing but the hardtack we had munched while on the march.
Though weary and foot-sore, we started to kindle fires and make coffee, when the order came to poll out for Suffolk, thirteen miles distant, with all possible dispatch. Colonel Spear commanded the expedition, and from his official report, we learn that there was no occasion for this order, as he clearly 1:1tates that he had learned from his scouts that the enemy had rapidly retreated, with all his forces, across the Blackwater. He further states that in consultation with his several commanders, it was decided to return to Suffolk that night.
Such a decision was very nice for himself and commanders, all well mounted, but to the poor tired boys, it was simply an act of cruelty. Bot “Fall in ! Fall in ! Lively, men, “was the order, and we were soon in motion. Already we had been taxed to what seemed our utmost endurance, but our sufferings had only just commenced, and it was with tempers badly roiled that the men pushed out into the rain and darkness. Soon our overtaxed limbs began to rebel, and oh that night of racking torture! Even now our bones ache as we recall the anguish of that occasion. The deep sand had become deep mud, and the night was one of Egyptian darkness. The pouring rain pelted our faces, and we were drenched to the skin, while our shoes and pants were loaded with mud. For miles, we sank so deeply in the mud that our overcoats trailed on the ground, and often we went in up to our bodies. We could only plant one foot ahead of the other by sheer willpower, our sufferings were so intense. But hour after board we trudged on without a single-halt, as it was feared that if the men were permitted to sit down, many of them would be left. Every company had a rearguard to watch for men inclined to fall out. For miles we could see the red glare of campfires in the direction of Suffolk reflected on the heavens, yet, like the ignis fatuus of the swamps, we seemed to get no nearer to them.
To cheer up the weary men, Colonel Thorp rode the length of the regiment, shouting, “Keep up good courage, boys; I’m going ahead and will have fires and supper for you when you reach camp.”But that tonic soon failed, and Captain Flint reminds me that as a last resort Colonel Gibbs ordered the band to play. We were just emerging from a piece of woods where some wild animals were howling, and although the drums were water-soaked, we struck up ” Ain’t I glad I’m out of the wilderness, “the most appropriate tune we knew. The fifes rang out on the midnight air, and the music ·injected new life into the jaded men when everything else failed. At last, after midnight, we staggered into our huts, with scarce strength enough to remove our water-soaked clothing, having marched forty-one miles in twenty-one consecutive hours, besides having stood four hours in line of battle before beginning the morning march, and another hour at Windsor before the night tramp.
A comrade writes that during the march from Windsor to Suffolk, our gallant Major Scott dismounted, and placed a sick boy on his horse who not only trudged through the mud but carried two guns. Is it any wonder that the veterans tenderly remember such officers?
I am assured by different members of the regiment that from the terrible strain of that exhausting effort they never fully recovered. Such outrageous and wholly uncalled-for treatment nearly extinguished the fires of patriotism burning in our hearts, and some declared that when they were through loving this country, they would never love another. Several men fell out from some of the regiments that followed us that night and were murdered by bushwhackers.
Let not the reader, after finishing the account of this cruel march, conclude that our soldiers were chronic grumblers, or that these long tramps were without compensating features or enjoyments. As a rule, all discomforts and hardships were endured without a murmur of complaint and passed over with fun and jokes. Al though we never discovered a funny side to that uncalled for and unreasonable night march from Windsor, we did, during the earlier part of the expedition, find an abundance of pleasurable excitement, as shown by the following extract from a letter dated Monday, Jan. 12, 1863: –
“Having narrated the hardships of this last march, I will close by mentioning some of its amusing incidents, for we had loads of fun. We left Suffolk, Thursday, at daylight, and marched toward South Quay (pronounced Key), and the first night encamped sixteen miles out, on the farm of a rich but cantankerous old secesh who made no effort to conceal his hatred to the Union soldiers. Some of the boys visited his house for water, but he ordered them away and threatened to shoot the first d-d Yankee who stepped in his yard. Had he behaved himself, a guard would have protected his property; instead, he was arrested, and the boys turned loose to loot the premises. In twenty minutes his farm was cleared of rails for fires, a raid was made upon house and barns, and the way the lively lads plundered them was a sin to Moses. In less than an hour, the old fellow was $2,000 poorer. I can’t describe the scene. Some were killing 4 hogs, some catching geese, hens, and turkeys, some down cellar getting sweet potatoes, some upstairs ransacking closets, while two thousand cavalry and artillery horses were fed from ·his well-filled granary.
“That night we had a very agreeable change from the regulation diet. Our old salt horse was kicked out of our haversacks, and nice fresh pork chucked in, and we just lived on the fat of the land. We had butter, with milk for coffee, fried chicken and turkey, with sweet potatoes, honey, and pancakes to our heart’s content.”
In a letter from Comrade S. M. Fisher, on the same date, says: “I will mention some things taken: three valuable horses and a nice carriage; about three thousand pounds of pork, killed the day before; eight fat hogs in a pen, and twelve from the field. The boys used two large tubs of lard in greasing their hoofs and shoes.”
During the three days we were out we were repeatedly placed in line of battle to meet the enemy, but he refused to accept our challenge every time. Nineteen days later, however, the two armies met in that deadly conflict known as the:
BATTLE OF DESERTED HOUSE, OR KELLEY’S STORE
Although present on several expeditions, already described, where we had lively skirmishing, it was during the early morning of Jan. 30, 1863, that we received our first severe baptism of fire. Reconnaissance in force had been pushed in the direction of the Blackwater, but generally failed to develop any considerable force of the enemy, and the men murmured at going out so frequently upon wild-goose tramps. But on the date mentioned above, we found the enemy, not only in force but in a fighting mood.
Our forces, numbering about eight thousand men, commanded by General Corcoran, consisted of nine infantry regiments, Follett’s and Davis’s batteries, the Seventh Massachusetts battery,-twelve pieces of heavy artillery, all told,- and two mountain howitzers. In General Peck’s report of the battle, he states that Colonel Gibbs was in command of all the infantry. If the rebel General Roger A. Pryor’s official report is correct, his forces were not so large as ours. He, however, had the advantage in the number of pieces of artillery and choice of position. His batteries were well equipped, containing all sixteen guns.
About eleven o’clock on the evening of Jan. 29, 1863, orders were quietly issued to the. regiment to promptly prepare to march, with sixty rounds of ammunition and three days’ rations. For the first time, I was directed by Colonel Gibbs to take along the stretchers, with the assurance that we would probably have abundant use for them.
It was past midnight when we moved out in the direction of the Blackwater upon what proved to be the last march for several of the regiment. Colonel Spear’s cavalry led the extreme advance, followed by the old Thirteenth Indiana infantry with the One Hundred and Thirtieth New York next in order. When about eight miles out, the cavalry exchanged shots with the Confederate pickets, which sent a thrill of animation through our ranks, putting us at once on the qui vive. We were at this time a mile or more from the Deserted Farm where the battle occurred. There was but one road leading to the farm, and the country on either side abounded with swamps, but a skirmish line was deployed, and we moved rapidly forward. Before reaching the cleared land we waded a creek and turned off to the right into the edge of the woods. Colonel Spear had charged and driven in the rebel pickets, and just at the edge of the clearing had run up his two mountain howitzers and opened upon the enemy, whose campfires were visible on the opposite side of the farm. We chuckled as we thought the Johnnies were catching it in good shape, and would quickly “dig out;”but they were not of that kind, and soon taught us that war was a thing two could play at. Knowing the “lay of the land, “they had so planted their batteries as to get our range exactly and replied to Colonel Spear by opening upon us with their every gun. Through the darkness, we saw the flash of the cannon, and instantly their missiles of death came blazing and screaming through the air, tearing through the tree-tops or bursting in our midst until it seemed as if pandemonium was let loose upon us. This fearful crash of cannon and deluge of shells came so suddenly and unexpectedly that the men were for a moment dazed, but quickly regained composure; and to the honor of the One Hundred and Thirtieth New York, now for the first time under severe fire, not a man flinched during the terrible ordeal.
The Federal batteries came up at a gallop, and taking a position in the open field, vigorously replied to the enemy’s guns. Then ensued an artillery duel, lasting three hours, which for precision and rapidity of firing has seldom been equaled, and never surpassed, considering the numbers engaged. The guns were worked with a zeal that promised annihilation to the belligerents on either side. The pyrotechnical display, in the pitchy darkness of the night, possessed all the elements of sublimity and terror. The flash of the guns and the. long, bright lines made by the burning fuse of shells as they flew, either way, in curves through the air, made a grand and beautiful picture, which, but for the destruction wrought, would have been most enjoyable. By the fitful light of bursting shells could be seen the ghastly features of the dead and dying, and the ground strewn with slain horses, while riderless ones galloped over the field, trampling underfoot friend and foe. Not until daylight did the thunder of battle for a moment cease.
During the entire artillery combat of three hours’ duration, the One Hundred and Thirtieth occupied a position on the right of the Federal line, and some ten paces in the rear of Davis’s battery, which it was supporting. To avoid the shells that came in such rapid succession, the men were ordered to lie flat upon the ground. But this precaution did not prevent a serious mishap. To us it was a disastrous battle, our loss being one officer and six enlisted men killed, two officers and eighteen men wounded, and two missings, making a total of twenty-nine. The bursting of one shell killed three and wounded four of Co. A. Captain Taylor, of Co. 0, had raised upon his elbow when a ball struck him squarely in the breast, hurling his mangled body some twenty feet to the rear.
According to Captain Follett’s official report, as chief of artillery, 1,140 rounds of shot and shell were fired by our batteries alone. The ground occupied by the enemy gave evidence that our shells were even more effective than theirs, it is strewn with dead soldiers and horses, broken caissons, rammers, knapsacks, and pools of blood everywhere. It was learned that twenty-five wagons were loaded and driven off, filled with their dead and wounded, besides the large number left on the field in their haste.
An interesting circumstance, in connection with this battle, was the arrest of Colonel Gibbs by that pompous Irishman, Corcoran, who haughtily resented any suggestion from an officer whom he ranked. Bearing on this subject I quote from a well-written article in the “History of Wyoming County, New York.”Bear in mind that this account of the battle was prepared soon after the close of the war when all the facts were easily obtainable. It must also be remembered that Gibbs was in command of the infantry, and in making the suggestions referred to did not exceed his right and privilege: –
“During the battle, Colonel Gibbs ventured to expostulate with Corcoran against his disposition of troops and suggested that the infantry should be posted on the flanks of the artillery where they would escape the raking fire, and where they could repel an assault upon it. For his temerity, he was put under arrest by Corcoran, and his sword was taken from him. But the wisdom of his suggestion was soon demonstrated. Corcoran’s own brigade broke in confusion and disorder and began a precipitate retreat. He was himself obliged to leave the field in the effort to rally them.
“Meanwhile the fight in the front went on without orders or direction. The day was just breaking. Everyone looked puzzled, astonished. No one knew of any orders of any kind, and yet the last of the artillery was filing by. This is a shame,’ began someone. It’s a shame! echoed all. ‘ Let’s go on with our orders. Let’s charge them.’ The key note had been struck, and quicker than it can be told three regiments, in line of battle, moved from the edge of the wood, and charged across the open field. Whoever was there can ever forget that scene when the brave Colonel Gibbs, under arrest, swordless and horseless, seized the colors and bore them, like the hero he was, in front of the regiment throughout the whole of that charge. For various reasons, he had not heretofore been popular with all his men, but from that hour his kingdom in the regiment was established, and every man in his command was now willing to die for him.
“The enemy broke and ran in confusion leaving many of their dead upon the field. The One Hundred and Thirtieth was deployed as skirmishers and went into the woods beyond, where they soon developed two pieces of artillery and a force of the enemy covering the retreat. These were being steadily forced back (by the One Hundred and Thirtieth under Colonel Thorp when Corcoran arrived on the field and recalled them. After an hour’s delay, in which were gathered up fragments of the Legion, the pursuit was resumed, but without any great success.”
At this point, a quotation from General Corcoran’s official report may also be in place. Speaking of his own brigade, or Corcoran’s Legion as they were usually called, he says: “They became a confused mass, mixed up with other regiments, and filled up the entire road, leaving it impassable, and creating confusion among other regiments in the rear. I ordered the Sixty-sixth and the One Hundred and Fifty-fifth New York to take a position in line of battle about eight hundred paces to the rear, and stop any of the commands from retiring beyond that point. One company of Spear’s cavalry was placed on the road for a similar purpose. I rode down to see this order executed, and on returning to the front with Colonel Spear, at 5:40 A. M., determined to charge the enemy with the bayonet, and ordered two pieces of artillery to be placed on the road, and formed the Thirteenth Indiana and One Hundred and Thirtieth New York on the right and left, supported by Spear’s cavalry.
“These orders were promptly attended to, and at 6 A. M. all moved forward under command of Colonel Spear. I ordered up other regiments and formed them in successive lines of battles. The enemy rapidly retreated at our approach and was vigorously pursued until our advance was stopped by thick woods and marshland. On concentration of our forces at this point, I ordered the One Hundred and Thirtieth New York Volunteers thrown forward as skirmishers on each side of the road, and a portion of Spear’s cavalry upon the road, who soon reported the ene my’s artillery strongly posted about two miles in front. Our skirmishers here were under command of Lieutenant Colonel Thorp and continued to advance steadily. The enemy on perceiving them came forward with their peculiar yell to dislodge them, but was quickly driven back with muc}l loss. They tried this three times with the same result. Lieutenant-Colonel Thorp exhibited much coolness and good judgment.”
General Peck, in his report of the battle to General Dix, also makes special mention of the One Hundred and Thirtieth New York in very flattering terms.
At 10 A. M., the command was halted to await fresh supplies of ammunition, and allow the tired and hungry men time to make coffee, as we had eaten nothing since leaving Suffolk. At 12 M. we were again pushed forward, pursuing the enemy with all possible haste, he only escaped by crossing the Blackwater and destroying the bridge. This battle, though costly in life and limb, was invaluable in the confidence it gave the men in their ability to stem the torrent of battle without becoming demoralized.
When returning from the pursuit, we halted at the battlefield to gather up our dead1 which, when placed on empty ammunition wagons, made three heaped-up loads. The pallid, upturned faces of the slain presented a ghastly spectacle never to be forgotten. By consulting the returns of casualties, it will be seen that the One Hundred and Thirtieth New York suffered by far the severest of all the troops engaged.
A feeling of dissatisfaction quite generally prevailed regarding the incompetency of Corcoran in his management, or rather mismanagement, of this battle. Although the enemy was severely punished, and driven with loss from the field, it was not owing to his skill as a commander, but despite his poor generalship. As to true soldierly qualities, he was not worthy of comparison with either Colonels Gibbs or Spear. Early in the war, he gained a little cheap notoriety by getting lousy in Libby prison, and by some chicanery now occupied a position he was wholly incompetent to fill. His brigade, known as Corcoran’s Legion, had also come to Suffolk with a great sound of trumpets. Doubtless, it contained many excellent fighters, but the writer knows from personal observation that it also had plenty of arrant cowards, who, at the very first crash of shells, broke for the rear, blocking up the road so that in carrying off the dead and wounded the drum corps could scarcely get through with the stretchers. We found them everywhere, skulking behind loge and trees. A circumstance very distinctly comes to mind of our big drummer, who, becoming disgusted with their pusillanimous conduct, roughly yanked several of them from their hiding places, giving each in tum a lively application of the toe of his boot, and started them to the front on the double-quick.
The following address from Colonel Thorp was read to the regiment: –
HEADQUARTERS ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTIETH NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS.
CAMP NEAR SUFFOLK, VA., Feb. 1, 1863.
Special 0rder No. 25.
The commanding officer desires to offer his thanks and congratulations to the men and officers of the regiment for their unexceptional coolness and bravery in the late battle. He wishes to assure them that they did honor to themselves, and have maintained that good name and high reputation for discipline and valor for which they have been esteemed by the commanding general of their division; and while we mourn for our comrades who have fallen, and fertilized the soil with- their precious blood, we will remember that we have reason to renew our wise and holy purpose, our spirit of chivalry and valor; that we will avenge the sacred blood of our dear brethren whenever and wherever we may meet the infernal and God-forsaken traitors.
By order of T. J. THORP,
Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding One Hundred and Thirtieth New York Volunteers.
Lieutenant and Adjutant.
INCIDENTS OF THE BATTLE
Comrade Petibone, of Co. C furnishes the following incident: –
“Captain Taylor had a presentiment before leaving Suffolk that he would be killed and had packed his effects, leaving them in·charge of Willis Parker to be sent to his wife if he should not return alive. He also asked for the privilege of signing the payroll, requesting his salary also be sent to her.
“In marching out to the Deserted Farm he was unusually quiet for him, scarcely speaking during the march. Just before the battle, he remarked to some of the men who were joking: ‘ Boys, you had better keep quiet, as some of you will be in heaven or hell before morning.’ Within five minutes we got the rebel shells and were ordered to lay flat on the ground. Captain Taylor was just at my right, and had said nothing for nearly two hours, when Major Scott came down the line, smoking a cigar, and said: ‘Taylor, how are your men? ‘ to which he replied, ‘ Some are dead, but most of them are all right,’ and added, ‘Major, have a chew of tobacco with me.’ This Scott declined, as he was smoking, and turned to go up the line. During this conversation, Scott was as cool and seemingly unconcerned as if nothing unusual was going on. Taylor said, ‘I’ll take a chew, and raising up on his elbow, had his hand in his pocket when the shell struck him.”
Alfred Bigelow relates that the battery in front of Co. A had lost so heavily that the captain was compelled to call for volunteers to help man his guns. Johnny Keghan responded, “I’ll go; “but he had not been with the battery ten minutes before he was killed.
Another comrade gives this incident of Colonel Gibbs: During the hottest of the battle a shell tore up the ground just in front of the regiment. Noticing it, the Colonel stepped out and stood upon the spot. Someone called to him: ” Colonel, you had better get away from there.”To which he jocularly replied: “Lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place.”
It was a singular fact that most of the dead Confederates left upon the field straightway turned black in the face, which circumstance gave rise to the common but probably erroneous impression that the rank and file of the enemy were plied with whisky and gunpowder to stimulate their courage on the battlefield.
Lieutenant Flint furnishes these instances of heroic deeds: “Instances there were of heroic conduct that bordered on the sublime. A cannoneer held himself up with his gun and rammed home a charge of powder and ball after one of his legs had been torn to pieces by a shell. The poor fellow died from loss of blood before the surgeon could get to him. Another instance of bravery was manifested when one of our caissons exploded. A badly wounded soldier hobbled out and extinguished the burning tow by stamping on it, so as not to reveal the location of the battery.”
General Roger A. Pryor, whom we had thrashed so soundly, was a resident of Suffolk previous to entering the rebel army, but at this time his fine residence was occupied by General Peck as headquarters. Just before the battle, some of the citizens boasted that it would not be long before General Pryor would be there and ” make old Peck dig out.”Prisoners also stated that Pry9r had declared his intention of capturing or routing the Yankee desecrators of his home. He not only failed in this, but lost favor with his own army, and was removed from his command.