Chapter X -- Incidents and Emotions of a Boy Soldier

Perhaps a few incidents of this campaign picked up at random, may not come amiss: While occupying the trenches around Atlanta, to get out of them only made you a target for some vigilant sharpshooter across the way, consequently our rations were cooked and brought to us in the night; sometimes our water would give out, and as we had to sit in trenches in the hot sun from morning until night, water was an absolute necessity. Often a game of freeze-out poker would be played, the hindmost player having to go after water.

I was making a run for water one day, aiming to get to a stone house between myself and the enemy, when a far-spent bullet struck me on the side of the head, and it seemed to weigh a ton, and made a noise, seemingly, that could be heard for miles. When I collected my wits I had passed the house, and was running, I suppose, about forty miles an hour, and every Yank in sight was shooting at me. By the time I got back to the trenches I had a big knot on the side of my head where I had been struck.

That night after the first day's picketing on this line when we were relieved there was a man to pilot us back to our command, as it had changed positions that day. We passed back through a big old field covered with blackberry briars with hog trails all through it. I was barefooted and got behind and lost from my squad. It seemed that I wandered over that old field half the night. I would get on a trail and follow it to the end, and then have to turn back and try to find another; stray bullets passing over my head in the meantime. Some of the bullets struck the ground quite near me and these were all that was necessary to cause me to hurry. I finally got out and found my command and the next day the boys picked the briars out of my feet.

The Georgia Militia, known as Joe Brown's Pets, were sent to Atlanta to help hold the works. They were placed in trenches and their cooking detail of Negroes placed in a deep hollow half a mile from us, but entirely out of danger of bullets but not from a practical old soldier experienced in the art of foraging. They had not been there a day until every old soldier knew where this camp was, and every old soldier that could slip out of the trenches was going there to forage. Their cooks were all knowledgeable on all army matters, and so were the whites who were left at the camp, and all they had to eat fell an easy prey to the more experienced; but that only lasted for one day, as that night there was a guard and all of the humor was dispensed with. Many of the pets lost pillows, bed quilts and boxes of good grub from home. Such good things could not last and Joe's Pets had learned a lesson.

I have mentioned in the past of our lying down during the time of our advance to attack at the battle of Atlanta. A new song had just come out a short time before this, called "Just Before the Battle, Mother", and this song belonged to neither army but was popular and was sung by both armies. Perhaps you have heard it. It contains these lines:

"Comrades brave around are lying,
Thinking of their home and God,
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod."

The thoughts of my mother in her far away home so forcibly impressed me at that moment, lying there on the ground and looking at my comrades as they lay near, and I remembered that just two days before we had only thirteen left of a company of thirty six lying on that fatal field of Peach Tree Creek, and wondered who would be killed today. Will I be one of that number?

Another line runs:

"Hark! I hear the bugle sounding,
'Tis the signal for the fight."

I have told you of the courier giving our Colonel orders to move on the enemy's works at the sound of the bugle, while these thoughts were passing through my mind, off to our right on our line a bugle sounded sharp, clear and shrill, answered by another on our left. You already know the result.

Today, when I think of it, the sharp notes of that bugle sounding the charge is as plain to me as it was on that hot and sultry 22nd. day of July 1864, when seven of our remaining thirteen went down before that storm of shot and shell. I am asking no favors or no consideration or sympathy for myself, but there are but a few more years left for some of the old Confederates that are poor and needy, some of them even lacking the bare necessities of life; now I will ask a question, young man; do you have the feeling and consideration for these old fellows that you should have? I leave the subject with you and return to our camp at Jonesboro.

We lay for some time at Jonesboro, in complete idleness part of the time, discussing the final outcome of the war, and as it was rumored that Hood would soon march his army into Tennessee, that was uppermost for discussion among the Tennesseans, Missourians and Kentuckians.

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