Chaplain, W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry]., Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle and Aftermath

24 08 2011

Camp Johnson, Va., August 5

Hardships of our Volunteers – Cooking – Need of Rice and Grist – Sunday after the Battle – Incidents of the Camp – Shooting with one Eye – Gen. Beauregard’s Address – Strict Discipline, etc, etc.

In  commencing this letter, I would, through you, urge upon all those who are sending contributions to the sick soldiers, to remember, as well, whose who are not; for, believe me, the fighting part is but a portion of all our brothers are enduring for the sake of home and honor. The Department furnishes flour, salt and water; and the fried, heavy fritters, and the raw, doughy biscuits, are doing as much damage as Minnie balls and patent shells. Send our men rice and grist in flour barrels. In that size it is more easily moved. Send it, and pay the expenses to Manassas, cost what it will. Also send peas and beans. Send them each week; it will save the lives of many who, else, will perish under the present fare and wretched water they are compelled to use. Our wounded are all doing well. Sweat, poor fellow, has lost his arm. Bomar is recovering. Green is getting on well; he is still at Manassas. We have not been able to move him yet. Chapin is well cared for in Richmond. I saw him yesterday; he says he wants for nothing. Sergeant Gardner, whose gallantry I have heard much of, is also there, getting on well. George Wear is improving, and will return to camp this week. Baker’s eye has recovered; he has gone back to camp; also, Hutson and Atkinson. They report on the well list again. Thompson is at Gordonsville, with a relative, doing well.

Sunday before last we gathered together under the shade trees which skirt our camp in the rear, and there offered our prayers and praises to Almighty God. The contrast between the two Lord’s days, and the difference of occupation, seemed to strike impressively the whole congregation, and I have seldom preached or prayed with a more solemnized people. I hear there has been a marked difference in the Legion since the fight. I am sure all at home will join me in the prayer that the impression may be lasting, and God’s work may be blessed by Him among them.

You may judge the coolness of some of our men on the day of battle by the following incident: Corporal Baker was shot in the eye, and , unable to see, he remarked to the Colonel, “My eye is shot out; what am I to do?” “Shoot with the other eye,” said the Colonel. “But I always shut one eye when I shoot.” “Well,” said the Colonel, “you are saved that trouble; one is shut for you; open the other and shoot.” Baker tried, but finding it impossible to see, he left the field; worn out, he took his seat at the foot of a tree, where, a few moments after, he found a companion. “Neighbor, where are you from?” said the Corporal, “Massachusetts,” said the fellow. “O, you are a Yankee, are you?” “Yes,” was the reply. Baker looked at the man, and, as well as he could see, he had no wound, and was armed. The Corporal had not even a pen-knife with him; he looked all around for a weapon, and his vision being very short, he could find nothing. After being in this disagreeable proximity for some minutes, he, in his usual quiet way, informed the Yankee he was going, and the fellow making no objections, the Corporal retired. There was a narrow escape. Gen. Beauregard’s remarks to the Legion, as near as I can remember them, were: Soldiers: You are all Carolinians, and it is not the custom of Carolinians to be conquered – forward!” One of the Zouaves said he had been wounded and taken prisoners, and carried to the rear of a South Carolina regiment, and while lying on the ground he saw one of the South Carolinians, who was severely wounded himself, crawl up to a stump, and load and fire his gun eleven times as he sat there waiting to be taken from the field. Who can conquer such a spirit as this? There is a very amusing anecdote told of Adjutant B. When in full pursuit, near Centreville, and officer appeared among them, moving around quite briskly. The Adjutant was quite suspicious of the stranger. “Who are you, sir, and what are you doing here?” “Me, sir, I am General S—, of Virginia.” “You may be General S—, but I don’t know you, sir.” “Don’t know me, sir?” looking around with great indignation, “why, everybody knows me about here. I am General S—.” “That may be, sir,” said the Adjutant, “but for the present you must keep in the rear.” At length a happy thought suggested itself. “Show me your shirt, sir.” “My shirt, sir, my shirt!” and with boiling indignation the General showed his shirt where the name was written in full, and the General received the apologies and the pass from the Adjutant. A hint to the home folks to mark all the clothes in convenient places. We don’t know when some more of us may find the same useful.

I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon,

Yours, the
Chaplain W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry].

Charleston Mercury 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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3 responses

1 09 2011
New Tag Line « Bull Runnings

[...] notice a new quote below it that I just posted today. It is the close to this letter printed in a Charleston paper in August 1861 and attributed to a Chaplain W. L. I. of [...]

1 09 2011
Dave D

Could the “W.L.I.” stand for the Washington Light Infantry (Company A) of the Hampton Legion which was from Charleston?

1 09 2011
Harry Smeltzer

Dave, that makes perfect sense!

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