|After this, we came under the command of General Banks, and we were taken on an expedition 200 miles south of Vicksburg. We experienced a series of continual handicaps. We received orders to advance from our commander on a morning at 3 oclock and march 30 miles through the various obstacles of timbered country, arriving, finally at a river where the bridge had been burned. It took considerable effort to rebuild it, and not only that, for on the opposite side of the stream were difficult hills and more tiresome timber; so finally, when we arrived footsore and spent, in the open, we found only a tiny town populated by Frenchmen for our pains. We asked for food, but they did not understand us. We made signs, which helped some, for now they brought us a little food. We asked where the rebels were, but heard only the same refrain, "nich forstay." But we suspected that they knew better that they would let on. Our suspicions were confirmed when, after marching a few miles through the brush and hills, we were fired upon, volley after volley. We were thoroughly hungry and disgusted, not to say mad, and had we but gotten our claws into those wily Frenchmen, it would not have gone well with them.
Now ensued the Battle of Fort deRussy, March 14, 1864. Cannons were brought into play, and we were fired upon as we marched along the road. Further on we were flanked aside on the banks of a creek where we dropped down flat on the ground. While lying thus, Colonel Scott shouted: "When the bugle is blown, you must all get up! Rise as one man!" We lay quiet for about an hour, and when the summons came, we jumped to our feet and charged up the steep bluffs. I was nearly on the top once, but became so short of breath, that I hadn’t the power to hold on, and slid back a considerable distance. I grabbed hold of an exposed root and pulled myself up again. In the meantime, the bullets flew thick and fast. Tom Lein said it was so steep where he happened to be that the men had to climb on each other’s backs to be able to make headway. Our men swarmed in from all sides. I was of the first coming from the south side of the fort to reach the top, and we jumped in on the poor wretches as they stood or sat around, with the sweat just pouring off them from fear. There was said to be 3,000 men in the fort, and all were taken prisoners. There were not many killed on our side, and only four in our regiment. Only one man was wounded in our company. [Editor's note]
From Fort deRussy we marched to Pleasant Hill, where ensued another fight. [Visit the Battle of Pleasant Hill website] We passed by a timbered tract, upon emerging into the open with part of the army, a regiment of rebel cavalry attacked us. We were ordered to fix bayonets, and those in the front line dropped to their knees with their guns on the ground, while the line behind stood with guns to shoulders ready to press the bayonets home in the horses’ breasts as they charged. They came on at a terrible rate, and though halted appreciably by our formidable front, they plunged through. They were stopped, however, by our main army and were obliged to retreat back the way they came. We tried to receive them right! It was an awful sight to see the number of dead and wounded scattered about, as well as the poor horses staggering around bleeding to death or galloping frantically about with saddles and straps flying.
Almost before we could turn around, we were attacked by an infantry regiment, but we fought them with might and main and, finally, drove them back. We had scarcely done so, however, before a second regiment of fresh recruits hurled themselves at us. The bullets whined and whistled, my companions fell, and death was in the air, but at last we made them give way, only to receive a mighty fusillade from a third regiment, flanking us on the left and right, and firing as they went. I had never seen such tactics before and was told that these soldiers were entirely befuddled from excessive whiskey drinking.
As luck would have it, darkness set in, and we sought cover, helter-skelter in the woods. While puzzling around, I received a bullet in the back, but fortunately for me, I hadnt taken time during the fight to shed my blanket like most of the others had done, and now it saved my life, the bullet being unable to penetrate its thick folds. I lay down beside a log, but my, oh my, what a vast number of bullets those Confederates did waste on that log! After awhile we saw small campfires being kindled in every direction, upon which we stole away one by one from our hiding places, arriving finally in our own camp. Then followed handshakings! Hands met in fervent clasps that were thought to be inanimate. What a hearty reunion! It was now revealed to us that the contemptible Banks was a traitor who had arranged it so that we were bound to lose. He let a few detachments bear the front of battle, while the main army lay inactive. It seemed as if an order had been given for us to retreat at one time, however, the order did not reach us for the messenger boy fell on the way.
We had barely arrived in camp when our chaplain, Coffin from Fort Dodge, called for two volunteers from each company to go back with him to the battleground and give succor to the dying and wounded. No one answered from Co. K, as all were thoroughly hungry and fatigued. He repeated the call, and this time I answered, feeling thankful that my life was spared, and that I for one, shall never forget it! Some were praying to God in their agony, others swore, and corpses lay thickly strewn about. We carried water to the wounded, bolstered them up with blankets and made fires. It grew cold that night, and the poor sufferers begged us to take them along, but it was impossible for us then. We promised to come back in the morning and fetch them. We dared not remain for fear of being taken prisoners. Banks concluded to call us whipped and decided to have us "skedaddle" (fly) that night. And when the enemy heard of this, they promptly came and took possession. General Banks resigned after this ill-fated expedition, relieving us of his company, which was also the safest for him.
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