Experiences of a Confederate soldier at the battle of Shiloh
| How can they expect us to march in the dark like this? It ain't right. We've been drilling for weeks and weeks, and now we can't move a hundred yards without stepping on each other's feet and crashing into each other's backs. If they want to suprise the Yanks, this sure ain't the way to do it. Lord, we sound like a herd of buffalo running through a dry goods store, pans clanging against canteens and muskets cracking against each other.
"Come on, Lucian, keep up there brother. You slip and fall on this march, and you'll get trampled. Watch it! Get that durn musket barrel out of my face!"
Lord, the stink of this army. Sweat, leather, wet wool, bean farts and horse manure. If they don't hear us coming, they'll surely smell us. My own clothes are pretty rank. I'm sure glad Ma and Sister sewed these britches for us though. Them ones they issued us were coming apart at the seams after a week.
I think I can see better now. Yep, it must be near dawn. We're supposed to attack at dawn. Boy, don't that make my stomach clench up. Looks like the woods open up, ahead there. Them fellas up ahead are moving into a battle line. I guess we'll form up inside the woods before we attack.
My hands are sweating so bad a can't hardly hold on to my musket, but I've got to keep my teeth clamped shut to keep 'em from chattering.
Finally, we get to stand for a little while and get this heavy old pumpkin thrower off my shoulder. Sure is pretty, how the mist is rising off the clearing out there. I say we ought to forget about this "attack at dawn" mess and fry us up some bacon and get some coffee going.
Oh oh, here comes the Colonel on his big fancy horse, nothing but a sillouette against the dawn sky. Don't he look fired up, swinging his sword around and prancing his horse back and forth. I guess we're in for it now.
"Lucian, you stick close to me now. Pa would beat me to death if I let you get shot in our first battle."
Fix bayonets! Durn thing's stuck in the scabbard! There. God, I don't know if I can stick somebody with that. If I got to kill someone, I'd rather shoot 'em from a distance, if you know what I mean. Please keep me an Lucian safe. Amen.
Forward, march. Here we go, bold as brass, right out into the field. One long line of men, as far as I can see to my left and right. Look at them battle flags, unfurling in the first rays of the morning sun. Still can't see anything through the mist. Maybe we're in the wrong place, and there ain't no Yankees in front of us. That would sure be an embarassment to the Colonel!
Left, right, left, right, keep my elbow rubbing against the man to my right. We're maybe halfway across the field now. Wait, that ain't just mist. That's campfire smoke hanging low over the trees. It's a Yankee camp! Hot damn, we got the jump on 'em!
Halt! Ready! Bring my musket stock up to my belt, don't forget to cock the hammer. Won't be much good if you don't cock it. Aim! Aim at what? I don't see anybody. Fire! Now it ain't nothing but a solid wall of smoke.
Charge, Bayonets! Oh God, here we go. This is the most foolish thing I've done in my entire life. Charge! Unghh. Keep her at a steady trot. No need to get out front and be the first one killed.
Through the smoke, we're charging right into their camp. A boy with a blue jacket is just standing there staring, like he can't believe his eyes. More boys are crashing out of the tents and running away, some without their britches on. Our line is falling apart in the camp. We done run the Yankees off, and to the victor belongs the spoils. We couldn't get our breakfast, so we'll just eat theirs.
Oh oh, there's some Yanks forming up on the other side of the camp. We've got to reform ranks. I'm standing here with an empty musket. Reload, quick!
There's a solid line of blue now. They're raising their muskets. We ain't even halfway reloaded. We're just gonna have to stand here and take it. They're aiming at us. They're aiming at me! Blue smoke blossoms.....Lucian?.............Ma?....