MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES

War Papers


REMINISCENCES OF A SURGEON
By
Horace Wardner, Surgeon/BVT LTC, 12th Ilinois Infantry U.S.V
Original Member of the Illinois Commandery
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Read April 12, 1894, (First Published 1899)


Transcribed by Douglas R. Niermeyer, Commander, Missouri Commandery
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
momollus@sbcglobal.net
(February 2002)

THIRTY-THREE years ago to-day, at half-past four in the morning, the first gun against Fort Sumter was fired by an old Virginian by the name of Edmund Ruffin. The echoes of that gun produced an excitement throughout our country which no one can fully appreciate who was not a participant in the events of those times. Loyalty and patriotism rose above all other considerations. The streets of Chicago were filled with people who were angry, anxious, and determined. It was no time for argument - the time for action had come. A man now prominent in the city, dropped an unguarded remark favorable to the South. A quick retreat only saved him from personal violence.

Within a few hours thousands of men had offered their services to the government, and were under arms in its defense. Among the first to volunteer was the Washington Independent Regiment of this city. It was a part of the regularly organized state militia, and was all German except one company of Highland Guards, under the captaincy of John McArthur. The office of colonel was vacant. At a meeting of the officers held at the armory, corner of Randolph and Canal streets, Thomas Shirley was elected colonel, and Captain McArthur, lieutenant colonel. In selecting his staff, Colonel Shirley appointed Doctor Max Meyers surgeon and Horace Wardner assistant-surgeon.

On the 23d of April, with our colors floating in the breeze, we marched to the train, and, amid tearful adieux of loved ones left behind, bands of music, ringing of bells, and the cheers of a multitude that Collected to see us off, we started for the general rendezvous at Springfield, to be mustered into the United States service. The stations along our route were crowded with people curious to see the men who were going to fight, and put down secession. These people were generous with eatables and drinkables, and as we entered our camp at Springfield many of the "boys" were in a hilarious mood.

Colonel Shirley was a native of Virginia, proud of the title of "F. F. V." There were strong suspicions afloat of his entertaining sentiments of sympathy for the South. These rumors, growing in volume and importance as they traveled, reached the ears of Governor Yates. As a result Shirley was rejected, and our organization went to pieces. Part of the men returned to their homes. Of those who remained, two companies entered the Twelfth Illinois, the last regiment to complete its organization under the first call for troops. Captain McArthur was elected colonel, Captain A. L. Chetlain, lieutenant colonel, and Captain Williams, major.

While the struggle for preference in the organization of the first six regiments was in progress, the medical profession had not been idle. It was observed that men wholly unfit for the position were crowding into the service as surgeons. At the suggestion of some leading physicians, a section was incorporated in the Military Bill, then pending in the legislature, creating a board of medical examiners who were to pass on the merits of those aspiring to places in the medical department. Doctor N. S. Davis of Chicago, Doctor William Chambers of Charleston, and Doctor Stipp constituted the first board. This board met the next day after the passage of the bill and began its work. As soon as it became known that an examination was required, about sixty would-be surgeons had urgent business calls in other directions.

All the regiments were supplied with medical officers who had passed the examination of the board excepting one. In this case the colonel, ignoring the law, forced his man on the regiment for some private or personal reason. As the governor refused to commission anyone surgeon who had not passed the examination provided for) his term of service was short, yet long enough to prove his ignorance and unfitness for the place.

The Twelfth Infantry was mustered into the United States service by Captain Pitcher, of the regular army, on the 3d of May. Colonel McArthur gave me the appointment of surgeon, which was followed in due time by a commission from the governor. Having completed its organization and received its outfit, our regiment left Springfield on the 10th of May, under orders to go into camp at Caseyville, opposite St. Louis, where we remained until about the first of June. While at this place the measles broke out in the camp and the surgeons had plenty of work in caring for the sick. We lost one soldier whose case was complicated with pneumonia. He was buried with military honors on the top of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The squad that did the honors fired their first gun under military orders, and seemed proud of the performance. One of the "boys" who had the measles at that time served the state as attorney-general, while Private Joe Fifer was governor.

At the commencement of the service we had not been furnished with proper instructions and necessary blanks for reports and other details of the service, and there was, of course, dense ignorance concerning that part. of the work. In one of the companies a man by the name of Williams had enlisted with the expectation of helping to crush the rebellion in short order. He was made color-sergeant. He had been known as the strongest man in Chicago, and could easily lift one thousand pounds. Assistance was required to move the freight that had accumulated in the railroad depot at East St. Louis before the regiment could get all of its baggage and stores. Sergeant Williams was put in charge of a detail to render the necessary aid. It was a wet and disagreeable day, but he took hold of the work with a vim. He took cold and had an attack of muscular rheumatism. This greatly discouraged and demoralized him. He had expected to do nothing but fight. He went to his captain to get his discharge on account of his lameness. The captain referred him to the surgeon. He was examined and given a certificate in accordance with the facts, written on a prescription paper, and directed to return with it to the captain, who would give him the proper paper. He did so, and asked for his discharge. The captain told him that was his discharge, and that he could go home. He came back and reported his conversation with his captain, adding, as he looked at the little slip of paper in his hand, "That is a hell of a discharge." It, however, served the purpose of securing his transportation home ; but he was not able to draw his pay on that kind of a discharge, and had a serious time in getting his account settled.

Captain U. S. Grant visited the regiment while at this camp. We first saw him as a plainly-dressed citizen, sitting on a log in company with Colonel Chetlain, who was his neighbor at Galena. Of course he was smoking a cigar. There was nothing about him to indicate that he might belong to the army except the cord on his soft felt hat.

A day or two before we left this camp Captain Emmet McDonald, of the Missouri State Guards, who was captured at Camp Jackson by the forces under General Lyon, was committed to the custody of the regiment as a prisoner of war. He expected to be set at liberty soon, but when the regiment embarked on the steamer for Cairo, taking him along, it became a serious matter with him as he seemed to think his days were few. He was, however, taken to Springfield before the United States Court, and, as no overt act was proved against him, he was set at liberty. He entered the Confederate service and was killed at Pea Ridge.

At Cairo we went into camp on the outskirts of the town, where we staid during the rest of the three months' service. A regimental hospital was soon established that was very comfortable. One of our men had been taken sick suddenly while in town, and was taken into a sort of post hospital that was in charge of an assistant surgeon attached to a battery of artillery. He was a small man in stature and fresh in the service, taking great pride in his uniform, green sash, and dress sword, which he constantly wore when on duty. As soon as our hospital was ready, one of the sick man's comrades was requested to bring him in. The young assistant refused to let him come, claiming that, as the patient fell into his hands first, no one else had any right in the case. Our lieutenant-colonel spoke to the young surgeon about the matter, but was told that he "had got the patient in his hospital, and all hell couldn't get him out."

While at Cairo our men were "spoiling for a fight." To relieve the monotony of camp life, the officers got up a sham battle between the two wings of the regiment. The right was commanded by Colonel McArthur and the left by Captain A. C. Ducat. After maneuvering a while for position, the battle began with blank cartridges ; but as the lines approached each other the men became so excited that it resulted in a hand-to-hand fight, in spite of the efforts of the officers to prevent it. Many heads were hurt, and numerous other casualties were reported. The number of men unable for duty the next day alarmed the officers commanding the opposing forces. They requested me to report an epidemic of measles, diarrhea, or anything to prevent an investigation. The matter was smoothed over so that nothing was said about it outside of the regiment. The ground over which the battle took place had a heavy growth of stramonium or Jamestown weed. The odor of this weed was not agreeable, and the occurrence has since been known by those who participated in it as the "Battle of Stinkweed Valley."

Our regiment re-enlisted for three years. After a short stop at Bird's Point, Missouri, it was ordered to Paducah, Kentucky, where we went into camp on the banks of the Ohio in September. The officers went to work in earnest to perfect drill and discipline and the sanitary conditions. They were untiring in their efforts, not sparing themselves day or night. It was from exposure at this time that our good friend, General Ducat, contracted a disease, camp dysentery, from the effects of which he has never recovered and never will.

Just before Grant made the attack on Belmont, November 7, our regiment was ordered to march toward Columbus, Kentucky, thus threatening that place in the rear. I was absent on special duty at the time, but returned the day after the regiment got back to camp.

One of the soldiers, a fine young fellow, had been wounded accidentally in pulling a loaded gun out of a wagon, seriously injuring his right arm near the shoulder. Hemorrhage had been controlled by a field tourniquet. He was taken to the post hospital at Paducah, where the hemorrhage recurred during the evening. The medical director was called and proceeded to ligate the artery in the axilla. The bleeding, however, did not stop, and the man died before morning. He was the only son of wealthy parents. I found Colonel McArthur very much dissatisfied over the loss of the man. He thought the man ought to have been saved. He requested me to go to the post hospital and make an examination of the case. I did so in the presence of some of the officers of our regiment and several surgeons, including the medical director who had performed the operation. Upon laying bare the vessels and nerves in the axilla, the ligature was found tied tightly around the principal nerve instead of the injured artery ; hence the fatal result. The operator left at once and was not seen again that day. The next morning he came to my tent very despondent. He said that he had contemplated suicide, and but for the thought of his wife and children would have carried it out; sometimes the thought came to him it was the best thing he could do in any case. I consoled him as well as I could by talking of the mistakes of eminent surgeons; but he could not forgive himself, and I never heard of his using a-surgeon's knife afterwards while he remained in the Western army.

On February 6, 1862, under General C. F. Smith, we marched against Forts Heinman and Henry. On our approach, Heinman was abandoned by the enemy. The battle was fought, and Fort Henry was captured by our gunboats. The evening after the surrender we reached the rebel "Camp Dixon," on the shore opposite the fort. The enemy had left this camp in a hurry, - to use an army word, had "skedaddled." We found the fires burning, food left cooking, and letters unfinished in the tents. We also found guns, side-arms, pill-bags, medicines, and some surgical instruments.

A part of our forces had landed on the right bank and camped in and about the fort the night after the battle. The next day 5,000 men were moving slowly against Fort Donelson. The river had risen very rapidly from recent heavy rains, in consequence of which we were delayed one week to build an approach across the overflowed bottoms to enable us to reach the boats for passage across the river. On the 14th we were in line of march for Fort Donelson. At four o'clock we were halted within about three and a half miles of the fort, where we prepared supper. It was on the bank of a clear mountain stream.

Our colonel had a horse that the soldiers named "Boomerang" on account of his disposition to move backwards. He was tied to a small tree near the brink of the stream. He was soon at his trick of backing. Suddenly he dropped out of sight into the earth. For a moment the colonel's face was a study for an artist. To be unhorsed in such a way on the eve of battle was not encouraging. But Boomerang was equal to the occasion. His head shortly appeared over the bank as he swam out of a cavern to the opposite shore. An eddy in the stream had washed out the earth for some distance where he had stood, leaving a thin roof supported by the roots of the trees, that was not strong enough to sustain his weight.

It was a clear night with a bright moon as we went into bivouac. By two o'clock in the morning the sky was darkened by dense clouds ; the moon had disappeared. We were quietly aroused and ordered into line of march. Thus, in darkness, without lights and without noise, talking being forbidden except in low tones, we proceeded to the place assigned us in the line of battle, which we reached about four o'clock in the morning. Bivouac without light, fire, or noise was the order. We awoke at daylight covered with snow. Shaking off this white covering, we had a hasty breakfast from haversacks, and were ready for our part in the tragedy about to be enacted. Our regiment, at first assigned to a position near the centre of our lines, received orders to remove to the extreme right. About the same time I was ordered to occupy the buildings of a plantation, in the rear of our centre, as one of the field hospitals, and assume charge of the same; the assistant-surgeon, W. F. Cady, remained with the regiment. While I was getting the place in readiness for the work, Brigade-Surgeon John H. Brinton, of Philadelphia, not being attached to any command, came to assist me in the work before us. Scarcely had we got things in order when the first wounded man was received and from that time until the surrender of the fort we received and dressed about four hundred wounded men.

The night after the first day's engagement was very cold, and our men suffered greatly in consequence. I directed some half-demoralized, half-sick men, who had dropped out of the ranks, to take a kettle found on the premises and make it full of coffee. Requesting a chaplain who was present to take charge of the work, I returned to my duties with the wounded. After a while he came into the room where we were operating, saying he could not get the men to do anything. Somebody with more authority than he had was needed to get those men to do anything more than stand and shiver in the cold. With a dress-sword in my hand and some energy in my language, it was but a few minutes before I had three or four roaring fires, to which the rail fence was made to contribute liberally. The men were refreshed with the hot coffee, while the chaplain was philosophizing on the moral power of forcible and rough language over demoralized men.

About noon of the second day news reached us of the surrender. Every demoralized soldier about the hospital rendezvous at once became brave and started for the front. Every wounded man who could walk hastened to the scene of victory. The badly wounded were sent to hospital boats or to the town inside the fortifications.

While we were engaged in our work at the field hospital in the afternoon of the first day two female nurses came, under assignment by the head of the corps. Every room in the house and in the out-houses and cabins, and every bed, was filled with the wounded. What was to be done with those women for the night ? The room in which we operated was furnished with an old-fashioned wood fireplace. We built a good fire, spread blankets across the room on the floor in front of it, and placed the chaplain to the right, the women in the centre, and the surgeon to the left, while the assistants fell into line on either side, forming the wings. We fought it out on that line until daylight came to our relief. These women did everything in their power (as they did everywhere during the war) to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded and dying. They were of great assistance to us during that battle. It is gratifying to know that many of these faithful women have been remembered by the pension office.

The day after the surrender I was placed in charge of a boat-load of the wounded to be conveyed to the general hospital at Mound City, Illinois. On my return after performing that duty I was detailed by order of General Sherman, who was in command of the post at Paducah, Kentucky, to assist the medical director of the department, the latter being confined to his room by sickness. My wife was staying with friends at Smithland. She hastened to meet me at Paducah. She, with the wife of Surgeon Hartshorn, accompanied me on my return to the regiment. Hartshorn was on the staff of General C. F. Smith.

We expected to find the regiment at Nashville. We were on a stern-wheel boat that made slow progress against the current of the rising river. The second night our boat struck a snag that broke through her hull below the water line. This happened about one o'clock. The boat was loaded with teams, quartermaster's stores, and two companies of soldiers. About three o'clock we were suddenly aroused by the mate telling the soldiers that the boat was sinking, and making vigorous efforts to wake them, for they slept as only tired soldiers can sleep. I rushed out of the stateroom to be met by the mate, who assured us that there was no immediate danger, but that he was obliged to use strong language and even mild kicks to get the soldiers awakened to help unload the military stores. Men were kept at the pumps, but the water steadily gained, so that by daylight it was beginning to cover the boiler deck. The freight had all been removed. We were among the last to go ashore. Shortly afterwards the boat pitched forward, rose trembling like a thing of life, and then sank with a sound like a groan into the rising water. We found ourselves on an island, over which the water was gradually creeping. There was nothing to do but wait for some passing boat to come to our relief. Two of the soldiers were reported sick. Upon examination they were found to be just breaking out with smallpox. In the afternoon a small stern-wheel steamer, having two barges of coal in tow, came slowly up the river. It was hailed, and after some persuasion the captain consented to take the ladies and myself on board. His boat had no quarters for ladies, so the rough but kind-hearted captain gave up his quarters for their benefit. The next day we were overtaken by a boat with General C. F. Smith on board. From him we learned that the regiment was at Clarksville. He had us transferred to his boat. He was pleasant, but seemed annoyed that the ladies should have come up the river. He told Surgeon Hartshorn to send his wife right back. At Clarksville, where the boat stopped, the ladies secured a fine bouquet of roses and sent it to the General with their compliments. As a peace-offering this had the desired effect. The General was gracious, called upon the ladies, and before the troops moved from Clarksville secured them fine accommodations on a boat returning to Paducah.

While the regiment was staying at Clarksville, several slaves came to the camp seeking protection and freedom. It was strictly against orders at that time to harbor or assist a slave to leave his master. One poor negro came to the colonel's quarters about eleven o'clock one night, complaining bitterly of the treatment he was receiving from his master, and begging piteously to be protected. The colonel's heart was touched, but he could only tell the poor fellow he could do nothing for him. I called the negro aside and suggested that if he went into the camp among the soldiers they might help him, if he was not seen by the officers. He took the hint and acted accordingly. The day we broke camp, while the men were loading the boat with the stores and equipage, the slave's master came looking for his property. The slave saw the master and was greatly agitated. Some soldier called to him to run to the boat. He ran with the master after him. The boat had swung out into the river so that there was a space between it and the wharf of over twenty feet to the boiler deck. The slave cleared the distance and landed safely on the boat. It was a leap for liberty that challenged the admiration of the men. When the master attempted to go on the boat over the gangway, he was unceremoniously crowded off, and emphatically told to keep out of the way.

Our next camp was at Pittsburg Landing on the right of the Federal line. Colonel McArthur was placed in command of our brigade. Our chaplain, Rev. Mr. Grant, was desirous of going back to Paducah on some personal business. A part of our regimental quartermaster's stores had been left behind at Paducah. It was decided by the Colonel to give the Chaplain an order to bring up the needed stores, with permission at the same time to attend to his personal matters, thus killing two birds with one stone. When the Chaplain had got as far as Savannah, where General Grant was stopping at the time, he thought it proper to pay his respects to the General. Upon announcing himself at headquarters, General Rawlins asked him how he came there. The honest Chaplain, not thinking to show his orders, said he was going to Paducah to get his books. "Who gave you authority to leave camp ?" "Colonel Chetlain and Colonel McArthur" was the answer. "It is strictly against orders to leave camp. Return to your regiment under arrest. I will place Chetlain and McArthur both under arrest." The Chaplain felt greatly annoyed that he should have been the innocent cause of their humiliation.

A day or two later, on the bright Sunday morning of April 6, the Battle of Shiloh began. Orders came releasing both Chetlain and McArthur from arrest and restoring them to their respective commands.

Our brigade was ordered to the support of our left, some three or four miles from our camp. The first line of battle was formed on a plantation to the right and rear of General Sherman's camp. A large body of our cavalry was in line in front of us near the timber. I was furnished with a detail of one man from each company. Taking possession of an old log building, to be used as an emergency hospital, and leaving a detail to put it in order, I rode to the front. The first case requiring my attention on that battlefield was a surgeon. I was standing near an ambulance, in company with Doctor Roscotten from Peoria, when a shell from one of the enemy's batteries fell beneath one of the horses attached to the ambulance and exploded, killing that horse and also Doctor Roscotten's horse. In falling the Doctor's foot was caught beneath the horse and seriously injured. The Doctor was carried of the field by my men.

During this time the regiment was ordered farther to the left. As I did not observe the change at the time, it became my duty to find their position. In doing so we had to pass through an open wood. We could see no one. Our troops had got into line and lain down in some hazel brush, as I afterwards ascertained. The small detail with me was the only part of our forces visible in that locality at that time. One of the enemy's batteries paid its compliments to us in the form of three or four rifled shells, which passed over our heads, bursting a short distance beyond us. As each succeeding shell came down nearer to our heads and directly over us we concluded they were firing with malice aforethought. We lay down out of sight, therefore, and the firing ceased. Resuming our search for the regiment under cover of a little bluff we soon found its location, selected a spot protected by a low bluff as a rendezvous for the wounded, and notified the regiment where we could be found in case of need.

Scarcely had I got back to the rendezvous when our line was attacked and the regiment in vigorous action. Wounded men came or were brought back to the number of ten or a dozen', hurriedly dressed and sent on to the central rendezvous at the Landing. Captain Swain, of Company H, was shot through the abdomen and came to me with his bowels protruding. He died a few days later on his way home. The enemy's bullets came in volleys over our heads, until it was evident our lines were retreating. We moved away under cover of the bluff, so as to get out of the range of the enemy's guns. We then took to higher ground, and could see the enemy near the brow of the bluff that had protected us. It was a question of a few moments as to whether we should be prisoners or not. The regiment was gone, we knew not where. Going to the general rendezvous for the disabled at the Landing, I was assigned to the duty of operating upon and dressing the wounded. There were four thousand of them there at that time.

Near sunset I was working over a brave soldier, whose right arm was maimed in a fearful manner. A citizen physician from Chicago, who had come with the sanitary commission, attempted to assist by administering chloroform. Just as he began, the rebel sharpshooters commenced firing at a battery Colonel Webster had planted between us and the enemy's lines to protect the Landing. Every wounded man who could move went scrambling over the bluff for protection. I saw one poor fellow, whose leg had been amputated, on his back, holding up the stump of his limb, and working his way over the edge of the bluff. We got behind a large oak tree and again attempted the dressing of the wounded limb. At that moment the gunboat, under command of Captain Shirk, began firing heavy shells up a ravine at the enemy. The boat was about a hundred yards from us. At every discharge of the gun the doctor would drop as if he had been shot. The soldier laughed at him. The doctor said "he could not help it." I had to be my own assistant in finishing the amputation.

An amusing thing occurred while we were on this bank. A demoralized cavalryman came rushing down and attempted to swim his horse across the river. After proceeding about fifty yards the horse threw up his nose, let his body down nearly perpendicular, turned about, and struck out to return to the shore. As the man slid into the water from the back of the horse he caught the animal by the tail, and was towed back to the landing. The ducking cooled his excitement. Mounting the horse he rode quietly off in search of his comrades.

As night came on, dark clouds arose, and a heavy rain set in. As many of the wounded had been taken aboard of the boats as possible, so I went on board one of the boats to render what assistance I could. On the hurricane deck I found a soldier bleeding from a badly shattered arm. A reputation was necessary to save his life. With the light of one tallow candle, which a drunken assistant held and protected from the wind as best he could, I amputated and dressed the arm. The next morning I was gratified to find my patient doing well and able to walk about.

Under orders from the medical director, I remained at the rendezvous during the second day of the battle, standing over the operating table until five o'clock in the afternoon. About eleven o'clock a young officer came rushing in, calling for the surgeon. I gave him a seat. He began shaking his foot, saying "Take it off, it will have to go." "Where is your regiment ?" I asked. "All cut to pieces, I think I am the only man alive." Upon examination it was found that a small shot, probably buckshot, had passed through the fleshy part of his little toe. I afterwards learned he was the only man in his regiment who was hurt. In marching to an assigned position, the regiment had been fired upon from ambush by the enemy. The surprise so demoralized the men that they took to their heels. Fortunately the firing of the enemy was too low for any serious results. This young officer informed me that my regiment had gone back to the camp at evening of the first day's fight. I also learned that while the men were preparing supper a shell had fallen in the quarters of Company K and exploded, killing one man and wounding several, two of whom each lost a leg as a result.

At five o'clock I was relieved of duty at the rendezvous, and hastened to the regimental camp to the care of the wounded men. The Battle of Shiloh was won. The field was ours, with its ghastly scenes and relics of the deadly strife.

There has been a good deal of discussion over the question of a surprise on the first morning of the battle. So far as we were concerned it was a surprise. Our immediate commanders were in arrest on account of a trifling affair. Our regiment was wholly unprepared for battle. After the battle opened, our officers had to draw clothing, arms, and accoutrements for the men before going into action. General Grant says in his Memoirs, page 333 of Volume I.: 4, "The fact is, I regarded the campaign as an offensive one, and had no idea that the enemy would leave strong entrenchments to take the initiative, when he knew he would be attacked where he was if he remained." Be that, however, as it may, the result was satisfactory to the Union cause, and disastrous to the enemy. Success is the measure of merit the world over.

Shortly after the Battle of Shiloh I received a commission as brigade surgeon. During the summer of 1862, and until after the Battle of Corinth, in October, my service was on the staff of General Davies, commanding the First division of the Army of the Tennessee, as medical director.

Passing over the memorable siege of Corinth, under General Halleck, we entered that place to find the enemy gone. All military stores and government property he could not remove had been destroyed.

The summer was spent in camp, without stirring events. General Ord was in command of the forces at the post. One of his staff, acting as inspector, reported that he noticed an offensive smell in the grounds occupied by the Twelfth Illinois. General Oglesby was commanding the brigade at that time. He was informed of the report and his attention officially called to the necessity of abating the nuisance. Oglesby, with his staff, made a careful inspection of the grounds and camp of his brigade, and especially of the Twelfth, which had always taken pride in its cleanly and sanitary condition. He could find nothing filthy about the camp, and so reported to General Ord, adding the remark that "the inspector must have carried the smell with him when he rode through the camp." This jocular remark ruffled the feathers at headquarters and the author of it was brought to account. Our "Uncle Dick" apologized.

On the morning of October 3, about four o'clock, the long roll awoke the camp. The enemy under Price and Vandorn had attacked our outpost and driven in our picket guards. Our division was known as the Second division of the Army of the Tennessee. It was under the command of General Davies, and consisted of three brigades under the command of General Oglesby, General Hackleman, and Colonel Baldwin.

Our lines were soon formed and pushed to the front, taking position northwest of Corinth, in the angle formed by the Memphis and Charleston and the Mobile and Ohio Railroads. The men occupied some rifle-pits that had been made by the enemy before the evacuation on the approach of Halleck. In going to the front I saw the men leaving the line and falling back. It was learned afterwards that a space between our left and the railroad, where there was a deep cut, had been left uncovered. In gaining this ground the rebels were on our left flank, and from that position poured a volley into our line, causing the retreat. A second line of battle was formed, which gave way. The third line was formed nearer the town, which held the enemy until the close of the first day's fighting.

The town was full of the wounded. Oglesby was shot in the side. General Hackleman was shot through the neck, the ball severing the esophagus so that he could not swallow, and, wounding the trachea, passed out on the opposite side near the spinal column. Colonel Baldwin was disabled by a slight wound on the hand. We got them all into the Tishamingo Hotel. Hackleman died about the middle of the night. Oglesby suffered extremely, with great difficulty in breathing. My wife, who was in Corinth at the time, spent the entire night helping, as nurse, to keep him alive. The hotel was crowded with the wounded.

At two o'clock all lights were ordered out, and the wounded moved as quickly as possible to a rendezvous about two miles away. Oglesby felt that he could not be moved until at four o'clock the enemy opened fire on the town, the hotel receiving their early attention. As we carried him out of the east end of the building a shell came through the walls of the west end, but fortunately did not explode. The shells fell all around us as we drove him away to find a place of safety. The ride was very painful and the firing, distressed him very greatly in his helpless condition.

Leaving him in safe quarters and in good hands, I joined the camp for the wounded, and had got some tents set, when a stampede of teams, ambulances, and batteries was observed coming from the town. They dashed through our camp in a very careless and excited race. This was soon checked by a detail of our cavalry. Soon a great cheer was heard from the town, and we knew the enemy had been repulsed. Calling my ambulance I rode hastily to the front. Captain Ward, of my old regiment, had received a bullet in the centre of the forehead and was just breathing his last.

Looking over the ground in front of our defenses, I picked up two or three wounded, when I was cautioned that I was in dangerous proximity to the enemy. However, as I was caring for their own wounded as well as ours, I felt secure. This was ground over which the enemy had charged with solid battalions. It was within range of the guns of Fort Robinett. One of the shells from this fort had fallen amid a charging column, exploded, and killed thirteen men. The enemy finding it necessary to take or silence this fort, Colonel Rogers, commanding a regiment of Texas Rangers, undertook to capture it. It was supported by a detachment of infantry, hidden behind the embankment. As the enemy made the charge through the moat and up the embankment our men rose and poured a terrible fire into his ranks. They reformed and charged again, with the same results. Thirteen balls penetrated the body of the brave and daring Colonel Rogers, and the bodies of his men covered the ground in places two and three deep. We buried Colonel Rogers with military honors.

The Confederates were without food. They were told by their leaders they could not get any until they had taken Corinth, where they would find plenty. They fought as men determined to win or die. The next day after the battle a detail sent back under a flag of truce to bury their dead asked immediately for food, saying they had been without rations for forty-eight hours. The food in the haversacks of those left dead on the field was found to consist only of remnants of parched corn or coarsest cornbread. At one time the enemy had succeeded in getting into a part of the town, but by the rallying of our men, under the efforts of General Rosecrans and his staff, a counter-charge was made so effectively that the town was cleared of the foe and the battle won.

We lost in killed, 315, and in wounded, 1,812. The enemy left 1,423 dead on the field and 2,225 prisoners in our hands. In respect of bravery, dash, and completeness of the victory, it is safe to claim for this battle a rank among the most satisfactory engagements

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Source:
Wardner, H. 1899. REMINISCENCES OF A SURGEON, Military Essays and Recollections, Papers Read before the Commandery of the State of Illinois, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. The Dial Press, Chicago, Illinois, Volume 3, pp.173-191.

Copyright © 2002 Douglas Niermeyer, Missouri Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States


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