The "Preacher's Regiment" in Battle.
It is now two weeks since the battle, one's nerves are getting somewhat composed, and the mind capable of receiving some less viv. impressions than the jarring discord of clashing sabers and thundering artillery.
The 73d regiment formed in line of battle at daybreak on Wednesday, the 31st ult., and fought all day. We were in Sheridan's division, to which Gen. Rosecrans in his report awards the honor of having four times repulsed the enemy, thus saving the day. We went into battle with 430 men, and lost in killed and wounded about one hundred. During the day we formed lines of battle in eighteen different positions, fighting in eight of them. Went through with all the necessary maneuvers, often under a most terrific fire, without once breaking ranks, or being thrown into confusion, and that is more than many a veteran regiment, drilled on the bloody fields of Pea Ridge and Shiloh can boast.
The reputation of the "Preacher's Regiment" for fighting is fully established and confirmed, and though we claim no higher honors than those accorded to the many other brave regiments who fought and suffered during that terrible contest, yet we do insist that the prejudices under which we have labored since entering the service should now disappear under the demonstrations afforded by our conduct in the two battles in which we have been engaged.
We fought in woods, in cornfields and often open plains, behind breastworks of rocks and fallen trees, in railroad cuts, and openly in the face of an advancing foe. For hours we stood as did other troops, the heavy air laden with the missiles of destruction, flying on lightning wings in every conceivable direction, and resonant with a continuous, deafening rour of artillery and musketry, mingled with the fiendish music of whizzing, whirring, howling balls and shells and whistling bullets.
The great marvel is that any were left to tell the dreadful tale, or bear tribute to the memory of those who died bravely and gallantly. And yet another wonder, that all could stand so coolly and calmly in the midst of this fiery tempest. Little excitement was visible, after the first shock was over. There was a vague, undefined feeling of insecurity and danger, but no fright or fear. There was, rather, a calm exhilaration, a pleasurable flow of spirits, such as best inspires men, without recklessness, to perform deeds of lofty daring and heroism.
One of the most powerful incentives to action on the field was the sight of the streaming banner of our country, everywhere borne proudly aloft amid the furious storm. Never in my life before, did I regard it with such feelings of love and admiration, as when I saw it, at the head of our advancing columns, its beauteous hues floating into bright rainbows of promise from out the rifled warclouds, its golden stars, glowing with a purer, holier light, through the red-flushing fringes of the smoky vail. And how miserably, contemptibly mean, did the three bared, three cornered rag of the Confederacy appear beside it. Whenever that appeared a yell of rage would arise from our wearied ranks, and many, abandoning all thought of its [unknown], would direct their fire at it until it was brought down.
Another circumstance which contributed to sustain the ardor of the troops, even amid the discouraging influence of Wednesday's reverses, was the presence and inspiring gallantry of our brave commander, Rosecrans. Every where, amid the din of the strife; when the conflict raged most fiercely, he might be seen coolly and calmly directing the disposition of his force, or rather disposing them himself, leading fresh regiments to the front, and cheering the weary and exhausted who were falling back, with words of hope and confidence.
About 4 P.M. an erratic minie ball "in search of adventures," paid your humble servant the compliment of a call, very unceremoniously taking up its abode in my left hand. Making my way to a hospital, half a mile distant, I had the ball extracted, and the wound dressed.
Then commenced the real horrors of a battle-field — life in a hospital. My own pains were forgotten in the scenes of intense suffering around me. For five days I remained there, surrounded by thousands of the wounded and dying, nothing to be seen but torn and bleeding limbs, swollen and mangled bodies, racked with the tortures of their bitter agonies, and the stern, livid features of the dead. Nothing to be heard but the growlings, shrieks, prayers and curses of those who were goaded to distraction by their stinging pains. Often the cold, pitiless rain beat down in torrents upon them as they lay, unsheltered from its fury. Philanthropy sinks back helpless and despairing at the magnitude of the task. Pity shades her weeping eyes with her downy pinions, and flies swiftly away. The heart becomes hardened. One can walk unmoved through the bloody ranks, and then shrink back, amazed at his own callousness.
There was a great lack of surgeons. Many, with the characteristic and scarcely surprising cowardice of non-combatants on the battlefield, thinking the day lost on Wednesday, had made a hasty retreat to Nashville, leaving their luckless regiments to their fate. There are a few shining exceptions, whose names deserve to be placed in letters of gold alongside those whose whose valor on the field won the battle. Conspicuous among those who were foremost in the good work was my old and valued friend, Dr. A. J. Dickerhoff, Ass't Surgeon of the 27th Ill., known to the philanthropic citizens of Quincy for his enthusiastic devotion to all schemes of benevolence. Regardless of exposure or fatigue, he labored day and night in relieving the sufferings of those who needed attention most. Equally deserving of commendation were the labors of our own Ass't Surgeon, Dr. R. E. Stevenson of Jacksonville. There were others who did their duty, and more. But many, even of those who were present, with a brutality deserving of eternal infamy, sought principally their own ease and comfort, and then devoted their leisure time to the care of the wounded.
At the first opportunity I came to Nashville, entered a hospital, and have, since that time, received every care and attention possible under the circumstances. Many of the wounded have been brought in, and this proud rebel city seems like one grand hospital. Very little consolation or aid do we get from the citizens here. Rebel wounded in our hospitals are pampered and fed by ladies who openly ventilate their rebel opinions, and sneer at our poor wounded beside them.
Aristocratic females, walking on the sidewalk, wave their handkerchiefs and "throw kisses" to the butternut prisoners in the market house, while for the wounded Union soldier or officer whom they meet they have only a scornful, spiteful, sneering glance of hatred and contempt. Oh! if there is ever a time when a man may be excused for forgetting the respect due to woman, and for pouring a volley of bitter, burning, scorching, blistering curses after her, as our poor fellows sometimes do, is it not under these circumstances?
There are quite a number of Northern ladies here whose unremitting devotion to the [unknown whole line] [unkown]ure, the delinquencies of citizens. Among them are two Quincy ladies, Mrs. W. A. Reed and Mrs. Julia Bartlett who came here just before the battle, to care for sick relatives in the 73rd, and who have labored most diligently and successfully in the hospitals.