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The Terror of Battle.

During the war we used. t*o read of companies falling baqk, regiments giving ground, and brigades becoming demoralised, and the average reader took it for cowardice and openly expressed' his contempt. No man ever went into battle twice alike. No company, regiment, or brigade were ever situated twige. alike. A man may be very braye in one battle and very timjd in the next. His physical and mental condition have much to do with it. A private* soldier knows the, position of his entire brigade in *a fight. If the position is a strong one he is encouraged ; if the flanks are exposed or the defences are weak he is nervous and apprehensive. - • , It is a grand stake the sipldier plays for in battle. If he wins ho may live.on until the next fight, If he. loaes he gets a headstone in, a national cemetery. I cannot make you understand the situation better than to give you personal experiences. The great majority of soldiers had the- -".m? frr-line and passed through tlie viln, O.\ln IiiMH.iSK. ■ .' t\ At first Bull Run my brigade gained

ground for several hours. This, with a small loss of men, kept us encouraged. Indeed, it was hard for the officers to "restrain us. Every man was hopeful and determined, and any single company would have charged a regiment. The panic had upset thousands before it touched us. Indeed, the retreat had been going on for two hours before we got word. We were well in hand and > ready to advance when the news reached us. In five minutes every man was shaky. In ten minutes men whose faces were powder-stained were sneaking out of the ranks to gainl tlw |ear Vf .;in a quarter of an hour half a company of • Confederates could have driven $he whole brigade like a flock of sheep, 'f saw men cry 4^«.^dren.. and sit .down : f rqni | weakness. Every fresh report added lo' the.ieding of terror,' and by and by 1 'discipline gave way to a "grand rvwh, and it was every man for himself. No one would stop to reason. No, one cared whether his. j comrade w f a4 ahead or behind. > This I was called cWardice, but it was not. It was panic—the terror of battle—a senseless'but powerful' something which seizes the bravest men and makes children of them.

. In the streets of Fredericksburg I saw Federal isoldiera discharge their muskets into the air, when the enemy was within point-blank range.'' Isaw plenty of them drop oil their faces and If emble^nctgr oan and cry. This was^a.case where every man saw the hopelessness of .attack. He felt that he was pushed forward to be shot down. There was no way for retreat until the lines should fall back. On the other hand, the Confederate troops posted behind the stone wall at the foot of Mayre's Hill joked and smoked and were in the highest spirits, feeling themselves secure from bullets, and knowing they could beat back any force. One of them told^me that after taking a dead aim on thirteen different men and [dropping everyone of . I them he refrained from firing the iiext quarter, of. an hour : .put >of i sheer v pity r for I the human targets being : shoved:up; to j meet death.-,. ,; .-*;•:-; .;V,,u, .>,; .1 „ At r Malvern Hill. my, regiment , Jay. in th 9 dry bed of a creek at the foot of the elevation.. It was,'a natural F ri£ks)it, and sheltered us so well that" we had only a .slight loss In-killed and wounded. As the Confederates charged across the fields we felt < pity for them. We .poured ,inf 6urr>toHeys, without ?fear of danger in return, and out of. five Confederates who rushed, into our lines in their" bewilderment threjßfl^rJßjfe crying and sobbing." ;.It| wasn|ttdbwardice but terror. 3 Ko'coward could nave been induced to march across thoae meadows, .in the, faiee of, os, temfioffirehljtfctra cannon and .musketry,-. r'|£ At Cold;' Harbor, after „ jbeating* off everything in our: front, and whu«\nost of the men.,were some one .started the report that the Confederates had gained 'our rear.^^Pw&thousand men broke back. ljke^a^lotrpfjboyß,) pome even their guns away,;,and the Wers of other tiw/p^s" had: no effect until %ie frenzy had had-jtimoto evaporate. At hadthe coyiar of ajstidne wall, antf w knew that we were well supported. I 'We'hoped for a charge, and when, it: game", ev^ry. \ itoa^i wj& §<k)I and calm and- confident./ 11 "One "band of prisoners numbering atidut thirty, was led past "us ioni; their.;/ffay "tirf? (she rear, , and I noticed, tjiat , many .were crying arid all wer'e llwhitefacedV v' I have seen .the best t; soldiers I aid i ,thY <rbi&st fighters win their medalsin »ne battle and show the, whifce >jeath.er'in_thjatnextfc t I saw a 'second'lieutehanfc'almdwely^or the privilege, }bi pleading a charge at Antietam, and yet at* ChantiUy he fell into'-'aditfcharid pretendedioMbe^ivit so as. tp, drop behind* in'J the ;'charge. Cowards never go, to, war..^,-; If they get intp the ranks ■ through the draft they desert or ;commiti suicide! ? IfiS'.itoin'y brave men who Ihej jgrinx/jnwmster on a field of battle, and'next to the' foe his worst enemy is a terror which,seizes him!as a .chill of fever might come'on', and there is no 1 remedy for it eicepr to"Jgifc away from the screaming'niissileaiV;6f death, until one's nerve and grit returns. -r-Selected; • ; ■: \ v? s *

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18900630.2.10

Bibliographic details

The Terror of Battle., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2454, 30 June 1890

Word Count
894

The Terror of Battle. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2454, 30 June 1890

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