Short Stories

Gen. Meade’s Advice

The commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George G. Meade, was known throughout the army for a sharp and often violent temper. A member of the 20th Connecticut Infantry, John Storrs, witnessed this characteristic in action on or about July 3.
       “One man, or rather, I should say, one individual came to the command in general, even while the battle was in progress, and with a long story about his house having been used for a hospital, and complaining that they had buried several soldiers who had died of wounds in his garden, besides a large number of amputated limbs, thereby spoiling it. He wanted the general to give him a paper as a basis for a claim upon the government.
    ’Why you craven fool’ replied the indignant officer, ’until this battle is decided you do not know, neither do I, if you’ll have a government to apply to, or if your property will not be confiscated by the conquerors. If I hear anymore from you I will give you a gun and send you to the front line to defend your rights.’
     It seems hardly possible that within the limits of the brave old Keystone state, such descendants as these from men of the Revolution could have been found.

Shot, but not shot

While retreating from his artillery position at Devil's Den in the late afternoon of July 2, Captain James E. Smith, of the 4th New York Independent Battery had a numbing experience which proves once again the old adage:  "mind over matter."
     A few minutes before leaving our last position my horse was killed which led to a Ludacris incident at my expense...... Lieutenant Goodman, seeing that I was without a mount, kindly gave me the use of this horse so that I might reach the head of the column then moving through the woods. While moving back......one of the men caught me by the leg, exclaiming, 'Captain, you're shot!'
     Glancing down I saw that my boot was covered with blood, and located the supposed wound in the calf of the right leg. The limb began to pain, and I plainly felt the blood running into the boot. I moved my toes in the red liquid swashed between them. The foot and the limb were much swollen, I imagined, and I became anxious to ascertain the extent of the damage..... Calling one of the men to assist in drawing off the boot (scolding him for causing, unnecessarily, extra pain by his carelessness, while doing so) I patiently and calmly resigned myself to the inevitable. The boot being removed, and no sign of blood found, I quickly glanced at the man who had drawn it and saw on his face a broad grin.
     Searching for an explanation, it was discovered that the horse was shot in the flank, and by spurring, the boot-leg had come in contact with the blood which flowed from the wound.  Imagination accomplished the rest.

A Fateful Pair of Shoes

On the march to Gettysburg, members of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry were ordered to move a sutler's wagon that was obstructing the road. In less than fifteen minutes, the wagon, as well as its contents, were "moved" - every man took any item he wished. Pins, needles, thread, combs, brushes, shoes, tobacco, pipes, etc., were distributed the whole length of the regiment. One fellow got a pair of white canvas shoes. At a halt that night, he took out his pen and ink and wrote his initials "R.V.C." on the front of each shoe, and put them on to wear.
     The next afternoon, while in a severe skirmish with the enemy, this cavalry private was killed. When the regiment fell back, a Rebel saw the shoes and appropriated them to his own use. He did not enjoy wearing them for long, for when the lost ground was retaken, the Reb was found dead, wearing the canvas shoes. Another of the 1st Massachusetts men happily stripped the dead Confederate of the shoes and once more the became Yankee footwear.
     On the following day, the fighting began bright and early, and the Southern cavalry was slowly pushed back during the day. Although casualties were light on both sides, one of the first to fall was the Union soldier wearing the white canvas shoes marked "R.V.C"
     After that, no one seemed to have a hankering for them, as he was the third man to be killed in them writhing 36 hours.

The Poisoned Rebels

At Gettysburg one of our boys of the 134th New York Infantry, observed a number of Rebs lying in an alley apparently very ill. On inquiring the why and the wherefore, he found that are erring brethren had gotten into one of the stores of that place, and obtained something which they imagined was soda which they had used in the manufacture of their biscuits.
      ”Said soda turned out to be sugar of lead, and said brethren were taking large rations of emetic and peptic and such retching, twisting, and groaning as those retches done was enough to melt even the heart of a mudsill.”

Holy Mackerel!

William Simpson, a drummer and Company A, 28th Pennsylvania Infantry, along with the other musicians of the regiment were gathered together by Surgeon Altman to establish a field hospital. They went over to the Spangler house and, finding it unoccupied, a friend, George McFetridge, went down into the cellar. There, ”he found a kit of mackerel....and we opened it. We are in for a feast, but we soon found that the hardtack and salt mackerel didn’t go well together. So, Matt took it over to Company K.
     I was in Gettysburg several years later at a reunion and hunted up the Spangler house. McFetridge was with me. We met the old man at the house and asked him if he missed a kit of mackerel during the battle. “By jiminy”, he says, “was you the fellers that got the mackerel out of my house? Come in and see my wife.” All excited, he says “.... mom, this is the mens that got the mackerel......”
     “Mac and I offered to pay them for it, but they said they had been reimbursed by the War Department.”