Civil War Transcendence, part 301

I made it to the eastern base of South Mountain and turned into an ancillary road to wait the passage of our troops down the mountain.  It was getting dark, with the sun already hidden by the mountain backdrop.

I was glad to see that Mosby sent the artillery down first so they would have some semblance of daylight to work with, if they ran into difficulty.  Initially they had to use block and tackle to lower each gun down from the eastern part of Crampton’s Gap. However, the artillery crews knew what they were doing, and after lowering about 750 feet down the mountain, the teams of horses were able to control the guns’ descents without much trouble.  The last gun arrived at base of the mountain in the early twilight.  I definitely breathed a sigh of relief.

I had dismounted Stonewall and let him graze the field next to the road, but soon I saw he had struck his classic pose with his right hind leg cocked next to his left hind leg and his head almost touching the ground. I had to smile. He was the most unique cayuse I had ever been associated with.

I stopped the artillery caravan to find out who was in charge, the number of men they still had and the number of casualties.  It didn’t take long before that task was completed.

Mosby was next with his First Sergeant and his courtiers.  He dispatched them to the four winds to gather up forage for the horses and food for the men.  He didn’t see me, and I was glad that he hadn’t.  I was one exhausted soldier.

I finally had to use a Lucifer (match) to light a candle to be able to see to write down the numbers I needed to accumulate.  As each company filed down the steep incline I stopped them, found out who was in command, took a count of their men and the count of their casualties.

Al was at the head of Captain Jameson’s Company, which was the fourth company in line. I was a little surprised and asked, “Where’s Capt’n Jameson?”

“He’s one of tha first casualties we took. Tha way he fell from his horse I knew he was dead. I sort of took over, and their First Sergeant didn’t mind. So here I am,” he replied with his characteristic smile.

I said, “Well, they’s got ‘em a good ‘un. Thanks for getting’ ‘em out of tha jam. We had so much going on back at Brownsville that I didn’t realize Capt’n Jameson wasn’t with ya ‘til just now.”

Al’s smile widened as he added, “Jim, I think ya had a lot of things on yar mind without worrying ‘bout a missing capt’n.”

I grinned and said, “Well, I guess ya better take ‘em on into town.”

He smiled and said, “Yes sir.”

I retorted, “Cut out that sir stuff. Thanks for saving tha company’s bacon today.”

He grinned and ordered the company forward.

It must have been about 9:00 pm when the last company was accounted for.  I tallied the numbers by candle light.

We left our camp on the eastern bank of the Potomac with roughly 485 men, plus 20 artillery men. I counted 369 men and 35 mounted wounded that weren’t serious.  We had lost four artillery men.  Unfortunately, we had to leave our badly wounded on the field. They no doubt were Union prisoners and hopefully would be shown the dignity owed them as POWs.  The best news was that all our troopers were still mounted. I guessed some of the horses were wounded, but hopefully not severe.

I looked up at Crampton’s Gap and saw the glow of many camp fires. Apparently Quantrill was giving the Yanks a bit of a tease. He hoped the number of fires would make them think our whole contingent was camped up there.  I let out a sigh and turned to see where Stonewall was.  The moon was out and in the bright lunar light he was nowhere to be found.


About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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