Civil War Transcendence, part 413

The din from the fight Sergeant Kirkland’s men were putting up had grown to a crescendo and tapered off. Either our men had stopped the Yank’s flanking move, or they had been overrun. If it was the former, then we could probably be safe for a while. If it was the latter, we would be hit in our flank momentarily.

I ordered our men to reload their pistols, if they had any extra loaded cylinders, and to have their carbines loaded and within arm’s reach as a backup.  I gave them a few minutes and then crab-walked down the line to check each trooper’s weaponry. They had all complied and were ready for any more Yank advances.

There was a lull that hung over the skirmish lines for about thirty minutes.

Abruptly I heard a low voice from our rear say, “Capt’n don’t shoot. It’s me.”

I jerked around to see Sergeant Kirkland and four of his men crouching behind some trees to our rear. I motioned for them to come forward.

Once they joined our battle line, I said to Kirkland, “Report.”

He related, “Well, tha Yanks tried to outflank us and weren’t ‘specting us to have men to meet ‘em. We didn’t lose any men, and we took down two Yanks. They scurried back to a tree line east of here. Then they got word to bring about eight of their men to join back up with the main force facing you here. I thought we ought to get back here to reinforce ya, ‘cause I believe they’s gonna try to overrun us again. I left four men to protect our left flank, if’n they try another flank attack.”

As usual, I was in awe of Kirkland’s descriptions.

Finally, I asked, “How do ya know the Yanks were told to pull men out and send ‘em back to their main force?”

He gave me a baffled look and uttered, “I heard a messenger give tha sergeant in charge of tha flanking force orders to send some of his men back to tha Yanks confronting y’all. I also heard Yanks leaving their position.”

I didn’t have time to interrogate Kirkland further in regard to his keen sense of hearing. He had been right the last two times he had given me information, so I just nodded my head and said, “Tell yar troopers to use their pistols first when tha Yanks charge and then use their carbines.”

He nodded and scurried down the line to his four men to tell them which weapons to initially use in the upcoming attack.

Crouching close to the ground, I moved down our line and told the men to not return fire when the Yanks volley, but to shoot only when they come out of the tree line and head across the road.  Then I returned to my position to the far left of our line.

We didn’t have long to wait.

I heard someone utter, “Psst.”

I turned to look down our line of troops and saw Kirkland, who had stationed himself about midway of the line, pointing toward the tree line across the road. I immediately cocked the hammers on my pistols. The trooper next to me looked in my direction and followed suit.

Starting from my position in a chain reaction, troopers began cocking the hammers on their Colts.

The Yanks began by laying down a field of fire from the tree line across the road.

However, they made two mistakes. First, they used their carbines, which were one shot weapons. It took them a few seconds to reload. Second, we were ready for their initial volley by either hiding behind trees or sprawling on the ground.

The Yank attacking force surged across the road hoping to follow up on their volley fire. I straightened up to a kneeling position from having laid flat on the ground and began to fire one Colt at a time at the Yank line of battle. Everyone down the line began firing, also.

The Yanks weren’t ready for our sustained fire and began to take casualties. I saw five of their number go down, which staggered them. They halted for just a second and began to move forward again. Two more went down and then their line began to retreat.

However, the Yanks that had been their base of fire reinforced them and they surged forward again.

I ran out of bullets and didn’t have time to reload. A Yank suddenly appeared in front of me and swung the stock of his carbine in an arc to hit me in the face with a butt-stroke.

At the last second I took a step 90 degrees to my right. The Yank was right-handed and my movement took me to his left and out of range of his swing. Almost simultaneously, I brought the Colt in my right hand up and down on his head. There was a loud smack and the Yank fell face down on the ground. He was out like a light.

I turned to see what had befallen the rest of my men. A few were in hand to hand combat. Others were still firing at a gaggle of Yanks, who had stopped in the road.

Needless to say, we were in dire straits.



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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