Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

September 1, 2012

Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery — George Michael Neese.

September 1 — We renewed our march early this morning, passing through Salem on the Manassas Gap Railroad, in an eastern course, frequently touching the railroad, and passed the Plains, a station on the Manassas road. We came through Thoroughfare Gap, which is a rugged gorge in Bull Run Mountain and the western gate to the plains of Manassas, through which the Manassas Gap Railroad passes. At Thoroughfare Gap the Yanks had the pass blockaded a few days ago, attempting to prevent General Longstreet from reenforcing General Jackson, who, playing a bold game with a good hand in General Pope’s rear, executed smashing havoc to his haversack ammunition and general supplies at Manassas Junction.

The gorge in the mountain is very narrow and abrupt and looks as if it could be successfully defended by a few hundred determined riflemen against almost any force that would assail it. The enemy had barricaded the main road that leads through the pass with felled trees and large rocks which they had rolled from the almost perpendicular side of the gap into the narrow road; behind the barricade they had a line of infantry, and behind the rocks and trees on the mountain side sharpshooters with long-range rifles were ready to pour a deadly fire into any assaulting party that would dare to approach the dangerous gate from the west or south side. On the east side of the mountain, or rather in rear of the Gap, they had another line of infantry, ready to support and protect the men immediately behind the barricade. When Longstreet’s column, hastening to the urgent relief of Jackson, dashed like a storm-driven wave against the blockaded mountain gorge and demanded a pass with the thunder tones of artillery and the crash of musketry, his victorious column swept everything before it like a flood of rushing water and passed through the Gap and over the plains of Prince William County like a mighty stream that has overcome and swept away some opposing barrier. Directed by the deep thunder of booming cannon that came rolling from the east, Longstreet pressed on his onward way to where old Stonewall was unfolding the science of strategic war and still successfully baying the hosts of the mighty Pope. Toward evening we struck the plains of Manassas, and soon after arrived on the field where a few days ago General Jackson fought one of his hardest battles.

The first indications that I observed of a recently fought battle were hundreds and hundreds of small arms of all descriptions that had been gathered on the battle-field and piled up along the road. When we got to the part of the field where the struggle had been the most desperate and destructive the Federal dead still lay there by the hundreds. At one place I could distinguish where the enemy’s line of battle had been, by the many dead lying in line where they fell. Where their batteries had been in position dead horses lay thickly strewn around. A disabled gun and the wreck of blown-up caisson marked the spot where the fire of the Confederate batteries did its destructive work.

At one place I saw the guns of a Yankee battery that had been charged and taken by the Confederates, still in position. White flags were flying all over the field to-day, and the Citizens’ Relief Committee of Washington, with two hundred ambulances, were on the field burying the dead and gathering the wounded. I saw at one place where they were burying eighty men in one trench. Some have lain on the field four days and their upturned faces were as black as African negroes.

I saw one wounded Federal lying under a little white oak bush out in the open field. I suppose he had been there for at least forty-eight hours. He was nearly perished with thirst and begged me for a drink of water. I did not have a drop and did not know where to get any. I did not see any farmhouse near nor far, and we were under marching orders, liable to move at any moment. I told him that water was scarce in his present neighborhood, but that was sad news, poor consolation, and poverty-stricken comfort to a man who is dying for water. It was enough to cruelly crush his last hope. I told him that the Citizens’ Committee from Washington was on the field and I would tell the first man I met where to find him, and he would administer to his pressing wants. The poor wounded man exclaimed: “Oh, I have heard that for the last twenty-four hours, and they have not found me yet.” Ah, what a striking object lesson on the horrors and probable vicissitudes of cruel war! One moment a strong robust man may be wielding the saber or bayonet like a Hercules and the next instant he may be lying on the field as helpless as a babe and begging his antagonist for a drink of water.

Soon after I left the helpless soldier I met some of the Washington Relief men and told them of his critical condition and exactly where to find him. As a couple of us were passing over the battle-field we met a well dressed, fine-looking man, probably he was a surgeon belonging to the Relief Corps. He stopped and in a snappish manner, remarked, “Well, you have defeated us again, and this is the second time on this field, but it will have to be tried over.” We replied, “All right, give us a fair shake and we will thrash you again.” That shot was a surpriser and silenced his mouth-piece.

He drove on then, looking as sour as if his mother-in-law had drenched him with double-proof crab apple vinegar for a month.

Late this evening we were ordered to move toward Fairfax Court House. When we had marched about four miles in that direction it grew pitchy dark and we dropped by the roadside and camped.

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