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

Post image for Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

June 30, 2012

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

30th.—The night’s march had placed a considerable distance between us and our pursuers. The morning opened bright and balmy. Again our division had to be brought to the rear, and we continued to march and to countermarch for position till about noon, when we halted in line of battle, and waited till our troops and transportation had all passed up. We had thrown out our videttes and pickets, and had lain down to keep out of sight. We began to stretch out our limbs for a little rest, when instantly, and almost simultaneously, fifty-three of the enemy’s shells burst upon us. I doubt whether the Malakoff, in the “infernal fire” which reduced it, witnessed such an opening of a cannonade. Mott’s battery was almost instantly demolished; most of his horses and some of his men killed by their first fire. Just here a little incident occurred, and which was rather amusing, if anything can amuse in such circumstances. I had taken my hospital corps and litter bearers some distance in the rear, in a deep gorge, where they could be out of danger, and where we could have plenty of water for the convenience of our wounded. I had left them and gone to the line. The burst of artillery came. I ran back to see that litter bearers were ready, but arrived just in time to see their backs as with the litters they passed over the hill on a full run. I ran to the top of the hill, ordered them to halt, but on they went. I ran on calling to them, and sent three pistol balls whistling after them. On they went. At a moment’s reflection, I raised my voice, and uttered a great mouthful of oaths—not natural, but got up for the occasion. They stopped as if an iron wall had dropped before fore them. They returned, and were surprised to find me alone. ‘Twas difficult to convince them that it was I who swore. They did not believe “that any man in the army, save our Brigadier, could utter any such oaths as that.” I felt flattered, and thought that I had earned promotion. Immediately on the opening, our whole line was on its feet. We were ordered to change our position. We started on the double quick, directly away from the enemy. The order as to the position we should take was misunderstood, and we moved rapidly for about a mile. The day was intensely hot, but the men marched well and vigorously. Suddenly an order brought us to a halt, made us aware of our mistake, wheeled us to march back towards the enemy, and it is surprising what a difference was made in the vigor of the men, by marching west instead of east. Directly on their being faced to march towards the enemy, the sun’s rays pierced so violently that they commenced falling from sunstroke. The effects, however, were not serious, for as soon as the column had marched by, the fallen men arose and starting again away from the enemy found themselves so well that most of them ran from ten to eighteen miles before night.

We got back into line, facing the enemy; but from some cause unknown to me, they commenced withdrawing their forces from our wing, and swung them over to our left, on White Oak Swamp, about two miles to the southwest of us, where McCall, Porter, Sedgwick, Hooker, and a host of others were battling for life. McCall’s Division is badly cut to pieces. We learn to-night that he is himself a prisoner, and that of all his staff, but one is left to tell the story. Our troops held their position, and after night had drawn a curtain betwixt us and our pursuers, with whisperings and hints of the necessity of capitulation, we resumed our march, nor halted till the sun was lighting up for the resumption of our perilous task of defence.

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