Sunday, April 21, 2013

Incidents of the Battle at Webb’s Cross Roads

While the body of Zollicoffer lay upon the ground in front of a Minnesota tent surrounded by soldiers an excited officer rode up exclaiming to the men, “What in h-ll are you doing here?  Why are you not at the stretchers bringing in the wounded?”  “This is Zollicoffer,” said a soldier.  “I know that,” replied the officer – “he is dead and could not have been sent to h--- by a better man, for Col. Fry shot him – leave him and go to your work.”

When the two Parrott guns were planted on the hill at Brown’s house overlooking the enemy’s camp, the peculiar wh-r-r-r of the shells was new to our astonished darkie who with hat off and eyes protruding, exclaimed to his sable companion, “Gosh Almighty Sam, don’t dat go howlin trou de wilderness?”

In nearly a direct line with the course we had marched from the battle field to the rebel works, is a bold elevation about three fourths of a mile this side of said works on which one of our batteries was immediately planted and commenced throwing shot and shell into their camp.  Several regiments had lain down upon the ground to rest from the fatigue of their march and as the rebels answered but feebly, with two guns their shot passed high over the heads of our men. – As the intervals grew longer and longer – watching the shot became a matter of amusement with them. – “Secesh ball!  Secesh ball!” they would cry out, while half a dozen would start and run after it – others calling out, “Run harder or you won’t overtake it.”  While this amusement was going on a rabbit sprang out of a bush between the lines when the cry, “Secesh ball!  Secesh ball,” and the boys took after it with better success, for they caught it.

Upon the high ground last referred to the rebels made a brief stand half an hour before we reached it, but were driven off by a few shots from Stannard’s Battery.  One of these six pound shots struck a poplar tree about two feet in diameter, directly in the center and some twenty feet from the General, passing entirely through the tree, tearing off splinters eight or ten feet long and passing on “thro de wilderness.” – Another shot struck a tree seven or eight inches in diameter directly beside the other but lower down cutting it off nearly as square as though it had been done with a saw.

Being among the first who entered the rebel fortifications I discovered a barrel which proved to contain apple brandy.  Pulling out the corn cob from the bung hole I turned it up and filled a canteen.  While doing this one of Bob McCook’s skirmishers came in and says, “vat you gets there?”  I replied that it appeared to be pretty fair apple brandy upon which the Dutch man ran to the door calling out furiously, “Hans!  Henrick! schnaps!  See come a rous!”  Upon which a dozen Dutchmen came in, and the brandy which was not spilled upon the ground was soon transferred to their canteens.  I said, “boys you had better look out – this is a doctor’s shop, and there may be strychnine in that brandy.”  They paused a moment to look at each other when one of them exclaimed, “Py Got, Hans, I tells you vat I do.  I drinks some and if it don’t kill me, den you trinks” – upon which he took a long and hearty pull at his canteen and smacking his lips a moment said, “All right, Hans, go ahead.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, February 1, 1862, p. 3

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