Friday, September 16, 2016

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Thursday, May 5, 1864

Pleasant and warm; remained at the fort until about 8 o'clock a. m. waiting for General Burnside's forces to relieve us, and then marched about two miles up the plank road and formed line of battle in a piece of woods to the right of the road; remained here until noon when Burnside's corps again came up and occupied our line when we pushed on to the front passing many corralled and moving army trains, and through the outskirts of the field hospital near the right of our army's infantry line of battle until we struck the Orange turnpike when we turned to the right and followed it some distance until near enough the enemy to draw the fire of its artillery when seemingly the air was full of solid shot and exploding shells as far each side the pike as could be seen. The road here ran in a straight line ahead of us almost as far as the eye could reach bordered on either side with a dense forest and underbrush which was also being shelled in places. Shortly after, when within shelling distance, the enemy fired a solid shot straight along the pike which tore screeching through the air just a little above the heads of the men in column in our regiment till it struck the pike about midway the regiment, providentially where the men had split and were marching on either side of the road, when it viciously rebounded along the pike lengthwise the column to the great consternation of the men all along the extended column in our own and other regiments. This situation was most trying for every moment I dreaded the effect of a better directed shot which would go destructively through our long column lengthwise and do untold damage.

Soon, however, we turned to the left or southerly into the woods and formed line of battle almost as soon as there was room after leaving the road with the enemy close in our front with a field piece of artillery hardly a hundred yards away through the brush which kept each from seeing the other. Before Captain H. R. Steele had hardly finished dressing his company after forming line a shell from this gun exploded in the ranks of Company K, killing a private and wounding others. The shell had burst actually inside the man completely disemboweling and throwing him high in the air in a rapidly whirling motion above our heads with arms and legs extended until his body fell heavily to the ground with a sickening thud.

I was in the line of file closers hardly two paces away and just behind the man killed. We were covered with blood, fine pieces of flesh, entrails, etc., which makes me cringe and shudder whenever I think of it. The concussion badly stunned me. I was whirled about in the air like a feather, thrown to the ground on my hands and knees — or at least was in that position with my head from the enemy when I became fully conscious — face cut with flying gravel or something else, eyes, mouth and ears filled with dirt, and was feeling nauseated from the shakeup. Most of the others affected went to the hospital, and I wanted to but didn't give up. I feared being accused of trying to get out of a fight.

The Division Commander and staff were about three hundred yards more or less, behind us in direct line with this gun that was shelling us. Another shell from it which went screeching close over us — for we immediately after the first shot lay flat on the ground — disemboweled Captain G. B. Damon's horse of the Tenth Vermont on the Division staff, on which he was mounted, and killed two others. This party could be seen from where I was in line plainly. I was surprised at the quickness with which Company K got into line again after being so disrupted by the exploding shell in its ranks.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 42-5

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