Civil War Memories of Lewis A. Stimson M.D.: Set down by him during the summer of 1914

Jun 26, 2012 by

I’ve discovered another fascinating old book about the American Civil War for all of you Civil War Buffs. CIVIL WAR MEMORIES OF LEWIS A. STIMSON MD SET DOWN BY HIM DURING THE SUMMER OF 1914 was first published in 1918. Here is a snippet from the book to give you the feel of it: “I remember too that on one of the first days when we were pressing up against the enemy’s works beyond our flank and were close up by the line of battle, a bullet struck a horse near me and then my foot as I sat in the saddle. It did me no harm, but the sound it made or my movement to examine the foot led to a question by someone and to my explanation. To my surprise the item was passed along, and two or three of the staff whom I knew very slightly and who could have had no personal interest in me, came over to me and inquired about it. I think it was simply the fact that one of the party had been hit that interested them, that instead of me, the bullet might have found one of them. It is to be borne in mind that during much of these periods of exposure we were unoccupied, simply standing and waiting, and it is not strange that the mind under such circumstances should be occupied with the possibilities of the body’s environment. On one of these days, I think it must have been the first and most severe one, October 13th, we had ridden close up to the line at General Hawley’s brigade and were talking with him when violent musketry firing came from the enemy directly opposite. We were dismounted at the time, the horses a little in the rear, and the word was passed to lie down. As it happened. General Terry lay down between my legs and I remember feeling keenly that in that arrangement rank was not properly regarded. He should have been in front. The bullets buzzed over us, and the twigs fell on us, and when the fire slackened we rose and went back to the horses. I had in mind a remark made by a major-general, a regular army officer, who had seen much fighting on the Plains as well as in the war, ”The man who won’t take the shelter of a blade of grass when it is offered him is a — fool,’ and I was looking for the blade of grass. I had decided that a horse was as good as the grass and skipping to get behind one when I caught sight of the face of a stolid, old orderly, who was holding three horses. His face was expressionless, but his eyes were following me, and I realized that, while the advice might be sound as to shelter offered, it was not to be extended to a search therefor, at least by one whose rank required him to set an example. And then, too, one gets to think it is not worth while, or has a superstitious feeling that the effort to avoid increases the chance of harm. At that very time, when a moment later I stepped toward my horse to mount, a shell passed directly under her belly. If I had taken position behind her I should have been right in its track. One of my friends, who served through the war and was severely wounded and thrown from his horse while in command of his regiment at Chickamauga told me, in reply to my question why he was on horseback at such a time, that he always went mounted in action, for he was convinced that if he went on foot and once got behind a tree he would never leave the shelter.”   CIVIL WAR MEMORIES OF LEWIS A. STIMSON M.D. provides a very up close and intimate picture of what it was like to serve in the American Civil War.

 

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