Saturday, January 7, 2012

Waiting to Attack

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As I continue to read about Gettysburg I keep finding little snippets of interest - various writings by the participants that help bring the battle to life. There is of course no way we can recreate the felt experiences shared by the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, but through recorded testimony, we can get a glimpse of what veterans tried to impart about battle - about what it must have felt like to march into a fight, charge the enemy, or simply wait for orders to advance forward.

This short piece is courtesy of Decimus et Ultimus Barziza (my favorite name of any Civil War soldier on either side), captain and commander of Company C, 4th Texas Infantry, as he waited with his men to attack the Union III Corps at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Barziza and his men were by now hardened veterans, so they knew what they were in for. Nevertheless, the anticipation of battle must have been troubling...to say the least.

"The enemy's shells screamed and bursted around us, inflicting considerable damage. It is very trying upon men to remain still and in ranks under a severe cannonading. One has time to reflect upon the danger, and there being no wild excitement as in a charge, he is more reminded of the utter helplessness of his present condition. The men are all flat on the ground, keeping their places in ranks, and as a shell is heard, generally try to sink themselves into the earth. Nearly every face is overspread with a serious, thoughtful air, and what thoughts, vivid and burning, come trooping up from the inner chambers of memory, the soldier can only realize."

Barziza survived the battle and the war and in 1865 returned to Huston Texas where he headed a successful law practice until his death - after a long illness - in 1882.

Peace,

Keith

7 comments:

  1. Scott A. MacKenzieJanuary 7, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    "Decimus et Ultimus Barziza" - that is an awesome name! "Tenth and Last" because he held that place among his parents' ten sons. I always thought that "States Rights Gist" was unique, but I stand corrected.

    Barziza survived Gettysburg but was captured. He escaped to Canada, then made his way back south by a network for prisoners to return to the Confederacy.

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  2. This is how my g-g grandfather, William B. Phillips described the charge of the 2nd. PA Provisional Heavy Artillery on the rebel lines at Petersburg: "On that awful 17th of June , the battlefield was the hottest place yet. I was so excited, that I knew nothing of the danger. My eyes saw all, in red and flame, but I could not digest it somehow. The only thing I knew I was rushing forward, half carried on by some other power than myself, until I tumbled head and heels in the rebel works, to see the “Johnnies” put through the woods beyond. But I didn’t stay there long, for they rallied and drove us out. But the next time we made them leave, and stay at a respectable distance of some 1000 yards."

    No matter how often I read this passage I get chills up and down my spine.

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  3. That is a pretty evocative passage, Greg - are his reminiscences published?

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  4. Yes Keith, they are. As a matter-of-fact they are linked on your Blogroll to the right!! The entire collection can be accessed there or by merely "clicking" on my name at the top of this post. There are over 40 posted letters and they tell an interesting story.
    -Greg

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  5. Ha! You see Greg - that is what happens when I don't pay attention!! I'll see you at CWRT Wednesday, yes?

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  6. That's an impressive name, but I'm not sure it beats that of Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, of Co. B of the same regiment, who also left a vivid account of the assault on Little Round Top, and being pinned down by enemy fire over the following night:At Gettysburg that night, it was about seven devils to each man. Officers were cross to the men, and the men were equally cross to the officers. It was the same way with our enemies. We could hear the Yankee officer on the crest of the ridge in front of us cursing the men by platoons, and the men telling him to go to a country not very far away from us just at that time. If that old Satanic dragon has ever been on earth since he offered our Saviour the world if He would serve him, he was certainly at Gettysburg that night.

    Every characteristic of the human race was presented there, the cruelty of the Turk, the courage of the Greek, the endurance of the Arab, the dash of the Cossack, the fearlessness of the Bashibazouk, the ignorance of the Zulu, the cunning of the Comanche, the recklessness of the American volunteer, and the wickedness of the devil thrown in to make the thing complete.

    The advance lines of the two armies in many places were not more than fifty yards apart. Everything was on the shoot. No favors asked, and none offered. . . .

    Our spiritual advisers, chaplains of regiments, were in the rear, caring for the wounded and dying soldiers. With seven devils to each man, it was no place for a preacher, anyhow. A little red paint and a few eagle feathers were all that was necessary to make that crowd on both sides into the most veritable savages on earth. White-winged peace didn’t roost at Little Round Top that nightl There was not a man there that cared a snap for the golden rule, or that could have remembered one line of the Lord’s Prayer. Both sides were whipped, and all were furious about it.

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  7. Keith, I will be at the Wednesday CWRT meeting. It sounds like an interesting program with the Sanitary Commission Fairs presentation and the Civil War Jeopardy contest.

    BTW, William Phillips, in his letter dated March 10, 1864 describes attending the Washington Sanitary Fair held at the Patent Office. Lincoln attended the closing of the Fair on March 18.

    Here's how William describes the scene at the Fair. I particularly like his description of the "Wheel of Fortune" girl.

    "I was to [the] Sanitary Fair held at the Patent Office, night before last, and tried the Wheel of Fortune, and was lucky enough to get nothing, but there was no standing the inviting look of the young lady that had charge of the “macheen”, so I tried again, to fail, for merely a look of droll sympathy from her. The fair is a success, I believe. No less than 2 or 3,000 visitors daily go there, fee 25 cents. Besides the income of that never satisfied Wheel of Fortune & Raffle dice, I should say there were over 40 stands, all presided over by a trio of “the Graces.” The hall is decorated by Rebel & Union banners & Battle flags -- tattered and torn -- & muskets, bayonets, & swords, are arranged around in the most beautiful devise; and with the “mottos” music, & pretty saleswomen you can’t help be patriotic. I enclose you a card, which caused me to feel like crying for the poor little dears. There is something so pathetic about the picture, and poetry accompanying it.
    -Greg

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