2412Re: [TalkAntietam] Fredericksburg: A Gettysburg for the Other Side
- Dec 14, 2005My next book is on Fredericksburg and, interestingly, Hirst plays a role. I
note the difference in spelling, but there was a lot of that going on in
those days. Assuming it's the same guy, he had reason to demand revenge for
For those of you who take offense at "history as fiction," read no further,
but if you want to capture agony of the moment, read on. This is taken from
Hirst's own account as are the words contained in the quotation marks...
Some of the men of the 14th Connecticut fought to preserve the
Union and a few fought to free the slaves. But while marching up Marye's
Heights into the face of the enemy, those huge issues became very small.
Today they all agreed about why they were there, facing death and glory
together. Today they fought for each other - and for their big, blue,
beautiful flag. Not so much for the Stars and Stripes, though she was
beautiful too, but for the blue flag with the grape vines, the eagle, and
the words scrolled in gold across the bottom - "The Fourteenth Regiment."
Every man in Perkins's little regiment would give his life to keep her
flying and out of the hands of the enemy.
The Rebels knew this. They loved their flags too. And in the
absence of a nicely mounted general or colonel to shoot at, the standard
bearer was the next best thing.
They were never armed, these men who bore the pride of their
regiments into battle. If one went down, or more precisely when one went
down, the closest man would abandon his rifle, pick up the flag, and
continue forward. And so it was with the men of the Fighting Fourteenth,
and now it was their turn to storm the wall.
Augustus Foote and Benjamin Hirst were two ranks back, marching
side-by-side as always, as they had in a thousand drills over the months.
As they had at Antietam when they marched over Roulette's Swale and into the
The ground was still wet and slippery and it was now cluttered
with the bodies of dead and wounded men. They came to the remnants of a
fence that had surrounded the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. It had been an
obstacle for the 24th New Jersey, but they had managed to take most of it
down. The Connecticut color guard stepped over the remaining rails and the
blue flag kept moving forward. Foote was jealous of the man who carried the
colors, Color Sergeant Charles Dart. What an incredible honor to stand so
well forward - to be the man Connecticut followed into the worthy fight.
But Dart had earned the job at Antietam and was doing it well today.
When Colonel Oliver gave the order to charge, Dart glanced back
at his comrades and waved them forward. "Follow me boys!" he yelled as he
broke into a run. Foote and Hirst and all of the men of Oliver's brigade
growled and screamed and stepped over the fence rails and the Washington
Artillery fired all four cannons in the same instant - all double-packed
with canister - and over two hundred of the heavy iron pellets ripped
through the ranks of the Fighting Fourteenth.
Foote and Hirst had been in the second rank, but the first rank
was gone and the rest of the Fourteenth fell to the ground. Foote saw
Sergeant Dart go down and was amazed that the horribly wounded man managed
to plant the flag as he fell. He speared the staff into the soft earth and
leaned it against one of the remaining fence posts. The courageous color
sergeant writhed on the ground for only a moment before his body went
perfectly still. All of the men of the color guard were down, but the flag
remained standing proudly, but alone and defenseless.
Foote couldn't tolerate the sight. He had to rescue her. He
was just about to stand up and rush forward when a thousand muskets appeared
over the top of the stone wall and Cobb's Rebels began to unload on the
prostrate Yanks. Foote couldn't stand and charge now, but he could crawl,
by God. He had only ten feet to go, but it would be a hellish ten feet.
Hirst tried to stop him. "Augie - don't go!"
He grabbed the sergeant's leg, but Foote yanked it away and continued
forward. He made it to within inches of the staff when one bullet struck
him in the hip and another in the face.
Hirst saw his friend's body shutter with each blow.
He couldn't control his fury, but he knew it would be suicide to try to save
him - or the flag. He aimed his rifle at the wall and sent a shot forward,
knowing that it would do no good. The Rebels were just too well-protected,
but he fired anyway. And so did everybody else, but all they did was take
small chips out of the thick rocks of Cobb's stone wall. He tried to hurry
himself through the agonizingly slow procedure of reloading. While standing
he could do the job in under a half a minute, but reloading under fire while
lying down was awkward and dangerous and seemed to take forever. When he
finally finished he brought the weapon to the firing position, pulled the
hammer back to full cock, and before he fired he heard his friend lying just
ten feet ahead.
"Oh, God! For the love of God. Please, somebody kill me.
Somebody kill me! Please."
Hirst began to weep. His friend's agony tortured his soul. He
couldn't save him and he couldn't kill him. All he had to do was pull the
trigger, but he couldn't do it. He couldn't put his best friend in the
world out of his misery.
He just couldn't do it.
----- Original Message -----
From: "thomasdledward" <nmtdet@...>
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 8:45 PM
Subject: [TalkAntietam] Fredericksburg: A Gettysburg for the Other Side
> Fredericksburg: A Gettysburg for the Other Side
> Some of the Rebels in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863,
> may have heard the voice of Sgt. Benjamin Hearst before they met the
> withering Union fire at the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. Hearst, a
> veteran with the 14th Connecticut, yelled at the advancing mass, "Now
> we've got you! Sock it to the Blasted Rebels. Fredericksburg's on the
> other leg!" And as the doomed men fell, the Federals behind the low
> stone wall shouted, "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!"
> Why did an engagement fought seven months earlier, on December 13,
> 1862, become a battle cry? Because only now, with the tables so
> perfectly turned, was the Union avenging its own dead thousands,
> struck down in front of a different stone wall in what turned out to
> be the nadir of the war for the North.
> A year before Gettysburg, each side thought the war would be a rout in
> its favor. The events of the summer and fall of 1862 disabused both of
> that notion. The Rebels invaded Maryland and had a string of victories
> in Virginia, and Northerners began to doubt Lincoln's abilities as a
> commander. Then in September the Union turned back the invasion at
> Antietam, Maryland, and Lincoln issued his Preliminary Emancipation
> Proclamation. But in the midterm elections, Republicans took a
> beating, and to make matters worse the army seemed to squander the
> momentum it had gained with its victory at Antietam. Lincoln
> repeatedly tried to stir the commander of the Army of the Potomac,
> George McClellan, into action, but to no avail. His patience worn
> thin, Lincoln replaced McClellan with Ambrose Burnside on November 7.
> Best regards,
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