Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Today In History: 150th Anniversary (A re-post from 2008)

Click on photo to enlarge.

This is an important day in our family. February 3 is the anniversary of the day our ancestor William Tweed was wounded in the battle at River's Bridge on the Salkehatchie River in Sherman’s Carolina campaign. We have found a couple of accounts of this battle by officers of my grandfather’s regiment which help us appreciate the toughness of the men of that generation.

The first excerpt is by Matthew H. Jamison, who was a lieutenant over my grandfather’s company (Company E, Tenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry) through the Battle of Atlanta; and was the commander of another company in the same regiment during the Campaign through the Carolinas. This is from Mr. Jamison’s book, ‘Recollections of Pioneer and Army Life’; Hudson Press, Kansas City, 1911. “ 3d. Our division in advance-broke camp at 6-moved up road parallel to river one mile…swamp on either side of us-Gen. Mower standing in the midst-detachments carrying boards and laying a sort of bridge over the swamp to left of road to reach the bank of the river. Cannonading to our right…Move to left, descending into a dismal swamp….our regiment moves on up causeway and suddenly quit the road, entering the swamp to the right—plunge into water- through deep tangled wildwood- a maze of poisonous vines and cypress stumps—water ankle deep- knee deep-thigh deep and bitter cold. …slow and tedious-reach river-glimpses of rebel fort one hundred yards distant...our pickets engaged—we reconnoiter-Capt. Gillespie thinks the enemy can be easily driven away and his artillery captured!...ten men of “E” fell trees across river for the purpose of crossing our men. ..”E” on skirmish line. Prvt. Silas W. Goulden just ahead of me wounded—Capt. Wilson of “G” also. One of “F” killed. One of “C” mortally wounded. Jacob Rust and William Tweed of “E” wounded…Rebel artillery opens, sweeping the causeway to our left. Our boys pour their volleys into the rebel fort, and drive the rebel gunners away from their pieces.”

The next excerpts are from Captain Wilson’s account in ‘Memoirs of the War’, Copyright 1893, by Capt. Ephraim A. Wilson. In letters written from Officers’ Hospital, Beaufort, South Carolina, on Feb. 7, 1865, Captain Wilson tells us details of the battle, being wounded, and the ordeal of being evacuated from the swamps. “Well, to make a long story short, the Johnies, on the evening of the 3rd of February, shot me through the left shoulder….The ball-a minie- entered my left shoulder close to my neck, passed down through the shoulder, lodging just under the skin on my back, where the surgeon cut it out on the morning of the 4th. A Lieutenant of the 32nd Wisconsin and myself were fortunate enough to be brought back by an ambulance, but the other poor fellows, to the number of ninety or one hundred, wounded at the same time and place were placed in common army wagons as the best thing that could be done, and sent back in that way. The roads over which we had to ride were mostly of corduroy and terribly rough, and we all suffered from jolting…We were three days in making the trip…” And in a second letter, details of his ordeal in the fight..” I was wounded at a place called River’s Bridge...where we were forcing the rebels out of a position they had taken up on the opposite side of the stream…On the opposite side they were strongly intrenched. In order to effect a crossing of the stream we were obliged to fall trees across. My company was the first to cross. As soon as the tree was cut I sprang upon it and crossed and ordered the men to follow. In a moment our whole Company were safely over, and in another they were deployed as skirmishers and were engaging the enemy fiercely. While we were crossing, grape and canister, small shot and minie balls flew thick and fast, but no one up to this time had been hit. I had only fairly got my Company deployed and nicely to work, when bang! I got it in the neck, and fell to my knees in water to my waist. I quickly pulled myself to my feet and took a hurried inventory of the damage done me. The blood was gushing out of my wound in great streams and running into my boots. Knowing that I could not stand this loss of blood very much longer, I sent word of my mishap along the line to the Orderly who was on the right, requesting him to come and take command. On his arrival I wished the boys God-speed and safety, and tottered back to the log over which we had just crossed and struck out for the shore. The balls were flying thick and fast, and if I had been so unfortunate as to be hit again by the enemy, or had fallen off the log in that deep river it would have been all day with me, as I was so crippled in my arms I could not swim. From the river I moved back to where the Regimental Surgeon was stationed and he staunched the flow of blood, then waded back three miles to the field hospital, in water from knee deep up to the waist….We arrived at the hospital just before dark, and the surgeons were as busy as they could be, taking care of those who were dangerously wounded…..They wanted to give me an anaesthetic, but I said, “Go ahead, I can stand it.” And so I did, but it hurt me frightfully, just the same, to have that great scraggly minie ball cut out of my back.”

William Tweed; Wounded in the right shoulder in the Battle at River's Bridge

In a letter to the Oquawka Spectator, William Tweed complained of the care he and other wounded soldiers received in the hospital in Beaufort. He related that the army doctors were keeping all of the whiskey for themselves and were not dispensing it to the sick and wounded. It may seem a bit funny now, but whiskey would have been one of the few methods of gaining relief in 1865. If you look closely at the photo of William, you can see that his shell jacket has a shoulder that has been stitched. This is the jacket he was wearing when he was wounded at River's Bridge.

We made a family trip to the battleground several years ago.  The Mrs and I are pictured here, next to the Salkehatchie. In the next photo, you can see some of the Confederate breastworks.

1 comment:

Merle Morrison said...

Hard times like that require men be hard to simply survive them.