Monday, May 29, 2023

Captain Carr, Tenth Illinois Infantry, 1862, New Madrid, Missouri

We are going back 150 years to see what the Tenth and Sixteenth Illinois Infantry regiments were up to.  From Matthew Jamison: " On the  12th of March, 1862, in the evening twilight, our brigade formed and silently moved out from camp, the artillery muffled, and the men cautioned against making unusual noise.  Conversation, when indulged was in undertones.  In the darkness of the moonless night the column moved like an immense serpent winding in and out through the openings of the forest.  I was in the file at the head of our company with Lieutenant Sam Wilson and Captain Carr, whose company (H) preceded us in the column.  That officer was a veteran of the Mexican War, of middle age, who had seen much of the world; was devoted to the service, and kept his men well in hand.  We chatted in low tones as we marched along, Captain Carr admonishing his men at intervals against the clatter of their canteens, or the querulous voice of some man who had difficulty in getting along amicably with his neighbor.  We passed rapidly along in the darkness, and soon debouched upon an open field.  Our engineers and staff officers were at hand and under their guidance we were drawn up in line facing the rebel works; stacked arms; and in the inky darkness found a line of rail-fence, which we lifted bodily, noiselessly,  and extended along our front as a base for a breastwork; then with our trenching tools, working like beavers, we soon had an effective defense against the enemy's siege guns, for at daylight we would be an easy mark for his trained gunners at the rebel fort.  We were now up against the first notable obstruction of the Mississippi south of Cairo, which consisted of a formidable earthwork and siege guns and a line of defense works for infantry, a fleet of gunboats on the river, and the fortifications on Island No. 10 above.  On the left of our line four siege guns were placed in position protected by a still heavier earthwork.  While we were engaged in this work not a shot had been exchanged.  If the rebel pickets heard us, they relied upon their ears rather than upon their rifles for entertainment.  The silence remained unbroken, 'til Captain Carr left his company at their work in the trenches and went out on our front to reconnoitre on his own account.  There was a lane running at right angles to our line of works, and along the "worm" fence the captain stole quietly.  He loved his pipe, and in an unfortunate moment stopped and struck a match! That was the rebel sharp-shooters' opportunity, and in the glare of that little blaze the veteran received a mortal wound.  He was carried to the farm-house near by, where he died shortly afterward.  In the early dawn, our earthworks having been completed, there was  lively exchange of Minie balls, and the gunners in the rebel fort, discovering a big black bunch in the corn-field which they had never seen before, trained some of the best rifled pieces on it and made the morning exercises interesting for Captain Joe Mower and his men.  The captain (later a major-general) in command of our division, and later of our corps, was a fighter, but he was outclassed with his little hunchback of earthwork and four guns against a deliberately built fort of approved pattern"

Many young folks today may not be familiar with the expression "Three On A Match," and probably haven't been around pipe smokers.  The third man lighting a cigarette off of a match was likely to be hit by enemy snipers during WWI.  The above passage illustrates that one man could suffer the same fate if his smoke was a pipe.  I can remember my dad's step-father lighting his pipe when I was a little tyke.  A pipe is rather dramatic when it is being fired up with an Ohio Blue Tip match.  Every draw pulls the flame down into the bowl, and then the flame flares up big and bright before the next puff.  Captain Carr learned the hard way that you can't do that in front of soldiers armed with rifled muskets.  It was a sad end to an experienced veteran of the Mexican War.  During that war, muskets were smooth bores, and the Captain may have gotten away with taunting the enemy while lighting up at night.  I bet that no-one in the Tenth and Sixteenth regiments repeated his mistake during the next three years of war.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great ending for an abolitionist lackey.