Champion Hill

Quartermaster Sergeant Charles A. Longley
Company C, 24th Iowa Infantry

 excerpted from, War Sketches and Incidents, as related by companies of the Iowa Commandery,
Military Order of the Loyal Legion, Des Moines, Iowa: 1893


"......The grim chorus of battle has been nearing, rising, and swelling on the air until its angry roar seems to have filled the earth; then, at a little after twelve comes the dreaded and impatiently expected command, 'Fall in.' …..The lines are formed and dressed with an absolute sense of relief. See them now, stretching away to the length of nine companies of about 45 men each, and prolonged by the rest of the brigade on the right. Now we are advancing over rough ground, but steadily touching elbows, while the warming blood begins to be felt bounding through the veins and throbbing at the temples. Now we pass through the first brigade, lying at the foot of the long wooded hill, and for the first time begin to hear the wicked zipping of the hostile lead. Son it tells its errand - the first man falls...

"Onward and upward you go; thicker and faster falls the hissing hail. At last the timber grows larger and you begin to locate the flaming line whence the trouble comes. Suddenly, the added elevation brings into view a battery, and at the same time instant the horrid howling of grape and canister is about us. A halt is made and the Enfields of the 24th add their clamor to the hell of sound, and their missiles to the many that make the very air writhe. The more accustomed eye now detects here and there a gray-clad enemy marking their line at but a few rods distance. You note one, perhaps, striving to find shelter behind a slender tree - he is reloading, and, hastily withdrawing his rammer, uncovers the upper part of his body - instantly you aim and fire, and when he falls backward, throwing the useless gun over his head, you forget that other bullets than your own have sped and scream aloud in the very frenzy of self-congratulation.

"At this moment, while every human instinct is carried away by a torrent of passion, while kill, kill, KILL, seems to fill your heart and be written over the face of all nature - at this instant you hear a command (it may have come from the clouds above, you know not) to 'Fix bayonets, forward, charge' and away you go with a wild yell in which all mouths join.

"......Their backs are toward you - they fly - the line becomes a crowd - you pause only to fire - from one end of the regiment to the other the leaden hail converges upon that fated band; you see them plunging down in all directions, and shot with unnatural glee. They pass through the Rebel battery, and that too is swept with the besom of destruction. As it runs parallel with the line, a full artillery team catches the eye just long enough to see a leader fall and the six horses almost stand on end as they go over and down in struggling confusion - now the battery itself is ours, and fairly won, and cheer follows cheer!

"What next? Alas, there is no leader. Wilds is wounded, and so is Wring……You had seen no one fall but enemies since your own work began. But so it is; they, with brave Carbee, Johnson, Larwence, and many more. Confusion reign…….There comes a new line of gray. Its head of column is already in our rear. See that orderly sergeant in advance making the ins and outs of the fence he is following. Shoot at him? Yes; and all the while you may, for now they halt, front, and enfilade that road with a fire that patters in the dust like the big drops of a summer shower and makes the wounded wretches lying there write again in impotent agony and terror…….."


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