The First Battle of Winchester - by Artilleryman Edward A. Moore

A Civil War Cannon        ...At last morning broke clear and beautiful, finding us about two miles from Winchester. After moving on for perhaps half a mile, we filed to the left. All indications were that a battle was imminent, Banks evidently intending to make one more effort. The sun was up, and never shone on a prettier country nor a lovelier May morning. Along our route was a brigade of Louisiana troops under the command of Gen. Dick Taylor, of Ewell s division. They were in line of battle in a ravine, and as we were passing by them several shells came screaming close over our heads and burst just beyond. I heard a colonel chiding his men for dodging, one of whom called out, in reply, "Colonel, lead us up to where we can get at them and then we wont dodge!" We passed on, bearing to the right and in the direction from which the shells came. General Jackson ordered us to take position on the hill just in front. The ground was covered with clover, and as we reached the crest we were met by a volley of musketry from a line of infantry behind a stone fence about two hundred yards distant.

        My gun was one of the last to get into position, coming up on the left. I was assigned the position of No. 2, Jim Ford No. 1. The Minie -balls were now flying fast by our heads, through the clover and everywhere. A charge of powder was handed me, which I put into the muzzle of the gun. In a rifled gun this should have been rammed home first, but No. 1 said, "Put in your shell and let one ram do. Hear those Minies?" I heard them and adopted the suggestion; the consequence was, the charge stopped half-way down and there it stuck, and the gun was thereby rendered unavailable. This was not very disagreeable, even from a patriotic point of view, as we could do but little good shooting at infantry behind a stone fence. On going about fifty yards to the rear, I came up with my friend and messmate, Gregory, who was being carried by several comrades. A Minie -ball had gone through his left arm into his breast and almost through his body, lodging in the right side of his back. Still he recovered, and was a captain of ordnance at the surrender, and two years ago I visited him at his own home in California. As my train stopped at his depot, and I saw a portly old gentleman with a long white beard coming to meet it, I thought of the youth I remembered, and said, "Can that be Gregory?"

        Then came Frank Preston with his arm shattered, which had to be amputated at the shoulder. I helped to carry Gregory to a barn one hundred and fifty yards in the rear, and there lay Bob McKim, of Baltimore, another member of the company, shot through the head and dying. Also my messmate, Wash. Stuart, who had recently joined the battery. A ball had struck him just below the cheek -bone, and, passing through the mouth, came out on the opposite side of his face, breaking out most of his jaw-teeth. Then came my brother John with a stream of blood running from the top of his head, and, dividing at the forehead, trickled in all directions down his face. My brother David was also slightly wounded on the arm by a piece of shell. By this time the Louisianans had been "led up to where they could get at them," and gotten them on the run. I forgot to mention that, as one of our guns was being put into position, a gate-post interfered. Captain Poague ordered John Agnorto cut the post down with an axe. Agnor said, "Captain, I will be killed!" Poague replied, "Do your duty, John." He had scarcely struck three blows before he fell dead, pierced by a Minie -ball.

        In this battle, known as First Winchester, two of the battery were killed and twelve or fourteen wounded. The fighting was soon over and became a chase. My gun being hors de combat, I remained awhile with the wounded, so did not witness the first wild enthusiasm of the Winchester people as our men drove the enemy through the streets, but heard that the ladies could not be kept indoors. Our battery did itself credit on this occasion. I will quote from Gen. Dick Taylor s book, entitled "Destruction and Reconstruction": "Jackson was on the pike and near him were several regiments lying down for shelter, as the fire from the ridge was heavy and searching. A Virginian battery, the Rockbridge Artillery, was fighting at great disadvantage, and already much cut up. Poetic authority asserts that Old Virginny never tires, and the conduct of this battery justified the assertion of the muses. With scarce a leg or wheel for man and horse, gun or caisson, to stand on, it continued to hammer away at the crushing fire above." And further on in the same narrative he says, "Meanwhile, the Rockbridge Battery held on manfully and engaged the enemys attention." Dr. Dabneys "Life of Stonewall Jackson," page 377, says: "Just at this moment General Jackson rode forward, followed by two field - officers, to the very crest of the hill, and, amidst a perfect shower of balls, reconnoitered the whole position. . . . He saw them posting another battery, with which they hoped to enfilade the ground occupied by the guns of Poague; and nearer to his left front a body of riflemen were just seizing a position behind a stone fence when they poured a galling fire upon the gunners and struck down many men and horses. Here this gallant battery stood its ground, sometimes almost silenced, yet never yielding an inch. After a time they changed their front to the left, and while a part of their guns replied to the opposing battery the remainder shattered the stone fence, which sheltered the Federal infantry, with solid shot and raked it with canister."

        In one of the hospitals I saw Jim ("Red") Jordan, an old schoolmate and member of the Alleghany Roughs, with his arm and shoulder horribly mangled by a shell. He had beautiful brown eyes, and, as I came into the room where he lay tossing on his bed, he opened them for a moment and called my name, but again fell back delirious, and soon afterward died.

        The chase was now over, and the town full of soldiers and officers, especially the latter. I was invited by John Williams, better spend the known as "Johnny," to night at his home, a home renowned even in hospitable Winchester for its hospitality. He had many more intimate friends than I, and the house was full. Still I thought I received more attention and kindness than even the officers. I was given a choice room all to myself, and never shall I forget the impression made by the sight of that clean, snow-white bed, the first I had seen since taking up arms for my country, which already seemed to me a lifetime. I thought I must lie awake awhile, in order to take in the situation, then go gradually to sleep, realizing that to no rude alarm was I to hearken, and once or twice during the night to wake up and realize it again. But, alas! my plans were all to no purpose; for, after the continual marching and the vigils of the previous night, I was asleep the moment my head touched the pillow, nor moved a muscle till breakfast was announced next morning.

Taken from The Story of a Cannoneer Under Stonewall Jackson: In Which Is Told the Part Taken by the Rockbridge Artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia by Edward Alexander Moore

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