Heraled Civil War Novel
Legare’s First Battle
The morning of the 14th, General Sherman orders an attack at Gen. Johnston’s center with a division of General John Palmer’s XIV Corps. General Palmer’s Corps attack across Camp Creek Valley towards the crest held by Gen. Hardee’s Corps. There, General Sherman’s army confronts devastating infantry and artillery fire. The picture of the first battle for Legare and Rooster is powerfully dramatic. The battle brings to life the reality of war. Rooster turns to Legare. “They want to kill you as badly as you want to kill them. Capture never enters their mind.” Legare nods. War becomes a game of survival. Grape and canister fly into the ranks. Bombshells burst overhead and the fragments fly on all sides of Legare. A dozen or so of his comrades lay nearby, wounded and screaming or dead. A strange, involuntary shrinking nearly overpowers Legare. He can neither advance nor retreat, but is frozen by his emotions, by his humanity. His cheeks blanch, his lip quivers, and he hesitates to look upon the human carnage.
This has nothing to do with the boastful bravado, the boisterous talk the men shared as they spoke longingly of fighting for the Confederacy. Legare thinks of Polly and Joshua. He wonders briefly if he’ll ever see them again, of how they’ll manage without him. He recalls his last night with her, her tender kisses. Suddenly he straightens and glances around. He must survive for his wife and son . . . he must. He swallows hard and inhales the odors of gunpowder, and blood. Legare faces the field with new resolve. Successive volleys of artillery strike the ground and tree limbs upon which the soldiers lie.
The Yankees mass their troops eight deep and advance under a heavy fire of double charges of grape and canister. Soon, the Yankees come within range, and the 63rd renders an incessant volley of musketry. Legare picks out a moving blue target and opens fire against the Yankees in a visible and audible defense. His aim is true and his target falls, as does the soldier Rooster fires on. With his first shot, Legare transforms from a man to a soldier. Fear no longer exists. No longer mindful of themselves or their orders, the Yankees spring forward in full assault swarming into the open. Legare, Rooster and the soldiers of Company A receive the advancing Yankees with broad sheets of musket balls striking the charging and unprotected Yankees with a deadly effect.
The artillery resounding on both sides joins the battle complimenting the rattle and roar with deep, earth-shaking explosions. The air continues to swirl with storms of screaming grape. The trees splinter, splattered with blood on both sides. Hesitation gives way to an uncontrollable desire to rush into the thick of the battle. The dead and the dying comrades serve only to stimulate Legare’s revenge. He grows cool and deliberate as the cannon balls streak by him and rake murderous channels though his friends. No mortal man can stand the Confederate fire. Then, over the battlefield, a bugle call is heard ordering a retreat for the beaten Yankees. Only the sound of scattering musket shots and the moaning of the distant wounded lying upon the battlefield remain. The noisy voices of the cannons are now still and the dusky pall of sulphurous smoke rises above the fields.
Legare slowly stands. Unnerved and silent he looks on the form of a fellow soldier, who only a few minutes ago stood in the full flesh of life and happiness. Human brains splashed around, bodies without limbs, limbs without bodies, disfigured faces, a headless corpse. The ground is ploughed up and stained with blood. Now come the bloody litter bearers with their woeful burdens. Wounds of every conceivable and unimaginable character. Right arms torn off, not cut off, like a bird’s wing with all the muscle and organs closely connected with it. A deadening sensation, thank God. The skull over the cerebellum blown completely away and yet the poor man still lives! There are few groans, except from men unconscious or from men injured by concussion. Legare begins to comprehend the horrors of war. Quietly he whispers a silent prayer for his fallen comrades.