Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 18.djvu/12
Southern Historical Society Papers
negro soldier, who immediately began to most earnestly beg me not to kill him. "Master, don't kill me! Master, don't kill me! I'll be your slave as long as I live. Don't kill me!" he most piteously cried, whilst I was rapidly loading my gun and he doubtless supposed that its next shot was intended for himself. "Old man, I do not intend to kill you, but you deserve to be killed," was my reply. I addressed him as "old man," as he was apparently over the military age, and to my then young eyes seemed old. All the time he was begging for his life he was cringing at my feet. As soon as I assured him I did not propose to molest him, he began to vigorously fan a poor wounded Confederate soldier, doubtless one of Elliott's men who held the breastworks at the time of the explosion, lying on his back apparently in extremis. I thought he was dying. Manifestly the old negroe's idea was that this attention to the helpless Confederate would serve to protect him against other incoming Confederates.
In the absence of evidence as to his identity, it cannot be positively affirmed that this old fellow was not the ex-preacher referred to by Lieutenant Bowley in his address before the California commandery of the Loyal Legion of the United States in the following paragraph:
"Among the sergeants of my company was one, John H. Offer, by name, who had been a preacher on the eastern shore of Maryland. He exerted great influence over the men, and he deemed the occasion a fitting one to offer some remarks, and, assuming his 'Sunday voice,' he began:
" ' Now, men, dis am gwine to be a gret fight—de gretest we seen yet; gret things is 'pending on dis fight; if we takes Petersburg, mos' likely we'll take Richmond, and 'stroy Lee's army an' close de wah. Eb'ry man had orter liff up his soul in pra'r for a strong heart. Oh, 'member de pore colored people ober dere in bondage; oh, 'member dat Gineral Grant, and Gineral Burnside, and Gineral Meade, an all de gret ginerals is right ober yander a watchin' ye, and 'member de white soldiers' is a watchin' ye, an' 'member dat I' se a watchin' ye, and any skulker is a gwine to git prod ob dis bayonet; you heah me!'"About the time I got my rifle loaded, Comrade John R. Turner, the esteemed adjutant of our camp, then a member of my company.