Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/171

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159
FIRST ACTIONS OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS.

be sent home to disband, and with others I speculated not a little on the chances of escape in the impending fight. There had been times in my career as a soldier when I was "too anxious for wounds and scars" as General Grant once remarked of Ned Buntline, and even at the eleventh hour, with the prospect, as I believed, of a speedy return home, I consoled myself with the thought that if wounded I would carry a glorious badge on the homeward march. But I went into action that day, convinced on the whole, that the fellows across the line would not pay special attention to me, for I held that I was an indifferent mark for good ammunition—a lad of seventeen years, small inches, and light weight.

It turned out that our position, though supposed to be well sheltered, was closely inspected by a number of Confederate sharpshooters, but, as it was very important that we remain at that point, we had to make the best of it. I was near the head of the line of the regiment, and, as we lay strung along on the slope of the ridge, I could see every man in the command. One after another the sharpshooters' bullets began to tell. I noticed a lieutenant in one of the companies moving about on some official errand and making a splendid target, and, while I was thinking how cool he was, something struck him and twisted his body around so that I detected the break in his locomotion. He did not halt, but went on calmly and freely for some paces, and in a few minutes, having delivered some orders and exchanged words with some of his men, he went to the rear with a decided limp. Between the moment of his wounding and the accomplishment of his purpose he did not limp at all, and probably did not know that he was hit (it was a flesh-wound in the thigh) until told of it. Then, when he knew what had happened, he yielded to new mental processes and acted as wounded men are supposed to do. When the lieutenant had disappeared from view, I turned my face to the front, bolstering my trembling hopes with the thought that this last victim was a shining mark, as I certainly was not. Besides, I believed that the sharpshooters could not get the range on our end of the line. Then followed a "thud" close to me, and my next sensation was that I was prostrate on the ground, pierced through my left arm, heart, and spine with a rod, and pinned to the earth. This was the physical sensation, but, of course, was not the fact. Then through my brain there flitted quickly a vision such as the thought of a battle most commonly brings to mind masses of warring men struggling individually for the mastery. I seemed to be in the midst of the melee, and with all the indignation I could express was shouting to the men in gray, "There, you have hit me!" Next I was being lifted and supported by some one, and a voice said, "He isn't hit, but something is the