I don't really have time for a long blog post, but this entry was so delicious, I just had to share:
Wed. June 3
I got out of General [Leonidas] Polk the story of his celebrated adventure with the ____Indiana (Northern) regiment, which resulted in the almost total destruction of that corps. I had often during my travels heard officers and soldiers talking of this extraordinary feat of the "Bishop's."
|Gen. Leonidas Polk|
The modest yet graphic manner in which General Polk related this wonderful instance of coolness and bravery was extremely interesting, and I now repeat it, as nearly as I can in his own words.
"Well, sir, it was at the battle of Perryville, late in the evening -- in fact, it was almost dark when Lidell's brigade came into action. Shortly after its arrival, I observed a body of men, whom I believed to be Confederates, standing at the newly arrived troops. I said, 'Dear me, this is very sad, and must be stopped;' so I turned 'round, but could find none of my young men who were absent on different messages; so I determined to ride myself and settle the matter.
"Having cantered up to the colonel of the regiment which was firing, I asked him in angry tones what he meant by shooting his own friends, and I desired him to cease doing so at once. He answered with surprise, 'I don't think there can be any mistake about it; I am sure they are the enemy.'
"'Enemy! I said,' 'why I have only just left them myself. Cease firing, sir; what is your name, sir?'
"'My name is Colonel ____, of the ____Indiana; and pray, sir, who are you?'
"Then for the first time I saw, to my astonishment, that he was a Yankee, and that I was in rear of a regiment of Yankees. Well, I saw that there was no hope but to brazen it out; my dark blouse and the increasing obscurity befriended me, so I approached quite close to him and shook my fist in his face, saying, 'I'll show you who I am, sir; cease firing, sir, at once.'
"I then turned my horse and cantered slowly down the line, shouting in an authoritative manner to the Yankees to cease firing; at the same time I experienced a disagreeable sensation, like screwing up my back, and calculating how many bullets would be between my shoulders every moment. I was afraid to increase my pace until I got to a small copse, when I put the spurs in and galloped back to my men.
"I immediately went up to the nearest colonel, and said to him, 'Colonel, I have reonnoitred [sic.] those fellows pretty closely -- and I find there is no mistake who they are; you may get up and go at them.'
"And I assure you, sir, that the slaughter of that Indiana regiment was the greatest I have ever seen in the war."
From the book Three Months in the Southern States, April-June, 1863 by Lieut.-Col. Arthur Freemantle, published by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1863
See also Part I - Old Book; New Chapter