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A Confederate Odyssey
All this Florida boy wanted to do was rejoin his regiment. Instead they drafted him into the Confederate secret service.
December 1984 | Volume 36, Issue 1
We dashed out to try to make our escape. In what direction Kernan went I do not know, but I followed Livingstone, as I thought him to be a good runner. There was only one way out and that was in front of the Federal line. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that from seventy-five to a hundred men of the Union army, just climbing the crest of the hill, were to my right, not over twenty or thirty feet away. It seemed that they all fired at me at once. The blaze from their gun barrels scorched my face, and one bullet barely reached my right cheek.
I was not frightened in the least. I held my gun and had my cartridge box, but I certainly was running faster than a young deer before the hounds. When I reached the decline of the hill on the other side, which could not have been more than two hundred yards from the crest upon which we fought, I saw there was no road leading down and, balancing my body with my gun, I sailed out into the air and lit at the bottom squarely upon my feet. Turning slightly to the right, I ran into an old road and, when I got a little farther down, came across Sam Pascoe from Monticello. The brave fellow was putting a tourniquet on his leg below the knee, and he cried out, “Charlie, don’t leave me!.”
I saw the point from which the blood was running and knew he was not dangerously hurt. I answered jocosely, “It’s no time to stop now,” and pushed on. Livingstone was a little behind me.
About a hundred yards farther on I came to some thick brush—so thick I could not see through it—and as I rounded this little point of timber I heard the German command “Attention! Attention!” I looked and saw what I took to be two or three German [Union army] regiments right together and to my left, about two hundred yards or so. I heard further orders given in German. Right then flashed across my mind: “We are fighting the world! Here on this battlefield are foreigners who do not speak English and yet are fighting for the American flag. ”
I looked over to the right of where I was and saw a little hut. In this Livingstone and myself took shelter. I peeked through the cracks at these same Germans, and I saw them shoot several men with their hands up. All at once I made a decision, and that was to load up and fight it out.
I threw the breech up and put in a cartridge while Livingstone said, “What are you going to do, Charlie?”
I replied, “I am going to sell out here and now. ” I did not believe they were going to show us any quarter, and told him what I had seen.
Just then I saw a man coming toward us on a captured horse. He was a Union soldier and was making directly for the cabin door. I was ready and my gun loaded; I peeked through the cracks between the edge of the door and the casing on the logs; I looked at him closely. He was a handsome fellow and looked to be about twenty-two. He was not coming rapidly but steadily. I knew I could kill him as soon as he got close enough. I looked at him again. He had ruddy cheeks and dark brown hair, and was a soldier of whom either side would have been proud. I said to myself, “I cannot kill that boy!” I thought of his mother at once; a strange thing that she came into my mind; but that is just as it happened.
When he got within fifteen feet of the door, he sang out a violent oath and told us to come out. I am sure I surprised him more than he ever before was surprised in his life, for with my gun pointed at his breast, I was within five feet of him in a moment and shouted, “Throw up your arms!” They went up, and his gun went down.
He said, “What do you mean? You are surrounded and cannot get away. ”
I answered, “I want to be treated as a soldier and not murdered, as your men have murdered all around us in the last few moments. Promise me that and I will surrender.”
He said, “I will protect you,” and I said, “Here’s my gun.”
Livingstone then came out, and we were both prisoners.
We walked back along the ridge on the same road we had pursued in getting away from it, but we did not see Pascoe where we passed him earlier, and I suppose he had already been carried away as a prisoner in an ambulance. We climbed the hill and went over the very spot where our regiment had fallen. I saw Randolph Saxons lying there dead, and directly Livingstone called me and said, “Here is Ulmer. ” The dead lay just on the hilltop, and Ulmer’s body was farther to the front than any other we saw.
Livingstone asked the Union soldier, our guard, if we could turn Ulmer over, as he was lying on his face with his face to the front where the battle had raged. The guard gave permission. There was no flag by Ulmer’s side. Someone had saved it, but in his valor Ulmer had added glory and prestige to the courage of an American soldier. Poor Ulmer! The son of a widow and needed at home, he was one of the many sacrifices laid upon the altar of Constitutional Liberty by the Southern army.
I heard someone say, “Orderly Sergeant, come here!” I turned and looked up, and there was General Hazen of the Union Army. He had called me. He was a very handsome man, and with his staff rode splendid horses. He said to me, “Where are all your people?” I said, “General,” pointing in the direction of their retreat, “If you will go over in that timber, you will find them.” He laughed, and I followed the guard down the hill.