© 2017-2018  by Michael C. Meek Jr.

Your Country Calls

TO ARMS!

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IMMEDIATELY!

Are Wanted

Pleasant most of the day.

Heavy firing in front.

I am quite unwell yet today.

August 19th marked the third day of sustained shelling of Fort Sumter and the effects were beginning to show along the outer wall. Given this initial success, there was a concern by General Gillmore and his chiefs that an attempt might be made by the Confederate defenders, opposite their lines in Battery Wagner, to sally out and relieve the battered fort, then crumbling under the might of the Federal guns. To prevent this, a continual rotation of guards, along with a plethora of defensive entanglements and flanking batteries, were pressed forward in defense of the siege engineers working in the saps. The 75th Ohio formed a portion of this defensive guard, taking a regular evening shift.

 

Although lacking in numbers, when compared to the larger infantry formations then serving in the Department of the South, the 75th Ohio were mostly veteran soldiers. McDowell, Cross Keys, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and a score of smaller skirmishes had molded these men into a respected fighting force. Given this quality, they believed themselves more than capable of holding against an assault of what were, overwhelmingly, unseasoned infantry then stationed in defense of Charleston.

 

As veterans, however, there appears to have grown some complacency, if not apathy, in the face of danger. This being in mind, August 19th would also mark the first casualties of the regiment on Morris Island. Again, our pard William Southerton of Company B, 75th Ohio provides the narrative.

 

Once, my detachment was sent over to Morris earlier than usual, arriving at the advanced battery before sunset. The parapet surrounding the battery extended across the beach almost to the water's edge. A twelve-foot square platform of sand sacks extended to the beach. A hot day, the tide was in, gentle waves were slapping against the sand sacks. We had to await our assigned duty, so a bunch of us spilled out over the platform, pulled off our boots or shoes, and enjoyed the cool, refreshing water. Jack, John Quliter and I found a nice place to sit, on the outer sacks facing the sea. Oh, it was restful sitting there, gazing out over the ocean, the sun going down lazy-like.

 

The "Advanced Battery" of Battery Hays, was a single gun position, mounting an 8-inch Parrot Rifle. Across the bay, along the horizon you can see the silhouette of Fort Sumter. To the right, the Confederate held positions on Morris Island. Just out of frame on the left would have been Confederate positions under construction on James Island to counter the approaches of the Federals on Morris Island. 

 

“Our present from Sumter!” Jack yelled, “Watch it!”


The shell screamed overhead. A burst and a roar. Spalls scattered all around, splattering in every direction. All three of us were hit at the same time.


“I'm a dead man! I'm a dead man!” Jack screamed.

 

A large piece of shell hit Jack, cutting off his right leg just above the knee, struck the left leg near the knee, severing the tendons. He fell back screaming with pain and fright. A thin, flat piece hit me on the instep, stuck to the wet skin, sizzling it like something frying. I jumped up to help Jack. There lay Quliter, instantly killed by a large spall which tore through his chest and shoulder.

 

Jack, bleeding profusely was carried away to the field hospital near the boat landing. A stretcher was brought up, Quliter's body was carried away and buried a short distance from the beach. A few days later Jack was taken to the hospital at Hilton Head.

 

 

 

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