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"There Were Actual Windrows Made in the Ranks"

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Study of the Kentucky campaign typically focuses on the Battle of Perryville and, sometimes, Richmond. However, the Battle of Munfordville is arguably one of the most important events of the entire campaign. Who knows how differently things may have turned out had the Federal garrison there surrendered immediately, was defeated earlier, or had been bypassed all together. What we can know is that the Confederate advance changed, and the Green River did not see a decisive battle to decide the fate of Kentucky. This letter to the Indianapolis Star does not give the reader any information on the movements of the armies or the tactical decisions made during the battle, but it does give us plenty of the human interest stories that enthrall many of us with this era. What was the average Union soldier doing during this battle? The writer gives us several examples below.

 

Indianapolis Star

September 30, 1862, Page 3


The Louisville correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette gives some incidents of the surrender of Munfordville not generally known. He says that Bragg's army was before the place and had seventy-two pieces of cannon in position to rake the works. Col. Wilder was permitted to see and to count the cannon. The place, under these circumstances, was a mere slaughter pen, and it would have been murderous to have resisted longer. He gives the following among other incidents:


Company K, of the 74th Indiana, had been in the field such a short time that it knew little else than the manual of arms. The Major in command of the pickets, of which company K was a part, finding himself about to be surrounded, ordered a retreat, but company K did not understand and remained in position fighting. The danger was imminent, and the Major commanding them had to go through the manual [of arms] with company K before it could be marched off. The company came to a shoulder arms! about face! forward! double-quick! march! and then left the field in good order!



Major Abbot, 57th Indiana, was killed while standing on the breastworks cheering his men. The flag under which he stood was cut down, having 146 holes through it.


A man detailed from the 67th Indiana acted as No 2 of a gun of the 12th Indiana battery. While engaged in putting a rammer to the muzzle of the gun he was shot through the mouth, his teeth and a part of his tongue being cut away. He looked in the direction from which the shot came, then rammed the charge home, stood to see the effects of the shot, gave his rammer to another gunner and retired. Colonel Wilder met him again at Munfordville, when Buell passed through, and the man ran out to meet him. The absence of a part of his tongue rendered it difficult for No. 2 to speak, but he managed to say, "Colonel, I can't do much talking, but I can fight like H--l., and the doctor says I can go at it again soon. I want you to have me with you." I am sorry I cannot get the man's name.


Another, who lost his arm, begged the Colonel to have him detailed as his orderly, saying he couldn't leave the service.


Private Peterman, a printer, 17th Indiana, a perfectly raw recruit, sat in an embrasure and fired over five hundred shots. He kept up all the time a continuous laugh in the ranks about him by his witty and humorous remarks. The men below loaded for him, and he fired rapidly and with splendid effect. He managed to escape without being paroled.


Lieut. Mason, commanding 13th Indiana battery, is reported by Col. Wilder to have been the coolest man on the field. He would not fire till the enemy was right upon his ranks, and on their second charge they came within one hundred feet before he fired. They supposed he had been silenced and were cheering for joy, when he opened upon them with canister. There were actual windrows made in the ranks. The destruction was awful.


Corporal Springer, 13th Indiana artillery, is the best soldier Col. Wilder ever saw. He had charge of the rifled gun near the stockade. He would jump on the parapet to see the effect of his shots amidst a hailstorm of balls. He saw Bragg and Buckner and staffs riding a mile distant and fired at them. Buckner afterward inquired after Springer, and stated that the first of his two shells struck within thirty feet and the second passed within four feet of his head without exploding.


 

Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released soon. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.

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David Foote
David Foote
Nov 15, 2023

When reading my memory of how young Wilder looked in early photographs, but they were nearly all "just boys."

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