Remembering, A special “band of brothers”.

by Jim Lamason on September 17, 2007 · 0 comments

As I type this, 145 years ago, , September 16,1862 the 30th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, better known as the 1st Pa Reserves were ordered from column of “fours”, the standard marching formation of the day, into battle lines. The regiment was now a veteran regiment. Tired and hungry it was given the chance to rest. Some of the men would just rest easy leaning on their muskets. Some took the time to check their weapons, and loading them as they prepared for the order to advance that they knew to come.
They were part of the leading elements of the army. The word was that “the secesh” were in the area. And these men were savy enough to know what that meant. One, a 22 year private from Carlisle Pa sighed. Foot sore along with the rest, he tried to pull himself together. At 5′ 6″ with sandy blonde hair, he was average build for the men of the day. But he had also lost weight. He chuckled at that fact as he adjusted his suspenders. He could feel his ribs as fixed his shirt. Damp from the sweat of the march, it just stuck to him.

He thought to himself, if only the Colonel would let them go into this fight without their jackets.. But sighing again, no General Truman Seymour would not let his proud brigade go into a fight in such a casual manner. Nope jackets would be on. Well at least they could get rid of their backpacks.

He checked his cartridge box. Yes , all his rounds were there. And then his percussion cap box as well. All set.. Now the hard part The waiting.

The Colonel of the regiment, R. Biddle Roberts, paced behind the men. Sword in hand he waited for the next order.

There was rustling in the tree line ahead.. The Col was the first one to hear it. The distinct rattle of equipment, or was that a deer just roaming through the thicket ahead?

There was only one way to find out. Seymour rode up and asked Biddle’s thoughts on what was ahead. Nervously spitting the extra saliva that tends to creep up in a mans mouth at a time like this, he said”My intentions General are to put out skirmishers and see whats up”.. Colonel, then advance your regiment!… Biddle called his regiment to attention.

And then the order came, Co H! Skirmish line! The young soldier sighed again. The thought passed through his mind, as he thought, “How come it has to always be US?”.. And he knew why. Because they were the best at it…

They step off… Keeping proper spacing.. And slowly but steadily they advanced. The distance between their step off point and the tree line slowly decreased.

More sounds.. SOMETHING, or was it SOME ONES was in the woods ahead. The soldier, looked briefly to his right and left, he thought of home, family, and yes his friends that were with him He clutched his rifle a little bit tighter. Why dont they fire? If they are there? What are they waiting for? … No, its just animals and we will be laughing like we have so many other times around the campfire tonight.. …….

Suddenly, that familiar sound. That ever soldier knows. That sound of rifles, the sound of leather straps straining as they come off of shoulders, and then that distinct clicking sound that muskets make as the hammer on the guns are pulled to full cock…. Present! READYY!!! STEADY BOYS< AIM LOW in a deep southern drawl came ringing over the open ground between, FIRE!!!!!

He hit the ground just as he heard the bullets whistle over his head! From his belly he aimed his rifle, and pointed it at what he thought would be the middle of the mass of troops that were surely in the tree line in front of him! Pulling the hammer on his gun to full cock, he slowly squeezed the trigger, and the gun made that familiar crackle as the hammer fell, igniting the powder in his, and pushing the bullet out to go down range. He rolled over on his back, pulled out the next cartridge, ripped open the paper, poured the power down the muzzle,put the paper wad over the open end, then inserted the bullet into the “business end” of the rifle, pulled the ramrod out, rammed the round home, reinserted the ramrod in the musket, flipped back on his belly, put another percussion cap on, aimed and squeezed off another round as the next volley from the enemy in front crashed fourth from the woods…

He heard the order of the SGT, ” Pull BACK!”… Hmm he quickly thought, the Lt must be down.. slowly he began to crawl back,, another volley crashed over his head, but this time he heard the sickening thud, as a bullet found one of his comrades, and the cry of OH! as the body fell back to the ground. No time he thought to check to see who it was, he got up and sprinted back to the regiment..

Biddle stood behind the regiment, “Steady boys, steady!!!!! .. Good job Co H… No time our soldier thought to check to see who wasnt there! But wait a minute where is John?

Biddle gave the order to advance… After going only 10 paces or so, the order came to HALT! The next order was the one the whole regiment longed to hear, “Regiment, by Rank! …… First Rank, Kneel, Present, READY, AIM LOW BOYS AND GIVE EM HELL! FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!! The the front rank in front of him, let loose one solid wall of flame as the rifles blasted that wall of lead at the tree line ahead.. More orders now, 2nd Rank advance, KNEEL! Present, READY! AIM LOW BOYS! AND YOU GIVE EM HELL TOO! FIRE!!!!!!

And the second rank as one roared and sent its wall of lead into the tree line ahead..

Our soldier found himself thinking, “Why dont they return fire?” Hell they are there!”

The reload order had long since been given, and the regiment as one moved further towards the woods. Now less then a 100 yards from the tree line, Point blank range for those days even, Halt was sounded from the Colonel ringing across the ground again. “Regiment this time, by file from left to right, FIRE!”

And by twos the two ranks rippled off another volley………. Then it came, That deep southern drawl came fourth again, Ready AIM LOW! FIRE! This time, the bullets found their mark, as they thudded into the soldier in front of him and then the thing he feared the most, he felt the SMACK, as bullet hit his right leg, spinning him on his good leg, and fell down. He grabbed his thigh as the searing white hot pain pulsed through his leg, and seemed to just ring through out his body!

Biddles voice was heard again over the din, “Steady boys, gather up our comrades and fall back.”The soldier felt strong arms gather him under his shoulders and he was helped to the rear.

The SGT came to him, “You are hit huh laddy?!, well its a wound that will send ya home now!”… He passed out from the pain as the regiment continue to take scattered shots at the enemy in the fading light……. Yes, he would be going home………

The above is a fictionalize account of events that occurred September 16,1862. In the late afternoon, and early twilight in what was to become known as the EAST WOODS…Out side a sleepy little town, that the next day would be forever known as one of the bloodiest days in American History. The town you ask? Sharpsburg… But to the Union soldiers who fought there, it would be known as the Battle of Antietam. Its based on the books Landscape Turned Red by Stephen Sears, and The Gleam of Bayonets by John Murfin. Oh yes I almost forgot!

Who was the soldier? Jacob Lamason, Pvt, Co H, 30 Regiment of Pa Volunteers, THE First PA Reserves! My Great Grandfather……….

He survived that wound, and miraculously kept the leg, even though it turned gangrenous! He is musted out in June 28, 1863… Just as his regiment makes its way north to the second turning point of the war, another small farm town, but this time the PA men would be fighting on THEIR HOME ground. At Gettysburg.

Lest we forget………..Jim

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