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George W. Bartlett Transcript
It was rather a long time before we got at what is in my innocence supposed to be the real business of the soldier. One who has not experienced it can hardly conceive of the tedium and weariness of being with an army and nothing to do, -- the difficulty of keeping up the spirits and discipline of the men. But last Tuesday, week, this was bro’t to an end. We had a nice fight – and splendidly did the boys conduct themselves. We rec’d the first fire and gave the last. The attack was made upon us, first on the left then front, right thro’ our camp, and we repelled them both. It then moved farther to the right and front, but our Reg’t. was immediately there to meet it. One of the prisoners said ‘Whereever they attempted to push whether round the flank or thro’ the center that d---d blue Reg’t appeared right in their faces!’ (Our boys went in with their old blue trousers on and lost their best ones, poor fellows, that they left in their tents.)
Oh, it was beautiful to see the Col. manage that reg’t in action. Most of them had never heard such music before, and maybe didn’t understand its nature, at any rate, they paid no attention but moved about with as much precision as tho’ they were on a common battalion drill. As for the Col. It was rather hard – he was sick-a-bed the day before, but was first in and last out of the fight, and thro’ the whole wherever the fire was hottest there was he cheering and holding his men steady. It was lucky he went in on foot, for no man c’d live there on horseback. However it made no difference, for he was bound not to be killed that day, for during the action he became so exhausted at one time that he borrowed a horse and mounted, (and then had to be held on!) but wdn’t retire, and continued to ride up and down the line giving orders till a friendly bullet killed the horse and let him down – but then he was rested and c’d go it on foot again.
Our loss during those few hours I believe was much larger in proportion to the number engaged than that of the Army of the Potomac during those terrible six days fighting! If that great splendid army had stood right up to it as our reg’t did then needn’t have retreated from Richmond.
The fact is, Governor, there never have been many neater little battles than that of the 14th, Baton Rouge, and the fun of it was, not a man of us had any idea at the time that it was anything at all! We had no notion of holding that outpost, but only that we wdn’t be in too much haste about retiring so early in the morning w’d just give them a little ‘brush’ as a sort of voluntary prelude to the real entertainment we were going to give them a little further back, and were never more surprised than when we learned that they were running away, leaving their dead on the ground.
But what of all this – what does it am’t to? Such little affairs to little towards getting possession of the state and putting down the rebellion, Some grand and more fundamental moment must be made down here any thing of value is accomplished. But with this we have nothing to do, the management of this Department is not in our hands; but it does seem to me as tho’ something might be done for Col. Nickerson; Maine ought to do something for him. Compare his services in this war with those of Mssrs. Dow and Shepley; but the former is a General , the latter military Gov. of this state. Observe, too, the men that have been made Brigadiers on the Potomac. Now I believe that Maine has not had an abler military commander nor one more worthy of a Brigade than Col. Nickerson in the Vol. service. Are we so rich in men that we can afford any longer to leave him away down here, toting one Reg’t about hither and thither in obedience to the commands of men that are not half his equal?
You c’d scarecely guess how the spirits of the men were improved by that little affair. They are in the best mood and condition except that they have no white gloves now and their clothes are not quite so clean but since they behaved so well ‘tisn’t so much matter about the clothes. We have almost every day been threatened with another attack but it doesn’t come and have about ceased to expect it.
We are all as comfortable as c’d be expected but seldom forget that this is La. in August.
Very Respectfully Yrs.
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