O Shenandoah! Country Reckoning

paintingO Shenandoah! Country Reckoning

"The Bulldog's Bark" -- Part 4

By James R. Wiley

This story is based on the participation of Mr. Wiley's great-grandfather in the Battle of New Market, May 15, 1864. It is a blend of fiction and fact with transitions between the actual text of his great-grandfather's letters and historical notes bound by an imaginative tale.

If you missed earlier sections, they're archived in Word Preserve as Part 3, Part 2 and Part 1.

A. J. Continued his retelling of events the next day:

May 29th

We got back to our lines as I say and were prepared to advance again, but the rebs kept coming. Finally the Penna and Michigan Regiments advanced too. We moved forward again, and I seen those same young faces, now dirty and scared as one might expect. But they grew up fast in thoes few minutes. They were fierce soldiers. I had no more stomach for it. They were hardly more than drummer boys carrying guns. I fired over their heads at older Rebs on there right. I was reloading when I was hit.

I knew it would happen sooner or later and I prayd God it would not be bad. I have heard of men not knowing at first they were hit, that it is sometimes like a terrble sting. I knew it tho. I saw it too and could not beleve it had happened. It hit me in the hand, near the center joint of my fore finger. It tore my finger just about all off and it bled terrible. There was pain, a great deal of it, and not so bad that I could not continue, as was my duty. I placed my kerchief about it and tied it as tight as I could until something better could be done. I remember looking for my finger in the mud but it was no where to be seen.

When it pained me so that I could not advance something hit me in the stomack and I thot that I was kilt. I don't know what it was hit me but I was not injured. I began to retreat as I was bleading badly and had lost my rifle. Others started to follow me in my retreat. Then everyone follo'd me. It was disgraceful the way we ran.

Well as you know the doctors at Mount Jackson amputated the rest of my finger. They are very busy much of the time cutting off limbs and patching up afterword. I have not been well since I was at the hospital at Clarys Ville. I think it is good to be away from there.

At least I have fared better than some. I am still alive and was not wounded so bad that they had to leave me, as they did with the worse off. There are many men we do not know about who were left on the field and are now prisoners if they are still alive. We lost 7 or 8 men dead from our regiment alone and there was hundreds of us walking wounded. The road back to edenburg was crowded with men and wagons and horses and we were more tired on our retreat that the day before when we arrived.

If we can get some decent food and provender we will awl be better off. I do not look forward to Winter here, and hope that we might take the offensive soon and finish this hellish war. Maybe by the next time I can write it will be from Richmond. P'haps I shall be feeling better by then.

Your Loving Husband, A J Wiley

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A. J. was not to be at home that winter, and it was some time before the Army of West Virginia and the Army of the Shenandoah were to get decent leadership and supplies. General Franz Sigel was relieved of command on May 19, 1864, after his ignoble defeat at New Market. Finally, the war began to take on proportions expected of the militarily superior Union. After the war, A. J. and Rebecca had four more children, the first among them a son they named Philip H. Sheridan Wiley, after the new hero general.

A. J. and the 1st West Virginia fought with Sheridan's army throughout the Shenandoah Valley for another year, battling it out with Jubal Early's seasoned troops, skirmishing with raiders, and waging the "War of Burning" throughout the valley in an attempt to drive the Confederates out and to deprive them of their supplies. A. J. survived the war to return home disabled by wounds and chronic diarrhea, due to dysentery probably contracted in the military hospital. His grave monument states only his and Rebecca's birth and death dates, and A. J.'s military attachment: "A. J. Wiley, 1831 - 1895, Co. H1 & F2, W. Va. Vol. Inf. - Rebecca J. his wife, 1832 - 1921." There's nothing there to relate his horror and pain at war, or his grief over what was done in that beautiful valley.

James Wiley is an Ohio-born and raised writer and amateur genealogist, working with cousins from Maine to California to research their ancestry. With his wife, Lu, Jim visits the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge mountains every year, enjoying the scenery, warm hospitality, and personal attachment to the vivid history of the Shenandoah Valley. Besides his several ancestors who lived in Virginia from early colonial days to distant cousins of the present, Jim shares the history of many Americans whose families were split over the Civil War, sometimes pitting them against each other in battle.

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"The Bulldog's Bark" James R. Wiley June, 1997. All rights reserved.