It was the autumn of 1863, and Confederates were in the middle of a bold assault on a Union fort near Knoxville, Tennessee. The Rebels reached a defensive ditch surrounding the fort, but were pinned down.
One of the men volunteered to make a dash back across the wide open field to get water. Somehow, he managed to make it back without being shot, but now he had to make it to the ditch, carrying the load.
Confederate General Gordon later recalled the following:
“Laden with the filled and heavy canteens, he approached within range of the rifles in the fort and looked anxiously across the intervening space. He was fully alive to the fact that the chances were all against him; but determined to relieve his suffering comrades or die in the effort, he started on his perilous run for the ditch at the fort.”
Gordon, from Georgia, was no stranger to daring himself. He was already battle-scarred before he was shot four times at Antietam, and continued to lead his men. It took a fifth bullet to bring him down that day. Later wounded at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, blood streaming from his head, he again carried on with his command.
Here is the rest of the story he told of that day:
“The brave Union soldiers stood upon the parapet with their rifles in hand. As they saw this daring American youth coming, with his life easily at their disposal, they stood silently contemplating him for a moment. Then realizing the situation, they fired at him a tremendous volley–not of deadly bullets from their guns, but of enthusiastic shouts from their throats. If the annals of war record any incident between hostile armies which embodies a more beautiful and touching tribute by the brave to the brave, I have never seen it.”
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