This is Part 7 of my ongoing series of excerpts from Borden Hicks’ personal account in Glimpses of the Nation’s Struggle. Borden Hicks was a humorous young officer in the 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War. The 11th Michigan is the regiment chronicled in my upcoming novel, The Edge of Hell. The photos included in this article are my property, taken during my research trip.
Our next engagement was at Resaca, although we were under fire every day from the beginning of the campaign till the fall of Atlanta, some 120 days. It was our good fortune not to be actively engaged in this battle. Our position in line was such that we could see the fighting on our left as well as in our front.
It is related of the battle of Resaca that some time after the war two men were traveling on the cars, and occupied the same seat. These men had both been in the army, one a Confederate and the other a Union soldier. The conversation naturally drifted on their wonderful experiences while in the army, the Johnnie telling of being on the skirmish line at the battle of Resaca. He had finally got a dead bead on the Union soldier in the pit in his front, and was just ready to pull the trigger, when he heard a sweet plaintive voice coming from the Union pit, at first very soft and low, and gradually gaining strength and volume, until it came in triumphant tunes:
Jesus lover of my soul
Let me to Thy bosum fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high;
Hide me, oh my Savior hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Cover my defenceless head,
With the shadows of Thy Wings.
(Learn more about this famous hymn here.)
The Johnnie said that he lowered his gun, for he could not shoot a man who put his trust in a protecting Savior. As he finished his recital, the Union soldier grasped him by the hand and said that he was the Union soldier, and then related his experience, saying that he had been in the service over two years, and in a number of hotly contested battles, that when he was detailed for the skirmish line that morning, he was very weak and depressed, and could hardly support his body till he arrived in the skirmish pit, then his thoughts turned to his beloved Savior, and commenced to sing that comforting hymn, and as he finished the verse, his courage and strength came back to him, and he was again a veteran soldier.
Somewhere on this campaign, we took up a position in the woods, and built strong works. We were so close to the Confederates that we had to lay low during the days.
This place went into history with us as the one position where more of the enemy were slaughtered than we could get any record of, for we spent our days in slaying every able-bodied Gray Back that showed his head, but alas the next morning when we opened our eyes, their place was filled by an army of nits, so we gave this place the uphoneous [sic] name of “Lousy Ditch,” and ever after if anyone said to us Lousy Ditch, we replied, “Nit.”
One night while occupying this position with this suggestive name, I was placed in charge of the skirmish line. It was in heavy timber and of course very dark. In going from one post to another, I got outside of our line, and when I realized the fact, I was so badly frightened that my hair stood on end and has stood that way ever since, compelling me to have it cut pompadour.
Near Kennesaw Mountain, where the Rebel General Pope was killed by a cannon shot aimed at his group of officers as he stood out on the mountain side, word came to us one morning that one division of the Fourteenth Army Corps would make a charge on the works of the enemy and try and break through their line of works. Our skirmishers were detailed and reported to Brigade Headquarters, and assigned their place in front, and then we stood and waited nearly all day long for the command to charge. The works in our front were not over four rods apart, and we knew that it meant death to the charging column. It was the most trying day that we experienced in our whole term of service. It is a well-known fact that when men are under intense excitement and danger, but from necessity inactive, that nature will assert her claims, so our line was depleted from time to time by men falling out and going to the rear, but always reporting back in a few moments. Fortunately for us, another division made the charge and were badly cut up and defeated, as is most always the case in charging fortified positions.
BATTLE OF PEACH TREE CREEK
General Hood had succeeded General Johnston in command of the Confederate Army and signalized that event by taking the offensive and trying to break through our lines. We were stationed on the right wing of our army, where we had a severe engagement in the morning. We were ordered from the right wing to the left to fill a gap that had been overlooked in the alignment of our army. The importance of this position was such that we were moved by the shortest line, which led us just in rear of our men of the Twenty-third Army Corps, who were resisting the massed columns of General Hood, who were trying to break our line. This gap in our line proved to be in a blackberry patch or field. It was doubly welcome to us, not only as food, but on account of their well-known medicinal qualities as an astringent.
Next time: the Battle of Atlanta.
For more reading about the battle of Resaca: The Civil War Trust
For more reading about the battle of Pickett’s Mill: Pickett’s Mill Battlefield . This battlefield is one of my all-time favorites. The park service has tried to keep it as pristine as possible, not even allowing monuments.
For more reading about the battle of Kennesaw Mountain: National Park Service