View single post by Johan Steele
 Posted: Thu Apr 24th, 2008 02:13 am
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Johan Steele
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It got some chuckles on another board, please contribute your own that you might have gleaned from readings.

 

A battle so insignificant that it is in no way mentioned in the OR or in Generals reports. Those that participated and who came upon the scene after would never forget what they saw. The horror of it sent at least two women, in a carriage, who came upon the scene reeling. They would be forever scarred by the experience.

On a lovely spring Saturday in 1864 a blockhouse along the Tennessee River
stood careful watch over a crossing. Saturday was wash day and the Norwegian garrison, perhaps fifty men with a Sergeant in command of the post. The Norwegians of the US Army had garnered a well earned reputation as tough and hardy soldiers standing bravely on numerous occasions. This particular morning the sun rose and it promised to be a warm day with a light breeze.

It was the perfect day for laundry. And these boys desperately needed to launder their uniforms as some had accused them of smelling as bad as their precious Lutefisk. So early in the morning the command stepped out of the blockhouse and headed the fifty or so yards to the river stacked arms. They eagerly began the process of polluting the river with their wash and taking full advantage of the situation to bathe as well. Their Sergeant in full diligence positioned himself at the lip of the bank and watched his post.

That same morning a group of Rebel partisans were given a valuable piece of intelligence; a solitary blockhouse had been abandoned just that morning. A local child had seen them early in the morning form up and march away. Now was a chance to strike at the hated invaders. They would destroy the blockhouse thus preventing its re-occupation in the future. So off they went destiny and easy glory for the cause waited. Thus a set of truly tragic events began a story that would grow with each telling.

Those partisans quickly gathered and mounted their horses, moving with all speed the advanced upon the abandoned blockhouse with arson upon their minds. And upon arrival they were pleased to discover that their intelligence was indeed correct. The post had been hurriedly abandoned, cook pots and blankets were still in evidence but the garrison was gone. The gallant partisans began the preparations to fire the place.

The Sergeant watched a large group of the enemy swoop down upon his post. Fear and anger welled up inside of him as he gathered his men to retake their post. There was no time for preparations; they would have to retake the post by the bayonet. He gave his orders and his small command grimly nodded their understanding and agreement. There was no way they would allow their post to be taken cheaply, to do so would tarnish the honor of the Regiment; that could not be tolerated.

So the small command stood to at the lip of the river bank, grimly fixed bayonets and prepared themselves. With a quiet nod the Sergeant rose from their position with his command and they moved upon the enemy cavalry with a roar and an impetuous charge.

Out of the mist came a deep throated roar and the Rebel partisans saw a scene as though from hell itself. It was a trap! A Company, nay an entire Regiment was charging them steel bayonets glistening. But that was not the truly terrifying sight, it was their uniforms... or rather lack of them that caught the men so off guard. For you see only the man leading the charge wore a uniform; the men that followed him wore only drawers and what the good Lord had gifted them with. That was just too much, the partisans broke and ran. An unexpected bayonet assault is not a thing many men are willing to stand and accept and these men were no regulars in the Army of Tennessee but partisans.

The small garrison reached the safety of their blockhouse and praised the good Lord for their fortune, not a shot had been fired at them and the enemy had been so surprised by their audacious charge that they had run. But they would regroup and come for them. There could be no doubt of that. So the small garrison took to their posts and waited the inevitable attack... for the most part naked or near to it.

The partisans were humiliated, driven from their prize by men who lacked even uniforms. There must be redemption! So when one of the scouts reported a small column of infantry approaching it was decided to capture them. The enemy was deployed in column on a road, oblivious to the presence of this mounted force. Shock was decided to be the most effective weapon; they would conduct an old fashioned cavalry charge. The enemy could not resist a mounted charge. So they waited in the tree line for the hated foe to enter the kill zone; they would redeem themselves!

A company of men, proud members of the 15th Corps moved along the road at their traditional pace eating step. Easy garrison duty was ahead of them. A few days on the river away from the camp. Easy duty for men who deserved a break. These were the same men that had faced Cleburne on the slopes beside Mission Ridge, they had been given a bloody nose by that foe but the rest of the army had swept Bragg's army off the ridge like so much chaff. Every man in the column was a veteran of places like Shiloh, Iuka, Champions Hill and the siege of Vicksburg
. And cavalry did not frighten them, especially the ragtag force that emerged from the woods a hundred yards distant. A simply right face and a volley into their face shattered the charge. The skirmishers in front and behind the column added their fire shattering the charge and felling more than a dozen horses and men. The survivors pulled up, turned and ran.

They gathered a few prisoners, collected a couple wounded men and rapidly buried those that had begun their journey to be read in the book. The short distraction lasted less than an hour. On they marched to their posts. To their amusement the garrison emerged from their post to meet them and change the guard so to speak.

Oh what a sight it must have been as that carriage full of ladies crested the hill and saw such a site. Fifty men drawn up in ranks preparing to transfer the post to their relief; with but one man wearing a uniform. It was said the men heard the screams of shock and panic from a distance of more than four hundred yards. Oddly the carriage swung away from the blockhouse so quickly it nearly spilled its lovely cargo upon the soil. At breakneck speed the carriage left the vicinity of those terrifying naked Norsemen... though not half so shamed as them men who had broken and ran before the charge of that same Naked Norseman. But in fairness to those genteel ladies and brave partisans not many would willingly submit to an attack by a Naked Norwegian... the humanity of it!


 

 

The story made the rounds of the Army of the Tennessee in June of 64 which is where I first read of it. I have no doubt it was greatly embellished but as I have read of the incident in at least three different period sources over the years I have no doubt the basis at least is true. I too suspect members of the 15th Wisconsin... but that said many Regiments D Company was a nesting place for non English speaking immigrants.


There were block houses up and down the Tennessee River guarding various crossing points and ferries. I don't think it would really be possible to isolate exactly where it happened. It's one of those stories that stick w/ you.

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