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William P. Robertson: Readings

Bucktail Brothers--Chapter 14 Excerpt

(William P. Robertson)
July 25, 2011
William P. Robertson & David Rimer

The 149th's first battle experience was far from glorious.  It occurred at the beginning of the Chancellorsville Campaign on April 20, 1863, near Port Royal, Virginia:

At midday the Federals finally arrived on the banks of the rising Rappahannock and drew up in line opposite the Reb stronghold at Port Royal.  Sweat stood out on Willie's brow as he anxiously studied the Confederate trenches just visible across the river.  Glancing at his brother, he saw the same trepidation mirrored on his face.

When the engineers rushed forward to lay the pontoons, Colonel Dwight howled, "Forward, Bucktails!  Form up behind that earthwork."

At the same moment, Willie saw the artillery being rushed into action.  Each field piece was hauled by a team of six mules, and the animals were driven on the double-quick into position.  After the guns were unlimbered, Professor Phillips said, "Look, boys, those cannon have pine logs for barrels."

"What good are they gonna do us," croaked Asher, "if they ain't genuine barkers?"

"It looks like this whole attack is bogus!" exclaimed Henry.  "We done all that dang marchin' an' got soaked to the rear fer nothin'."

"Actually," retorted Professor Phillips, "this is what the army calls a feint.  While we demonstrate here, the real attack will occur somewhere else against a weaker part of the Confederate position."

"The only fellas our general surprised was us," griped Henry. "Damn!  We're pullin' back without firin' one shot!"