I saw my blood flowing freely: Colonel Moore of the 33rd Ohio Describes Perryville

    The Battle of Perryville was in its opening moments but already Lieutenant Colonel Oscar F. Moore saw that his regiment, the 33rd Ohio, was reaching its breaking point. "I soon discovered that some of the men of Captain Foster’s company were trying to break out of line and run, but I could distinctly see Lieutenant Higby with his sword drawn exerting himself like a hero to force the men back into line. I started as fast as I could to aid him in driving the men back and while I was running at the top of the my speed and just as I got near where Higby was, I felt something strike my leg as if somebody had hit me with a rock or a brick. Not suspecting that anyone was throwing rocks or bricks in that direction just at that time and having a very distinct impression that there were a few bullets flying towards me. I very naturally suspected that possibly might be one of them that had accidentally hit me. I looked down and soon saw the blood flowing very freely which, of course, left no doubt on the subject," he wrote his wife three days after the battle.

    "I gave my leg a shake to see if the bone was injured and concluded that it was not. I soon began to grow faint from loss of blood and the Rebels were still advancing upon us, and as I did not wish to fall into their hands, I thought I could manage to fall back and keep out of their way without calling for aid. I thereupon started to the rear but had not gone more than 30 steps when I fainted and fell," he noted.

    Lieutenant Colonel Moore's wound would keep him out of action for months; his superb account of being wounded and behind Confederate lines makes for breathtaking reading. It appeared on the first page of the October 25, 1862 issue of the Portsmouth Times, his hometown.


Regimental colors of the 33rd O.V.V.I.

Harrodsburg, Kentucky

October 11, 1862

Dear wife,

            Three days have elapsed since the great battle near Perryville. The Rebels are now falling back from this place towards Camp Dick Robinson and it is possible that our troops may be here today; at all events they are now within a few miles of here. Yesterday, Colonel Lytle together with 200 prisoners were paroled and sent to Danville under the flag of truce. I intended to have gone with them, but I had lost so much blood and my leg was so painful that the doctor decided at once that I could not go. At present I am comfortably taken care of as I could be anywhere except at home. I am at the house of a Mr. Bowman who is not only able but willing to render every assistance in his power. He and his wife and his father-in-law, who is an eminent physician are constant in their attentions and there is nothing that I can ask that they do not do for me. I came here in a most dilapidated condition. The doctor says my wound is doing just as well as could be expected under the circumstances and that I will be well in the course of a few weeks. My wound in through my right leg about three inches below the knee joint. I am very thankful that the bullet did not touch the bone for if it had, I would certainly have lost my leg.

            Our regiment was formed about a quarter of a mile in advance of any other and we had deployed two of my companies as skirmishers to take position on the brow of a steep hill that ran up from the Chaplin Fork of the Salt River. We had remained in that position for some time when our skirmishers sent back word that a heavy body of cavalry was advancing upon them. I reported the fact to General Alexander McCook who ordered me to move my regiment still closer to the line of skirmishers and to repel the cavalry if they advanced. I did so and moved up the whole line to within 150 yards of our line of skirmishers on the double quick. While we were advancing, our skirmishers opened fire and began as they were ordered to fall back towards our line of battle.

            We had scarcely got into position when we could see the charge of the cavalry coming. They were rushing through the woods upon us at a rapid rate and the men were yelling like savages. Our men were standing in line of battle manifesting some uneasiness and a great anxiety to fire. Our skirmishers, however, were still in front of our line and for fear our men might fire without orders, I ordered that the guns should not be capped until our skirmishers and got back behind our line. As soon as that was done, I ordered the men to cap their guns, ready, aim fire! The entire battalion fired at the same time and the volley was so heavy and severe that the entire brigade of cavalry was repulsed and scattered in every direction. We gave them one more volley which sent them back howling and we saw no more of them that day. I saw one of them the next morning and he said he had been hunting all night for his regiment and had been unable to find them, his regiment being completely routed. Mr. Bowman witnessed from a high hill the whole fight and especially the charge of the cavalry and their repulse and he says that it was magnificent. The truth is, it was grand, and we all felt it. Upon the strength of it we gave three hearty cheers, supposing, of course, that our part of the fight was over.

Colonel Oscar Fitzallen Moore
33rd Ohio


            We had not ceased cheering, however, until we saw, charging upon us at the double-quick a brigade of infantry. This was the first we had seen or heard of infantry for we had supposed that we were fighting cavalry and artillery only. When I saw the brigade of infantry moving rapidly upon us, I knew at once that we could not keep them back very long without reinforcements. We were, at the time, from half to three-quarters of a mile in advance of the other regiments of our brigade. Neither Harris or Rousseau were near enough to us to afford aid, so I sent Adjutant Waddle across the field towards Jackson’s division to ask for a regiment or two to support us. No support came, however, and I have not seen nor heard of Waddle since.

            In the meantime, I moved the line of battle a little to the right so that I might present the entire line before the forces that were approaching us. We opened a heavy fire upon them and received a most terrific fire in return. Our first volley checked them for an instant, but they soon rallied and pressed forward, firing at every step, and yelling like so many savages. We stood our ground, however, and gave them some heavy shots, every one of which seemed to make them recoil. Still they rallied, however, and continued to advance. I discovered that two of our companies had got in behind a house and could not even see the enemy. I moved off rapidly to the left of the line and ordered the two companies into a position to be of service and had just turned back towards the center. The bullets were coming like hailstones and I could see several of our men were falling along the line, some of them shot about the face and some of them about the hands and arms, but I could not see any that were killed. They came running towards me and I directed them to go to the rear.

            I soon discovered that some of the men of Captain Foster’s company were trying to break out of line and run, but I could distinctly see Lieutenant Higby with his sword drawn exerting himself like a hero to force the men back into line. I started as fast as I could to aid him in driving the men back and while I was running at the top of the my speed and just as I got near where Higby was, I felt something strike my leg as if somebody had hit me with a rock or a brick. Not suspecting that anyone was throwing rocks or bricks in that direction just at that time and having a very distinct impression that there were a few bullets flying towards me. I very naturally suspected that possibly might be one of them that had accidentally hit me. I looked down and soon saw the blood flowing very freely which, of course, left no doubt on the subject. I gave my leg a shake to see if the bone was injured and concluded that it was not. I soon began to grow faint from loss of blood and the Rebels were still advancing upon us, and as I did not wish to fall into their hands, I thought I could manage to fall back and keep out of their way without calling for aid. I thereupon started to the rear but had not gone more than 30 steps when I fainted and fell.

            How long I remained in that situation I cannot say but not very long for when I revived a little, I could see our regiment falling back the Rebels nearly up to where our line of battle had been. I do not think I was recognized by any of our men as they passed me, at least if they did, they did not come to my assistance. While I was lying upon the ground unable to help myself, I recognized a young man belonging to Captain Hibbs’ company by the name of Bailes who lives over on Dry Run. He was going to the rear and he said that nearly all our regiment was falling back in advance of him. He asked me if I was hurt and I told him I was wounded in the leg and unless I had to help, I could not keep out of the way of the enemy. He took hold of me and raised me to my feet, but I was unable to move; he dragged me along, however, some 30 steps when I became so sick that he was compelled to let me down. He succeeded, however, in drawing me behind a tree and I laid there unable to raise my hand.

Survivors of Co. F of the 33rd Ohio gather upon the steps in Portsmouth, Ohio in October 1911, the 50th anniversary of the mustering in of the regiment. Daniel Dorsey, one of the Andrews' Raiders and a Medal of Honor recipient, stands in the front row second from right. 

Bailes commenced firing from behind the tree and fired some three shots when he got a bullet stuck fast in his gun and could not get it down. He was compelled to cease firing and asked me what he should do- fall back or stay with me? I told him to stay with me and he sat down behind the tree and held my head. In the meantime, a heavy fire of musketry was kept up by our men in the rear of us and by the Rebels in our front. We were in more danger from the dire of our own men than from that of the Rebels as the tree was some protection against the fire of the latter. Fortunately, however, we both escaped without a scratch. While we were in that position and before the Rebels overtook us, I noticed a man belonging to an Illinois regiment standing behind a tree only a few steps from me loading and firing just as fast as he could. Just as he was in the act of firing, a ball struck him somewhere about the body, perhaps through the heart, and he fell at full length dead upon the ground.

It was not long now until the line of Rebels began to pass us. I could not do much talking myself but Bailes did a vast amount of it. He told them all that I was wounded, that I was his Colonel and such a clever Colonel, that the Rebels really began to take an interest in me. They gave me water, which was quite a luxury indeed, and almost everyone who came up asked if they could do anything for me. I was certainly treated with great kindness by them and I could not expect more favor to be shown by any enemy than was manifested by them. I understand that all of our wounded men make the same statement about them. At one time a party came along and claimed Bailes as a prisoner and wanted him to go with them. I told them, however, that I had detained him to stay with me and they must not take him away. They went off and left us. I found Bailes to be a very clever fellow and disposed to do all in his power to make me comfortable.

What a strange world this is and what strange things are occurring in this war. I ascertained that my guard belonging to the 16th Tennessee regiment and that a Mr. Savage [John H. Savage] who was in Congress with me and who was an intimate acquaintance, was colonel of that regiment. His regiment had been in the advance of the brigade which had attacked us in the afternoon and had all been cut to pieces by us and that Colonel Savage had been wounded in the leg, but not so severely as I was. I told him that I knew Savage and would like to see him. He hunted him up and in a short time I got to see him. He treated me very kindly, indeed, and regretted that in account of his wound he could not show me personal attention. He called his surgeon and directed him to dress my wound and show me every attention that I needed which he promised to do.

Sergeant Milton W. Jones, Co. B, 33rd Ohio

It was now getting dark and I had been lying on the field since half past 2 o’clock. I had revived somewhat but had not acquired strength to stand upon my feet. They had failed in all their efforts to procure an ambulance and even the peremptory order of General [Alexander P.] Stewart. I did not complain, however, for the ground was covered with the dead and wounded, many of whom were doing much worse than I was. Our forces, at this time, had placed some guns in position and commenced shelling the woods where I was, and the boys determined at once to carry me off the field. I was so feeble and faint that they that they were compelled to treat me very tenderly. I could only bear to be carried some eight or ten steps at a time and it took so long, and the shells were coming so thick that at one time I almost despaired of being able to get off at all. They finally succeeded, however, in getting me down in a hollow out of range of the shells and then I took a good rest.

About 8 o’clock at night they got me to the bank of the creek where I supposed there must have been at least 200 of their wounded. The surgeons were hard at work dressing the wounds and one of them soon came to dress mine. I had not seen it yet and did not know its precise character. The doctor soon told me that the bone was not injured and that it was a musket ball and not a Minie ball that struck me, and moreover, that it had passed entirely through and no searching for the ball or other surgical operation would be needed. He bandaged it up and told Bailes to apply cold water until morning and he would come and see me again. I had become very chilly from loss of blood but had nothing with which to cover myself. The surgeon had no blankets and the boys thereupon started back to find some blankets to keep me warm. I nearly froze before they returned and when they got back, they had no blankets, but had succeeded in getting a couple of overcoats. They put these over me, and they did good service. A big fire weas kindled and I was rendered as comfortable as the nature of the case would admit. The night, of course, was not a pleasant one. The groans and lamentations of the wounded and my own debility to say nothing of the pain made the night long, tedious, and disagreeable in the extreme.

Long before daylight the next morning after the fight, the Rebels began to remove their wounded. I was placed in a common wagon together with two other men who were shot through the body and we started. I supposed, of course, that they were only going to take us a mile or so to where they had taken the others, but instead of that, they continued to move rapidly and when we struck the road leading from Perryville to Harrodsburg we found the whole Rebel army on a retreat. They were in considerable confusion and everyone seemed to be anxious to get on. Every wagon was filled with wounded men and they were moving along the main road two and three abreast while the infantry and cavalry were marching through the fields on either side of the road. We moved along at as rapid a rate as we could considering the jam. Bailes was still with me. The jarring of the rough, springless wagon while moving along the uneven road, was terrible on my leg but the agony endured by the two Rebels who were in the wagon with me was so much more intense that I never murmured once. They begged to be thrown out, to be killed, to have their heads cut off, to have anything done to them, sooner than be rushed along as they were in the wagon. It availed, nothing, however; the orders to the driver were to push ahead and he was compelled to obey.

We arrived at this place about 3 p.m. and the wagons were soon emptied of the wounded. The government owns what is known as the University Buildings and grounds and these were adopted as a hospital for the wounded and we were all soon placed in them, some in the buildings, some on the porches, but most of the ground. I got Bailes and my guard to carry me over and lay me on a porch and I had not been there very long until a little girl came past and inquired if I was a Union officer and I told her I was. She asked if I desired anything to eat and for the first time, it occurred to me that I had not taken a bit of anything since noon of the day before. Shortly afterwards a young man came around with a mattress and said a lady had sent it to me. In a short time, they fixed up a couple of tables and the surgeons commenced cutting off legs and arms. The tables were in plain view and only six or eight steps from me and I could lay on my mattress and witness the whole process. While I was lying upon my mattress, several citizens came along and began to interrogate me. I could plainly distinguish the Union from the secesh by the interest they manifested, although they were evidently acting under great restraint. One man, however, a little more bold than the others, returned to ask me if I would not like to have a surgeon dress my wound and when I replied in the affirmative, he started off immediately to hunt one.

By this time, it was nearly night and the Rebel army had continued their march out towards Camp Dick Robinson so that, but few remained here besides the wounded and the surgeons. The Union citizens soon began to avow themselves. They flocked around me and manifested the greatest interest in my welfare. There is a Campbellite Female Seminary here and the president and all of the professors are strong Union men. They were particularly active in attending to all my wants. They desired to remove me to a house but as I was a prisoner, I told them I could not be taken away without the consent of the officers in command. Professor Neville thereupon started off and soon returned with Major Pickett of Hardee’s staff whose duty it was to look after the prisoners and parole them. I was paroled and permitted to go where I pleased within the Rebel lines.


Source:

Portsmouth Times (Ohio), October 25, 1862, pg. 1

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