Seven Bullet Holes in His Hide: A Wisconsin Iron Brigader at South Mountain
The letter began like one a mother would never hope to receive from her son. “I am alive and tolerable well for a man who has seven bullet holes in his hide,” wrote Orderly Sergeant Linus Bascom of the 7th Wisconsin to his mother Sally (Webb) Bascom in Johnston, Ohio. It was the first word Sally had heard from her 31-year-old son, a native of Trumbull County, Ohio, since the 7th Wisconsin took part in the battle of South Mountain. As part of the soon-to-be-famous Iron Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, initial reports stated that the 7th Wisconsin had suffered very heavily in the engagement.
It was clear that Linus had fought with determination at South Mountain. “I had fired five or six times when I got hit in the face, on the right side of the nose,” he wrote. “As soon as the blood stopped a little, I went to firing again. We were in an open plowed field under a heavy crossfire. Our regiment had fallen back a little from where I was firing behind a rock. I had fired only two or three times after I got the first wound when whack a ball took me in the right leg. I thought that it had knocked the leg off and put my hand down to feel for it. I found two holes and the blood pouring out of them. The ball went in on the back side of the leg just above the knee and came out four inches below the groin. It hit the bone but did not break it. It passed through about 12 inches of flesh. I quit firing then.”
Sally shared Linus’ account of South Mountain with the editors of the Western Reserve Chronicle in Warren, Ohio who subsequently published the letter in their October 15, 1862 edition. Sergeant Bascom would eventually die from complications of his extensive wounds in a hospital in Middletown, Maryland, and would be buried in Russell Cemetery in Russell, Massachusetts. Following Linus’ death, his younger brother John Bascom would join Co. A of the 7th Wisconsin in December 1863. John would be so severely wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864 that he would be discharged for his wounds that fall. Griff’s Spared and Shared featured one of John’s letters to a relative named Hubert Bushnell of Trumbull County, Ohio.
I have also taken the liberty of sharing a letter from Captain John B. Callis of the 7th Wisconsin which gives some additional details of the engagement at South Mountain.
Lutheran Church Hospital, Middletown, Maryland, September 19, 1862
I am alive and tolerable well for a man who has seven bullet holes in his hide. The Rebels gave me that many button holes last Sunday night. I have no broken bones and shall be all right again in a few weeks.
I cannot tell you much about the battle. I had fired five or six times when I got hit in the face, on the right side of the nose. The wound bled considerable but it is only a scratch. I think it was a buck shot or a small splinter from a shell. It glanced out and it makes my jaws a little sore. As soon as the blood stopped a little, I went to firing again. It was then after dark, the graybacks were on our left and front and behind a stone wall. We were in an open plowed field under a heavy crossfire. Our regiment had fallen back a little from where I was firing behind a rock. I dared not get up to go back for fear that our own men would hit me. I had fired only two or three times after I got the first wound when whack a ball took me in the right leg. I thought that it had knocked the leg off and put my hand down to feel for it. I found two holes and the blood pouring out of them. The ball went in on the back side of the leg just above the knee and came out four inches below the groin. It hit the bone but did not break it. It passed through about 12 inches of flesh. I quit firing then.
Soon I got hit in the left leg just above the knee, the ball is somewhere in the leg yet. I think that it passed up toward the hip. The leg is swelled a good deal now and pains me severely. After I got wounded, I managed to get my knapsack and accoutrements off and tied up my legs as well as I could to stop the blood. The firing on both sides was awful and I was between the two. Our men advanced up to where I lay and beyond. Some of them offered to help me back to the rear but I told them to go in and whip the enemy first, and then if I was worth carrying off, they might do it. Some of them were out of ammunition and I gave them mine and my gun. The well ones used all their ammunition and then searched the dead and wounded for more. Our men drove the enemy from behind the stone wall and held the field with their bayonets. Our loss was very heavy but I do not know how many.
The enemy are said to have left as many dead on the field as we lost in killed and wounded. After the firing was about over, two men who were out of ammunition helped me to the rear and laid me down. The stretchers soon came and carried me to a barn used for a hospital. Come to get my pants off, I found that I was shot through the calf of the right leg from front to rear and had a slight scratch on my left thigh that I did not know of before. There are ten bullet holes in my pants. There were several wounded at that barn. They were brought here (three miles) Monday night. The most who were able to ride have gone to Frederick and Washington. I expect to be sent away soon. There has been hard fighting every day since Sunday. It is said that we are whipping them. A good many prisoners have passed through here. I am contented and happy and hope to be well soon. I write again as soon as I can.
Serg’t Linus Bascom
Sergeant Bascom died of his wounds Wednesday, December 31, 1862 in Middletown, Maryland.
|Captain John Benton Callis, Co. F, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry|
Headquarters 7th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, near Middletown, Maryland
September 15, 1862
It again becomes my duty to report the casualties in the 7th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers in the battle of South Mountain, Maryland fought on the 14th day of September 1862, in which the 7th lost heavily in killed and wounded as will be seen by the report below.
About 4 o'clock on the evening of the 14th September, the 7th regiment was ordered forward through a corn field on the right of the pike running through the gap in the mountain, our left resting within company distance of the pike. Skirmishers were sent forward and soon met the enemy's skirmishers. A hot skirmish fire ensued our skirmishers driving those of the enemy until the fire was so strong from the enemy that the skirmishers could advance no further.
I then received orders to advance the 7th in line of battle. We advanced until the regiment was within 60 or 70 yards of the enemy without receiving anything more than an occasional shot from the enemy's sharpshooters, when they opened a most destructive enfilading fire from behind a stone wall running parallel with the pike on our left also an enfilading fire from the woods on our right and a direct fire from behind a stone wall in our front.
This state of things lasted for some 15 minutes when the 6th Wisconsin double-quicked to our right and fired in a volley that greatly relieved us by drawing the enfilading fire on our right, the 2nd Wisconsin doing the same on our left, thus leaving us to contend with the direct fire from our front only. We fought until our cartridges gave out and were then ordered to hold the ground at the point of the bayonet. The enemy seeming to know our condition commenced to advance on us, when we came to a charge bayonet, and the order "charge" being given our men advance on them when they "skedaddle." We held the ground until 11 o'clock at night when we were relieved by General Willis Gorman's Brigade.
Our men all fought nobly and desperately. I could not personate one in this connection without doing injustice to others, equally brave and true. Co. F was commanded by Sergeant William E. Street, Co. I by Sergeant Christian Prutzman and Co. B by Sergeant Weeks. Great credit is due these men for the manner in which the conducted themselves as line officers.
John B. Callis
Captain commanding 7th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers
Letter from First Sergeant Linus Bascom, Co. A, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Western Reserve Chronicle (Ohio), October 15, 1862, pg. 2
Letter from Captain John B. Callis, Co. F, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Wisconsin State Journal (Wisconsin), September 26, 1862, pg. 2
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