The 23rd Ohio's Musician

Transcribed by Larry Stevens

As told by Brig. Gen. Comly, in National Tribune.

We had in the Twenty-third Ohio (Hayes' Regiment) a quaint old character - an enlisted musician - whose name I would not mention for anything. Just before the battle of South Mountain he came to me and asked me to step aside with him a moment. I did so, and he said: "My God Major, I am a coward! I did not know it. I thought I could help the country, and, though I was past 45 and needn't to, I enlisted. Now I have found that I can't go into a fight! I can't Major, if you should kill me! I shall be disgraced, and all the folks back home will know it. I can never hold my head up again if I try to go into this fight. Can't you do something for me? Give me something to do that ain't fighting and I'll do anything. Oh, for God's sake, major, think of something and save me from the disgrace!"
The poor fellow was half frantic in his earnestness. I thought a moment and said: "A..., do you think you could carry water for the men while they are fighting? It is going to be an awful hot day, and a canteen of fresh water will be about the greatest luxury the men could have under fire. Can you carry water for them?" "Oh, yes. Thank you major." Well, now, in the thickest of that fight, where the regiment lost within eight men of half that went into action, old A... would come to the front loaded down with canteens, delivering them, and taking up the empty ones along the line. Between bayonet charges the men were hugging the ground like a long-lost brother, under such a storm of minie balls as did not seem to leave any occupied space in the air. Old A... would prance down the line delivering canteens to the panting men without any more sense of fear than the bravest man in the army, until his last canteen of water was gone, then he would give a wild yell and bolt for the rear as if the devil was after him.

From: Civil War Scrapbooks
Volume 13 page 24
Ohio Historical Society Collections
Columbus Ohio

Web Publishing Copyright © 1995 Larry Stevens

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Last updated September 1 1995