How to Use
Reading 2: Night on the Battlefield
Following are excerpts from two articles that appeared in the Cleveland Herald in April, 1863.
Night on the Battle Field of Stone’s River--The Old Year Out--the New Year’s Ride
Carefully, driver, carefully! Let the hard iron of the wheels roll slowly over the pounded stone of the [Nashville] pike. The young soldier still lives. His breath is short, but we may yet reach the hospital ere he dies. Guide steadily past the shattered wagons--round the heaps of dead horses--through the long rows of corpses; watch that no foot of a horse jars against the fallen dead--the heroes of the last day of 1862--resting now, where they fell, or where friends have laid them. Here they lie in rows of miles, sleeping out the old year. On the last day of Sixty-two they stood for their country and for Freedom. At its midnight hour they sleep, no more to awake to war’s ringing bugle call.
Well might thoughts of the old year and of eternity crowd upon the mind of the soldier whose duty to the wounded living brought him across that vast field of the ghastly dead--this night so clear and frosty--the last of December.
The story, as he told it--he, a private...--let me tell it.
That awful night! Words will not paint it, yet may give some faint idea of what sad experience a day of carnage brings.
At 9 o’clock of the evening of December 31st, an ambulance left one of the hospitals of Rosecrans’ army, moving in the direction of Nashville. Two soldiers lay upon the carriage. The life blood of one, following the passage of a minnie ball through the breast, was oozing out from the right lung, staining the blankets beneath. The other, suffering from a crushing shot through the left leg...[was] scarcely conscious. Along with the carriage walked [the] private--going to care for his wounded companions.
Three miles along the stony pike...lay their route. Here an artillery wagon had been swept by a bursting shell--its gun dismounted, its wheels shattered, the horses and men fallen together, lay mixed as they had gone down. Still tangled in the harness hitched to the caissons, lay the hind parts of a horse, his breast and forelegs swept away, while the lifeless body of an artillerist rested with an arm over the dismounted gun....
Yonder a cavalryman had fallen, his drawn saber reflecting in the moonlight against the dark earth where he lay; and beside him his comrade and his horse, all keeping the same silent watch of death.
The sharp frost of a clear night spread its white drapery over the clothes of the dead--on the locks [of hair]...gathered its icy breath, offering alike to all a common shroud....
All along the road for more than two miles, were these scenes of horror met by the weary soldier. Still on rolled the ambulance--past broken wagons--lost muskets and dismounted artillery, to the great general hospital of the fourth division.
Here after midnight lay the wounded and dying, covering an acre of ground...of which every room was filled, every outhouse crowded, the very floor wet with blood. Close by lay a man with an arm gone--next to him one with a leg smashed--there a part of a face was shot away....Yet all those hundreds living, many waiting the dressing of their wounds with patience.
Our two soldier boys were taken from the ambulance into the building, and with hundreds of others closed no eyes to sleep that last December night.
The morning sun of Jan. 1st, 1863 rose upon a day as clear as ever dawned. Surgeons came that morning, and looked upon the one wounded in the breast,...whispering to the private that "He will die."
At 9 o’clock that morning [another] soldier and the one wounded through the breast were put into a strong army wagon...and, with the private and...driver, started over the pike for Nashville. Just as they reached the bridge the enemy, sweeping round our right, had brought a battery to bear upon the bridge.
Fearfully whirled our driver on, as if careless of the dying men in his charge, and only seeking safety in flight. Full three miles the race continued, when on came dashing a battalion of the rebel Wheeler’s cavalry...yelling and firing on the teamster and the wounded. The breast-wounded soldier lay gasping, and ordering the other soldier, who held his footless leg in one hand..., to shoot the driver if he did not stop, that they might surrender, before they were murdered by the now near foe. But on, on heedless alike of threats and enemy, dashed the driver.... Nine miles over the stony road had the race continued. The determined driver had brought his team through, and escaped with the suffering load.
At 9 o’clock that evening they were taken from the wagon...and placed upon good cots, receiving close attention at the hands of skillful surgeons.
Charles Stansell, the driver, and the soldiers he transported survived their ordeal at Stones River. Later, Stansell was killed in a fight. He is buried at the Hazen Brigade Monument on the battlefield at the request of those he saved. The soldier who had been wounded in the breast at Stones River wrote the following tribute for the Cleveland Herald:
Death of a Brave Soldier
The untimely death of Charles Stansell, Co. G 41st Ohio, deserves from me more than a passing notice.
Charles Stansell was the fearless driver of a four horse team from Murfreesboro to Nashville...when Lieut. Wolcott and myself were being conveyed to a hospital.... He...would not stop, but rushed on, heedless of our protests and threats...thus saving our team, our wagon, and our lives, all of which would have been sacrificed had we fallen into the hands of the rebels.
Questions for Reading 2
1. In your own words, what is the event described in the first newspaper article?
2. How was the narrator able to relate the events in such great detail?
3. What sights did the ambulance pass along the Nashville?
4. How does the narrator describe the hospital area? What words or phrases does he use to give a sense of the numbers of the wounded?
5. Who threatened the ambulance and its occupants after it left the division hospital?
6. Why do you think the breast-wounded soldier was taken to Nashville rather than being left at the division hospital?
7. Why do you think the soldier felt compelled to write a tribute to Charles Stansell after his death?