From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War
Seneca had his cane in one hand, saber in the other and was screaming insanely. He tripped over a body, scrambled to his feet and kept going up the hill. The Union guns were less than a hundred feet away.
The two Union batteries erupted.
Seneca was aware he was flying through the air. Everything moved slowly. Seneca saw a private hurtling back next to him, head missing, blood spurting out the carotid arteries from a still beating heart.
Seneca hit the ground on his back. He blinked dirt out of his eyes and stared blankly up at the blue sky for a moment. He raised his empty hands. His cane and saber were gone. That was the first cognizant thought that passed through his mind.
He grasped for the pistol, determined to rejoin the fight. His holster was empty. Seneca cursed and looked for it.
His left leg was gone from knee down.
Then the pain reached his brain and he screamed.
The volley of canister had decimated the Confederate lines, but they were too many and too close. There was no time to reload or limber up the guns to retreat. The wave of soldiers over-ran the two batteries.
From the flank, Rumble threw the Henry to his shoulder. He saw a General yelling orders, waving a sword wildly about. Rumble fired three rounds as fast as he could lever in the bullets and pull the trigger.
The first one shivered the General in the saddle, the second knocked him back a bit, and the third sent him tumbling to the ground.
The assault broke, rebels running to the rear in disarray, but the guns had been over-run and spiked, putting them out of action.
More Union troops came charging over the top over Matthews Hill behind Rumble and down into the low ground in front of Henry House Hill. Right into a scathing volley from the solid line of Confederates who were holding the position there. The Union officers tried to rally their men, but southern artillery was now supporting the rebel infantry and the assault wavered.
Rumble ran forward. He found the General he had shot. A Confederate lieutenant was trying to stem the flow of blood from his commander’s stomach. The lieutenant didn’t stop his efforts, even seeing Rumble approach with the Henry at the ready.
“Who is it?” Rumble asked, but then he recognized the wounded man. Class of ’45 and one Rumble had tested with York’s jump. He’d stood fast.
“Barnie? Barnie Bee?”
General Bee looked up. “Master of the Horse! Did you see Jackson? Stood fast. Didn’t support me. I had to order my men to halt. To halt, damn it! Why didn’t Jackson follow me?”
“He’s holding the line, General. He did the right thing.”
Bee raised his body off the ground and cried out in a command voice: “Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind Stonewall Jackson and the Virginians, boys!”
Then he collapsed.
“Take him,” Rumble said to the lieutenant. “Take him back to your surgeons.”
The lieutenant looked at him in surprise. “We aint got no surgeon with the regiment. Just some old country doc.”
The lieutenant grabbed a couple of scared privates and got them to put General Bee into a blanket. They hurried away with him as the volume of the battle increased, the Union forces in the low ground unable to maintain their charge, Jackson’s Virginians holding the high ground in front of them, pouring hot lead into the Yankees.
The Confederate left was saved.
Rumble picked his way back among the bodies littering the ground, Henry at the ready. He passed by a dead man, mouth open in a final scream that had not found voice. A man in gray was crawling, facedown, clawing at the dirt with his hands, leaving a smear of blood from a severed leg behind him.
“Easy, soldier,” Rumble said, uncertain if he was Union or Rebel, not that it mattered in his condition.
Rumble grabbed the man’s shoulder and turned him over.