150TH SHILOH….. FRIDAY AM (continued)
We traversed another small hill doing our best to keep an even line, which isn’t easy with 125 men being shoulder to shoulder. Many times the battle line seems like an accordion. It stretches out and then collapses toward the middle. So you constantly hear men yelling, “Give to the right or give to the left”. We were ordered to halt and then ordered to Rest. We all drank water because, even with the rain and cool temperature, we were sweating due to the humidity.
We moved out once more; advanced about 200 yards; and came to a halt. The movement of an army is always “Hurry up and Wait”.
We had been carrying our muskets with the barrels pointed to the ground to keep the barrels dry so once we started shooting the powder that would be poured down the barrels wouldn’t get wet and not ignite. Our officers finally gave the order to load, which everyone did and came to Shoulder Arms, a position that lets the officers know that you are fully loaded.
This time we moved out toward a dirt road and could see the Union Lines through a tree line on the other side of the road. There was a goodly amount of them. Their lines were impressive. A solid line of dark blue always looks very substantial and strong. I have often wondered how we look to them with our colors of butternut, gray, and various assortments of homespun clothes.
Anyway, we were moved into the road and through the little tree line and the Dance of Death began. We fired as a battalion and it sounded like one shot going off, which signified that we were a veteran unit. Then the company officers were ordered to fire by companies starting with the first company. Again, each company fired and it sounded as one shot. We were the third company and an amalgam of many soldiers from about 4 units. So, we were really proud when we fired that it sounded as one shot going off. Some of us screamed the Rebel Yell we were so proud and excited.
Then began a phenomenon rarely seen in reenacting. The humidity plus and absence of any wind would not let the smoke from the muskets fire dissipate. It completely shrouded our lines from the enemy and their lines from us. It was like shooting into a fog bank. I had often read that this happened many times during the Civil War, but it was the first time I had actually participated in a battle where it occurred.
Our lines moved forward and theirs retreated and vice versa. It was like a shoving match between kids. Each of our company shot close to 50 rounds a piece. Some of us ran out of cartridges, but we had men roaming our lines handing out cartridges to keep us shooting. The barrels of our muskets got so hot we had to hold them by the leather strap that runs from the barrel to the trigger guard to load.