Thursday, August 15, 2013

They Were As Real as You and Me

I don't recall whether I've mnetioned this fact in Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 5-year-old human being), but I am a fascinated student of the American Civil War.  Meaning avid reader, researcher, writer.  In fatc, I've had a couple of articles publsihed in The Gettsyburg Magazine, and am working on another.

Anyway, from editor Andy Turner of The Gettysburg Magazine, we read this vignette, and without any more explanation needed, this si why I am so facsicnted with the American Civil War:

As they say, it’s a small world. You never know who you are going to run into and when. Such was the case of two Civil War veterans who once faced each other on the field of battle and later bumped into each other as old men.

The following article, from the February 1911 edition of Confederate Veteran, tells of the unlikely meeting of two former foes.

Singular Meeting of Two Old Veterans
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune prints a remarkable yet very reasonable story from Zephyr Hills, a new colony town in Florida, concerning two veterans who battered each other with their muskets at Malvern Hill in the battle there. The veterans were William H. Hopkins, who was in a New York regiment, and Samuel Stafford, who was in the 5th Florida.

The story goes on to say that at Malvern Hill, Va., the Union forces charged an intrenched line of Confederates, and a fierce and bloody hand-to-hand fight took place. The two men, now grizzled and old, were boys. They met face to face, hand to hand, gun to gun, and saw each other well. Both had emptied their rifles into the ranks of their respective foes, and with clubbed guns they attacked each other, each demanding surrender. Neither would yield, and they fought with the fierceness of youth and the determination of brave men, each of whom had faith in the righteousness of the cause for which he struggled. Hopkins dealt Stafford a heavy blow with the butt of his gun on the head, and at the same instant Stafford had brought the butt of his gun crashing upon the head of Hopkins, the hammer striking his eye, and both fell. Stafford arose in a very short time, dazed and terribly hurt; but the attack had failed, and the Union troops, defeated, had fled, or those who were able to flee and were not captured. Hopkins lay upon the earth unconscious, apparently dead, and became a prisoner. A bullet had struck his head, inflicting a most dangerous wound, while the blow of Stafford had fractured his skull. The Confederate boy looked down upon the still form of his enemy, who was covered with blood and gave no sign of life, and his humane heart stood still in horror. He began to weep over his enemy, and undertook to wash the blood from his face. An officer asked him what he was crying about, and he said: “I have killed a man. I did not know him. Why should I kill him?”

It was nearly three months before Hopkins himself knew that he was alive, before he recovered consciousness. The sight of his right eye was gone. The blow he struck Stafford resulted in the destruction of his right eye. Neither saw the other after that fight until now. These two old men, each having but one eye, met by chance. Stafford lives within the bounds of the colony; Hopkins is a colonist. When chance led them to the same group near colony headquarters, they greeted each other casually as strangers; then each took a second look and a third. Each being struck by the similarity of their mutually unfortunate state, they looked upon each other with growing interest. Stafford said: “I seem to remember you. I wonder if we ever met before?”

Hopkins answered: “As soon as I saw you I thought I ought to know; but I do not, I guess. My name is Hopkins.”

“My name is Stafford. I live just over yonder. I lost my eye in a fight at Malvern Hill. How did you lose yours? Was it in the war? Were you wounded?”

“Yes,” Hopkins responded in surprise. “I was struck on the head by a Reb at Malvern Hill when we charged their intrenchment. Well, that was the man you remind me of.”

“You are the Yankee who refused to surrender and knocked me on the head with the butt of your gun, I believe,” said Stafford; and when each told the details of the fight, it became evident that these gray-haired men were the boys who fought so terribly in battle hand to hand that day at Malvern Hill. And each battered the other to the destruction of his right eye.

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