Recollection in 1864 of the Shelling of Carlisle, July 1, 1863 by George Wood Wingate

Source citation
George W. Wingate, The Last Campaign of the Twenty-Second Regiment N.G.S.N.Y June and July 1863 (New York: C.S. Wescott and Co., 1864), 16-25 
Type
Book
Date Certainty
Exact
Transcriber
John Osborne
Transcription date
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
At last the march was finished, and we were at Carlisle, but so were the rebels. For awhile there was mounting in hot haste, riders galloping back to hurry up stragglers ; and the brigade rapidly formed into line, amid hurried consultations of field officers, muttered curses from captains who, like Kachel, mourned for their companies "because they were not" and the other unmistakable signs which indicate nervous anxiety at headquarters. After an hour or so spent on tenter-hooks, somebody told somebody something which resulted in our marching ahead, expecting to have to fight at any moment. But no enemy exhibited himself, and passing through the principal street of Carlisle, we raised the American flag amid great enthusiasm. 
Blessed be Carlisle — almost the only place since leaving Philadelphia where cheering had been heard. We could not appreciate too highly the grateful reception we met. The hurrahs of the men, the smiles and waving handkerchiefs of the ladies, made us feel that patriotism still existed in the state ; and when the tired and hungry men were shown to a substantial meal in the market-house, and waited on by the ladies of the village (who utterly eclipse any seen on the route for good looks as well as hospitality), it was unanimously resolved that "Mahomet's paradise was a fool to Carlisle." 
Having made some slight amends for their two days' fast, the Twenty-second marched through the city (without finishing their supper), having been ordered to support our friends, the Philadelphia battery, in a plan that had been formed at  headquarters for cutting off a rebel detachment supposed to be around somewhere ; a supposition that was strictly correct, for a very short time showed that they were all around us. 
On the way to the position — refreshed and almost as good as new — uproarious cheers were given for the ladies of Carlisle, the Thirty-seventh, Colonel Roome, for everything, in fact, except our Brigadier, whose approach, from that time forth, was the signal for the deadest kind of silence. A slight which, on this occasion, elicited from that neglected individual an order forbidding " this ridiculous {?) habit of cheering." Circumstances, you know, alter cases. 
On reaching the crest of a hill, about two and a half miles south of the village, the artillery was placed " in battery," while the Twenty-second, now pretty well filled up by the arrival of those who had given out from the privation and heat of the march, formed line of battle as supports, and it may be remarked, as an instance of the pluck and the fatigue of the men, that, though an engagement was momentarily expected, more than three quarters of the rank and file coolly lay down in their places and went to sleep. An hour passed, and the heavy boom of a cannon, and the explosion of a shell, brought even the most weary to their feet. Nothing was to be seen in front ; but tlhe thick columns of smoke ascending from Carlisle, the bright flashes of light and the frequent reports of artillery from the surrounding hills, showed us that the rebels had surrounded the place in overwhelming force, and, without affording to the helpless women and children an opportunity to escape, had commenced to shell the town. 
Fortunately the moon had not yet risen, and the dusk of the evening concealed us as we stealthily crept back. On arriving we learned that a dash of cavalry had been made into the town, the government barracks and the gas-house fired, and the batteries had at once opened, without further warning. As there were inside, at that time, not more than eight hundred men, and one battery of four guns, and the attacking force numbered four thousand, with a much heavier force of artillery, things commenced to look as though our present journey would be continued via Richmond ; but happily our division commander, General W. F. Smith, proved himself here, as everywhere else, fully equal to the emergency. 
While a portion of the Twenty-second were deployed as skirmishers on the flanks of the town, covered by sharpshooters, posted in the windows of the adjoining houses, behind which the artillery were placed, the centre of the town was protected by a force, mainly composed of the recent arrivals, concealed behind the heavy stone wall of the village cemetery. The Thirty-seventh, divided in like manner, were scattered around so as to make the largest possible show — some Reserves were also there — everywhere they should not have been — who were rushing around indiscriminately, and aggravating the Thirty-seventh tremendously by disturbing their ranks in so doing, 
For the purpose of protecting our flanks, it was found requisite that out-lying pickets or scouts should be sent as far out to the front as they could go, to give all the notice possible of any advance of the enemy. The service was one of such danger, and the assurances of being "gobbled" by the rebels so great, that the cavalry detailed for that duty refused to perform it. Colonel Aspimvall, hearing of this, offered to supply their places. The offer was accepted, and a detail was made from Company D, who were stationed in the vicinity, guarding the barricade across the road. The three men selected, at once advanced without hesitation, and spent the whole night alone, in the extreme front, patrolling the approaches ; and performed their difficult and arduous duty in such a manner as to earn a special compliment from Captain King of the Fourth regulars, the division chief of artillery. 
Why our friends, the enemy, did not attack and capture the whole party of us remains a mystery to this day — but it is conjectured that some skirmishers of the Thirty-seventh, who were captured at the commencement of the fight, being no way daunted thereat, coolly told such huge stories about the First Division N. Y. S. M., as to " bluff" their captors. 
It was very evident, at least, that the rebels were wholly in the dark (figuratively as well as literally) respecting the position of our forces ; and being compelled to fire at random, threw their shell around in a manner most disagreeable to witness from our end of their cannon. After at least two hours' rapid firing, the rebels sent in a flag of truce, demanding the surrender of the place, very kindly allowing some fifteen minutes for the women and children, whom they had not already killed, to leave the town to escape the '' certain destruction" which was threatened (a la Beauregard) if the request was refused ; but refused it was by Gen. Smith, in terms more forcible than polite ; so the batteries reopened. 
It had now become a clear moonlight night ; a portion of the artillery was so near that the commands of the officers could be distinctly heard, and the incessant flash and roar of the guns, the "screech" of shells flying overhead, and the heavy jar of their explosion among the buildings in the rear, seemed strangely inconsistent with the calm beauty of the scene. At times it seemed doubtful whether the incessant uproar was really the bombardment of a quiet village ; for, during the momentary pauses of the cannonade, the chirp of the katydid, and the other peaceful sounds of a country summer night, were heard as though nature could not realize that human beings had sought that quiet spot to destroy each other. 
It must not be supposed that any such sentiment, or in fact any sentiment whatever, was exhibited on our part ; quite the contrary, for as soon as it became evident that no immediate attack would be made, the men, whether crouching at the house windows, or lying on their faces in the wet grass of the cemetery, went to sleep with a unanimity charming to witness ; the heaviest shelling only eliciting a growl from some discontented private, that ''it was a blasted humbug for the rebs. to try to keep a fellar awake in that manner ;" the remark ending generally in a prolonged snore that proved the unsuccessfulness of the attempt. 
Some time before dawn, preparations were made to receive the attack, which was expected to follow the instant that the first streak of daylight discovered our position. Officers bustled nervously around, the sleepers were cautiously awakened, and all stood to arms with the stern determination to resist to the bitter end ; but judge of our gratification, when the shelling gradually ceased ; and in a short time the announcement that the rebels had retreated, gave us an opportunity to look around, and ascertain the damages. 
From the incessant uproar, the scream and report of the bursting shells, the glare of the flames, the smashing of buildings, and the other sounds incident to a bombardment, which had greeted our ears during the preceding night, the  general expectation in the morning was to find the town a heap of ruins, and the great majority, both of troops and inhabitants, bleeding in the streets. 
Never was there a greater mistake. It was really wonderful to think that so much cold iron could be fired into a place and cause so little loss of life and limb. To be sure much property had been destroyed, any amount of houses struck, many greatly damaged, and roofs and windows generally looked dilapidated enough ; but, as in the other bombardments of the war, the destruction had been far from universal, and the escape of the occupants perfectly miraculous. 
The citizens, concealed in their cellars, and the soldiers lying flat behind the cemetery walls and in the fields, had almost entirely escaped the iron tempest ; shells had gone under and over any amount of people, but had really hit very few. Some of the townspeople were hurt, but the exact number is unknown. A few of the Reserves who were rushing around the streets, instead of obeying orders and keeping under cover, suffered heavily; the Thirty-seventh, always unlucky, had some hurt ; while the Twenty-second, with more than their usual good fortune, got off with one or two slightly bruised. The rebel loss is almost unknown, but is supposed to have been severe. 
As soon as it was definitely known that the rebels had retreated, the brigade, dispensing with the little formality of breakfast, marched to the top of a hill, about a mile south of the town ; and after forming line of battle in an oat-field, the men, exhausted by the twenty-five miles march of the preceding day and the fatigue of the night, with one accord, lay down in the blazing sun and slept till late in the afternoon. 
About four o'clock some breakfast (or rather supper), in the shape of a little pork and potatoes, was found; but just as we were getting ready to eat, the dulcet notes of the "assembly" burst upon our unwilling ears, and we had to " fall in" dinner or no dinner. Of course we obeyed ; but not relishing the idea of marching away from the only meal that had been seen for twenty-four hours (a thing which we had been compelled to do more than once before), a grand dash was made at the pans ; and the regiment fell in and marched off, every man with a piece of pork in one hand and a potato in the other, eating away for dear life, and forming a tout ensemble not often equalled. 
With the exception of a little picket duty, that night and the next day were spent in camp opposite the ruined barracks, and were devoted by all hands to the most energetic resting. To some, the day was blessed by the receipt of their overcoats and rubber blankets. Happy few! But their joy only made more melancholy the condition of the great majority whose portables still remained behind, safely stowed in Harrisburg ; 
so safely, that as far as the owners were concerned, they might as well have been in New York ; so safely, in fact, that the owners of one half of them never found them again. In truth, from the commencement of our " two hours" march until we arrived in New York (just three weeks), neither officers nor privates were ever enabled to change even their under clothing, but soaked by day and steamed by night in the suit they wore the day they started ; a suit which, consequently, in no very long time assumed an indescribable color and condition. Many managed, by hook or by crook, during our subsequent marches, to beg, borrow, or " win," some rubber blankets ; but at least one in six were without that indispensable article, whose absence renders camp life "a lengthened misery long drawn out," and more than one in four were without overcoats ; while plates there were none ; spoons were very scarce ; and the use of such things as forks, combs, and even soap, was utterly forgotten, nor could they be procured. Soap, for instance, we would think could be obtained anywhere ; but unfortunately the rebels entertained a notion that if they only washed they would be clean ; an idea which any one, who ever saw them, will admit to be too preposterous to require contradiction. But preposterous or not, they acted up to it, and immediately on entering a place proceeded to appropriate every square inch of soap that could be found therein; so that when we came; along a few days afterward, nothing saponaceous could be obtained for love or money, and in consequence, the absence of that essential frequently compelled us to imitate the habits of our " Southern brethren" much closer than was agreeable. 
Our stay in Carlisle was pleasant — very pleasant — for in addition to the hospitable treatment we received as individuals, our regiment was honored by the presentation of a flag from the ladies of the city. But we could not stay there always; and at reveille, on the glorious Fourth of July, without seeing as much as a single fire-cracker, or hearing an allusion to the American eagle, or the flag of our Union, we turned our backs on civilization and marched for the mountains, taking a bee-line for Gettysburg, where, although unknown to us, the greatest battle of the war was raging. General Smith having previously detailed the Twenty-second to remain as a guard for the city, we came very near being ingloriously left behind; but, at the urgent request of Colonel Aspinwall, and to our own infinite gratification, we were permitted to accompany the column to the front. 
How to Cite This Page: "Recollection in 1864 of the Shelling of Carlisle, July 1, 1863 by George Wood Wingate," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/40283.