“Hurrah for the brave rebel boy!”

a few months ago

December, 1863, near Dalton, Georgia. The Rebels are on top of Rocky Face Ridge, taking fire from cannons below.

“Hold on, boys,” says a sharpshooter, “I’ll stop that racket.”

His rifle cracks. Sure enough, things get quiet.

But not for long. Soon, “the valley below is full of blue coats.”

Private Sam Watkins’ Company H is ordered to fire.

“We take deliberate aim and fire a solid volley of minnie balls into their midst. We see a terrible consplutterment among them.”

But these are seasoned Yankees soldiers.

“They seem to get mad at our audacity, and ten pieces of cannon are brought up, and pointed right toward us. We see the smoke boil up, and a moment afterwards the shell is roaring and bursting right among us”

But the boys of the First Tennessee Infantry have seen worse. Sam writes:

“Ha! ha! ha! that’s funny— we love the noise of battle…. Our Enfields crack, keen and sharp; and ha, ha, ha, look yonder! The Yankees are running away from their cannon.”

Sam then sees “a dash of our cavalry. They are charging right up in the midst of the Yankee line. Three men are far in advance.”  Too far, in fact.

“Look out, boys!”

The three men try to turn back. The Yankees open fire.

“One man’s horse is seen to blunder and fall, one man reels in his saddle, and falls a corpse, and the other is seen to surrender.

“But, look yonder! the man’s horse that blundered and fell is up again; he mounts his horse in fifty yards of the whole Yankee line, is seen to lie down on his neck, and is spurring him right on toward the solid line of blue coats.

“Look how he rides, and the ranks of the blue coats open.

Our cavalry are falling back, and the three men are cut off. They will be captured, sure. They turn to get back to our lines. We can see the smoke boil up, and hear the discharge of musketry from the Yankee lines. One man’s horse is seen to blunder and fall, one man reels in his saddle, and falls a corpse, and the other is seen to surrender. But, look yonder! the man’s horse that blundered and fell is up again; he mounts his horse in fifty yards of the whole Yankee line, is seen to lie down on his neck, and is spurring him right on toward the solid line of blue coats. Look how he rides, and the ranks of the blue coats open. Hurrah for the brave rebel boy! He has passed and is seen to regain his regiment

“Hurrah for the brave rebel boy!”

Yes, every soldier there, blue or grey, knows courage when he sees it. Sam writes:

“You could have heard the cheers from both sides, it seemed, for miles.”

The rider is seen to get back to his own regiment. It is only later that Sam learns that the boy was his own brother, David Watkins, only sixteen at the time.

Dave was under the command of General Wheeler’s cavalry division, and both he and Sam would survive the war.

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