Devil’s Den and the Texas Scout


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It was 4:30 in the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863.  General Hood shouted, “Fix bayonets, my brave Texans.  Forward and take those heights.”

This was the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and Hood’s Texas Brigade was part of a large Confederate attack.  Lt. Colonel Work, of Hood’s 1st Texas Regiment, pointed to his regimental flag and bellowed, “Follow the Lone Star Flag to the top of the mountain.”  The 1st Texas was to assault the Devil’s Den, noted for its many scattered boulders on the hillside (see below).

The Texan’s advanced through thunderous shelling by Union artillery.  There was no wind that day, and the Devil’s Den looked like a volcano, the smoke belching from the guns of the Federal battery on top of the hill.  As the 1st Texas moved up the hill, fighting was intense.

William J. Barbie, one of Hood’s scouts, came riding to the front of the line.  Suddenly, his horse was shot.  Barbie leaped down, and without missing a step, scrambled up one of the boulders.  He looked at the Yanks on the top of the hill, and commenced shouting.  His words were – well, unpleasant, such that I cannot repeat here.

Perhaps this did not create sufficient effect, so Barbie had the wounded Texans below start tossing up their rifles.  Calmly standing on top of the boulder, Barbie fired up the hill.  One Texan related that the scout fired 25 times.  The fellows below were reloading the guns, so this was going efficiently.

Nonetheless, Barbie was totally exposed to the fire of the Federals.  Finally, he took one in the leg, and toppled off the boulder.  He was a Texan, so he climbed back up, where he resumed firing.  (I imagine he shouted a few more choice comments, but history does not tell us whether he did or what he might have said.)

The hail of Union bullets continued, and another one clipped Barbie in the leg.  Down he went.  But Texans are hard to kill, so he clambered back up the rock.

Barbie renewed firing until another mini ball stuck him, this time in the chest.  He tumbled off the rock, but could not get back up on his own.  Out of the fight with the Yanks, Barbie cursed his fellow Texans for not helping him back onto the boulder.

This was definitely a man who would have shot craps with the devil himself.

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