Knickerbocker News dispatch from the field June 8, 1864
From the Seventh Artillery.
In Field Near GAINES'S HILLS, Va., June 8th, 1864.
EDITOR KNICKERBOCKER: We had a lull in operations last evening for one hour. A flag of trace from both sides agreed to stop all firing from 7 to 8 o'clock, to bury the dead and bring in the wounded of the fight of last Friday morning, when we charged on the rebel works. The wounded were few, not more than one or two were brought inside of our lines. Of the dead, there were plenty. As I looked on them, they were the most sickening sight I have beheld since the war commenced. Many a good soldier was buried unrecognized. As I went over the field looking for Sergeant Mooney, of Co. M, who served with all the honors a brave man could, as Captain in the 18th Regiment, who led his men in many a charge in that gallant old regiment, and who fell in the terrible charge of Friday morning, I regret to say that I was unable to recognize him among the blackened and disfigured corpses of the men as they lay on the field. Private McCullough, of Co. D, 7th N. Y. V. Artillery, came in yesterday morning after laying between the lines for five days and nights. His sufferings while there was horrible, exposed to the firing of both sides, without food, water or shelter; and whenever he would expose the least part of his person, he would have a volley of musketry fired at him. In the same pit with him, were Lucius E. Ball and William A. Post, of Berne, both mortally wounded, and the day before McCullough reached our lines, they both died. On Tuesday afternoon the last one died, when McCullough attempted to crawl to the lines, but as he raised himself up, he was so weak with hunger that he fell over on his back, and thinks that he lay that way some five minutes, when he again had to crawl back to his pit and wait till night. His description of the sufferings of our wounded, as they lay on the field, calling on their comrades and their regiment, is terrible indeed. Could some of the men who were buried unrecognized, been got inside of the lines on the first day of the charge, many, he thinks, would have been saved. Water! water! was the cry from one end of the field to the other, and many a good and brave soldier sleeps his last sleep who would now be with us had he been able to get within the lines. The rebels had possession of all the prominent points on the field, and they could not be made to let go long enough to perform the errand of mercy. Among our dead there were some few rebels. Our dead were all collected together and buried in pits, hurriedly dug, and a few shovelfuls of earth is all that covers them. Some of them were so far decomposed that it was almost impossible to handle them. Out of all the missing in the 7th, the only way that some of them were recognized, was by some few trinkets or memoranda found on them. I hope that I shall not witness such another sight. Major Springsteed, of the 7th, received the flag of truce on our side, and Capt. Stanhope Posey, A. A. G. Harris, Miss. Brigade, with Capt. B. F. McClellan, 48th Miss. on the rebels. There are North Carolina and Mississippi troops in our front, and so anxious are the men in the rebel ranks to get away, that they embrace every opportunity that occurs. Even last evening, during the cessation, and while our men were returning to our lines, one rebel made his escape and came in with our boys; again the other day, the rebels attempted to charge on our boys, and some 60 or 70 of them slipped away from their officers into a piece of woods, and gave themselves up to our men. All who come within our lines wish that the war was over. They are the finest looking men that you wish to look on—large, robust and well built.
While the flag of truce was flying, the soldiers of both sides mingled together with each other, and exchanged such little notions as each had. Our men gave their coffee for the rebels' tobacco. The rebels complain that they never receive any coffee, and indeed it seemed quite a luxury. The officers mingled and drank each others health, as though they had been friends for years and had just met after a long absence.—The flag of truce was a benefit one way—it was the first quiet night's sleep the men had had in five nights. The same lull was kept up till 12 p. m., when the firing was again renewed on both sides. For the last five days the loss in the 7th Regiment in killed and wounded, has been quite heavy, more so than you have any idea of. Our men have been laying in the trenches for six days, and it is certain death to any man who shows himself. Their sufferings are great, but they behave like good and brave soldiers as they are. I must now close, as I have strung the account out much longer than I intended. H.
The list of casualties of the regiment, which are too lengthy for publication in our present edition, will be published in Monday morning's issue.—[ED.