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Charlie "Recruit" to Troup Artillery

By

George B. Atkisson, of Carlton's Battery

Edited by William S. Smedlund

 

Charlie

"and at every shot would dance and bark with delight"

 

Permit me to pay a loving tribute to a little comrade who often cheered our hearts by his winning ways and shared all of our privations and dangers. For forty-six years he has been in his little grave, but to-day his memory is cherished by his surviving comrades, and whenever they meet, some anecdote will be told about "little Charlie." On April 24, 1861, the Troup Artillery left Athens. After a brief stay in Savannah, they went to Richmond, Va., and from there to West Virginia under the command of Gen. R. E. Lee [and Gen. William Wing Loring]. At Staunton in the afternoon of August 1 a little friend came into our camp who made himself sociable with the boys. He was small and uncouth, but showed a genial disposition, and he soon won the friendship of the company. He was invited to spend the night, and a bountiful supper and comfortable bed were given him. The next day when we took up the line of march he signified his desire to become an independent member of the company, and was cordially accepted. From that day until Appomattox he was faithful and fondly petted by every member. He endured fatigue and privation without a murmur, participated in every battle in which the company engaged, and was always in the front rank, where the shells and bullets fell the thickest. He seemed to enjoy the whistling of bullets, shrieking of shells, and to go wild with delight as the combat raged. He was too small to take an active part in the work, but would dart back and forth from gun to gun, cheering the men with his clear, ringing voice, which could be heard distinctly above the din of the battle. In the body of this little four-legged comrade beat a warm, affectionate heart. We named him "Charlie."

He was not very pretty, and boasted of no illustrious pedigree. At Camp Marion, near Yorktown, in December, 1861, we had a raffle for Charlie to decide who should be his owner. He was won by Sergeant, afterwards Lieutenant Motes, but Charlie was independent and refused to be special property. In camp he would select the particular "mess" he wished to spend the night with. At Dam Number One [April 16, 1862] one of our guns, the Olivia, with Lieutenant Pope in command, was forced to sustain an all-day attack from several of the Federal batteries. The firing began at 8 a.m. Captain Stanley and Charlie were back at the camps. As soon as the captain heard the firing he rushed to the front, and at his heels was Charlie, just as eager as Captain Stanley to take part in the fray, and at every shot would dance and bark with delight.

When we crossed the Potomac in the Maryland campaign [September 6, 1862], Charlie was placed on the foremost caisson for safety, the river being too wide and swift for him to swim. As the horses reached the shore, Charlie sprang to the ground, the first one of the company to reach "Maryland, My Maryland." Here he danced and barked with delight till the last gun had crossed, and then gravely took up the line of march with the company. At Sharpsburg [September 17, 1862] Charlie was in his glory. He ran up and down the line from gun to gun. He would wiggle his little body with joy, while his bark rang out with the roar of battle. He seemed not to know fear, and as the battle grew fiercer so did his joy. At Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and in every engagement he was always present and always exhibiting the same wild joy and courage.

When General Lee held the grand review of the Army of Northern Virginia at Brandy Station, Va., prior to the Pennsylvania campaign, Charlie was given the seat of honor upon one of the caissons, and as he passed was honored be a grave salute from the general commanding. Charlie acknowledged the honor by a wiggle of his body (he had no tail to wag) and a loud bark. Charlie was well known to the men of Longstreet's Corps, and frequent effort was made to steal him from us; but he was true to his "first love," and in a few days would find his way back to our camp to be hailed with joy. Charlie was a good forager, and many a rabbit fell a victim to his hunting prowess, to say nothing of a few stray chickens. He brought his game into camp, giving it impartially. During the Maryland campaign he strictly obeyed General Lee's orders, refusing to leave the ranks. When some of the boys would say, "Charlie, go bring us a chicken." He would pay no attention, but jog along with the guns. He looked upon people in Maryland as friends, and refused to steal from them. On the Pennsylvania campaign however, he changed his ideas; being on the enemy's soil, he plundered. Many a "Dutch wife" lost her chickens and complained: "Captain, von little dog vot pelongs to your company steal mine chickens and bring dem to your mens. I vants my chickens, or you pay for them." The captain would reply: "Well my friend, point out the men with the dog and I will see that you get your chickens or they will be paid for." Among so many men it was impossible to point out the right ones.

During the last months of the Confederacy rations were cooked at camps located at a safe distance. Charlie spent most of his time at the guns, but always went to the camp for his meals. At meal time some one would say: "Charlie, go hurry up dinner." With a wise look he would dart off to the camp and make his errand known to the cooks by loud barks and wiggling of his body. If all was ready, the cooks would say: "All right, Charlie, here we go," and away they went, Charlie showing his joy by barking and dancing around the bearer's heels. If meals were not ready, the cook would say: "Go back and tell the boys it will be an hour yet before dinner is ready." With a sorrowful look he would sneak back and quietly curl himself up in a dark corner, and the boys knew what it meant. After a while some would say: "Charlie, go and bring dinner," but he would not move. At the end of his hour he would go back to camp. "All right, Charlie, dinner is ready; let us go." Then his spirit would revive.

Now we come to the last scene. Petersburg is abandoned and the line of the retreat is taken up. Not an hour is passed without a rain of shells and bullets. Two days before the surrender [April 7, 1865] in a slight engagement a shell struck a tree by which Charlie was standing and exploded, and when the smoke cleared away little Charlie was dead. His grave was dug at the foot of a tree and the body of our faithful "comrade" was consigned to his last resting place. I can safely write that there was not a dry eye among that group of war-worn veterans as the dirt hid from view his little body. Rest in peace, little comrade! For nearly four years you were our faithful companion and loving pet. You shared our dangers and our pleasures. While your moldering body lies beneath Virginia's sod, your memory is yet fresh and green in the hearts of every surviving member of the Troup Artillery, Carlton's Battery. I fondly fancy that the trees cast a loving shade, that the winter winds wail less mournfully, and the wild flowers blossom more lovingly over your little grave.

Confederate Veteran, Vol. XIX, pp. 515 & 516

 

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