The Aftermath of Battle – from the autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard

Oliver Otis HowardAlthough not directly linked to the making of this film, I couldn’t help but include this description of the aftermath of a battlefield during the Peninsular Campaign from the autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard. It is striking and will haunt you.  It says a lot about war, about the men who fought and died, and about what they thought of each other.

As we approached the front a thick mist was setting in and a dark cloudy sky was over our heads, so that it was not easy at twenty yards to distinguish a man from a horse. Miles, guiding us, remarked: “General, you had better dismount and lead your horses, for the dead and wounded are here.

A peculiar feeling crept over me as I put my feet on the soft ground and followed the young officer. Some stretchers were in motion. A few friends were searching for faces they hoped to find. There were cries of delirium, calls of the helpless, the silence of the slain, and the hum of distant voices in the advancing brigade, with the intermittent rattle of musketry, the neighing of horses, and the shriller prolonged calls of the team mules, and soon the moving of lanterns guiding the bearers of the wounded to the busy surgeons.

I remember that the call of one poor fellow was insistent. He repeatedly cried: “Oh, sir! Kind sir! Come to me!” I walked over to where he lay and asked: “What regiment do you belong to?”

He answered: “The Fifth Mississippi.”

I then said: “What do you want?”

He replied: “Oh, I am cold!”

I knew it was from the approach of death, but noticing that I had a blanket over him I said: “You have a good warm blanket over you.” He looked toward it and said gently: “yes, some kind gentleman from Massachusetts spread his blanket over me, but, sir, I’m still cold.”

A Massachusetts soldier had given his only blanket to a wounded man – a wounded enemy.

Posted on: August 7, 2015