Buck Denman, a Mississippi bear hunter and a superb specimen of manhood,was color sergeant of the Twenty-first and a member of [Lane]Brandon's (Confederate) company.He was tall and straight,broad shouldered and deep-chested,had an eye like an eagle and a voice like a bull of Bashan,and was full of pluck and power as a panther.
He was rough as a bear in manner,but withal a noble,tender-hearted fellow,and a splendid soldier.
[At Marye's Heights,December 13,1862]the enemy,finding the way now clear,were coming up the street, full company front,with flags flying and bands playing,while the great shells from the siege guns were bursting over their heads and dashing their hurtling fragments after our retreating skirmishers.
Buck was behind the corner of a house taking sight for a last shot. Just as his fingers trembled on the trigger, a little three-year-old,fair-haired,baby girl toddled out of an alley,accompanied by a Newfoundland dog,and gave chase to a big shell that was rolling lazily along the pavement,she clapping her little hands and the dog snapping and barking furiously a the shell.
Buck's hand dropped from the trigger.He dashed it across his eyes to dispel the mist and make sure he hadn't passed over the river and wasn't seeing his own baby girl in a vision. No,there is the baby,amid the hell of shot and shell,and here come the enemy.A moment and he has ground his gun,dashed out into the storm,swept his great arm around the baby,gained cover again,and,baby clasped to his breast and musket trailed in his left hand,is trotting after the boys up to Marye's Heights.
And there behind that historic stone wall and in the lines hard by all those hours and days of terror was that baby kept,her fierce nurses taking turns patting her while the storm of battle raged and shrieked,and at night wrestling with each other for the boon and benediction of her quiet breathing under their blankets.Never was a baby so cared for.They scoured the countryside for milk,and conjured up their best skill to prepare dainty viands for her little ladyship...
When the struggle was over and the enemy had withdrawn to his strongholds across the river,and[Brigadier General William]Barksdale was ordered to reoccupy the town,the Twenty-first Mississippi,having held the post of danger in the rear,was given the place of honor in the van and led the column.The brigade and regimental staff hurring to and fro.The regiment colors could not be found.
Denman stood about the middle of the regiment,baby in arms.Suddenly, he sprang to the front.Swinging her aloft above his head,her little garments fluttering like the folds of a banner,he shouted,"Forward,Twenty-first,here are your colors!"and without futher order off started the brigade toward the town,yelling as only Barksdale's men could yell.They were passing through a street fearfully shattered by the enemy's fire and were shouting their very souls out-but let Buck himself describe the last scene in the drama:
"I was holding the baby high,Adjutant,with both arms,when above all racket I heared a woman's scream.The next thing I knew I was covered with calico and she fainted on my breast.I caught her before she fell,and laying her down gently,put her baby on her bosom.She was most the prettiest thing I ever looked at,and her eyes were shut;
-and-I hope God'll forgive me,but I kissed her just once."
Note: by Major Robert Stiles.
This Day in History
Puritans jail Governor Stone after a military victory over Catholic forces in the colony of Maryland.
The Secretary of the Navy approves the first formal uniform of the Marine Corps.
The frigate USS Essex
flies the first U.S. flag in battle in the Pacific.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presents the first Medals of Honor to six of the surviving members of Andrews Raiders. They are the first Medals of Honor ever presented.
The Battle of Paducah Kentucky takes place.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee makes Fort Stedman his last attack of the war in a desperate attempt to break out of Petersburg, Virginia. The attack failed, and within a week Lee was evacuating his positions around Petersburg.
The Battle of Bluff Spring Florida takes place.
The Battle of Mobile Alabama takes place.
Japan invades the kingdom of Liuqiu (Ryukyu) Islands, formerly a vassal of China.
Italian troops invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia).