Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“One of them was a better soldier than I was.”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on September 16, 2012

Private Lawrence Daffan, Co. G, Fourth Texas Infantry, at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862:

On the evening of the 16th we crossed the Antietam Creek, falling back from Boonsboro Gap. This occasioned some skirmishing and artillery duels across the creek, as we had taken a stand near Sharpsburg. We had orders the evening of the 16th to cook up three days’ rations, and to be ready to move at a moment’s warning. We were located nearly a half mile south of an old Dunkard church. There was heavy timber between us and the church; north and west of us there was a large stubblefield where wheat was cut. North of this stubble was a large cornfield of considerable dimensions. Corn there in September is as high as it is here in July; fodder was about ready to be gathered. By daylight the pickets commenced firing. By sunrise wer were ordered forward in line of battle. We stopped near the church in the heavy timber, the branches were falling on us, and many spent balls played around us.
 
A short time after this we were ordered “forward.” We emerged from the timber into the stubblefield; some of it I think had recently been plowed.
 
As we emerged from the timber, a panorama, fearful and wonderful, broke upon us. It was a line of battle in front of us. Immediately in front of us was Lawton’s Georgia Brigade. After we left the timber we were under fire, but not in a position to return the fire. As we neared Lawton’s Brigade, the order came for the Texas Brigade to charge. Whenever a halt was made by a command under fire, every man lay flat on the ground, and this was done very quick. Lawton’s Brigade had been on this line fighting some time before we reached them. Lawton’s Brigade attempted to charge, and did charge; their charge was a failure, because their numbers had been decimated; they had no strength.
 
Then the Texas Brigade as ordered to charge; the enemy was on the opposite side of this stubblefield in the cornfield. As we passed where Lawton’s Brigade had stood, there was a complete line of dead Georgians as far as I could see. Just before reaching the cornfield General Hood rode up to Colonel [Benjamin F.] Carter, commanding the fourth Texas Regiment (my regiment), and told him to front his regiment to the left and protect the flank. This he did and made a charge directly to the west. We were stopped by a pike fenced on both sides. It would have been certain death to have climbed the fence.
 
Hays’ Louisiana Brigade had been in on our left, and had been driven out. Some of their men were with us at this fence. One of them was a better soldier than I was. I was lying on the ground shooting through the fence about the second rail; he stood up and shot right over the fence. He was shot through his left hand, and through the heart as he fell on me, dead. I pushed him off and saw that “Seventh Louisiana” was on his cap.
 
The Fifth [Texas], First [Texas] and Eighteenth Georgia, which was the balance of my brigade, went straight down into the cornfield, and when they struck this cornfield, the corn blades rose like a whirlwind, and the air was full.

_____________

Lawrence Daffan was seventeen years old at the time. He survived this fight, the assault on Little Round Top at Gettysburg the following year, and the Battle of Chickamauga, only to be captured in late 1863 and spend the remainder of the war as a prisoner at Rock Island, Illinois. Passage from My Father as I Remember Him, by Katie Daffan. Image: “The Hagerstown Pike,” by Walton Taber.
 

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3 Responses

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  1. Tim King said, on September 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    It’s hard to imagine what being in a battle like that would have been like….much less for a 17 year old. Pretty good writer as well.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      It is hard to imagine.

      Lawrence Daffan did not have a lot of formal education — I think his formal schooling ended at 15 when he went to work after his father died — but he read a great deal as an adult. His tastes were pretty traditional — the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton — but he was very big on education for all his children.

      On the other hand, he dictated this material to his daughter Katie, who WAS a writer in her own right, and who may have done considerable editing along the way. Hard to be certain whose words they are in every case.

      Another writer who’s worth looking up is someone I mention frequently, Val C. Giles, also a veteran of the 4th Texas. His posthumously-published memoir, Rags and Hope, should be considered a classic of CW soldiers’ literature.

  2. mugginns12 said, on September 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    These posts make my day every day. Thank you!


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