Scharf Diary

The following excerpt is from the lost diary of Jonathan Thomas Scharf. Scharf was born on May 1, 1843 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was educated in the parochial schools of that city, and in July 1861 traveled incognito to Richmond and enlisted for the war in the First Maryland Artillery. This excerpt first appeared in The Artilleryman magazine, Winter 1991 edition.

After the war, Scharf was a noted author, numbering among his greatest works A History of the Confederate Navy published in 1888. Scharfs diary was recently uncovered in New York, and has been transcribed for publication.

Scharf was a wheel horse driver in the battery, and as such, had a unique position to view the heroics of both sides during the hostilities of The War Between The States.


Now came the memorable Seven Days battles around Richmond. In the morning of June 11th, we received orders to join General Jackson, but the order was countermanded. We thought this was through the influence of our Captain, as we had applied to join the Marylanders in Jacksons' command and we were always refused. He (Captain Andrews) discouraged it, and we could not go (to Jacksons' command) but were promised to be sent directly after the pending battle of Richmond. We were getting mutinous and we told him we [29] would go singularly, and five of them done so, greatly to his displeasure. We sent him a letter with all the members names signed to it for him to resign, but he would not listen to it. He came right out before the men and told them he would not and we did not know what to do. He went to see the Lt. Col of Artillery commanding and he made a speech to us saying it was not his fault and begged us to do our duty. Captain Andrews also had gone to the Infantry to hold themselves in readiness for us, but we all quitted down and that settled it.

June 27th was a beautiful day. All arrangements being completed, Jacksons' forces moved down in the enemys rear and Branch uncovered the front of General A P Hills. This division crossed at the Mechanicsville Bridge about 4 pm [30] and before he crossed Hill sent for two guns of our battery. Two rifled pieces were ordered to the front and we lead the advance and crossed at first with the skirmishers. After we got a short distance General Hill ordered us to shell a woods, as the enemy was in it in strong force. This we did, and General Hill gave us the credit of firing the first gun around the capital.

We followed the Yankees up to Mechanicsville, where they were strongly entrenched and had erected formidable earthworks mounted with heavy siege guns. We took a position and opened on these guns while our Infantry charged them. We fought nobly and in this fight we had four guns. We lost two noble fellows killed; Hilleary and Barber, and several others wounded including Lt. Gale, Major Hatton and Captain Andrews. [31]

We drove the enemy from the field and held possession of it, and what a horrible night we spent. There was young Don Hilleary of Maryland, lying on one of the caissons, the noblest fellow in the company and loved by all. Every man had the look of sadness on his face. There see some of them are carrying the body off. They have a light, and the enemy are still booming at us with their heavy guns. Hilleary was struck in the breast by a twelve pound round shot and his arms were all mangled and torn to pieces. He was stepping from his gun at the time he was struck, and was holding his arms before him. His only words when he was struck were, "Oh!". The other man, Barber, was a large noble fellow. He was shot in the gut by a ball from a spherical case shell and was knocked down. He was at my gun and I saw him when he fell. He was about [32] to raise again and was resting himself on one hand, when he was struck again by a piece of shell which shattered his arm. He fell again on his face, and was carried to the field hospital, and from there to Richmond where he died very shortly afterwards.

At Gaines Farm on June 28, General A P Hills Division, supported by General Picketts Brigade from Longstreets Division, made the first assault upon the enemys works, which were of the most formidable character and seemingly impregnable. Brigade after Brigade advanced upon the fortification and delivered their fire, but were compelled to fall back under the terrific fire of the Yankees, who were comparatively secure from danger behind the breastworks. The Yankees poured volley after volley into our brave troops.

After the fight had been prolonged for several hours [33], without result, General Whitings Division advanced to the assault and after a desperate charge succeeded in dislodging the Yankees. Whitings Division was composed of the 4th Alabama, 11th Mississippi, 6th North Carolina, 2nd Mississippi, 1st, 4th and 5th Texas, 18th Georgia and the Hampton Legion. This charge was made under the most galling fire I ever witnessed. Shot and shell, grape canister and ball swept through our lines like a storm of leaden hail, and our noble boys fell thick and fast. Still, with the irresistible determination of men who fight for all that men hold dear, our gallant boys rushed on. Suddenly, a halt was made. There was a deep pause, and the line wavered from right-to-left. We now saw the problem. In front of the enemys works a ravine, deep and wide, yawned before our troops. On the other side, at the left of the almost perpendicular bank, a breastwork of logs [34] was erected, from behind which the dastardly invaders were pouring murderous volleys upon our troops. This position was perhaps the most informidible of its kind that was ever built. The pause made by our troops was but a brief breathing space, as the voice of Colonel James was heard, "Forward, Boys! Charge them!". And with a wild and mad shout, our infectious soldiery dashed forward, flinging themselves into the trench, struggling up the perpendicular bank, climbing over the breastworks and driving the terror stricken foe before them. Some of the regiments joined and continued on the charge and captured two batteries, turning these guns on the enemy. The rout was absolute, but night deprived us of most of the fruits of the victory.

During all this time, our guns were playing upon the [35] enemys batteries and supports of reserve infantry. We were on the banks of the stream, firing over the heads of our men as they advanced to the assault. As we passed down from this position and moved along the road to the bridge to cross the stream, I could see dead and dying in all positions. I could see a dead man on a wounded one and some with their heads in the water drowning; others in the mud. Some had a cartridge in their mouth, and others with one in their hand. I saw men with their heads off,or missing arms and legs. Some had been killed in the act of sighting their guns, and the trees were completely riddled by Yankee shot and shell. Oh, what a horrible sight! It made us all sick, and we wanted to get from there as soon as [36] possible for you could hear the dying groans in all directions, and the wounded were crying to us for help and water.

We moved around and crossed the stream and viewed the Yankee entrenchments, which were completely black with the blue coated rascals. Some trenches were filled to the top with Yankees. We passed further up the road and we came across piles of Knapsacks 30 feet high. The enemy had taken them off when going into the fight and would not stop to get them in their flight. We went through them like dose of salts, getting everything we wanted. We did not stop to unbuckle them but just cut them with our knives. We cut them open and took what we wanted and left the balance for the stragglers, as they were getting to be plentiful. We now advanced and slept near the battlefield of Cold Harbor. On the march we [37] got all kind of plunder as the enemy now was in full retreat.

On one occasion, General Pender wanted us to shell the enemys camp, which we did, and drove them out early in the morning. In this camp there was a Sutlers shop containing all kinds of fruit and sweet meats. We loaded ourselves with them and got all kinds of plunder. We then were ordered to shell a scattering regiment on the opposite side of a branch. They had the flag flying and we opened on them with shell and spherical case. A corporal of one of our pieces, by the name of Theodore Jenkins, shot the flag away and they left it on the field and it was taken up by the advancing North Carolina skirmishers. At the same time General Pender rode up to the battery and wished to know if we had any [38] muskets. If we had any, he wanted us to go with him and kill or capture a Yankee Sharpshooter on this side of the creek, who had fired on him several times. We told him we had one or two, and we went with him. We were also joined by some infantry soldiers on our way. On our way there, one of the soldiers was killed by a sharpshooter, but we managed to wind up the other one that shot at the general. We went to his body and he was getted up splendidly with most everything and we took all he had, for he had now entered the other world. We stripped him of his overcoat, etc.

We now moved along and prepared to cross the bridge. All the boys now were very gay, as they had plenty of liquor and candies, etc. I went into a Yankees tent and lifted his mattress and found several lemons and oranges. Near the [39]bridge was a wounded yankee lying under a tree. He was shot in the thigh and was so drunk he was rolling and tumbling all over the road. The yankee generals were now filling their troops with whiskey to make them fight - but they could not stand the bayonet.

We now passed on and approached the battlefield. General Pender ordered two of our guns in action and they fought bravely. The enemy charged and recharged, but to no purpose, when our brigade broke and fled. General Pender came up to the men and told them his brigade had left him and told the boys if the enemy came upon them to leave the guns and flee to the woods as he had no support. A short time later the boys rested and the Yankees charged them with two companys of cavalry, but the boys made quick [40] work of them and they were repulsed.

We moved out into the field in the rear and we saw and heard the roar of battle, fleeing Yankees and yelling Rebels. I saw the Jackson Brigade charge, and they were driven back. It seemed the Army was falling back, and stragglers were going to the rear by brigades, and the Generals told us to drive the enemy back. At this fearful hour our wishes were for Jackson and his noble band. The troops were now falling back in disorder and the wounded were flying in all directions.

We were ordered to the rear to take positions so as to rake the open plain which we were now on, when, Oh! what joyful faces could be seen at that moment! We all rose up shouting with delight. It makes my blood run cold to think of it, [41] as the blue banner of Virginia came floating past us at a double quick, headed for the front, These noble heroes were Jacksons men, and they rushed madly on to "victory or death".

The old scarred, worn battle flags now formed in line; the gallant 6th North Carolina and others formed a breastwork in the road and General Lee now rode past and gave the order to charge. Along the whole line those gallant heroes charged with a yell and drove everything before them. The noble Texans captured several batteries of artillery and the noble 18th Georgia dashing all before them charged the red breeched Yankees with a yell and annihilated them. I saw in one space of land 30 yards square at least 20 Zouaves dead and many others wounded and dying [42]. I cannot describe the fortifications and lines of breastworks we took, they are too numerous to mention. The slaughtering of the enemy was dreadful beyond extremes. I saw one man with a grapeshot sticking in his brain, and another man with a ramrod shot through him in the stomach. The enemy was now fleeing in all directions to the James River as they were now cut off from their base at West Point.

On this day a Sergeant Bouling brought from the front a Patent revolving gun, and we were examining it. I in particular had my eye running up and down the barrel, while I told another man to revolve the barrels and see how it worked. Oh, it makes me always bad to think of it! I had just moved aside, and another man from the German South Carolina [43] Artillery stepped up and Lt. Dement turned the hopper and it went off, the ball going completely through his stomach. Poor fellow! He howled, and I saw him groaning. They took him to Richmond but he died on the way. Lt. Dement cried and shed tears, for it hurt him to think he had killed a friend and brother soldier.

As I was passing over the fields, I always had a curiosity to see all the dead men, for they were getting quite common. I saw a well dressed confederate with a handkerchief over his face. I lifted it, and what should I see but a man with his face entirely shot off. You could also see our men burying their own men with their toes, and you could see the dead sticking out of the ground. We piled the Yankee dead in long ditches, one on the top of the other, with a little [44] dirt on the top of them. I forgot to mention, in the battle of Gaines Farm, Captain Andrews drew from the body of a dead Yankee Lt. the sword of a Confederate Lt., who was lying dead on top of him. The sword was sent by Cpt Andrews to the Confederate officers widow in North Carolina.

We now were ordered to the rear, and crossed the Chickahominy at Bottoms Bridge and proceeded down the Charles City Road to attack the enemy in that direction. After hard marching, we moved back to near our old camp ground. I forgot to say we moved to the grand attack around Richmond, we were ordered to open fire on the enemy with our long range guns. We fired on the working parties of the Yankees who were hard at work [45] making a road to cross the stream at this point. The road was to connect with the Nine Mile Road near Poores Farm. We opened on them with from all our guns and the noted "Long Tom" and "Black Bess" returned our fire, but no damage was done but throw dirt in our eyes. We commenced with our march, and we arrived at the place of operations and waited for orders. On the march down a brigade was thrown into great confusion, on account of a horse running through the ranks of the forward line, causing the rear ranks to take up flight, thinking it was the enemys cavalry charging them. It was some time before they all got together again and on the move. I am sorry to say they were North Carolinians and our own brigade. They were very [46] much ashamed of their conduct. We were marching down the road and did not think we were so close to the enemy and all at once they opened on us with twenty-one pieces of Artillery and they made things scatter in all directions. Oh, it was a compete rout! I caught a flying runaway horse in the fracas. We were ordered to the front with all of our pieces, and when we advanced, two went in one direction and two in another. The section I went with met with no loss, except an accident which caused one of the men to fall off the limber, bruising him slightly. The other section suffered wounding by minie balls, buckshot and shot balls. In this fight, we captured some [47] artillery and came off again victorious. We where now in the vicinity of Malvern Hill.

On the march to Malvern Hill we passed some horrible sights; i.e. wagons running over dead bodies of Yankees. In one instance, we came upon a lot of Yankees stripped of all their upper clothing, lying dead on the side of the road opposite a hospital. They were as blue as paint and stunk awfully.

At 4 pm, the infantry in great force moved up and engaged the enemy with great vigor until eleven o'clock at night. The earth, air and water was in commotion from sixteen batteries by land and their gunboats by water. They beclouded the day and lit the night with a lurid glare. Add to this the light and glare of our own artillery which had been bought forward, and like an opposing volcano with a hundred [48] craters it gleamed and flashed streams and sheets of burning fire. Long lines of human forms cast their shadows upon the darkness in the background, both in sight and sound it was awfully terrible. For the outlines of human forms, seen by the light of the burning powder thorough the smoky air looked like ghosts of human shapes. These forms were vocal unearthly sounds from the passage of masses of iron and spheres of lead.

McClellan was making his last exertions to save his army. He succeeded in checking the triumphant march of our arms, until he had placed his broken and routed army beyond our reach, under the fire of his gunboats. However, during the night his gunboats were more destructive to his troops than to our own.


The numbers in the [brackets] indicate the original page number from Scharf's Diary.

copyright 1991,1998 by Thomas Kelley
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