I don’t think there is any Civil War writing that I enjoy reading quite so much as regimental histories. These are written by men who were there, and are often written by guys with a very colorful style of communicating that rings of the unique verbiage of the era.
A regimental history that I’ve read and enjoyed in that of the 76th New York. My interest in them relates to their time of service under Abner Doubleday – first in his brigade, and then later still within his divisional command.
The history is penned by a fellow named A.P. Smith in 1867 – stated as the “late First Lieutenant and Quarter Master, Seventy-Sixth N.Y. Volunteers. The full name of the history is: “History of the Seventy-Sixth Regiment New York Volunteers; What it Endured and Accomplished.”
The following excerpt is a description of the morning phase of the Battle of Antietam, where the 76th NY of Hofmann’s Brigade in Doubleday’s Division of Hooker’s First Corps was held in reserve near the Hagerstown Turnpike north of the Miller Farm buildings. Here is a description of the scene – referencing the Confederate fire from Nicodemus Heights…
In the morning, as it became sufficiently light to clearly distinguish objects, the pickets of the Seventy-sixth found the rebel pickets so near that they might almost, in some instances, shake hands. The position was a delicate one for both sides; but by mutual consent, due deference was paid to their short acquaintance as individuals and no picket firing was indulged in by either side. The Seventy-sixth lay behind a fence in a depression of the earth, on the Hagerstown Pike. A state of inaction was not, however, long indulged in. Shortly after daylight, a heavy fire was opened by the rebel artillery, occupying a little eminence about a half a mile distant. Our artillery was soon brought to a small elevation about forty rods in rear of the Seventy-sixth, and from daylight until about ten o’clock, a brisk artillery duel was carried on over the heads of our men. Usually the balls and shells passed harmlessly over their heads; but now and then a shell with an improper fuse would burst in quite too close proximity for the enjoyment of the men; and occasionally a ball fired at too small an elevation, and falling short of its intended object, would plow up the soil, scattering the dust and stones promiscuously over the Regiment.
This being placed between the fires of two armies, while it is very exciting, is too much like holding an apple upon one’s head, to be shot off as a target. The marksman may be ordinarily correct in his aim, but the position of the man under fire is more a post of honor than enjoyment. <History of the 76th NY, pp. 164-165.>