The author of this book, Major E. C. Downs of the 20th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry has provided the penmanship for the actual subject and principal character of this account. His name was Lorain Ruggles, a remarkable man who held the rank of corporal in the Union Army, but who was known to those who had any real idea of his true identity and purpose in the army as ‘General Bunker.’ Downs knew his subject well, for he met him when marching to war in the company of just ten men and enlisted him on the spot on condition that he furnish Ruggles with an Enfield rifle. This book is written in the first person as by Ruggles himself and recounts his numerous adventures during the American Civil War as a scout and spy in the service of many of the commanders of the Union, but most especially for Ulysses Grant. This most perilous of all military occupations was, of course, undertaken in civilian clothes or even on occasion in the uniform of the enemy and so discovery would result in summary execution. Ruggles a raconteur of the first rank clearly enjoyed and had an immense talent for his life on the ‘knife’s edge’ during wartime, he recounts it within these pages with good humour and thrilling detail. An excellent Civil War account revealing a different perspective of the conflict from behind the enemy lines.
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The charge swept on. Still the enemy held his ground, as if determined to withstand the charge, and a dreadful encounter seemed imminent. A line of fence in front of the enemy was reached, and it vanished like chaff in the wind before those solid columns of Western braves. With the crash of that fence went the enemy’s lines, and the pride of South Carolina fled in dismay, followed by the veterans from Georgia, that had been stationed as reserves. Then went up such shouts of victory as only Western lungs can accent. Volley after volley was fired at their retreating ranks, and pursuit kept up until they were driven beyond the city. In five hours from the time the action commenced, the stars and stripes were proudly floating over the capitol of the State of Mississippi.<br>
Our loss was very light compared with that of the enemy—much lighter than it would have been, if the enemy had not overshot us while crossing the open field. For the casualties of the battle, the reader is referred to the official reports of the commanding generals.<br>
As the troops were going into Jackson, I asked General Grant if I might steal enough to make up for the field-glasses that the South Carolina general had taken from me, when I was there as a spy.<br>
“I can’t instruct you to steal,” said the general, “but I presume you can find something in Jackson of as much value to you as the field-glasses.”<br>
The city had been so completely ransacked by the soldiers before I got in, that I failed to get pay for my glasses.<br>
On the 15th of May we marched west, toward Vicksburg, and on the 16th the enemy was found in large force at Champion Hills, under command of Lieutenant-General Pemberton. He had moved his army out from Vicksburg to attack us. The position selected by the enemy was a strong one, on the summit of an elevation, or ridge of ground, with a line something like a crescent, the right and left of the line further advanced than the centre. The face of the hill, in front of the enemy, was an open field, thereby exposing our lines to view as we advanced to the attack. The enemy’s lines were in the skirts of a piece of woods that extended to his rear.<br>
Early in the day, the battle commenced, opening on our left, and extending gradually along to our right, until the whole line was engaged, when it raged with intense fury. General Hovey’s division, on our left, from the much stronger position occupied by the enemy in its front, suffered terribly; but timely support arrived, and the enemy was driven back. An attempt was then made to crush our centre, but made in vain. Support having arrived to the assistance of the centre, a dashing charge was made and the enemy routed.<br>
It was a desperate and hard-fought battle, with a heavy loss on both sides, but that of the enemy was much the heaviest. Here, again, I must refer the reader to the official reports for the casualties. It will not be amiss, perhaps, to give the reader some of my personal experience in that battle.<br>
When the action commenced, I was instructed by General Logan to keep to the right of each brigade of his division, as they successively arrived in position and became engaged, and to watch closely for any attempt at flank movement on the part of the enemy. My first position was with the line of skirmishers of the 2nd Brigade. About the time our skirmishing commenced, a rebel courier was seen dashing along in a line nearly parallel to the line of skirmishers from the right, and about one hundred yards in advance of the line. When up with and in front of the line, he discovered us and wheeled to the right, and was dashing away at right angles with our line, when six of us brought our pieces to bear on him and fired. He fell from his horse, with one foot fastened in the stirrup. At that instant, the horse gave a leap over a log, and the dangling body struck the log and bounded into the air higher than the horse’s back, and then struck the ground with a “thud” sufficient, to all appearances, to have crushed every bone in his body.<br>
A few minutes later, I saw a rebel major leading his regiment forward to charge upon one of our batteries. When I saw him he was not more than fifty yards distant. In an instant I brought my “repeater” to my face, and while I was looking at the prominent point of his right-cheek bone, a ball took him in the exact spot that I was looking at, and he tumbled from his horse.<br>
I now discovered that, instead of a regiment, a whole brigade was coming, and that our skirmishers had fallen back, and that I was in range between McAlister’s Battery and the rebs. I started on a run, and fairly flew as I went; but before I could get out of range, the battery opened on the rebs with double charges of grape and canister, which came howling and tearing the ground all about me. How I escaped instant death is a wonder to me. I succeeded in getting out of the way before another round was fired, quite satisfied with my experience there.<br>
I then moved round much further to the right, and took with me a corporal of the 20th Ohio, by the name of Wm. Grinnell, whom I found engaged in sharp-shooting. After reconnoitring a little, we discovered a rebel battery of eight guns, that kept up a harassing fire upon our lines. We succeeded in sheltering ourselves from view, in close rifle range of the guns, behind a large clump of bushes, and then commenced paying our respects to the gunners. We were doing “bully” execution, and had fired ten or twelve shots apiece, when the rebs returned our compliments with a charge of canister that mowed the bushes all about us. The charge made such a terrible whizzing and howling, and came so suddenly and unexpectedly, that I involuntarily dropped to the ground.