Though the Southern troops below were astonished by a captured Northern artilleryman offering to help “mow those Yankees down,” it is not surprising that soldiers, most likely European immigrants, who enlisted for money rather than patriotism, would fire upon fellow soldiers they had little in common with other than a blue uniform.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Helpful Yankee Artillerist
“As a result of [General Matthew C.] Butler’s scouting report, [General Wade] Hampton noted that [the enemy’s] left flank was “in the air.” He suggested that if the infantry attacked the Yankees from the west, holding them in position at Ream’s Station, he could come up from the south to drive the Federals away from the [Wilmington & Weldon] railroad and back to their lines. [General Robert E.] Lee agreed with the plan.
The next morning, shortly after sunrise . . . Butler drove the Yankee skirmishers back toward their lines, then waited for the infantry attack. The enemy, of course, was uncomfortable with Butler on their flank, so they opened an artillery barrage toward his ranks. “They are disposed to be rather familiar this morning,” Butler observed calmly to [General Thomas] Rosser.
[After Gen. A.P. Hill’s assault about 3PM], Butler dismounted his men . . . to approach his adversary from the rear. “The enemy, taken on the front and flank, fell back pell mell,” one stated, “through trees cut down, fence rails, breastworks of every kind . . . thrown up as a defense against us.”
The Rebels captured the [enemy] artillery, but no one knew how to fire the pieces. An enemy prisoner saw the problem. “If you boys will allow me,” he called, “I can mow those Yankees down.”
The astonished Confederates moved aside, and the Union gunner quickly opened a devastating fire on his former friends (many of whom were foreigners who did not speak English, some of whom had only recently arrived from overseas). “[He] seems to enjoy the sport very much,” one of [Butler’s] men recalled.”
(Southern Hero, Matthew Calbraith Butler, Samuel J. Martin, Stackpole Book, 2001, pp. 109-110)