Tag Archives: Cemetery Hill

The bayonet, in reflection

[Unidentified soldier in Union sack coat and forage cap with bayonet scabbard and bayoneted musket] LOC 2010650281

From Capt. Henry Thweatt Owen, Company C (Nottoway Rifle Guards), 18th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Battle of Gettysburg, as related in Rifle Shots and Bugle Notes, Grand Army Gazette, 1883:

“We were now four hundred yards from the foot of Cemetery Hill, when away off to the right, nearly half a mile, there appeared in the open field a line of men at right angles with our own, a long, dark mass, dressed in blue, and coming down at a “double-quick” upon the unprotected right flank of Pickett’s men, with their muskets “upon the right shoulder shift,” their battle flags dancing and fluttering in the breeze created by their own rapid motion, and their burnished bayonets glistening above their heads like forest twigs covered with sheets of sparkling ice when shaken by a blast…”

Owen went on to take command of the decimated 18th Virginia after Gettysburg as the seniormost officer still able to walk. When the 1,300-billet unit surrendered 5 April 1865 at Sailor’s Creek, only 2 officers and 32 men remained. Owen died in 1929 and his papers are preserved at the Library of Virginia.