Long out of print, Eggleston’s Southern Soldier Stories are just too good to be denied to the modern reader. Through originally from Indiana, and only an “adopted” Virginian, he enlisted int he First Virginia Cavalry at Amelia Courthouse, Virginia on May 9, 1861 at the age of 21 and was paroled near Appomattox on May 21, 1865.
During this long wartime service, the very literate Eggleston, who had received a college education as a young man, saw service in Northern Virginia, coastal South Carolina and in a company of sharpshooters in the Wilderness Campaign.
A keen observer of both the soldiers and those civilian landowners caught up in the various campaigns, he speaks of his and others experiences in a simple, straightforward and sometimes humorous manner.
In later life he became an author of note, with a long and distinguished career editing and writing for America’s major periodicals in the North.
This publication specifically compiles 40 short stories along with a last chapter of “random facts.”
Here’s one of his short stories entitled How the Tar Heels Stuck.
“The sergeant-major sat there on his horse in the drenching rain. There was nothing to do but to endure. The three days of fighting in the Wilderness in that early summer of 1864, and the three nights of sleeplessness had considerable undone his nerves.
But for the first time in his life he realized that he had a hope at least for an opportunity. He had a Lieutenant’s command. He hoped for a chance to make himself a lieutenant, in fact. With two guns, twenty-six men, and twenty-four horses under his command, and wholly detached from his battery, he had hope, that gray foggy morning, that he might have an opportunity. Yet here he was, standing behind a hill, soaking wet, and with no apparent prospect.
Three times the infantry had been ordered forward to the top of that hill. Three times they had been swept away as with a broom.
The hill was clearly untenable.
Then came General Alexander.
“have you nerve, courage, backbone? Do you want an opportunity?”
The sergeant-major answered, “Yes.”
“Then take your guns to the top of that hill and STAY THERE.”
The sergeant-major gave the necessary order, and advanced at once, feeling that he and his men were lambs sent to the slaughter.
When he appeared on top of the hill, twenty batteries and ten thousand riflemen opened upon him. But his orders were to “stay there,” and the sergeant-major wanted to be a lieutenant.
His horse sank under him at the first fire. His men went down like grass before the scythe.
About that time a North Carolina general rode up to his brigade and called aloud: “Men, are you going to allow these guns to be captured? They say we North Carolinians have tar on our helps; let’s show them that tar sticks. Forward! March!”
Five minutes later that hill was occupied by three thousand North Carolinians, the tar on whose heels STUCK. Half a dozen more batteries were ordered up, and the young sergeant-major was directed to move his guns by hand to the rear. There were only thirteen left out of his twenty-six men to handle the guns by hand. This is what we called “life” in the Confederate Army.”