Monday, May 25, 2015

Three Graves Foretold

I've always been impressed that of the countless brave soldiers who have defended our great country in its various wars, although all must realize there exists the possibility of not returning home alive, a great many receive premonitions they in fact will not.

At first I though that in honor of Memorial Day I would provide some stories from my vast collection of such. But how to whittle the many down to a few that would fit a single blog post and still do justice to the stories?

Instead I have decided to quote an amazingly startling story of soldiery presentiment dating back to the Civil War. It is from a chapter in the old book by the brave and oft-wounded Union officer Newton Martin Curtis, From Bull Run to Chancellorsville: The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry Together with Personal Reminiscences:

After landing at the head of York River, the regiment marched a short distance, and stacked arms. After supper was over, the members of Company F were engaged in general conversation when Edwin R. Bishop, a lighthearted and fun-provoking man, rose from the ground and interrupted the conversation by saying, "Boys, if I should fall in the next battle, as I now believe I shall, I wish you would bury me under this tree, where I indicate by these lines." He then proceeded to mark with a pioneer's spade the outlines of a grave.
Immediately Corporal George J. Love, a very sedate man, rose and picking up the spade which Bishop had used, said, "I would like you to dig my grave beside Bishop's, but please dig it with more regularity than his crooked lines indicate; I am the son of a sexton and have helped to dig many." He then proceeded to draw a parallelogram, dropped the spade, and sat down. Then Peter G. Ploof, a lad of twenty, much beloved for bis boyish, winsome ways, picked up the spade, and said "If I fall, dig my grave here beside Love's, and do it as we dig graves at home. Please follow the lines I make for you." He drew the lines of the coffin used in those days, wider at the shoulders and tapering toward the head and foot. Conversation was resumed, and no further attention was paid to the incident.
At three o'clock the next morning, May 7th, Companies F and G were ordered out to the picket line, where, at 9 A.M., they met the advancing lines of General J. B. Hood's brigade, of Whiting's division. These companies could not stay the progress of the overwhelming force brought against them, but they made a manful resistance until the artillery was brought up and made ready for action; they were then ordered back, with 17 per cent. of their number among the killed and wounded. Three members of Company F were killed,—Bishop, Love and Ploof, and their comrades, in paying them the martial honors due the gallant dead, gave to each the resting place he had selected on the night before the battle. Beside them were buried Mummery, Seabury and Waymouth, of Company G.
Interestingly, later in his book Curtis gives his own personal premonition:

I had no fear of death in battle, for before I was mustered into service, I had a presentiment that I should not be killed in the army, but would have my eyesight injured ... In my last battle, I lost the sight of my left eye by the fragment of a shell. Although, in two battles, I was advised by surgeons on the field that I was mortally wounded, I was nevertheless at no time shaken in my belief that I should survive the war.

On this Memorial Day I remember those brave souls who didn't make it back home, especially those who knew they wouldn't yet bravely fought on.

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