Regular readers of this blog know that I am not one to ignore any amusing anecdote when it relates to the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. One such incident occurred on September 24, 1863. The dreadful execution of two deserters had occurred just six days before. The faulty ammunition had been replaced, and no doubt every soldier wished to test his allotment at the first opportunity.
The opportunity presented itself in the form of a bull that wandered into a cornfield between the two armies that lay warily watching each other along the line of the Rapidan River. The bull appeared in front of the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut. Captain Walter Lucas of Company D had recovered from his wounding at Gettysburg and was ready for action. He detailed a squad of men to kill the bull for food. It should have been a simple matter, an easy dispatch of a single large animal, but apparently a lone bovine is harder to bring down than a host of Rebels.
You can well imagine the hoots and hollers as first one, then another, of the new recruits of the Fourteenth stepped forward to test his marksmanship, or lack thereof, as it so proved. Every shot missed its target and soon some of the veterans likely stepped forward to show the “fresh fish” how it was done. Still the bull was not hit and went on about his gleaning of the corn.
It was a normal thing for occasional shots to be traded by opposing pickets, so sporadic gunfire was mostly ignored by the armies. However, as shot after shot missed the bull, frustration at missing out of a feast of “beef-on-the-hoof” mounted, and the rate of fire increased across the line of the Fourteenth. Officers rode hither and thither sounding the alarm. The First Brigade of the Third Division took up their weapons and formed in line of battle, convinced that their Second Brigade comrades were locked in pitched battle with attacking Confederates.
Eventually, the storm of lead killed the animal. It’s carcass was brought within the lines and butchered. The enlisted men of the Fourteenth, however, likely dined only on leftovers, because much of the meat was given to the officers whose quiet day had been so rudely interrupted.
Thus ended what the men came to call the “Third Battle of Bull Run.” Perhaps they should have called up the artillery.