This is a personal account of Captain William Harrison Huls' Civil War service hand written in April of 1917 as part of his request for a pension for his war service. The reader is advised to keep several facts in mind to maintain historical perspective.
First, the matter of the request for the Medal of Honor. At the time, this was the only medal issued by the United States Government. (The Order of the Purple Heart had been discontinued and had not been reinstated.) As it was the only medal issued by the military it had been issued rather liberally by the services during the Civil War.
Second, please keep in mind that this was written by W.H. Huls 53 years after the events described occurred.
Third, bear in mind that a pension of $10 a month would keep a man in bread, butter and steak in 1917.
Fourth, in reading this account please understand W.H. Huls had a good education for his day, he had even been a school teacher before the war, but his opportunities were limited by the times. This is especially important as I have copied his words exactly as he put them down in pencil on a yellow sheet of tablet paper 96 years ago.
Second Army Service for Medal of Honor
After the regiment met with a heavy loss at Fort Morgan, Miss. In a bayonet charge where many of soldiers, two corporals, orderly sergeant and our Capt of Co. H were killed.
General Grant transferred our regiment on several gunboats to open up the Mississippi River. Company H was ordered on the Gunboat Pittsburgh. We ran the blockade at Vicksburg passing seventy or more heavy Siege Guns and water batteries on the night of April 16, 1863. and on the morning of April 29, 1863 at Grand Gulf Mississippi, Genl Grant with about 4000 were anchored the river waiting to take the fort, soon as the gunboats would silence the batteries. Here I believe I am entitled to sufficient honor to Secure the medal.
The Gunboats entered the fight at ten o'clock in the morning; fought continuous until near four o'clock in the afternoon, without silencing a gun. We piloted Grant's army across the river in the evening, when the rebels left the fort the next morning without firing a gun. I was ordered to scale or climb to the fort with my company and to our surprise there stood burning on it's carriage the Great gun called "Whistleing DICK" which had helped kill and wound more than thirty men on our boat "Pittsburgh" I will remember that four of my home Ohio boys just as good young healthy and Gallent Soldiers as our Government could enlist laying cold in death today. Who made this sacrifice for their country on the 29 day of April 1863 at Grand Gulf Mississippi.
I remember Gotlieb Slinger, a brave soldier was "Gun Swabber". In those days we had to swab the muzzle of the gun when run out the porthole; exposing the soldier's person while standing in the porthole swabbing everyload.
I had occasion to pass him when I saw he was shot by a Sharp Shooter from the hillside. He placed his eyes on me and fell in my arms and never took them off (of me) until I gently laid him down in the "dead room" when he closed his eyes a died without a struggle.
I will give another instant of a gallant Soldier by the name of Absolem E. Leffler. He was an excellent young man; everybody loved him. He was one of our home Ohio boys. A "Gunner" and while manning his gun a ball come in porthole striking him in the left Shoulder & Side, who fell on the deck with his shoulder and Side almost torn from his body. I remember clearly that his beating heart fell almost naked on the deck and leaped with life. I ran quickly and gathered it up with my hands and gently placed it in his wounded bleeding body and carried him back to the dead room - and here are other comrades Joseph A. Fartig, William H., Springer and others all young men of our boyhood days now all sleeping in death from the 29 of April 1863 while fighting for our country almost six dreadful hours on the Gunboat Pittsburgh. The same day we steamed up crossing over to the Louisiana Shore where we buried them with many others, now awaiting further orders.
To be continued...