Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dangerous Picket Fire at Yorktown

Friday, April 18, 1862

After a movement in front of the enemy on Wednesday, the Twentieth deployed in a location close to the Confederate lines and engaged in constant picket fire day and night. At 12:30 AM the entire regiment was called to stand under arms for three hours due to enemy fire. During this engagement Private Samuel Kershaw of Company H was shot in the chest, the first man in the Twentieth Massachusetts regiment injured during the Peninsula campaign.1

The men of the Twentieth experienced their first real taste of the dangers of the picket line at Yorktown. The picket firing was relentless, and the regiment learned firsthand the life and death nature of picket duty. Captain Frank Bartlett of Company I observed that picket duty was "the hard part of a soldier's life; battle would be a relief from this."2

1George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861 - 1865 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1906), 84.
2Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 114-15.

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