A Tale of a “Borrowed” Rifle.

Here is a story taken from an account in W. A. Keesy’s 1898 book, “War as Viewed from the Ranks”. Moses Pugh, a corporal in the Fifty-fifth Ohio infantry, was looking at holes in the field in front of a battery near him. While counting over one hundred holes left during a great cannonade on the second day’s fighting at Gettysburg, he spied a beautiful new, bright musket lying near a dead Confederate soldier. It did not take him long to exchange it for his own, which was somewhat rusty and old. He found it to be a Richmond rifle musket of the same caliber as his old Springfield. Several days later while his regiment was part of the Federal force pursuing Lee’s army, the men were ordered to sleep on their arms. As it was raining slightly, Pugh greased “my precious gun with a piece of bacon rind.” The next morning his first act was to remove the cap from the cone. He placed his thumb upon the hammer. Being greasy, it slipped from his thumb and Pugh’s first “Johnny ball” went through three of his comrades’ blouses and killed the colonel’s horse, which was tied to a stake about twenty rods away.

His tent mates had earlier joked that Pugh’s new gun would “turn traitor,” and now with the terrific report still echoing, Pugh began to believe it. Colonel Gambee was much incensed at the death of his faithful horse and ordered that Pugh’s stripes be cut off and demanded that Pugh pay for the horse. The regiment had not drawn any pay for six months, so Pugh gave the colonel a promissory note, which still had not been paid by May 1864 when the regiment was in front of Resaca, Georgia. Just before the battle on 15 May, the colonel came over to Pugh with a sergeant’s commission and burned the note in his presence. Apparently the colonel had a premonition of an impending danger and wanted to settle up. The good and brave colonel was killed in that battle. Pugh did not bring his gun home.