The First Man.
by Phil Spaugy
A short vignette of the horror and regret of personal combat in the war from “Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, with Pictures of Life in Camp and Field” by Benjamin F. Taylor.
THE SOLDIER’S “FIRST MAN”
Sharpshooting is the squirrel-hunting of war, and it is wonderful how utterly forgetful of self the marksmen grow; with what sportsman-like eyes they watch the grander game, and with what coolness and accuracy they bring it down. But indifferent as men become to human life, they have the most vivid and minute remembrance of the first man they brought down with a deliberate aim; often noting, in the instant of time preceding the fatal shot, the fashion of features, color of eyes and hair, even the expression of face, all painted in a picture that shall last the life out.
“ My first man,” said an artilleryman to me, “I saw but twenty seconds and shall remember him forever. I was standing by my gun, when an infantry soldier rushed up and made a lunge with the bayonet at one of the horses. I whipped out my revolver, took him through the breast, he threw up his hands, gave me the strangest look in the world and fell forward upon his face. He had blue eyes, brown, curling hair, a dark mustache and a handsome face.”
The gunner paused a moment and added: “I thought the instant I shot that I should have loved that man had I known him. I tell you what—this war is terrible business.” And so it is—and so it is—but “they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.