Monday, October 22, 2012

Captain Donaldson's Discovery

Captain Francis A. Donaldson (118th PA) on his Discovery of Captain William Dunklin (44th AL)

“At the foot of the hill (Big Round Top) and in the gorge (Slaughter Pen), there were thrilling, horrifying scenes of blood and carnage. The dead lay in all shapes and in every direction, some upon their faces, others on their backs, while others were twisted and knotted in painful contortions.
I counted thirty seven bodies, all dressed alike, in a course dark material with black felt hats...
A little in front of these bodies, with his head resting on a stone, his body straightened out and hands folded across his breast, lay, as if asleep, one of the handsomest men I ever saw...He appeared to be about 35 years of age, was dressed in gray cloth jacket and pants, neither showing much wear, and appeared to be at least 5 feet 10 inches in height, weighing, probably, about one hundred and seventy pounds. His face had been shaven upon the cheeks the day of his death, leaving a splendid luxuriantly flowing chestnut beard upon his chin. The ball that had slain him had pierced his heart, passing thro' a letter in his breast pocket from which I learned his name to be Wm. A. Duncan, [sic] Capt. 44th Alabama Regt., and dated from Selma...I cannot tell you how sad the fat of this fine looking soldier made me feel. Indeed I could picture to myself the anxiety of his family for intelligence from this terrible battlefield,...and I could fancy the long lapse of years without one word, without one sign from their dear one, and their heart sickness from hope deferred. At parting, I grasped his cold hand in mine and bid farewell to the noble form that lay stretched in death before me.”

The area where Captain Dunklin was killed was a hotspot for discoveries of remains from the great battle and sadly, Captain Donaldson's prediction about the want of intelligence from his loved ones was fulfilled. There is no record that exists showing Dunklin was ever even buried and as was the case with many of the dead in and around the “Slaughter Pen”, many were just thrown into the great crevices among the boulder strewn banks of Plum Run, probably resting there to this day.

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