An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge HTML version

Killed at Resaca
The best soldier of our staff was Lieutenant Herman Brayle, one of the two aides-de-
camp. I don't remember where the general picked him up; from some Ohio regiment, I
think; none of us had previously known him, and it would have been strange if we had,
for no two of us came from the same State, nor even from adjoining States. The general
seemed to think that a position on his staff was a distinction that should be so judiciously
conferred as not to beget any sectional jealousies and imperil the integrity of that part of
the country which was still an integer. He would not even choose officers from his own
command, but by some jugglery at department headquarters obtained them from other
brigades. Under such circumstances, a man's services had to be very distinguished indeed
to be heard of by his family and the friends of his youth; and "the speaking trump of
fame" was a trifle hoarse from loquacity, anyhow.
Lieutenant Brayle was more than six feet in height and of splendid proportions, with the
light hair and gray-blue eyes which men so gifted usually find associated with a high
order of courage. As he was commonly in full uniform, especially in action, when most
officers are content to be less flamboyantly attired, he was a very striking and
conspicuous figure. As to the rest, he had a gentleman's manners, a scholar's head, and a
lion's heart. His age was about thirty.
We all soon came to like Brayle as much as we admired him, and it was with sincere
concern that in the engagement at Stone's River--our first action after he joined us--we
observed that he had one most objectionable and unsoldierly quality: he was vain of his
courage. During all the vicissitudes and mutations of that hideous encounter, whether our
troops were fighting in the open cotton fields, in the cedar thickets, or behind the railway
embankment, he did not once take cover, except when sternly commanded to do so by the
general, who usually had other things to think of than the lives of his staff officers--or
those of his men, for that matter.
In every later engagement while Brayle was with us it was the same way. He would sit
his horse like an equestrian statue, in a storm of bullets and grape, in the most exposed
places--wherever, in fact, duty, requiring him to go, permitted him to remain--when,
without trouble and with distinct advantage to his reputation for common sense, he might
have been in such security as is possible on a battlefield in the brief intervals of personal
On foot, from necessity or in deference to his dismounted commander or associates, his
conduct was the same. He would stand like a rock in the open when officers and men
alike had taken to cover; while men older in service and years, higher in rank and of
unquestionable intrepidity, were loyally preserving behind the crest of a hill lives
infinitely precious to their country, this fellow would stand, equally idle, on the ridge,
facing in the direction of the sharpest fire.