Today, the Civil War Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin tells the story of one man’s painful survival at the Battle of Pea Ridge begun on March 6, 1862.
The Gettysburg Times printed his story in June of 1912:
Hairbreadth escapes are related by veterans of the Civil war and wondered at by a younger generation, but the tales of fortune in the thick of battle are sometimes not the most wonderful of the war. Those that come nearest to being incredible and leave the listener confounded by the thought that only through a miracle has the narrator been saved to the world are those of long continued suffering in prison or in hospital. One man who has such a story to tell is Julius Heidenreich, who lives in South Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Heidenreich, who for twenty-five years has been a member of U. S. Grant post of the G. A. R. and color bearer, was in Company K of the Fifty-ninth Illinois infantry regiment, which with the Thirty-seventh Illinois and Eighth, Eighteenth and Twenty-second Indiana regiments and the Peoria battery made up the division of the Union army commanded by Maj. Gen. (then colonel) Jefferson C. Davis. The story is of the three days’ fighting at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, one of the half-dozen big battles of the west.
“My regiment, the Fifty-ninth Illinois, was sent west after it was formed late in the summer of 1861,” said Mr. Heidenreich.
“By the beginning of March 1862, we had gone on foot about 700 miles from Jefferson City, Missouri, and were headed into Arkansas at the rate of twenty miles a day, hot in pursuit of General Price’s Confederate army.
“We were 200 miles from our base of supplies. We were shoeless and in rags and we lived on corn issued in the ear by the commissary.
“We caught up with General Price and had three days fighting with him. This was the battle of Pea Ridge. The afternoon and night of March 6, I helped build defensive breastworks.
“The next afternoon we were sent through an open field into the woods and there saw soldiers partially concealed by a scrub oak thicket. They displayed the stars and stripes, but we suspected them.
“The order was given to advance, but to hold our fire until the fact that it was the enemy beyond a doubt. Then we fired into them and they returned the fire. They were ten to our one.
“I fell in the first volley. One shot went through my forehead, two others which I still carry, through my right arm and shoulder, another through my left leg and a fifth through my left side and a sixth struck a needle case and a tintype that I carried over the right breast and knocked me over among the others, who were left for dead and dying.
“What was left of our regiment fell back and the rebels advanced, shooting into our rear. At my left lay a corporal, wounded. A rebel plunged his bayonet through the man, who grasped the blade, called out to his wife and daughter and died.
“The rebel was about to do the same to me when another stepped up and prevented him. This man gave me a drink of water from his canteen, washed the blood out of my eyes, straightened my wounded limbs and took my revolver away.
“While he stooped over me, a heavy volley came from our army, and I saw a rebel commander fall from his horse.
“I lay there for thirteen days without medical attention or anything to eat except soaked corn. Water was brought to me in a greasy haversack. The wounded comrades beside me were all silent, and just beyond my head, there was a trench in which the dead were buried.
“Day by day I could hear the grave diggers at work and hear the bodies cast into the trench and the clods falling back again. This went on six feet from me and yet I saw nothing of it, for I could not move or turn my head.
“After thirteen days, Samuel Pearsons of the Third Iowa regiment found I was still alive. He picked me up and hauled me on the bare, hard bottom of an army wagon 28 miles over rocky roads to the hospital in the Cassville courthouse.”
The Civil War Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin with its image of one soldier giving his wounded enemy a drink shows against an artist’s image of the Battle of Pea Ridge, circa 1889.