Letter from Capt. Geo. Dodge.
We have been permitted to make the following extracts from a letter from Capt. George Dodge, of the 4th cavalry, to N. Belcher, Esq., of Port Byron:
PITTSBURG, Tenn., April 11th, '62.
Well, the great battle, or one more of them has taken place, and I will try and give you some of the incidents, but in doing so, you must bear in mind that I could see but a small part of the action, as the scene of the battle covered a space of territory of at least sever or eight miles, fronting on the west and south.
On Sunday morning the 6th, at about four o'clock, the enemy to the amount of (as near as we can ascertain) about 130,000 men, made a simultaneous attack on the entire length of our line, driving in, or taking our pickets, and by their impetuosity driving every thing before them. An order came to me to saddle up, as our front was attacked. I did not believe this, although I heard the firing, but supposed that some of the regiments were practicing, as usual. I ordered my company to saddle up and had barely mounted when the enemy opened on us with a battery, and threw some of their shells and round shot amongst us. We soon got out of that, and immediately the engagement became general. We of the cavalry could do nothing, only to hover around near our retreating forces in order to take advantage of any reverse of the enemy. This did not occur, and we were obliged, during the whole day, to drop back from one position to another, until night.
Just before dark they had driven in our troops and were within about half a mile of the steamboat landing, where were all of our transports and a large amount of stores. — Here we had, during the day, planted three large siege guns, and on the approach of the enemy, we opened on these guns. This checked them up, and revived the almost despairing hopes of our men. But imagine the thrill of joy that seized upon our boys when it was announced to them that Gen. Buell had arrived on the opposite side of the river with reinforcements. This completely revived our boys' spirits, and cheer after cheer rang through our entire line. They drove the enemy back a short distance. Night had now set in, and put an end to the awful carnage for that day.
It was about 10 o'clock in the forenoon of this day that I saw and spoke to Dr. Gregg, as he was gallantly leading his company forward. Hastily exchanging a salutation with him, he was soon out of sight; and, as I learned afterwards, in less than 20 minutes, the whole regiment was taken prisoners, or what was left of them.
Oh, god! What a day — I never wish to see such another. Regiment after regiment met and were cut down. From about six o'clock in the morning until six in the evening, nothing could be heard but one constant roar of musketry. The sound became so monotonous that it seemed like the rain falling on the roof of a house in the night. Add to this the continual roar of artillery, the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying, and you have as near as I can give you a description of our first day's work.
During the night one of our gunboats, lying on the opposite side of the river, gave them a shell every ten minutes, and now and then our edge guns the same. By morning Gen. Buell had crossed and landed about 12,000 men, and Gen. Lew Wallace had arrived from below, by land, with 8,000 or 10,000 more. At daylight our forces pitched into them, and it now came the enemies' turn to retreat. They fought desperately, disputing every foot of ground until half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, when they ceased firing and retreated with utter confusion, leaving their dead and wounded of this day's fight on the field.
What the loss on either side is, of course cannot be ascertained for some days; but it is fearful to think of. The ground, for miles, is strewn with dead, and in some places they actually lie one on another.
During Monday, our forces drove the enemy, in large bodies, into the ravines running back from the river, and our gunboats actually killed dozens at a shot. Oh! It was an awful sight, to travel over the battle field on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and see the dead — some with heads blown off, some with bowels all torn out, some killed one way and some other. On one piece of ground, not more than half as large as my garden, were 120 dead bodies — mostly rebels; sometimes 20 or 30 killed by one ball from a cannon, and their horses were lying all over the field — in some cases the whole six horses, belonging to a battery, were shot down and dropped one top of another.
If Gens. Buell and Wallace had not arrived as they did, our forces would undoubtedly have been mostly taken prisoners, and all the rich stores at the Landing fallen into their hands. This would have been an awful stroke on us, and given the enemy great encouragement.
They say Dr. Gregg was wounded.
Respectfully, &c., GEO. DODGE.