Battle of Pittsburg Landing.
FIELD OF BATTLE,
PITTSBURG LANDING, TENN., April 9.
Fresh from the field of the Great Battle, with its pounding and roaring of artillery, and its keener voiced rattle of musketry still sounding in my wearied ears; with all its visions or horror, still seeming seared upon my eye balls, while scenes of panic stricken rout and brilliant charges, and obstinate defenses, and succor, and intoxicating scenes are burned alike confusedly and indellibly upon the brain. I essay to write what I know of the battle of Pittsburg Landing.
Yet how bring order out of such a chaos? — How deal justly, writing within twenty-four hours of the closing of the fight, with all the gallant regiments of the hundred present, that bravely won our as bravely lost, and with all that ignobly and in panic from the fight? How describe, so that one man may leisurely follow the simultaneous or rations of a hundred and fifty thousand antagonists fighting backward and forward for two long days, in a five miles' line and over four miles retreat and advance, under eight division commanders on one side and an unknown number on the other! How, in short, picture on a canvas so necessarily small a panorama so grandly great? The task is impossible.
But what one man, diligently rising all his power of observation through those two days, might see, I saw, and that I can faithfully set down. For the rest, after riding carefully over and over the ground, asking questions innumerable of those who knew, and sifting consisting truth from the multiplicity of replies with whatever skill some experience may have taught, I can only give the concurrent testimony, of the actors.
Our great Tennessee expedition had been up the river some four weeks. We had occupied Pittsburg Landing for about three; ha destroyed one railroad connection, which the rebels had restored in a day or two and had failed in [unknown] other. Beyond this we had engaged in no active operations. The rebels, alarmed by our sudden appearance, began massing their troops under our eyes. Presently they had more in the vicinity than we had. Then we waited for Buell, who was crossing the country from Nashville by easy marches. The rebels had apparently become restive under our slow concentrations, and Gen. Grant had given out that an attack from them seemed probable. Yet we had laid at Pittsburg Landing within twenty miles of the rebels that were likely to attack us in superior numbers, without throwing up a single breastwork or preparing a single protection for a battery, and with the brigades of one division stretched from extreme right to extreme left of our line, while four other division had been crowded in between, as they arrived.
On the evening of Friday, April 4, there was a preliminary skirmish with the enemy's advance. Rumors came into camp that some of our officers had been taken prisoners by a considerable rebel force, near our lines, and that pickets had been firing. A brigade, the Seventieth, Seventy-second and Forty-eighty Ohio, was sent out to see about it. They came upon a party of rebels, perhaps a thousand strong, and after a sharp little action drove them off, losing Major Crocket, of the Seventy-second Ohio, and a couple of Lieutenants from the Seventieth, prisoners, taking in return some sixteen, and driving the rebels back to a battery they were found to have already in position, at no great distance from our lines. Gen. Lew. Wallace's troops at Crump's Landing, were ordered out under arms, and they marched to Adamsville, half way between the river and Purdy, to take position there and resist any attack in that direction. The night passed in dreary rain, but without further rebel demonstration; and it was generally supposed that the affair had been an ordinary picket fight, presaging nothing more. Major General Grant had indeed said there was great probability of a rebel attack, but there were no appearances of his making any preparations for such an unlooked for event, and so the matter was dismissed; yet on Saturday there was more skirmishing along our advanced lines.
There can be no doubt the plan of the rebel leaders was to attack and demolish Grant's army before Buell's reinforcements arrived. There were rumors that such a movement had been expressly ordered from headquarters at Richmond, as being absolutely necessary, as a last bold stroke to save the falling fortunes of the Confederacy in the West, though of that, no one, I presume, knows anything.
But the rebel leaders at Corinth were fully aware that they largely out numbered Grant, and that no measures had been taken to strengthen the position at Pittsburg Landing; while they knew equally well that when Buell's entire Kentucky army arrived, and was added to Grant's forces, they could not possibly expect to hold their vitally important position at Corinth against us. Their only hope, therefore, lay in attacking Grant before Buell arrived and so defeating us in detail. Fortunately they timed their movements a day too late.
The sun never rose on a more beautiful morning than that of Sunday, April 6th. Lulled by the general security, I had remained in pleasant quarters at Crump's, below Pittsburg Landing, on the river. By sunrise I was roused by the cry, "They're fighting above." Volleys of musketry could sure enough be distinguished, and occasionally the sullen boom of artillery came echoing down the stream. Momentarily the volume of cound increased, till it became evident it was no skirmish that was in progress, and that a considerable portion of the army must be already engaged. Hastily springing on the guards of a passing steamboat, I hurried up.
The sweet spring sunshine danced over the rippled waters, and softly it lit up the green of the banks. A few fleecy clouds alone broke the azure above. A light breeze murmured among the young leaves; the blue birds were singing their gentle treble to the stern music that still came louder and deeper to us from the bluff's above, and the frogs were croaking their feeble imitation from the marshy islands that studded the channel.
Even thus early the west bank of the river was line with the usual fugitives from the action hurriedly pushing onwards, they knew not where, except down stream and away from the fight. An officer on board hailed numbers of them and demanded their reason, but they all gave the same response: "We're clean cut to pieces, and every man must save himself."
At the Landing appearances became still more ominous. Our two Cincinnati wooden gunboats, Tyler and Lexington, were edging uneasily up and down the banks, eager to put in their broadsides of heavy guns, but unable to find where they could do it. The roar of battle was standing close, and showed that the rebels were in earnest attempt to carry out their threat of driving us into the river. The landing and bluff above were covered with cowards who had fled from their ranks to the rear for safety, and who were telling the most fearful stories of the rebel onset, and the suffering of their own particular regiments. Momentarily fresh fugitives came back, often guns in hand; and all giving the same accounts of thickening disasters in front.
Hurrying out toward the scene of action, I was soon convinced that there was too much foundation for the tales of the runaways. Sherman's and Prentiss' entire divisions were falling back in disorder, sharply pressed by the rebels in overwhelming numbers, at all point. McClernand's had already lost part of its camps, and it, too, was falling back. There was one consolation — only one — I could see just then: History, so the divines say, is positive on the point that no attack ever made on the Sabbath was eventually a success to the attacking party. Nevertheless, the signs were sadly against the theologians.
Let me return — promising that I have thus brought the reader into the scene near the close of the first act in our Sunday's tragedy — to the preliminaries and the opening of the assault.
And first, of our positions: Let the reader understand that the Pittsburgh Landing is simply a narrow ravine, down which a road passes the river, between high bluffs on either side. There is no town at all — two log huts comprise all the improvements that is visible. Back from the river is a rolling country, cut up with numerous ravines, partially under cultivation, but perhaps the greater part thickly wooded with some underbrush. The soil is clayey, and the roads on Sunday morning were good. From the Landing a road leads direct to Corinth, twenty miles distant. A mile or two out on this road forks — one branch is the lower Corinth road, the other is the ridge Corinth road. A short distance out, another road takes off to the left, crosses Lick Creek, and leads back to the river at Hamburg some miles further up. On the right, two separate roads left off to Purdy, and another, a new one, across Snake Creek to Crump's Landing on the river below. Besides these, the whole country inside our lines is cut up with roads leading to our different camps; and beyond our lines is the most inextricable maze of cross-roads, intersecting everything and leading everywhere, in which it was ever my ill-fortune to become entangled.
[unknown] Landing, lay five divisions of Major General Grant's army that Sunday morning. The advance line was formed by three division — Brig. Gen. Sherman's Brig. Gen. Prentiss' and Major General McClernand's. Between these and the Landing lay the two others — Brigadier General Hurlbut's and Major General Smith's, commanding in the absence (from sickness) of that admirable officer, by Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace.
Our advanced line, beginning at the extreme left, was thus formed: On the Hamburg road, just this side the crossing of Lick Creek and under bluffs on the opposite bank that commanded the position, lay Col. D. Stuart's brigade of Gen. Sherman's division. Some three or four miles distant from this brigade, on the lower Corinth road and between that and the one to Purdy, lay the remaining brigades of Sherman's division, McDowell's forming the extreme right of our whole advance line, Hildebrand's coming next to it, and Buckland's next. Next to Buckland's brigade, though rather behind a portion of Sherman's, lay Major General McClernand's division, and between it and Stuart's brigade, already mentioned as forming our extreme left, lay Brigadier General Prentiss' division, completing the line.
Back of this line within a miles of the landing, lay Hurlbut's division, stretching across the Corinth road, and W. H. L. Wallace's to his right. Such was the position of our troops at Pittsburg Landing, at day break on Sunday morning. Major General Lew. Wallace's division lay at Crump's Landing, some miles below, and was not ordered up till about half-past seven o'clock that day.
It is idle to criticise arrangements now — it is so easy to be wise after a matter is over — but the reader will hardly fail to observe the essential defects of such arrangements. Nearly four miles intervened between the different parts of Sherman's division. Of course to command the one, he must neglect the other. McClernand's lay partially behind Sherman, and therefore, not stretching far enough to the left, there was a gap between him and Prentiss, which the rebels did not fail speedily to find. Our extreme left was commanded by unguarded heights, easily approachable from Corinth. And the whole arrangement was confused and ill adjusted.
During Friday and Saturday the rebels had marched out of Corinth, about seventy thousand strong, in three great divisions. Sydney Johnston had general command of the whole army, and particularly of the center. Braxton, Bragg, and Beauregard had the wings. Hardee, Polk, Breckinridge, Cheatham and others held subordinate commands. On Thursday Johnston issued a proclamation to the army, announcing to them in grandiloquent terms that he was about to lead them against the invaders, and that they would soon celebrate the great, decisive victory of the war, in which they had repelled the invading column, redeemed Tennessee, and preserved the Southern Confederacy.
Their general plan of attack is said by prisoners to have been to strike our center first, (composed as our reader will remember of Prentiss' and McClernand's division) pierce the center, and then pour in their troops to attack on each side the wings into which they would thus cut our army.
To accomplish this, they should have stuck the left of the three brigades of Sherman's division, which lay on our right, and the left of Sherman's left. By some mistake, however, they struck Sherman's left alone, and that but a few moments before a portion of their right wing swept up against Prentiss.
The troops thus attacked, by six o'clock, or before it, were as follows: The left of
3Sherman's brigades, that of Col. Buckland, was composed of the Seventy-second Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel Canfield, commanding; Forty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Sullivan; Seventieth Ohio, Col. Cockerell; and Fifty-third Ohio, Colonel Appler.
To the right of this was Col. Hildebrand's brigade, Seventy-seventh Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel commanding; Fifty-ninth Ohio, Col. Pfyffe, and Fifty-third Illinois. And on the extreme right, Col. McDowell's brigade, Sixth Iowa, (Colonel McDowell — Lieutenant Colonel commanding), Fortieth Illinois, Col. Hicks; Forty-sixth Ohio, Col. Thos. Worthington.
Gen. Prentiss' division was composed of the Twelfth Michigan, Sixteenth Wisconsin, Eighteenth Wisconsin, Eighteenth Missouri, Twenty-third Missouri, Twenty-fifth Missouri and Sixty-first Illinois.
Almost at dawn, Sherman's pickets were driven in, a very little later Prentiss' were; the enemy were into the camps almost as soon as were the pickets themselves.
Here began scenes which, let us hope, will have no parallel in our remaining annals of the war. Many, particularly among our officers, were not yet out of bed. Others were dressing, others washing, others cooking, a few eating their breakfasts. Many guns were unloaded, accouterments lying pell-mell, ammunition was ill supplied — in short, the camps were completely surprised — disgracefully might be added, undiscovered reason to the contrary — and were taken at almost every possible disadvantage.
The first wild cries from the pickets rushing in, and the few scattering shots that preceded their arrival, aroused the regiments to a sense of their peril; an instant afterwards, rattling volleys of musketry poured through the tents, while, before there was time for though of preparation, there came rushing through the woods, with lines of battle sweeping thew hole fronts of the Division camps and bending down on either flank, the find, compact columns of the enemy.
Into the just aroused camps thronged the rebel regiments, firing sharp volleys as they came, and springing forward upon our laggards with the bayonet; for, while their artillery, already in position, was tossing shells to the further side of the encampments, scores were shot down as they were running, without weapons, hatless, coatless, toward the river. The searching bullets found other poor unfortunates in their tents, and there, all unheeding now, they still slumbered, while the unseen foe rushed on. Others fell, as they were disentangling themselves from the flaps that formed the doors to their tents; others as they were buckling on their accoutrements; others as they were vainly trying to impress on the cruelly exultant enemy their readiness to surrender.
Officers were bayonetted in their beds, and left for dead, who, through the whole two days' fearful struggle, lay there gasping in their agony, and on Monday evening were found in their gore, inside their tents, and still able to tell the tale.
Such were the fearful disasters that opened the rebel onset on the lines of Buckland's brigade, in Sherman's Division. Similar, though perhaps less terrible in some of the details, were the fates of Prentiss' entire front.
Meantime, what they could our shatter regiments did. Falling rapidly back through the heavy woods till they gained a protecting ridge, firing as they ran, and making what resistance men thus situated might, Sherman's men succeeded in partially checking the rush of the enemy long enough to form a hasty line of battle. Meantime, the other two brigades of the division (to the right) sprang hastily to their arms, and had hardly done so when the enemy's line came sweeping up against their fronts too, and the battle thus opened fiercely along Sherman's whole line on the right.
Buckland's Brigade had been compelled to abandon their camps without a struggle. Some of the regiments, it is even said, ran without firing a gun. Col. Appler's Fifty-third Ohio is loudly complained of on this score, and others are mentioned. It is certain that parts of regiments, both here and in other divisions, ran disgracefully. Yet they were nto wholly without excuse. They were raw troops, just from the usual idleness of our "camps of instruction." Hundreds of them had never heard a gun fired in anger; their officers, for the most part, were equally inexperienced. They had been reposing in fancied security, and were awakened, perhaps, from sweet dreams of home, and wives and children, by the stunning roar of cannon in their very midst, and the bursting of bomb shells among their tents — to see only the serried columns of magnificent rebel advances, and through the blinding, stifling smoke, the hasty retreat of comrades and supports, right and left. Certainly, it is sad enough, but hardly surprising, that under such circumstances, some should run. Half as much caused the wild panic at Bull Run, for which the nation, as one man, became a loud mouthed apologist.
But they ran — here as in Prentiss' division, of which last more in a moment — and the enemy did not fail to profit by the wild disorder. As Buckland's Brigade fell back; McClernand threw forward his left to support it. Meanwhile Sherman was doing his best to rally his troops — dashing along the lines, encouraging them everywhere by his presence, and exposing his own life with the same freedom with which he demanded their offer of theirs, he did much to save the division from utter destruction. Hildebrand and McDowell were compelled to retire their brigades from their camps across the little ravine behind; but here, for a time, they made a gallant defense, while what was left of Buckland's was falling back in such order as it might, and leaving McClernand's left to take their place, and check the wave of rebel advance.
Prentiss was faring scarcely so well. Most of his troops stood their ground, to be formed into line, but strangely enough the line was drawn up in an open space, leaving to the enemy the cover of the dense scruboak in front, from which they could pour in their volleys in comparative safety.
The men held their position with an obstinacy that adds new laurels to the character of the American soldiers, but it was too late. Down on either flank came the overwhelming enemy. Fiercely pushed in front, with a wall of bayonets closing in on either side, like the [unknown] chamber of the Inquisition, what could they do but what they did? Speedily the resistance became less obstinate, more and more rapidly they fell back, less and less frequent became their returning volleys.
The enemy pushed their advantage. They were already within our lines; they had driven one division from all its camps, and nearly opened, as they supposed, the way to the river. Just here — between nine and ten o'clock — McArthur's brigade of W. H. L. Wallace's division came up to give some assistance to Stuart's brigade of Sherman's division, on the extreme left, now in imminent danger of being cut off by Prentiss' defection. McArthur mistook the way, marched too far to the right, and so, instead of reaching Stuart, came in on the other wise of the rebels, now closely pushing Prentiss. His men at once opened vigorously on the enemy, and for a time they seemed likely still to save our imperiled division. But coming unawares, as they seem to have done, upon the enemy, their positions were not well chosen, and all had to fall back together.
Brig. Gen. Prentiss and three regiments with him, the Twenty-third Missouri, of his own division, and the Twelfth and Fourteenth Iowa, of those that had come to his assistance, delayed their retreat too long. Almost before they were aware of their danger, the flanking forces rushed in from either side behind them, and they stood, perhaps two thousand strong, in the midst of thrice their number. They threw down their arms; and the rebels signalized their first attack by marching three Linconite regiments, with a Division General, as prisoners, to their rear.
Overwhelmed by this fresh disaster, without a General to organize them, with still hotter and hotter fire to their front and flanks, the remainder of the division, whole regiments at a time, gave way in disorder. For a short time a few maintained a confused defense, retreating, halting, firing, courting death by remaining in isolated squads or companies, to resist a little longer the over powering advance; but before ten o'clock the whole division was in rapid retreat. Some regiments came off the field in a degree of order, the most in said confusion.
And thus by ten o'clock one entire Division of our army was hors de combat. A deep gap in our front line was made, the rebels had nearly pierced through, and were only held back by McArthur's brigade, and the rest of W. H. L. Wallace's division which hurried over to his assistance.
For the present let us leave them there. — They held the line from this time on till four.
We left Sherman's brigade maintaining a confused fight, Buckland's about gone, Hildebrand's and McDowell's holding their ground more tenaciously. The firing aroused McClernand's division. At first they supposed it to be a mere skirmish, perhaps only the irregular discharge of muskets by guards and pickets, to clean out their guns, a practice which, to the disgrace of our discipline be it said, was well nigh universal, and rendered it almost impossible at any time to know whether the firing meant anything at all beyond ordinary disorder of our soldiers. But the continued rattle of musketry soon undeceived them, and almost as soon the advance of the rebels pouring after Buckland was upon them.
The division it will be remembered, lay a short distance in the rear, and with one brigade stretching out to the left of Sherman's line. — Properly, speaking merely from the location of the camp, McClernand did not belong to the front line at all. Two-thirds of his division was entirely behind Sherman, but as the latter fell back, McClernand had to bear the shock of the battle.
His division was composed as follows: 1st brigade, Col. Hart, commanding, 8th and 18th Illinois, 11th and 18th Iowa; 2d brigade, Col. C. Marsh commanding, 11th, 20th, 48th and 45th Illinois; Cols. Ransom, Marsh, Haynie and Smith, (the latter is the "Lead Mine Regiment;") 3d brigade, Col. Raitt commanding, 17th, 29th and 42d Illinois, Lieut. Cols. Wood, Farrell and Pease and 43d Illinois, Col. Marsh. Besides this fine show of experienced troops, they had Schwartz' Dresser's, McAllister's and Waterhouse's batteries.
As already stated, McClernand was first called into action shortly after the surprise of Sherman's left brigade, (Buckland's) — about seven in the morning — by having to move up his left brigade to support Sherman's retreating left and preserve the line. Then, as Sherman's other brigades fell back, McClernand's moved up and engaged the enemy in support. Gradually the resistance in Hildenbrand's brigade and what was still left to its right of Buckland's became more confused and irresolute. The line wavered, the men fell back in squads and companies; they failed to rally promptly at the call of their officers. As they retreated the woods behind them became thinner and there was less protection from the storm of grape that swept as if on blasts of a hurricane among the trees. Lieut-Colonel Canfield, commanding the 72d Ohio, was mortally wounded and borne dying from the field. Col. Sullivan, of the 48th Ohio, was wounded, but continued at the head of his men. Company officers fell and were carried away from their men. At one of our wavering retreats, the rebels, by a sudden dash forward, had taken part of Waterhouse's battery, which McClernand had sent them over. Beers' battery too was taken, and Taylor's Chicago Light artillery was so terribly pounded as to be forced to retire with heavy loss. As the troops gave way they came out from the open woods into old fields, completely raked by the enemy's fire. For them all was lost, and away went Buckner's and Hildebrand's brigades, Ohioans and Illinoisans together, to the rear and right in such order as they might.
McDowell's brigade had fallen back less slowly than its two companions of the same division, but it was now left entirely alone. It had formed our extreme right, and of course had no support there, its supporting brigades on the left had gone; through the space they had occupied the rebels were pouring; they were in imminent danger of being entirely cut-off, and back they fell too, still farther to the right and rear among the ravines that border Snake Creek.
And here, so far, as Sunday's fight is concerned, the greater part of Sherman's division passes out of view. The General himself was indefatigable in collecting and reorganizing his men, and a stragging contest was doubtless kept up along portions of his new lines, but with little weight in inclining the scales of battle. The General bore with him one token of the danger to which he had exposed himself, a musket ball through the hand. It was the general expression of all that his escape so lightly was wonderful. Whatever may be his faults or neglects, none can accuse him of a lack of gallantry and energy when the attack was made on his raw division, that memorable Sunday morning.
To return to McClernand's division. I have spoken of his sending up first his left, and then his centre brigade to support Sherman, shortly after the surprise. As Sherman fell back, McClernand was compelled to bring in his brigades again to protest his left against the onset of the rebels, who, seeing how he had weakened himself there, and inspired by their recent success over Prentiss, hurled themselves against him in tremendous force. To avoid bringing back these troops, a couple of new regiments, the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Iowa were brought up, but taking utterly raw troops on the field, under heavy fire was too severe a trial for them, and they gave way in confusion. To meet the attack, then the whole division a change of front, and faced along the Corinth road. Here the batteries were placed in position, and till then o'clock the rebels were foiled in every attempt to gain the road.
But Sherman having now fallen back, there was nothing to prevent the rebels from coming in farther but on the road, and turning McClernand's right. Prompt to seize the advantage, a brigade of them went dashing audaciously through the division's abandoned camp, pushing up the road to come in above McClernand, between him and were Sherman had been. Dresser's battery of rifled guns opened on them as they passed with fearful slaughter — not confined, alas! to one side only — drove them back.
But the enemy's reserves were most skillfully handled, and the constant advance of fresh regiments was at last too much for our inferior numbers. Major Eaton, commanding the Eighteenth Illinois, was killed; Col. Haynie was severely wounded; Col. Raith, commanding a brigade, has his leg so shattered that amputation was necessary; Major Nevins, of the Eleventh Illinois was wounded; Lieut. Col. Ransom, of the same regiment, was wounded; three of Gen. McClernand's staff, Maj. Schwartz, Maj. Stewart and Lieut. Freeman, were wounded and carried from the field. Line officers had suffered heavily. The batteries were broken up. Schwartz had lost half his guns and sixteen horses. McAllister had lost half his 24-pound howitzers.
The soldiers fought bravely to the last — let no man question this — but they were at a fearful disadvantage. Gradually they began falling back, more slowly than had Prentiss' regiments or part of Sherman's, making more determined, because better organized, resistance — [unknown] and repulsing the enemy's return for a hundred yards, then being brought back again and renewing the retreat to the new position for fresh defense.
By 11 o'clock the division was back in a line with Hurlbut's. It still did some gallant fighting; once its right swept around and drove the enemy for a considerable distance, but again fell back, and almost it brought to near the position of W. H. L. Wallace's division.
We have seen now Prentiss, Sherman, McClernand were driven back; how, fight as fiercely as they would, they still lost ground; how their camps were all in the hands of the enemy; and how this whole front line, for which Hurlbut and Wallace were but the reserves, was gone.
But the fortunes of the isolated brigade of Sherman's division, on the extreme left, must not be forgotten. It was doubly let alone by the Generals. Gen. Grant did not arrive on the field till after nearly all these disasters had crowded upon us, and each Division General had done that which was good in his own eyes, and carried on the battle independent of the rest; but this brigade was even left by its Division General, who was four miles away doing his best to rally his panic stricken regiments there.
It was commanded by Col. David Stuart, (of late Chicago divorce case fame, and ex-Congressman,) and was composed of the Fifty-fifth Illinois, Lieut. Col. Malmbourg, commanding; Seventy-first Ohio; Col. Rodney Mason; the Fifty-fourth Ohio, (Zouaves) Col. T. K. Smith. It was posted along the circuitous road from Pittsburg Landing, up the river to Hamburg, some two miles from the landing, and near the crossing of Lick creek, the bluffs on the opposite side of which commanded the position, and stretching on down to join Prentiss' Division on its right. In selecting the grounds for the encampment of our army, it seems to have been forgotten that from Corinth an excellent road let direct to Hamburg, a few miles above this left wing of our forces. Within a few days, the oversight had been discovered and the determination had been expressed to land Buell's forces at Hamburg, when they arrived, and thus make all safe. It was unfortunate, of course, that Beauregard and Johnson did not wait for us to perfect our pleasing arrangements.
When the rebels marched out from Corinth, a couple of brigades (rumored to be under the command of Breckinridge,) had taken this road, and thus easily and without molestation reached the bluffs of Lick Creek, commanding Stuart's position.
During the attack on Prentiss, Stuart's brigade was formed along the road, the left resting near the Lick Creek ford, the right, Seventy-First Ohio, Col. Rodney Mason, (late Ass't. Adjutant General of Ohio, and Colonel of the Second Ohio at Manassas,) being nearest Prentiss. The first intimation they had of disaster to their right was the partial cessation of firing. An instant afterward muskets were seen glitering among the leaves, and presently a rebel column emerged from a bend in the road, with banners flying and moving at double-quick down the road toward them. Their supports to the left were further off than the rebels, and it was at once seen that, without one piece of artillery, a single regiment could do nothing there. They accordingly feel rapidly back toward the ford, and were reformed in an orchard near the other regiments.
The rebel column veered on further to the right, in search of Prentiss' flying regiments, and for a brief space, though utterly isolated, they were unmolested.
Before ten, however, the brigade, which had still stood listening to the surging roar of battle on the left, was startled by the screaming of a shell that came directly over their heads. In an instant the batteries of the rebel force that had gained the commanding bluffs opposite, by approaching on the Corinth and Hambug road, were in full play and the orchards and open fields in which they were posted, (looking only for attack in the opposite direction,) were swept with the exploding shells and hailstorm rush of grape.
Under cover of this fire from the bluffs, the rebels rushed down, crossed the ford, and in a moment were seen forming this side the creek, in open fields also, and within close musket range. Their color-bearers stepped definantly to the front, as the engagement opened furiously, the rebels pouring in sharp quick volleys of musketry, and their batteries above continuing to support them with a destructive fire. Our sharp-shooters wanted to pick off the audacious rebel color-bearers, but Col. Stuart interposed: "No, no, they're too brave fellows to be killed." Almost at the first fire, Lieut. Col. Berton S. Kyle, of the 71st was shot through the breast. The brigade stood for scarcely ten minutes, when it became evident that its position was noticable, and they fell rapidly back, perhaps a quarter of a mile, to the next ridge; a few of his men, at great person risk, carrying Lieut. Col. Kyle, in a dying condition from the field they were abandoning. Ohio lost no braver, truer man, that day.
As they reached the next woody ridge, rebel cavalry, that had crossed the creek lower down were seen coming up on their left; and to resist this new attack the line of battle was formed, fronting in that direction. For three quarters of an hour the brigade stood here. The cavalry, finding its purpose foiled, did not come within range. In front they were hard pressed, and the rebels, who had followed Prentiss, sent across to Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace, then not engaged, for support. Brigadier General McArthur's brigade was promptly started across, but mistaking the way, and bearing too much to the right, it speedily found itself in the midst of the rebel forces that had poured in after Prentiss. Gen. McArthur could thus render Stuart's brigade no assistance, but he vigorously engaged the rebels to his front and flanks fell back to a good position, and held these troops in bay till the rest of his division came up to his aid. Gen. McArthur was himself disabled by a wound in the foot, but he rode in to a hospital, had it dressed, and returned to the brigade, which meanwhile sturdily held its position.
But this brought Stuart's isolated brigade little help. They were soon forced to fall back to another ridge, then to another, and finally, about twelve o'clock, badly shattered and disordered, they retreated to the right and rear, falling in behind General McArthur's brigade to reorganize. Col. Stuart was himself wounded by a ball through his right shoulder, and the loss of field and company officers was sufficient to greatly discourage the troops.
This clears our entire front line of divisions. The enemy has full possession of all Sherman's, Prentiss' and McClernand's camps. By ten o'clock our whole front, except Stuart's brigade, had given way, and the burden of the fight was resting on Hurlbut and W. H. L. Wallace. Before twelve, Stuart, too, had come back and for the tine absolutely only those two divisions stood between our army and destruction or surrender.
Still all was not lost. Hurlbut and Wallace began making a most gallant stand; and meantime most of the troops from the three driven divisions were still to some extent available. Many of them had wandered down the river — some as far as Crump's Landing and some even to Savannah. These were brought back again to prevent skulkers from getting back to the landing, and especially to stop the shrewd dodge among the cravens of taking six or eight wounded fellow into the hospital; and between the cordon and the rear of the fighting divisions the fragments of regiments were organized after a fashion, and sent back to the field. Brigades could not be get together again, much less divisions, but the regiments pieced together from the loose squads that could be gathered and officered, often by men who could find scarcely a soldier of their own commands, were hurried to the front, and many of them did good service.
It was fortunate for us that the accidental circumstance that Prentiss' portion of our line had been completely broken sooner than nay of the rest, had caused the enemy's onset to veer chiefly to our left. There we were tolerably safe, and at worst, if the rebels drove us to the river on the left flank, the gunboats would come into play. Our weakest point was the right, and to turning this the rebels do not seem to have pi ad so much attention on Sunday. According to general understanding, in the event of an attack at Pittsburg Landing, Major Gen. Lew. Wallace was to come in on our right and flank the rebels by marching across from Crump's landing below. Yet, strangely enough, Wallace, though with his division all drawn up and ready to march anywhere at a moment's notice, was not ordered to Pittsburg Landing till nearly, if not quite, twelve o'clock. Then through misdirection as to the way to get on the new road, four miles of marching were lost, and its circuitous route made it twelve miles more, before they could reach the scene of battle. Meantime our right was almost wholly unprotected.
Fortunately, as I said, however, the rebels do not seem to have discovered the full extent of this weakness, and their heaviest fighting was done on the center and left, where we still preserved our line.
Hurlbut's division, it will be remembered, stretched across the Corinth road, facing rather to our left. W. H. L. Wallace's other brigades had gone over to assist McArthur, and the division, thus reunited, steadily closed the line, where Prentiss' division and Stuart's brigade; in their retreat, had left it open. To Hurlbut's right the lines were patched out with the reorganized regiments that had been resent to the field. McClernand and Sherman were both there.
Hurlbut had been incamped in the edge nearest the river of a stretch of open fields, backed with heavy timber. Among his troops were the Seventeenth and Twenty-fifth Indiana, constituting Lauman's brigade; Third Iowa, Forty-first Illinois and some others, forming Colonel Williams' brigade.
As Prentiss fell back, Hurlbut's left aided Wallace in sustaining the rebel onset, and when McClernand gave way, the remainder of the division was thrown forward. The position beyond the camps, however, was not a good one, and the division was compelled to fall back, through its camps to the thick woods behind. Here, with open fields before the, they could rake the rebel approach. Nobly did they now stand their ground. From ten to half past three they held the enemy in check, and through nearly that whole time were actively engaged. Hurlbut himself displayed the most daring and brilliant gallantly, and his example, with that of the brave officers under him, nerved the men to the sternest endurance.
Three times during those long hours heavy rebel masses on the left charged upon the division, and three times were they repulsed with terrible slaughter. Close, sharp, continuous musketry, whole lines belching fire on the rebels as the leaden storm swept the fields over which they attempted to advance, were too much for rebel discipline, and though the bodies left scattered over the fields, even on Monday evening, bore ghastly testimony to the daring with which they had been precipitated towards our lines.
But there is still much in the Napoleonic theory that Providence has a tendency at least to go with the heaviest battalions. The battalions were against us. The rebel Generals, too, handled their forces with a skill that extorted admiration in the midst of our sufferings. Repulse was nothing to them, and a rush on our lines failed; they took their disordered troops to the rear, and sent up fresh troops, who, knowing the fearful reception awaiting the, were ready to try it again. The jaded division was compelled to yield, and after six hours' magnificent fighting, it fell back out of sight of its camps and to a point within a half mile of the landing.
Let us turn to the fate of Hurlbut's companion division — that of Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace, which included the Second and Seventh Iowa, Ninth and Twenty-eighth Illinois, and several of the other regiments composing Major General Smith's old division. Wallace had also three excellent batteries, Stone's, Richardson's and Weber's (all from Missouri,) formerly an artillery battalion, under the general management of Major Cavender.
With him, too, the fight began about ten o'clock, as already described. From that time until four in the afternoon, they manfully bore it up. The musketry fire was absolutely continuous; the line was not pouring in their rattling volley's, and the artillery was admirably served, with but little intermission through the entire line. Once or twice the infantry advanced, attempted to charge the continually increasing enemy, but though they could not hold what they had, their numbers were not equal to the task of conquering any more.
Four separate times the rebels attempted to charge on them. Each time the infantry poured in its quickest volleys, the artillery redoubled its exertions, and the rebels retreated with heavy slaughter. The division was eager to remain, even when Hurlbut fell back, and the fine fellows with their guns were particularly indignant at not being permitted to pound away. But their supports were gone on either side; to have remained in isolated advance would have been madness; just as the necessity for retreating was becoming apparent, Gen. Wallace, whose cool, collected bravery had commanded the admiration of all, was, it was though, mortally wounded, and was borne away from the field. At last the division fell back. Its soldiers claim, justly I believe, the proud distinction of being the last to yield, in the general break of our lines, that gloomy Sunday afternoon, which at half past four o'clock had left most of our army within a half mile of the landing, with the rebels up to a thousand yards of their position.
Capt. Stone could not resist the temptation of stopping, as he passed what had been Hurlbut's headquarters, to try a few parting shots. He did fine execution, but narrowly escaped losing some guns by having his wheel horses shot down. Capt. Walker did lose a twenty pounder through some breakage in the carriage. It was recovered again on Monday.
We have reached the last act in the tragedy of Sunday. It is half past four o'clock. Our front line of divisions has been lost since half past ten. Our reserve line is not gone, too. — The rebels occupy the camps of every division save that of W. H. L. Wallace. Our whole army is crowded in the region of Wallace's camps, and to a circuit of half to two thirds of a mile, around the Landing. We have been falling back all day. We can do it no more. — The next repulse puts us into the river, and there are not transports enough to cross a single division till the enemy would be upon us.
Lew. Wallace's division might turn the tide for us — it is made of fighting men — but where is it? Why has it not been thundering on the right for three hours? We do not know yet that it was not ordered up till noon. Buell is coming, but he has been doing it all day, and all last week. His advance guard is across the river now, waiting for ferriage; but what is an advance guard, with sixty thousand victorious foes in front of us?
We have lost nearly all our camps and camp equipage. We have lost nearly half our field artillery. We have lost a division General and two or three regiments of our soldiers as prisoners. We have lost — how dreadfully we are afraid to think — in killed and wounded. The hospitals are full to overflowing. A long ridge bluff is set apart for surgical uses. It is covered with the maimed, the dead and dying. And our men are discouraged by prolonged defeat. Nothing but the most energetic exertion on the part of the officers prevents them from becoming demoralized. Regiments have lost their favorite field officers, companies the captains whom they have always looked to, with that implicit faith the soldier learns, to lead them to battle.
Meantime there is a lull of firing. For the first time since sunrise you fail to catch the angry rattle of the musketry, or the heavy booming of the field guns. Either the enemy must be preparing for the grand, final rush that is to crown the day's success and save the Southern Confederacy, or they are puzzled by our last retreat, and are moving cautiously less we spring some trap upon them. Let us embrace the opportunity and look about the landing. We pass the old log house, lately post office, not full of wounded and surgeons, which constitutes the "Pittsburg" part of the landing. General Grant and staff are in a group beside it. The General is confident, "we can hold them off till to-morrow; then they'll be exhausted, and we'll go to them with fresh troops." A great croud is collecting around the building — all in uniforms, most of them with guns. And yet we are needing troops in front so sorely!
On the bluffs above the river is a sight that may well make our cheeks tingle with shame for some of our soldiers. There are not less than three thousand skulkers lining the banks! Ask them why they don't go to their places in the line, "Oh, our regiment is all cut to pieces." "Why don't you go to where it is forming again?" "I can't find it," and the bulk looks as if that would be the very last thing he would want to do.
Officers are around among them, trying to hunt up their men, storming, coaxing, commanding — cursing, I am afraid. One strange fellow — a Major, if I remember aright — is making a sort of elevated, superfine Fourth of July speech to everybody that will listen to him. He means well, certainly: "Men of Kentucky, of Illinois, of Ohio, of Iowa, of Indiana, I implore you, I beg of you, come up now. Help us through two hours more. By all that you hold dear, by the homes you hope to defend, by the flag you love, by the State you honor, by all your love of country, by all your hatred of treason, I conjure you, come up and do your duty now!" And so on for quantity. "That feller's a good speaker," was the only response I heard, and the fellow who gave it nestled more snugly behind his tree as he spoke.
I knew well enough the nature of the skulking animal in an army during a battle. I had seen their performances before, but never on so large a scale, never with such a sickness of heart as I looked, as now. Still, I do not believe there was very much more than the average percentage. It was a big army, and the runaways all sought the Landing.
Looking across the Tennessee we see a body of cavalry, awaiting transportation over. They are said to be Buell's advance, yet they have been there an hour or two alone. But suddenly there is a rustle among the runaways. It is! it is! You see the gleaming of the gun-barrels, you catch amid the leaves and undergrowth down the opposite side of the river, glimpses of the steady, swinging tramp of trained soldiers. A DIVISION of Buell's army is here! And the men who have left their regiments on the field send up three cheers for Buell! They cheering! My it parch their throats, as if they had been breathing the Simoon!
Here comes a boat across with a Lieutenant and two or three privates of the Signal Corps. Some orders are instantly given the officer and as instantly telegraphed to the other side by the mysterious waving and raisings and droppings of the flags. A steamer comes up with pontoons on board, with which a bridge could be speedily thrown across. Unaccountably enough, to onlookers, she slowly reconnoiters and steams back again. Perhaps, after all it is better to have no bridge there. It simplifies the question, takes escape out of the count, and leaves it victory or death — to the cowards that slink behind the bluffs as well as to the brave men who peril their lives to do the State some service on the fields beyond. Preparations go rapidly forward for crossing the division (Gen. Nelson's, which was the advance of Buell's army) on the dozen or so transports that have been tied up along the bank.
We have spent but a few minutes on the bluff, but they are the golden minutes that count for years. Well was it for that driven, defeated, but not disgraced army of Gen. Grant's that those minutes were improved. Colonel Webster, Chief of Staff, and an artillery officer of no mean ability, had arranged the guns that he could collect, of those that remained to us, in a sort of semi-circle, protecting the Landing, and bearing chiefly on our centre and left, by which the rebels were pretty sure to advance. Corps of artillerists to man them were improvised from all the batteries that were placed in position. Two of them were heavy siege guns, long thirty twos. Where they came from I do not know; what battery they belonged to I have not heard; I only know that they were there, in the right place, half a mile back from the bluff, sweeping the approaches by the left, and by the ridge Corinth road; that there was nobody to work them; that Dr. Cornyn, Surgeon of Frank Blair's old First Missouri artillery, proffered his services; that they were gladly accepted, and that he did work them to such effect as to lay out ample work for scores of his professional brethren on the other side of the fight.
Remember the situation. It was half past four o'clock — perhaps a quarter later still. — Every division of our army on the field had been repulsed. The enemy were in the camps of four out of five of them. We were driven to within little over half a mile of the Landing. — Before us was a victorious enemy. And still there was an hour for fighting. "Oh, that night or Blucher would come!" Oh, that night or Lew. Wallace would come! Nelson's division of Buell's army evidently couldn't cross in time to do us much good. We didn't yet know why Lew. Wallace wasn't on the ground. In the justice of a Righteous Cause, and in that semi-circle of twenty two guns in position, lay all the hope we could see.
Suddenly a broad, sulphurous flash of light leaped out from the darkening woods; and through the glare and smoke came whistling the leaden hail. The rebels were making their crowning efforts for the day, and as was expected when our guns were hastily placed, they came from our left and centre. They had wasted their fire at one thousand yards! Instaneously our deep mouthed bull dogs flung out their sonorons response. The rebel artillery opened, and shell and round shot came tearing across the open space back off the bluff. May I be forgiven for the malicious thought but I certainly did wish one or two might drop behind the bluff among the crowd of skulkers hovering under the hill at the river's edge.
Very handsome was the response our broken infantry battalions poured in. The enemy soon had reason to remember that, if not
The rebel infantry gained no ground, but the furious cannonading and musketry continued. Suddenly new actors entered on the stage. Our Cincinnatti wooden gunboats, the A. O. Tylor and the Lexington, had been all day impatiently chaffing for their time to come. The opportunity was theirs. The rebels were attacking on our left, lying where Stuart's brigade had lain on Licking Creek in the morning, and stretching thence in on the Hamburg road, and across toward our old center as far as Hurlbut's camps. Steaming up to the mouth of the little creek, the boats rounded to. There was the ravine, cut through the bluffs as if on purpose for their shells.
Eager to avenge the death of their commanding General, (no known to have been killed a couple of hours before) and to complete the victory they believed to be within their grasp, the rebels had incautiously ventured within reach of their most dreadful antagonists, as broadside after broadside of seven inch shells and sixty four pound shot soon taught them. This was a foe they had hardly counted on, and the unexpected fire in flank and rear sadly disconcerted their well laid plans. The boats fired admirably, and with a rapidity that was astonishing. Our twenty-two land guns kept up their stormy thunder; and thus, amid a crush, and roar, and scream of shells and demon-like hiss of Minnie balls, that Sabbath evening wore away. We held the enemy at bay; it was enough. The prospect of the morrow was foreboding, but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We had had plenty of evil that day — of course, therefore, the text was applicable. Before dark, the Thirty-sixth Indiana, from Nelson's advance brigade, had crossed, advanced into line with Grant's forces at the double quick, and had put in fourteen rounds as an earnest of what should be forth coming on the morrow.
The enemy suddenly slacked his fire. His grand object had been defeated; had had not finished his task in a day; but there is evidence that officers and men alike shared the confidence that their morning assault would be final.
As the sounds of battle died away, and division Generals drew off their men, Buell had arrived, and Lew. Wallace had been head from. Both would be ready by morning, and council of war was held, and it was decided that as soon as possible after daybreak, we should attack the enemy, now snugly quartered in our camps. Lew. Wallace, who was coming in from the now road from Crump's Landing, and crossing Snake creek just above the Illinois Wallace's [W. H. L.] camps, was to the right and sweep back toward the position from which Sherman was to take the extreme left. Buell promised McCook next to him by a seasonable hour in the morning. The gap between McCook and Lew. Wallace was to be filled with the reorganized divisions of Grant's old army; Hurlbut coming next to McCook, the McClernand and Sherman closing the gap between McClernand and Lew. Wallace.
Stealthily the troops crept to their new positions and lay down in line of battle on their arms. All through the night Buell's men were marching up from Savannah to the point opposite Pittsburg Landing and being ferried across, or were coming up on transports. By an hour after dark Lew. Wallace had his division in. Through the misdirection he had received, he had started on the Snake Creek road proper, which would have brought him in on the enemy's rear, miles from support, and where he would have been gobbled at a mouthful. Getting back to the right road had delayed him. He at once ascertained the position of certain rebel batteries which lay in front of him on our right, that threatened absolutely to bar his advance in the morning, and selected positions for a couple of his batteries, from which they could silence the one he dreaded. Placing these in position, and arranging his brigades for support, took him till one o'clock in the morning. Then his wearied men lay down to snatch a few hours of sleep before entering into the Valley of the Shadow of Death on the morrow.
By 9 o'clock all was hushed near the Landing. The host of combatants that three hours before had been deep in the work of human destruction had all sunk silently to the earth, "the wearied to sleep, the wounded to die." The stars looked out upon the scene, and all breathed the natural quiet and calm of a Sabbath evening. But presently there came a flash that spread like sheet lighting over the ripples of the river current. And the roar of a heavy naval gun went echoing up and down the bluffs, through the unnatural stillness of the night. Others speedily followed. By the flash you could just discern the black outline of the piratical looking hull, and see how the gunboat gracefully settled into the water at the recoil; the smoke soon cast up a thin vail that seemed only to soften and sweeten the scene; from the woods away inland you caught faintly the muffled explosion of the shell, like the knoll of the spirit that was taking its flight.
We knew nothing then of the effect of this gunboat cannonading, which was vigorously kept up till nearly morning, and it only served to remind us the more vividly of the day's disasters, of the fact that half a mile off lay a victorious enemy, commanded by the most dashing of their Generals, and of the question one scarcely dared ask himself: "What to-morrow?" We were defeated, our dead and dying were around us, days could hardly sum up on losses. And then there came up the grand refrain of Whittier's — written after Manassas, believe, but of that night apparently far more applicable to this greater than Manassas — "Under the clod and through the sea."
In fierce Atlantic's unretreating wave —
Reached to the Freedom that your blood shall save!
He loaveth not His people utterly!
Count it a covenant, that He leads us on
Beneath the cloud and through the crimson sea!
OUR MUSTER ROLL.
I have given the line of battle agreed upon for our forces on Monday: Right wing, Major General Lew. Wallace; left wing, Brigadier General Nelson. Between these, beginning at the left, Brigadier Generals Tom Crittenden, A. McD. McCook, Hurlbut, McClernand and Sherman. In the divisions of the three latter were to be included also the remains of Prentiss' and W. H. L. Wallace's commands — shattered, disorganized and left without commanders, through the capture of one, and the probably mortal wound of the other.
Buell's three divisions were not full when the battle opened Monday morning, but the lacking regiments were gradually brought into the rear. To save future delay, I give here a list of his troops, and of Lew. Wallace's, engaged:
Brigadier General Nelson's Division: 1st brigade, Colonel Ammon, 24th Ohio, commanding — 36 Indiana, Col. Cross; 6th Ohio, Lieut. Col. Anderson; 24th Ohio, Lieut. Col. Fred. C. Jones.
Second brigade, Saunders D. Bruce, 20th Kentucky, commanding — 1st Kentucky, Col. Finyart; 2d Kentucky, Col. Sedgwick; 20th Kentucky, Lieut. Col. —, commanding.
Third brigade, Col. Hazen, 41st Ohio, commanding — 41st Ohio, 6th Kentucky and 9th Indiana.
Brigadier General Tom Crittenden's division: First brigade, Gen. Boyle; 19th Ohio, Colonel Beatty; 59th Ohio, Col. Plyffe; 13th Kentucky, Col. Hobson; 9th Kentucky, Col. Grider.
Second brigade, Col. Wm. S. Smith, 13th Ohio, commanding — 13th Ohio, Lieut. Colonel Hawkins; 26th Kentucky, Lt. Col. Maxwell; 11th Kentucky, Col. P. P. Hawkins; with Mandenhall's regular and Bartlett's Ohio batteries.
Brigadier General McCook's division: First brigade, Brigadier General Lovell H. Rousseau; 1st Ohio, Col. Ed. A. Parrott; 6th Indiana, Col. Crittenden; 3d Kentucky, (Lousiville Legion,) battalions 15th, 16th and 16th regulars.
Second brigade, Brig. Gen. Johnson; 32d Indiana, Col. Willich; 39th Indiana, Col. Harrison; 49th Ohio, Col. Gibson.
Third brigade, Col. Kirk, 34th Illinois, commanding: 34th Illinois, Lt. Col. Badsworth; 29th Indiana, Lt. Col. Drum; 30th Indiana, Colonel Bass; 77th Pennsylvania, Col. Stambaugh.
Major Gen. Lew. Wallace's division, right of army: First brigade, Col. Morgan L. Smith commanding — Eighth Missouri, Col. Morgan L. Smith, Lieut. Col. James Peckham commanding, Eleventh Indiana, Col. Geo. F. McGinnis, Twenty-fourth Indiana, Col. Alvin P. Hovey; Thurber's Missouri battery. Second brigade, Col. Thayer (1st Nebraska) commanding — First Nebraska, Lieut. Col. McCord commanding; Twenty-third Indiana, Col. Sanderson; Fifty-eighth Ohio, Col. Bausenwein; Sixty eighth Ohio, Col. Steadman; Thompson's Indiana batter. Third brigade, Col. Chas. Whittlesey (20th Ohio) commanding — Twentieth Ohio, Lieut. Col. — commanding; Fifty-sixth Ohio, Col. Pete Kinney; Seventh-sixth Ohio, Col. Charles R. Woods; Seventy-eighth Ohio, Col. Leggett.
With the exception of the gunboat bombardment, the night seemed to have passed in intire quiet. A heavy thunderstorm had come up about midnight, and though we were all shivering over the ducking, the surgeons assured us that a better thing could not have happened. The ground, they said, was covered with wounded not yet found, or whom we were unable to bring from the field. The moisture would, to some extent, cool the burning, parching thirst, which is one of the chief terrors of lying wounded and helpless on the battle field, and the falling water was the best dressing for the wounds.
The regiments of Buell's divisions were still disembarking at the landing. Many had taken their places, the rest hurried on out as fast as they landed, and fell in, to the rear of their brigade lines, for reserves. I stood for a few moments at the landing, curious to see how those fine fellows would march out to the field where they knew reserves had crowded so thickly upon us the day before, and where many of them must lie down to sleep his last sleep ere the sun, then rising, should sink again. There was little of that vulgar vanity of valor which was so conspicuous in all the movements of our rawer troops eight or nine months ago. There was no noisy and senseless yelling; no shouting of boasts, no calling on lookers — on to "show us where the cowardly secesh is, and we'ell clean 'em out double quick." These men understood the work before them; they went to it as brave men should, determinedly, hopefully, calmly.
It soon became evident that the gunboat bombardment through the night had not been without a most important effect in changing the very conditions under which we renewed the struggle. The sun went down with the enemy's lines clasping us tight on the centre and left, pushing us to the river, and leaving us little over half a mile out into all the broad space we had held in the morning. The gunboats had cut the coils, and loosened the constriction. As we soon learned, their shells had made the old position of our extreme left, which the rebels had been pleasantly occupying, utterly untenable. Instead of being able to slip upon us through the night as they had probably intended, they were compelled to fall back from point to point; each time as they had found places, they thought, out of range, a shell would come dropping in, nowhere within range could they lie, but the troublesome visitors would push them out, and to end the matter, they fell out beyond our inner camps, and thus lost more than half the ground they had gained by our four o'clock retreat the afternoon before.
Less easily accounted for was a movement of theirs on our right. They had here a steep bluff, covered with underbrush as their advanced line. Through the night they abandoned this, which gave them the best possible position for opposing Lew. Wallace, and had fallen back across some open fields to the scrub oak woods beyond. The advantage of compelling our advance over unprotected openings, while they maintained a sheltered position, was obvious, but certainly not so great as that of holding a height which artillery and infantry would make as difficult to take as many a fort. Nevertheless they fell back.
The reader who is patient enough to wade through this narration, will scarcely fail to observe that thus far, I have said little or nothing of any plan of attack or defense among our Commanders. It has been simply, because I have failed to see any evidence of such a plan. To me it seemed on Sunday, as if every Division General at least — not to say in many cases every individual soldier, imitated the good old Israelitish plan of action, by which every man did what seemed good in his own eyes. There may have been an infinite amount of generalship displayed, in superintending our various defeats and reformations and retreats, but to me it seemed of that microscopic character that required the magnifying powers of a special permit for exclusive newspaper telegraphing in Government lines to discover.
Sunday night there was, as has been said, a council of war, but if the Major General commanding developed any plans there beyond the simple arrangement of our lines of battle, I am very certain that some of the division commanders didn't find it out. Stubborn fighting alone delayed our losses on Sunday; stubborn fighting alone saved us when we had reached the point beyond which come the child's jumping on place," and stubborn fighting, with such generalship as individual division commanders displayed, regained on Monday what we had lost before.
To those who had looked despairingly at the prospects, Sunday evening, it seemed strange that the rebels did not open out on us by daybreak again. Their retreat before the bombardments of the gunboats, however, explained the delay. Our own divisions were put in motion almost simultaneously. By seven o'clock, Lew. Wallace opened the bail by shelling, from the positions he had selected the night before the rebel battery, of which mention has been made, a brisk artillery duel, a rapid movement of infantry across a shallow ravine as if to storm, and the rebels, enfiladed and menaced in front, limbered up and made the opening of their Monday's retreating.
To the left we were slower in finding the enemy. They had been compelled to travel some distance to get out of the gunboat's range. Nelson moved his division about the same time Wallace opened on the rebel battery, forming in line of battle, Ammon's brigade on the extreme left, Bruce's in the center and Hazes's to the right. Skirmishers were thrown out, and for nearly or quite a mile the division swept the country, pushing a few outlaying rebels before it, till it came upon them in force. Then a general engagement broke out along the line, and again the rattle of musketry and thunder of artillery echoed over the late silent fields. There was no straggling this morning. These men were better drilled than many of those regiments had broken to pieces on the day before, and strict measures were taken, at any rate, to prevent the miscellaneous thronging back, out of harm's way. They stood up to their work and did their duty manfully.
It soon became evident that, whether from change of commanders or some other cause, the rebels were pursuing a different policy in massing their forces. On Sunday the heaviest fighting had been done on the left. This morning they seemed to make less determined resistance here, while toward the center and right the ground was more obstinately contested and the struggle longer prolonged.
Till half past 10 o'clock, Nelson advanced slowly but steadily, sweeping his long lines over the ground of our sore defeat on Sunday morning, forward over scores of rebel dead, resistly pressing back the jaded and wearied enemy. The rebels had received but few reinforcements during the night, their men were exhausted with their desperate contest of the day before, and manifestly dispirited by the evident fact that notwithstanding their well laid plans of destruction in detail, they were fighting Grant and Buell combined.
Gradually as Nelson pushed forward his lines under heavy musketry the enemy fell back, till about half past ten, when, under cover of the heavy timber, and a furious cannonading, they made a general rally. Our forces, flushed with their easy victory were scarcely prepared for the sudden onset where retreat had been all they had been seeing before. Suddenly the rebel masses were hurled against our lines with tremendous force. Our men halted, wavered, and feel back. At this critical juncture Capt. Terry's regular battery came dashing up. Scarcely taking time to unlimber he was loading and sighting his pieces before the caissons had turned, and in an instant was tossing in shell from 20 pound howitzers to the compact and advancing rebel ranks.
Here was the turning point of the battle on the left. The rebels were only checked, not halted. On they came. Horse after horse was picked off from the battery. Every private at one of the howitzers fell, and the gun was worked by Capt. Terry himself and a corporal. The rebels seemed advancing. A regiment dashed up from our line, and saved the disabled piece. Then for two hours artillery and musketry at close range. At last they began to waver. Our men pressed on, pouring in deadly volleys. Just then Buell, who assumed the general direction of his troops in the field came up. At a glance he saw his chance. "Forward at double quick by brigades." Our men leaped forward as if they had been tied, and were only too much rejoiced to be able to move. For a quarter of a mile the rebels fell back. Faster and faster they ran, less and less resistance was made to the advance. At last the front camps on the left were reached, and by half past two that point was cleared. The rebels had been steadily swept back over the ground they had won, with heavy loss, as they fell into confusion; we had retaken all our own guns lost here the day before, and one or two from the rebels were left as trophies to tell in after days how bravely that great victory over treason in Tennessee was won.
I have sketched the advance of Nelson. Next to him came Crittenden. He, too, swept forward over his ground to the front some distance before finding the foe. Between eight and nine o'clock, however, while keeping Smith's brigade on his left and even with Nelson's flank, and [unknown] Boyle's brigade to McCook on the right, in the grand advance, they came upon the enemy with a battery in position, and well supported. Smith pushed his brigade forward; there was sharp quick work with musketry, and the rebels fled. We had three [unknown] — a 12 pound howitzer, and two brass 6-pounders. But they cost the gallant Thirteenth Ohio dear. Major Ben. Platt Runkle feel, mortally wounded. Soft may he sleep, and green grow the laurels over his [unknown] grave. None worthier were then living.
For half an hour, perhaps, the storm raged around the recaptured guns. Then came the reflex rebel wave that had hurled Nelson back. Crittenden too, caught its full force. — The rebels swept up to the batteries — around them and on down after our retreating column. But the two brigades, like those of Nelson to their left, took a fresh position, faced the foe, and held their ground. Mendenhall's and Hazlett's batteries now began shelling the infantry that alone [unknown] them. Before abandoning the guns so briefly [unknown] had spiked them with mud and the novel expedient was perfectly successful. From that time till after one o'clock, while the fight raged back and forth over the same ground, the rebels did not succeed in firing a shot from their mud-spike artillery.
At last our brigades began to gain the advantage again. Crittenden pushed them steadily forward. Mendenhall, with his accomplished First Lieutenant Parsons, one of our Western Reserve West Pointers, and Bartlett, poured in [unknown] shell. A rush for the contested battery, and it is ours again. The rebels retreated toward the left, Smith and Boyle holding the infantry well in hand, Mendenhall again got the range and poured in shell on the new position. The fortune of the day was against their comrades to Nelson's front, and they were soon in full retreat.
Just then Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Woods' advance brigade from his approaching division came up. It was too late for the fight, but it relieved Crittenden's weary fellows, and pushed on after the rebels until they were found to have left our most advanced camps.
Thus the left was saved. Meanwhile McCook, with as magnificent regiments as ever came from the Army of the Potomac, or from any army of volunteers in the world, was doing equally well toward the centre. His division was handled in such a way as to save great effusion of blood, while equally important results were attained. Thus the reserves were kept as much as possible from [unknown] while those to the front were engaged. Thus the lists of dead and wounded will show that while as heavy fighting was done here as anywhere on the right or centre, the casualties are fewer than could have been expected.
It would scarcely be interesting to prolong details where the course of one division so nearly resembled that of the others. But let me sketch the close. An Illinois battery serving in the division, was in imminent danger. The Sixth Indiana was ordered to its relief. A rapid rush, close musketry firing — no need of bayonets here — the battery is safe. The enemy are to the front and right, advancing and near right oblique. The Sixth pushes on. The rebel colors drop. Another volley; they fall again. Another volley; and once more the fated colors drop. There is fatality in [unknown] the rebels seem to think at least, as they wheel and disappear.
And then Rosseau's Brigade is drawn off in splendid style, as if coming in from parade, conscious of some grand master of reviews watching their movements. So there was — the rebel General. As he saw the brigade filing back, he pushed his forces forward again. Kirk's brigade advanced to meet them, coming out of the woods into an open field, to do so. They were met by a tremendous fire, which threw a battalion of regulars in front of them, (under Major [unknown] I think) into some confusion. They retire to return and meanwhile, down drops the brigade, flat on the ground. Then as the front is clear they spring up, charge across the open field — never mind the falling —- straight on, on to the woods — under cover, with the enemy driven back [unknown] impetuous advance.
And now he rallies. Fierce musketry firing sweeps the woods. They advance — thirty rods perhaps, then the Twenty-ninth Indiana gets into a marsh, and falls partially to the rear. Heavier comes the leaden hail; Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth both fall back fifteen or twenty rods; they rally and advance; again they are hurled back, again they start forward; and this time they come in on the [unknown] points. The enemy flees. Col. Waggoner's Fifteenth Indiana comes up to the support, the enemy disappear, fresh troops take their places, and for them the fight is ended. I might describe similar deeds of Willich's and Harrison's regiments, but "from one learn all."
Further to the right, McClernand and Hurlbut were gallantly coming on with their faded men. The soldiers would fight, that was the great lesson of the battle. [Unknown] surprised and driven off in consequence of surprise, that can hardly be wholly charged on them. Four times McClernand regained and lost again the ground to the front of his division. Similar were Hurlbut's fortunes.
But I must abandon these details. Beginning at the left, we have followed the wave of successes that swept us forward again, from spot to spot, over the bald lost fields of Sunday, our paeans of victory, the wild cheers of our successful soldiers sounding the requiem of the fallen, who have atoned for their treason by the brave men's death. Nelson, Crittenden, McCook, Hurlbut, McClernand have borne their divisions through the foray. It lasted longer off the right, and was as rarely interesting as the chess game of a master. Let us trace it through.
In speaking of the opening of Monday's battles, I mentioned Major General Lewis Wallace's opening the battle at seven o'clock, by shelling with enfilading fires, a rebel mastery. A few shots demonstrate to the rebels that their position was untenable. The instant Sherman came in to protect his left, Wallace advanced his infantry. The rebel battery at once limbered up and got out of the way. The advance had withdrawn the division from Sherman, making a left [unknown], to get back into the neighborhood of our line; they advanced some two hundred yards, which brought them to [unknown] elevation, with a broad open stretch to the front. As the division halted on the crest of the swell, there passed before them a rare vision.
Away to the front were woods. Through the edge of the timber, skirting the fields, the head of a rebel column appeared, marching past in splendid style on the double quick. Banner after banner appeared, the "Stars and Bars" formed a long line stretching parallel with Wallace's line of battle. Regiment after regiment appeared in the line [unknown], and doubled and trebled the head of the column was out of sight and still they came. Twenty regiments were counted passing through these woods. The design was plain. The rebels had abandoned the idea of forcing their way through our left, and now the manifest attempt was to turn our right.
Batteries were now ordered up — Thompson's and Thurber's — and the whole column was shelled as it passed. The rebels rapidly threw their artillery into position, and a brisk cannonading began. After a time, while the right still rested with artillery, the rebels opened a new and destructive battery to the right, which our men soon learned to know as "Watson's Louisiana Battery," from the marks on the ammunition boxes they forced it from time to time to leave behind.
Batteries, with a brigade of supporting infantries, were now moved forward over open fields, under heavy fire to contend against this new assailant. The batteries opened; the sharp-shooters were thrown out of the front to pick off the rebels artilleries, the brigade was ordered down on its knee to protect it from the flying shell and grape. For an hour and a half the contest lasted, while the body of the division was still delayed, waiting for Sherman. By ten o'clock Sherman's right, under Col. Marsh, came up. He started to move across the fields. The storm of musketry and grape was too much for him, and he fell back in good order. Again he started on the double, and gained the woods. The Louisiana battery was turned. Marsh's position left it subject to fire in flank and front, and then fled. The other rebel batteries at once did the same, and Wallace's division, up in an instant, now that a master move had swept the board, pushed forward. Before them were broad fallow fields, then a woody little ravine, then corn fields, then woods.
The left brigade was sent forward. It crossed the fallow fields, under ordinary fire, then gained the ravine, and was rushed across the corn fields when the same Louisiana's steel-rifled guns opened upon them. Dashing forward they reached a little ground shell, behind which they dropped like dead men while skirmishers were sent forward to silence the troublesome battery. The skirmishers crawled forward till they gained a little knoll, not more than seventy-five yards from the battery. Of course the battery opened upon them. They replied, if not so noisily, more to the purpose. In a few minutes the battery was driven off, with artillerists killed, horses shot down, and badly crippled every way. But the affair cost us a brave man — Lieutenant Colonel [unknown] — who could not control his enthusiasm at the conduct of his skirmishers, and in his excitement incautiously exposed himself. All this while rebel regiments were pouring up to attack the audacious brigade that was supporting the skirmishers, and fresh soldiers from Wallace's division came up in time to check mate the game.
But the battery was silenced. "Forward," was the division order. Rushing across the corn fields under heavy fire, they now met the rebels face to face in the woods. The contest was quick, decisive. Close, sharp, continuous musketry for a few minutes, and the rebels fell back.
Here unfortunately Sherman's right gave way. Wallace's flank was exposed. He instantly formed Col. Wood's (Seventy-Sixty Ohio) in a new line of battle, in right angles with the real one, and with orders to protect flank. The Eleventh Indiana was likewise here engaged in a sharp engagement with the enemy attempting to flank, and for a time the contest waxed fierce. But Sherman soon filled the place of his broken regiments, again Wallace's division poured forward and again the enemy gave way.
By two o'clock the division was into the woods again, and for three quarters of a mile it advanced under a continuous storm of shot. Then another contest or two with batteries — always set with skirmishers and sharp-shooting — then, by four o'clock, two hours later than on the right, general rebel retreat — then pursuit, recall, and encampment on the old grounds of Sherman's division, in the very tents from which those regiments were driven that hapless Sunday morning.
The camps were regained. The rebels were repulsed. Their attack had failed. We stood where we began. Rebel cavalry were within half a mile of us. The retreating columns were within striking distance. We had regained our camps. And so ended the battle of Pittsburg.
I do not pretend to give more than an estimation; but I have made the estimate with some care, going to the Adjutants of different regiments that had been in as heavy fighting as any — getting statements of their losses, sure to be very nearly if not quite accurate, and approximating thus from the loss of a dozen regiments to the probable loss of all. I have ridden over the grounds, too — have seen the dead and wounded lying over the field — have noted the numbers of the hospitals and on the boats. As the result of it all, I do not believe our loss, in killed and wounded will number over thirty-five hundred to four thousand. The question of prisoners is another matter.
Reports that certain regiments only have had the men answering roll call indicate nothing. The regiments are all more or less disorganized, and the soldiers scattered everywhere. Many go home with the sick; many are nurses in the hospitals, many keep out of sight seeing all they can.
The Guthrie Gray regiment lost very slightly. No commissioned officer received any wound even, except Lt. Col. Anderson, and his is from a spent ball.
In the Forty-eighth Ohio, Col. Sullivan was slightly wounded; Capt. Warner, killed; Lieut. Pitsley, severly wounded; Capt. Bond, severely; Lieut. Lindsay, slightly; Lieut. Pusegale, slightly. These are all the casualties among the commissioned officers of the regiment.
The best opinions of the strength with which the rebels attacked us place their number at sixty thousand. They may have reinforced five to ten thousand Sunday night.
Grant had scarcely forty thousand effective men on Sunday. Of these, half a dozen regiments were utterly raw, had scarcely had their guns long enough to know how to handle them. Some were supplied with weapons on their way up.
Buell passed three divisions that took part in the action. Nelson's, Crittenden's and McCook's. They numbered say twenty thousand — a liberal estimate. Lew. Wallace came up on Monday, with say seven thousand more. That gives us, counting the Sunday men as all effective again, sixty-seven thousand on Monday, on our side, against sixty to seventy thousand rebels. It was not numbers that gained us the day — it was fighting. All honor to our Northern soldiers for it.