The Great Battle at Pittsburg, Tenn.
The Cincinnati Times has an excellent account of the great battle at Pittsburg, Tenn., from which we extract:
At two o'clock this morning, Col. Peabody, of Prentiss's Division, fearing that everything was not right, dispatched a body of four hundred men beyond the camp, for the purpose of looking after any force that might be lurking in that direction. — The step was wisely taken, for a half mile's advance showed a heavy force approaching, who fired upon them with great slaughter. Those who escaped fell back to the Twenty-fifth Missouri Regiment swiftly pursued by the enemy.
At 6 o'clock the attack had become general along the entire front of our line. — The enemy in large force had driven in the pickets of Gen. Sherman's Division, and fallen with terrible vengeance on the 48th, 70th, 72d Ohio. The troops here had never before been in action, and being so unexpectedly attacked, ere they could fully understand their position, or get into file, they made as able a resistance as was possible, but were, in common with the forces of General Prentiss, forced to seek support on the troops immediately in their rear. The Fifth Ohio cavalry, formerly belonging to this division, had been removed to General Hurlburt's command the day before yesterday, and their places supplied and camp occupied by the Second Illinois cavalry. These latter knew nothing of the approach of the enemy until they were in their midst, firing into their tents and applying the torch as they came.
The slaughter, on the first onslaught of the enemy was very severe, scores falling at every discharge of the enemy's guns, and all making their best efforts to escape or repel the rebel foe. It, however soon became evident that the secession force was overpowering, and nothing was left for the advance line but retreat. This was done in great disorder, both officers and men losing every particle of their baggage, it of course falling into the enemy's hands.
At half-past eight o'clock the fight had become quite general, the second line of divisions having received the advance in good order, and made every preparation for a suitable reception of the advancing foe.
As your correspondent reached the third line of our forces, he met several thousand stragglers, many of them from the hospitals but many more who had never witnessed the service of the battle-field, and who, so far, had not found it much to their liking. Their faces were turned to the river, and neither persuasion nor threats could induce them to change their course. I must say that, at this juncture, your correspondent was strongly reminded of the great panic at Bull Run, for appearances indicated that the same scenes were likely to be re-enacted upon this occasion. Men and women came promiscuously, singly and by dozens, filling the road, limping, staggering along, in some cases supported by comrades or others, but all having the same destination, and bent on the accomplishment of the same purpose, viz: To escape the whizzing balls, which were flying in every direction.
The timely arrival of Gen. Grant, who had hastened up from Savannah, led to the adoption of such measures as put a termination to this un-called for flight from the battle field. A strong guard was posted across the thoroughfares, with orders to halt every soldier whose face was turned riverward. Some few of the wounded were allowed to proceed, but the self-constituted guard who had chosen that as a means of escape, were made to keep within the lines.
All the wagons and other vehicles of transportation on their way to the camps were turned back, and the road given as far as practicable to the use of the ambulances, which were now getting very plenty. — They were not, however, sufficient for the demands of the occasion, there being in many cases but two to each regiment, and heavy army wagons were used to make up the deficiency. These rattled along, over the jagged road, through the mud, over the roots and stones, filled to the top with wounded and such of the sick as were unable to leave the regimental hospitals without assistance.
At ten o'clock the entire line on both sides was engaged in one of the most terrible battles ever known in this country. The roar of the cannon and musketry was without intermission from the main center to the point extending half way down the left wing. The great struggle was more upon the gathered forces which had fallen back on Sherman's position into the next line of troops. A desperate charge had just been made upon the Fourteenth Ohio Battery, and it not being sufficiently sustained by a force of infantry, it was at last relinguished and it fell into the hands of the enemy. — Another severe fight occurred for the possession of the Fifth Ohio Battery, which resulted in three of its guns being taken by the secession troops.
By 11 o'clock quite a number of the commanders of the regiments had fallen, and in some instances not a single field officer remained; yet the fighting continued with an earnestness which plainly showed that the contest on both sides was for death or victory. The deafening sound of artillery, and the rattle of the musketry, were all that could be heard as the men stood and silently delivered their fire, evidently bent on the work of destruction with a fervor which knew no bounds. Foot by foot the ground was contested, a single narrow strip of open land dividing the opponents. Not having had time, in their hasty departure from the camps, to bring forward the hand-stretchers so necessary for the easy transportation of the wounded, such available means as were at hand were adopted, and the soldier's outstretched blanket received his crippled comrade, as the only available method by which he could be carried to the rear. Many who were maimed fell back without help, while others still fought in the ranks until they were actually forced back by their officers.
Up to three o'clock, the battle raged with a fury which defies description. At every point the rebels had found every attempt to break our lines unavailing. They had striven to drive in our main column, and, finding that impossible, had turned all their strength upon our left wing. Foiled in that quarter, they now made another attack on the center and fought like tigers. They found our lines well prepared for and in full expectation of their coming, every man at his post, and all ready and anxious to bring the contest to a definite conclusion.
In hourly expectation of the arrival of the forces under Gens. Nelson and Thomas, who were at Savannah, and to whom messages had been sent, a fact as well known to the secessionists as ourselves, that they made every effort to route our forces before these reinforcements should have come forward. They were, however, fighting against a wall of fire and steel, manned by as brave hearts as ever smelled gunpowder.
At five o'clock there was a short cessation in the firing of the enemy, their lines falling back on the center, for the distance, perhaps, of nearly half a mile. They then suddenly wheeled and again threw their entire force upon the left wing, determined to make the final struggle of the day in that quarter. The gunboat, Lexington, in the meantime, had arrived from Savannah, and, after sending a messenger to Gen. Grant to ascertain the direction in which the enemy lay from the river, the two took position about half a mile above the landing, and poured their shot and shell up a deep ravine reaching to the river on their right. The shots were thick and fast and told with thrilling effect.
In the meantime General Wallace had taken a circuitous route from Crump's Landing, and appeared suddenly on the right wing of the enemy. In face of this combination of circumstances, the rebels felt that their enterprise was for the day a failure, and as night was about at hand they slowly fell back, fighting as they went, until they reached an advantageous position, somewhat in the rear, and yet occupying the main road to Corinth. The gunboats continued to send their shell after them until they had got beyond their reach. Thus ends an outline of the battle of the first day.
After a wearried watching of several hours of the most intense anxiety, the advance regiments of General Buell's division made their appearance on the opposite side bank of the river, at five o'clock this afternoon. Several steamers were immediately sent over, and the work of ferriage began, the Thirty-sixth Indiana and the Sixth Ohio being the first to cross, followed by the main part of Gen. Nelson's division.
They were succeeded by General Bruce's command, embracing among others, the First and Second Kentucky. Cheer after cheer greeted the arrival of the reinforcements, a knowledge of their importance in the crisis being firmly impressed upon all who had witnessed the events of this dreadful day. Without a moment's delay, they disembarked and marched to the advance, where they laid on their arms for the night. They had come at a double quick from Savannah, but their comrades in the field had maintained an unflinched fight for more than fifteen hours, and they were glad to relieve them and afford them a few hour's rest.
With the first hours of daylight it was evident that the enemy had also been strongly reinforced, for, notwithstanding they must have known of the arrival of the new Union troops, they were the first to open the battle, which they did about 7 o'clock and with considerable alacrity. — The attack then began from the main Corinth road, a point to which they seemed strongly attached, and which at no time did they leave at all unprotected. It mattered not where the main force was engaged, nor where the fight raged the fiercest, there was at all times evidence that the safe security of that thoroughfare was continually cared for.
Within half an hour from the first firing of the morning, the contest had again spread in either direction, and both the main centre and left wing were actively engaged. The rebels were, however, not so anxious to fight their way to the river's bank as on the previous day, having had a slight experience of what they might again expect if brought again, under the powerful guns of the Taylor and Lexington, whose black hulls steamed slowly along the stream, keeping a careful watchfulness for any signs they might be able to gather as to the exact location of the enemy in the dense forest which stretched away to their right.
The foe was not, however, lacking in activity, and they were met by the reinforcements, together with the still unwearied soldiers of yesterday, with an energy that they certainly could not have expected. — At 9 o'clock the sound of the artillery and musketry fully equaled that of the previous day, though it could not be said to continue so long in one quarter. It now became evident that the rebels were avoiding the extreme of the left wing, and endeavoring to find some weak point in the lines by which to turn our force, and thus create an irrecoverable confusion. It is wonderful with what perseverence and determination they adhered to this purpose. They left one point but to return to it immediately, and then as suddenly would, by some masterly stroke of generalship, direct a most vigorous assault upon some division where they fancied they would not be expected. The fire of our lines was steady as clock-work, and it soon became evident that the enemy almost considered the task they had undertaken a hopeless one.
Notwithstanding the continued rebuff of the rebels, wherever they had made their assaults, up to 11 o'clock they had given no evidence of retiring from the field. — Their firing had been as rapid and vigorous at times as during the most terrible hours of the previous day, yet not so well directed, nor so long continued to one point of attack.
Still further reinforcements began to arrive; the steamers Crescent City, Hiawatha, Louisville, John Warner, and others, having left Savannah, loaded to the guards with troops belonging to Gen. Buell's command. These immediately mounted the hill and took position upon the right of the main centre, under Gen. Wallace.
Generals Grant, Buell, Nelson, Sherman, and Crittenden were everywhere present, directing the movements for a new stroke on our part against the foe. Gen. Wallace's division, on the right, had been strongly reinforced, and suddenly both wings of our army were turned upon the enemy with the intention of driving the immense body of men into an extensive ravine. At the same time a powerful battery had been stationed near an open field known as the "battalion drill ground" for Sherman's division, and this, loaded with canister, poured volley after volley upon the rebels. The cannonading of the day previous had been mostly confined to shell and heavy ball, but it was evident that the change now made was having a telling effect.
At half-past eleven the roar of the battle almost shook the earth in this vicinity, for the Union guns were being fired with all the energy that the prospect of the enemy's retreat could inspire. The fire of the rebels was now, however, so vigorous, and they began to evince a desire to withdraw. — They fought desperately as they slowly moved back, keeping up the fire from their artillery and muskets along their entire column, and apparently disdaining any motion which could be considered as approximating a retreat. As they retreated they went in excellent order, battling at every advantageous point, and delivering their fire with murderous effect. Moving somewhat in the direction of the river, followed by our men, Gen. Grant feared that some mistake might occur on the part of the gun boats, whereby our men might be injured by their fire. Accordingly a messenger was sent ordering the Taylor and Lexington to steam up to Hamburg, four miles above, and on no occasion fire inland before reaching that point, as our men had driven the enemy so far that the shells might injure the wrong party.
A visit to the field soon after the retreat of the rebels and the pursuit of our forces exhibited a spectacle seldom to be witnessed and more horrible to contemplate. The first approaches, occupying the further range of the enemy's guns, showed at the first glance the work of devastation made by the ball and shell which had overshot the mark. Large trees were entirely out off within ten feet of the ground, heavy limbs lay strewn in every direction, and pieces of exploded missiles were scattered all around. The carcasses of dead horses and wrecks of wagons strewed all the woods, and other evidences of similar character marked every step of the way.
Half a mile further on, and the more important features of the struggle were brought to view. The dead bodies in the woods, the dead and dying in the fields, lying in every conceivable shape, met the gaze on either hand. Some lay on their back with clinched hands raised at arms' length upright in the air. Others had fallen with their guns fast in their grasp, as if they were in the act of loading them when the fatal shaft struck them dead. Others still had received the winged messenger of death, and with their remaining strength had crawled away from further danger, and sheltering themselves behind old logs had laid down to die. Here were the bodies of those who had fallen in the fight of yesterday, and mingled with them were those from whose wounds the blood was yet trickling away. The fatality on the open space I have referred to as to "Battallion Drill Ground" was the greatest that came under my observation.
As I sit to-night, writing this epistle, the dead and wounded are around me. The knife of the surgeon is busy at work, and amputated legs and arms are scattered in every direction. The cries of the suffering victims are most distressing to any one who has any sympathy with his fellow man. — All day long they have been coming in, and they are placed upon the decks and within the cabins of the steamers, and wherever else they can find a resting place. I hope my eyes may never again look upon such a sight. Men with their entrails protruding, others with broken arms and legs, and one poor wretch I found whose eyes had been shot entirely away. All kinds of conceivable wounds are to be seen, in all parts of the body, and from all varieties of weapons.