at this point, debouched upon this bar, following it up, close under the bank, which was covered with a dense forest. Companies B and H were in the advance, fifty yards behind them followed Stange's and Lovejoy's howitzers, the other ten companies of the Fourth Illinois immediately following, and the remainder of Glover's brigade coming after. About three hundred yards from the mouth of the bayou the timber bore off to the left, and nearly half a mile beyond this made still another turn in the same direction, forming two points beyond which the bar was not visible. The Tenth Illinois had turned the first point, still keeping near the bank, entirely out of sight of the remainder of the column, and very imprudently pushed on full half a mile in advance of the skirmishers in the woods upon the left, who were advancing with proper caution. The two companies in advance were not dismounted as they should have been in their advanced position, and had almost reached the second point of timber, followed by the howitzers and the remainder of the regiment, marching in column. Not a dismounted man, keeping pace with the advance, was thrown out to feel the enemy in the woods. Suddenly, from the woods on the left a deadly fire of musketry was opened upon the whole regiment. Three or four volleys were fired in rapid succession, when, with a yell which made the whole forest ring, the rebels broke from their cover, and swarming down the steep bank, made a grand rush for the howitzers. The suddenness of the attack threw the entire regiment of cavalry into the wildest confusion. Saddles were emptied by scores. Horses, goaded to desperation by the shower of bullets sweeping among them, became unmanageable. The companies in front came tumbling back over the battery which was just getting to work, and increased the disorder into which the galling flank fire had thrown the remainder of the regiment. The angry roar of the musketry, quickly followed by the deep-toned sound of the howitzers, the savage shouts of the rebels as they rushed from their cover, fairly drowning the loud explosion of the shells with which they were greeted, were distinctly heard at the mouth of the bayou at which General Davidson, bringing up the remainder of the column, had just arrived. “An ambuscade!” “An ambuscade!” broke from hundreds of lips, and in a moment more the entire regiment, bearing off toward the river in its flight, came pouring from behind the point of woods which heretofore had concealed it from view. A single glance was sufficient to show that it was completely disordered, and it was feared that the remainder of Glover's brigade, not knowing what was ahead of them, would share in the panic. Giving a hasty order to Colonel Merrill to form a line of battle upon the bar with all possible rapidity, General Davidson dashed among the fugitives with his drawn sabre, the rebel bullets from the woods flying in a perfect shower around him, and rallied the regiment once more into line, and brought it again, into the advance just behind the first point of woods. With the first volley of musketry, Captain Stange and Lieutenant Lovejoy quickly placed their light mountain howitzers in position, and with the whole eight pieces opened a deadly fire of shell and spherical case upon the rebels swarming from the woods. Nothing but the most desperate courage could have enabled any soldiery in the world to have faced a fire so deadly, and yet, without even stopping to form in line, the rebels rushed en masse upon the guns, and, after receiving over a dozen rounds, were literally crowding over their muzzles. Deprived of all support, and far in advance of the head of the column, it was impossible to keep the enemy at bay, and an attempt was accordingly made to bring the guns from the field. A portion of them were limbered up and galloped off after the cavalry, and others were withdrawn by hand. The section of two guns nearest the woods in Lovejoy's battery, with one of the caissons, was captured. Lieutenant Lovejoy remained with them to the last. R. A. Ficklin and George Kibbel, two as noble, brave-hearted fellows as ever wore a uniform, were pulling one of the guns off with a prolongue. Behind it, keeping the enemy at bay with his sabre, was the gallant Lovejoy. A musket-ball, fired at such close range that the powder burned his clothes, passed entirely through the body of Ficklin. Another passed through the kidneys of Kibbel, and both went down mortally wounded. At the same instant Lovejoy fell with a ball in his leg. Dropping his sabre, he drew his pistol, and was seen to shoot the man who had wounded him. The two guns, with one of the caissons, were immediately rushed into the woods. The other guns, being run off by hand, were hotly contested for by the rebels, and gallantly defended by the cannoneers. They would have been overpowered by numbers, however, but for the timely rallying of the Tenth Illinois by General Davidson, under cover of which they were withdrawn, and the rebels driven away from the other caisson left upon the field. Every man belonging to the two captured guns were either killed or wounded. One of them — John Rath — was found shot through the heart, with a shell in his hand, which he was in the act of placing in the gun. No blame can be attached to the Tenth Illinois for its conduct. Its advance was very unfortunate, but was the result of a belief that the skirmishers in the woods were advancing parallel with it. No regiment of cavalry marching in column could receive such a murderous fire in flank without being thrown into disorder. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart received a musket-ball through the cap, which stunned him and brought him to the ground. Had he not fallen, the disorder of his regiment would not have been so great. Hadley's battery, fortunately placed by General Davidson at the head of Merrill's brigade,
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.