previous next

[534] forces would have been terribly cut up and captured. As rapidly as possible I formed General Whittaker's and Colonel Mitchell's brigades, to hurl them against this threatening force of the enemy; which afterward proved to be General Hindman's division. The gallant Steedman, seizing the colors of a regiment, led his men to the attack. With loud cheers they rushed upon the enemy, and after a terrific conflict, lasting but twenty minutes, drove them from their ground, and occupied the ridge and gorge. The slaughter of both friend and foe was frightful. General Whittaker, while rushing forward at the head of his brigade, was knocked from his horse by a musket-ball, and was, for a short time, rendered unfit for duty; while two of his staff officers were killed, and two mortally wounded. General Steedman's horse was killed, and he was severely bruised, yet he was able to remain on duty during the day. This attack was made by our troops — very few of whom had ever been in an action before — against a division of old soldiers who largely outnumbered them. Yet with resolution and energy they drove the enemy from this position, occupied it themselves, and afterward held the ground they had gained with such terrible losses. The victory was dearly won, but to this army it was a priceless one.

There was now a lull in the battle; it was of short duration, however, for within thirty minutes after we had gained possession of the ridge, we were vigorously attacked by two divisions of Longstreet's veterans. Again the enemy was driven back, and from this time until dark the battle between these two opposing forces raged furiously.

Our whole line was continually enveloped in smoke and fire. The assaults of the enemy were now made with that energy which was inspired by the bright prospect of a speedy victory, and by a consciousness that it was only necessary to carry this position and crush our forces, to enable them to overthrow our army, and drive it across the Tennessee River. Their forces were massed and hurled upon us for the purpose of terminating at once this great and bloody battle. But the stout hearts of the handful of men who stood before them quailed not. They understood our perilous position, and held their ground, determined to perish rather than yield it. Never had a commander such just cause for congratulation over the action of his troops.

The ammunition which was brought in our train to this part of the field was divided with General Brannan's and Wood's divisions early in the afternoon, and we soon exhausted the remainder. All that we could then procure was taken from the cartridge-boxes of our own and the enemy's dead and wounded. Even this supply was exhausted before the battle was over, and while the enemy was still in our front, hurling fresh troops against us. It was almost dark; the enemy had been driven back, but we had not a round of ammunition left. All now seemed to be lost if he should return to the contest. Anticipating another attack, I ordered the command to be given to the men to stand firm, and to use the cold steel. After an ominous silence of a few minutes, the enemy came rushing upon us again. With fixed bayonets our troops gallantly charged them and drove them back in confusion. Twice more were these charges repeated, and the enemy driven back, before darkness brought an end to the battle. Night came, and the enemy fell back, whipped and discomfited. At three o'clock P. M. Brigadier-General Garfield, Chief of Staff, appeared upon that part of the field where my troops were then hotly engaged with the enemy. He remained with us until dark, animating and cheering both officers and men.

Although they were not under my command, I cannot refrain from herein noticing the troops that held the “horse-shoe ridge,” and from testifying to their heroic bravery and unflinching steadiness under the heaviest fire. Their commanders, Generals Brannan and Wood and Colonel Harker, behaved with unqualified bravery and gallantry.

At seven o'clock P. M. I received instructions from Major-General Thomas to withdraw my troops from the position they held at dark, to march back to Rossville, and to cover the rear of the forces falling back upon that place with McCook's brigade. These instructions were promptly carried out, and I went into camp that night in accordance therewith.

My two brigades numbered two hundred and sixteen commissioned officers, and three thousand six hundred and ninety-seven men, when they went into the action. Between the hours of one P. M. and dark, there were killed, wounded, and missing one hundred and nine commissioned officers, and one thousand six hundred and twenty-three men — a total of one thousand seven hundred and thirty-two.

These losses are subdivided as follows: killed, two hundred and thirty-four; wounded, nine hundred and thirty-six; missing — all of whom, with the exception of a very small fraction, were taken prisoners--four hundred and sixty-one.

Among the gallant dead who fell upon the field of battle, was Captain William C. Russell, my Assistant Adjutant-General. He fell with his face to the enemy, in the thickest of the battle, while discharging an important duty. His loss is severely felt. Through his sterling qualities of heart and head, he became the idol of his corps. All who knew him now lament the loss of an accomplished soldier and sincere gentleman.

It is with pleasure that I call the attention of the Commanding General to the bravery and gallantry displayed during the battle by Brigadier-General James B. Steedman. He fearlessly rushed into the midst of danger, and was ever present with his troops, handling them with ease and confidence, rallying and encouraging them, and establishing order and confidence.

General Whittaker and Colonel Mitchell, commanding brigades, were also conspicuous for their bravery and activity. They managed their troops well, and contributed much to our success during the day

Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tennessee River (United States) (1)
Rossville (Georgia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: