Doc. 194.-the battle of Colliersville, Tenn.
Headquarters C. B. Dept., Thirty-Ninth O. V, I., Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 14.Last Sunday morning, about eleven A. M., as I have told you before, General Sherman, staff, horses, baggage, and eight companies of the Thirteenth regular infantry, left here on one of the longest and heaviest trains that has gone out of Memphis for some time. At noon I had just gone up to camp to dinner when General Webster sent up word that he wanted me down at the depot immediately, with every available man not then on duty, armed, and with forty rounds of ammunition apiece. We supposed that there must be some disturbance or riot in the neigh borhood which we were required to quell, and ir. a very short time we reported to the General. He told us that General Sherman had been attacked at Colliersville with artillery by a superior force, and had telegraphed for a special train to bring General Corse's brigade to his relief, who were then en route for this place on foot. He had telegraphed to send platform cars, on which to load the artillery, for that of it he stood particularly in need, as he had none, and that i<*> we had not that kind of cars, to construct them, (by cutting the tops off of box-cars, I suppose.) We were required to accompany this train as a guard, with orders to return at the earliest opportunity. We jumped aboard, and at White's Station, about nine miles from here, came in sight of the rear of General Corse's brigade, and at Germantown caught up with the head of the column. Here we took aboard the Ninety-third Illinois, commanded by Colonel O'Meara, and three pieces of artillery belonging to Captain Cheeney's Illinois battery, and, with orders from General Corse to proceed cautiously, as the enemy were known to be between us and Colliersville, then only nine miles distant, continued on our way. After going a few miles Colonel O'Meara, who is an Irishman, and appears to be a genuine fighting man, threw out skirmishers ahead of the train, whom we followed slowly. We picked up first two negroes, who reported that General Sherman was taken prisoner; next three citizens,  who said that the enemy had possession of the place, and that General Sherman was hid, but that they were hunting for him, and had probably found him; then two more citizens, who said that the rebels had left. Two miles this side of Colliersville we came to the first obstruction, a large culvert that had been burnt. Here Colonel O'Meara disembarked his force, and after distributing one hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition to each man, we advanced. Arrived at the place, we found the report of the citizen last picked up to be the correct one. Before this, just after the cartridges were distributed, Colonel O'Meara, who had his sleeves rolled up, slaughter-house style, and was mounted on a very fine horse, and had his sword drawn — an ugly looking weapon, looking more like an elongated bowie-knife than a fieldofficer's sabremade us a short speech, telling us that General Sherman had sent for his regiment to come to his relief, and that, with the assistance of the brave fellows on his left, (that was, my boys,) and Captain Cheeney's battery, he was going to do it, let there be what there might in the way. This quite took with the men, and they cheered him. At Colliersville he ordered me to report in person to General Sherman, and receive his commands relative to my two companies: I did so, telling General Sherman what my orders were with regard to returning by the first train, but he told me that he could not let us do so yet, that we knew more about railroads than his men, and must first repair the damages to the road behind us. Now this was something about which I knew about as much as a cow does about dancing; but as he requested me to first go down and see what damage was done and report, in company with Captain York of his staff, I started. It was a long way, and growing dark very rapidly; but Captain York being confident that the rebels had all left, we thought we could venture it alone. On the way he gave an account of the whole affair. The attack commenced on the train just as it had passed the station, about ten o'clock. The telegraph operator there had run out with his gun in one hand, and motioning with the other for the train to stop. The conductor hurried to General Sherman to inquire whether he should or not, and the latter ordered him to back up to the station. This was no easy task, the train being unusually long and heavy, and the grade backward up hill; but after a little time it was accomplished, the rebels all the while continuing their firing. “ When the train stopped,” said my informant, “I never saw line of battle formed so quick from off the tops of cars. It was a mystery to me how the men got off so quick.” They fought for some time without the fort or earth-work, and then retreated inside, where Colonel Anthony's regiment, the Sixty-sixth Indiana, which garrisoned the post, already were. Here the rebels sent in a written demand to surrender, signed, it was said, by General Pemberton's Adjutant. One of General Sherman's staff asked what reply they were to make to it. “Tell them ‘ no,’ of course,” said the General. The attack was then renewed, and continued without intermission for some three hours-till after three o'clock--when a gallant lieutenant of the Thirteenth regulars, whose name I am sorry to have forgotten, made a charge upon them with thirty men, drove them like sheep, and they finally disappeared. They were all mounted, but fought part of the time on foot. They had several pieces of artillery, and we had none; but their practice was miserable — the poorest, General Sherman said, that. he had ever witnessed on their part. Our loss was fifteen killed and thirty wounded, about equally divided between the Thirteenth regulars and Sixty-sixth Indiana, and the loss of the rebels was supposed to be about the same, though it could not be got. at exactly, as they were seen carrying off their dead and wounded. Right on the railroad track two were laying dead as we passed. One was a genuine type of the Butternut, dressed in a suit of that color, with a sallow complexion, long beard, and a ghastly wound in the side; the other was an old man, with his cartridge-box on, who was a resident in the neighborhood, had received protection papers from our Government, and, only a few days before, had been in the place, selling articles to the soldiers. Of the conduct of the telegraph operator, Edw. F. Butler, I must speak in terms of the highest praise. Entirely unsolicited, he had taken his gun and fought gallantly at the breastworks till he was disabled by a shot in the left arm, when he turned over his gun to one who, he said, could then use it better than he. It was in excellent contrast to that of a brakesman on the train, who, after he had taken refuge and was cowering in the fort, was ordered by one of the officers to take up a musket, go to the breastworks, and fight for his life, but refused, saying that the Government paid him forty-five dollars a month to brake on that road, and that he had all that he could do to take care of his life now. Of the colored servants belonging to the two regiments I must also speak. An Irish captain of the Thirteenth said: “I have always talked against the ‘damned’ niggers, and against making them soldiers; but, since I have seen what I have to-day, those brave fellows, to a man, without an officer saying a word to them, pick up guns and fight like devils at the breastworks, I have not a word to say.” Another brakesman took refuge under a bridge, but the rebels making a charge in that direction, he made a “break” for the fort, but in passing the depot saw a darkey's woolly head sticking out of a hole underneath, and thinking that a more secure place of refuge, made a dive for it, and found himself securely ensconced among cobwebs, between four stone walls, where, in event of the rebels capturing the place, he determined to remain till they left, unless by burning the depot they should compel him to come out. One of General Sherman's negroes remained  on the train with the horses. The rebels came up and asked him which the General's horse was, and he replied falsely that he did not know. They then asked him which was a certain other officer's horse; to which question he made a like reply. They then commenced to select them out on their own judgment, and happened to get the General's mare among them. They were obliged to jump them from out of the cars on to the ground, and this feat of coming up right in front of the fort, all the while under a very hot fire, was spoken of as a very brave deed. They also rummaged the General's car, taking from it his coat, and a number of articles of baggage belonging to the members of his staff, and tried to set it on fire, but in this they did not succeed. Throughout the fight General Sherman maintained his position in the centre of the fort, giving every move his personal superintendence, as calm and. unconcerned as though he was standing in a ball-room, instead of in the most exposed position in the works, and by his example infusing coolness and courage into all around him. The conductor on the train said to me: “I was somewhat frightened at first, but when I saw such a great man as he, so unconcerned amid all the balls flying around him, I did not think it worth while for me to be scared.” A house close by the fort, filled with commissary stores, obstructed the range and gave shelter to the enemy. “Sixty days furlough for the man who sets it on fire,” said General Sherman; and one of the Sixty-sixth Indiana did it. I wish I knew the brave fellow's name. One of his staff, Lieutenant James, his acting ordnance officer, whom I have seen passing into the depot yard on business connected with his department, every day, for several days past, was very severely injured — shot through the breast, while doing his utmost, with a musket. But to return to the culverts. We found three of them burned--two small and one large one--and returned and reported the facts. Colonel Anthony furnished a detail to mend the former, and with my two companies we repaired the latter, and by seven o'clock in the morning had the road again in running order to Colliersville. General Sherman told us that we had done so well, that he now wished us to go to Lafayette, with the construction train which had just arrived, and repair the road to that point; after which we might return, according to our orders, to Memphis. We did so; mending the telegraph wire in four places where it had been cut, and replacing one rail which the rebels had taken up and carried off some one hundred yards and hid among some weeds, and at Lafayette found the road and telegraph in good working order the rest of the way to Corinth. On my return to Colliersville, General Sherman proceeded with his train on his way to Corinth, leaving us deeply impressed with his qualities as a gentleman and an officer. As we were backing down again to Memphis, we struck with the tender and ran over a young h<*>fer; without, however,. throwing any thing off the track, which completed our adventures on this expedition. The force of the enemy was estimated at two thousand five hundred; ours was about six hundred. Your affectionate son,
E. O. Hurd, Captain Company B, Thirty-ninth O. V. I., Commanding Detachment.