previous next

No. 54.

Report of Col. John A. Davis, Forty-sixth Illinois Infantry.

headquarters Forty-Sixth Illinois Infantry, Pittsburg, Tenn., April 8, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor to report to you that on Sunday morning, the 6th instant, at about 7.30 o'clock, the enemy's fire was first heard .n my [228] camp, whereupon I ordered my men to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment's notice, and in less than five minutes after receiving your order my regiment was on the march to the battle-field. Reaching there between 9 and 10 o'clock a. m., it took a position ordered by Colonel Veatch in person. A regiment posted about 200 yards in front of our line gave way under the enemy's fire, and retreated through my line, which was lying down. As soon as it passed my men rose, dressed their line, and immediately commenced pouring a destructive fire upon the enemy. The regiment posted on our right having given way, and the enemy keeping up a hot fire along my whole front and raking crossfire upon my right flank, killing and wounding over one-half of my right companies, badly cutting up my other companies, and 8 of my line officers, 2 color bearers, and the major wounded, I deemed it my duty, without further orders, to withdraw my command, which I did, to a position beyond the brow of the hill, where I again formed them by command of Colonel Veatch.

Finding no support to my right or left I fell back to the foot of the hill, here finding the Forty-ninth Illinois, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Pease, at whose request I assumed command of both regiments and moved them by a right flank and established a line of battle on the ground which had been occupied by a portion of General McClernand's division, and in front of where Taylor's battery was then planted. The enemy appearing in large force on the ground over which we had just retreated I was ordered to withdraw my troops, in order that the battery could open upon the enemy, which I did, the Forty-ninth deploying to the left and my men to the right of the battery. Forming my command again in the rear of a fence fronting the enemy, I ordered them to lie down and be prepared to resist any attack the enemy might make upon the battery.

Having succeeded in driving the enemy over the brow of the hill, the First Brigade of General Sherman's division appearing upon the ground for the purpose of following up the enemy in their retreat, I formed my command on the left of this brigade and moved up in line within 200 yards of the enemy, when a brisk and destructive fire was opened upon our whole line. Planting our colors in front of our line of battle, I ordered my command to shelter themselves behind trees and logs as best they could within short range of the enemy, and kept up a constant fire until after the regiment on our right had given way and fallen back across the ravine, when I ordered my men to fall back into the ravine, and moving them by the left flank, I took them out of the range of the enemy's guns.

In this last engagement Captain Young, of Company G, who had succeeded in rallying a larger number of men after the first engagement than any other captain, and who heroically told me he would stand by me and the colors until the last man was killed, fell, shot through the mouth, and was carried off the field.

Fresh re-enforcements now arriving, and my own men, having been compelled to fall back from those two fierce engagements, had become somewhat scattered. It being now 1 o'clock, my ammuninion exhausted, the men tired and hungry, and myself exhausted, having lost my horse in the first engagement and compelled to go on foot the balance of the time, and finding myself within one-half mile of my regimental encampment, I marched my men to it and got dinner for them. Calling my men into line immediately after dinner I formed them upon the right of the brigade commanded by Col. C. C. Marsh, at his request. in front of and to the left of my camp, where we again met the enemy [229] on Sunday evening. A battery of artillery on my left leaving under the fire of the enemy, the regiments both on my right and left fell back, but my line did not waver under the fre of the enemy, and the other regiments were again rallied, and, stopping the advance of the enemy, we lay in this position on our arms all night.

After breakfast on Monday morning, still retaining my position on the right of Colonel Marsh's brigade, I moved with him until I reached and went beyond the ground of our last engagement of Sunday, when our pickets were driven in, and some confusion arising on the left of our brigade, Colonel Marsh ordered the brigade to fall back, and changing the whole front of his line to the left he again moved the brigade forward. The enemy soon drove in our pickets, and we found the enemy in strength along the whole line of our front, and when within 200 yards the fire opened upon both sides. My men loaded and fired with the coolness of veterans, and I had another horse shot under me in the midst of the engagement, and while raging with the utmost fury my men determined that they had fallen back for the last time, and while they were receiving the fire of the enemy and delivering their own with the utmost coolness I was wounded and carried off the field. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones reports that my men still stood firm, holding their ground, although outflanked, with the colors of the Forty-sixth and the rebels planted within 30 yards of each other, until re-enforced and the enemy driven back for the last time, when the Forty-sixth was ordered by General Hurlbut in person to its quarters.

I ought not to close this communication without bearing tribute to the gallantry and bravery of my command. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones was with the regiment during all of its engagements, and did his duty manfully. Major Dornblaser, seriously wounded in the arm in the early part of the action, remained with me until the men were brought off from the field and reformed, and did not leave until after a peremptory order from myself to go to his quarters. Captain Musser, of Company A, while his brave company was assailed by overwhelming numbers to the front and right flank, still kept his fire pouring upon the enemy and his ranks dressed until himself wounded and carried from the field, 7 of his men being killed and 20 wounded in the action, the company holding its ground, as did all the others, until ordered to retreat. Captain Stevens, of Company H, while bravely keeping his men in line to bring them off the field, fell fatally wounded, the nearest man in his company to the rebel lines. Captain Marble, of Company E, fell while brandishing his sword, and, calling on the major, begged him to take it, saying if the rebels got him they should not have his sword. Captain McCracken received a severe contusion in the first engagement, but kept on duty with his men during the whole of the two days. Lieutenants Hood, Barr, Arnold, Ingraham, and Howell were all wounded in the first engagement of Sunday, while manfully doing their duty at their posts. Too much praise cannot be awarded to the gallant officers and men of the Forty-sixth, who helped to win our signal victory. 1

All of which is respectfully submitted.

John A. Davis, Colonel Forty-sixth Illinois Infantry. Captain Fox, Acting Adjutant-General, Second Brig., Fourth Div.

1 Nominal list omitted; but see revised statement, p. 103.

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.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: