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[230]

No. 55.-report of Maj. John W. Foster, Twenty-fifth Indiana Infantry.

Hdqrs. Twenty-Fifth Regiment Indiana Vols., Pittsburg, Tenn., April 11, 1862.
Sir: Early on the morning of Sunday, April 6, 1862, in conformity with your orders, the Twenty-fifth Indiana Regiment of Volunteers was marched out of its quarters and took its position in the brigade. It immediately accompanied the brigade beyond Brigadier-General Hurlbut's quarters, and took position on the edge of the field used as the review ground, on the center of the line of the army, the right of the Twenty-fifth Indiana joining the Fourteenth Illinois, and the left supporting a battery of artillery which was firing upon the enemy beyond the field. After remaining in this position for nearly an hour the forces which were engaging the enemy were driven back from our front, and a large part of the retreating column passed directly through our lines, but the regiment continued unbroken and presented as steady a front as the receding forces would allow. Just at this time, as we were beginning to receive the heavy fire of our enemy on our front and left, your order was received to change our front to the rear on the left company, and 100 yards back from our first position, in order to meet a large force of the enemy which was moving rapidly forward in that direction with the intention of flanking your brigade.

The regiment executed this movement in good order and coolness under a very heavy fire of musketry and artillery on our left, and hardly had our regiment taken its position when the immense double columns of the enemy were fairly in view, emerging from the timber and thick undergrowth. The order was given immediately to lie down. It had hardly been executed when the enemy opened upon us one continual blaze of musketry along our whole line and on the right and left of it. The deadly volley passed harmlessly over us. With great alacrity and order the regiment rose and poured in upon the enemy volley after volley, which was most terrible upon their close columns, staggering them in their rapid and successful advance; but our attempt to give a permanent check to their progress was unavailing. The regiments on our right were beginning to waver and fall back, and the enemy had completely outflanked us on the left, and were pouring in upon us a heavy cross-fire. There was no alternative except to fall back or be completely surrounded by the overwhelming numbers attacking us. Hardly had Lieut. Col. William H. Morgan given the order to fall back when he received a severe flesh wound in the leg, which disabled him, and he was reluctantly carried from the field. His absence during the remainder of the engagement was a severe loss, as it threw the entire responsibility of the command upon me, and deprived the regiment of his military skill and courage.

The regiment fell back in as good order as the thick undergrowth and deadly fire of the enemy would permit for about 100 yards, when, taking advantage of a slight depression in the surface of the ground I planted the flag against a fallen tree and called upon the men to rally to their colors, which they did with a readiness and coolness which saved the regiment from entire dismemberment and perhaps annihilation. I was in my proper position on the left wing, and did not see Colonel Morgan fall, who was on the right and entirely concealed by the undergrowth, and therefore supposed he had drawn off the right companies; but, in his absence, the several captains collected their [231] men, and, as soon as they could ascertain our position, joined me with a large portion of their commands. In this engagement our loss was very heavy. Lieut. Henry L. Brickett, commanding Company O, was mortally wounded, and died in a few minutes, refusing to be carried from the field. Lieut. Jesse Patterson, of Company G, was mortally wounded, and died in a few hours. Both of these were noble men, faithful officers, and brave soldiers. Lieutenant Fellows, of Company H, and Second Lieutenant Darling, of Company B, were severely wounded while bravely encouraging their men. Sixteen of our dead were taken from this bloody field.

By the time I had rallied my battalion and placed it in order Colonel Hall, of the Fourteenth Illinois, on our right, had succeeded in halting and collecting his regiment, and upon consultation we thought it advisable to withdraw our men and shelter them from the heavy fire of the enemy until we could communicate with you for further orders. I notified your aide, Lieutenant Bruner, of our position, when we directly received your order to come to the assistance of General McClernand's division on the right. By your order I took position on the brow of the hill on the right of the Fourteenth Illinois, and threw forward pickets on the side of the opposite hill, to observe the movements of the enemy. Here we remained until we received your order to advance to the hill on the left, but it soon became necessary to change our position, as directed by you, to the timber skirting the field occupied by the cavalry camp, to protect another flank movement of the enemy, in heavy force, both on the right and left, supported by a large force of cavalry on the right, attempting to get into our rear.

Here we took our position and threw out pickets in front, in charge of Captain Rheinlander, to draw the fire of the enemy and ascertain their advancing position. While the heavy firing was going on on the right, our regiment lay well concealed directly in front of the approaching columns of the enemy. While you sent the Fourteenth Illinois around to their flank, and just as our pickets had well attracted their fire, we moved around quietly from the enemy's front to support the Fourteenth Illinois, which was pouring its well-directed volleys on their flanks. We had just taken an excellent position, where we must certainly, with the aid of the Fourteenth Illinois, have driven the enemy back or cut them off in this locality, when the tide of battle, which had been raging with such ferocity for eight continuous hours on the left and center, gave way, and our receding troops came back and passed the road directly in our rear, while the enemy followed them very closely, pouring in a deadly fire on the retreating masses. I was cut off from you by this receding movement, and as I could receive no orders from you, I saw nothing left for me to do but reluctantly to withdraw from the advantageous ground occupied, and do all I could to check the enemy's advance by throwing my regiment in the rear of our forces receding from the center and fall back in order. The regiment executed this movement with steadiness and courage, and though exposed to a very severe cross-fire I brought it off without wavering and unbroken, and assisted with my force in forming the line of broken regiments and detachments to stay the enemy's advance nearer toward the Landing, which point they seemed determined to reach.

It was in this last cross-fire that one of our bravest young officers, Sergt. Maj. William Jones, fell, severely wounded. He had acted with great courage and firmness at the storming of Fort Donelson, and during the whole of this day he was always active and fearless in assisting me in every command. [232]

Night was now closing in, and our men, tired, exhausted and hungry lay down on the field in the line of battle formed by the fourth Divsion for the defense of the Landing, and rested on their arms during the heavy rain-storm of that night.

Early next morning we formed again with our brigade and advanced to support our forces, which had attacked and were slowly but steadily driving back the enemy. During the forenoon we kept close behind our advancing column, ready to offer support to any of our wavering flanks. In the afternoon I received your order to move rapidly forward to the center and form with the brigade for the final charge upon the enemy. Taking our position in the line, we moved forward in double-quick in fine order, hoping to give the last charge to the flying rebels; but when we had passed beyond our outposts and on to the hill the enemy had gone too far for us to reach them, and the pursuit was given over to the cavalry.

I cannot bestow too much praise upon the brave conduct of both officers and men of my command during this long and hard-fought battle. They were called out in the early morning of Sunday so unexpectedly that they had hardly completed their breakfast, and left without haversacks, and in very many cases without canteens, and remained on the open field during the two days with nothing to eat but a few crackers. At no time during the battle did the men show signs of fear or despondency. They rallied promptly to the colors at my call after the first bloody repulse, and never again during either day did they leave them or fail to obey my commands, even under the most deadly fire. By this steadiness and precision in all their movements they well earned the name of veteran soldiers. I am greatly indebted to Captains Rheinlander, Walker, and Poole for the promptness with which they brought their commands together after the first repulse and for the readiness with which they seconded all my commands during the hard fighting of Sunday, and to all the officers who were with me during both days for their coolness, promptness, and courage. Without them my efforts would have been unavailing.

Capt. George W. Saltzman, of Company A, became separated from the regiment after the first repulse, being on the extreme right, and covered entirely with the thick undergrowth. After vainly seeking for the regiment he went into the thickest of the battle on the left, joining the Sixteenth Wisconsin, and there, bravely fighting for his country, was shot through the heart. The regiment contained no more upright and faithful officer or purer patriot than he. Lieutenant Boren acted as adjutant, and was faithful in executing every order.

Surgeon Walker and Chaplain Heuring were in the hottest part of the field, active in their work of attention to the wounded.

Assistant-Surgeon White was at his post at the hospital. The band rendered valuable service in carrying off the wounded and ministering to their wants. Quartermaster Foster kept us supplied with ammunition, and secured all our regimental papers and baggage from the reach of the invading enemy.

Our loss of killed, wounded, and missing is 149, a list of which I attach to this report.1

Respectfully submitted.

John W. Foster, Major, Commanding Twenty-Fifth Indiana Volunteers. Col. J. C. V. Eatch, Commanding Second Brigade, Fourth Division.

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

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