under Gen. John C. Breckinridge
, closely following.
This order, however, was soon sacrificed to the exigencies of the contest.
Rumors of a Rebel advance, and the capture of some of our officers thereby, had reached our camps on Friday;1
and an Ohio brigade had been sent out to reconnoiter, which had a brush with a smaller Rebel force, and pushed it back to a battery which was found in position near our lines.
Gen. Lew. Wallace
's division was thereupon ordered out, and advanced to Adamsville
, on the road to Purdy
; but, meeting no opponent, after passing a night in drenching rain, it returned to its camp.
On Saturday, there was firing along our front, which ought to have incited inquiry, if not alarm, but did not.
As day broke,2
our pickets in Prentiss
's front came rushing into camp, barely in advance of the pursuing Rebels, whose shells were tearing through our tents a moment afterward.
Some of our men were dressing; others washing or cooking; a few eating their breakfasts; many, especially officers, had not yet risen.
The next instant, magnificent lines of battle poured out of the woods in front of our camps, and at doublequick rushed in upon our bewildered, half-dressed, and not yet half-formed men, firing deadly volleys at close range, then, springing upon the helpless, coatless, musketless mob with the bayonet.
Some fell as they ran; others as they emerged from their tents, or as they strove to buckle on their accouterments; some tried to surrender; but the Rebels
could not stop then to take prisoners.
Some of these were found, though disabled, still alive, when we recovered those tents next evening.
Thus was Prentiss
's division routed before it had time to form in line of battle; and Hildebrand
's brigade, on Sherman
's right, was demolished with equal expedition, in spite of Sherman
's best exertions.
His efforts and influence, backed by the most reckless self-exposure, held his remaining brigades, under Buckland
, steady for a time; but these were soon compelled to fall back behind the next ravine, leaving their camps, with all their tents and tent equipage, to the enemy.
's division, comprising 10 regiments and 4 batteries, had been astonished with the rest, but not yet directly assailed.
Moving up, at 7 A. M., to the support of Sherman
, it found his division mostly gone or going; its best officers killed or wounded, its batteries either captured or badly cut up. Buckland
's brigade, which had gone after Hildebrand
's, forming our extreme right on the front, had fallen back to avoid certain destruction.
To all practical intents, and in spite of its leader's desperate and untiring exertions, Sherman
's division was out of the fight by 8 o'clock that ominous morning.
It seemed a miracle that their commander, always in the hottest of the Rebel
fire, escaped with a single musket-ball through his hand.
formed his division as quickly as possible, and not far in the rear of their camps, where his men faced to the front and fought stubbornly for a time; but they had been strangely drawn up in an open field, leaving to the enemy the cover of a dense scrub-oak thicket in our