previous next

[359] giving out in the midst of it, I ordered him to retire, and Lieutenant Thurber to take his place. Thurber obeyed with such alacrity that there was scarcely an intermission in the fire, which continued so long and with such warmth as to provoke an attempt on the part of the rebels to charge the position. Discovering the intention, the First brigade was brought across the field to occupy the strip of woods in front of Thurber. The cavalry made the first dash at the battery, but the skirmishers of the Eighth Missouri poured an unexpected fire into them, and they retired pell-mell. Next the infantry attempted a charge. The First brigade easily repelled them. All this time my whole division was under a furious cannonade, but being well masked behind the bluff, or resting in the hollows of the wood, the regiment suffered but little.

General Sherman now moved forward a handsome line of battle to engage the enemy posted in front of his command. Simultaneously mine was ordered to advance, the First brigade leading. Emerging from the woods, it entered the second field I have mentioned, speedily followed by the Second brigade, when both marched in face of the enemy aligned as regularly as if on parade.

Having changed front as stated, my movement was now diagonal to the direction originally started on, though the order was still in echelon, with the centre regiment of each brigade dropped behind its place in line as a reserve. While thus advancing, Colonel Whittlesey, as appears from his report, in some way lost his position, but soon recovered it.

The position of the enemy was now directly in front, in the edge of the woods, fronting and on the right of the open field my command was so gallantly crossing. The ground to be passed getting at them, dipped gradually to the centre of the field, which is there intersected by a small run well fringed with willows. Clearing an abrupt bank beyond the branch, the surface ascends to the edge of the woods held by the enemy, and is without obstruction, but marked by frequent swells that afforded protection to the advancing lines, and was the secret of my small loss. Over the branch, up the bank, across the rising ground, moved the steady First brigade; on its right, with equal alacrity, marched the Second, the whole in view, their banners gaily decking the scene. The skirmishers in action all the way cleared the rise and grouped themselves behind the ground swells, within seventy-five yards of the rebel lines; as the regiments approached them, suddenly a sheet of musketry blazed from the woods, and a battery opened upon them. About the same instant, the right of Sherman's division fell hastily back. To save my flank I was compelled to order a halt. In a short time Sherman repulsed the enemy, and recovered his lost ground. My skirmishers, meanwhile, clung to their hillocks, sharp shooting at the battery. Again the brigades advanced, their bayonets fixed for a charge, but pressed by Sherman, and so threatened in front, the enemy removed their guns and fell back from the edge of the woods. In the advance Lieut.-Col. John Gerber was killed, and it is but justice to say of him, “no man died that day with more glory, yet many died, and there was much glory.” Capt. McGriffin and Lieutenant Southwick of the same regiment, also fell — gallant spirits, deserving honorable recollection. Many soldiers, equally brave, perished, or were wounded in the same field.

It was now noon, and the enemy having fallen so far back, the idea of flanking them further had to be given up. Not wishing to interfere with General Sherman's line of operations, but relying upon him to support me on the left, my front was again changed, the movement beginning with the First brigade taking the course of attack precisely as it had been in the outset. While the manoeuvre was being effected, a squadron of rebel cavalry galloped from the woods on the right to charge the flank temporarily exposed. Colonel Thayer threw forward the Twenty-third Indiana, which, aided by an oblique fire from a company of the First Nebraska, repelled the assailants with loss.

Scarcely had the front been changed, when the supporting force on the left again gave way, closely followed by the masses of the enemy. My position at this time became critical, as isolation from the rest of the army seemed imminent. The reserves were resorted to. Col. Woods, with his regiment, was ordered into line on the left. The remnant of a Michigan regiment sent me by Gen. McClernand was despatched to the left of Woods. Thurber galloped up, and was posted to cover a retreat, should such a misfortune become necessary. Before these dispositions could be effected, the Eleventh Indiana, already engaged with superior numbers in its front, was attacked on its left flank, but backward wheeling three companies of his endangered wing, Col. McGinnis gallantly held his ground. Fortunately, before the enemy could avail themselves of their advantage by the necessary change of front, some fresh troops dashed against them, and once more drove them back. For this favor my acknowledgments are especially due to Col. August Willich and his famous regiment.

Pending this struggle, Col. Thayer pushed on his command and entered the woods, assaulting the rebels simultaneously with Col. Smith. Here the Fifty-eighth Ohio and Twenty-third Indiana proved themselves fit comrades in battle, with the noble First Nebraska. Here also the Seventy-sixth Ohio won a brilliant fame. The First Nebraska fired away its last cartridge. In the heat of the action, at a word, the Seventy-sixth Ohio rushed in and took its place. Off to the right, meanwhile, arose the music of the Twentieth and Seventy-eighth Ohio, fighting gallantly in support of Thurber, to whom the sound of rebel cannon seemed a challenge — no sooner heard than accepted.

From the time the wood was entered, “forward!” was the only order, and step by step, from tree to tree, position to position, the rebel lines went back, never stopping again — infantry, horses and artillery — all went back. The firing was


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.

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: