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[415]

Sunday, April sixth.--Were ordered to prepare for a general inspection of arms, and while engaged in polishing our guns, about half-past 7 A. M., the roar of distant firing was distinctly heard, and continued all the morning. The inspection was dispensed with, and we were ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to go to battle at any moment. It was not until one o'clock when we started away. It was a beautiful Sabbath-day, and we made a rapid march of eight miles--a good part of it through a swamp — to the river. Steamboats were in readiness to ferry us across. On coming to the bank I noticed a great number of soldiers on the opposite bank, apparently taking things easy. I mentally wondered why there was so great a necessity for us to be present, when there was a reserve of two or three brigades. But the Tennessee is a pretty wide stream, and objects on one side cannot be discerned very distinctly from the other; therefore, it was not until we had crossed that I found the reserve to consist of wounded and panic — stricken soldiers. Great bustle and excitement were prevalent along the river. Nelson set his signal corps on the right bank to work, and a vigorous waving of flags was answered by a corresponding ditto from the left bank. We were the third regiment to be taken over; when about the middle of the stream the gunboats floating up and down, commenced a vigorous cannonading. I thought it must be close work if they were employed.

Before landing, I noticed a lady on the hurricane deck of another boat, laden with troops just by us, who appeared to be expostulating with a group of soldiers. She seemed to be much excited, and waved her hand in the direction of the battle. Another young woman on the same boat was wringing her hands and weeping. As our company passed close by her while disembarking, she exclaimed: “Men, you must fight for your country or die!” It was answered by a cheer.

Being landed, we hurried up the bank. As I ran by I thought I would learn from the reserve what I could of the progress of affairs, but looking around, nothing but a sickening sight of mangled men and terrified able-bodied — I will pass it over. The sight, and their exclamations, “The day is lost, and you must regain it!” “There is a panic,” etc.; was beginning to unnerve me, so I closed my eyes and ears to all that was going on around me. On top of the bank we were cheered by a sight of Nelson, with his well-known overcoat and feathered hat. “Sixth Ohio, I expect a good account from you!” “Yes! Yes! Hurrah!” And without an order, our walking pace was changed into a double-quick. We only went a few yards, and were ordered to support a battery. Darkness soon closed in, and compelled the belligerents to cease hostilities for the night. We were formed in line of battle, and permitted to lie on our arms. Shortly after the firing ceased, Col. Gross, of the Thirty-sixth Indiana, (which regiment had the advance of the brigade for the day, and had lost several men before we landed,) made a speech to his men — such a speech as a colonel should make. A breathless silence prevailed, and his few words were listened to attentively by more than his own regiment. The next day Col. G. distinguished himself for his bravery, which almost amounted to foolhardiness. He placed himself in front of his regiment, and in the thickest of the fight, between the two fires, and urged on his men, until his horse was shot and himself wounded. Even then he could not be prevailed upon to drop to the rear, but sword in hand, still encouraged his men by his presence. His conduct was reflected by the action of his regiment.

All Sunday night the gunboats sent a shell, at half-hour intervals, into the woods beyond us. The distance from the river to where they burst, generally averaged three quarters of a mile, which I learned by timing the interval between the flash and report of the shell. The night was cold. We had neither blankets or overcoats, and our discomfort was further increased by a thunder-storm, which continued from midnight until morning. {Is there any truth in the belief that heavy cannonading always brings a thunder-storm?] Before daylight of Monday morning, Col. Ammen formed his brigade in line of battle, sent a company of skirmishers in front of each battalion, and, all preparations completed, said to us, in his quiet, drawling way: “Now, boys, you are all ready, go straight ahead until you meet the enemy.” The long line swept through the woods, up and down hill, for a quarter or half a mile, it may be more, when the skirmishers opened fire. We halted, but soon the skirmishers driving the enemy before them, we also went on. This continued till perhaps seven o'clock, when the occasional halts and forwards were prolonged into one long stand. For the rest of the day every foot of ground was closely contested. Company B, while skirmishing, took a cannon from the rebels, but before they could get it off the ground, had it taken from them. The same piece, however, was shortly brought in triumphantly by company C.

When we made the first long halt, for the first time I experienced the sensation of having a quantity of bullets constantly whizzing around us, and pecking at the trees with a sound like that made by a woodpecker, and I have since laughed at the several involuntary dodgings made by my head to avoid the bullets which had already whistled past me, though at the time it was considered no laughing matter. Our division and brigade, if I am not mistaken, was on the left of the line of battle. About nine o'clock the firing changed, almost entirely ceasing on our left. We were then marched by a right flank, and ordered to support Capt. Tirrell's regular battery. We were drawn up immediately behind it, and received all the peppering aimed at the battery. At one time a shower of grape or canister caused the men to drop down. It was well they did, for a second fire, better aimed than the first, a moment later, cut off the bushes to the height of a man's breast. I observed very few shells from the batteries where we were first stationed


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