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[165]

The first assault was commenced by the enemy's artillery against the entire line of our left wing, which was promptly responded to by Capt. Green's battery of field-artillery. After several hours of firing between the artillery of the two armies, the enemy's infantry advanced to the conflict all along the line, which was kept up and increased in volume from one end of the line to the other for several hours, when at last the enemy made a vigorous assault against the right of our left wing--the position assaulted being a height commanded by Col. Heiman, and defended by his brigade, consisting of the Tenth Tennessee, under command of Lieut.-Col. McGavock, Col. Voorhies', (Tenn.,) Col. Hughes', (Ala.,) and Col. Head's (Tenn.) regiments of Tennessee Volunteers, and Capt. Maney's field-battery.

This assault was vigorously made, and the position as vigorously defended, and resulted in the repulse of the enemy here and everywhere around the line. The result of the day's work pretty well tested the strength of our defensive lines, and established, beyond question, the gallantry of our entire command, all of which defended well their portion of the line. The loss sustained by our forces in this engagement was not large, our men being mostly under shelter of their riflepits; but we, nevertheless, had quite a number killed and wounded, but owing to the continued fighting which followed it was impossible to get any official report of the casualties of the day. On the same day our battery on the river was engaged with one of the enemy's gunboats, which occasioned quite a lively cannonading for more than an hour, in which the gallant Capt. Dixon, of the engineer corps, was killed instantly at the battery. This officer had been on duty some months at the post, and had shown great energy and professional skill; and by his gallant bearing on that day, while directing the operations of the day, under my orders, had justly earned for himself high distinction. His death was a serious loss to the service, and was a source of no little embarrassment in our after operations.

On the twelfth we had quiet, but we saw the smoke of a large number of gunboats and steamboats at a short distance below. We also received reliable information of the arrival of a large number of new troops, greatly increasing the strength of the enemy's forces, already said to be from twenty thousand to thirty thousand.

On the thirteenth these reenforcements were seen advancing to their position in the line of investment, and while this was being done, six of the enemy's iron-cased gunboats were seen advancing up the river, five of which were abreast and in line of battle, and the sixth some distance to the rear. When the gunboats arrived within a mile and a half of the battery, they opened fire on the batteries. My orders to the officers, Capts. Shuster and Staukvoitch, who commanded the lower battery, of eight guns, and Capt. Ross the upper battery, of four guns, were to hold their fire until the enemy's gunboats should come within point — blank range of their guns. This they did, though the ordeal of holding their fire while the enemy's shot and shell fell thick around their position was a severe restraint upon their patriotic impulses. But, nevertheless, our batteries made no response till their gunboats got within range of their guns. Our entire line of batteries then opened fire. The guns of both parties were well served. The enemy constantly advanced, delivering direct fire against our batteries from his line of five gunboats; while the sixth boat, moving up in the rear, kept the air filled with shells, which fell thick and close all around the position of our batteries.

The fight continued, the enemy steadily advancing slowly up the river, and the shot and shell from fifteen heavy rifled guns, tearing our parapets and plunging deep into the earth around and over our batteries for nearly two hours, and until his boats had reached within the distance of one hundred and fifty yards of our batteries. Having come in such close conflict, I could distinctly see the effects of our shot upon his iron-cased boats. We had given two or three well-directed shots from our heavy guns to one of his boats, when she instantly shrunk back and drifted helpless below the line. Several shot struck another boat, tearing her iron case and making her timbers crack, and splintering them as by a stroke of lightning, when two fell back. Then a third received several shocks, making her metal ring and timbers crack, when the whole line gave way and fell back from our fire until they passed out of range.

Thus ended the first severe and close conflict of our heavy guns and the enemy's gunboats, testing their strength and the power of heavy guns to resist them. The shot from our thirty-two-pound guns produced but little effect; they struck and rebounded, apparently doing but little damage; but I am satisfied, from close observation, that the timbers of the framework did not and could not withstand the shock from the ten-inch columbiads or thirty-two-pound rifled guns. These gunboats never renewed the attack. I learn from citizens living on the river below that one of the injured boats was sunk, and that others had to be towed back to Cairo. This information may or may not be true, but it is certain that all of the boats were repulsed and driven back, after a most vigorous and determined attack, and that two of the boats were badly damaged, and that a third was more or less injured.

It is difficult to estimate the gallant bearing and heroic conduct of the officers and men of our batteries, who so well and persistently fought our guns until the enemy's determined advance brought his boats and guns into such close and desperate conflict. When all did their duty so well, it is almost impossible to discriminate. The Captains already named, and their Lieutenants, (whose names, for want of official reports, I cannot give,) all deserve the highest commendation.

Lieut. G. S. Martin (whose company is now at Columbus, Ky., but was ordered to that post by Major-Gen. Polk) commanded one of the guns, particularly attracted my attention by his energy, and the judgment with which he fought his gun.


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