Of the four horses in our regiment, three were wounded — mine alone escaping. Again the firing told that the work had commenced. Plainly could be seen their flanking columns pushing forward to gain our left, while our battery on the right, occupying the same position it did in the fight the night before, kept playing on them. Some of the guns were so injured as to be unfit for use; the ammunition began to fail; while the cowardly dogs of Metcalfe's cavalry killed more of our men by running over them than they did the enemy. Thus we had to depend on the infantry alone. A large number of civilians had come out to see the fight and were collected on hills in our rear. Some of them were killed, and, as a soldier, I can feel but little sympathy for them. It is a dreadful necessity which compels men to go forth to battle, and sadness might reign ever in the court of heaven above the place where heroes' souls were breathed away 'midst smoke and blood and the wild clash of battle. The hallowed ground where patriots were dying for the honor of their country, to preserve her institutions — perhaps her existence — is no place for white-gloved civilians. They were the first here — as they always are — to run and create a panic. If a man is present let him take an earnest part, and be no idle spectator of the gladiatorial combat. The regiment supporting the battery kept up a hot fire upon the rebels, who were in woods and corn-fields, once advancing to the fence, but were driven back. The rebels, swarming out of the woods, came marching forward in splendid order. The Sixteenth was ordered to fall back, which it did in good order. Here some pieces of artillery were lost, the horses being shot. The rebels displayed a red banner with a black cross. We fell back to opposite our old camp, five miles from the first fight. They came on in somewhat the shape of an acute-angled triangle, of which our line of battle formed the base, their superior number enabling them to flank and overlap our wings, as they did beyond Rogersville. The men were thoroughly exhausted; the burning sun shone fiercely down, while clouds of dust filled the air. Men were scattered around, singly or in squads; wounded men were straggling along or resting in shady places. Here General Nelson arrived on the ground. His active exertions did much to bring order out of chaos, and his great name filled all with hope. He told us that reinforcements were coming, and that the rebels were retreating. As he passed the Sixteenth, he said he had great confidence in the Hoosiers. The bravest regiment in his division at Shiloh was the Ninth Indiana. The boys gave him three cheers. On my telling him that I wished he had come earlier in the day, he replied: “I have come forty-one miles; I did not intend to have this battle fought to-day.” We had confidence in him then which we have not now. The rebel shells began to fly around us, which our guns feebly answered. Our regiment was lying down, concealed by a hill-side. After a while we were ordered to fall back, which we did in line of battle, climbing over fences, through fields and meadows, in good order, considering they had not been soldiers but two weeks. Passing through the old camp of the Twelfth, we formed in line for what proved to be our last battle. The Sixty-ninth, with one cannon on the right, then the Sixteenth, next the Twelfth, two companies of the Seventy-first in the edge of a corn-field, the Sixty-sixth in front of the cemetery, the extreme left I could not see. Our numbers were greatly diminished. Hundreds had been wounded or killed and many were prisoners. Passing a corn-pile, I managed to secure a few ears, which I at this time gave my horse. Gen. Nelson would permit no one to go for water. While we were resting here, many of us who had lost rest for several nights dropped to sleep. Col. Lucas awakened me to go for more ammunition. Scarcely was it distributed when Gens. Nelson and Cruft came up with word that they were advancing. Gen. Nelson spoke cheering words to the boys, saying: “I make due allowance for your being new hands at this business; I will show you how to whip the scamps; you are their superiors a d — d sight.” Soon the firing commenced; our single cannon was soon silenced for want of ammunition, and we could see the rebels pouring along the turnpike to our left. Before us spread an open woods, with a corn-field several hundred yards in front; behind us was a meadow extending to Richmond, which town was in plain view. Our troops had gone out in the morning confident of victory. They did not suppose their Generals would lead them into a hopeless contest; though they had long since learned that they were greatly outnumbered, they still believed they could check them until the promised reinforcements arrived, but no reenforcements were coming. Hotter and fiercer grew the fight. I have heard old soldiers speak of bullets coming like hail. I thought the term was used figuratively, but that just expresses it, they came like hail. Thirty men of company B, Seventy-first regiment, were in the edge of a corn-field, and you can judge of the fire when you learn that nine of that thirty fell in fifteen minutes. Here the rebels acknowledge losing the most men. We could see their regiments falter and break, then close up, still advancing. Our skirmishers were driven in. Still, right onward they came; along the whole front blazed a line of fire, which was answered back from ours. Lucas, Wolfe, and Orr, on their wounded horses, inspired the men by their heroic words and examples; Gen. Nelson, waving his hat and shouting: “Boys, if they can't hit me they can't hit a barn-door.” Here Colonel Link was shot. The regiment to our right broke back. One regiment stood a few minutes longer and did the same. Then followed a scene of confusion I pray I may never again witness. Backward, through graveyard, field, and meadow, swept the scattered troops toward town. Here was the last I saw of Nelson. As he
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