Cross-Roads-intending thence to strike the road through Lexington for Clifton, their proposed crossing-place of the Tennessee River. The start of Colonel Dunham's force from Clarksville was made early on the morning of the thirty-first. The Cross-Roads were reached at nine o'clock. What was the surprise of Colonel Dunham to find his little brigade confronting, drawn up in a field of about a mile and a quarter in length, and one mile in width, supported in front by three batteries, on elevated points or hillocks, seemingly made expressly for the purpose, and rather encircling with cavalry and dismounted horsemen the road where he should pass, over seven thousand confederates, all under the command of the redoubtable Forrest in person. There was no time to run, if he would — which was not his forte — and all he had before him was to fight it out. This he proceeded coolly to do. The enemy made the attack with their batteries, which were in position to rake Dunham's brigade completely, situated as they were upon slight knolls or mounds. Their dismounted cavalry, used as infantry, were posted in the rear of the first battery. Behind two columns of these were planted two batteries, and then to the left and right of these, still further to the south, were ranged the main force of the confederates, consisting of mounted riflemen. Dunham's brigade formed immediately in solid column, in about a straight line south of the batteries, thinking there best to maintain a footing. It was a good stand-point, but overpowering numbers soon made it a bad one, for, toward the close of the fight, the rebels had managed to flank the Federals and deploy men enough to the left and right to cut them off completely from retreat. But this was not until the battle had lasted some three hours, so stubbornly did Dunham's men contest the ground, inch by inch, all the time under the galling fire of the confederate cannon. So strongly did they fight, even before they brought their own battery to position, so accurate was their aim and invincible their wills, that for a time it was not certain they would not drive the entire seven thousand before them. But this could not last. The enemy was fresh; they had ammunition in plenty, and their position that of their own choice. The reader has the scene plainly before him: the small force of Union troops, under the old flag, standing firm before three times their own number; Colonel Dunham and his aids in the thickest of the fight, waving their swords and urging their men to more chivalrous deeds, and all this in the midst of flying shot, rifle bullets, and bursting shell — the din of battle rendering the voice of commanders useless, almost, and drowning all vocal efforts beneath the deep bass of the roaring cannon. The smoke of burning powder; the dust created by ploughing solid shot as it struck the earth, enveloping men, horses, batteries; all, as with the panoply of an impending storm. Through this veil you see the flash of artillery, blaze from musket and rifle, and the shadowy movements of the soldiers and their officers, as through the gauze and red lights you have witnessed in the denouement of a drama on the mimic stage. You hear, you see, you conceive that something awfully tragic, something terribly sublime, is being enacted before your eyes, yet, until you approach and mingle with the dead and wounded, and see the red life-current at your feet, hear the dying groans of your countrymen, and feel that you are powerless to aid — that a Power higher than a human power can only succor and protect in that dread hour — you cannot appreciate the feelings of those engaged upon the battle-field. And still, without hope, almost, without ammunition for his battery — for it had at the end of three hours given out entirely and could not be replenished--Colonel Dunham and his gallant men held their position. The hour had come. They had to fall back. They did so, and each soldier in his place, slowly, steadily, as though on parade; still firing volley after volley, and closely pressed by the confederate cavalry. A sudden movement of the enemy to the right, and our brigade was hemmed in — surrounded. But they did not give up. Yet there was a cartridge in the box, there was a musket in hand, the Stars and Stripes were above their heads. Before their eyes were the rebels, and in their very faces the hated stars and bars were fluttering. The hearts of oak flinched not. Still they fought. Seeing their helpless condition, and not knowing when — if ever — the Yankee commander would consider himself whipped, Forrest ordered a cessation of the conflict, and a parley ensued. A flag of truce came to Colonel Dunham, demanding an unconditional surrender. He sent back word he “never surrendered. If they wanted to take him and his force they had got to fight to the bitter end.” This was gaining time. It was high noon. The First brigade could not be far away. This answer had been returned to Forrest, and he was deliberating what next to do, when, over a knoll, just in sight, came General Sullivan in person, closely followed by General Haynie. Behind them came the artillery, the infantry, all on the double-quick, which, for more than three miles, the entire brigade, led on by the noise of the conflict, had kept up without cessation. The scene at this moment was impressive in the extreme. The firing had almost ceased. The Federals in compact and orderly array, stood firm, as before stated, entirely surrounded by rebels. The First brigade coming up the lane leading to Parker's house, headed by the artillery and the commanding officers, General Sullivan about a hundred yards in advance of General Haynie, turned on his horse and shouted: “Here they are! Hurry up that artillery!” The order was repeated by Haynie, and the artillery and the infantry did hurry up with a vengeance. It was not until the artillery reached the top of the knoll in the lane, which was crowded with confederate soldiers, had unlimbered, and was preparing to open upon them, the infantry had deployed at double-quick, and was rushing upon them at a charge bayonet, that the confederate
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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.