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[617] have not fought our way to their fortifications yet, and I can only say of them what I hear from others. Wirt Adams's rebel cavalry had been watching our movements since the fall of Jackson, and had probably formed a very correct opinion as to the point at which we were about to strike. I do not think General Grant anticipated a very formidable stand at this place. Black River bridge is only important to the rebels as being necessary to hold their communication between Jackson and Vicksburgh. With Jackson in our possession, and the railroad destroyed at several points, it was thought they could gain nothing by fighting for the bridge, which is the only object of the battle commenced to-day. I say commenced to-day, because I believe it will be continued to-morrow, and may last still longer.

General Hovey's division of McClernand's corps held the advance on the night of the fifteenth. The rebels were known to be awaiting our approach, in the vicinity of Edwards's Station. This morning, at about seven o'clock, General Hovey commenced moving toward Big Black River. A company of cavalry was thrown out as an advance-guard. They had proceeded but a short distance, when they were met by the enemy's cavalry, supposed to be a part of Wirt Adams's regiment. After a little skirmishing, the rebels fell back. Our cavalry did not follow them up. At about nine o'clock, the ground chosen by the rebels was reached. General Hovey's division was halted and formed into line of battle. Skirmishers were thrown out and advanced toward heavy timber, where the rebels were drawn up to check us. They soon commenced exchanging shots, and kept up a fire, light and heavy, at intervals, for two hours.

The rebels having the choice of position, selected for their battle-field the most advantageous ground within several miles of Edwards's Station. They made a good selection, as they always do. To reach their lines from the road on which we were travelling, our men had to cross two open fields and ascend a steep slope, exposed to their fire from the woods, and unable to return it so as to do execution. It was the best position for defence that they have selected in Mississippi as yet.

General Hovey's division having thrown out a strong skirmish line, advanced over the open space that lay between them and the enemy. The first brigade under General McGuiness, consisting of the Eleventh, Thirty-fourth, Twenty-fourth, and Forty-sixth Indiana and Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, took the right, and the Second brigade, under Colonel Slack, composed of the Forty-seventh Indiana, Fifty-sixth Ohio, Twenty-fourth Iowa, and two other regiments that I cannot name just now, were on the left. Advancing halfway to the woods, the lines halted, while the skirmishers kept up a brisk fire. The rebel skirmishers were well posted under good cover, and were not easily compelled to fall back upon their main body; and not until our skirmish lines had been strongly reinforced, did they yield sufficiently to show us the situation of their lines.

Thinking the rebels would emerge from the woods to drive our men from the crest of a hill upon which they had to advance, General McGuiness gave orders to his brigade commanders: “If they come out to keep you from that hill, fix bayonets and send them back with a charge.” The soldiers expressed great satisfaction in hearing this. The Eleventh Indiana, especially, wanted to fix bayonets and go at them with cold steel; they were anxious to go into the woods after the rebels in case the rebels failed to come out of the woods after them. If the mountain wouldn't come to Mohammed, Mohammed proposed to go to the mountain. I do not believe any bayonet-charge was made during the day, except by the Thirty-second Ohio, on the right.

The ground upon which General Hovey had to operate was such that he had to keep his lines contracted and receive the full fire of the enemy, who was pouring in reinforcements and concentrating them upon his exposed ranks from a heavy timber cover. Hovey had not yet been reinforced, though he had seen the impossibility of holding his position, and had sent for support. The firing became terrible. Such an awful rattle of musketry as was kept up between Hovey's division and the almost concealed foe, was not heard upon the bloody fields of Shiloh or Donelson.

Hovey held his ground with heroic tenacity for an hour and a half. Had he given way at first, the rebels would have turned our left, and the consequences could not have been other than disastrous. After a long and desperate struggle with an enemy of more than twice his numerical strength, and at every disadvantage of position, he was compelled to give way. He was forced back half a mile — retreating in excellent order, expecting every moment to meet reinforcements, and quickly regain his lost ground. He retreated about half a mile, until, reaching a favorable point, he re-formed, obtained support from General Quinby's division, and commenced another forward movement.

The Third division of the Seventeenth army corps arrived at the scene of action while Hovey was skirmishing with the enemy. General McPherson rode over the ground in the vicinity of the rebel lines, and saw an excellent chance for Logan to operate on the right. The rebels observed this movement on their left, and formed a line behind a fence in the woods. The Second brigade of Logan's division, under General M. D. Leggett, was thrown upon the right of Hovey, the Twentieth Ohio regiment in the advance. As General Leggett advanced with his command, the rebels opened a heavy fire, but failed to make him give way a single inch. The Twentieth, Seventy-eighth, and Sixty-eighth Ohio and the Thirtieth Illinois, composing his command, stood their ground like veterans. General Leggett wished to move forward, but was not permitted to do so, lest he should expose Hovey's right, which he


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Alvin P. Hovey (11)
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