previous next

[629] few reached the inside and were fighting hand to hand. While this was transpiring on the left of the railroad, equally heroic actions were being performed on the right.

Burbridge's brigade had been ordered to the support of Benton. Colonel Washburn, of the Eighteenth, shouted to his men: “The Hoosiers are coming.” Colonel Lucas answered, as with gun on his shoulder he led up his men: “Here's your mule.” Some of the Eighteenth had jumped into the ditch and could not get out. Smith ordered Burbridge to send two regiments from his right to the left, to which the answer was: “I cannot move; they are rolling down cotton-bales and trying to flank us.” Major Montgomery and Captain De Grasse, of the Eighth Missouri cavalry, went over the hill by the burnt chimney shouting like Indians. Captain De Grasse had a ball in his foot, and the staff-officer who attempted to follow their example received two bullets in his horse. Colonel Wright, too sick to fight, had crawled up to see it. The Sixteenth Indiana moved by the flank up to where the Eighteenth was lying close by the fort. These two regiments who have seen service in States widely separated, now mingled their ranks and planted their flags side by side on the crest of a rebel fort in Mississippi.

The rebels scarcely daring to show a head under the constant stream of bullets, lit the fuses of shells and threw them by hand among our men, who showed them a Yankee trick by coolly picking them up and throwing them back, where they exploded among the traitors.

The exaggerated pictures of illustrated papers usually provoke our merriment, but this scene far surpassed any description words could give of it. Not a man in the two divisions believed they could enter the fort, but here they stood thickly crowded before the fort they could not storm; on the edge of the ditch they could not cross; under an enfilading fire that diminished their numbers, coolly throwing back the lighted shells that fell among them.

Slowly the hours dragged by. Messengers came from each brigade, asking reenforcements. Word was sent to the Eighth Indiana to advance to the left of the fort. Colonel Shunk answered: “Half of my men are killed and wounded, but I will go with the rest.” McPherson's attack had been repulsed, and the rebels had concentrated in our front. All hearts felt glad when, coming up the road, appeared the head of column of Quinby's old division, now commanded, I believe, by Crocker. General Carr took Colonel Boorman, commanding the brigade, and showed him the position he wished him to occupy. The brigade was formed, and moved over the hill, and now fiercely rose the storm of musket-balls, canister and shell. The living passed on, trembling, over the dead and wounded of their own ranks, over the broken ground, through bushes and abattises, where no line could be kept. All had noticed the gallant bearing of Colonel Boorman as he formed and led his brigade over the hill. In a few minutes I saw two men bringing back his corse, his clothes torn and dirty, blood running from his mouth and cars; he died as a hero should. Without presuming to criticise those who ordered the movement, I think an error was committed in the way and manner in which the last brigade advanced. If they intended the rebels should only feel its force, it might have moved around the ravine as the other troops did, concealed as long as possible. If it was intended to show reinforcements coming, they could not expect a single brigade to overawe the rebels, who, for a whole day, had kept back two divisions, even though that brigade advanced so boldly under the murderous fire.

At last night came and orders were given to withdraw. The men came back with clothes torn and dusty, and faces blackened with powder. They had lived years in those few hours. General Burbridge, the man to whom honor is dearer than life, came back with his brigade, his eyes glaring, and the perspiration standing thick upon his haggard face. General McClernand, of a nervous, sensitive temperament, seemed much depressed at the slaughter of his men. Carr, the hero of Pea Ridge, who had freely exposed himself all day, seemed the most cool and business-like man on the field. In the morning a soldier had cried out, “Look at the men falling;” he broke fiercely out: “Who talks of (lead men here? Think of the enemy, and of killing them. It is no time to speak of (lead men now.” General Smith is the oldest among the generals in years, and one of the most fiery and impetuous in disposition. In the bewildering chaos of battle men tell the incidents which strike them most forcibly. Mistakes cannot be avoided in such rapidity of action. The men came back singly or in groups. Some regiments formed a line on the top of the ridge. General McClernand, in a low tone, called his division commanders around him, and while the big drops of rain commenced falling, soldiers were calling on comrades' names and carrying by the wounded, these men sat on the hillside and held a consultation near the body of Colonel Boorman. A dreary ending of a fearful day.

I do not believe greater bravery was ever displayed than by the men of these two divisions, who, without hope, had boldly assaulted the works, and for eight hours maintained the unequal contest. The Eighth Indiana had lost nearly one hundred men killed and wounded. Among the killed were three captains. Lieutenant-Colonel Jenks, of the Eighteenth, was mortally wounded. Colonel Lucas, of the Sixteenth, was hit twice, but not seriously. I have spoken only of the bravery of Indiana regiments, but from no disparagement to the soldiers of other States. In the divisions of Smith and Carr, not a regiment faltered or fell back. History alone will reward the actions of those who gave their lives here today, and in other years men will read with thrilling interest of that “wild charge they made.”

J. R. S. C.


Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Pea Ridge, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: