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[130] came under my own observation. Where troops have acted well — as mine did or that bloody field, and under the most trying circumstances, they have a right to demand at my hands a recognition of their good conduct, and a just measure of commendation and approval. I accord it to them cheerfully, and add, that while success and triumph make every man a hero, and shed a lustre on his name, disaster and defeat, resulting from no fault of theirs, sometimes develop the noblest qualities of soldierly greatness. At one P. M., on the thirtieth, I moved by your order, my brigade to the front, forming on the right of Gen. Davis's division, to check an attempt the enemy were then making to turn his right. Some skirmishing occurred during the afternoon with the enemy, but with no loss to us. Early in the afternoon, Col. Post, commanding the right brigade in Davis's division, informed me that his troops were much annoyed by a rebel battery directly in his front, and that the enemy were now placing in position another battery opposite his right which would subject him to a cross-fire, and that from the nature of the ground in his front he could not silence them. I found an excellent position for my battery just beyond my extreme right, affording a fine view of both rebel batteries. 1 directed Capt. Edgarton to open on the nearest one with the simultaneous fire of his six pieces. It was the finest practice 1 ever saw. A number of men and horses were killed at the first and second discharge, and the enemy were driven back in confusion, leaving some disabled carriages and pieces on the ground. The other battery was also soon silenced. Nothing further of interest occurred during the afternoon, except the massing of the enemy's troops still further on our right, glimpses of which could be now and then seen from our front, leaving but little room to doubt their ultimate designs, as developed in the bloody struggle of the following morning. Toward evening, Gen. Willich's brigade and two regiments of the Third came up and formed as a reserve on my right and rear, so that now the entire Second division is in position except two regiments of the Third brigade, which were retained by the General at division headquarters, about a mile and a half from the front, and one regiment of my brigade, the Nineteenth Illinois, Col. Reed, which was guarding the train that night, but were to be sent to me early in the morning. To enable me to get an available position for my artillery, I was compelled to extend my line more than I wished, and to rely upon the other brigades for support. The Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, Lieut.-Col. Housam, and Thirtieth indiana, Col. Dodge, deployed, with a heavy line of skirmishers thrown out from each, constituted my first line. The Twenty-ninth Indiana, Lieut.-Col. Dunn, in double column in the rear as reserve. The Thirty-fourth Illinois, Major Dysart, on the extreme right, a little retired, supporting Edgarton's battery, still further retired. The Seventy-ninth Illinois, Col. Reed, as before remarked, was, by your order, guarding the train. In the evening Gen. Davis shortened in his line toward the left, leaving an interval of one or two hundred yards, which I was obliged to cover with skirmishers, so that my line became still further extended. About dusk I reported in person to the General, and explained the position of the troops and such facts affecting them as had transpired, and suggested to the General that he also send up to the front the two regiments of the Third brigade retained at headquarters, as I believed every available man would be needed in the morning, and these two regiments were too far to the rear to be of any use in case of a sudden attack. The General declined sending them up. I then returned to the front and completed my disposition for the anticipated fight. I visited the regiments in the evening and ascertained that every thing was in good order. I inspected my picket line at three A. M., and found every thing at that time quiet in front. At five A. M. I had the entire brigade under arms ready for action, in which state of readiness they continued until something over an hour later, when the engagement commenced. The enemy attacked our lines at daylight. We could see them advancing over the open country for about a half-mile in front of our lines. They moved in heavy masses, apparently six ranks deep. Their left extended far beyond our right, so as to completely flank us. They moved up steadily and in good order, without music or noise of any kind. They had no artillery in sight. Having early notice of the enemy's advance, I sent a staff-officer to Gen. Johnson to advise him of it, and then I passed to the extreme right of my line, where the attack would commence and where my artillery was posted. Seeing the exposed condition of my battery from the enemy's fire, I ordered the Thirty-fourth Illinois to advance to meet the enemy, at the same time ordering the battery to commence firing, which it did with excellent effect. With my line extended as it was, I should think the enemy outnumbered me here at least five to one, perhaps double that proportion, but this solitary regiment never wavered, but steadily advanced until they closed with the enemy, and it became almost a hand-to-hand fight. The balance of my line now became engaged, and fought most bravely against this fearful odds. No other proof is needed of the fierceness of the conflict at this point, and the stubborn tenacity with which our men fought than the fact that considerably more than one half of some of these regiments were shot down before they yielded an inch of ground, and the effectiveness of their fire is evidenced by the piles of rebel (lead along their lines. Seeing the contest was so unequal, and that it was physically impossible that I could long sustain it, I sought Gen. Willich with a view of asking his immediate active support. He had gone to division headquarters. He was expected back every moment. His brigade had not yet learned that he was captured; no other officer had assumed command. I appealed personally to two of the regiments to come to my support, but they declined moving without orders from their commander. That brigade and the Third are mostly old troops, and among the bravest veterans in the


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Jefferson C. Davis (3)
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