previous next

[165] the cross-roads. Before proceeding far, however, I sent a staff officer back, directing Colonel McMillen to move up his advanced brigade as rapidly as possible without distressing his troops. When I reached the cross-roads, I found nearly all the cavalry engaged, and the battle growing warm, but no artillery had yet opened on either side. We had four pieces of artillery at the cross-roads, but they had not been placed in position, owing to the dense woods on all sides, and the apparent impossibility of using them to advantage.

Finding that our troops were being hotly pressed, I ordered one section to open on the enemy's reserves. The enemy's artillery soon replied, and with great accuracy β€” every shell bursting over and in the immediate vicinity of our guns. Frequent calls were now made for reinforcements, but until the infantry should arrive, I had, of course, none to give. Colonel Winslow, Fourth Iowa cavalry, commanding a brigade and occupying a position on the Guntown road, a little in advance of the cross-roads, was especially clamorous to be relieved and permitted to carry his brigade to the rear. Fearing that Colonel Winslow might abandon his position without authority, and knowing the importance of the cross-roads to us, I directed him, in case he should be overpowered, to fall back slowly toward the cross-roads β€” thus contracting his line and strengthening his position. I was especially anxious on this point, because, through some misunderstanding, that I am unable to explain, the cavalry had been withdrawn without my knowledge from the left, that I was compelled to occupy the line, temporarily, with my escort, consisting of about one hundred of the Nineteenth Pennsylvania cavalry. This handful of troops, under the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse, behaved very handsomely, and held the line until the arrival of the infantry.

About half past 1 the infantry began to arrive. Colonel Hoge's brigade was first to reach the field, and was placed in position by Colonel McMillen, when the enemy was driven a little. General Grierson now requested authority to withdraw the entire cavalry, as β€œit was exhausted and well-nigh out of ammunition.” This I authorized as soon as sufficient infantry was in position to permit it, and he was directed to reorganize his command in the rear, and hold it ready to operate on the flanks. In the meantime I had ordered a section of artillery to be placed in position on a knoll, near the bridge, some three or four hundred yards in the rear, for the purpose of opposing any attempt of the enemy to turn our left.

I now went to this point to see that my orders had been executed, and also to give directions for the management and protection of the wagon train. I found the section properly posted, and supported by the Seventy-second Ohio infantry, with two companies thrown forward as skirmishers, and the whole under the superintendence of that excellent officer, Colonel Wilkins, of the Ninth Minnesota. While here the wagon train, which had been reported still a mile and a half in the rear, arrived. It was immediately ordered into an open field near where the cavalry were reorganizing; there to be turned round and carried further toward the rear. The pressure on the right of the line was now becoming very great, and General Grierson was directed to send a portion of his cavalry to that point. At this time I received a message from Colonel Hoge that he was satisfied the movement on the right was a feint and that the real attack was being made on the left. Another section of artillery was now placed in position, a little to the rear of Colonel Wilkins, but bearing on the left of our main line; and a portion of the cavalry was thrown out as skirmishers. The cavalry which had been sent to the extreme right began now to give way, and at the same time the enemy began to appear in force in rear of the extreme left, while Colonel McMillen required reinforcements in the centre. I now endeavored to get hold of the colored brigade, which formed the guard to the train. While travelling the short distance to where the head of the brigade should be found, the main line began to give way at various points. Order soon gave way to confusion, and confusion to panic. I sent an aid to Colonel McMillen, informing him that I was unable to render him any additional assistance, and that he must do all in his power with what he had to hold his position until I could form a line to protect his retreat.

On reaching the head of the supply train, Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse was directed to place in position in a wood the first regiment of colored troops I could find. This was done, and it is due to these troops to say here that they held their ground well, and rendered valuable aid to Colonel McMillen, who was soon after compelled to withdraw from his original line, and take up new positions in the rear. It was now five o'clock P. M. For seven hours these gallant men had held their position against overwhelming numbers, but at last, overpowered and exhausted, they were compelled to abandon not only the field, but many of their gallant comrades who had fallen to the mercy of the enemy. Everywhere the army now drifted toward the rear, and was soon altogether beyond control. I requested General Grierson to accompany me, and to aid in checking the fleeing column and establishing a new line. By dint of entreaty and force, and the aid of several officers whom I called to my assistance, with pistols in their hands, we at length succeeded in checking some twelve or fifteen hundred, and establishing a line, of which Colonel Wilkins, Ninth Minnesota, was placed in command. About this time it was reported to me that Colonel McMillen was driving the enemy. I placed but little faith in this report, yet disseminated it freely for the good effect it might produce on the troops.

In a few minutes, however, the gallant Colonel McMillen, sad and disheartened, arrived and reported his lines broken and in confusion. The

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.
Guntown (Mississippi, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
W. L. McMillen (7)
A. W. Wilkins (3)
B. H. Grierson (3)
E. F. Winslow (2)
G. B. Hoge (2)
Jonathan C. Hesse (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: