to fall back. Colonel Hoge's brigade of infantry being in the advance, was immediately ordered to the front on a double-quick, and the day being very warm, many became over-heated and exhausted, and were compelled from faintness to lie down by the roadside. I have it from the lips of those who were in this brigade, that not more than two thirds of their men reached the battle-field. As soon as this brigade had formed in line of battle the rebels came down upon them with great fury in three lines of battle. They withstood this impetuous and overwhelming force bravely for over half an hour, when the enemy performed a flank movement, and their only alternative was to retreat or be captured. By this time, however, the Second brigade had arrived, and was brought immediately into action, and were successful in checking the assault of the enemy and in holding him at bay for nearly an hour. In the interim the train had been hurried up and corralled in an open field not more than half a mile from the battlefield. The Third brigade (colored) had in the morning been disposed along the train, four men to each wagon, as a guard; as fast as this brigade could be assembled by companies they were ordered to the front, and were soon confronting the enemy in deadly conflict. By the time this brigade had all arrived on the field, the other brigades were fleeing to the rear in considerable confusion and disorder, many throwing away their arms and accoutrements before they were fairly out of sight of the enemy. As soon as the panic was discovered the train was ordered to retreat; but as the enemy's artillery had attained almost a perfect range of the field where the wagons were corralled and the road upon which the retreat was ordered, many of the teamsters unhitched their mules, and soldiers, mounting them, rushed frightened and panic-stricken to the rear, their pace being somewhat accelerated by the close proximity of shot and bursting shell. In this way the road became blocked, and at least two thirds of our supply and ammunition train was either destroyed or captured. The Third brigade held the enemy in check until the most of the artillery and the remainder of the train had succeeded in getting a mile or so to the rear; but they were soon overwhelmed and flanked on three successive lines of battle, and were compelled to retreat precipitously. By this time our army was in a perfect rout, and every one who was not disabled rushed to the rear, while many of the wounded who could ride were mounted on mules and with difficulty pressed their way along with the crowd. Night now coming on, the enemy ceased their pursuit. Never was darkness more welcome or distance more enchanting to the view, than to that devoted army on this occasion. It is impossible to give anything like a correct estimate of the number of killed or wounded in this engagement, as they nearly all fell into the hands of the enemy. It is supposed, however, that they will number over five hundred. Our loss in prisoners was considerable, as many of our men, after becoming panic-stricken, rushed to the woods in all directions, and were gobbled up by the rebel cavalry. What was left of our army continued their march all night long, and what remained of our artillery and train becoming blocked and stuck in crossing the Tallahatchie river, was abandoned. About six o'clock the following morning we reached Ripley, and found that our fleeing forces had halted, apparently for a rest. Every man appeared to be going on his own hook, and caring for no one but himself. We had been here scarcely more than an hour when an ominous firing was heard on the south and east of the town, showing that the enemy were still in hot pursuit. At this indication the most of the cavalry started to the rear, together with the infantry, who were without arms or ammunition, and the wounded who were mounted. That portion of the infantry who had retained their arms prepared for resistance near the centre of the town. On came the rebels with most hideous yells, and a severe fight ensued, which lasted nearly two hours, when our forces were completely routed and driven to the woods. While fighting at this place, large numbers of men and women secreted in the houses, fired upon our men from the doors and windows, and Colonel McCraig, of the One Hundred and Twentieth Illinois, was shot dead in this manner while bravely urging on his men. Our men becoming enraged at the sight of this, poured a volley among them, killing and wounding several women. After this engagement, our forces made no resistance as a body, but kept constantly retreating and skirmishing. I would say, however, that the Third Iowa cavalry made themselves very useful as a rear guard, and would compliment their coolness and bravery amid the heat and excitement of this disastrous retreat. The appearance of the road over which we retreated but too plainly indicated how serious was this disaster. It was completely lined with hats, boots, shoes, coats, saddles, and harness, while there was no end to arms and accoutrements. A man would pick up an old horse or anything that was ridable, and mounting it, would soon ride it down and leave it by the road-side; another man being almost exhausted, seeing the animal, would mount it again, and by the assistance of a stick or spur would urge it along for a mile or two further, until finally the animal would drop by the road-side and was then left to die. In this manner the greater portion of what was left of our army fled for two days and nights without food or sleep, and reached Memphis on Sunday, the twelfth, having performed a march of one hundred and twenty miles in that time, which required ten days to accomplish when going out. Every day since, men have been straggling in, and the experience of some is almost heart-rending. A colored man from my
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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