previous next

[227] to reach the crest, and retired in comparative disorder to the best cover they could obtain near the base of the hill. The brigade of Giles Smith, however, dashed ahead, no longer a column but a swarm of men, and poured up to the very crest of the hill, passing over the enemy's first trenches and abatis, where two color-bearers fell; but, alas, to find just as they gained the summit, the enemy in another and stronger line, posted on a slight ridge, not perceptible until the plateau of the mountain was reached. The fresh line opened with a volley, and the blast of death swelled into a hurricane. The brigade slowly fell back, while the enemy, attempting to pursue, was met by a heavy artillery fire from our trenches and hastily driven back. About fifty men of this brigade took refuge behind a ledge of rocks, where during the rest of the day they dare not expose so much as a finger. Occasionally one or two would attempt to dash down the hill and run the gauntlet, but of all who attempted this, not one escaped. At the same time the enemy was unable to come forth and capture them, for every man was covered by a hundred Federal muskets, carefully poised on our trenches for their protection.

Under the cover of our artillery a position several hundred yards in advance was fortified and held by the brigades just repulsed. So little were the troops shaken by the failure, that General Morgan L. Smith proposed to make another assault at two P. M.; but the Commanding General refused to permit it. These were the veterans of Vicksburg, and universally they pronounced the ground charged over infinitely more difficult than that at Vicksburg. The advanced position taken, left the swampy thicket to the rear, and indeed, included portions of the rifle-pits on the enemy's skirmish lines. At noon General Dodge closed upon the left of the brigades, and firing during the afternoon was desultory, the guns on Kenesaw opening occasionally and eliciting a most vigorous reply. In the evening our brass bands played a lively selection of patriotic airs, which must have sounded the least little bit malicious to the Johnnies, who were prone to imagine that we were terribly cut up, in spirits, as well as men.

The Fourth and Fourteenth corps--the stanch centre of the army — were called upon to give fresh proof of their valor. These two corps, though originally in front of Kenesaw, had been pushed by the converging advance of our army to the southward of that frowning peak. The noble Fourth corps, though by heavy odds the heaviest sufferer in the army, was one of the three from which an assault was demanded. The boys were tired of heavy skirmishing — that had grown tedious and lost its excitement — and I believe when they were apprised that their corps were to furnish two or three assaulting columns, they received the intelligence with a quick interest — nothing more. This thing of killing and being killed had become an every day affair; every platoon in the corps had bled freely since the campaign opened. They felt, probably, as all veterans must feel, some apprehension for the result of an assault upon a heavily-fortified enemy — but none for themselves.

Early in the gray of morning the preparations for the assault commenced, the first symptom being an unusually early breakfast. There was no evidence in the movements or bearing of the men that they were soon to essay “the deadly imminent breach,” though they must have been conscious that the task laid out for them was one which none but men hoping to meet death would covet. Between seven and eight o'clock the lines were formed — Newton's division, consisting of Generals Wagner's, Kimball's and Harker's brigades, being selected as the storming parties. Kimball's being on the left and somewhat retired, to act as a support to the other two. Wagner held the centre, and Harker the right. Wood's and Stanley's divisions of the Fourth corps furnished supports on the flanks of the assaulting brigades, but they were not engaged, and their loss was trifling.

This splendid brigade, composed of the Fortieth Indiana, Fifty-seventh Indiana, Ninety-seventh Ohio, Twenty-sixth Ohio, One Hundredth Illinois, and Twenty-eighth Kentucky, was thrown into a column of regimental divisions, thus giving the brigade a front of two companies and a depth of thirty lines. The advance regiment was the Fortieth Indiana, commanded by the fearless Blake. The column was formed in good season, and during the brief respite that ensued before the word charge was given, the men rested in their places silently, and no one would have guessed from their undisturbed faces. that all the latent gallantry of their natures could be aroused and lashed into a fury of heroism during the next ten minutes. Here was a man carefully relating his shoe, and tucking away the strings, the proposition that forlorn hopes should be well and tightly shod expressed plainly in his movements. Letters were torn and crumpled, and thrown furtively aside. Doubtless miniatures came from their hiding-places for a moment that morning, but such things are done in the army in profound secrecy. The soldier hates a scene, and none more than the purely sentimental variety.

At half-past 8 the men sprang to their feet, the word fraught with death for many, with glory for all, had that instant been given. Thirty consecutive lines of blue leaped forward with impetuous strides, making their way through the scattered trees and undergrowth in splendid order. Before them, on the crest of a ridge, was the silent, and to the sight untenanted convex salient of the enemy's works which they were aiming for. They neared it rapidly, their enthusiasm rising with every step, and their hearts rising high as each indistinct object grew plain, as the slopes of the parapet became a mere furrow, over which it seemed they must go. But the next moment the gates of hell opened in their very faces. A close, concentrated. withering blast of musketry swept over 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.
Kenesaw (Nebraska, United States) (2)

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.
Kimball (2)
Harker (2)
C. R. Wood (1)
J. A. Wagner (1)
D. S. Stanley (1)
Morgan L. Smith (1)
Giles Smith (1)
Newton (1)
George S. Dodge (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: