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[256] these roads the Sixteenth corps was early crowded out and thrown in reserve, in which position it was when the assault took place. The Fourth corps moved nearly parallel with the Twenty-third, but no portion of the assault was directed against it.

The rebel force which struck this portion of the line was the corps commanded by Hardee, and evidently expected to find in opposition only a thin line, if it did not count on having gone so far around as to come in altogether below. I am inclined to the latter opinion. About eleven o'clock they debouched from the woods into an open field, in which a good part of the works of the Seventeenth corps were constructed, along a ridge called Leggett's Bald Knob, and rushed upon us with the utmost fierceness, according to their usual manner. The Third division, General Leggett, was on the left of the corps, and that commanded by General Giles A. Smith occupied the right, holding, as I have said, the general position of three sides of a hollow square, though, of course, there were many deviations and breaks from so exact a figure. The men received the onset with steadiness, delivering their fire with all possible rapidity; but the overpowering numbers of the enemy, massed, as usual, in many lines, bore down all opposition at first; and breaking over the works, they drove our men back, some many rods and some less, and appeared likely to crush and scatter them in hopeless confusion and ruin, despite the obstinate valor of the troops and their almost superhuman efforts. The prospect was gloomy indeed, and dismay sat upon every countenance save those of the brave men who contended in the ranks now, if ever, for the very existence of the Army of Tennessee. If they were utterly broken and scattered, then there was little hope for the rest of the gallant army, flanked as it would be, and right well did they know it.

In the rear, fifteen hundred or two thousand ponderous supply wagons and ambulances were greatly endangered, and came streaming back in rear of the Fifteenth corps (which till then was a safe refuge), and extended over far along behind the Twenty-third, crowding and jamming in the narrow roads, in the woods, in the greatest confusion and consternation. A courier arrived at corps headquarters in hot haste summoning every man who had a gun, or could get one, to mount his horse and come to the fight. Every one bestirred himself; the escort and the Provost Guard saddled, mounted and were off to the scene of peril, and did such service as they were able.

It was an evil hour for the Seventeenth corps, and they were rapidly approaching that point where the endurance of the bravest had reached its limits.

At this critical moment, the Fourth division of the Sixteenth corps and one brigade. Colonel Morrill's, of the Second (the other was at Decatur), arrived on the left wing, and stayed the tide of the rebel onset. Colonel Morrill's brigade had come up a few minutes before the attack commenced, and constructed very slight works somewhat in the rear of the line of the Sixteenth corps; but as soon as the latter began to be pushed back, they at once leaped over their works, and together with the Fourth division, which was just then arriving, rushed boldly into the open field, and met the enemy face to face. They held their ground firmly and, when the rebels at last fell back, carried off their wounded behind their breastworks. The Seventeenth, thus timely reinforced, hastily threw up a slight line in rear of their old one, and held it throughout. All this was transpiring on the left of the corps. It is extremely difficult to give a connected narrative of the various turns of fortune through the whole corps, so great was the confusion and disorganization caused by the partial success of the attempt to flank them. The ground was uneven and sharply furrowed by gulleys, with bushes growing thick along the bottom of them, and shreds and patches of breastworks dotted and streaked the ground in almost every direction. The terrible and confused character of the strife may be conceived when it is related that the Iowa brigade, of General Smith's division, fought successive times during the two dreadful hours of the battle on both sides of their works. They would fire upon the rebels in front of them until they were somewhat repulsed, and by this time they would be attacked by another party, or a part of the same, in their rear, and, facing about, would pour into their antagonists a fire from the other side. I, myself, visited the scene of this dreadful struggle the morning afterward, and received a confirmation of the almost incredible story by seeing the rebel corpses lying plentifully about on both sides of the breastworks, mingled with those of our own men.

About noon, McPherson rode along the front just on the left of the Seventeenth corps, and made some inquiries as to the progress which the Sixteenth Corps was making further to the left. Not being satisfied he rode forward to ascertain for himself. He was accompanied by only two of his staff and a portion of his escort. A fatal impulse carried him into a gap of several hundred yards, between the Seventeenth and Sixteenth, and of which both he and his staft were entirely ignorant, and advancing to the top of a ridge, with his staff somewhat in the rear, he was suddenly confronted by a party of rebels who rose from ambush, and calling on him to halt, at the same time fired a volley which injured none but himself. A ball pierced his right breast, and severing, it is supposed, a large blood-vessel above the heart, caused instant death from suffocation by the discharge of blood about the lungs. The rebels succeeded in rifling his person of a portion of the money he carried with him and his gold watch, though a valuable diamond ring was left on his finger. A party was soon formed, which charged on the rebels and brought off his body. A sergeant of his escort, a mere boy, displayed great bravery in the rescue, and received a severe

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Decatur, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)

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Giles A. Smith (2)
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