No. 135. report of Lieut. Col. Oscar Van Tassell, Thirty-fourth .Illinois Infantry.
Hdqrs. Thirty-Fourth Illinois Vet. Volunteers, Jonesborough, Ga., September 5, 1864.Captain: In compliance with orders received, I have the honor to transmit the following report of the part taken by my regiment in the recent campaign: After breaking camp at Rossville, Ga., we marched with the brigade to Tunnel Hill, and on the 8th day of May were ordered to support the skirmish line, whose duty it was to clear the hill in front of Rocky Face Ridge of rebel sharpshooters. Arrived on the top of the hill, I was directed to send a company as skirmishers to clear the knob on the right of the railroad, commanding the entrance to Kenyon's Gap, of the enemy. Company H, under command of Capt. Peter Ege, was deployed and sent forward for this purpose; the men plunging waist deep into a creek, crossed the railroad, and charged up the hill on the double-quick, drove off the rebel sharpshooters, afterward repulsing two lines of skirmishers who advanced to retake the position, and holding their ground until relieved. The enemy having dammed the creek running through this gap, it had overflowed the low ground between the knob spoken of, and I was called on by Colonel Mitchell to furnish a party to see whether the dam could be cut. Sergt. Elhannon C. Winters and Privates John Crichton, Henry Coryell, and George Garnick, of Company A, volunteered to perform the work. Moving cautiously down the railroad to within a few yards of the rebel pickets, Sergeant Winters concealed his men and went forward to see how the land laid. Gaining a position within twenty feet of the rebel sentinel, he discovered a  strong picket reserve close to the sentinel, and seeing the impossibility of going farther with the force at his command he cautiously withdrew his men, and went back to report progress, and was excused from further duty at the time. During the night, however, Colonel Mitchell sent for Sergeant Winters, and giving him another detail of about twenty men, directed him to cut the dam, if possible. On the approach of this party, the rebel sentinel and reserve withdrew, moving up the hill-side and around in rear of the party, evidently with the intention of capturing them; seeing his danger, Sergeant Winters sent a man back to report; Colonel Mitchell then sent a stronger force in charge of a commissioned officer, and the whole number moved forward to perform their task, which the rebels perceiving, they advanced upon the party, firing rapidly. As it had now become so light that every movement was easily seen by the enemy, the officer in charge of the party ordered a retreat, which was effected without loss. I have been thus particular in giving an account of this adventure, because I wished to do justice to a gallant young non-commissioned officer in one of his numerous deeds of coolness in danger since he has been under my command. In the afternoon of the next day I received orders to support a skirmish line which was ordered to dislodge the sharpshooters of the enemy from Rocky Face Ridge, but on arriving at the position indicated in the order, I was informed by the officer in charge of the skirmishers that his men were out of ammunition, and unless they were relieved, he would be obliged to abandon the line; accordingly, I sent forward Companies D and I, as skirmishers, who held the line until after dark, when the whole regiment was relieved. The loss in my regiment in this action was 9 men wounded, some of whom have since died. On the 14th of May, while on the left of the first line of battle of the Second Brigade, the line was ordered forward to cross a field commanded by a rebel battery advantageously posted and supported by a strong line of infantry in rifle-pits. Alone my command advanced into the open field, and when about fifty yards from the edge of the field opposite to the enemy a withering storm of shell, grape, and canister was fired full at my regiment. The only safety being to advance, I ordered the men forward on the double-quick, gaining a wooded knob in front and a little to the left of the line of march. Companies A, F, D, and part of Company I, took position in a ditch near where the first fire of the enemy reached us, and seriously annoyed the enemy's artillerists. The balance of the regiment gained the knob mentioned, from where they were able to do serious damage to the rebels, remaining in that position until night, firing every cartridge from a position where every shot might be made fatal. A little after dark we rejoined the brigade, having lost 3 commissioned officers wounded, 1 (Capt. John A. Parrott) mortally; 6 enlisted men killed and 21 wounded; aggregate, 31 killed and wounded. May 16, our division took up the line of march toward Rome, Ga., going into camp about twelve miles from that place. My regiment having the advance, the next day Company A was sent forward as advance guard, meeting the vedettes of the enemy six miles north of Rome. From this point this company, under Capt. Peter Ege, skirmished constantly with the enemy, being supported by Company F, under Lieutenant Slaughter, and driving the rebels within their works at Rome. Here Company F was deployed, taking position on the left of Company A, Captain Ege assuming commaud  of both. About this time Captain Ege was struck and severely hurt by a partially spent ball, but he refused to leave the field until the whole line was relieved. Learning that a force of cavalry was moving around the right of my line, Company D was sent out to watch the exposed flank, with Company C in reserve, while Company I was sent to the left to guard against a like danger. Having received orders from Colonel Mitchell, I directed the skirmish line to fall back, contesting the ground as they retreated, as soon as the enemy should appear in force, which they soon did, advancing upon my line rapidly, but receiving several damaging volleys as they came up. The skirmish line joined the reserve, and, acting upon the instructions spoken of, the whole line was ordered back slowly, when the Third Brigade filed in between my line and that of the enemy, taking the fight off our hands. My loss was 1 commissioned officer bruised, 3 men wounded, and 1 taken prisoner. From Rome the division marched to Dallas, Ga., rejoining the main Army May 27. The next day, in obedience to orders from Colonel Mitchell, I started with my regiment to open communication between the left of General Davis and the right of General Butterfield's division, of the Twentieth Army Corps. The guard sent by General Davis to pilot me through being but little acquainted with the locality, led me near the enemy's line, and judging by the firing that we were going too far to the right, I sent out skirmishers, who soon developed the Fifty-seventh Alabama (rebel) Infantry ill our front. A hurried movement to the left and rear was the only means of avoiding capture; as it was, 2 men, who fell out on the march, were captured by the enemy. We then moved around to near the hospital of the Twentieth Army Corps, from where I reported to General Hooker, who ordered me to go into camp for the night. On reporting to him in the morning for instructions he sent a staff officer to show me to the right of General Butterfield's line. Starting from this point I deployed the whole line, connecting the two forces by a sparse skirmish or picket-line, holding this position with a short intermission until the morning of June 1, when a regiment of General Dodge's command relieved mine. From this time until June 15 we did nothing beyond the ordinary duty of troops on a campaign, the whole line being gradually shifted toward the railroad. In the afternoon of June 15 a portion of my regiment, then on the picketline, was sent forward as skirmishers at the time the whole line was advanced, the remainder of the regiment being held in reserve. The outposts of — the enemy were driven about three-quarters of a mile in our front, the pickets established on the new line, those of my regiment relieved, and the whole returned to camp. The enemy having fallen back to Kenesaw on the 18th, the whole line was advanced, my regiment taking a position in range of a battery on the mountain; we threw up temporary fortifications in the afternoon of the 19th, as it was apparent that the enemy were preparing to shell our camp. The next day they opened on us, shelling our camp furiously nearly all the forenoon, but without damage to my command. Moved with the brigade to a position about three miles southwest of the camp mentioned above. June 27, four companies (A, F, I, and B) were deployed as skirmishers, with the balance of the regiment in reserve, under orders to drive in the rebel pickets, and to proceed as far as possible toward the rebels' main line to prepare the way for an assaulting column. Advancing on the double-quick, my skirmishers drove in the outposts of the enemy, capturing several  prisoners during the charge; some of my men pursuing the retreating foe so far as to die within twenty feet of the rebel works. Corpl. George Phipps, of Company A, carrying the colors, pressed forward with the intention of planting the Stars and Stripes on the enemy's works, but was wounded before he could accomplish his design; wounded as he was, he brought off the colors, when the skirmishers were ordered back, until a second shot compelled him to drop them, when Lieutenant Teeter carried them from the field. The skirmishers fell back, by order of Colonel Mitchell, to reform behind the works; my loss was 6 men killed, 28 wounded, and 1 missing. On the 29th of June Companies A, F, I, and B were sent out in charge of Captain Ege to construct a line of rifle-pits during the night. The works progressed steadily until about 1 o'clock in the morning, when a party of the enemy crept out of their works and poured in a heavy fire from a position not more than twenty yards away, but firing too high to do much damage. Seeing the impossibility of maintaining his ground, Captain Ege ordered a retreat, which was accomplished with some confusion, losing 2 men seriously wounded. June 30, I was ordered to relieve the Ninety-eighth Ohio, then on the front line, remaining under fire in the position left by them until the morning of July 3, when we marched with the brigade in pursuit of the retreating enemy, who had abandoned his works the night before. My regiment was actively employed from this time forward on duty such as would be expected of any troops under similar circumstances, particularly in the action of Peach Tree Creek, July 19, where I had 4 men wounded; taking an honorable part in the siege of Atlanta, in which we lost Capt. Amos W. Hostetter, an officer than whom a braver or more trustworthy never drew sword in the defense of the right, who was never absent from his command or duty for more than forty-eight hours at a time during all his term of service, leaving a record behind him of which any officer or man might well be proud. It was ours also to take part in the movement which has resulted in the capture of Jonesborough and Atlanta, and the defeat and disgrace of the hitherto unconquered division of Cleburne, of the rebel army. It is my pride to point out this last act of our division in this campaign and the part taken by tho gallant regiment I have the honor to command, in which they strived to do their duty, and have the consciousness and proof of success. In the afternoon of September 1 I received orders to move out on the right of the One hundred and twenty-first Ohio, then on the second line of battle. Halting ill a ravine after reaching the point designated, I was directed to send the rear ranks of my regiment a short distance to tho rear to construct rifle-pits, which left about eighty-five men, rank and file, on the line. Following the first line of battle until it entered the timber, I moved my regiment to the right flank to tho assistance of the Seventy-eighth Illinois, which had captured a battery, and which Lieutenant-Colonel Vernon was apprehensive they would be unable to hold. Forming a line at right angle with the rebel works, my men poured a destructive fire into their line. Soon after getting into position the enemy were observed moving a body of troops across our front, apparently with the intention of re-enforcing their line in the works, but the fire of my men and those of other regiments who joined them, forced an abandonment of the plan. Here fell First Sergt. Patrick K. McCarty, one of the bravest of the brave, nobly urging his company to the  last to deeds at once the pride and glory of the American soldier. Such of my men as were in action remained under fire until dark, when they were relieved by the One hundred and thirteenth Ohio. About fifty of the men were sent to throw up a line of breastworks on the line we now occupied. My loss in this engagement was 5 enlisted men killed and 14 wounded-Lieut. M. A. Fuller, of Company I, among the latter number. I cannot close without adverting to the very superior manner in which Dr. John L. Hostetter has performed the duties of his office. His care and attention for the wounded, as well as that of Chaplain Michael Decker, is worthy of all praise. My heartfelt thanks are due to the officers and men of this regiment for their bravery, fidelity, and prompt discharge of duty, and especially to Capt. D. C. Wagner, who, though in feeble health, rendered efficient service at the battle of Kenesaw and in other trying places, during the absence of Major Miller. My hearty acknowledgments are due to Adjt. H. D. Wood for his earnest application to duty all through this arduous campaign; his coolness and efficiency in action deserve earnest commendation. Respectfully submitted.