Sketch of the Third Maryland Artillery.
By Captain William L. Ritter.
Retreat from Nashville.Now commenced one of the most disastrous retreats of the war. Seventy-two pieces of artillery were lost at Nashville, and hundreds of wagons were abandoned for want of mules to pull them. The roads were in wretched condition in consequence of the inclemency of the weather. The heavy rains rendered the streams almost impassible. Short rations, provender and clothing added much to the suffering of both man and beast. The pelting of the rain, sleet and snow upon the backs of half naked, half starved men as they marched day and night before a relentless foe is only a part of the true story. Many mules were taken from the ordnance wagons to be used in the pontoon train. The battalion marched to Franklin the night of the 16th of December, 1864, and on the morning of the 18th, reached Columbia, where the battalion encamped for the night. The next day, the 19th, the retreat was resumed, marching all day and the greater part of the night through rain and snow. This was the most inclement day of the retreat and the most intense suffering was experienced by the entire army. Shoeless men marched all the way from Nashville to Mississippi, without any protection whatever to their feet, and they only can describe the suffering they endured.  On the 25th the battalion arrived at the Tennessee river, and early the next morning crossed on the pontoon bridge, which had been thrown across the day and night previous. The river was very much swoollen, the current strong and fierce. The cable rope to which the pontoons were attached was very much curved by the strong current, but the ends of the rope were securely fastened and the boats kept in position until the army crossed. For several days, wagons, artillery and troops poured in a stream across this bridge, intermingled almost in a solid mass, and the exit kept clear in order that no time might be lost in the transit. This part of the retreat was admirably managed, and much credit was due the engineers who had it in charge. Two batteries of Johnston's battalion, with several others, were planted on the river bank below the bridge, to prevent the enemy's gunboats from coming up while the army was crossing. They were poorly protected, and suffered considerably from the unequal contest, though they maintained their position. The ordnance train, temporarily under the command of Lieutenant Ritter, arrived at Tuscumbia, Ala., on the evening of the 26th, where it remained three days, waiting for the remainder of the battalion. During this time Lieutenant J. W. Doncaster was in command of the battery. Hood's losses from the 20th of November to the 20th of December, in killed, wounded and prisoners, amounted to 13,303 men, which, deducted from 25,538, who crossed the Tennessee river in November, only 12,235 were left to return in December. Thus it will be seen that he lost over half his men, and in arms and munitions about in the same proportion. Had Thomas possessed the ability of a great commander, he would have captured Hood's whole army, as he out numbered him almost four to one. At the battle of Nashville he commanded a force of 55,000 men against 16,697 under Hood. Hood certainly deserves the credit of saving the remnant of his command against such odds, but he ought to have withdrawn after the battle of Franklin. The loss of 5,550 men in that engagement rendered him powerless to prosecute successfully the campaign any farther. He certainly was aware that the Federals were massing troops at Nashville, therefore it was only a question of time when he would be driven back, and then at a disadvantage. It is sad to think of the brave men, who crossed into Tennessee, there to find a soldier's grave, or be maimed for life, especially when  it is remembered that this move was perhaps the death blow to the Confederate cause. On the 30th, the battalion started for Rienza, Miss. On arriving there orders were received to proceed at once to Columbus, Miss., which it reached January 10th, 1865, and camped two miles east of the town. The howitzer brought from Columbia, Tenn., by the battery, was turned over to the ordnance officer at Columbus, Miss., as no howitzers were then used in the Army of Tennessee. On the 20th, Lieutenant Ritter was promoted to the captaincy by the following special order: