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Chapter 1:

  • Leave Camp Dennison
  • -- under the enemy's fire -- attacked in force -- a Struggle for liberty -- captured.

On the 17th of February, 1862, the Forty-eighth Ohio regiment of volunteer infantry, under command of Colonel P. G. Sullivan, left Camp Dennison, landing at Paducah, Kentucky, and on the 4th of March, was ordered to Savannah, Tennessee. As our fleet made its way up the river, it was a sight at once grand and beautiful. It was composed of one hundred large steamers, laden to the guards with soldiers, cattle, and munitions of war. The river was at high water mark. Through its surging waters our noble vessels ploughed their way, sending forth vast volumes of smoke, which shadowed and sooted the atmosphere from hill to hill across [22] the river valley. Over our heads waved proudly the old banner-emblem of the free. All hearts seemed anxious to meet the foe who had sought to strike down that flag, and the hopes and liberties of which it is representative.

A cry was heard on board that the enemy was near. A moment more, and he opened fire upon us, to which we very promptly replied, and with good effect, for he soon dispersed, while none of our men received injury.

Continuing our way onward we stopped at Hamburg on the 11th of March; but, owing to the great freshet, were unable to disembark, and the next day were obliged to fall back to Pittsburg, where we effected a landing on the 13th. In the mean time, I was appointed on the staff of Colonel Ralph D. Buckland, then acting as Brigadier of the Fourth Brigade, under General Sherman, who commanded the First Division. Most of us landed by the 15th, and parties were sent out every day to reconnoitre, and many returned, reporting fights with the enemy, and the capture of prisoners, horses, and other valuables.

On the 28th, we had quite a bloody conflict in a cotton-field, belonging to Mr. Beach, who was the owner of a small lot of cotton. The rebels had robbed him of all his horses, pork, [23] and wheat, leaving him nothing but the cotton and a small amount of corn, which the Government intended to purchase. But when we were dispatched for it, we found that the rebels, who were now in full retreat, had rolled the cotton against a corn-crib, and set both on fire. The next day we had a fight near the same spot. Again, the next day, a reconnaissance showed the enemy to be in full force. On the 3d of April, the Fourth Brigade was sent out, and the skirmishers who were deployed, were soon fired upon. Col. Buckland then sent me forward to order the two companies to retreat. One of these I found was already doing so, under the command of the Major, who was in advance. The company belonging to the Seventysecond regiment stood their ground, awaiting orders.

When I rode to the top of the hill, I could see the enemy about two hundred yards distant. The lieutenant of the Seventy-second was holding his men in readiness, and just as I reached them, they arose and opened fire, at which the rebels retreated to the right, evidently intending to flank us. But this was an unfortunate movement for them, as they had not proceeded far when they encountered Major Crockett, of the Seventy-second, with two [24] hundred men, by whom they were repulsed with heavy loss. By this time I had come up with the brigade. Buckland dispatched me immediately to order Crockett to fall back, but to continue fighting while retreating. As I proceeded on my way to Crockett-who, indeed, was a brave and daring officer — I met a lady of advanced age, in great distress. She was wringing her hands and crying:

Oh, my son! Oh, my son! Save me and my poor son!

I rode forward to Crockett, and found that he had repulsed the enemy, and was falling back in order.

Being alone, and in advance of the retreating companies, I again encountered the old lady on the same spot where I first saw her. Inquiring the cause of her grief, I learned that the rebels had been at her house, representing themselves as Union men, and that she had expressed herself to them, without disguise or reserve. They had thereupon seized her son, tied him on a horse, and bore him away, intending to press him into their service. My heart ached at the recital of this sad story, and at the thought of the suffering and agony to which so many families, between the two great armies, would be subjected. My sincere prayer to God, was that [25] he would sustain the right, and send confusion amidst the foes of freedom and humanity. The old lady seemed very apprehensive they would learn that she had divulged to me the facts alluded to. Thus it is by fear that the loyal in heart are kept in submission. Thus, the tyrant's power rules and dominates in the South. Wherever oppression and tyranny reign, they must have for their basis, violence and brute force-and these beget fear. It is as true that fear casts out love, as it is that “love casts out fear.”

We returned to camp, and that night we felt confident that our pickets were in danger. The dreary hours passed slowly away, bringing at last the light of another morning. Our pickets were then extended; and on returning from this duty, I remarked to Buckland that I believed we would be attacked before night. But he thought not, and requested me to retire to my tent, and seek repose. I went, but concluded to write to my wife. About two o'clock that afternoon, the rebels opened fire upon our pickets. I instantly mounted my horse — that I had left standing at the door, and rode with all speed to the picket line, where I discovered that the rebels had captured Lieutenant Herbert and seven privates. The Seventy second, Fortyeighth, [26] and Seventieth were soon rallied; and I thought if no fight now ensued, it would be no fault of mine, eager as I was for the fray. So I rode rapidly up the Tennessee river, in order to strike the Hamburg road, aware that I could see up that road about one mile, and thus discover what was going on.

As I was proceeding, I perceived, at a little distance, two rebels, who fled at my approach. I soon reached the road, and discovered, to my great surprise, that it was lined with rebels as far as I could see. I soon wheeled my horse, and, with accelerated speed, made my way back to General Buckland. He again dispatched me to inform Major Crockett to retreat in order.

On my way thither, these words greeted my ear:

Halt dar! halt dar!

I responded by firing my revolver, as a signal that I did not design to comply with the peremptory demand so euphoniously expressed. The words proceeded from two rebels, whom I discovered approaching me. They fired, and both loads took effect in my horse's shoulder. But he did not fall. Applying my spurs, he sprang down a little declivity, where the rebels stood with their empty guns. One of them struck at me with his empty weapon. I attempted [27] to parry the blow with my left hand, and received a severe wound, having my second finger broken, which was thus rendered useless for life. The instant discharge of my revolver resulted in breaking an arm of this foe, and I immediately turned to my second antagonist, who was hastily reloading his gun. The contents of another barrel at once disabled him. This was all the work of a moment. Just at this juncture, it began to rain in torrents; and before I realized my situation, I discovered that I was surrounded by about fifty rebels. The rain and the darkness in the woods, from the overhanging storm-cloud, rendered it difficult for the rebels to distinguish their own men from ours, and they made the mistake-fortunately for me, but the reverse for them-of firing at each other. Their colonel, however, soon discovered the error, and gave the command to cease firing. There was now no possible chance for my escape, and I instantly received a blow which felled me to the earth. How long I remained insensible I could not tell. The first thing I recollect taking cognizance of, was the act of Colonel Gladden, who, dragging me out of a pool of water into which I had fallen, demanded my surrender. I seemed to lose all thought of home, wife, friends, [28] earth, or heaven. The absorbing thought was the success of our army.

“Will you surrender?” demanded Colonel Gladden.

“I have discharged my last bullet, sir,” I replied.

He commanded me to mount my horse. I refused. My captors then seized hold of me, and, throwing me across my wounded horse, made a rapid retreat. Our boys were coming at “double quick,” and so impetuous was their charge towards the enemy, who was now approaching-consisting of Beauregard's advance guard of five thousand cavalry — that they began retreating in wild confusion. More than a hundred riderless horses ran dashing past me. The conflict became general and terrific, and the mighty, sweeping onset of our brave boys was only stayed by the opening of Bragg's front battery, which incessantly poured forth its shot and shell. During this interim, myself and the guards detailed to take charge of me were located in a ravine, and hence the cannon shots passed over our heads. A rifle-ball from one of our men, however, at this juncture, brought one of the guards from his horse. A rebel colonel approached him, saying, “You are too good a man to die so.” At this moment [29] a second ball pierced the heart of the rebel colonel, and he dropped dead.

It was here that my horse fell and died, and I felt as if a friend had gone, whose place could not be easily filled.

There was a wild and gloomy grandeur in this battle-storm raging and booming over our heads like ten thousand thunders; and my heart was tremulous with hope at one moment, and with apprehension at another, for the fate of our gallant braves. Alas! my soul mourned when I found they had been driven back by the overwhelming force of the enemy.

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