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Chapter 30: battle of Casville

In the forward movement from Adairsville, May 18, 1864, our three armies were a little mixed.

One division under the enterprising Jeff. C. Davis, with Garrard's cavalry, became detached from Thomas and went directly to Rome, and on the 18th drove out the small garrison of Confederates there; they captured some ten heavy guns, other war material, supplies of all kinds including a trainload of salt, and a few prisoners of war.

Johnston had fully determined to give Sherman battle at Cassville. To this end he had selected certain well-defined positions, which were most favorable, and covered them with the usual temporary intrenchments.

Places for artillery were carefully chosen by good engineers and artillerists, and epaulements set up for proper cover. Strengthened by a small reenforcement, he located Hardee's corps so as to meet all the Army of the Cumberland and of the Tennessee, which were likely to approach Cassville from the west or from the Kingston route; Polk's command in the center would meet Hooker's corps with sufficient force to hold him in check, and have strong enough reserve to strengthen Hood, who, on Johnston's extreme right, was directed to meet and withstand Schofield's army. [529]

With regard to position at this time, Johnston had greatly the advantage of his adversary, because his troops were concentrated. He could move on inner lines. Sherman was coming in upon Cassville, after having his four columns greatly separated the one from the other. The nature of the country was such that it was next to impossible, before actual conjunction, for Thomas to send help to Hooker, and worse still for McPherson or Thomas to reinforce Schofield in a reasonable time.

But Sherman was so anxious for battle on the more favorable ground north of the Etowah, rather than upon the ragged country south of it, that he declared to his commanders as in his dispatch to Schofield: “If we can bring Johnston to battle this side of the Etowah, we must do it, even at the hazard of beginning battle with but part of our forces.”

It is very evident that Johnston hoped to be able to dispose of Hooker and Schofield by striking with a superior force and crushing them before help could come. Johnston's intention to make an “offensive defensive” battle appears plain from his own language and the instructions that he gave. He says in effect after consultation with his engineer officer, who was questioned over the map in the presence of Polk and Hood, who were informed of his object, that he found the country on the direct road open and favorable for an attack; that the distance between the two Federal columns would be greatest when those following the railroad reached Kingston. Johnston's chief of artillery warned him that our artillery, planted on a hill a mile off, could enfilade his right. Johnston ordered traverses to be constructed, though he declared that such artillery firing, more than a half-mile away, could [530] do little harm, seeing that there were many protecting ravines.

My corps, as we already know, followed the wagon road nearest the railway, turning to the left of Kingston about 8 A. M., May 18, 1864. We had hardly passed through this much-scattered hamlet, when skirmishing opened southeast of the place. Pressing back the skirmishers, we delayed any positive action till about 11 A. M., waiting for other troops to come into position, when my command again took up the march.

Then, shelling the low ground, mostly covered with broad patches of thick underbrush and straggling trees, we moved slowly forward, forcing back the outer lines of the enemy. These obstinate divisions retired perforce, skirmishing all the time, to within two miles of Cassville; we now, with thick timber all around, appeared to be in front of the Cassville Confederate works.

Hooker's troops had done the same thing as mine, but on the direct Adairsville and Cassville road.

Palmer's corps, off to my right, had at least one division (Baird's) deployed.

About this time a deserter came into our lines and reported that Johnston had received reinforcements of 6,000 men. Just at this juncture we reckoned his forces to be fully 70,000 strong.

With reference to the Fourth Corps, which I commanded, the journal of Lieutenant Colonel Fullerton, my adjutant general, has given an animated account of the series of combats which took place between Kingston and Cassville:

3.50 P. M., advance commenced.... The enemy was driven by us. We again took up the march in column, and again met the enemy one mile beyond [531] his first position at 5.30 P. M.; 5.40 P. M., General Sherman ordered General Howard to put thirty or forty pieces of artillery in position; to form two or three brigades in line of battle; then to shell the woods in our front vigorously, afterwards, to feel the enemy.

This was done. The journal continues:

6.30 P. M., firing ordered to cease and skirmishers ordered forward, followed by main lines.

Here we connected with Palmer's corps on the right and Hooker's on the left.

Now the line advanced, trying to move to Cassville; skirmishing very heavy, and progress slow.

At 7 o'clock, apparently within about one mile of Cassville, I halted my command in place, and all slept in line of battle that night. The day had been warm and clear, but the roads were very dusty. In these exchanges of artillery shots ten of our men had been killed and thirty-five wounded. The whole of Johnston's force was before us in Cassville. Johnston meant to strike Hooker before we got up. The enemy had strong rifle pits and works, and Johnston had published an order to his troops, saying that he would make his fight there; this was issued the night we arrived. That General Johnston did intend and expected to make a stand here will be seen from the tenor of this order, which was as follows:

Soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee:
You have displayed the highest quality of the soldierfirmness in combat, patience under toil. By your courage and skill you have repulsed every assault of the enemy. By marches by day and by marches by night you have defeated every attempt upon your communications. Your communications are secured. [532] You will now turn and march to meet his advancing columns. Fully confiding in the conduct of the officers, the courage of the soldiers, I lead you to battle. We may confidently trust that the Almighty Father will still reward the patriots' toils and bless the patriots' banners. Cheered by the success of our brothers in Virginia and beyond the Mississippi, our efforts will equal theirs. Strengthened by His support, those efforts will be crowned with the like glories.

McPherson, under Sherman's orders, had also turned to the left toward us, and was close in support of Thomas's right.

It was, however, Schofield's cavalry, under Stoneman, some horse artillery being with it, that appeared off to the right and eastward of Hood's command during May 18th. It was decidedly to our advantage that the valiant and indomitable Hood was thus deceived by a force which dismounted and acted as infantry. Stoneman deserved special recognition from Schofield and Sherman for this good work.

Captain David B. Conyngham, who was present at Cassville as soon as we occupied that village, says three men of the Twenty-third Corps entered a house and were betrayed to a detachment of Confederate cavalry by some of the inmates. They barricaded themselves in the house and resisted several attacks. Just as the Confederates were setting fire to the house “a squad of Stoneman's cavalry heard the firing and hastened to the spot. The Union cavalry attacked the besieging party in the rear, soon putting them to flight, and so released their friends.” Of course, one bird does not make a summer, but these three infantrymen may indicate the presence of more of the same sort near the cavalry of Stoneman. [533]

With reference to the enfilading, Johnston spoke of the bare possibility of our enfilading him with artillery. The report of one of my officers, Lieutenant White, Bridge's Illinois Battery, says: “At 6 P. M. General Howard brought this battery, with others, into position, from which we were able to fire with raking effect upon the flank of the Confederate lines occupying Cassville, while their front was facing the attack of Hooker.”

This operation took place, as we have before seen, the evening of May 19th, and will account for some of the serious impressions of Polk, if not of Hood, as they were subsequently evinced at their council.

This council doubtless indirectly caused Johnston's dismissal at Atlanta, and resulted in Hood's accession and his series of disasters and his ultimate complete discomfiture by Thomas at Nashville. It rendered possible the great “March to the sea,” and the more troublesome ordeals of the Carolinas, which ended in Bentonville and bore no small weight upon the operations in Virginia-those operations which closed the war. The details of that council show that Hood, believing his right flank hopelessly turned, had shown Johnston that his position at Cassville was absolutely untenable. Here is Johnston's account:

On reaching my tent, soon after dark, I found in it an invitation to meet the lieutenant generals at General Polk's quarters. General Hood was with him, but not General Hardee. The two officers, General Hood taking the lead, expressed the opinion very positively that neither of their corps would be able to hold its position next day, because, they said, a part of each wes enfiladed by Federal artillery. The part of General [534] Polk's corps referred to was that of which I had conversed with Brigadier General Shoup. On that account they urged me to abandon the ground immediately and cross the Etowah.

A discussion of more than an hour followed, in which they very earnestly and decidedly expressed the opinion, or conviction rather, that when the Federal artillery opened upon them next day, it would render their positions untenable in an hour or two.

Hardee's note is of interest. He wrote:

At Cassville, May 19th, about ten o'clock in the evening, in answer to a summons from General Johnston, I found him at General Polk's headquarters, in company with Generals Polk and Hood. He informed me that it was determined to retire across the Etowah. In reply to my exclamation of surprise, General Hood, anticipating him, answered: ‘General Polk, if attacked, cannot hold his position three-quarters of an hour, and I cannot hold mine two hours.’

The results of this remarkable council appear in Johnston's concise statement which follows:

Although the position was the best we had occupied, I yielded at last, in the belief that the confidence of the commanders of two or three corps of the army of their inability to resist the enemy would inevitably be communicated to their troops, and produce that inability.

Lieutenant General Hardee, who arrived after this decision, remonstrated against it strongly, and was confident that his corps could hold its ground, although less favorably posted. The error was adhered to, however, and the position abandoned before daybreak.

In the fearful skirmishes which took place on [535] May 19th in the rough woodland between Kingston and Cassville, Kingston served as a field hospital.

Small tents were erected for the wounded, and for the many others who fell sick.

It is gratifying to think these comrades had double care from the faithful hospital attendants and from the Christian Commission. The delegate of the Commission would sit by the bedside of a young man and act as amanuensis; so that a last message, too sacred for publication, often found its way to a sorrowing household beyond the scenes of war.

The second day after Johnston's departure from Cassville and Cartersville, Georgia (May 22, 1864), was Sunday. Sherman had his headquarters, for railway convenience and to be accessible to all his commanders, at the village of Kingston. General Corse was at the time his chief of staff. Sherman and he occupied a small cottage on the south side of the main street.

While Sherman sat at the window, apparently in a deep study, occasionally transferring his thoughts to paper, he was interrupted by the sudden and then the continued ringing of the church bell. Thinking that some fun-loving soldiers or some of the already enterprising “bummers” were practicing with the bell, perhaps with a view to his annoyance, he told Corse to send over a patrol and arrest the bell ringers. My friend, Rev. E. P. Smith, representing the Christian Commission, had gone to the church and prepared it for service. Not being able just then to get anyone to help him, he was obliged to climb up to ring the bell, the rope having disappeared. As he dropped down he caught the bottom of his trousers and slit them to his waist. Just then a corporal with a file of [536] men opened the church door and said to him: “Fall in.”

My friend said: “What fort”

The corporal answered: “To take you over there to General Sherman's headquarters.”

Smith pleaded: “Can't go in this plight; take me where I can fix up.”

Corporal answered: “Them's not the orders-fall in.”

Corse, standing by the back door, received him and said:

“You were ringing that bell”

“Yes, it is Sunday and I was ringing it for service.”

Corse dismissed the guard and, as he stood in the doorway, he reported the case to Sherman, who stopped his work for an instant, looked up at Corse's face, and glanced over toward Mr. Smith as Corse said:

It is Sunday and he was ringing the bell for service.

Sherman answered: “Sunday, Sunday l Didn't know it was Sunday; let him go.”

That morning we had a church well filled with soldiers. I was present and enjoyed immensely the religious service conducted by my friend.

It was at my camp near Cassville that Sherman came to my aid in an unexpected way. It will be remembered how I had taken a radical stand with regard to strong drink, believing and insisting then, as I do now, that the poison of alcohol used as a drink is not only injurious to the mental and moral life of a soldier, but that, though it may be a spur in an emergency for an attack, it is always attended with so speedy [537] a reaction as to be detrimental to steady and persistent garrison or field work. Of course, I abstained from alcoholic drinks. This conduct naturally subjected me to constant remark by those who thought me extreme; and many were the criticisms promulgated at my expense.

A number of officers were having a chat in groups about my bivouac at Cassville on the morning of May 21st, when, it being about refreshment time, some officer proposed that the whole party go over to his tent, and have a drink all around.

General Thomas John Wood, one of my division commanders, eminent in war, undertook to rally me on my oddities and exclusiveness. He wound up by saying: “What's the use, Howard, of your being so singular? Come along and have a good time with the rest of us. Why not?”

Sherman interposed with some severity, saying: “Wood, let Howard alone I want one officer who don't drink!”

There is a letter which I wrote from that Cassville camp, which, coming back to me, has in it some new items:

Near Cassville, May 22d, 1864.
... I haven't written you for several days, and am not sure about this letter getting back, but will try and send it.

Charles (then Lieutenant, Colonel Charles H. Howard), Gilbreth (Lieutenant Gilbreth, aid-de-camp), Stinson (Mr. Blaine's nephew, captain and aid-de-camp), Frank (my secretary, Frank G. Gilman, of Boston), and myself are all well.

Instead of three days we have had some twelve or thirteen days fighting. It is not always engaging our main lines, but heavy skirmishing. The Confederates have a rear guard of cavalry supported by infantry. They arrange barricades [538] of rails and logs along the line. When driven from one, another force has another barricade ready some half or three-quarters of a mile on. In this way they manage to check and hinder our march.

We have driven them across the Etowah, and are now resting and collecting supplies for further progress. You will possibly see accounts of our operations in the newspapers. We have had to charge or turn well-constructed breastworks, and at times the fighting has been severe. General Willich and Colonel (now General) Harker in our corps were wounded. We had quite a battle at Dalton, at Resaca, then at Adairsville, and lastly here, near Cassville.

A kind Providence has protected me and my staff in the midst of constant dangers. We have been fired upon by sharpshooters, small arms and artillery. Two or three have had their horses shot, and I had one bullet through my coat, but none of us have received any harm.

We are preparing for a march, and if you don't get a letter you must not think it strange, for communication may be much interrupted. I long to get this work done that I may return to you all, if God is willing. I do feel as though my work was not yet done, but we ought always be ready ....

The country this side of Resaca is very beautiful. Large, luxuriant farms, magnificent trees. It is no wonder our enemies are not starving in such a country as this. This is a pleasing change of scenery from the mountains near Chattanooga, and really of great practical benefit to the horses and mules; plenty of grass to eat. The people have nearly all gone away. ...

God bless and keep you ...

How much we owed to our transportation That well-organized railway performed wonders.

Before our three days rest at Cassville was over, the railway that our enemy had destroyed had been constructed as far as Sherman's headquarters at [539] Kingston, and not only supplies of all kinds were giving the men refreshment, but letters from home were flooding our camps; for the mail service was keeping abreast of that of the road builders.

Home news and home cheer gave our hearts new courage and energy for additional trial and enterprise.

The forward march cut us off from communication, which, as I mentioned in my letter, was to begin May 24th. It required twenty days supplies. We were to veer to the southwest and endeavor to turn Johnston's left flank. We must impede ourselves as little as possible with wagons, so as to move with celerity and strike quick blows. In the three days of rest, there was not much real resting. It was a busy command throughout. We hadn't much luggage before the halt, but, as Wood said, “We razeed still more.” We distributed the food and rations, reorganized some commands, selected garrisons for Cartersville and Rome, and, in brief, stripped ourselves of all surplusage, and reequipped every department for crossing the Etowah — that small stream just ahead of Schofield's head of column near the Allatoona Bridge, and within sight of other portions of the army from Allatoona to Rome, thirty miles west. The Confederate commander had not been idle. As always, “Joe” Johnston had instinctively apprehended just what our Sherman was planning as Sherman sat by the window at Kingston, “drumming with his pencil upon the window sill and thinking.”

The decision, impatiently made by Johnston after the council with Hood and Polk on the night of May 19th, to retire behind the Etowah River, though conceived in vexation, was followed by prompt action. His army, led from the Cassville line straight to the [540] Etowah, crossed that river in some haste near the railroad bridge.

After the crossing, and during the afternoon, the bridges, including the railroad structure, were disabled by fire.

On the night of the 20th Johnston had established his headquarters in citizen Moore's house, at which point Hardee also had his. This house was near the point where the railroad intersected the Allatoona wagon road, and about a mile and a half from Allatoona. The Confederate commanders remained there during May 21st and 22d.

Johnston, having passed the Etowah, disposed his army somewhat as follows: Facing northward, and occupying a rocky ridge south of that river, appeared his front line. On his right he placed the famous Wheeler, with his swift-footed cavalry in observation; on his left, General Jackson with his cavalry. The bulk of the Confederate army was to the rear, in and about Allatoona, concentrated, and ready for a sudden move.

On the 21st Johnston's extra supply trains were farther off, south of the Chattahoochee, while other wagon trains were collected nearer at hand, south of Allatoona, in the open country.

In addition to guarding the Etowah in his immediate front and his flanks, as we have hinted, Johnston placed an extended picket line along a tributary of the Etowah-Pumpkin Vine Creek. This positively indicates that as early as May 21st or 22d he at least suspected just the movement westward which Sherman was considering. Johnston was, indeed, as was usual with him, holding his entire army in observation, while Sherman was preparing to move to the [541] westward, so as to at least turn Allatoona. The Etowah, in Johnston's front, it is true, concealed to some extent Sherman's movements, so that it was difficult for the Confederate commander to keep the national forces under the close observation which the situation from his standpoint required; therefore, Johnston was continually probing and feeling for the movements of his adversary. For example, on May 22d he ordered Wheeler to cross back with his cavalry five or six miles to his (Wheeler's) right, and to push on toward Cassville, with a view to gathering reliable information. There were so many contradictory stories Wheeler managed somehow to get over the river, marched rapidly to Cassville, and here, on May 24th, seized a wagon train carelessly left behind, the last of Sherman's supply.

The important fact was that Wheeler brought back the information he was after. He reported that Sherman's army was in rapid march, and he showed to Johnston the direction it had taken. Wheeler's report that the Union forces were moving westward, as if to cross the Etowah at Kingston, had been anticipated by Confederate Jackson's cavalry; while Wheeler was marching toward Cassville, Jackson, with his cavalry, on the Confederate left, had discovered Sherman's march toward the bridges laid near Stilesboro, and had seen Union forces already crossing the river there. This news came promptly by signals the morning of the 23d. Surely Allatoona was to be turned, and not attacked in front as Johnston had greatly hoped.

On the receipt of these tidings, he grasped the entire situation. Swiftly and energetically he made his dispositions to meet Sherman's new moves. In fact, [542] on the 23d, before Wheeler's return, he had ordered Hardee to march at once by New Hope Church to the road leading from Stilesboro through Dallas to Atlanta. Polk was directed to go to the same road by a route farther to the left, and Hood was to follow Hardee's march the day following.

By the 25th, Sherman's army, still in motion, was pushed southward toward New Hope and Dallas. McPherson's army, increased by Davis's division, coming from Rome, was well to the right, near Van Wert. From here Davis took an eastern country road and joined Thomas, who kept the main road as far as Burnt Hickory, passing through a strange land, a country desolate and uninhabited. It seemed like forests burned over, with here and there an opening. There were innumerable knolls of light soil, dotted with half-burned trees, almost without limbs, every shape and size.

The march from the Etowah was a sad and gloomy one, possibly ominous. At Burnt Hickory, Thomas sent Palmer with his and me with my corps off toward the right to catch somewhere the Van Wert and New Hope road, while Hooker went on straight toward the same destination by the main highway, using wood and farm roads as far as he could to help forward his divisions. Ed. McCook's cavalry was a little in advance of Hooker, well spread out.

Schofield, farther to the left, with his cavalry under Stoneman cared for the left flank, and moved southward more slowly.

Garrard, on the right, with his troops of cavalry, had pressed back the Confederate horse toward Dallas, and discovered the left of Johnston's new line; Garrard kept within easy reach of McPherson. [543]

It was a terrible country, as hard to penetrate as the Adirondacks, where Johnston chose his position. Hardee was put at Dallas, Hood at New Hope, and Polk between them, nearer to Hood than Hardee, causing some thin lines.

Yes, there was here great natural strength like that of Culp's Hill at Gettysburg and worse than any of the Antietam banks; and every hour made and increased the log barricades and earth embankments covered and concealed by abatis and slashings. Johnston's commanders were never better prepared for a defensive battle than on our steady approach in strong columns.

Personally, I would have — been glad then to have known that rough, blind country and our enemy's position as well as we all do now.

The character of the country traversed, and the rapidity with which our army moved, gave strong indication of its excellent morale and of its physical strength. Abundant was its confidence in itself-a confidence born of its prowess in the bloody encounters of the campaign thus far.

The Confederates were also confident as they prepared for another stand, here in a dense forest, and there in broken ground, while they were deployed along the new front.

Johnston's army had had the same advantage of rest that we had, and from the fearless and obstinate stand made so soon after the depressing effects of the retrograde movement and our successes, it would seem as if its spirit was equal to any emergency.

Part of Hood's front was, by the time the Yankees came, even better prepared than the rest. We knew from past experience that now it did not take the [544] Yankee or Confederate very long to thoroughly cover himself by some sort of barricade or intrenchment. Notwithstanding all this, a few commands had little protection when the battle began, those especially who came out to meet us as far as the famous Pumpkin Vine Creek.

On the morning of the 25th Ed. McCook's cavalry, in front of Burnt Hickory, had ventured beyond that creek and captured a dispatch from Johnston to Jackson. This informed Sherman that some Confederate troops were still in motion toward Dallas. This news led Sherman to hold back his left for a short time, till the army of the Tennessee could come well forward on the right.

All the columns were thus making a partial wheel, so as to arrive substantially parallel with Pumpkin Vine Creek. Hooker kept advancing his three columns along or not far from the direct Dallas road. The two corps, Palmer's and mine, had made a considerable detour that morning, hoping to reach the Van Wert-Dallas road about three or four miles from Dallas. The skirmishing had begun. When Geary's division (Hooker's center) had come forward and was near Owen's Mills, he found the enemy's cavalry engaged in burning the bridge which crossed Pumpkin Vine Creek. Geary, with Hooker's escorting cavalry and infantry, drove the hostile cavalry off, extinguished the fire, and crossed his command. Hooker now began to believe that the enemy held his strongest force near New Hope Church, and so he ordered Geary to take the fork of the road leading that way.

Pressing on, on the top of a rising ground, Hooker first encountered the infantry of Hood. Here our men met a stubborn resistance. Geary had to [545] strengthen and greatly extend his line, and, as Geary was apt to think, he believed that he was dealing with a much larger force than that actually before him. The combat that suddenly came on was sharp and lasted half an hour. There were brave charges by Geary's men, and fierce countercharges by the Confederates, which were repulsed by Candy's Union brigade, that had been deployed. Our men finally made a steady advance till they stood upon another ridge opposite that on which Hood had aligned his forces. Geary had at last driven the advance back. Geary, as was customary with us all, made hastily such shelter as he could for his troops, using logs for temporary cover, behind which he might with comparative safety await the Confederates' further development.

As soon as Sherman heard the firing he hastened to the front. He ordered Hooker to bring his two remaining divisions, Williams's and Butterfield's, promptly into position. He declared that an attack by Hooker should be made at once. By this Sherman undoubtedly wished to develop the force in his immediate front before darkness set in. The time of the approach of the new forces is somewhat in question. Thomas reported their arrival as 3 P. M., but Geary about 5 P. M. Thomas probably referred to heads of column and Geary to the complete arrival.

At any rate, the whole corps was assembled by the latter hour. Hooker used it as at Resaca, by deploying it into heavy columns of brigades, and then moved almost en masse with a narrow front to the attack. It was a shock; a quick attack made through a wood, greatly obstructed by a dense undergrowth. This bothersome timber generally covered the slopes on either side of the valley. [546]

Hardly had Hooker's advance struck the obstructions when not only the iron hail but a rainstorm with terrific thunder broke upon the contending forces. The loud, crashing noise of the thunder did not, however, drown the rattle of musketry and roar of cannon. Through all the dreadful tempest the loud and ominous sounds of battle penetrated to the columns marching from the rear. They resounded even as far back as Burnt Hickory, and told of the phenomenal conflict raging in front. Soon after the thunder a most abundant deluge of rain followed, which continued falling all through that long night. From 5 P. M. until 6 the attempts to force Hood's line were several times made by Hooker's corps alone. By the latter hour one division of my Fourth corps, moving au cannon, was brought up to Hooker's support. The entire corps through rain and mud was coming forward as fast as it could to Hooker's left, and getting into position as soon as possible; the leading division (Newton's) arrived first, and the rest of the command, somewhat delayed by the mass of Hooker's wagons stretched along the roads, fetched in at last. All that evening and far into the night we assaulted Hood's works again and again; we tried amid the storm to dislodge his troops, but in vain. In the face of sixteen Confederate pieces of artillery using canister and grape, and the musketry of several thousand infantry at close range and delivered, much of it, from behind breastworks, it became simply impossible even to gain a foothold anywhere upon the enemy's barricades.

I was near the head of my column, and so came up to Hooker before six o'clock. At his request, before I saw General Thomas, I deployed one division, according [547] to Hooker's desire, near his left, and abreast of his troops. The firing from the enemy's cannon along the line and the constant discharges of the Confederate rifles wounded or killed some of Hooker's men and mine at every discharge. In spite of the danger, however, camp fires soon began to appear here and there as the darkness came on. These still more drew the enemy's artillery fire, and for some time increased the danger. Still, the chill of the night and the wet clothing called for fires. At last there was a lull in the battle, though not an entire cessation from cannon and rifle firing. Then you could see the torches borne by ambulance parties as they went hither and thither, picking up the wounded and bearing them to the rear. As soon as I could get my several commands in hand and arrange for the reliefs of working parties along our exposed front, I went back a short distance to the little church, which was used for a hospital. The scene in the grove there and in the church can never be forgotten. There were temporary operating tables with men stretched upon them; there were diligent medical officers, with their attendants and medical helpers, with coats off and sleeves rolled up, and hands and arms, clothes and faces sprinkled with blood. The lights outside and in were fitful and uncertain; smoky lights, for the most part, from torches of pine knots. It was a weird, horrid picture, and the very heavens seemed to be in sympathy with the apparent confusion. It was hard to distinguish between the crashing of the thunder, the sound of the cannon, and the bursting of shells. The rain never ceased to pour during the night. At one time, as I went out, I met General Schofield, who, in spite of a severe injury to his leg, caused by the [548] stumbling of his horse against a tree, had come to offer Hooker and me his assistance. As I now look back upon the whole affair at New Hope Church, I wonder that we did not approach those well-chosen Confederate lines with more caution. But we did not know. We thought that the Confederates were not yet thoroughly prepared, and we hoped that by a tremendous onslaught we might gain a great advantage, shorten the battle, and so shorten the war.

I am glad that military knowledge now insists on thinner lines. Brigade line following brigade line produced awful results. There a single bullet would often kill or wound six men, on account of the depth of such a column of brigades; and who can tell the destruction of a single cannon shot or shell in bursting, whose fragments, fan shaped, went sweeping through every rank from front to rear?

To us military folk it is interesting to note the advantage of thin lines, when soldiers are well trained and well handled.

As must have been noticed in all these accounts of combats during the series of marches and battles, the skirmishers were more and more used as the campaign progressed. It was always, when taking the offensive, a wise thing to do, to increase the skirmish line enough to give the men confidence, and then push forward till a waiting enemy-one in defensive position — was sufficiently revealed to enable the commander to determine his next order. On the defensive, a skirmish line well out, and admirably located, would bother an approaching foe as much as a battle line, and at the same time lose but few lives. The breech-loading arms and magazine guns now make thin exposed lines an imperative necessity. Our double [549] skirmish order has indeed become a veritable line of battle.

By vigorous skirmishing, putting batteries in place and into action and constant threats of advance, the Confederates were kept all the night, like ourselves, on the watch.

By morning not a few but many logs were piled up in barricades, and as much dirt as possible thrown beyond them. Neither of us had a “stomach” for attack or for battle at that time. Hood and Hooker were willing to wait.

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