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Chapter 15:

Early in April, 1864, the Missouri brigade, which had been in camp at Demopolis, and during the time had re-enlisted for the war, marched to Lauderdale Springs and then to Tuscaloosa, and, on the 8th of May, took its place in the army of Tennessee, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, in French's division of Polk's corps. It first became engaged on the 25th, when the army was posted on the line of New Hope church. It was ordered to the support of Stewart's division, and held the line while he removed his dead and wounded. During the time the army occupied the New Hope church line, Col. A. C. Riley, of the First Missouri infantry, was killed while asleep in the rear of the line. He was an accomplished officer, and possessed in a high degree the confidence and affection of his men. He was succeeded in the command of the regiment by Lieutenant-Colonel Garland, who was on duty at Richmond at the time, but immediately returned to the regiment and assumed command.

On the 19th of June the brigade was placed on the top of Little Kenesaw mountain, with orders to hold the works there. The works were strongly built and easily defended, and from them all the movements of the enemy on the plain below could be plainly seen. On the 27th the enemy, after a furious cannonade, advanced [153] in strong force to assault the works. His first line, not a hundred yards distant when it emerged from the woods, was checked and went down before the steady and withering fire of the Missourians. It was succeeded by another line which got a little closer, when it too was driven back. Then came a third and new line, heavier than either of the others that had preceded it, which made a more determined assault, advanced farther and stood its ground longer than they had, but in the end shared the same fate—was driven back and hurled in confusion down the side of the mountain. In threequar-ters of an hour the attack was ended and the enemy gone, leaving his dead in piles on the side and at the bottom of the hill. Bledsoe's and Guibor's batteries rendered efficient services in repelling these assaults.

On the 3d of July General Johnston withdrew from Kenesaw and established a new line on Peach Tree creek and the river below its mouth. He had been successful in all the battles he had fought during the campaign. In addition, General Forrest had achieved a brilliant victory over General Sturgis in northern Mississippi. At this juncture General Johnston was relieved of the command by order of the President, and Gen. John B. Hood assigned to it. Subsequently, the first engagement in which the brigade took part was an attack by a portion of Hardee's corps on Thomas' column. The Missourians did not fire a shot, but were kept under fire and lost 61 killed and wounded, among the killed being Lieutenant-Colonel Samuels of Gates' regiment. The next day they were spectators of the same kind of fighting, but did not suffer as they did before. In the fighting in the trenches around Atlanta, Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell, of the Third infantry, and Captain Kennerly, of the First infantry, were killed. On the 7th of September the brigade drove several Federal regiments two and a half miles, recaptured Jonesboro, on Sherman's flank, held it until night and then returned to the main command. In [154] the latter part of September Hood concentrated his forces and moved northward. But there was no fighting until he reached the Allatoona mountain, when French's division was detached and ordered to take the post of Allatoona, which was strongly fortified and held by the enemy. On the summit were three forts protected by formidable lines of intrenchments, while on the exposed sides an abatis had been made of felled timber. These forts guarded the Allatoona pass. The Missourians made a dash for the fort they were ordered to assault, and, after a stubborn fight, notwithstanding the impediments in their way, reached and took it, capturing part of the garrison, the other part escaping to the next fort Sears' brigade failed to take the adjoining fort, and a general assault was made upon it. But that, too, failed, and as Federal reinforcements were rapidly approaching General French ordered the troops to withdraw, though the Missourians were eager to charge again. In the charge on the first fort Major Waddell, commanding the Third infantry, was killed on the summit of the inner parapet He was a fine officer and greatly beloved by his command.

Shortly after the fight at Allatoona, Hood and Sherman parted company, the one to make his campaign into Tennessee and the other to pursue his march to the sea. From Allatoona to Franklin was a march of fifty-six days, through the rains of fall and winter, over muddy roads, on short rations, with wornout shoes and blistered feet, and the relaxation of digging trenches, building pontoon bridges and, occasionally skirmishing with the enemy. On the 30th of November the army reached Franklin. In the attack Stewart's corps was on the right, Cheatham's on the left, and the cavalry on either flank. The attack was made at four o'clock in the evening, and the Missouri brigade went forward with its band playing Dixie. The troops carried the outer line of the enemy's intrenchments, and advanced against their interior line. [155] A heavy battery kept up an incessant fire on the Missourians, but the infantry did not open upon them until they were within thirty steps of the works. Then they were met by a terrific fire from the troops armed with seven-shooting Spencer rifles, and in five minutes the brigade was nearly annihilated. General Cockrell came out wounded in both arms and a leg; unable to dismount from his horse without assistance. Colonel Gates' horse followed General Cockrell's, both arms of its rider hanging limp and useless by his side. Colonel Garland and Major Parker, of the First, and Major Caniff, of the Third regiment, and nineteen other commissioned officers, were killed in the front of the battle, beside a large number wounded and missing. The brigade lost 457 out of 687 men. When it joined General Johnston it was 1,630 strong. After the charge at Franklin its whole strength was 240. Before the battle the First regiment was commanded by Colonel Gates, the Second by Colonel Flournoy, the Third by Major Caniff and the Fourth by Colonel Garland. After the battle the First was commanded by Lieutenant Guthrie; the Second by Lieutenant-Colonel Cooper; the Third by Capt. Ben Guthrie, and the Fourth by Captain Wickersham. Many of the men were killed inside the inner works, having fought their way, in spite of all opposition, over the intrenchments and into the enemy's stronghold. It was strictly an infantry fight, the artillery, except Bledsoe's battery, taking no part in it. The enemy kept up a steady fire until midnight, when they retreated to Nashville.

Notwithstanding his heavy losses Hood advanced the next evening on Nashville, which Thomas held with the main army reinforced by Schofield's victorious forces, and proceeded to invest the place. On the 3d of December the Missouri brigade drove in the enemy's outlying forces in its front and fortified itself at the Montgomery house. On the 5th it was moved to the extreme left to guard the flank, and on the 10th, with a four-gun battery [156] and a squadron of cavalry, moved to the mouth of Duck river to build a fort to obstruct the passage of gunboats to Nashville. But before it had accomplished this, Hood was defeated in front of Nashville, on the 14th day of December, and orders were received to join the retreating army at Bainbridge. In the retreat the Missouri brigade was one of the seven brigades selected to bring up the rear, and was the last to cross the pontoon bridge over the Tennessee river—the rear of the rear guard.

Bledsoe's battery marched in rear with the brigade, and was fought by its intrepid commander as cavalry, infantry or artillery as circumstances required. One morning, just before daylight, the battery had taken a position on the turnpike over the brow of a hill, with a deep cut in front. A heavy fog concealed everything at the distance of a few rods. Immediately after daybreak a regiment of the enemy's cavalry appeared, and came within twenty yards of the battery before discovering it. Bledsoe was waiting and prepared. His guns were in position, double-shotted, and trained on the road. In a loud voice he called on the Federal commander to surrender, and he, taken by surprise, surrendered at once, and with his command was safely disposed of before any additional force came up. On another occasion, the battery remained in rear until the enemy charged and tried to capture it. But the guns went off at full speed down the road, mixed with the charging cavalry, who could only use their sabers, and loudly called upon the drivers to stop; but the drivers yelled back that they could not hold their horses, and thus mingled together, pursuers and pursued rushed upon the infantry of the rear guard and the battery was safe, while its pursuers found it necessary to retire in a hurry.

The army passed through Eastport, Iuka and Jacinto to Verona At this time Gen. Dabney H. Maury, who had frequently commanded the brigade and knew it intimately, wrote it a letter in which he said: ‘As for you, [157] you have deserved well of your country. You have been such soldiers as the world has never seen. Three years have passed since first we met in the Boston mountains and marched through the driving snow to attack the enemy's army. From that time to this you have been voluntary exiles from the land of your birth and the homes of all you love. You were a mighty host then—you are now a remnant of battle-scarred, toil-worn veterans. But your hearts are brave and true, your eyes are bright and your noble purposes are unshaken.’ [158]

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