THE BATTLE OF THE 22D OF JULY--THE ARMS OF THE TENNESSEE ASSAULTED FRONT
AND REAR--DEATH OF GENERAL MCPHERSON--ASSUMPTION OF COMMAND BY GENERAL
LOGAN--RESULT OF THE BATTLE.
Naturally, we had a consuming hunger for news of what was being
accomplished by our armies toward crushing the Rebellion. Now, more than
ever, had we reason to ardently wish for the destruction of the Rebel
power. Before capture we had love of country and a natural desire for
the triumph of her flag to animate us. Now we had a hatred of the Rebels
that passed expression, and a fierce longing to see those who daily
tortured and insulted us trampled down in the dust of humiliation.
The daily arrival of prisoners kept us tolerably well informed as to the
general progress of the campaign, and we added to the information thus
obtained by getting--almost daily--in some manner or another--a copy of a
Rebel paper. Most frequently these were Atlanta papers, or an issue of
Appeal," as they used to facetiously term a Memphis paper that left that
City when it was taken in 1862, and for two years fell back from place to
place, as Sherman's Army advanced, until at last it gave up the struggle
in September, 1864, in a little Town south of Atlanta, after about two
thousand miles of weary retreat from an indefatigable pursuer. The
papers were brought in by "fresh fish," purchased from the guards at from
fifty cents to one dollar apiece, or occasionally thrown in to us when
they had some specially disagreeable intelligence, like the defeat of
Banks, or Sturgis, or Bunter, to exult over. I was particularly
fortunate in getting hold of these. Becoming installed as general reader
for a neighborhood of several thousand men, everything of this kind was
immediately brought to me, to be read aloud for the benefit of everybody.
All the older prisoners knew me by the nick-name of "Illinoy"
--a designation arising from my wearing on my cap, when I entered prison,
a neat little white metal badge of "ILLS." When any reading matter was
brought into our neighborhood, there would be a general cry of:
"Take it up to 'Illinoy,'" and then hundreds would mass around my
quarters to bear the news read.
The Rebel papers usually had very meager reports of the operations of the
armies, and these were greatly distorted, but they were still very
interesting, and as we always started in to read with the expectation
that the whole statement was a mass of perversions and lies, where truth
was an infrequent accident, we were not likely to be much impressed with
There was a marled difference in the tone of the reports brought in from
the different armies. Sherman's men were always sanguine. They had no
doubt that they were pushing the enemy straight to the wall, and that
every day brought the Southern Confederacy much nearer its downfall.
Those from the Army of the Potomac were never so hopeful. They would
admit that Grant was pounding Lee terribly, but the shadow of the
frequent defeats of the Army of the Potomac seemed to hang depressingly
There came a day, however, when our sanguine hopes as to Sherman were
checked by a possibility that he had failed; that his long campaign
towards Atlanta had culminated in such a reverse under the very walls of
the City as would compel an abandonment of the enterprise, and possibly a
humiliating retreat. We knew that Jeff. Davis and his Government were
strongly dissatisfied with the Fabian policy of Joe Johnston. The papers
had told us of the Rebel President's visit to Atlanta, of his bitter
comments on Johnston's tactics; of his going so far as to sneer about the
necessity of providing pontoons at Key West, so that Johnston might
continue his retreat even to Cuba. Then came the news of Johnston's
Supersession by Hood, and the papers were full of the exulting
predictions of what would now be accomplished "when that gallant young
soldier is once fairly in the saddle."
All this meant one supreme effort to arrest the onward course of Sherman.
It indicated a resolve to stake the fate of Atlanta, and the fortunes of
the Confederacy in the West, upon the hazard of one desperate fight.
We watched the summoning up of every Rebel energy for the blow with
apprehension. We dreaded another Chickamauga.
The blow fell on the 22d of July. It was well planned. The Army of the
Tennessee, the left of Sherman's forces, was the part struck. On the
night of the 21st Hood marched a heavy force around its left flank and
gained its rear. On the 22d this force fell on the rear with the
impetuous violence of a cyclone, while the Rebels in the works
immediately around Atlanta attacked furiously in front.
It was an ordeal that no other army ever passed through successfully.
The steadiest troops in Europe would think it foolhardiness to attempt to
withstand an assault in force in front and rear at the same time.
The finest legions that follow any flag to-day must almost inevitably
succumb to such a mode of attack. But the seasoned veterans of the Army
of the Tennessee encountered the shock with an obstinacy which showed
that the finest material for soldiery this planet holds was that in which
undaunted hearts beat beneath blue blouses. Springing over the front of
their breastworks, they drove back with a withering fire the force
assailing them in the rear. This beaten off, they jumped back to their
proper places, and repulsed the assault in front. This was the way the
battle was waged until night compelled a cessation of operations. Our
boys were alternately behind the breastworks firing at Rebels advancing
upon the front, and in front of the works firing upon those coming up in
the rear. Sometimes part of our line would be on one side of the works,
and part on the other.
In the prison we were greatly excited over the result of the engagement,
of which we were uncertain for many days. A host of new prisoners
perhaps two thousand--was brought in from there, but as they were
captured during the progress of the fight, they could not speak
definitely as to its issue. The Rebel papers exulted without stint over
what they termed "a glorious victory." They were particularly jubilant
over the death of McPherson, who, they claimed, was the brain and guiding
hand of Sherman's army. One paper likened him to the pilot-fish, which
guides the shark to his prey. Now that he was gone, said the paper,
Sherman's army becomes a great lumbering hulk, with no one in it capable
of directing it, and it must soon fall to utter ruin under the skilfully
delivered strokes of the gallant Hood.
We also knew that great numbers of wounded had been brought to the prison
hospital, and this seemed to confirm the Rebel claim of a victory, as it
showed they retained possession of the battle field.
About the 1st of August a large squad of Sherman's men, captured in one
of the engagements subsequent to the 22d, came in. We gathered around
them eagerly. Among them I noticed a bright, curly-haired, blue-eyed
infantryman--or boy, rather, as he was yet beardless. His cap was marked
"68th O. Y. Y. L," his sleeves were garnished with re-enlistment stripes,
and on the breast of his blouse was a silver arrow. To the eye of the
soldier this said that he was a veteran member of the Sixty-Eighth
Regiment of Ohio Infantry (that is, having already served three years, he
had re-enlisted for the war), and that he belonged to the Third Division
of the Seventeenth Army Corps. He was so young and fresh looking that
one could hardly believe him to be a veteran, but if his stripes had not
said this, the soldierly arrangement of clothing and accouterments, and
the graceful, self-possessed pose of limbs and body would have told the
observer that he was one of those "Old Reliables" with whom Sherman and
Grant had already subdued a third of the Confederacy. His blanket,
which, for a wonder, the Rebels had neglected to take from him, was
tightly rolled, its ends tied together, and thrown over his shoulder
scarf-fashion. His pantaloons were tucked inside his stocking tops,
that were pulled up as far as possible, and tied tightly around his ankle
with a string. A none-too-clean haversack, containing the inevitable
sooty quart cup, and even blacker half-canteen, waft slung easily from
the shoulder opposite to that on which the blanket rested. Hand him his
faithful Springfield rifle, put three days' rations in his haversack, and
forty rounds in his cartridge bog, and he would be ready, without an
instant's demur or question, to march to the ends of the earth, and fight
anything that crossed his path. He was a type of the honest, honorable,
self respecting American boy, who, as a soldier, the world has not
equaled in the sixty centuries that war has been a profession.
I suggested to him that he was rather a youngster to be wearing veteran
chevrons. "Yes," said he, "I am not so old as some of the rest of the
boys, but I have seen about as much service and been in the business
about as long as any of them. They call me 'Old Dad,' I suppose because
I was the youngest boy in the Regiment, when we first entered the
service, though our whole Company, officers and all, were only a lot of
boys, and the Regiment to day, what's left of 'em, are about as young a
lot of officers and men as there are in the service. Why, our old
Colonel ain't only twenty-four years old now, and he has been in command
ever since we went into Vicksburg. I have heard it said by our boys that
since we veteranized the whole Regiment, officers, and men, average less
than twenty-four years old. But they are gray-hounds to march and
stayers in a fight, you bet. Why, the rest of the troops over in West
Tennessee used to call our Brigade 'Leggett's Cavalry,' for they always
had us chasing Old Forrest, and we kept him skedaddling, too, pretty
lively. But I tell you we did get into a red hot scrimmage on the 22d.
It just laid over Champion Hills, or any of the big fights around
Vicksburg, and they were lively enough to amuse any one."
"So you were in the affair on the 22d, were you! We are awful anxious to
hear all about it. Come over here to my quarters and tell us all you
know. All we know is that there has been a big fight, with McPherson
killed, and a heavy loss of life besides, and the Rebels claim a great
"O, they be -----. It was the sickest victory they ever got. About one
more victory of that kind would make their infernal old Confederacy ready
for a coroner's inquest. Well, I can tell you pretty much all about that
fight, for I reckon if the truth was known, our regiment fired about the
first and last shot that opened and closed the fighting on that day.
Well, you see the whole Army got across the river, and were closing in
around the City of Atlanta. Our Corps, the Seventeenth, was the extreme
left of the army, and were moving up toward the City from the East.
The Fifteenth (Logan's) Corps joined us on the right, then the Army of
the Cumberland further to the right. We run onto the Rebs about sundown
the 21st. They had some breastworks on a ridge in front of us, and we
had a pretty sharp fight before we drove them off. We went right to
work, and kept at it all night in changing and strengthening the old
Rebel barricades, fronting them towards Atlanta, and by morning had some
good solid works along our whole line. During the night we fancied we
could hear wagons or artillery moving away in front of us, apparently
going South, or towards our left. About three or four o'clock in the
morning, while I was shoveling dirt like a beaver out on the works, the
Lieutenant came to me and said the Colonel wanted to see me, pointing to
a large tree in the rear, where I could find him. I reported and found
him with General Leggett, who commanded our Division, talking mighty
serious, and Bob Wheeler, of F Company, standing there with his
Springfield at a parade rest. As soon as I came up, the Colonel says:
"Boys, the General wants two level-headed chaps to go out beyond the
pickets to the front and toward the left. I have selected you for the
duty. Go as quietly as possible and as fast as you can; keep your eyes
and ears open; don't fire a shot if you can help it, and come back and
tell us exactly what you have seen and heard, and not what you imagine or
suspect. I have selected you for the duty.'
"He gave us the countersign, and off we started over the breastworks and
through the thick woods. We soon came to our skirmish or pickets, only a
few rods in front of our works, and cautioned them not to fire on us in
going or returning. We went out as much as half a mile or more, until we
could plainly hear the sound of wagons and artillery. We then cautiously
crept forward until we could see the main road leading south from the
City filled with marching men, artillery and teams. We could hear the
commands of the officers and see the flags and banners of regiment after
regiment as they passed us. We got back quietly and quickly, passed
through our picket line all right, and found the General and our Colonel
sitting on a log where we had left them, waiting for us. We reported
what we had seen and heard, and gave it as our opinion that the Johnnies
were evacuating Atlanta. The General shook his head, and the Colonel
says: 'You may re turn to your company.' Bob says to me:
"'The old General shakes his head as though he thought them d---d Rebs
ain't evacuating Atlanta so mighty sudden, but are up to some devilment
again. I ain't sure but he's right. They ain't going to keep falling
back and falling back to all eternity, but are just agoin' to give us a
rip-roaring great big fight one o' these days--when they get a good
ready. You hear me!'
"Saying which we both went to our companies, and laid down to get a
little sleep. It was about daylight then, and I must have snoozed away
until near noon, when I heard the order 'fall in!' and found the regiment
getting into line, and the boys all tallying about going right into
Atlanta; that the Rebels had evacuated the City during the night, and
that we were going to have a race with the Fifteenth Corps as to which
would get into the City first. We could look away out across a large
field in front of our works, and see the skirmish line advancing steadily
towards the main works around the City. Not a shot was being, fired on
"To our surprise, instead of marching to the front and toward the City,
we filed off into a small road cut through the woods and marched rapidly
to the rear. We could not understand what it meant. We marched at quick
time, feeling pretty mad that we had to go to the rear, when the rest of
our Division were going into Atlanta.
"We passed the Sixteenth Corps lying on their arms, back in some open
fields, and the wagon trains of our Corps all comfortably corralled, and
finally found ourselves out by the Seventeenth Corps headquarters. Two
or three companies were sent out to picket several roads that seemed to
cross at that point, as it was reported 'Rebel Cavalry' had been seen on
these roads but a short time before, and this accounted for our being
rushed out in such a great hurry.
"We had just stacked arms and were going to take a little rest after our
rapid march, when several Rebel prisoners were brought in by some of the
boys who had straggled a little. They found the Rebels on the road we
had just marched out on. Up to this time not a shot had been fired.
All was quiet back at the main works we had just left, when suddenly we
saw several staff officers come tearing up to the Colonel, who ordered us
to 'fall in!' 'Take aims!' 'about, face!' The Lieutenant Colonel dashed
down one of the roads where one of the companies had gone out on picket.
The Major and Adjutant galloped down the others. We did not wait for
them to come back, though, but moved right back on the road we had just
come out, in line of battle, our colors in the road, and our flanks in
open timber. We soon reached a fence enclosing a large field, and there
could see a line of Rebels moving by the flank, and forming, facing
toward Atlanta, but to the left and in the rear of the position occupied
by our Corps. As soon as we reached the fence we fired a round or two
into the backs of these gray coats, who broke into confusion.
"Just then the other companies joined us, and we moved off on 'double
quick by the right flank,' for you see we were completely cut off from
the troops up at the front, and we had to get well over to the right to
get around the flank of the Rebels. Just about the time we fired on the
rebels the Sixteenth Corps opened up a hot fire of musketry and artillery
on them, some of their shot coming over mighty close to where we were.
We marched pretty fast, and finally turned in through some open fields to
the left, and came out just in the rear of the Sixteenth Corps, who were
fighting like devils along their whole line.
"Just as we came out into the open field we saw General R. K. Scott,
who used to be our Colonel, and who commanded our brigade, come tearing
toward us with one or two aids or orderlies. He was on his big clay-bank
horse, 'Old Hatchie,' as we called him, as we captured him on the
battlefield at the battle of 'Matamora,' or 'Hell on the Hatchie,' as our
boys always called it. He rode up to the Colonel, said something
hastily, when all at once we heard the all-firedest crash of musketry and
artillery way up at the front where we had built the works the night
before and left the rest of our brigade and Division getting ready to
prance into Atlanta when we were sent off to the rear. Scott put spurs
to his old horse, who was one of the fastest runners in our Division,
and away he went back towards the position where his brigade and the
troops immediately to their left were now hotly engaged. He rode right
along in rear of the Sixteenth Corps, paying no attention apparently to
the shot and shell and bullets that were tearing up the earth and
exploding and striking all around him. His aids and orderlies vainly
tried to keep up with him. We could plainly see the Rebel lines as they
came out of the woods into the open grounds to attack the Sixteenth
Corps, which had hastily formed in the open field, without any signs of
works, and were standing up like men, having a hand-to-hand fight.
We were just far enough in the rear so that every blasted shot or shell
that was fired too high to hit the ranks of the Sixteenth Corps came
rattling over amongst us. All this time we were marching fast, following
in the direction General Scott had taken, who evidently had ordered the
Colonel to join his brigade up at the front. We were down under the
crest of a little hill, following along the bank of a little creek,
keeping under cover of the bank as much as possible to protect us from
the shots of the enemy. We suddenly saw General Logan and one or two of
his staff upon the right bank of the ravine riding rapidly toward us.
As he neared the head of the regiment he shouted:
"'Halt! What regiment is that, and where are you going?'" The Colonel,
in a loud voice, that all could hear, told him: "The Sixty-Eighth Ohio;
going to join our brigade of the Third Division--your old Division,
General, of the Seventeenth Corps."
"Logan says, 'you had better go right in here on the left of Dodge.
The Third Division have hardly ground enough left now to bury their dead.
God knows they need you. But try it on, if you think you can get to
"Just at this moment a staff officer came riding up on the opposite side
of the ravine from where Logan was and interrupted Logan, who was about
telling the Colonel not to try to go to the position held by the Third
Division by the road cut through the woods whence we had come out, but to
keep off to the right towards the Fifteenth Corps, as the woods referred
to were full of Rebels. The officer saluted Logan, and shouted across:
"General Sherman directs me to inform you of the death of General
McPherson, and orders you to take command of the Army of the Tennessee;
have Dodge close well up to the Seventeenth Corps, and Sherman will
reinforce you to the extent of the whole army.'
"Logan, standing in his stirrups, on his beautiful black horse, formed a
picture against the blue sky as we looked up the ravine at him, his black
eyes fairly blazing and his long black hair waving in the wind.
He replied in a ringing, clear tone that we all could hear:
"Say to General Sherman I have heard of McPherson's death, and have
assumed the command of the Army of the Tennessee, and have already
anticipated his orders in regard to closing the gap between Dodge and the
"This, of course, all happened in one quarter of the time I have been
telling you. Logan put spurs to his horse and rode in one direction,
the staff officer of General Sherman in another, and we started on a
rapid step toward the front. This was the first we had heard of
McPherson's death, and it made us feel very bad. Some of the officers
and men cried as though they had lost a brother; others pressed their
lips, gritted their teeth, and swore to avenge his death. He was a great
favorite with all his Army, particularly of our Corps, which he commanded
for a long while. Our company, especially, knew him well, and loved him
dearly, for we had been his Headquarters Guard for over a year. As we
marched along, toward the front, we could see brigades, and regiments,
and batteries of artillery; coming over from the right of the Army, and
taking position in new lines in rear of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth
Corps. Major Generals and their staffs, Brigadier Generals and their
staffs, were mighty thick along the banks of the little ravine we were
following; stragglers and wounded men by the hundred were pouring in to
the safe shelter formed by the broken ground along which we were rapidly
marching; stories were heard of divisions, brigades and regiments that
these wounded or stragglers belonged, having been all cut to pieces;
officers all killed; and the speaker, the only one of his command not
killed, wounded or captured. But you boys have heard and seen the same
cowardly sneaks, probably, in fights that you were in. The battle raged
furiously all this time; part of the time the Sixteenth Corps seemed to
be in the worst; then it would let up on them and the Seventeenth Corps
would be hotly engaged along their whole front.
"We had probably marched half an hour since leaving Logan, and were
getting pretty near back to our main line of works, when the Colonel
ordered a halt and knapsacks to be unslung and piled up. I tell you it
was a relief to get them off, for it was a fearful hot day, and we had
been marching almost double quick. We knew that this meant business
though, and that we were stripping for the fight, which we would soon be
in. Just at this moment we saw an ambulance, with the horses on a dead
run, followed by two or three mounted officers and men, coming right
towards us out of the very woods Logan had cautioned the Colonel to
avoid. When the ambulance got to where we were it halted. It was pretty
well out of danger from the bullets and shell of the enemy. They
stopped, and we recognized Major Strong, of McPherson's Staff, whom the
all knew, as he was the Chief Inspector of our Corps, and in the
ambulance he had the body of General McPherson. Major Strong,
it appears, during a slight lull in the fighting at that part of the
line, having taken an ambulance and driven into the very jaws of death to
recover the remains of his loved commander. It seems he found the body
right by the side of the little road that we had gone out on when we went
to the rear. He was dead when he found him, having been shot off his
horse, the bullet striking him in the back, just below his heart,
probably killing him instantly. There was a young fellow with him who
was wounded also, when Strong found them. He belonged to our First
Division, and recognized General McPherson, and stood by him until Major
Strong came up. He was in the ambulance with the body of McPherson when
they stopped by us.
"It seems that when the fight opened away back in the rear where we had
been, and at the left of the Sixteenth Corps which was almost directly in
the rear of the Seventeenth Corps, McPherson sent his staff and orderlies
with various orders to different parts of the line, and started himself
to ride over from the Seventeenth Corps to the Sixteenth Corps, taking
exactly the same course our Regiment had, perhaps an hour before, but the
Rebels had discovered there was a gap between the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Corps, and meeting no opposition to their advances in this
strip of woods, where they were hidden from view, they had marched right
along down in the rear, and with their line at right angles with the line
of works occupied by the left of the Seventeenth Corps; they were thus
parallel and close to the little road McPherson had taken, and probably
he rode right into them and was killed before he realized the true
"Having piled our knapsacks, and left a couple of our older men, who were
played out with the heat and most ready to drop with sunstroke, to guard
them, we started on again. The ambulance with the corpse of Gen.
McPherson moved off towards the right of the Army, which was the last we
ever saw of that brave and handsome soldier.
"We bore off a little to the right of a large open field on top of a high
hill where one of our batteries was pounding away at a tremendous rate.
We came up to the main line of works just about at the left of the
Fifteenth Corps. They seemed to be having an easy time of it just then
--no fighting going on in their front, except occasional shots from some
heavy guns on the main line of Rebel works around the City. We crossed
right over the Fifteenth Corps' works and filed to the left, keeping
along on the outside of our works. We had not gone far before the Rebel
gunners in the main works around the City discovered us; and the way they
did tear loose at us was a caution. Their aim was rather bad, however,
and most of their shots went over us. We saw one of them--I think it was
a shell--strike an artillery caisson belonging to one of our-batteries.
It exploded as it struck, and then the caisson, which was full of
ammunition, exploded with an awful noise, throwing pieces of wood and
iron and its own load of shot and shell high into the air, scattering
death and destruction to the men and horses attached to it. We thought
we saw arms and legs and parts of bodies of men flying in every
direction; but we were glad to learn afterwards that it was the contents
of the knapsacks of the Battery boys, who had strapped them on the
caissons for transportation.
"Just after passing the hill where our battery was making things so
lively, they stopped firing to let us pass. We saw General Leggett, our
Division Commander, come riding toward us. He was outside of our line of
works, too. You know how we build breastworks--sort of zigzag like, you
know, so they cannot be enfiladed. Well, that's just the way the works
were along there, and you never saw such a curious shape as we formed our
Division in. Why, part of them were on one side of the works, and go
along a little further and here was a regiment, or part of a regiment on
the other side, both sets firing in opposite directions.
"No sir'ee, they were not demoralized or in confusion, they were cool and
as steady as on parade. But the old Division had, you know, never been
driven from any position they had once taken, in all their long service,
and they did not propose to leave that ridge until they got orders from
some one beside the Rebs.
"There were times when a fellow did not know which side of the works was
the safest, for the Johnnies were in front of us and in rear of us.
You see, our Fourth Division, which had been to the left of us, had been
forced to quit their works, when the Rebs got into the works in their
rear, so that our Division was now at the point where our line turned
sharply to the left, and rear--in the direction of the Sixteenth Corps.
"We got into business before we had been there over three minutes.
A line of the Rebs tried to charge across the open fields in front of us,
but by the help of the old twenty-four pounders (which proved to be part
of Cooper's Illinois Battery, that we had been alongside of in many a
hard fight before), we drove them back a-flying, only to have to jump
over on the outside of our works the next minute to tackle a heavy force
that came for our rear through that blasted strip of woods. We soon
drove them off, and the firing on both sides seemed to have pretty much
"'Our Brigade,' which we discovered, was now commanded by 'Old Whiskers'
(Colonel Piles, of the Seventy-Eighth Ohio. I'll bet he's got the
longest whiskers of any man in the Army.) You see General Scott had not
been seen or heard of since he had started to the rear after our regiment
when the fighting first commenced. We all believed that he was either
killed or captured, or he would have been with his command. He was a
splendid soldier, and a bull-dog of a fighter. His absence was a great
loss, but we had not much time to think of such things, for our brigade
was then ordered to leave the works and to move to the right about twenty
or thirty rods across a large ravine, where we were placed in position in
an open corn-field, forming a new line at quite an angle from the line of
works we had just left, extending to the left, and getting us back nearer
onto a line with the Sixteenth Corps. The battery of howitzers, now
reinforced by a part of the Third Ohio heavy guns, still occupied the old
works on the highest part of the hill, just to the right of our new line.
We took our position just on the brow of a hill, and were ordered to lie
down, and the rear rank to go for rails, which we discovered a few rods
behind us in the shape of a good ten-rail fence. Every rear-rank chap
came back with all the rails he could lug, and we barely had time to lay
them down in front of us, forming a little barricade of six to eight or
ten inches high, when we heard the most unearthly Rebel yell directly in
front of us. It grew louder and came nearer and nearer, until we could
see a solid line of the gray coats coming out of the woods and down the
opposite slope, their battle flags flying, officers in front with drawn
swords, arms at right shoulder, and every one of them yelling like so
many Sioux Indians. The line seemed to be massed six or eight ranks
deep, followed closely by the second line, and that by the third, each,
if possible, yelling louder and appearing more desperately reckless than
the one ahead. At their first appearance we opened on them, and so did
the bully old twenty-four-pounders, with canister.
"On they came; the first line staggered and wavered back on to the
second, which was coming on the double quick. Such a raking as we did
give them. Oh, Lordy, how we did wish that we had the breech loading
Spencers or Winchesters. But we had the old reliable Springfields, and
we poured it in hot and heavy. By the time the charging column got down
the opposite slope, and were struggling through the thicket of
undergrowth in the ravine, they were one confused mass of officers and
men, the three lines now forming one solid column, which made several
desperate efforts to rush up to the top of the hill where we were
punishing them so. One of their first surges came mighty near going
right over the left of our Regiment, as they were lying down behind their
little rail piles. But the boys clubbed their guns and the officers used
their revolvers and swords and drove them back down the hill.
"The Seventy-Eighth and Twentieth Ohio, our right and left bowers, who
had been brigaded with us ever since 'Shiloh,' were into it as hot and
heavy as we had been, and had lost numbers of their officers and men, but
were hanging on to their little rail piles when the fight was over.
At one time the Rebs were right in on top of the Seventy-Eighth. One big
Reb grabbed their colors, and tried to pull them out of the hands of the
color-bearer. But old Captain Orr, a little, short, dried-up fellow,
about sixty years old, struck him with his sword across the back of the
neck, and killed him deader than a mackerel, right in his tracks.
"It was now getting dark, and the Johnnies concluded they had taken a
bigger contract in trying to drive us off that hill in one day than they
had counted on, so they quit charging on us, but drew back under cover of
the woods and along the old line of works that we had left, and kept up a
pecking away and sharp-shooting at us all night long. They opened fire
on us from a number of pieces of artillery from the front, from the left,
and from some heavy guns away over to the right of us, in the main works
"We did not fool away much time that night, either. We got our shovels
and picks, and while part of us were sharpshooting and trying to keep the
Rebels from working up too close to us, the rest of the boys were putting
up some good solid earthworks right where our rail piles had been, and by
morning we were in splendid shape to have received our friends, no matter
which way they had come at us, for they kept up such an all-fired
shelling of us from so many different directions; that the boys had built
traverses and bomb-proofs at all sorts of angles and in all directions.
"There was one point off to our right, a few rods up along our old line
of works where there was a crowd of Rebel sharpshooters that annoyed us
more than all the rest, by their constant firing at us through the night.
They killed one of Company H's boys, and wounded several others. Finally
Captain Williams, of D Company, came along and said he wanted a couple of
good shots out of our company to go with him, so I went for one. He took
about ten of us, and we crawled down into the ravine in front of where we
were building the works, and got behind a large fallen tree, and we laid
there and could just fire right up into the rear of those fellows as they
lay behind a traverse extending back from our old line of works. It was
so dark we could only see where to fire by the flash of guns, but every
time they would shoot, some of us would let them have one. They staid
there until almost daylight, when they, concluded as things looked, since
we were going to stay, they had better be going.
"It was an awful night. Down in the ravine below us lay hundreds of
killed and wounded Rebels, groaning and crying aloud for water and for
help. We did do what we could for those right around us--but it was so
dark, and so many shell bursting and bullets flying around that a fellow
could not get about much. I tell you it was pretty tough next morning to
go along to the different companies of our regiment and hear who were
among the killed and wounded, and to see the long row of graves that were
being dug to bury our comrades and our officers. There was the Captain
of Company E, Nelson Skeeles, of Fulton County, O., one of--the bravest
and best officers in the regiment. By his side lay First Sergeant
Lesnit, and next were the two great, powerful Shepherds--cousins but more
like brothers. One, it seems, was killed while supporting the head of
the other, who had just received a death wound, thus dying in each
"But I can't begin to think or tell you the names of all the poor boys
that we laid away to rest in their last, long sleep on that gloomy day.
Our Major was severely wounded, and several other officers had been hit
more or less badly.
"It was a frightful sight, though, to go over the field in front of our
works on that morning. The Rebel dead and badly wounded laid where they
had fallen. The bottom and opposite side of the ravine showed how
destructive our fire and that of the canister from the howitzers had
been. The underbrush was cut, slashed, and torn into shreds, and the
larger trees were scarred, bruised and broken by the thousands of bullets
and other missiles that had been poured into them from almost every
conceivable direction during the day before.
"A lot of us boys went way over to the left into Fuller's Division of the
Sixteenth Corps, to see how some of our boys over there had got through
the scrimmage, for they had about as nasty a fight as any part of the
Army, and if it had not been for their being just where they were, I am
not sure but what the old Seventeenth Corps would have had a different
story to tell now. We found our friends had been way out by Decatur,
where their brigade had got into a pretty lively fight on their own hook.
"We got back to camp, and the first thing I knew I was detailed for
picket duty, and we were posted over a few rods across the ravine in our
front. We had not been out but a short time when we saw a flag of truce,
borne by an officer, coming towards us. We halted him, and made him wait
until a report was sent back to Corps headquarters. The Rebel officer
was quite chatty and talkative with our picket officer, while waiting.
He said he was on General Cleburne's staff, and that the troops that
charged us so fiercely the evening before was Cleburne's whole Division,
and that after their last repulse, knowing the hill where we were posted
was the most important position along our line, he felt that if they
would keep close to us during the night, and keep up a show of fight,
that we would pull out and abandon the hill before morning. He said that
he, with about fifty of their best men, had volunteered to keep up the
demonstration, and it was his party that had occupied the traverse in our
old works the night before and had annoyed us and the Battery men by
their constant sharpshooting, which we fellows behind the old tree had
finally tired out. He said they staid until almost daylight, and that he
lost more than half his men before he left. He also told us that General
Scott was captured by their Division, at about the time and almost the
same spot as where General McPherson was killed, and that he was not hurt
or wounded, and was now a prisoner in their hands.
"Quite a lot of our staff officers soon came out, and as near as we
could learn the Rebels wanted a truce to bury their dead. Our folks
tried to get up an exchange of prisoners that had been taken by both
sides the day before, but for some reason they could not bring it about.
But the truce for burying the dead was agreed to. Along about dusk some
of the boys on my post got to telling about a lot of silver and brass
instruments that belonged to one of the bands of the Fourth Division,
which had been hung up in some small trees a little way over in front of
where we were when the fight was going on the day before, and that when,
a bullet would strike one of the horns they could hear it go 'pin-g' and
in a few minutes 'pan-g' would go another bullet through one of them.
"A new picket was just coming' on, and I had picked up my blanket and
haversack, and was about ready to start back to camp, when, thinks I,
'I'll just go out there and see about them horns.' I told the boys what
I was going to do. They all seemed to think it was safe enough, so out I
started. I had not gone more than a hundred yards, I should think, when
here I found the horns all hanging around on the trees just as the boys
had described. Some of them had lots of bullet holes in them. But I saw
a beautiful, nice looking silver bugle hanging off to one side a little.
'I Thinks,' says I, 'I'll just take that little toot horn in out of the
wet, and take it back to camp.' I was just reaching up after it when I
heard some one say,
"'Halt!' and I'll be dog-Boned if there wasn't two of the meanest looking
Rebels, standing not ten feet from me, with their guns cocked and pointed
at me, and, of course, I knew I was a goner; they walked me back about
one hundred and fifty yards, where their picket line was. From there I
was kept going for an hour or two until we got over to a place on the
railroad called East Point. There I got in with a big crowd of our
prisoners, who were taken the day before, and we have been fooling along
in a lot of old cattle cars getting down here ever since.
"So this is 'Andersonville,' is it! Well, by ---!"
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