« PreviousContinue »
REBELLION RECORD, 1862–65.
impending on the left, gave Newton more terri-
Repeatedly during the morning Newton had
During the morning, as I have already said, Newton received repeated orders to advance, but Hooker had not been able to connect on Newton's right, and the latter, of course, could not safely advance until this was effected. About noon Butterfield's division, commanded by Brigadier-General Ward came up and occupied a ridge on Newton's right. Preparations to advance were made immediately. Newton ordered five regiments to be deployed as skirmishers, and about two P. M., the bugle sounded the "forward." Then broke out the allegro of a lively skirmish. A thousand muskets sputtered, and woke the primeval echoes of the forests to the siren song of battle. Up the ridge our men slowly forced their way, driving at every step a wavering line of rebel sharpshooters, turning at bay determinedly one moment, but changing their minds the next, and stealthily gliding further to the rear. In half an hour our skirmishers had forced them from the ridge entirely, with small loss to themselves. passion of the campaign, as soon as Kimball's With the ruling and Blake's brigades occupied the ridge just carried, the men fell to building a barricade of rails and earth. A fresh line of skirmishers was adjusted and ordered forward to relieve the panting heroes who had just taken a military feesimple of the crest.
This advance gave Newton still more territory to cover, which it was simply impossible for him
to do, with his inadequate force. He however command it, and repel an attack, which, if made, made the hasty dispositions in his power to might be disastrous, if not fatal. In taking advantage of the ridges, Newton's lines assumed a singular shape-that of the capital letter T. Bradley's brigade was placed in trenches along lar line of the letter, and facing to the left; the main Atlanta road, forming the perpendicu Wagner's brigade, commanded by Colonel Blake, of the Fortieth Indiana, was the left half of the horizontal top line; General Kimball's brigade the right half, facing outward. A section of artillery was in position at the bottom of the letter.
remembered, building a rail barricade on the Blake's and Kimball's brigades were, it will be crest just carried-the men with knapsacks unslung, and many of them some distance from their arms, conveying rails and logs to the rising parapet. The fresh skirmish line was just going forward when a growl came from the front. At the same moment a cheer arose a wild, tumultuous, shrill cry, from thousands of throatsfalling on the ear like a sudden and unsuspected clap of thunder. Our skirmishers commenced firing and falling back at the same moment. With lightning-like celerity heavy columns of rebels appeared in front of, or rather tumbled out of the forests, their columns seeming to be endless, and carrying themselves with a certain indescribable verve in the onset which made every one who beheld it from our lines tremble. "How will that fearful wave be broken?" was was not allayed by seeing our lines in apparent the piercing fear that filled every bosom, which confusion-the confusion of men grasping their muskets, taking the touch of the elbow and facing to the front. Words cannot describe the crushing suspense of the first five minutes of the charge. Newton's lines were so thin they looked, in some places, like skirmish deployments. They opened, and the section of artillery in position opened, but the momentum of the dustcolored phalanxes was hatefully steady. Their colors snapped saucily and streamed on steadily. Soon every musket in Newton's division was blazing; for at the instant Walker's rebel divisior attacked Blake's and Kimball's brigades, Bate's rebel division appeared on the flank and confronted Bradley's brigade, aiming for the bridge on Peach-tree creek. They seemed to spring from the ground, and to continue springing.
ing across the bridge. Pack-mules, imprudently A stream of non-combatants commenced flowcame scampering back, the latter turned tawnytaken close to our lines by fortuitous darkies, brown with fright and reeking with perspiration. Ambulances tumbled over the bridge in demoralized columns. sheepishly along, the consciousness that everyA few armed stragglers stalked, body who met them would fathom their meanmovements. The curtain of pickets guarding ness imprinted on their faces and in their the interval in our lines came rushing along,
bedaubed with mud and bedraggled with water, having barely escaped the rebel rush with their liberty. Orderlies dashed up the road yelling for ammunition-trains, and teamsters climbed trees for lookouts and reported that the Johnnies were charging by the acre; that our troops were in confusion; and finally summed up the first conaspect of the situation, announcing it as founded scaly.
tured, and could hardly credit his senses when he found the brogan on the other foot.
triumph, and his horse laboring for breath. Up and down his division he had ridden during the fight, just as Phil. Sheridan used to ride when be marshalled the same battalions. Whatever of regret there may be in that division for the loss of the little corporal, now at the head of our cavaliers, and whatever of coldness a new comnander experiences after replacing a universal favorite, both were dissipated that day by GenThere are some things happen in battles which oral Newton. Such courage as he displayed is go to show that Providence does not always a carte blanche to the affections of his command. favor the largest battalions. Napoleon's own He may have won it by other means. For once stragglers were put to some use, and General Newton military career disproved his favorite maxim. bought it that day in good, sterling, martial coin. It falls to the lot of some men to do the lucky things at the lucky moment; and when Captain distinguished themselves. Goodspeed, Newton's chief of artillery, twenty caused all he could find to be placed with his minutes before the charge, ordered ten guns from batteries as a support. As such, they contributed the north to the south bank of Peach-tree creek, materially to break the rebel line when it dashed It was in Newton's front that General Stevens, he probably little thought that he was to con- nearest the guns. tribute so much toward crushing the rebellionFor every casualty in to the repulse of what many think the most commanding a brigade in Walker's division, reckless charge the enemy has made during the Hardee's corps, fell. It was the work of a moment to burl the Newton's division, two dead rebels were picked ten guns, already near the destination, to the up in his front the next morning; and it is safe proper point on Newton's flank, the work of to say that the loss in the two rebel divisions another to unlimber. As the enemy reached a that assaulted his position cannot be less than point within seventy-five yards of our lines one thousand five hundred. Among his prisonWhat exquisite music ers is a rebel surgeon, who unsuspectingly drove these ten guns open. was in their crash! How joyous was the whirl into General Kimball's lines with an ambulance of the blue glamour from their throats. How and a brace of splendid mules. He asked the fiercely flew swab and rammer. How cease-first Yankee he encountered where he was caplessly the lanyards were jerked. How hotly the cartridge-bearers shot back and forth from their caissons, and how, notwithstanding, the lookeron felt like goading them to efforts still more desperate. There was something satisfying and reassuring in the ear-splitting din. We could tell from the peculiar.whistle that our gunners were firing canister, and we breathlessly waited General Thomas witnessed the heavy fighting With a ragfor the smoke to lift for a moment, that we might see its effect. The moment came. ged front line the rebel column had halted, and under Newton. He warmly commended Captain were firing wild, but tremendous volleys. Col- Goodspeed for the celerity with which he ors disappeared and alignments were lost. brought his guns into action. Though General Colonels rallying their men became tangled up Thomas' face is one in which benevolence and with the swaying and disordered lines, and majesty contend, those who were with him durof the line-under a heavy fire, be it understood melted out of view like Edgar of Ravenswood. ing the bloody twenty minutes on that portion Riderless horses plunged across the field with a puzzled gallop, swaying from side to side, snuf-say that the majesty was a little in excess Ward, in command of General Butterfield's fing the terror of the moment and screaming while it lasted. with fright. Four guns of Smith's First Michigan battery went into action hastily on New-division, had left his trenches, and was advancing ton's right flank, and added theirs to the intermingling detonations. Portions of the assaulting. lines made shivering little efforts to advance, and the next instant fell to pieces. In twenty minutes-no more-the rebel columns were routed and flying back to the forests from which they came forth, with an almost complete loss of organization. It was the last seen of them in that portion of the field, and the stirring cheers that went up from Newton's men were the charmed peroration of the history made by the unfaltering lads in blue upon that field.
"Wasn't it dusty?" exclaimed General Newton, as he came riding back, his face aglow with
It is superfluous to say that General Kimball gave fresh instances of his heroism; that Colonel Bradley was cool, inflexible and intrepid, or that Colonel Blake added another leaf to his laurels as a gallant man and a competent leader. Their brigades did not yield an inch; no higher eulogy can be pronounced than that.
to close upon Newton's right. He had reached the base of a hill along which his column was resting, when he received a message from his skirmish line deployed along the summit of the ridge, that the enemy was approaching in tremendous force. From the crest of the hill the country in front is open, though broken, and in all the panoply of war, streaming banners, and even, swift-stepping ranks, came the enemy, pouring into the fields, filling them densely as for General Ward to form his line. The next he advanced, It was but the work of a moment his skirmishers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bloodgood, of the Twenty-second Wiscon
REBELLION RECORD, 1862-65.
sin, were hotly engaged, but they stood their
also torn to pieces by the withering cross-fires, Portions of Colonel Ireland's brigade were and fell back after repeated gallant efforts to re-form their line to return the fire on flank and enemy were almost within grasp of Lieutenant rear. The moment was a desperate one. Bundy's battery on the right, but he wheeled shotting the guns with canister, succeeded in one section from front to right, and by doublerepelling the greedy vermin in dirty gray. His gunners, however, were shot down one after another, until a detail of infantry men from the Sixtieth New York was called for to work them. seven balls. A corporal received nine, seven A sergeant in this battery fell pierced with of which passed through his heart.
reached along the front of but four of our divisions, it can easily be conceived how massive and deep their formations were. In superb order his division mounted the their feet, so closely were they packed, and so the thickets fairly wilted and disappeared under In the forest, hill, and over the crest it swept, taking the skir-irresistible their progress. They came on withmishers along. Portions of the hostile lines out skirmishers, and as if by instinct, struck halted at close quarters and fought for a while, Geary's right flank, where a gap existed, that and on the right, so great was the momentum of Williams' division was endeavoring to close. the counter-charge, several regiments became The four regiments forming the right brigade commingled, the rebels in such cases exhibiting were enveloped on their flank and rear in a the greatest disorder, and submitting to capture moment, and cruelly enfiladed. Subjected to without debate. The rebels opposing Ward, half a dozen cross-fires, the brigade fell back prominent among whom was General Feather- hastily to the trenches it had left in the morning. ston's division, were totally unprepared for the To remain would have been annihilation. fearful shock which came upon them at the crest of the hill, and to a great extent they were unnerved by it. Our line poured in deadly volleys, and steadily pushed the enemy, now in confusion, across the field. The attack on Ward was virtually over in fifteen minutes, though he had not so much as a piece of artillery to settle the matter with a sharp turn. The rebels came on in double lines originally, but the moment Ward struck them they showed signs of confusion, and both lines became intermingled. Seven battle-flags were wrested from the severelywhipped foe, and are held by Ward as his tangible trophies, thing at the lucky moment; in addition to which He too, had done the lucky his personal bravery during the fight was the theme of enthusiastic comment among his men. In front of this division the slaughter of the rebels was very great. In riding over the ground next morning, I was astonished to see the long winrows of their dead collected for burial. Many of their severely wounded-of whom one hundred and fifty-four fell into Ward's hands were still scattered though the ambulances were all engaged in over the field, carrying them to our hospitals. General Ward's own estimate of the rebel loss in his front is from two thousand to two thousand five hundred. He captured over three hundred prisoners. His victory was the most pronounced of any along the line, and his loss, though severe, is probably much less than it would have been had he not met the enemy half
At noon on the twentieth, Geary advanced his tete de pont, and with the assistance of a section of McGill's battery, succeeded in taking a ridge in his front, to which he advanced his division, formed with Colonel Candy's brigade on the left, Colonel Jones' on the right, and Colonel Ireland's in the centre, and proceeded at once to erect barricades. The Thirty-third New Jersey went forward and occupied another hill, some one, hundred yards further south, where they began to erect works. They had just fairly got to work when the fierce shout of the enemy and the confused sound of their myriad tramp struck the startled ear. More than half of Geary's line was in a dense forest filled with underbrush; the remainder faced an open field. Across the latter, it was a brave but terrifying sight. When we remember that the entire rebel attacking column
Geary's position was exposed, that the caissons So bitter was this enfilading fire to which of the guns that had been taken to the rear for safety were driven back to the front to escape a more deadly fire than was sustained at the ordinary point of danger. But the remainder of Geary's brigade stood firm as a rock. The front and right flank. Until nightfall the unenemy in vain charged and recharged from equal contest was waged, but Geary held his hill inflexibly.
front during the evening, firing spitefully as he
formed and sent into action again on General
South-west, but nowhere have I seen traces of I have seen most of the battle-fields in the more deadly work than is visible in the dense woods in which Geary's right was formed. Thickets were literally cradled by bullets, and on the large trees, for twenty feet on the trunk, hardly a square inch of bark remained. Many were torn and splintered with shell and roundshot, the enemy in their attack on Geary and Williams using artillery, which they did not bring into action on other portions of the line. Knapp's Pennsylvania battery was engaged from beginning to end on Geary's left flank, and contributed vastly to his success in holding to his position, as it were, with his teeth. Captain Elliott, of Geary's staff, was instantly killed during the action. The General's staff has suf
fered heavily during the campaign, having lost five of its members since the movement against Dallas.
The Thirty-third New Jersey, which was advanced to fortify a hill on the skirmish line, lost more than half its number on the first onset. General Geary was on the hill with it when attacked, and had barely time to reach his main column.
ATTACK ON GENERAL WILLIAMS.
The rebel attack rolled along the left until General Williams' fine division was fully engaged. It had advanced to close up on Geary, General Knipe's brigade in the centre, General Ruger's on the right, and Colonel Robinson's on the left. It fought from four o'clock till long after dark, in a dense forest, without yielding a foot. It was a fair stand up fight, in which Williams' division lost more heavily than any other in the engagement. When they first advanced against Colonel Robinson's brigade, the rebels held up their hands as if to surrender, upon which, seeing our lads hesitate, they instantly poured a volley into them. wretched and cowardly tactics were practised on other portions of the line.
The brigade of Colonel Ansel McCook, on Palmer's left, was at one time heavily engaged, the One Hundred and Fourth and Tenth Wisconsin losing about fifty men each. The remainder of Palmer's corps was not engaged, and so rapid and conclusive was the fighting
that it was not needed to assist Hooker or Newton.
It is estimated that every man in Hooker's corps expended over a hundred rounds of ammunition. At the beginning of the fight the ammunition trains were on the north bank of the creek, but they were rushed over before the troops had generally emptied their
The enemy retired a mile or more during the
AN OFFICER'S ACCOUNT.
the Twentieth corps, and I trust the same may
armies of the Tennessee and the Ohio were ex-
On the twentieth instant a general advance in
Thus the day wore away until two o'clock P. M. Comparatively little firing har followed the movements of the troops-just enough to The developments anxiously hoped-for in the reveal the presence and position of the enemy. movements of McPherson and Schofield seemed to be awaited as the signal for active demonstrations by the Army of the Cumberland. But to which he was being rapidly brought, bethe enemy, appreciating the desperate condition thought himself to make one bold, dashing, determined effort to thwart our designs. Accordingly, early in the afternoon a fierce, rapid fire broke out along our picket lines, which quickly grew into a volleying roll of musketry in front of Ward's and Geary's divisions. The right where Williams' division lay grouped storm soon extended along the line toward the along the crest of a rather high and denselywooded hill. Between Williams' and Geary's divisions lay a deep hollow, down which, masked by the timber, the enemy was now General Williams, advancing in heavy masses. with that sudden inspiration which characterizes true military genius, saw at a glance the arrangement of his troops which, according to the nature of the ground and the unexpected exigencies of the moment, was best adapted
to meet this unlooked-for demonstration of the enemy. He hurried his brigades into position on the double-quick, and though they moved with all possible celerity, was unable to get them in their proper places ere they received a terrific fire from the enemy. Robinson's brigade hastened along the crest of the hill, then facing by the left flank, marched down the slope to receive the swarming masses of the overconfident and defiant foe. The fire of the enemy was so murderous, and his advance so impetuous, that it seemed for a time as if Rob inson's line must surely yield. It was an awful moment. The combatants were mingled with each other, and fighting hand to hand. The safety of the corps, and indeed the entire army seemed to depend upon the courage and determination of those devoted men. Should they give way, the enemy would get possession of the hill, command the rear, break the centre, capture hundreds of prisoners, all our artillery, and drive the remnant of our troops back to the creek, and perhaps to the Chattahoochee. But not one inch would those intrepid veterans vield. Though their ranks were fearfully thinned, and the tangled forest became strewn with bleeding forms as with autumn leaves, yet they determinedly maintained their position, and compelled the enemy to withdraw, leaving his dead and wounded mingled with the brave heroes who had fought and fallen beneath the starry folds of the flag of the Union.
While Robinson's brigade was thus contending against fearful odds, Knipe's (First) brigade had formed a line of battle stretching along the crest of the hill, in continuation of Robinson's line, and forming connection with the Fourteenth corps. Knipe had no sooner got into position than the enemy poured down upon him in an onslaught no less fierce and desperate than that made against Robinson. The awful picture of the battle as it raged at this monent no pencil can paint, no pen describe. The noonday air became dark and heavy with the powder-smoke, which hung like a gloomy canopy over the pale, bloody corpses of the slain. Wounded men were borne to the rear by scores, the blood streaming from their lacerated flesh, and presenting a sight which at any other time would sicken the heart with horror. Each instant some patriot heart, some noble form, the treasure and the light of some distant household, fell prone upon the earth and added a new martyr to freedom, a new victim to the causeless crime of southern traitors. The rattling roll of the musketry sounded like the continuous war of a cataract, and was joined by the thunderous chime of the deep-throated cannon, which spouted unceasing volumes of flames and iron into the faces of the foe. But amid all this carnage and confusion, Williams' veteran heroes wavered not, and the red star (the badge of the First division, Twentieth corps) of the First division never gleamed more valiantly than it did in the hour of that dreadful conflict. Too much cannot be said in praise of men who
would thus so nobly do and dare for the cause of country, God, and truth.
The enemy, finding it impossible to break the line or drive it from the hill, suddenly withdrew a short distance into the woods; but the fight did not end here. Ever and anon the rebels would surge forward again to the charge, as if goaded by some spirit of madness or fired by a desperate resolution which would not listen to failure. The sanguinary recklessness of Chickamauga was repeated, but with different results. Every effort of the enemy was foiled, every attack repulsed. Evening came on apace, and the battle subsided into the irregular firing of the pickets. The last beams of the declining sun, though they gleamed upon a sad and revolting spectacle, yet seemed to set the bloody field aglow with the almost unearthly light of complete triumph and glorious victory.
Thus terminated the fifth battle in which the First division has participated during this campaign. In each previous instance, as in this last, the enemy has been thoroughly beaten, and in no case has he gained the slightest advantage of General Williams' veterans. Twice at Resaca, once at Dallas, once at Kenesaw, and finally, once, at least, in the great struggle before Atlanta, the enemy has been compelled to eat the bitter fruit of defeat and disaster by this splendid division. Yet comparatively little has been said of its exploits in the public prints, and the credit of much that it has done has been unfairly awarded to other commands. Its intrepid and skilful leader, who has the most unlimited confidence of his entire command, seems to have been also overlooked, both by the public and the Government, and those cheap rewards, so justly due to long and faithful services, seem to have been withheld from him to be bestowed upon others who were less of soldiers and more of politicians. It is well that the Republic can yet boast of men to whom the voice of duty speaks more potently than the insinuations of public ingratitude and personal injustice. History will forever honor the men who have done the real work of this war, while she will utterly ignore the political scramblers who by wireworking have obtained lofty promotion, and on very small capital have managed to obtain a sort of fire-fly reputation.
In the repulse of yesterday, the enemy received a damaging blow, from which he cannot fully recover. It is almost to be hoped, that he will continue to spend his strength in such crazy attempts to destroy this army. By no other means can he more surely bring himself to that just retribution which is the proper reward of his crime against his country and the civilization of the age. Let the rebel legions continue to precipitate themselves against the iron lines that press them toward the Gulf. It may ultimately give relief to their insane hate, and bring them, by the dreadful argument of blood, to the conviction that they are wrong and we are right.