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´╗┐Title: Army of the Cumberland and the Battle of Stone's River
Author: Kniffin, Gilbert C.
Language: English
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Libraries.)



  Military Order of the Loyal Legion
  of the
  United States.


  COMMANDERY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.


  WAR PAPERS.
  68

  Army of the Cumberland and the Battle of Stone's River.


  LIEUTENANT-COLONEL
  GILBERT C. KNIFFIN,
  U. S. VOLUNTEERS,

  AND
  READ AT THE STATED MEETING OF APRIL 3, 1907.



Army of the Cumberland and the Battle of Stone River.


The Army of the Ohio, after crowding into the space of six weeks more hard
marching and fighting than fell to the lot of any other army in the United
States during the summer of 1862, was, on the last of October, encamped in
the vicinity of Bowling Green, Kentucky. General Bragg and Kirby Smith,
turning Buell's left flank, had invaded Kentucky, gained the rear of
Buell, threatened his base at Louisville, and but for the _vis inertia_
which always seemed to seize upon the Confederates when in sight of
complete victory, would have captured Louisville. The battle of Perryville
resulting in the hasty exit of the combined armies of Bragg and Smith
through Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee, the deliberate sweep of
Buell's columns in their rear, the halt at Crab Orchard, and the return
march towards Nashville are part of the events of an earlier chapter in
the history of the rebellion. The occupation of East Tennessee by the
Union Army had from the commencement of hostilities been an object dear to
the great heart of President Lincoln. He had hoped for its accomplishment
under General Sherman. It had been included in the instructions to General
Buell, but eighteen months had passed and the Confederate flag still waved
in triumph from the spire of the court-house at Knoxville. The retreat of
the Confederate Army into East Tennessee in what was reported as a routed
and disorganized condition had seemed like a favorable opportunity to
carry out the long-cherished design of the Government. The movement of
large armies across the country upon a map in the War Office, although
apparently practicable, bore so little relation to actual campaigning as
to have already caused the decapitation of more than one general.

The positive refusal of General Buell to march 60,000 men into a sterile
and hostile country across a range of mountains in pursuit of an army of
equal strength with his own, when by simply turning southward he could
meet it around the western spur of the same range, although it has since
been upheld by every military authority, caused his prompt removal from
command of the army he had organized and led to victory. The army had been
slow to believe in the incapacity of General Buell, and had recognized the
wisdom of his change of front from Cumberland Gap towards Nashville, but
there were causes for dissatisfaction, which, in the absence of knowledge
as to the difficulties under which he labored were attributed to him. A
full knowledge of all the circumstances would have transferred them to the
War Department. Major-General William S. Rosecrans, the newly-appointed
commander of the Army of the Cumberland, graduated at West Point July 1,
1842, as brevet second lieutenant corps of engineers. He resigned from the
army April 1, 1854, and entered civil life at Cincinnati as a civil
engineer and architect. His energy and capability for large undertakings,
coupled with an inherent capacity for command, caused him to be selected
as superintendent of a cannel coal company in Virginia and president of
the Coal River Navigation Company.

The discovery of coal oil at this period at once attracted his attention,
and he had embarked in its manufacture when the tocsin of war called him
into the field. His first duty was as volunteer aid to General McClellan,
where his military experience rendered him very efficient in the
organization of troops. He became commander of Camp Chase, colonel on the
staff, chief engineer of the State of Ohio, and colonel Twenty-third Ohio
Volunteer Infantry, commanded later by Rutherford B. Hayes and Stanley
Matthews, and was appointed brigadier-general U. S. A., May 16, 1861.
After conducting the campaigns in West Virginia to a successful issue he
was ordered South and assigned to command of a division in the Army of the
Mississippi under General Pope. He participated creditably in the siege of
Corinth, and after its evacuation, and the transfer of General Pope to the
eastern army assumed command of the Army of the Mississippi and District
of Corinth. His heroic defense of that post and pursuit of Van Dorn's
defeated army following closely upon his military record in West Virginia
again attracted the attention of the President and pointed him out as
eminently fitted to succeed General Buell. General Rosecrans ordered to
proceed to Cincinnati did not specify the command to which he was to be
assigned. His commission as major-general, dated September 16th, was of
much later date than the commissions of Buell, Thomas, McCook, and
Crittenden. General Thomas ranked him five months--McCook and Crittenden
two months. On opening his orders at Cincinnati he found an autograph
letter from General Halleck directing him to proceed to Louisville and
relieve General Buell in command of the Army of the Ohio. The usual method
has always been to issue simultaneous orders to both officers, thus
affording time to the officer to be relieved in which to arrange the
details of his office, but Halleck was a law unto himself, and in
relieving an army officer usually did it in a way to render it equivalent
to dismissal from the service. Rosecrans afterward referred to his visit
to Buell's headquarters as more like that of a constable bearing a writ
for the ejectment of a tenant than as a general on his way to relieve a
brother officer in command of an army. The difficulty of rank was bridged
over by antedating Rosecrans' commission to March 16th. In a subsequent
interview with General Thomas, when that splendid soldier expressed the
pleasure it would give him to serve under a general who had given such
satisfactory evidence of fitness to command, but felt doubts as to his
right to do so on account of the disparity of their rank, General
Rosecrans frankly revealed the means by which his commission had been made
to date from the period of his operations in Western Virginia, and that as
it now stood, General Thomas need have no fears of compromising his
dignity as a United States officer. The explanation was entirely
satisfactory, and no question of the superior rank of the commanding
general was ever raised. After a rest and visit to his family of only
sixty hours, General Rosecrans proceeded to Louisville, and assumed
command of the army on the 28th of October, and on the 30th joined it at
Bowling Green.

Here the first interview took place between the General and his corps
commanders. Major-General George H. Thomas, strong, grave, benignant,
majestic in deportment, had now been with the army a year; revered by the
entire army, loved by his old division, he was a man to be trusted.
Major-General Thomas L. Crittenden, a son of Senator Crittenden, of
Kentucky, bold, impetuous, and of knightly grace of manner, possessed of
that cheerful courage which finds its best expression on the battle field,
the idol of his old division, whose gallant conduct at Shiloh had won for
its brave commander promotion to the rank of major-general. Major-General
Alexander McD. McCook, the antipodes of Thomas, of never-failing good
humor and undoubted courage, apt to neglect proper precautions for the
safety of his command, but ever ready to assume all the responsibility of
failure, over-confident, generous, yielding in his disposition, yet
enjoying the confidence of the men whose heroism at Shiloh had won the
eulogies of Sherman, added a second star upon his broad shoulders, and
saved him from reproach after the repulse upon the field at Perryville. In
physique the three corps commanders were as unlike as in personal
character. Thomas had a massive, full-rounded, erect and powerful figure,
six feet in stature. His features heavy but well carved, with a strong,
combative nose, his upper lip and square jaws and chin covered with a
growth of sandy beard slightly silvered, bushy brows set like a canopy
over clear blue eyes, a broad, white forehead, and curly golden hair in
luxuriant profusion, covering a large, well-formed head. Out of fifty-four
years of life he had worn the uniform of a United States officer
twenty-two years, and in all that time he had borne himself as an officer
and a gentleman. Altogether a soldier, simple and unaffected, honest,
truthful, patient, obedient to orders and requiring obedience, he never
swerved an iota from the path of duty; acting upon well-matured opinions,
he was a friend to be loved and an enemy to be feared.

Crittenden was tall, slender, and straight as an arrow. His clean-cut
features were handsomely modeled, his eyes dark and full of expression,
were full of mirth when there was no cause for anger--then they shone with
a dangerous light--a thin black beard worn full and pointed at the end,
long flowing locks of raven hair falling nearly to his shoulders, beneath
a black felt hat turned up at the sides, booted and spurred, with sword
dangling at his side, and mounted upon his blooded horse, he was indeed a
knight "without fear and without reproach." A long experience in the
diplomatic service and in refined society had imparted a high degree of
grace and polish of manner, which united to fair intellectual attainments
and a magnetic smile which greeted all, from the simplest private soldier
to the highest officer in his command, won the admiration and boundless
affection of all who knew him.

McCook, low in stature, was inclined to be fleshy, a full face innocent of
beard, with the exception of a slight mustache, a broad low forehead,
regular features easily wrought into a smile, light hair and a well-shaped
head gave him a boyish appearance. Closer observation revealed the
presence of more character. There was in the steadiness of gaze, the
massive jaws, and the respectful demeanor of his subordinate officers,
reason to believe that the youthful major-general had fairly won the twin
stars that shone upon his shoulder. He had graduated from West Point with
the brevet rank of second lieutenant, had served in several campaigns
against the Indians, been instructor in infantry tactics at West Point,
where the breaking out of the war found him at thirty years of age.
Ordered to Columbus, Ohio, as mustering and disbursing officer, he was
appointed colonel of the First Ohio Infantry, which he led in the first
battle of Bull Run, receiving commendation where so many failed to deserve
it. Reward came in the form of a commission as brigadier-general, with
orders to report for duty to General Buell. The heroic conduct of his
division at Shiloh added another star, and, but for the censure of General
Buell for bringing on the battle of Perryville without orders, there was
no reason why he should not be entrusted with the command to which his
rank entitled him.

Notwithstanding General Rosecrans was a stranger to the army, to the
command of which he had been assigned, his name had long been familiar to
both officers and men, for war literature had sounded his praises. They
had followed him through his campaigns in Western Virginia, had heard the
sharp volleys of his musketry on their left at the siege of Corinth, and
more recently the country had been electrified by his brilliant victory
over Van Dorn. The contrast between Generals Buell and Rosecrans was not
more marked in personal appearance than in methods. The former was cold,
impassive, and polite; the latter boisterous, warm-hearted, and brusque.
The frigid dignity which hedged the person of Buell, enclosing department
headquarters as within a wall of ice, behind which silence reigned, and
through the guarded portals of which none ventured unbidden, was swept
away by General Rosecrans, who transformed its solemn precincts into a
busy workhouse, where chiefs of staff departments, surrounded by an army
of clerks, wrought at their respective vocations, placing the new
commander _en rapport_ with the most minute details of his army. Most of
his staff accompanied him from the Army of the Mississippi. They had
proved themselves capable and trustworthy, and the general naturally
desired the presence of old friends in his military family. But there was
at least one officer of the old department staff with whom the entire army
parted with sincere regret--Colonel James B. Fry, Buell's adjutant-general
and chief of staff. The kindness of manner, the inexhaustible patience and
good humor and never-failing knowledge of military affairs which this
officer possessed had gone far to soften the asperities and dispel the
chill which hung about department headquarters.

Brigadier-General D. S. Stanley reported for duty as chief of cavalry
early in December, and at once assumed command.

General Stanley graduated at West Point in the class of 1852, and was
assigned to the Second Dragoons with the rank of second lieutenant. After
three years' service on the plains he was transferred to the First Cavalry
as first lieutenant, then under command of Colonel E. V. Sumner. Joe
Johnston was lieutenant-colonel, and John Sedgwick and William H. Emory
majors. In 1857 he accompanied Colonel Sumner on an expedition against the
Cheyenne Indians, in which he was engaged in a sharp fight on Solomon's
Fork of the Kansas River, in which the Indians were defeated. In 1858 he
was engaged in the Utah Expedition, and in the same year he crossed the
plains to the northern boundary of Texas. In a sharp and decisive battle
with the Comanches Lieutenant Stanley displayed such courage and skill in
handling his command as to receive the complimentary orders of General
Scott. The opening of the rebellion found him stationed at Fort Scott,
Arkansas, where, in March, he received his commission as captain in the
Fourth Cavalry. His command was included in the surrender made by General
Twiggs, but the heart of the brave officer beat loyal to the flag of his
country, and he resolved upon a march northward to Kansas City, Mo.
Uniting his force with that at Fort Smith, the column moved through the
Indian country. A Confederate force sent against them was, on the eighth
of May, captured and paroled. On the fifteenth of June they occupied
Kansas City, and marched at once upon Independence, where Captain Stanley
was fired upon while carrying a flag of truce. He joined General Lyon in
his expedition against Springfield, which was occupied July twelfth. He
participated in the various engagements in Missouri in the summer of 1861,
displaying in an eminent degree the dash and conspicuous courage which so
distinguished him in his subsequent career, and in September he reported
with his regiment to General Fremont at St. Louis. He marched against
Price from Syracuse, and in November moved against Springfield. Captain
Stanley was appointed brigadier-general in November, 1861, and in March,
1862, was assigned to the command of the Second division of Pope's army in
the expedition against New Madrid and Island No. 10, the Fort Pillow
Expedition, and in the siege of Corinth. Here his acquaintance with
General Rosecrans began, ripening into sincere attachment under the fire
of Price's guns at Iuka, and the yet fiercer blaze of Van Dorn's
hard-fighting battalions at Corinth in October. His conspicuous gallantry
on this occasion added a second star to the insignia of his rank and
caused him to be selected by his old commander in arms to organize and
lead the cavalry of his new command. In person General Stanley was tall
and erect. A handsome face and long, flowing beard, slightly silvered,
engaging in manner and full of enthusiasm for the success of the cause in
which he held his own life as nothing in comparison, he soon impressed his
personality upon the cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland and made it a
reliable branch of the service.

December, 1862, was a busy month. The year was fast drawing to a close,
and both Union and Confederate generals had little to report save plots
and counter-plots. On the part of each there was little that was
encouraging. The early spring had found Middle and West Tennessee in the
possession of the former. Two large armies occupied all prominent points,
and the beaten Confederates encamped in Mississippi were confronted by an
army too powerful for them to attack.

Early autumn witnessed the enforced retirement of Buell's army to the line
of the Ohio River, while the Confederates reaped the harvests in Kentucky
and Middle Tennessee.

The tenth of October found Grant embarked upon his march southward to
Vicksburg, driving Pemberton before him. Sherman arranging for
co-operation by water, the Army of the Cumberland encamped near Nashville,
with Bragg's twice defeated army in its front, and Hindman's beaten troops
flying before the victorious divisions of Herron and Blunt from the battle
field of Prairie Grove.

East Tennessee being left comparatively free from molestation by the
abandonment of pursuit through Cumberland Gap, General Kirby Smith was at
liberty to reinforce points more strongly threatened. He had no sooner
succeeded in collecting his stragglers and reorganizing his army,
reinforcing it by several new regiments, than, in compliance with orders
from the Confederate War Department, he dispatched Stevenson's division to
the relief of Pemberton at Grenada, and McCown, with his division, to
report to Bragg at Murfreesboro.

Orders for a forward movement were issued by General Rosecrans on
Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of December, and on Christmas morning the
camps were alive with preparation. The day was spent in writing to loved
ones far away among the snow-covered hills of the great Northwest. Tattoo
found men discussing the chances of coming battle. Here and there was a
soldier giving the last finishing touch to the gleaming gun-barrel. The
surgeon, in his tent, sat before a table on which in glittering display
lay the implements of his craft. The long, keen knife, the saw, the probe,
were each in turn subjected to close inspection and carefully adjusted in
the case. Field officers paid a last visit to their faithful chargers and
exhorted grooms to feed early and not to forget to bring along an extra
feed lest perchance the following night would find the troops far in
advance of the wagons. Quartermasters, that hard-worked and
little-appreciated class of officers, toiling through the long night with
their loaded wagon trains getting into position for an orderly march;
commissaries, upon whose vigilance all depended, carrying out orders for
three days' rations in haversacks and five days' more in wagons. A busy
day was followed by a busy night. The clatter of horses' hoofs upon the
turnpike roads leading out of Nashville to the encampments sounded all
through the night. Now a solitary orderly galloped down from division
headquarters bearing a message to a brigade commander. Soon a group of
officers rode gaily by from a late carousal at the St. Cloud; then came a
corps commander with staff and escort from conference with the chief, his
last injunction ringing in his ears, "We move tomorrow, gentlemen. We
shall begin to skirmish probably as soon as we pass the outposts. Press
them hard. Drive them out of their nests. Make them fight or run. Strike
hard and fast; give them no rest. Fight them! fight them! fight them! I
say," as the uplifted right hand emphasized each sentence upon the palm of
the left hand. Thomas received the orders with a grim smile of approval;
McCook's sharp eyes twinkled with enjoyment; Crittenden straightened his
trim figure, and his eyes shone as he stalked out of the room, followed by
his aides, as if in haste to begin his part of the programme. There was
glorious assurance in the manly stride, the determined look, and in the
triple armor with which he is clad who hath his quarrel just; and his must
have been a dull ear, indeed, who did not note, in the merry jest and
tuneful song that floated along the ranks, the augury of victory.

At the head of their respective columns rode Thomas, accompanied by his
staff officers, with the brave and accomplished Major George E. Flynt at
their head. There was Von Schroeder, Mack, Mackey, and the rest. McCook,
with Langdon, Nodine, Thruston, Campbell, and Williams. Crittenden,
followed by Starling, Loder, Mendenhall, Buford, John McCook, Knox, and
the writer of this chronicle. Brave hearts beat high that day. On the
right, far in advance of the infantry, rode Stanley, with trusty Sinclair
by his side, while his cavalry swept on out the Nolensville pike, driving
Wheeler's pickets before them.

Sturdy John Kennett, with a brigade of cavalry at his heels, advanced upon
the broad turnpike road straight toward the enemy, nor stopped until
nightfall, notwithstanding constant skirmishing, when, on reaching an
eminence that overlooked La Vergne, a large force was encountered. The
plain below was dotted with groups of cavalry. Suddenly a puff of smoke
and a shell well aimed along the line of the road, carried death in its
track. Another and another followed in quick succession, clearing the road
as fast as men's legs could carry them. The head of Palmer's infantry
column came up and halted at the side of the road. General Crittenden and
his staff rode forward to watch the artillery duel now in progress--for
Newell's battery had unlimbered at the first shot and was firing rapidly.
Mr. Robert H. Crittenden (a brother of the general), and the writer, his
boon companion, riding side by side, advanced beyond their companions in
full view of the artillerists, presenting a conspicuous mark. Quick as
lightning a shell came hissing through the air and passed in the narrow
space of a yard between their horses. It is needless to add that, their
curiosity being gratified, they lost no time in seeking the friendly cover
of a log-house by the roadside. Newell planted his shots from two
three-inch Rodmans with such dexterity as to silence the enemy's battery
of four guns. Colonel Enyart, with the First Kentucky and the Thirty-first
Indiana Infantry, supported on the right by Colonel W. C. Whitaker with
the Sixth Kentucky and the Thirty-first Indiana Infantry, supported on the
right by Colonel W. C. Whitaker with the Sixth Kentucky and Ninth Indiana,
preceded by Colonel Murray with the Third Kentucky Cavalry, now moved to
the left and advanced through the cedars towards Stony Creek, where they
were met by a force sent to intercept them. The order to charge with the
bayonet was followed by a swift rush across the creek, the routed
Confederates flying before the gleaming steel, and the army bivouacked for
the night before La Vergne.

After five days' fighting into position the army formed line of battle in
front of Murfreesboro. Summoning his corps commanders the General
promulgated his plan of battle. General McCook was to occupy the most
advantageous position, refusing his right as much as practicable and
necessary to secure it, to receive the attack of the enemy, or, if that
did not come, to attack sufficiently to hold all the forces in his front.
Generals Negley and Palmer to open with skirmishing, and engage the
enemy's center and left as far as the river. Crittenden to cross Van
Cleve's division at the lower ford, covered and supported by Morgan's
pioneer corps, 1,700 strong, and to advance on Breckinridge. Wood's
division to cross by brigades at the upper ford, and moving on Van Cleve's
right, to carry everything before them to Murfreesboro. This movement
would, it was supposed, dislodge Breckinridge, and gaining the high ground
east of Stones River, Wood's batteries could obtain an enfilading fire
upon the heavy body of troops massed in front of Negley and Palmer. The
center and left, using Negley's right as a pivote, were to swing around
through Murfreesboro and take the force confronting McCook in rear,
driving it into the country towards Salem. The successful execution of
General Rosecrans' design depended not more upon the spirit and gallantry
of the assaulting column than upon the courage and obstinacy with which
the position held by the Right Wing was maintained. Having explained this
fact to General McCook, the commanding general asked him if, with a full
knowledge of the ground over which he had fought, he could hold his
position three hours--again alluding to his dissatisfaction with the
direction which his line had assumed, but, as before, leaving that to the
corps commander--"I think I can," said McCook, and the conference ended.

General Braxton Bragg, a graduate of West Point, a master in military
science, a commander whose endurance and hard fighting qualities in the
field were more conspicuous than his generalship in the management of
campaign, was in command of the Confederate army at Murfreesboro. He had
taken up the execution of the plan of battle where it had dropped from the
dying hand of Albert Sydney Johnston, and was advancing to carry it out at
Shiloh, when his brigades were recalled by Beauregard, sick in an
ambulance three miles in the rear. He had, by a brilliant flank movement
of three hundred miles through a mountainous region, gained Buell's rear
in Kentucky, only to emerge from the farthest corner of the State without
a decisive battle. Recriminations had grown out of this campaign which
threatened to sap the influence of the commanding general. General Polk
had been threatened with court-martial, and Hardee expressed the opinion
that if Bragg persisted in bringing charges, Polk could, if he would, "rip
up the Kentucky campaign--tear Bragg to tatters." These compliments,
however, passed only between prominent officers; the army was in good
state of discipline, although out of an aggregate 85,372 only 47,930 were
carried on the rolls as effectives, and 30,000 were absent, with and
without leave.

Bragg had in his army about the same proportion of raw troops to veterans
as were found in that in his front, and both armies were equally well
armed. Men who had tested each other's metal at Pea Ridge, Shiloh, and
Perryville, and in innumerable skirmishes, were again arrayed for a final
conflict. Here was Bragg, sullen, hard-featured, unapproachable; Polk,
benignant, dignified, majestic; Hardee, the superb rider, the strict
disciplinarian, the steady, persistent fighter; Breckinridge, elegant in
manner, eloquent in speech, courteous, courageous, the idol of the
Kentucky brigade, and, like the men who composed it, dimly conscious
possibly of the crime against his favorite dogma of States rights, and the
ingratitude of a people whose cause they had espoused against the
expressed will of their native State.

Among the division commanders were Cheatham, whose headlong charges at
Shiloh and Perryville thousands of maimed soldiers both North and South
had cause to remember; Cleburne, stubborn and stout of heart, blunt,
impassive and heavy, who was destined two years later to pour out his
life's blood upon the breastworks at Franklin; McCown and Withers of
lesser note, and a host of brigade and regimental commanders who had won
their rank under the eyes of their grim commander.

General Rosecrans, having arranged his plan of battle, had risen early to
superintend its execution. General Crittenden, whose headquarters were a
few paces distant, mounted at 6 A. M., and with his staff rode to an
eminence, where the chief, surrounded by his staff officers, sat on their
horses listening to the opening guns on the right. The plan of General
Bragg was instantly divined, but no apprehension of danger was felt.
Suddenly the woods on the right in the rear of Negley, appeared to be
alive with men wandering aimlessly in the direction of the rear. The roar
of artillery grows more distinct, mingled with continuous volleys of
musketry. It can not be that the veteran brigades of the Right Wing are
being driven back. McCook is surely only falling back to secure a position
that he can hold for the promised three hours. The rear of a line of
battle always presents the pitiable spectacle of a horde of skulkers--men
who, when tried in the fierce flame of battle, find, often to their own
disgust, that they are lacking in the element of courage. But the sight
of whole regiments of soldiers flying in panic to the rear was a sight
never seen but on that solitary occasion, before or since, by the Army of
the Cumberland. Captain Otis, from his position on the extreme right, who
arrives breathless, his horse reeking with foam, to inform General
Rosecrans that the Right Wing is in rapid retreat. The astounding
intelligence is confirmed a moment later by a staff officer from General
McCook, calling for reinforcements. "Tell General McCook," roared the
chief, "to contest every inch of ground. If he holds them, we will swing
into Murfreesboro and cut them off." Then Rousseau, with his reserves, was
sent into the fight, and Van Cleve, at the head of Crittenden's old Shiloh
division, came dashing across the fields, with water dripping from their
clothing, to take a hand in the fray. Harker's brigade was withdrawn from
the left and sent in on Rousseau's right, and the Pioneer brigade,
relieved at the ford by Price's brigade, was posted on Harker's right. The
remaining brigades of Van Cleve's division, Beatty's and Fyffe's, formed
on the extreme right, and thus an improvised line half a mile in extent,
presented a new and unexpected front to the approaching enemy. It was a
trying position to Van Cleve's men to stand in line, a living wall, while
the panic-stricken soldiers of McCook's beaten regiments, flying in terror
through the woods, rushed past them, the sharp rattle of McCown's musketry
behind them lending wings to their flight. The Union lines could not fire,
for their comrades were between them and the enemy. Rosecrans seemed
ubiquitous. All these dispositions had been made under his personal
direction. Finding Sheridan coming out of the cedars into which Rousseau
had just retired, he directed him to the ammunition train, with orders to
fill his cartridge boxes and return to the support of Hazen's brigade on
the edge of the Round Forrest. Captain Morton, with the Pioneers and the
Chicago Board of Trade Battery, pushed into the cedars, and disappeared
from view simultaneously with Harker. The general course of the tide of
stragglers toward the rear struck the turnpike at the point where Van
Cleve stood impatiently awaiting the order to advance. All along the line
men were falling, struck by the bullets of the enemy, who soon appeared at
the edge of the woods on Morton's flank. The order to charge was given by
General Rosecrans in person, and, like hounds from the leash, the division
sprang forward, reserving their fire for close quarters. It was the crisis
in the battle. If this line was broken all was lost. Every man rose to the
occasion and proved himself a hero. Steadily, as a majestic river moves on
its resistless way, the line swept forward, sending a shower of bullets to
the front. The left was now exposed to attack, and, riding rapidly to the
ford, General Rosecrans inquired who commanded the brigade. "I do, sir,"
said Colonel Price. "Will you hold this ford?" "I will try, sir." "Will
you hold this ford?" "I will die right here." "Will you hold this ford?"
for the third time thundered the general. "Yes, sir," said the colonel.
"That will do"; and away galloped the general to where Palmer was
contending against long odds for the possession of the Round Forrest in
the center of the line. All along the line from Van Cleve's right to
Wood's left, the space gradually narrowed between the contending hosts.
The weak had gone to the rear; no room now for any but brave men, and no
time given for new dispositions; every man who had a stomach for fighting
was engaged on the firing line. From a right angle the Confederate left
had been pressed back by Van Cleve and Harker and the Pioneers to an angle
of forty-five degrees in less than that number of minutes. This advance
brought Van Cleve within view of Rousseau, who at once requested him to
form on his right. Harker, entering the woods on the left of Van Cleve,
passed to his right, and now closed up on his flank. The enemy had fallen
back stubbornly fighting, and made a stand on the left of Cheatham. Brave
old Van Cleve, his white hair streaming in the wind, the blood flowing
from a gaping wound in his foot, rode gallantly along the line to where
Harker was stiffly holding his position, with his right "in the air."
Bidding him to hold fast to every inch of ground, he rode to Swallow's
Battery, which was working with the rapidity of a steam fire-engine,
"Don't let them get your guns, Swallow!" he shouted, as he dashed by on
his way to the left, where Sam Beatty, heavy and impassive, was pounding
away with his minie rifles at a line of men who seemed always on the point
of advancing. The brigades of Stanley and Miller having fallen back, as
previously described, and the entire strength of Cheatham and three
brigades of Withers and Cleburne having fallen upon Rousseau, he had
fallen back into the open field, where he found Van Cleve. Loomis's and
Guenthers' batteries, double-shotted with canister, were posted on a
ridge, and as the Confederate line advanced, opened upon it with terrible
force. Men fell like ripened grain before a reaper, but the line moved
straight ahead. The field, swept by a storm of iron hail, was covered with
dead and wounded men. The deep bass of the artillery was mingled with the
higher notes of the minie rifles, while the brief pauses could be
distinguished the quickly-spoken orders of the commanding officers, and
the groans of the wounded. It was the full orchestra of battle. But there
is a limit of human endurance. The Confederate brigades, now melted to
three-fourths their original numbers, wavered and fell back; again and
again they reformed in the woods and advanced to the charge, only to meet
with a bloody repulse. Four deliberate and sustained attempts were made
to carry the position, and each failed. While these events were following
each other in rapid succession, and some of them occurring simultaneously,
the Left Wing had not only held its position, but had furnished three
brigades to repel the advance of Bragg's left upon the rear of the army.

While Colonel Hazen was gallantly defending the left of the line from nine
o'clock in the morning until two in the afternoon, the fight raged no less
furiously on his immediate right. Here a line composed of two brigades of
Palmer's division and one of Wood's, filled out by the remains of
Sheridan's divisions, who, after they had replenished their ammunition,
formed behind the railroad embankment at right angles with Hazen's
brigade, which alone retained its position upon the original line. Farther
to the right was Rousseau, with Van Cleve and Harker on his right. I leave
to more graphic pens to describe the grand pyrotechnics of the battle
field at this supreme moment when victory hung evenly balanced. Past the
crowd of fugitives from the Right Wing the undaunted soldiers of the Left
and Center had swept "with the light of battle in their faces," and now in
strong array they stood like a rock-bound coast beating back the tide
which threatened to engulf the rear. Along this line rode Rosecrans with
face illuminated by the light of exalted courage; Thomas, calm, inflexible
as a mighty judge, from whose gaze skulkers shrank abashed; Crittenden,
cheerful and full of hope, complimenting his men as he rode along the
lines; Rousseau, whose fiery impetuosity no disaster could quell; Palmer,
with a stock of cool courage and presence of mind equal to any emergency;
Wood, suffering from a wound in his heel, stayed in the saddle, but had
lost the jocularity which usually characterized him. "Good-bye, General,
'we will all meet at the hatter's' as one coon said to another when the
dogs were after them," he said to Crittenden early in the action, but at
ten o'clock a minie ball struck his boot and lacerated his heel--his good
humor was gone for the day. "Are we going about it right now, General?"
asked Morton, as he glanced along the blazing line of muskets to where the
Chicago battery quivered with the rapidity of its discharges. "All right,
fire low," said the chief as he dashed by. Colonel Grose, always in his
place, had command of the Ammen brigade, the "glorious Tenth" of Shiloh
memory, with which, and, with Hazen's and Cruft's brigades, the gallant
and lamented Nelson had swept, like an avenging Nemesis, upon the right of
Beauregard's victorious army, driving it back to its base at Corinth.

After the formation of this line at noon it never receded; as has been
stated, the right swung around until, at two o'clock, about one-half of
the lost ground had been retaken. The artillery, more than fifty guns, was
massed in the open ground behind the angle in the line; twenty-eight guns
had been captured, when they poured a continuous torrent of iron missiles
upon the Confederate line. They could not fire amiss. The fire from Cox's
Battery was directed upon Hanson's brigade across the river, where Cobb,
with Napoleons, returned the compliment with zeal and precision.
Schaefer's brigade having received a new stock of cartridges, formed on
Palmer's right, where later the brave commander received his death wound,
the last of Sheridan's brigade commanders who had fallen during the day.

At four o'clock it became evident to the Confederate commander that his
only hope of success lay in a charge upon the Union left, which, by its
overpowering weight, should carry everything before it. The movement of
Cleburne to the left in support of McCown had deprived him of reserves;
but Breckinridge had four brigades unemployed on the right, and these were
peremptorily ordered across the river to the support of General Polk. The
error made by General Polk in making an attack with the two brigades that
first arrived upon the field, instead of awaiting the arrival of General
Breckinridge with the remaining brigades, was so palpable as to render an
excuse for failure necessary. This was easily found in the tardy execution
of Bragg's order by Breckinridge, and resulted in sharp criticism of the
latter. The Third Kentucky, now nearly annihilated, and its Colonel, Sam
McKee, killed, was relieved by the Fifty-eighth Indiana, Colonel George P.
Buell. The Sixth Ohio, with the gallant Colonel Nicholas L. Anderson at
its head, took position on the right of the Twenty-sixth Ohio, with its
right advanced so that its line of fire would sweep the front of the
regiments on its left. The Ninety-seventh Ohio and One Hundredth Illinois
came up and still further strengthened the right of Hazen's position. They
had not long to wait for the attack. These dispositions had barely been
made when a long line of infantry emerged from behind the hill. Adam's and
Jackson's fresh brigades were on the right, and Donelson's and Chalmers's,
badly cut up but stout of heart, were on the left. Out they came in
splendid style, full six thousand strong. Estepp's case-shot tore through
their ranks, but the gaps closed up. Parsons sent volley after volley of
grape shot against it, and the Sixth and Twenty-sixth Ohio, taking up the
refrain, added the sharp rattle of their minie rifles to the unearthly
din. Still the line pressed forward, firing as they came, nor wavered in
the onward march, until met by a simultaneous volley of musketry which
stretched hundreds of their number mangled upon the earth. They staggered
back, but, quickly reformed and reinforced by Preston and Palmer,
advanced again to the charge. The battle had hushed on the extreme right,
and the dreadful splendor of this advance is indescribable. The right was
even with the left of the Union line, and the left stretched way past the
point of woods from which Negley had retired. It was such a charge as this
that broke the lines of Wallace and Hurlbut at Shiloh, and enveloped
Prentice in its strong embrace. It had no sooner moved into the open field
from the cover of the river bank than it was saluted with such a roar of
artillery as shook the earth. Men plucked the cotton from the bolls at
their feet and stuffed it in their ears. No human force could withstand
the tornado of iron that swept against it. Huge gaps were torn in it at
every discharge. Men lay in heaps before and behind it. Shells exploding
sent showers of mangled forms into the air. They staggered forward half
the distance across the fields, when the infantry lines blazed in their
front, and a shower of minie balls was added to the fury of the storm.
They wavered and fell back. The field was won. Night fell upon a field
strewn with the mangled forms of men, who, but twenty-four hours before
were buoyant with life and hope, upon the faces of dead men turned upward
to the sky; upon long lines of infantry faint for lack of food and gasping
for water; upon a horde of panic-stricken men wending their way in solemn
procession to the rear, "where the subsequent proceedings interested them
no more," and upon Walker's and Shackelford's brigades marching to the
front, Garesche, Schaefer, Sill, Roberts, McKee, and genial, happy hearted
Fred. Jones, and a host of others were dead or suffering mortal agony.

The first day's fight was over.



Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "Breckenridge" corrected to "Breckinridge" (page 15)
  "Confedrate" corrected to "Confederate" (page 22)





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