« PreviousContinue »
morning of the battle, orders came from General Thomas that their assistance was no longer needed, and the brigade retraced their steps to Somerset.
During this time a heavy storm came on, and torrents of rain continued to pour upon the devoted troops. General Thomas' immediate command was tolerably well protected; but General Carter's brigade had started without tents, and hence were completely exposed to the drenching rain and chilling wind. Every man in the brigade was soaked to the skin before Logan's Place was reached, and during the remainder of Saturday night the poor fellows lay on the wet ground sheltered only by the dripping woods.
On the morning of the fight the regiments posted on Logan's farm were distributed as follows: on the right of the road to Hart's Ford, facing toward the river, were the Ninth Ohio and Second Minnesota; directly opposite them, on the left, lay General Carter's brigade; threequarters of a mile south-east of it were the Fourth Kentucky, Tenth Indiana, and two batteries—the Tenth Indiana occupying the most advanced position. In front of the last mentioned regiment were encamped about one hundred and twenty of Wolford's Cavalry, the balance of the regiment being off on escort duty; about two and a half miles further south was the outmost Union picket—twenty of Wolford's cavalry, the Fourteenth Ohio and Tenth Kentucky being still encamped eight miles to the north-east. It is thus seen that the Federal force advanced upon by the rebels included no more than seven infantry regiments, the detached Michigan companies, one hundred and forty cavalry, and two batteries.
The main characteristics of the battle-ground are steep, bluff-like hills, and abrupt narrow ravines. The only comparative levels are formed by the undulating ridges of the former. Logan's Place extends over one of the most extensive of these, and, with its large cleared fields, afforded the best field for a battle that could have been found in many miles around. The whole country is covered with a thick growth of timber, except where the husbandman had cleared it away. The roads were but a succession of rugged little hills, tiring to the footman and taxing the wagoner's skill to the utmost in the best weather.
According to the statements of persons subsequently captured, Zollicoffer's original force did not exceed six thousand in number, which had been increased to ten thousand, comprising ten regiments of infantry, about three thousand cavalry, and fifteen pieces of artillery. On Saturday morning information was brought to General Crittenden by secession sympathizers, living near Somerset, of the proposed movement of General Carter's brigade. The rebel commander had learned that General Thomas' division was on the march to Somerset, but was not ware that it had already arrived; and supposing that General Carter's
mmand was merely setting out for scouting purposes, conceived a plan of falling upon it with his whole force. The plan being communicated to Zollicoffer, he strenuously objected to any demonstration outside of their intrenchments. His superior, however, insisted upon the project—bold and creditable enough, if not based upon wrong premises— and hence the whole rebel army moved out of the fortifications shortly after dark. Owing to the difficulty of working their artillery ahead, it took them until 3 A. M. to come within one mile of the Union pickets. Here they halted and rested, in a deluge of rain. At six o'clock they renewed their march, and their cavalry advance guard came up with Wolford's men. Supposing them to be only a foraging party, the Union dragoons attacked and drove them back. Perceiving, however, masses of infantry down the road, they sent word to General Thomas, and then retreated to their camp. The squadron was quickly mounted and rode towards the enemy; but, discovering his overwhelming strength, fell back, dismounted, and joined the Tenth Indiana, acd afterwards actively participated in the fight.
Companies K and I, of the Tenth Indiana, Captains Shortar and Perkins, were detailed as pickets in advance of their regiment, and were first attacked by the advancing rebels at half past six o'clock, and with the assistance of Company A, Captain Hamilton, all under Major Miller, gallantly held the enemy in check, until supported by the remainder of the regiment.
In twenty minutes after General Thomas was apprised of the approach of the enemy, his whole force was under arms, and eagerly awaiting the onset. The Tenth Indiana, Second Minnesota and the dismounted cavalry pushed forward a short distance from their encampment in an open field to a piece of timber, and the Fourth Kentucky took a position in the woods on the left. The Tenth Indiana having the lead, was within musket range of the rebels just before eight o'clock, and now the battle fairly commenced.
At least six regiments formed the rebel right, and pressed first on the Tenth Indiana; but this brave regiment had learned the fighting metal of the enemy at Kich Mountain, in Western Virginia, and could not be made to yield an inch even to such fearful odds. Fortunately protected somewhat by the trees from the hostile fire, they stood steadily, pouring volley after volley into the rebels; responding to their yells with defiant cheers; fighting four times their number for nearly an hour and a half, and never yielding an inch, in spite of a constant and fearful hail of lead, until their ammunition became exhausted; when they were ordered to give way to the Second Minnesota. This they did with composed and unbroken ranks, bringing off their dead and wounded, whose number was a mournful proof of the fearful trial they had undergone.
Some thirty minutes after the Tenth Indiana had opened the contest, the Fourth Kentucky engaged the rebels on the loft of the former, and displayed coolness and firmness most remarkable, in view of the fact that it had never before been under fire. It also had to contend against superior numbers, but maintained its formation, and did not allow the rebels to gain a foot of ground. The men cheered each other, and in their ardor came within short range of the enemy, to whose irregular fire they replied with great vigor and effect. Colonel Fry inspired all under him by his courageous conduct. Up and down the line of his command he moved, urging his Kentiickians on under a shower of bullets.
Meantime, the Second Minnesota fulfilled the trust left to it by the Tenth Indiana. The stalwart farmers and lumbermen that composed it performed the duty allotted to them deliberately and with perfect success. They loaded and fired with ease and calmness, and seemed to think no more of the work they were doing than of handling a plow or plying an axe.
The widely-renowned Ninth Ohio did not join in the bloody strife in its earliest stages. At about half-past eight, however, its impatience for the fray was at last gratified, and it appeared upon the stage in solid line of battle, moving measuredly, and with the confident and determined air of veterans, through a broad, open field on the right of the road, to within two hundred yards, and began a fire upon some rebel regiments that were firing from behind a fence, with regularity and precision. It held the right alone while the action continued.
The rebels succeeded in bringing a battery of their artillery in position about nine o'clock, and opened upon the Federal troops shortly aftdr- • ward with solid and hollow shot. Their balls and shells all went high over the Union soldiers, not one of whom owed his death or wound to the rebel artillery.
Captains Kinney's, Standart's, and Whetmore's Ohio batteries were brought into position, and rendered effective service whenever an opportunity offered. In the heat of the engagement Captain Kinney ordered one section of his battery within sixty yards of the enemy's line, and opened a deadly fire upon them, which added greatly to the success of the day.
The battle was now at its height, and the effect of the artillery, roaring through the conflict, with the crash of shells and sharp whistle of bullets, was increased by a storm that had broken out in the mornii g, and now poured a deluge of rain on the combatants. For a time, the lightning of heaven vied in sharpness with the flash of artillery, and rolling bursts of thunder went booming over the mountains, giving terrible effect to the whole scene.
BATTLE OF imx SPRING.
Amid this storm, the opposing lines of battle were several times carried so close to each other that the fight was urged on with a hand-tohand encounter, and the commanders on both sides came in dangerous contiguity with the foe.
Up to eleven o'clock, the fighting was confined almost entirely to an exchange of lead and iron. The Union right and left would advance on the enemy, fire, and fall back. Then the Secession forces would advance, exchange shots, each side holding its own ground and no more.
The Fourteenth Ohio and Tenth Kentucky, sent for as soon as the alarm had been given, being reported to General Thomas coming np with their battery from their encampment on the Columbus road, on a full run, he at last determined to bring matters to an issue. He directed General Carter to flank the enemy's right with his regiments, which had been restive all the morning under the necessity of remaining idle spectators.
But before this movement could be made, the heroes of the Ninth Ohio had already decided the battle. Colonel McCook (by the way the only American in the regiment) had' his horse shot under him, and was himself wounded, but nevertheless continued in command. About eleven the patience of the regiment became exhausted, and the Colonel gave the order to advance. It was received with a hurrah. Steadily and compaotly the column moved over the two hundred yards separating it
fron. the enemy. When within thirty yards of the foe the order was given to "charge hayonets," and in an instant the moving human wall bristled with bayonets and pressed forward in quick step. The rebels looked aghast at a sight they had never witnessed before. A Tennessee regiment on their extreme left fired a random volley and broke. A Mississippi regiment—the same that held the fence already mentioned—hesitated a few moments longer. But the triumphant shout from the Germans, and the bristling array of pointed steel was too much for them. In an instant, those of the enemy between the fence and the Federals, with the exception of a few, who were bayoneted, had scrambled over and fled in wild disorder.
Colonel S. S, Fry, of the Fourth Kentucky, was in the act of leading his regiment into a charge upon the Mississippians, when General Zollicoffer, accompanied by his aid, rode up to him and said, " You are not going to fight your friends, are you? These men (pointing to the Mississippians) are all your friends." In the mean time Zollicoffer's aid fired upon Colonel Fry, wounding his horse, from which vvound the animal died. Colonel Fry then turned and fired upon Zollicoffer, with fatal effect. General Z. evidently labored under the impression that Colonel Fry was a rebel officer. They had never met before, nor did Colonel Fry know the position of the officer upon whom he fired, as the evidences of his rank were covered by a cloak which General Zollicofler wore in battle.
From this moment the battle was won. The rebels in front of the Union left had grown dispirited by the news of Zollicoffer's fall, and their fire was slackening. When they saw the breaking of their left wing, they faltered and commenced retreating. The Tenth Kentucky, Fourteenth Indiana, and two batteries were immediately pushed after them. But the speed of the enemy increased, and although the Union troops followed in quick step, they could only manage to come within range of his rear, to which they gave from time to time parting salutes with rifle balls and shells. The pursuit was continued to within a mile of the intrenchments, when owing to the close approach of night, the victors stopped and made themselves as comfortable as possible on the northern declivity of a hill overlooking the fortifications.
Rain was still falling, and although all were greatly fatigued from the labors of the day, but few sought repose on the soaked ground. The excitement of the battle kept the majority awake, and the uncomfortable night was spent in the discussion of the stirring events of the preceding hours, by the immense camp-fires, which burned brightly in defiance of the drifting rain.
With djybreak some of the Federal guns were got into a position commanding the rebel intrenchments, and were soon hurling shells upon