Andersonville


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"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
victory."

"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
either side.

"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
them.'

"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
Seventeenth Corps.'

"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.

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