Andersonville


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"It seems that when the fight opened away back in the rear where we had
been, and at the left of the Sixteenth Corps which was almost directly in
the rear of the Seventeenth Corps, McPherson sent his staff and orderlies
with various orders to different parts of the line, and started himself
to ride over from the Seventeenth Corps to the Sixteenth Corps, taking
exactly the same course our Regiment had, perhaps an hour before, but the
Rebels had discovered there was a gap between the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Corps, and meeting no opposition to their advances in this
strip of woods, where they were hidden from view, they had marched right
along down in the rear, and with their line at right angles with the line
of works occupied by the left of the Seventeenth Corps; they were thus
parallel and close to the little road McPherson had taken, and probably
he rode right into them and was killed before he realized the true
situation.

"Having piled our knapsacks, and left a couple of our older men, who were
played out with the heat and most ready to drop with sunstroke, to guard
them, we started on again. The ambulance with the corpse of Gen.
McPherson moved off towards the right of the Army, which was the last we
ever saw of that brave and handsome soldier.

"We bore off a little to the right of a large open field on top of a high
hill where one of our batteries was pounding away at a tremendous rate.
We came up to the main line of works just about at the left of the
Fifteenth Corps. They seemed to be having an easy time of it just then--
no fighting going on in their front, except occasional shots from some
heavy guns on the main line of Rebel works around the City. We crossed
right over the Fifteenth Corps' works and filed to the left, keeping
along on the outside of our works. We had not gone far before the Rebel
gunners in the main works around the City discovered us; and the way they
did tear loose at us was a caution. Their aim was rather bad, however,
and most of their shots went over us. We saw one of them--I think it was
a shell--strike an artillery caisson belonging to one of our-batteries.
It exploded as it struck, and then the caisson, which was full of
ammunition, exploded with an awful noise, throwing pieces of wood and
iron and its own load of shot and shell high into the air, scattering
death and destruction to the men and horses attached to it. We thought
we saw arms and legs and parts of bodies of men flying in every
direction; but we were glad to learn afterwards that it was the contents
of the knapsacks of the Battery boys, who had strapped them on the
caissons for transportation.

"Just after passing the hill where our battery was making things so
lively, they stopped firing to let us pass. We saw General Leggett, our
Division Commander, come riding toward us. He was outside of our line of
works, too. You know how we build breastworks--sort of zigzag like, you
know, so they cannot be enfiladed. Well, that's just the way the works
were along there, and you never saw such a curious shape as we formed our
Division in. Why, part of them were on one side of the works, and go
along a little further and here was a regiment, or part of a regiment on
the other side, both sets firing in opposite directions.

"No sir'ee, they were not demoralized or in confusion, they were cool and
as steady as on parade. But the old Division had, you know, never been
driven from any position they had once taken, in all their long service,
and they did not propose to leave that ridge until they got orders from
some one beside the Rebs.

"There were times when a fellow did not know which side of the works was
the safest, for the Johnnies were in front of us and in rear of us.
You see, our Fourth Division, which had been to the left of us, had been
forced to quit their works, when the Rebs got into the works in their
rear, so that our Division was now at the point where our line turned
sharply to the left, and rear--in the direction of the Sixteenth Corps.

"We got into business before we had been there over three minutes.
A line of the Rebs tried to charge across the open fields in front of us,
but by the help of the old twenty-four pounders (which proved to be part
of Cooper's Illinois Battery, that we had been alongside of in many a
hard fight before), we drove them back a-flying, only to have to jump
over on the outside of our works the next minute to tackle a heavy force
that came for our rear through that blasted strip of woods. We soon
drove them off, and the firing on both sides seemed to have pretty much
stopped.

"'Our Brigade,' which we discovered, was now commanded by 'Old Whiskers'
(Colonel Piles, of the Seventy-Eighth Ohio. I'll bet he's got the
longest whiskers of any man in the Army.) You see General Scott had not
been seen or heard of since he had started to the rear after our regiment
when the fighting first commenced. We all believed that he was either
killed or captured, or he would have been with his command. He was a
splendid soldier, and a bull-dog of a fighter. His absence was a great
loss, but we had not much time to think of such things, for our brigade
was then ordered to leave the works and to move to the right about twenty
or thirty rods across a large ravine, where we were placed in position in
an open corn-field, forming a new line at quite an angle from the line of
works we had just left, extending to the left, and getting us back nearer
onto a line with the Sixteenth Corps. The battery of howitzers, now
reinforced by a part of the Third Ohio heavy guns, still occupied the old
works on the highest part of the hill, just to the right of our new line.
We took our position just on the brow of a hill, and were ordered to lie
down, and the rear rank to go for rails, which we discovered a few rods
behind us in the shape of a good ten-rail fence. Every rear-rank chap
came back with all the rails he could lug, and we barely had time to lay
them down in front of us, forming a little barricade of six to eight or
ten inches high, when we heard the most unearthly Rebel yell directly in
front of us. It grew louder and came nearer and nearer, until we could
see a solid line of the gray coats coming out of the woods and down the
opposite slope, their battle flags flying, officers in front with drawn
swords, arms at right shoulder, and every one of them yelling like so
many Sioux Indians. The line seemed to be massed six or eight ranks
deep, followed closely by the second line, and that by the third, each,
if possible, yelling louder and appearing more desperately reckless than
the one ahead. At their first appearance we opened on them, and so did
the bully old twenty-four-pounders, with canister.

"On they came; the first line staggered and wavered back on to the
second, which was coming on the double quick. Such a raking as we did
give them. Oh, Lordy, how we did wish that we had the breech loading
Spencers or Winchesters. But we had the old reliable Springfields, and
we poured it in hot and heavy. By the time the charging column got down
the opposite slope, and were struggling through the thicket of
undergrowth in the ravine, they were one confused mass of officers and
men, the three lines now forming one solid column, which made several
desperate efforts to rush up to the top of the hill where we were
punishing them so. One of their first surges came mighty near going
right over the left of our Regiment, as they were lying down behind their
little rail piles. But the boys clubbed their guns and the officers used
their revolvers and swords and drove them back down the hill.

"The Seventy-Eighth and Twentieth Ohio, our right and left bowers, who
had been brigaded with us ever since 'Shiloh,' were into it as hot and
heavy as we had been, and had lost numbers of their officers and men, but
were hanging on to their little rail piles when the fight was over.
At one time the Rebs were right in on top of the Seventy-Eighth. One big
Reb grabbed their colors, and tried to pull them out of the hands of the
color-bearer. But old Captain Orr, a little, short, dried-up fellow,
about sixty years old, struck him with his sword across the back of the
neck, and killed him deader than a mackerel, right in his tracks.

"It was now getting dark, and the Johnnies concluded they had taken a
bigger contract in trying to drive us off that hill in one day than they
had counted on, so they quit charging on us, but drew back under cover of
the woods and along the old line of works that we had left, and kept up a
pecking away and sharp-shooting at us all night long. They opened fire
on us from a number of pieces of artillery from the front, from the left,
and from some heavy guns away over to the right of us, in the main works
around Atlanta.

"We did not fool away much time that night, either. We got our shovels
and picks, and while part of us were sharpshooting and trying to keep the
Rebels from working up too close to us, the rest of the boys were putting
up some good solid earthworks right where our rail piles had been, and by
morning we were in splendid shape to have received our friends, no matter
which way they had come at us, for they kept up such an all-fired
shelling of us from so many different directions; that the boys had built
traverses and bomb-proofs at all sorts of angles and in all directions.

"There was one point off to our right, a few rods up along our old line
of works where there was a crowd of Rebel sharpshooters that annoyed us
more than all the rest, by their constant firing at us through the night.
They killed one of Company H's boys, and wounded several others. Finally
Captain Williams, of D Company, came along and said he wanted a couple of
good shots out of our company to go with him, so I went for one. He took
about ten of us, and we crawled down into the ravine in front of where we
were building the works, and got behind a large fallen tree, and we laid
there and could just fire right up into the rear of those fellows as they
lay behind a traverse extending back from our old line of works. It was
so dark we could only see where to fire by the flash of guns, but every
time they would shoot, some of us would let them have one. They staid
there until almost daylight, when they, concluded as things looked, since
we were going to stay, they had better be going.

"It was an awful night. Down in the ravine below us lay hundreds of
killed and wounded Rebels, groaning and crying aloud for water and for
help. We did do what we could for those right around us--but it was so
dark, and so many shell bursting and bullets flying around that a fellow
could not get about much. I tell you it was pretty tough next morning to
go along to the different companies of our regiment and hear who were
among the killed and wounded, and to see the long row of graves that were
being dug to bury our comrades and our officers. There was the Captain
of Company E, Nelson Skeeles, of Fulton County, O., one of--the bravest
and best officers in the regiment. By his side lay First Sergeant
Lesnit, and next were the two great, powerful Shepherds--cousins but more
like brothers. One, it seems, was killed while supporting the head of
the other, who had just received a death wound, thus dying in each
other's arms.

"But I can't begin to think or tell you the names of all the poor boys
that we laid away to rest in their last, long sleep on that gloomy day.
Our Major was severely wounded, and several other officers had been hit
more or less badly.

"It was a frightful sight, though, to go over the field in front of our
works on that morning. The Rebel dead and badly wounded laid where they
had fallen. The bottom and opposite side of the ravine showed how
destructive our fire and that of the canister from the howitzers had
been. The underbrush was cut, slashed, and torn into shreds, and the
larger trees were scarred, bruised and broken by the thousands of bullets
and other missiles that had been poured into them from almost every
conceivable direction during the day before.

"A lot of us boys went way over to the left into Fuller's Division of the
Sixteenth Corps, to see how some of our boys over there had got through
the scrimmage, for they had about as nasty a fight as any part of the
Army, and if it had not been for their being just where they were, I am
not sure but what the old Seventeenth Corps would have had a different
story to tell now. We found our friends had been way out by Decatur,
where their brigade had got into a pretty lively fight on their own hook.

"We got back to camp, and the first thing I knew I was detailed for
picket duty, and we were posted over a few rods across the ravine in our
front. We had not been out but a short time when we saw a flag of truce,
borne by an officer, coming towards us. We halted him, and made him wait
until a report was sent back to Corps headquarters. The Rebel officer
was quite chatty and talkative with our picket officer, while waiting.
He said he was on General Cleburne's staff, and that the troops that
charged us so fiercely the evening before was Cleburne's whole Division,
and that after their last repulse, knowing the hill where we were posted
was the most important position along our line, he felt that if they
would keep close to us during the night, and keep up a show of fight,
that we would pull out and abandon the hill before morning. He said that
he, with about fifty of their best men, had volunteered to keep up the
demonstration, and it was his party that had occupied the traverse in our
old works the night before and had annoyed us and the Battery men by
their constant sharpshooting, which we fellows behind the old tree had
finally tired out. He said they staid until almost daylight, and that he
lost more than half his men before he left. He also told us that General
Scott was captured by their Division, at about the time and almost the
same spot as where General McPherson was killed, and that he was not hurt
or wounded, and was now a prisoner in their hands.

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