Saturday, December 24, 2011

Herald’s Dispatch

PITTSBURG, Tennessee, via
FORT HENRY, April 9 – 3:20 A. M.

One of the greatest and bloodiest battles of modern days has just closed, resulting in the complete rout of the enemy, who attacked us at daybreak Sunday morning.

The battle lasted without intermission during the entire day, and was again renewed on Monday Morning, and continued until 4 o’clock p.m., when the enemy commenced their retreat, and are still flying toward Corinth, pursued by a large force of our cavalry.

It is impossible in the present confused state of affairs to ascertain any details.  I therefore give you the best account possible from observation, having passed through the storm of action during the two days that it raged.

The fight was brought on by a body of 300 of the 25th Mo. regiment of Gen. Prentiss’ division attacking the advance guard of the rebels, which were supposed to be the pickets of the enemy in front of our camp.  The rebels immediately advanced on Gen. Prentiss’ division, on the left wing, pouring in volley after volley of musketry, and riddling our camps with grape, canister and shell.  Our forces soon formed into line and returned their fire vigorously, and by the time we were prepared to receive them they had turned their heaviest fire on the left and centre of Sherman’s division and drove our men back from their camps, and bringing up a large force opened fire on our left wing under Gen. McClernand.

This fire was returned with terrible effect and determined spirit by both infantry and artillery along the whole line for a distance of four miles.

Gen. Hurlbut’s division was thrown forward to support the center, when a desperate conflict ensued.  The rebels were driven back with terrible slaughter, but soon rallied and drove back our men in turn.  From about nine o’clock to the time your correspondent arrived on the field until night closed on the bloody scene, there was no determination of the result of the struggle.

The rebels exhibited remarkably good generalship, at times engaging the left with apparently their whole strength.  They would suddenly open a terrible and destructive fire on the right or center.  Even our heaviest and most destructive fire on enemy did not appear to discourage their solid columns.  The fire of Major Taylor’s Chicago artillery raked them down in scores, but the smoke would no sooner be dispersed than the breach would again be filled.  The most desperate firing took place late in the afternoon.  The rebel’s knew that if they did not succeed in whipping us then their chances for success would be extremely doubtful.

A portion of Gen. Buell’s forces had by this time arrived on the opposite side of the river, and the other portion was coming up the river from Savannah.  The rebels became aware that we were being reinforced, as they could see Gen. Buell’s troops from the river bank a short distance above us on the left, to which point they had forced their way.

At 5 o’clock the rebels had forced our left wing back so as to occupy fully two thirds of our camp, and were fighting their way forward with a desperate degree of confidence in their efforts to drive us into the river, and at the same time heavily engaged our right.  Up to this time we had received no reinforcements.

Gen. Lew. Wallace failed to come to our support until the day was over, having taken the wrong road from Crump’s Landing, and being without other transports than those used for Quartermaster’s and commissary stores, which were too heavily laden to ferry any considerable number of Gen. Buell’s forces across the river, three that were here having been sent to bring the troops from Savannah.

We were therefore contesting against fearful odds.  Our force not exceeding 38,000 men; that of the enemy was upwards of 60,000.  Our condition at this moment was extremely critical.  Large numbers of men were panic stricken, others worn out by hard fighting, with an average per cent of skulkers had straggled towards the river and could not be rallied.

Gen. Grant and staff who had been recklessly riding along the lines during the entire day amid the unceasing storm of bullets, grape and shell, now rode from right to left, inciting men to stand firm until our reinforcements could cross the river.

Col. Webster, chief of staff, immediately got into position the heaviest pieces of artillery pointing on the enemy’s right, while a large number of batteries were planted along the entire line from the river bank to the extreme right, some 2 1-2 miles distant.  About an hour before dusk a general cannonade was opened upon the enemy from along tour whole line, with a perpetual crack of musketry.  Such a roar was never heard on this continent.  For a short time the rebels replied with vigor and effect, but their return shots grew less frequent and destructive, while ours grew more rapid and more terrible.

The gunboats Lexington and Taylor, which lay a short distance off, kept pouring shell on the rebel hordes.  This last effort was too much for the enemy and ere dusk the firing had nearly ceased.  When night came on all the combatants rested from their awful work of blood and carnage.  Our men rested on their arms in position they had at the close of the night, until the forces under Maj. Gen. Wallace arrived and took position on the right, and met Buell’s forces from the opposite side, and Savannah being now converted to the battle ground.

The entire right of Gen. Nelson’s division was ordered to for on the right, and the forces under Gen. Crittenden were ordered to his support early in the morning.


Gen Buell having arrived the following evening, in the morning the ball was opened at daylight simultaneously by Gen. Nelson’s division, on the left, and Maj. Gen. Wallace’s division on the right.  Gen. Nelson’s force opened a most galling fire and advance rapidly as they fell back.  The fire soon became general along the whole line, and began to tell with terrible effect on the enemy.

Generals McClernand’s, Sherman’s and Hurlburt’s [sic] men, though terribly jaded form the previous day’s fighting, still maintained their honors won at Donelson, but the resistance of the rebels at all points was terrible and worthy of a better cause; but they were not enough for our undaunted bravery and the dreadful desolation produced by our artillery, which was sweeping them away like chaff before the wind.  But knowing that a defeat here would be a death blow to their hopes, and that their all depended on this great struggle, their Generals still urged them on in the face of destruction, hoping by flanking us on the right to turn the tide of battle.

Their success was again for a time cheering as they began to gain ground on appearing to have been reinforced, by our left under Gen. Nelson was driving them and with wonderful rapidity, and by eleven o’clock Gen. Buell’s forces had succeeded in flanking them, and capturing their battery of artillery.

They, however, again rallied on the left and recrossed, and the right forced themselves forward in another desperate effort, but reinforcements from Gens. Wood and Thomas were coming in regiment after regiment, which were sent to Gen. Buell, who had again commenced to drive the enemy.  About 3 p.m. Gen. Grant road to the left where the fresh regiments had been ordered, and finding the rebels wavering, sent a portion of his body guard to the head of each five regiments, and then ordered a charge across the field, himself leading.  As he brandished his sword and waved them on to the crowning victory, while cannon balls were falling like hail around him, the men followed with a shout that sounded above the roar and din of the artillery, and the rebels fled in dismay as from a destroying avalanche, and never made another stand.

Gen. Buell followed the retreating rebels, driving them in splendid style, and by half past five o’clock the whole rebel army was in full retreat to Corinth, with our cavalry in hot pursuit, with what further result is not known, not having returned to this hour.  We have taken a large amount of their artillery, and also a number of prisoners.  We lost a number of our forces who were taken prisoners yesterday, among whom is Gen. Prentiss.

The number of our force taken has not been ascertained, yet it is reported at several hundred.

Gen. Prentiss is also reported wounded.

Among the killed on the rebel side was their General-in-Chief, A. Sidney Johnston, who was struck by a cannonball on the p. m. of Sunday.  Of this there is no doubt, as the report is corroborated by several rebel officers taken to-day.  It is further reported that Gen. Beauregard had his arm shot off this afternoon.

Gens. Bragg, Breckinridge, and Jackson were commanding portions of the rebel forces.

Our loss in officers is very heavy.  It is impossible at present to obtain their names.  The following were among the number:

Brig. Gen. W. H. L. Wallace; Col. Pegram, acting brigadier general; Col. Ellis, 10th Ill.; Major Goddard, 15th Ill; killed.  Lt. Col. Camarard, 72d Ohio, mortally wounded, since died.  Lt. Col. Kyle 41st Ind.; Col. Davis, 46th Ill; mortally wounded.  Gen. W. F. [sic] Sherman, wounded in hand by a cannon-ball.  Col. Sweeny, 52d Ill., acting brigadier general, received two shots in his only arm, having lost the other in Mexico; also a shot in one of his legs.  He nevertheless kept the field till the close of the fight, and excited the admiration of the whole army.

Col. Dave Stewart 55th Illinois, acting Brigadier General, shot through the breast on Sunday, returned on the field Monday.  Col. Chas. Crufes, 31st Ill., acting Brigadier General, shot through the right shoulder, not dangerously.

Col. Haynil, 48th Ill., wounded slightly.
Col. J. C. McHury, 17th Ky., ditto.
Lit. Co. Stout, 17th Ky., ditto.
Lieut. Col Morgan, 25th Ind., wounded severely.
Lieut. Col. Ransum, 11th Ill., wounded badly in head.
Col. Mason, 71st Ohio, wounded slightly.
Maj. Easton, 18th Ill., acting Colonel, wounded fatally.
Maj. Herios, 11th Ill., wounded slightly.
Capt. Irving W. Carson, Gen. Grant’s scout, head shot off by cannon ball.
Capt. Preston Morton, wounded mortally, since died.
Capt. Dillon, 18th Ill., killed.
Capt. Mane, 5th Ill., killed.
Capt. Carter, 12th Ill., killed.
Maj. Page, 57th Ill, killed.

There has never been a parallel to the gallantry and bearing of our officers from the Commanding General to the lowest officer.  Gen. Grant and Staff are in the field, riding along the lines in the thickest of the enemies [sic] fire during the entire two days of battle and slept on the ground.  Sunday night during a heavy rain on several occasions he got in range of the enemy’s guns and was discovered and was fired upon.

Lieut. Col. McPherson had his horse shot from under him along the side of Capt. Carson.  He was between Gen. Grant and your correspondent, when a cannon ball took off his head and killed and wounded several others.  Gen. Sherman had two horses killed under him, and Gen. McClernand shared like dangers; also Gen. Hurlbut – each of whom received bullet holes through their clothes.  Gen. Buell remained with his troops during the entire day, who with Gens. Crittenden and Nelson rode continually along the line, encouraging their men.  Gen. Buell’s advance will probably return from Corinth by to-morrow evening.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, April 10, 1862, p. 2

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