Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Major Charles Fessenden Morse: June 24, 1864

Near Marietta, Ga., June 24, 1864.

My letter of the 19th brought our operations up to that date, and closed just as we were about to start on a fresh move. An advance of a few hundred yards brought us to their works, — a line so strong that if decently well held, I don't think it could be carried by assault by the best infantry in the world. We pushed on by the flank about a mile, then struck the enemy. All this movement was in a pouring rain (from the 1st to the 21st, inclusive, eighteen of the days were rainy), which finally came in such torrents that we were obliged to halt for two or three hours before making our dispositions.

The enemy was found entrenched on a ridge in our front. We began, just before night, to throw up a slight line of works to protect us from sharpshooters. I had the extreme right of the division. One of our men, First Sergeant Lord, of Company K, was mortally wounded while constructing breastworks; he was a splendid fellow, and had been recommended for a commission.

At five o'clock on the 20th, our division was relieved by Wood's Division, Fourth Corps. We moved gradually along the line to the right, connecting at night with the left of the Twenty-third Corps; this gained us a position pretty well on the enemy's left flank. On the 21st our line was slightly changed; on the 22d, our corps swung forward on its left in a north-easterly direction, the Twenty-third Corps following our movement, except that its right was well refused. The object of the movement was to take possession of the Powder Spring road, an important highway leading from Marietta. By stretching out our division into a single line, and connecting some parts of it with a line of skirmishers, its right just reached this road, and connected with the left of the Twenty-third Corps.

Before the troops were all in line, word was sent in from the skirmishers that the enemy was massing for an attack on our centre and left. We were just ready and nothing to spare, when Hood's Corps came out of the woods in our front (to my left, the length of about two regiments), and advanced, with their usual yell, in four lines. The division opened upon them with musketry and artillery, and before their first line had gotten within fifty yards, they were all broken and repulsed; their loss was very heavy, as they were in entirely open ground. I think three or four hundred will cover our division's loss. I had only two men wounded. Towards the close of the attack our situation was very critical; our ammunition was nearly exhausted, and not a single support was near. If there had only been one line behind us, we could have advanced at once and taken large numbers of prisoners. As soon as support did arrive, we advanced our skirmish line, but the enemy had gone, leaving their dead and hundreds of small-arms on the ground. I enclose you a fragment of the Fifty-third Virginia's flag, which was captured by the Fifth Connecticut.

I think our division has a right to brag a little on this tight, for if a single regiment had misbehaved, our line would have been broken. We are still in the same position as on the 21st, but there is a constant movement of troops to our right, threatening, you see, all their lines of communications and retreat. They still hold Kenesaw Mountain, which is due north from here. If they can only be forced to attack us, I think we can use them up completely. On the 21st, we took prisoners from three divisions, comprising the whole of Hood's Corps, which forms at least one quarter of their entire army.

I will give the Western army credit for their superior use of artillery. Wherever infantry goes, the batteries follow right in line, and in this way guns can be used continually at very short range, producing, of course, deadly effect. At Gettysburg, every colonel in our brigade besought the chief of artillery to put some guns in position in our line, but we were told that it couldn't be done, as the gunners would be picked off by sharpshooters. Here they have to take the same chances as an infantry man.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 171-3

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