Sunday, April 14, 2019

Official Reports of the Campaign in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee, November 14, 1864 — January 23, 1865: No. 145. Report of Col. William L. McMillen, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations December 15-16, 1864.

No. 145.

Report of Col. William L. McMillen, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, commanding First Brigade,
of operations December 15-16, 1864.

In the Field, December 25, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this command in the recent engagements near Nashville, Tenn., on the 15th and 16th instant:

The following regiments and battery compose the brigade: Seventy-second Ohio Infantry Veteran Volunteers, Lieut. Col. C. G. Eaton commanding; Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry Volunteers, Lieut. Col. Jefferson Brumback commanding; One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry Volunteers, Capt. J. M. Johnson commanding; Ninety-third Indiana Infantry Volunteers, Capt. Charles A. Hubbard commanding; Tenth Minnesota Infantry Volunteers, Lieut. Col. S. P. Jennison commanding; Cogswell's Independent Battery Illinois Light Artillery, Second Lieut. S. H. McClaury commanding.

On the evening of the 14th instant I received from the general commanding division instructions to have my command ready to move the following morning at 6 o'clock, with three days' rations in haversack and fifty rounds of ammunition per man. I was ready at the hour designated, but owing to delay on the part of the cavalry did not move until near 9 a.m., taking the Charlotte pike, in the rear of the Second Brigade. Reaching the vicinity of Richland Creek, just beyond which the enemy's lines were established, I was directed to deploy, with my right resting on the Charlotte pike near Douglass' house. This was done accordingly, but whilst executing the movement the rebels opened with a battery, unhorsing Col. D.C. Thomas, Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, and severely wounding several men in the One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry. I brought one section of artillery into action and silenced the guns of the enemy. Soon after this orders were received to move by the left flank, keeping my left close to the right of the Second Brigade. In this movement I described the arc of a large circle, and it was continued until we had crossed the Hardin pike, and reached the vicinity of the Hillsborough pike, where the enemy was found strongly posted on the side and summit of a high hill, with a four-gun battery in his lower and a two-gun battery in his upper work. A battery far to our right, belonging, I think, to some cavalry command, was engaging these guns when we came up. Deploying the Seventy-second Ohio Infantry as skirmishers, I advanced my battery to within 400 yards of the enemy's works and opened on them with a rapid and telling fire. Whilst the battery was thus engaged I moved up the balance of the brigade and formed it, the Seventy-second Ohio as skirmishers, the Ninety-fifth Ohio and Tenth Minnesota in the front line, and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois and Ninety-third Indiana in the rear, and made preparations to charge. The Second Brigade formed to my left and one or two regiments of Hatch's division of cavalry on my right. Upon an order from the general commanding division, we advanced upon the works and carried both quickly, capturing the 6 guns, 300 or 400 prisoners, and a lot of small-arms. In this charge I regret to state that the gallant Col. D.C. Thomas, Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, was severely wounded, and a number of brave men were killed and wounded. The cavalry regiments on my right deserve credit for the dashing part they took in assaulting and capturing these works. After collecting prisoners and guns and placing them in charge of the Seventy-second Ohio to be conveyed to Nashville, my command moved on the Hillsborough pike and took a position on its east side, in the rear of the Second Brigade, where we camped for the night. Two cannon, 2 caissons, 1 army wagon filled with arms and accouterments, 7 commissioned officers, and 148 enlisted men were secured and turned over by my command as the fruits of this day's work.

Early on the morning of the 16th I moved out and occupied the temporary works constructed during the night by the Second Brigade, which had already moved forward and become engaged with the enemy. Soon afterward an order to advance and form in two lines on the right of the Second Brigade was received and executed; my first line throwing out skirmishers, who advanced to within a short distance of the enemy's works, which could be plainly seen from a hill in front of a division of the Twenty-third Army Corps, commanded by General Couch, and upon which my battery went into position and did good execution in silencing those batteries of the enemy within range and in covering with a rapid fire an assault made later in the day by my brigade. Throughout the fore part of the day we remained in line, using artillery freely, and occasionally advancing the skirmish line, which invariably met with stubborn resistance. Toward noon I commenced digging a rifle-pit to protect my first line from the enemy's fire and also to enable it more securely to hold the ground in case of an assault, preparations for which, on the part of the enemy, I thought could be seen. In front of Couch's division, Twenty-third Army Corps, there was a very steep hill, over the crown of which the enemy's main line extended, and which formed the key point to his works, in front of our division. This hill once carried and securely held, these works, as far as we could see to our left, became untenable, and would necessarily have to be abandoned. Being a position of so much importance it was, of course, guarded by a strong body of troops, besides being so steep, it was supposed no assaulting party could live to reach the summit. We waited long hours for the division of the Twenty-third Army Corps in front of this hill to carry it, intending to advance at the same time and carry the works at its base and our left. At length General McArthur, tired with the long delay and fearful the day would pass without making any serious impression upon the enemy's lines, directed me to withdraw my brigade and “take that hill.” This was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I immediately withdrew my skirmishers, retired the regiments, and moved them by the right flank to a point opposite the hill to be carried; forming in two lines outside of the works occupied by and in front of Couch's division; supplied empty cartridge boxes, and posted my battery so as to command the enemy's position. The front line consisted of the following regiments, named in their order from right to left: One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry, Captain Johnson commanding; Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, Captain Hubbard commanding; Tenth Minnesota Infantry, Lieut. Col. S. P. Jennison commanding; the second line of the Seventy-second Ohio Infantry, Lieut. Col. C. G. Eaton commanding, and the Ninety-fifth Ohio, Lieut. Col. Jefferson Brumback commanding. After the troops were ready the assault was delayed some time, in consequence of a failure on the part of the ordnance department to supply the battery with ammunition. Ten rounds for each gun were finally procured from Captain Reed, of the Second Iowa Battery, and about 3.30 o'clock I ordered Lieutenant McClaury, commanding Cogswell's Independent Battery, to open on the hill, and under cover of this fire advanced to the assault. Regimental commanders had been instructed to move out silently, with fixed bayonets, and, if possible, gain the enemy's works before delivering their fire. A strong skirmish line had been thrown forward, with orders to advance, firing as soon as the brigade moved. Capt. James Fernald, of my staff, was placed in charge of the skirmishers, and, as ever, performed his duty with the utmost daring and gallantry. Quickly and steadily the brigade moved down one hill and up the other to within a few feet of the enemy's parapet, where we received a volley, which on the right went over our heads, but on the left punished the Tenth Minnesota severely. Nothing daunted, this gallant regiment, together with the others composing the front line, cleared the enemy's works with a bound. The two regiments in the second line were inside almost as quickly, having pushed forward with the highest spirit and determination.

Brigadier-General Smith, 84 field, staff, and line officers, and 1,533 enlisted men were captured in this charge, together with 4 battle-flags, 8 cannon, 8 caissons, a large number of small-arms and accouterments. My loss, although not heavy considering the work performed, embraces many gallant officers and soldiers. It mainly fell upon the Tenth Minnesota Infantry, which was exposed to a flanking fire. Two field officers, 6 line officers, wounded, and some 60 enlisted men killed and wounded in this charge alone, attest the fiery ordeal through which the regiment passed; and the fact that it reached the rebel works in its front as quickly as the regiments on its right, which were less exposed, is ample evidence of the courage and daring of both officers and men. Lieutenant-Colonel Jennison, the commanding officer, was conspicuous for his high daring, and set a noble example to his officers and men. He fell severely wounded on the enemy's works, and his loss, even if but temporary, will be severely felt by his regiment. Lieutenant-Colonels Brumback and Eaton, Captains Johnson and Hubbard, commanding regiments, acquitted themselves on this occasion, as they always do, with distinguished gallantry, setting their respective commands examples which must always insure success. In fact, all officers and men of this brigade engaged on the 15th and 16th instant displayed an eager desire to engage the enemy, and a courage tempered with a high resolve rarely, if ever, surpassed. To Lieutenant McClaury, his officers and men, I am under particular obligations for their bravery and efficiency in working their battery. Although but recently attached, they have already won the esteem and admiration of the entire command.

The following is a summary of the prisoners of war, guns, colors, &c., captured and turned over by my brigade in the recent engagements:

General officers
Field, staff, and line officers
Enlisted men

Small-arms (estimated)
Accouterments (estimated)..sets

To the officers of my staff — Capt. James Fernald, Seventy-second Ohio Infantry, brigade picket officer; Lieut. O. H. Abel, One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. Josiah Barber, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, acting aide-de-camp, and Lieut. John C. Chittenden, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, acting assistant quartermaster — I am under renewed obligations for that devotion to duty and gallantry under fire which has always characterized them. They have my thanks and deserve the gratitude of the country for their intelligent discharge of every trust, however trying or dangerous. To Lieut. A. L. Whiteside, regimental quartermaster, Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, I tender my thanks for valuable services rendered on both days as volunteer aide-de-camp.

I have the honor to forward herewith a list of the killed and wounded, from which it will be seen that the entire loss in this brigade was as follows: Commissioned officers — wounded, 10. Enlisted men — killed, 22; wounded, 86. Total, 118.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. L. McMILLEN,   
Colonel Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, Commanding.
Capt. W. H. F. RANDALL,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Div., Detach. Army of the Tennessee.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 45, Part 1 (Serial No. 93), p. 440-3

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