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ground over which we had marched the previous day, and there were very few shots fired by either side. At half-past eleven A.m., Wc were again in the immediate vicinity of Tunnel Hill.
Just where you emerge from the woods and enter the open ground around the town, is a house which belongs to, and is inhabited by a member of the numerous and honorable tribe of John Smiths. Here the cavalry halted, there being unmistakable signs that the rebels had been reenforced upon the Tunnel Hill Ridge, and meant to hold the position. A line of log breastworks, begun some time ago, but completed on Tuesday night, could be seen extending all along the crest. Artillery could also be plainly perceived at two different points.
It was half-past twelve before we were ready to move forward, and then our cavalry marched in column along the road, into the open ground, directly toward the point whence the rebel artillery had been fired the day before. Myself and Lieutenant Shaw were riding near the van of the force, and were remarking upon the great advantage which our movement in column would give the enemy, provided they opened upon us with their cannon. They would be enabled to assail us with a raking fire, which could scarcely fail to do us much damage.
On the slope of the ridge, and near the road, which, running over it, leads on to Dalton, is a white frame-house. Behind this the rebels had, during the night, concealed a battery; and just as our cavalry column had all passed into the open ground, they ran their cannon out from bohind the house, and blazed away at us with vigor and a will. The first shell fell into soft ground, a dozen feet from where I was at the moment. Either it was a fuse-shell and burst when in near proximity to the earth, or it was percussion, and the ground was not soft enough to prevent its explosion. At any rate, it exploded and threw the dirt, with numerous fragments of itself, in every direction around it. A liberal sprinkling of the former sufficed for my share.
The dirt and mud had scarce ceased to fall, when a second shell struck the ground, about twenty feet beyond the first. Bursting, one half of it flew into atoms, slighty wounding several persons. The other half, in one solid mass, struck a very young man, a member of the Twentyeighth Kentucky, squarely in the stomach, tearing out his bowels. His horse, also wounded, dashed away toward the rear. A hundred yards from the spot where the shell exploded, the hapless rider fell off, stone-dead. A few feet further, and his horse also lay stretched upon the earth.
I did not note the effect of any other individual shell, for, as word was given to the horsemen to seek shelter, I was not slow in obeying the order, and by a rapid and masterly movement soon found myself beneath the friendly shelter of some woods upon our right Our cavalry stood firm until the order to retire was given. Then they left in good earnest; so that when I turned and looked out from the woods where I had taken refuge upon the open ground, not a
man was to be seen. Yes, there was one man. As soon as Colonel Harrison had given orders to his men to retire, he himself descended from his horse, and stood there in full view of the enemy until the storm was over.
For full fifteen minutes the rebels kept up a furious fire, throwing their missiles clear back to John Smith's house, and even disturbing for a moment the equanimity of our infantry. One of the shells burst so near General Whipple, Chief of Staff to General Thomas, that all who saw it wondered how he escaped with life. Not even his clothes, however, were touched.
Would you picture to your mind a view of this somewhat singular battle-field? Imagine yourself, then, at John Smith's house, and looking south. The road passing it runs nearly north and south. Going south a quarter of a mile, you reach the railroad; here the common road turns squarely to the left, and by following a furlong further, you enter the town of Tunnel Hill. To the right of Smith's house is a wooded range, intersected by ravines, behind which Colonel Hambright's brigade was posted, after our cavalry had sought shelter from the rebel artillery. Carlin was in the centre of our line, along the road. Off to the left is a tolerably high range, subsiding about three hundred yards from the road. Between this and Tunnel Hill Kidge, General Crufts's division (Stanley's)was advancing. Looking across some open fields to the south-cast, you behold the town. Occupying entire space between south and east, extends Tunnel Hill Range, held by the enemy. One high round peak, lying south-south-east, runs up most ambitiously toward the clouds; the remainder of the range is comparatively low. The rebel battery which had already worked us mischief, was just below the high peak. Around the town the cleared ground is undulating. The high eminences of Rocky Face can be seen at various places, rising up behind Tunnel Hill Ridge.
Such is a picture of what has already been the scene of a combat, and may yet witness a great battle.
While Colonel Hambright was putting his brigade into such a position as to threaten the enemy's left, General Morgan, commanding brigade in General Davis's division, had been sent over to our left to connect with General Crufts's men, and, climbing Tunnel Hill Ridge, where it is quite low, and there was no force of the enemy to oppose, to move along the summit, until he could assail the rebel works upon their right Hank.
In the mean time, two pieces of Hotchkiss's battery opened upon the rebel battery from the hill upon the right of the road. An animated duel continued for some time. The rebels threw missiles with much precision. Captain Ilotchkiss planted his shells where they would have been very effective, had they not for some unknown reason mostly failed to explode.
Captain Harris moved two guns of his battery (Nineteenth Indiana) over into the fields upon the left, and fired a few effective shots.
Between the two, the rebel battery had too much of it, and withdrew at about half-past three P.m., just as General Morgan's men were Been marching along the summit of the ridge, toward the rebel works. Seeing themselves thus outflanked by General Morgan upon their right, and seriously threatened by Colonel Hambright upon the left, the rebels abandoned their position and fled precipitately, without firing a gun from the time Morgan first appeared. Thus, with but trifling loss, this strong and important position fell into our hands.
Not a moment was lost in following up the enemy. General Morgan taking the advance, and Colonel McCook, with his splendid brigade, belonging to the same division, following closely behind.
We were now traversing country over which Union troops had never trod before; and consequently we found the citizens in the most appalling state of confusion and dismay,expecting all and singly to havo their throats cut immediately upon our arrival. The men had fled to the hills, and the women and children, as soon as the head of our column appeared, uttered piercing shrieks as if they were on the point of being murdered, or falling down upon their knees begged piteously for their lives. When they found they were in no danger whatever from our soldiers, their surprise and joy exceeded, if possible, their previous fear.
A little before fivo o'clock our forces came to an awful gorge cleft in an inaccessible and lofty range of mountains, called Rocky Face. On the left side of this gorge ran the railroad; on the right the common road, with a monstrous pinecovered rock rising between. Never had I boheld so formidable a position for defence; and my experience was in this respect the same as that of every officer in the army. Reaching out into the gorge from the perfectly impassable mountains on either side, spur after spur could be seen, rising one above the other as you looked toward Dalton, and forming a series of fortifications as perfect in design as the hand of men ever traced, while vastly superior in magnitude to aught that he ever constructed.
From the first of these spurs upon the right, the enemy poured forth a volley of musketry. Our brave boys, rushing forward, carried the spur; but from a higher one beyond, six pieces of! artillery commenced hurling death among them, and they were compelled to withdraw.
The enemy continued a fierce artillery fire until night, when General Morgan's brigade moving into the left of the gorge, and Colonel Daniel McCook's into the right, they held the mouth of it until morning.
As I rode back toward the town, the heavens were lighted up with the lurid fires of Cleburne's old camp, (upon the east side of Tunnel Hill Range.) which our troops had set on fire. In the town I learned that General Wheeler himself was in command of the rebel cavalry which had all along been opposing us.
Simultaneously with the advance of the column from Chattanooga, General Crufts moved
down from the vicinity of Cleveland, joined afterward by Matthias's brigade, of the Fifteenth army corps, commanded at present by Colonel Dickerman, of the One Hundred and Third Illinois.
Colonel Long, with some seven hundred cavalry, preceded General Crufts. This column skirmished as successfully with the enemy as the other, and on the twenty-third, Colonel Long ] penetrated to within four miles of Dalton*
Another sunny, warm, pleasant, smoky morn
j ing dawned upon us on the twenty-fifth, and all
,' portions of our forces being prepared to act in
concert, it was determined to make a bold move,
! which might test whether or not the enemy's
strong position on the Tunnel Hill road could
not be turned.
Accordingly, General Baird took up the line of march very early in the morning, and crossing j Tunnel Hill, joined General Crufts in the valley between the range and Rocky Face. Passing through a gap in Rocky Face, about three miles beyond Tunnel Hill Ridge, the entire force passed along the Cleveland road toward Dalton, the enemy opposing them only by feeble skirmishing, and everywhere flying before them.
It soon became evident, however, that they had passed beyond another range still further to the east than Rocky Face, and that a force of the enemy occupying the valley between the two might easily pass to the rear and cut off their retreat. To prevent this, they retired along the line of their march until they had reached the head of Rocky Face Valley, down which they marched in order of battle, General Baird upon the right and General Crufts' upon the left. The rebels gave way as before, until they reached a point where the Cleveland road, running toward Dalton, descends into this valley. Just across this road and on the left side of the valley, was a high point in the bounding ridge, and this the enemy manifested a disposition to hold at hazard of a fight. Colonel Grose's brigade advancing along the slope of the ridge, immediately prepared to carry the hill. The enemy's outposts were driven in with rapidity, and the gallant brigade, moving steadily forward with loud cheers, and never once wavering under the fierce fire kept up by the rebels, hurled the latter from the hill in confusion, and planted the Stars and Stripes upon the summit.
This was about half-past eleven A.m. Captain Shnonson, Chief of Artillery on General Crufts's staff, ran his old battery, the Fifth Indiana, to the top of the hill, and treated the rebels to constant doses of shot and shell the remainder of the day. Very heavy skirmishing was kept up until one P.m. by the opposing infantry, but no advance was attempted upon either side.
Myself and the gentleman whom I accompanied during the greater portion of tin's trip, had remained on the west side of Rocky Face, until assured, by one who knew, that the principal fight of the day was certain to take place upon the other side. A change of base was immediately determined upon. We struck across Tunnel Hill Range in the direction indicated by tho sound of Crufts's and Baird's cannon, and after a by no means pleasant ride of a couple of horns, amongst rocks and hills, and valleys and ravines, scowled at by the natives from whom we could learn not a word concerning the whereabouts of our troops, and in imminent danger of being picked up by some straggling squad of rebel cavalry, we at length had the unspeakable satisfaction of getting upon General Baird's trail; and riding on a mile or two further, found that, almost unknown to ourselves, we had turned the formidable barrier of Rocky Face, which now appeared upon our right
Every step we took, the sounds of conflict became more and more distinct, until at last we caught sight of our troops stretched across the valley, the advance line skirmishing briskly with the enemy. The order of battle I have named, was still preserved. Of Baird's division. Van Dervcer's brigade was on the left, Turchin's upon the right.
It was one o'clock when we arrived upon this part of the field, and scarcely had we reached our lines, when it became evident that a severe struggle was just on the point of taking place.
In truth, the position the rebels held in this vallej-, was almost as strong as that upon the road from Tunnel Hill. The valley was wider than the gorge, but the natural fortifications were of a similar nature, and only required to be held by a somewhat stronger force. The passage into Dalton along this valley, would evidently be accomplished only by copious effusion of blood.
A hill near the centre of the valley seemed to form the key to the position. To the right of this was another, the possession of which would enable us to operate with great advantage against the other. Just as I rode up, General Palmer announced his intention of attempting to carry this latter point.
The task of taking the hill was assigned to General Turchin, than whom a better, braver man can scarcely be found in our army. He had only a portion of his brigade with him, but he had such regiments as the Eleventh, Eightyninth, Ninety-second Ohio, and the Eighty-second Indiana, and with these he was sure to win, if success, under the circumstances, were possible, for these regiments scarce ever fail, and when they do, it is with undiminished honor.
A heavy strip of timber runs along the lower portion of the east slope of Rocky Face. Through this Turchin and his men steadily advanced, the General in the front ranks, drawing repeatedly upon his own person the fire of the rebel skirmishers. Forming his line of battle along the slope of the mountain, just opposite to and facing the hill which he was to carry, he gave the order to advance. Immediately the whole valley resounded with a terrible roar of musketry, and the enemy's cannon, replied to by our own Fourth regular battery, added to the awful din. The rebels were swept away from the foot of the hill. Halfway up they endeavored to make a stand, but our boys, charging forward with loud shouts, drove them across the summit
The victory seemed gained, and the brigade rushed to the top of the hill to secure what it had won. But the enemy had rallied half-way diwn, supported by a fresh force outnumbering Turchin's two to one. No sooner had our boys reached the summit than a withering storm of bullets swept up the hill. Bravely they replied for a time, making many a rebel bite the dust. But the galling fire could not long be borne. It would be madness to charge down the hill into the midst of twice or thrice their numbers. Hence, they withdrew slowly and reluct-mtly to their former position along the slope of Rocky Face. The rebels did not attempt to follow, but contented themselves with repossessing the hill.
This was the bloodiest, as it might be called the closing, conflict of this interesting campaign. A brisk cannonade and a fierce and determined skirmishing were kept up until nightfall; but no advance was made upon either side. All the remainder of the afternoon the two armies stood confronting each other, so close together that the skirmishers of either could fire entirely over the rear-lines of the other. A number of incidents, at once singular and interesting, fell under my own observation, but I shall only mention this one.
General Palmer was standing near our skirmishers, when a bullet, fired by one of the opposing rebels, passed through both the skirts of his coat and both legs of his pants, without even grazing the skin! Probably there is not a similar case on record.
When night came on, a spectacle met our eyes, at once brilliant, beautiful, and sublime. During the course of the conflict, the leaves, rendered inflammable by several weeks' dry weather, had taken fire; and now long lines of the devouring element could be seen everywhere running up and down the mountains, twisting and writhing and hissing like monstrous serpents of living fire. The fine twigs and cones, of which vast quantities lay upon the ground, added to the hugeness of the conflagration; in some places the progress of our withdrawing troops was seriously impeded by the smoke and heat; and at ten P.m., it really seemed, to a spectator gazing from Tunnel Hill, as if the whole State of Georgia was on fire, and her eternal mountains were melting beneath the flames.
It was after night when the troops began to retire; and ere they closed their eyes in slumber that night, they were on the west side of the Tunnel Hill range.
About three in the afternoon, General Davis, who with Morgan's and McCook's brigades, supported by General Johnson's commaml, was hob}, ing the mouth of the gorge on tho Tunnel Hill road, began to advance slowly and feel the enemy. The latter manifested the utmost sensitiveness, and raking the gorge with his cannon, inflicted upon General Morgan considerable loss. After night, this force retired to Tunnel Hill, which we continue to hold.
Thus ended this highly important expedition. It has again, if that were needed, demonstrated the fighting qualities of our own troops. It has familiarized us with a section of country, comparatively unknown before. It has shown the tremendous strength of the enemy's position at Dalton. It has for ever set at rest the silly stories of Johnston's army having gone to Mobile and other points; and, above all, it has prevented that army, or any considerable part of it, from being so sent away.
It was well ascertained that Cleburne's division did not start away until the evening of the twenty-first, and at least one brigade of it had returned by the twenty-fifth. Stevenson's, Stuart's, Loring's divisions, one brigade of Cleburne's, one of another division, whose commander could not bo ascertained, and Wheeler's cavalry, were all known to have been in the fight of Thursday. Although this correspondent would be very glad to have Joe Johnston evacuate Dalton, he cannot but feel somewhat proud of this triumphant vindication of the statement he made weeks ago, and has since had occasion several times to repeat, concerning the presence and strength of the rebel army at Dalton.
The expedition could not well fail of being an entire success, as it was managed throughout with wisdom, prudence, and skill. I venture to say that however high General Palmer may have stood in the estimation of his corps, he has risen still higher since the commencement of this expedition.
General Whipple seemed everywhere present, and I am assured by those who ought best to know, that his advice throughout the whole affair was most timely and valuable.
Generals Johnson and Davis discharged the duties imposed upon them with a cheerfulness and self-sacrificing alacrity which did much to keep up the efficiency and morale of their men. General Crufts and Baird both sustained their reputation as soldiers, and the latter especially seemed to understand how to impart vigor and spirit to his troops.
It remains for all these generals to bo tested upon a severe field, but here, at least, they did well. Our losses will not exceed two hundred killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy's will not fall below five hundred. Y. S.
Doc. 06. CAPTURE OF FORT DE RUSSY, LA.
Os Board Flag-ship, I Fokt Db Krsur, March IS, 15*4. |
To understand the importance of the great expedition up Red River, it is necessary to review the military situation in the beginning of March. Sherman had returned to Vicksburgh from his grand but disappointing raid into Mississippi, and instead of directing his forces toward Mobile, the point greatest and almost the only position of vital concern to the rebels, he detached a portion of them to General Banks's assistance, who, it appears, had predetermined on scatter
ing or demolishing the forces in West-Louisiana. It is altogether probable that something in the seasons had dictated this choice to General Banks. For example, the Red River is only high enough to be navigable by the largest vessels during this month and the next, while tho task of taking Mobile is one which might be undertaken at any time, though it is unaccountably strange that it was not begun in December instead of May.
As is well known, the column under General Franklin crossed from New-Orleans to Brashear City about the first instant, and thence took up the line of march along the Bayou Techc, substantially the same route pursued nearly a year ago, tia Opelousas to Alexandria. Tlie forces under General A. J. Smith, from the department of the Tennessee, comprising the brigades under Generals F. K. Smith, Thomas, and Ellet, embarked at Vicksburgh on the tenth, and proceeded down to the mouth of Red River, where they found an immense fleet of gunboats ready for the ascent
Touching the naval force, it may be well to remark that a more formidable fleet was never under single command than that now on tho Western rivers, under Rear-Admiral Porter; and, it might be said also, never to less purpose. At tho time of departure, the strength of the rebellion in the inland waters had been crushed. Its forts had been demolished at Henry, Donclson, Columbus, Island 10, Vicksburgh, Hudson, and New-Orleans, by the gallant Foote and Farragut, united with the army. Its fleet had been sunk by Ellet, Farragut, and Davis. All that remained to be extinguished was one insignificant fort at Gordon's Landing, and one ram and one gunboat on Red River. To meet this force, we had collected twenty powerful war-vessels of all classes, from the light draught to the heaviest monitor. Among them were the monitors Ozark, Osage, Neosho; the iron-clads Benton, Carondelct, Pittsburgh, Mound City, Louisville, Essex, and Chillicothe ; the rams Price, Choctaw, La Fayette, besides the lighter boats, Blackhawk, Ouachita, Champion, and Taylor. Contemplating this vast array of armed vessels to meet so weak a foe, those who are familiar with the history, cannot but contrast with it tho different equipments with which the lamented Colonel Ellet was despatched on the same errand more than a year ago, with the Queen of tho West only.
The twenty transports, preceded by the twenty gunboats, started from the -Mississippi on tho tenth, and ascended the Red River as far as what is called the Old River, when we turned into tho Atclmfalaya instead of continuing up Red River. M:iny were the speculations upon our course as they saw us descending tho stream instead of ascending. To a person unacquainted with the peculiarities of this region, it seems indeed strange that the water should run up and down consecutively. The whole of West-Louisiana is overspread with a network of bayous, which are interlaced with each other in a very unusual manner. Indeod, though Red River is usually accounted one of the tributaries of the Mississippi River, there is abundant evidence to believe that at no great period back the Red River continued its course to the Gulf through the Atchafalaya. The latter stream is now mainly fed by the former, and should properly bear its name. We found it for twelve miles a deep and navigable stream.
At Simmsport the fleet came to a landing. The town itself docs not exist, a few chimneys alone marking the former site, having been burned up by Colonel Charles Rivers Ellct, in retaliation for their having fired on his boat, the Queen of the West Colonel John Kllet afterward visited the place with the Switzerland, during the siege of Port Hudson, when he had a severe engagement with the batteries, and finished the work of his cousin.
Two new earthworks were found in course of construction, and abundant evidences of the traffic across the stream at this point. A short distance up the bayou, which enters at this point, were found twenty-four pontoons used for a bridge; also, portions of a raft of timber long enough to stretch across. News reached us that a camp near the river had been hastily evacuated at the sight of the fleet; afterward we heard that about two thousand had a fortified camp three miles from the river, at the intersection of Bayou Glaize, (Yellow Bayou.) Next morning the land forces were disembarked, and marched out by sunrise to find the camp broken up and the enemy gone; the bridge leading across the stream burning, and evidence of a fright. There were two extensive earthworks, still incomplete, and a prodigious raft being constructed across Bayou Glaize so as to prevent the gunboats ascending the little channel during high-water. This location of their principal fortifications is significant in two things: their intention to make the Atchafalaya as their line of defence, and their distrust of their ability to hold forts immediately on the banks of navigable streams. Henceforth we imagined their policy would be to hold the roads to the interior by works erected beyond the range of the gunboats. Their abandonment of Simmsport was indicative that they had lost hope of defending successfully these latter.
Five miles further out, our force overtook five teams loaded with tents, which they burned, and loaded up the teams with sugar and molasses, which the rebels had unsuccessfully attempted to destroy. The whole column then returned to the boats. I should not be a faithful historian if I omitted to mention that the conduct of the troops since the late raid of General Sherman, is becoming very prejudicial to our good name and to their efficiency. A spirit of destruction and wanton ferocity seems to have seized upon many of them, which is quite incredible. At Red River landing they robbed a house of several thousand dollars in specie, and then fired the house to conceal their crime. At Simmsport, a party of them stole out, and robbed
and insulted a family two miles distant In fact, unless checked by summary example, there is danger of our whole noble army degenerating into a band of cut-throats and robbers. I am glad to say that General Smith is disposed to punish all offenders severely.
It was decided that the column should march overland to Fart De Russy, the place to which it was supposed they had retreated, distant thirty-five miles. At daybreak, they started in light marching order. The boats were steamed up the Red River, which proved to be extremely tortuous and difficult of navigation. At a point sixty-five miles above the mouth, and twentylive above Black River, we came upon a small earthwork, without guns, distant by land about five miles from the main fort. Hewn piles and timbers had floated past during the day, preparing us for the evacuation above.
Meanwhile the column under General Smith, with Morse's brigade in the advance, made a night march across from Simmsport Bofore they had gotten five miles out on their march, they were beset by the enemy's cavalry, which kept harassing front and rear during the entire route. A company of cavalry, under Captiin Hughes, preceded the column, skirmishing continually. General F. Kilby Smith, who commanded- the division in the rear, was often obliged to form in line to repel their threatened attack. Notwithstanding that a delay of three hours occurred in rebuilding a bridge destroyed by the flying enemy, the entire march, thirty miles, was accomplished in twenty hours, and, as the result showed, captured a strong position before sundown—a feat which has hardly a parallel. The country back of the Fort is an undulating table-land, beautiful to behold, and inhabited by descendants of the early French settlers. Indeed, many of them had hoisted over their porches the tri-color of France, although they have been living here, receiving the privileges of citizenship, for more than twenty years.
It was about three o'clock as the head of the column neared Fort De Russy; some time was spent in making cautious approaches to the position, when the lines were moved up to the edge of the timber. The Fort then opened heavily with four guns, firing shells and shrapnel, our forces bringing two batteries into action. The cannonading continued two hours, when General Smith ordered a line of skirmishers to advance, when a heavy fusilade followed. A charge was ordered; the Fifty-eighth Illinois and the Eighth Wisconsin led, when just as the men had reached the ditch the garrison surrendered. About this time the boats made their appearance, the Eastport in the lead. They fired two shots without effect, across a rock, when the cheers of our delighted soldiers told them the Fort was ours. The gunboats were not engaged; the honor of this victory may be set down to the credit of the land forces.
The Fort consists of two distinct and formidable earth-works connected by a covered way.