Report of Brigadier General William Nelson, U. S. Army, commanding Fourth Division, Army of the Ohio
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION.
Camp on the Field of Battle,
April 10, 1862
CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders received yesterday from
headquarters of the Army of the Ohio, I have the honor to report that the Fourth
Division of the Army of the Ohio, under my command, left Savannah, by order of
General Grant, reiterated by General Buell in person, at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday,
April 6, and marched by land to the point opposite Pittsburg Landing. The
anxiety of the soldiers to take part in the battle which was going on the left
bank of the river enabled me to achieve the distance, notwithstanding the
dreadful state of the road over a lately overflowed bottom, in four hours. At 5
the head of my column marched up the bank at Pittsburg Landing and took up its
position in the road under the fire of the rebel artillery, so close had they
approached the Landing. I found a semicircle of artillery, totally unsupported
by infantry, whose fire was the only check to the audacious approach of the
enemy. The Sixth Ohio and Thirty-sixth Indiana Regiments had scarcely deployed,
when the left of the artillery was completely turned by the enemy and the
gunners fled from their pieces. The gallantry of the Thirty-sixth Indiana,
supported by the Sixth Ohio, under the able conduct of Colonel Ammen, commanding
Tenth Brigade, drove back the enemy and restored the line of battle. This was at
6.30 p.m., and soon after the enemy withdrew, owing, I suppose, to the darkness.
I found cowering under the river bank when I crossed from 7,000 to 10,000 men,
frantic with fright and utterly demoralized, who received my gallant division
with cries, "We are whipped; cut to pieces." They were insensible to shame or
sarcasm--for I tried both on them--and, indignant at such poltroonery, I asked
permission to open fire upon the knaves.
By 9 p.m. the infantry of my division were all across the river, and took up their positions as follows: Colonel Ammen's brigade, consisting of the Thirty-sixth Indiana, Colonel Grose; Sixth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson; Twenty-fourth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, took post on the left. On the right of them Bruce's brigade was posted, consisting of the First Kentucky Regiment, Colonel Enyart; Second Kentucky Regiment, Colonel Sedgewick; Twentieth Kentucky Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Hanson. On the right of Bruce's brigade the brigade of Colonel Hazen was posted, composed of the Ninth Indiana, Colonel Moody; Sixth Kentucky, Colonel Whitaker; Forty-first Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Mygatt.
Heavy pickets were immediately thrown well forward and every precaution taken to prevent surprise during the night. These dispositions were made by the direction and under the inspection of General Buell, who gave me orders to move forward and attack the enemy at the earliest dawn. The night passed away without serious alarm. The men lay upon their arms. Lieutenant Gwin, of the Navy, commanding the gunboats in the river, sent to me and asked how he could be of service. I requested that he would throw an 8.inch shell into the camp of the enemy every ten minutes during the night, and thus prevent their sleeping, which he did very scientifically, and, according to the report of the prisoners, to their infinite annoyance. At 4 a.m. I roused up the men quietly by riding along the line, and when the line of battle was dressed and the skirmishers well out and the reserves in position, I sent an aide to notify the general that I was ready to commence the action; whereupon the Fourth Division of the Army of the Ohio, in perfect order, as if on drill, moved toward the enemy. At 5.20 I found them, and the action commenced with vigor. My division drove them with ease, and I followed them up rapidly, when at 6 a.m. I was halted by commands from General Buell, I having gone farther forward than I should have done, my right flank being exposed.
The enemy was greatly re-enforced in front of me, and at 7 a.m. my advance, which had been resumed by order of General Buell, was checked. At 7.30 my division began to give ground slowly. We were exposed to the fire of two of the enemy's batteries, and I had no artillery. You are aware that owing to the want of transportation I was compelled to leave the three batteries of my division at Savannah. I asked for artillery to support my infantry. General Buell sent to my aid the battery commanded by Captain Mendenhall, of the Regular Army, belonging to Crittenden's division, the well-directed fire of which gave my division most refreshing relief. After 8 the firing of the enemy was tremendous. They had been again largely re-enforced on this point. General Buell, who rode along the lines at this time, saw for himself the behavior of the Fourth Division. The style in which Colonel Am-men handled his brigade excited my admiration. Colonel Hazen commanded the right brigade of this division, carried it into action, and maintained it there most gallantly. The heavy loss of his brigade attests the fierceness of the conflict at this point. He drove the enemy and Captured the battery which so distressed us, but was forced back on his reserves. The powerful re-enforcements which the enemy again had received, which made the woodland in front of us at times a sheet of flame, compelled me at 9 a.m. again to ask for support. The general sent to my aid Battery H, Fifth Artillery, Regular Army, commanded by Captain Terrill. This battery was a host in itself. It consists of four 12-pounder brass guns and two 10-pounder Parrott guns. Its fire was terrific. It was handled superbly. Wherever Captain Terrill turned his battery silence followed on the part of the enemy. Captains Terrill and Mendenhall and the officers and soldiers of their batteries are entitled to the thanks of the Fourth Division.
The Nineteenth Ohio, Colonel Beatty, attached to Crittenden's division, also came to my support. This regiment was ably handled and rendered efficient service. At 1 o'clock, by direction of General Buell, I ordered the division to move, with arms trailed, at double-quick, on the rising ground in front, held by the enemy, which the enemy with much promptitude abandoned to our use. The firing now diminished much along the front of this division, but was at 2 p.m. renewed on my right, on Crittenden's and McCook's divisions, with great fury. The Fourth Division had no more trouble during the action, the attacks on it after 2 o'clock being feeble and easily repulsed, and ceased entirely at 4 p.m.
I desire to call the attention of the general commanding the Army of the Ohio to the distinguished conduct of Col. Jacob Ammen, of the Twenty-fourth Ohio Regiment, commanding the Tenth Brigade. The cool, wary, and vigorous method in which he fought his brigade, protecting all the while the left flank of the army, gave me a profitable lesson in the science of battle.
To Colonel Hazen, commanding the Nineteenth Brigade, I beg also to invite the general's attention. The gallantry with which he led his troops to the attack was most conspicuous, and he handled them ably. During the long and bloody action the fortitude of the Fourth Division was sorely tried, pressed as it was by such superior numbers, but it maintained itself gloriously. I refer the general to the reports of the brigade commanders for the part each regiment took in the action, reserving to myself only to mention that during the action I rode up and thanked the Ninth Indiana Regiment for its gallantry; that the Sixth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson, and Twentieth Kentucky, Lieutenant-Colonel Hanson, were posted by me to cover the artillery. This important and arduous duty they performed perfectly, sustaining during the greater part of this long day with the coolness of veterans the fire of the enemy, without being permitted to return it.
The loss of the division, I regret to inform you, is heavy. It went into action 4,541 strong, of whom 6 officers and 84 enlisted men were killed, 33 officers and 558 enlisted men wounded, and 58 enlisted men missing, making a total loss of 739 ; more than half of which occurred in Hazen's brigade.
I would recommend to your notice the officers of my staff, who did their duty well on the field. They are, viz: Capt. J. Mills Kendrick, assistant adjutant-general; Assistant Surgeon Irwin, Regular Army, medical inspector; Captain Chandler, U.S. Army, assistant quartermaster; Lieutenant t Peck, Sixth Ohio Volunteers, division commissary; Lieut. William P. Anderson, Sixth Ohio Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Lieut. R. Southgate, Sixth Ohio Volunteers, aide-de-camp; W. Preston Graves, esq., volunteer aide-de-camp; Horace N. Fisher, esq., volunteer aide-de-camp; Lieutenant Horton, Twenty-fourth Ohio Volunteers, ordnance officer. The energy of Lieutenant Horton in bringing up ammunition was conspicuous.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Division.
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Image Source - The Library of Congress
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