Reports of Brigadier General Stephen A. Hurlbut, U. S. Army, commanding Fourth Division, Army of the Tennessee, including correspondence related to the Thirteenth Ohio Battery abandoning it's position and equipment during the battle
HDQRS. FOURTH DIVISION, ARMY OF WEST TENNESSEE,
April 12, 1862
Capt. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
SIR: I have the honor to report in brief the part taken by
my division in the battle of the 6th and 7th of April.
On Sunday morning, April 6, about 7.30 a.m., I received a message from Brigadier-General Sherman that he was attacked in force, and heavily, upon his left. I immediately ordered Col. J. C. Veatch, commanding the Second Brigade, to proceed to the left of General Sherman. This brigade, consisting of the Twenty-fifth Indiana, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Forty-sixth Illinois, was in march in ten minutes, arrived on General Sherman's line rapidly, and went into action. I must refer to Colonel Veatch's report for the particulars of that day.
Receiving in a few moments a pressing request for aid from Brigadier-General Prentiss, I took command in person of the First and Third Brigades, respectively commanded by Col. N. G. Williams, of the Third Iowa, and Brig. Gen. J. G. Lauman. The First Brigade consisted of the Third Iowa, Forty-first Illinois, Twenty-eighth Illinois, and Thirty-second Illinois; the Third Brigade, of the Thirty-first Indiana, Forty-fourth Indiana, Seventeenth Kentucky, and Twenty-fifth Kentucky. In addition I took with me the First and Second Battalions of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, Mann's light battery, four pieces, commanded by First Lieut. E. Brotzmann; Ross' battery, Second Michigan, and Myers' battery, Thirteenth Ohio. As we drew near the rear and left of General Prentiss' line his regiments, in broken masses, drifted through my advance, that gallant officer making every effort to rally them.
I formed my line of battle--the First Brigade thrown to the front on the southerly side of a large open field, the Third Brigade continuing the line with an obtuse angle around the other side of the field, and extending some distance into the brush and timber; Mann's battery was placed in the angle of the line, Ross' battery some distance to the left, and the Thirteenth Ohio Battery on the right and somewhat advanced in cover of the timber, so as to concentrate the fire upon the open ground in front---and waited for the attack. A single shot from the enemy's batteries struck in Myers' Thirteenth Ohio Battery, when officers and men, with a common impulse of disgraceful cowardice, abandoned the entire battery, horses, caissons, and guns, and fled, and I saw them no more until Tuesday. I called for volunteers from the artillery. The call was answered, and 10 gallant men from Mann's battery and Ross' battery brought in the horses, which were wild, and spiked the pieces. The attack commenced on the Third Brigade, through the thick timber, and was met and repelled by a steady and continuous fire, which rolled the enemy back in confusion, after some half hour of struggle, leaving many dead and wounded.
The glimmer of bayonets on the left and front of the First Brigade showed a large force of the enemy gathering, and an attack was soon made on the Forty-first Illinois and Twenty-eighth on the left of the brigade, and the Thirty-second Illinois and Third Iowa on the right. At the same time a strong force of very steady and gallant troops formed in columns, doubled on the center, and advanced over the open field in front. They were allowed to approach within 400 yards, when fire was opened from Mann's and Ross' batteries, and from the two right regiments of the First Brigade and the Seventeenth and Twenty-fifth Kentucky, which were thrown forward slightly, so as to flank the column. Under this withering fire they vainly attempted to deploy, but soon broke and fell back under cover, leaving not less than 150 dead and wounded as evidence how our troops maintained their position. The attack on the left was also repulsed, but as the ground was covered with brush the loss could not be judged.
General Prentiss having succeeded in rallying a considerable portion of his command, I permitted him to pass to the front of the right of my Third Brigade, where they redeemed their honor by maintaining that line for some time while ammunition was supplied to my regiments. A series of attacks upon the right and left of my line were readily repelled, until I was compelled to order Ross' battery to the rear, on account of its loss in men and horses. During all this time Mann's battery maintained its fire steadily, effectively, and with great rapidity, under the excellent handling of Lieut. E. Brotzmann.
For five hours these brigades maintained their position under repeated and heavy attacks, and endeavored, with their thin ranks, to hold the space between Stuart and McClernand, and did check every attempt to penetrate the line, when, about 3 o'clock, Colonel Stuart, on my left, sent me word that he was driven in, and that I would be flanked on the left in a few moments. It was necessary for me to decide at once to abandon either the right or left. I considered that Prentiss could, with the left of General McClernand's troops, probably hold the right, and sent him notice to reach out toward the right and drop back steadily parallel with my First Brigade, while I rapidly moved General Lauman's from the right to the left, and called up two 20-pounder pieces of Major Cavender's battalion, to cheek the advance of the enemy upon the First Brigade. These pieces were taken into action by Dr. Cornyn, the surgeon of the battalion, and Lieutenant Edwards, and effectually checked the enemy for half an hour, giving me time to draw off my crippled artillery and to form a new front with the Third Brigade. In a few minutes two Texas regiments crossed the ridge separating my line from Stuart's former one, while other troops also advanced. Willard's battery was thrown into position, under command of Lieutenant Wood, and opened with great effect upon the "Lone Star" flags, until their line of fire was obstructed by the charge of the Third Brigade, which, after delivering its fire with great steadiness, charged full up the hill and drove the enemy 300 or 400 yards. Perceiving that a heavy force was closing on the left, between my line and the river, while heavy fire continued on the right and front, I ordered the line to fall back. The retreat was made quietly and steadily and in good order. I had hoped to make a stand on the line of my camp, but masses of the enemy were pressing rapidly on each flank, while their light artillery was closing rapidly in the rear. On reaching the 24-pounder siege guns in battery near the river I again succeeded in forming line of battle in rear of the guns, and, by direction of Major-General Grant, I assumed command of all troops that came up. Broken regiments and disordered battalions came into line gradually upon my division. Major Cavender posted six of his 20-pounder pieces on my eight, and I sent my aide to establish the light artillery, all that could found, on my left. Many officers and men unknown to me, and whom I never desire to know, fled in confusion through the line. Many gallant soldiers and brave officers rallied steadily on the new line.
I passed to the right and found myself in communication with General Sherman and received his instructions. In a short time the enemy appeared on the crest of the ridge, led by the Eighteenth Louisiana, but were-cut to pieces by the steady and murderous fire of our artillery. Dr. Cornyn again took charge of one of the heavy 24-pounders, and the line of fire of that gun was the one upon which the other pieces con-centered. General Sherman's artillery also was rapidly engaged, and after an artillery contest of some duration the enemy fell back. Captain Gwin, U.S. Navy had called upon me by one of his officers to mark the place the gunboats might take to open their fire. I advised him to take position on the left of my camp ground and open fire as soon as our fire was within that line. He did so, and from my own observation and the statement of prisoners his fire was most effectual in stopping the advance of the enemy on Sunday afternoon and night. About dark the firing ceased. I advanced my division 100 yards to the front, threw out pickets, and officers and men bivouacked in a heavy storm of rain.
About 12 p.m. General Nelson's leading columns passed through my line and went to the front, and I called in my advance guard. The remnant of my division was reunited, Colonel Veatch, with the Second Brigade, having joined me about 4.30 p.m. It appears from his report, which I desire may be taken as part of mine, that soon after arriving on the field of battle, in the morning, the line of troops in front broke and fled through the lines of the Fifteenth and Forty-sixth Illinois without firing a shot, and left the Fifteenth exposed to a terrible fire, which they gallantly returned. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellis and Major Goddard were killed here early in action, and the regiment fell back. The same misfortune from the yielding of the front line threw the Forty-sixth Illinois into confusion, and, although the fire was returned by the Forty-sixth with great spirit, the opposing force drove back this unsupported regiment, Colonel Davis in person bringing off the colors, in which gallant act he was severely wounded. The Twenty-fifth Indiana and Fourteenth Illinois changed front, and held their ground on the new alignment until ordered to form on the left of General McClernand's command. The Fifteenth and Forty-sixth were separated from the brigade, but fell into line with General McClernand's right. The battle was sustained in this position, the left resting near my headquarters until the left wing was driven in. The Second Brigade fell back towards the river, and was soon followed by the First and Third, and reunited at the heavy guns. This closes the history of Sunday's battle, so far as this division was concerned.
On Monday, about 8 a.m., my division was formed in line close to the river bank, and I obtained a few crackers for my men. About 9 a.m. I was ordered by General Grant to move up to the support of General McClernand, then engaged near his own camp. With the First Brigade and Mann's battery I moved forward under the direction of Captain Rowley, aide-de-camp, and formed line on the left of General McClernand's, with whom that brigade and battery remained during the entire day, taking their full share of the varied fortunes of that division in the gallant charges and the desperate resistance which checkered that field. I am under great obligations to General McClernand for the honorable mention he has personally given to my troops, and have no doubt that his official report shows the same; and as they fought under his immediate eye, and he was in chief command, I leave this to him.
The Second and Third Brigades went into action elsewhere, and again I am compelled to refer to the report of their immediate commanders, only saying that the Second Brigade led the charge ordered by General Grant until recalled by Major-General Buell, and that the Third Brigade was deeply and fiercely engaged on the right of General McClernand, successfully stopping a movement to flank his right and holding their ground until the firing ceased. About 1 -o'clock of that day (Monday) General McCook having closed up with General McClernand and the enemy demonstrating in great force on the left, I went, by the request of General McClernand, to the rear of his line to bring up fresh troops, and was engaged in pressing them forward until the steady advance of General Buell on the extreme left the firmness of the center and the closing in from the right of Generals Sherman and Wallace determined the success of the day, when I called in my exhausted brigades and led them to their camps. The ground was such on Sunday that I was unable to use cavalry. Colonel Taylor's Fifth Ohio Cavalry was drawn up in order of battle until near 1 o'clock, in hope that some opening might offer for the use of this arm, and none appearing, I ordered the command withdrawn from the reach of shot. They were not in action again until the afternoon of Monday, when they were ordered to the front, but returned to their camps. Their subsequent conduct will be no doubt reported by the officer who conducted the special expedition of which they made a part. On Sunday the cavalry lost 1 man killed, 6 wounded, and 8 horses before they were withdrawn. The greater portion of Ross' battery were captured on Sunday in the ravine near my camp.
For the officers and men of my division I am at a loss for proper words to express my appreciation of their courage and steadiness. Where all did their duty so well I fear to do injustice by specially naming any. The fearful list of killed and wounded officers in my division shows the amount of exposure which they met, while the returns of loss among the privates, who fell unnamed but heroic, without the hope of special mention, shows distinctly that the rank and file were animated by a true devotion and as firm a courage as their officers. Colonel Williams, Third Iowa, commanding First Brigade, was disabled early in the action of Sunday by a cannon-shot, which killed his horse and paralyzed him, from which he has not yet fully recovered. The command of the brigade devolved on Colonel Pugh, of the Forty-first Illinois, who held it steadily and well through the entire battle. Colonel Pugh desires special mention to be made of Lieut. F. Sessions, of Third Iowa, acting assistant adjutant-general. My own observations confirm his report, and I recommend Lieutenant Sessions to the favorable consideration of the Department. Col. A. K. Johnson, of Twenty-eighth Illinois, was under my own eye during both days. I bear willing testimony to his perfect coolness and through handling of his regiment throughout the whole timer and to the fact that his regiment halted as a rear guard on Sunday afternoon during the retreat by his personal order and reported to me for orders before he closed into the line. Colonel Logan, of the Thirty-second, was severely wounded on Sunday; the lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-first fell about the same time, both in discharge of duty. So great were the casualties among officers, that the Third Iowa Regiment went into action on Monday in command of a first lieutenant. To Colonel Veatch, commanding the Second Brigade, my thanks are due for the skill with which he handled his brigade on detached duty, and I refer to his report for the conduct and special notice of his officers. The Government, as I am informed, has recognized his former services by promotion ; if not, he has won it now. Brig. Gen. J. G. Lauman, commanding the Third Brigade, took command only the day before the battle. The brigade and their commander know each other now. I saw him hold the right of my line on Sunday with his small body of gallant men, only 1,717 strong, for three hours, and then, when changed over to the left, repel the attack of twice his force for a full hour of terrible fighting, closing by the most gallant and successful charge, which gave him time to draw off his force in order and comparative safety. His report renders full justice to his officers, among whom Colonel Reed, of the Forty-fourth Indiana, was especially distinguished.
My own thanks have been personally tendered on the field of battle to First Lieut. E. Brotzmann, commanding Mann's battery, and to his command. This battery fought both days under my personal inspection. It was always ready, effective in execution, changing position promptly when required, and officers, men, and horses steady in action. Having lost one piece on Sunday, it was easy to distinguish the fire of this battery throughout Monday; in position first on General McClernand's right, then on his center, then on the left, they everywhere fulfilled their duty. I specially recommend this officer for promotion. Captain Mann, of this battery, was unable to be in action. I recommend that the officers of the Thirteenth Ohio Battery be mustered out of service, and that the men and material remaining may be applied to rifling up the ranks of some battery which has done honor to the service.
My personal thanks are due to my personal staff. Capt. S. D. Atkins, acting assistant adjutant-general, rose from a sick bed, and was with me until I ordered him to the rear. He was absent about three hours, and returned and remained throughout the battle. Lieut. J. C. Long, Ninth Regular Infantry, my aide, was peculiarly active, energetic, and daring in conveying my orders under heavy fire. He was fortunate in receiving no wound, although one ball passed through his cap and one through his sleeve. Lieutenant Benner, my acting assistant quartermaster, acted as aide with great coolness and courage, and had his horse killed under him. Lieut. W. H. Dorchester joined me as volunteer aide on Sunday, and rendered valuable aid on Monday.
I add statement of killed, wounded, and missing of the artillery so far as reported.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. A. HURLBUT,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Division.
HDQRS. FOURTH DIV., DIST. OF WEST TENN.,
In Camp below Memphis, Tenn., August 18, 1862
Maj. JOHN; A. RAWLINS, A. A. G., Dist. of West Tenn., Corinth, Miss.
MAJOR: In obedience to special orders front Headquarters
Army of the Tennessee, not numbered, bearing date 10th June. 1862, directing me
to investigate and report in relation to a certain letter from one "B. Stanton,"
dated May 15, 1862, to General C. P. Buckingham, and also as to a certain
anonymous article published in some obscure paper in Ohio and copied into
another of equal obscurity, I have the honor to report:
That on Friday, the 4th day of April, A. D. 1862, Captain Myers, of the Thirteenth Ohio Battery, reported for duty with the Fourth Division at Pittsburg, in place of Burrows' Fourteenth Ohio Battery, removed from my division to that of Major-General McClernand. They were camped on the left of my line, and put in immediate charge of Captain Mann, of the Missouri artillery, who, as senior officer of that arm, had charge as chief of artillery. They were cared for as others of the division, and I think no complaint on that score has ever come from my command.
On the 6th April, when the First and Third Brigades moved forward to support General Prentiss, this battery, together with Mann's and Ross', were ordered forward. The others promptly obeyed. Either from ignorance or some other cause the Thirteenth Ohio was very slow in coming forward, and was brought up by repeated orders through my aides.
I ordered Captain Myers to come into battery on the reverse slope of a crest of ground, where there was cover for his horses and caissons in front of the right of my infantry, which was in line of battle about 150 yards in his rear.
The battery was further supported by a cross-fire from Mann's battery and Ross' battery, placed about 400 yards to due left, and by the fire of the First Brigade, lying immediately behind the last-named batteries and extending to the right and left of them.
The spot selected was in an open grove of large trees, and, had Captain Meyers or any of his officers understood anything of their duty, as safe a position for field artillery as could be. It was easy also to retire from, as there were but 100 yards of open woods to pass over before he would be in rear of the infantry and also upon a good road. But Captain Myers, in endeavoring to place his guns, brought them rather too far forward, so as to lose the advantage of the slope; still the position was not as much exposed as that of Mann's battery, which was in the open field.
Having given these preliminary statements, I now copy from my official report, and reaffirm that every word of it in relation to this battery is true:
A single shot from the enemy's batteries struck in Myers' Thirteenth Ohio Battery, when officers and men, with a common impulse of disgrace fill cowardice, abandoned the entire battery, horses, caissons, and guns, and fled, and I saw them no more until Tuesday.
I further state that the charge made by the anonymous
scribbler and indorsed by B. Stanton, that the infantry supports fell back, is
The Seventeenth and Twenty-fifth Kentucky and Forty-fourth Indiana, then serving with me, now detached, were the nearest regiments, and neither they nor any other regiment or part of a regiment yielded an inch for many hours after the cowards, who disgraced their State and their flag, had deserted their comrades.
That they were exposed to the fire of the enemy's artillery is true, and as long as the laws of optics remain I confess that I know no way in which field artillery can see an enemy's battery and do execution without being liable to be seen and reached by them. I have always supposed that artillery were expected to meet artillery, and it has been left for this age of invention and for the State of Ohio to produce military critics, one of whom complains on one occasion that artillery did not support the infantry against infantry, and the other--B. Stanton--that infantry did not support artillery against artillery. They were never exposed for one moment to infantry fire and lost but one man.
If their position was untenable (which it was not), they could have safely retired; but it was a panic, and they ran.
That officers and men were ignorant of duty and of drill I have no doubt. The responsibility of that rests elsewhere. The paper hereto appended, marked A, shows some of the reasons of this ignorance. During the two days of the battle Captain Myers was not heard from, and was probably skulking beneath the bank of the Landing.
On Tuesday, the 8th, when danger was over and rations were needed, he appeared. I required of him some explanation of his conduct. At last I obtained from him the papers hereto annexed, marked B, which sets up none of the circumstances that he and his false friends now set up as a palliation for notorious cowardice and the grounds of all attack on men who have not failed to risk their lives. These papers of themselves are sufficient. (attached papers not found)
Inasmuch as by the order of Major-General Grant I am instructed to append the statement of other officers cognizant of the facts, I have requested those who had a view of these transactions to make their statements and transmit them to you. These statements are appended. (attached statements not found)
In short, the transaction was seen by 4,000 brave men, who never showed their backs to the enemy, and was altogether too palpable to be passed over or equivocated upon. Captain Myers was informed of my official report, was informed of the order mustering him out of service, offered no defense or explanation, made no protests, demanded no trial, for he knew well that such conduct as his would be visited with but one penalty and that the highest.
The order disbanding the battery was made by Major-General Halleck upon my official report. His authority for so doing I never inquired into, but leave it for newspaper scribblers and their hangers-on to determine. I obeyed it, and know it to be just, and not only just, but merciful. I inclose herewith copies of all correspondence on the subject in my possession.
I have now done with the official part of this correspondence, but hope to be pardoned if I touch upon the character of these sweeping and nameless accusations. The cowardly slanderer that wrote the article, and the more contemptible official who indorses it as capable of proof, either have published what they knew to be willful falsehood or have published slander without knowing or caring whether it be true or not. In either event they are beneath the notice of a gentleman. I simply say that the statements contained in my official report are true, and if these wiseacres know anything, they know the penalty that belongs to a false official statement.
If for mere purposes of local popularity an office-hunter by profession is allowed to annoy officers who are still in the presence of the enemy, and who for months have guarded the approaches to the quiet corners where these insects spin their web, it is too much. This man, B. Stanton, I suppose to be the great mania over all neighborhoods, whom the people of Ohio, for their sins, have elected lieutenant-governor, and who has already been condemned to eternal infamy by Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman. It is among the inflictions and evils of a popular government that sometimes scum of this sort issues to the top in times of agitation, and, instead of being skimmed off and put with other rubbish, dances out his hour of apparent vigor on the summit of the popular effervescence. The scum, no doubt, think that their movement is a proof of their own power; but it only shows how strongly the popular feeling boils, at the same time shave and pander to popular prejudice, on the alert to find material to build up temporary prestige by appeals to the base and unworthy with the cant of "an enlightened public" with their months, while they mock its hunger with stones or feed it with poison; slaves, that recognize no personal manhood; cowards, who do not know that to the brave the suspicion even of cowardice is worse than death; cheats, that keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope; and sophistical fools, that do not know that a lie, however well told, is sure in the end to be over-taken and conquered by invincible truth. Men who have acquired position by skill in manufacturing caucuses, by newspaper falsehoods, by temporary tricks and devices, and all the machinations of party; not by service rendered in field or senate; not by manly, straightforward, independent thought, word, or act. These are among the thousand insects that now infest our Republic, and chief among these is the conceited liar and willing slanderer B. Stanton who degrades the gallant State of Ohio by being her lieutenant-governor. Does not this wretched substitute know that his time does not come until his superior officer is out of the way? It is for the Governor, not his deputy, to vindicate the wrongs of the Ohio troops. This fifth wheel has nothing to do with it. I have stood within sight and within hearing of Ohio troops during two days of that eventful battle. I saw them fight as well as others, but when I find men under my command who disgrace their uniform and peril the rest of my command by open and notorious cowardice, shall I allow this black spot to stand un-remarked because the cowards hailed from Ohio, and thus bring cowardice and courage on the same level! It was my duty as an officer to mark them with distinct condemnation. I did it. If I reported falsely, I am answerable. It was the duty of the major-general to punish, and he did it mercifully, and I do know that if Captain Myers should demand a court-martial he would be shot, and he knows it, and knew it when he penned the letter referred to me.
With great respect, major, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
S. A. HURLBUT,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. Fourth Division, Dist. of West Tenn.
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Image Source - The Library of Congress
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