Report of Colonel Francis Quinn, U. S. Army, 12th Michigan Infantry, commanding Sixth Division, Army of the Tennessee
HDQRS. SIXTH DIVISION, ARMY OF WEST TENNESSEE,
April 9, 1862
Permit me to submit the following account of the part the
Sixth Division of this command took in the battle of Pittsburg on Sunday last:
At 3 o'clock a.m. of that day several companies were ordered out from the First Brigade of this division to watch, and endeavor, if possible, to capture, a force of the enemy who were prowling near our camp. Our brave boys marched out, and had not over 3 miles to go before they met the enemy, and immediately a sharp firing commenced, our little force giving ground.
About daylight the dead and wounded began to be brought in. The firing grew closer and closer till it became manifest a heavy force of the enemy was upon us. The division was ordered into line of battle by General Prentiss, and immediately advanced in line about one-quarter of a mile from the tents, where the enemy were met in short firing distance. Volley after volley was given and returned and many fell on both sides, but their numbers were too heavy for our forces. I could see to the right and left. They were visible in line, and every hill-top in the rear was covered with them. It was manifest they were advancing in not only one but several lines of battle. The whole division fell back to their tents and again rallied, and although no regular line was formed, yet from behind every tree a deadly fire was poured out upon the enemy, which held them in check for about one-half hour, when, re-enforcements coming to their assistance, they advanced furiously upon our camp, and we were forced to again give way. At this time we lost four pieces of artillery. The division fell back about one-half mile, very much scattered and broken. Here we were posted, being drawn up in line behind a dense clump of bushes, when General Prentiss rode up and proposed heroically for us to fight our way back to our tents, but finally gave this up and formed the line for defense where it was.
Here occurred one of the noblest and most determined resistances ever offered by an inferior number to an overwhelming foe. The remnant of the division was so posted as to command the road leading from Corinth to Pittsburg Landing, on which road were posted two pieces of artillery. Our men were ordered to lie down on the ground, which they did, nor did they have long to wait. On came the enemy, yelling and yelping, and for about ten minutes kept up a dreadful and incessant firing, with but little effect, for our men were flat on the ground, and their balls went by mostly harmless. Not so with ours, for the groans and shrieks in the bushes told the destructiveness of our fire. Again they fell back and threw their forces more to our left, and then again came back to our point and repeated just what has been described. It was about 9 o'clock in the morning when the first charge was made upon this part of our lines. About 2 o'clock p.m., a movement being made to outflank us, the line on the left of our division fell back, forming a line at right angles with our division, which still stubbornly held its place. Now a most determined rush was made on the Sixth Division to drive them from their place. Our men were killed at the guns; the horses were shot in the harness; but the rebels dared not venture over the bushes to take or spike the guns, for our boys were pouring into them a most destructive fire. The enemy again retired, and our boys brought the guns in by hand back of the line, and opened a way through the line of battle for them to play, which they did, adding speed to the retreating enemy. In a short time they rallied again, and made another dash at this point, but met with the same result.
Between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon, as near as I can judge, two regiments, it is said, surrendered on the immediate right of our division. General Prentiss ordered me to go and rally some of our men--meaning men of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry, of which regiment there were not over 40 or 50 on the ground, and very few officers. Our major had gone of his own request for this purpose early in the day, but had not returned. I immediately went, but found the fire worse in going on our right stud rear than in front. Fire was also being found on our left. At this time General Prentiss must have been taken prisoner. He was a brave man, and cheered his men to duty during the whole day. Where the fight was thickest and danger the greatest there was he found, and his presence gave renewed confidence.
Moore, of General Prentiss' staff, deserves especial mention. He not only bore orders, but in the most gallant manner assisted to see them executed. He did much to encourage the men, as did also Captain Donnelly as long as he was on the ground. Capt. Robert Brethschneider deserves great praise for his coolness and bravery on that bloody day. He added to the fame he had already acquired at the battle of Bull Run. Colonel Peabody, of the Twenty-fifth Missouri Regiment, was killed in camp early in the day. He was a brave soldier and a good man. The great numbers of the dead in front of this one position caused remark and astonishment by all who beheld it the following day.
This point was held from 9 o'clock a.m. till 4.30 p.m., amid the most dreadful carnage for a little space ever witnessed on any field of battle during this war. It is no more than just that favorable mention should be made of Colonel Moore, of the Twenty-first Missouri, who fell badly wounded while bravely leading his men on early in the day; and also Colonel Allen, of the Sixteenth Wisconsin, who also revived a severe wound in his arm while gallantly conducting his men; and Major Powell, of the Twenty-fifth Missouri, who received a mortal wound whilst doing everything an officer could do to rally and cheer the men to renewed action; nor can I close without mentioning Lieutenants Van Riper, Flannigan, and Graham, of the Twelfth Michigan, who were taken prisoners at their posts like brave men, as they had proved themselves during the whole action.
Your obedient servant,
Colonel Twelfth Mich. Inft.,
Acting Commander Sixth Division.
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Image Source - The Library of Congress
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