part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant
Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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Part 3 of 5 for Chapter 7.
Now, that the destruction of their assaulting column gave us needed respite from further immediate onslaught by the enemy, every effort was directed to the reorganization of the shattered Federal forces that were now in and around the fort. Those from the outer line came back in masses, and were badly disorganized. The gateway was immediately closed again with the cotton bales and those who had been so swiftly hurled back from the outer lines began, with marvelous speed and courage, to find places at the parapets in the fort, and in the rifle-pits around it, for further resistance. The fighting, by those already there, had continued with unabated vigor, and their ranks were now rapidly augmented until every space from which a gun could be fired was occupied. At least two companies of the Seventh Illinois were armed with Henry rifles, a magazine gun capable of repeating sixteen times almost as rapidly as the shots could be counted. They did splendid work. It was now approaching 11 o'clock. From this time forth, a battle was waged there, for four hours, in which every Union soldier was his own commander, and which tested the endurance and courage of both sides to a degree never surpassed in history. There was not even a null in the musketry firing from beginning to the end of it. It was all the time as rapid and intense as the number of men and guns engaged could make it. On our side the artillery was served with great skill and effect. Edwin R. Fullington, a private of the Twelfth Wisconsin battery, crossed and recrossed the narrow and rickety footbridge over the railroad cut three times, under direct fire from the enemy, and carried grape and canister ammunition from the eastern to the western fort. Prior to 12 o'clock, the enemy attempted four separate charges upon the western fort, from the ravine west of it. Each time, as they rose into sight, out of the ravine, less than a hundred yards away, the Union forces in the fort and rifle-pits rose up and poured a sheet of flame and lead, and grape and canister from double-shotted cannon, full into their faces. It was more than they could withstand. Each time, their lines were riddled and their columns broken, and again and again they returned to protection of the ravine.
The fighting east of the railroad cut was the counterpart of that on the west side, except that it was less severe. On that side, also, two or three charges were attempted by the enemy, and repulsed; but the numbers of the assaulting forces there were much less than of those on the west side, ;the ascent to the fort and intrenchments was steeper, and the starting point was farther away. The Federal force there was only about one-half as great as that on the west side, but they were better distributed, and the fortifications were better and better located. Hence, the main attack and most of the vigorous fighting of the enemy was on the west side of the railroad cut. Nevertheless, that on the east side was quite severe, and was maintained with great persistency to the end. A part of the troops on the east side were so located that they could, and at times did, render valuable assistance to those on the west side. But the greater part of the time they had all they could reasonably be expected to attend to on their own side of the railroad. As a matter of fact, however, they attended to what they had to do there, and did it remarkably well, and still had a few spare moments in which they sent many whistling messengers to the enemy across the railroad. The last charge of the enemy on the east side of the railroad cut was made, a little before noon, by the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-ninth Mississippi regiments. They suffered heavy losses, and the large part of both regiments retired from the onset.
But small detachments of each pushed forward to a deep gulch, near the railroad, in front of one of the companies of the Fourth Minnesota. Once there, they were protected from fire, but immediately discovered that they were in a trap. They could not climb the steep gulch in their front, and to retreat would have been sure death to most of them. Hence, they remained there, and surrendered at the end of the battle. Eighty prisoners were captured there, including Major Durr, commander of the Thirty-ninth Mississippi, and several line officers. The colors of both regiments were taken there. This was a very proper sequel to the attempt of those two regiments to capture Captain Morrill and his company, in the morning, when the flag of truce was in our lines. That evening, while at coffee and hardtack with a number of the officers of the Fourth Minnesota, Captain Morrell questioned Major Durr quite sharply about the incident of the morning.
After 12 o'clock, no assault was attempted by the enemy on either fort. But the Confederates, still clinging to every hillside and every knoll and every ravine, and every house and outbuilding, and every other place that afforded the least protection from our fire, maintained the battle with wonderful pertinacity. From a distance not exceeding one hundred yards on the west side, and not much greater on the north and south sides, they kept the air, over the forts and rifle pits, literally full of bullets all the time. Four full three hours, no man could expose any part of his body above the forts or rifle-pits for the space of ten seconds without extreme danger of being killed or wounded. In this part of the fighting the enemy had great advantage over the Federal forces. They were concealed behind stumps and clumps of brush and small trees and buildings and the uneven surfaces of the ground, and could look out from behind these with much greater safety than the Federal troops could do from the even top surfaces of the forts and rifle-pits, where there were no other obstructions to conceal them in any manner. But, notwithstanding this, the enemy's fire was returned with as much persistency and vigor as theirs was maintained.
To avoid confusion, on account of the lack of room at the parapet on the west side of the fort, and to maintain a steady and continuous fire, three men worked together. One of the three, standing at the parapet, fired the guns of all, while the other two, standing farther back in the fort, did the loading. Thus, each of the three always had a gun in hand, one being fired and the other two being loaded. This somewhat increased the rapidity, as well as the effectiveness, of the firing.
Just at noon, a shell lodged, and became fixed, half-way down the Rodman rifled cannon that stood at the west embrasure of the western fort, which was the only one that bore on the main position of the enemy. The danger of explosion was too great to risk firing it out; and it could not be removed otherwise. General Corse directed that this gun be moved back, and that the one, just like it, then at the south embrasure, be moved to take its place. The ground inside the fort was then literally covered with our dead and wounded, and roads had to be cleared through these in order to make the change. Nearly an hour was consumed in its accomplishment. During this period, a considerable number of the enemy crept up, from the ravine, behind and into the house and outbuildings that stood between the ravine and fort. From that protection, they engaged in sharpshooting at every man that passed the embrasures or showed any part of his body above the fort or rifle pits. Major Fisher, of the Ninety-Third Illinois, was severely wounded, in the left side, while passing one of the embrasures. Several others were hit. When the Rodman cannon was gotten into place at the west embrasure, it was immediately manned, and wonderfully well served by a very expert gunner of the Twelfth Wisconsin Battery. He sent three percussion shells into the house, and one through each of the outbuildings. These shells exploded, of course, as soon as they struck, and wrought great havoc among the enemy. Those not killed or wounded, immediately fled to the ravine, and our men fired upon them as they ran. Within less than fifteen minutes the enemy's sharpshooting ceased. This gunner then began to crack percussion shells on the stumps of trees that stood, all along, just at the eastern brow of the ravine. It was an ingenious thought, and resulted most disastrously to the enemy. These shells exploded when they struck the stumps, and hundreds of their fragments went tearing down the side of the ravine through the Confederate ranks. No stump was missed at which a shell was fired. The scene in that ravine, after the battle was ended, was beyond all powers of description. All the languages of earth combined are inadequate to tell half its horrors.
Mangled and torn in every conceivable manner, the dead and wounded were everywhere, in heaps and windrows. Enemies though they were, their conquerors, only a few minutes removed from the heat and passion of battle, sickened and turned away, or, remaining, looked only with great compassion, and through tears, upon that field of blood and carnage and death, upon that wreck of high hopes and splendid courage, that hecatomb of human life.
A little after 1 o'clock in the afternoon, word was pasted along the west line of the fort, to the effect that firing should cease. It was said, that the fort was to be surrendered. Instantly, twenty guns, or more, in the hands of private soldiers, were turned toward the inside of the fort, and those who held them shouted, that they would shoot the first man who dared to raise a white flag, and clinched the threat with fearful oaths. The firing did not cease. No white flag was raised. The officer who was then supposed to have been responsible for this episode of the battle, immediately denied that he had intended to surrender, and said that the rumor, to that effect, circulated in the fort, was attributable to no word uttered by him. The origin of it was, therefore, never definitely known. No one seemed to care about tracing it out.
About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, after the Confederates had concluded that they could not take Allatoona, they made an effort to burn the rations. A lieutenant colonel of a Texas regiment, at the head of more than a hundred picked men, with many burning fagots in their hands, made a rush from behind the ridge, into the road near the foot of the hill west of the south end of the railroad cut, and attempted to reach and fire the warehouses. A well-directed volley of musketry, laid nearly forty of them dead in their tracks in the road, and many more were wounded. The force was shattered. Only a few of them reached the nearest warehouse.
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