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 4 of 5 for Chapter 7.
It was said, that one of them burst the door and entered, and was immediately cut down, with an ax, by Lieutenant Colonel Tourtellotte's negro servant. One or two others were killed in the building, and several near it. A Confederate lieutenant, maddened by their frequent repulses, seized a firebrand and made a rapid run, from a house near the railroad depot, toward the nearest warehouse, for the purpose of applying the torch. He fell dead before reaching the warehouse. A good marksman sent a bullet that pierced the center of his forehead.
A little while before the enemy withdrew from Allatoona, General French sent additional troops and artillery against the blockhouse at the railroad bridge two miles south of Allatoona. Early in the morning, the three companies of the Eighteenth Wisconsin had refused to surrender, on demand made therefor, and had successfully defended the place all day against the Confederate regiment and one cannon first sent against them. The blockhouse was now furiously bombarded, and set on fire thereby. This compelled Captain McIntyre to yield. He surrendered his command, consisting of four officers and eighty men, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The blockhouse was burned to the ground.
A short time previously, the Twelfth Wisconsin Battery had received a new flag. It was floating in the western fort during the battle. After the battle ended, there were one hundred and ninety-two bullet holes in that flag. It told the story of a terrible battle.
The tent of the Adjutant of the Ninety-Third Illinois stood between the western fort and the ravine west of it. That ravine was occupied by the enemy all the time after the outer lines were lost to the Federal forces. The tent was an ordinary wall-tent, the side walls of which were about four feet high, and the ridge-pole was about eight feet above the ground. It was supported by sixteen ropes, four on each side from the tops of the walls, and four on each side from the fly, or second top of the tent. When the battle was ended, the tent was still standing, but only so because it was on the slope of the hill. It was supported, however, by only three ropes, two on the upper and one on the lower side. Thirteen of the ropes had been completely severed by bullets. There was not a single square inch in either wall of the tent that had not been penetrated by one or more bullets. But in the top portion of the tent, above the walls, there were whole square feet through which no bullet had passed. The walls were so completely riddled that it was impossible to set the tent up again, after it was taken down. That tent, also, told the story of furious fighting. And not only that, it told, also, how the battle was won. By the accurate firing of the Federal troops. It was a marvel, that, although the firing was down quite a steep slope, the tendency always being to fire too high, so few of the shots went more than four feet above the ground. The ceaseless storm of bullets that were thrown over and close to the brow of that ravine, through all those long hours, won the battle of Allatoona.
General Sherman reached the signal station on Kenesaw Mountain about 8 o'clock on the morning of the 5th, and from there anxiously watched the progress of the battle. He said, in his Memoirs: "I watched with painful suspense the indications of the battle raging there, and was dreadfully impatient at the slow progress of the relieving columns, whose advance was marked by smokes which were made according to orders."The history of the Fourth Minnesota contains the following statement: "A corporal of the Ninety-Third Illinois, having in his possession a Spencer rifle, was captured. The rebels threatened to shoot him unless he showed them how to use it. He told them to go to hades, or any other seaport. We recaptured our corporal."
Of course, that may be a true story; but it is not the intention to vouch for it here. If such a demand had been made upon a member of the Ninety- Third Illinois, under such circumstances, the probability is, that the answer would have been given in somewhat stronger terms. It is hardly probable that the very mild word, "hades," would have been used. And it is not to be doubted that the "other seaport" would have been wholly omitted. Still, the story may be true.
But it was not the intention here to narrate what were merely incidents of this great battle, but rather to present an account of its main features in such manner that all readers, with or without military experience, may comprehend it and form a just estimate of the great fortitude and courage and splendid valor displayed there.
The purpose of the enemy in fighting the battle was, to secure the large quantity of rations then at Allatoona. And it was a double purpose. First, the loss of them would be a severe blow to General Sherman's army. And second, the Confederates were hungry, and were willing to fight for food. The first, caused General Stewart to send a force of veteran troops there, of such overwhelming strength as would, in his judgment, render success certain. He also sent a train of about two hundred empty wagons, in which they fully expected to carry away a large quantity of the rations. Instead of rations, many of their wounded were carried away in those wagons. The second, caused the Confederates to continue the battle at least three hours after all hope of taking the place by assault must have been abandoned by their commanding officers. This would probably not have been but for the hope, which they could not easily relinquish, that they might still, in some way, by some fortunate turn, or by reason of some failure of the Federal forces to properly defend against it, secure sufficient of the rations to appease their pressing hunger, and, possibly, enough to fill their empty haversacks. Or, failing in this, that they might, possibly, destroy them all, and thus partially avenge their defeat. The haversacks of their killed and wounded were mostly empty; and those that were not contained only pieces of sugarcane and ears of corn. In some of them tin plates were found, punched full of holes in such a manner as to convert them into graters, on which to grate their corn into meal. One other inciting cause of the desperate character of their fighting is not to be overlooked. General Hood, in swinging around Atlanta, crossing the Chattahoochie River, and moving his army northward, had entered upon a most hazardous undertaking. And it is not to be doubted that he, and his officers, had successfully wrought into his army considerable amount of that enthusiastic recklessness which inspired the desperate venture. All these things, working together, produced the result. It is not believed that its parallel, or anything like its equal, can be found in the history of warfare. That Confederate army had been swept from the crest of Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge only a little more than ten months before. From the 1st of May, 1864, the beginning of the Atlanta campaign, for full five months, that same Confederate army had been hammered and pounded by General Sherman's forces, defeated again and again, and driven from point to point and from stronghold to stronghold, all the way from Dalton to Atlanta, and only thirty-three days before had been compelled to abandon Atlanta, the last of it defensible positions. The best of that army, after all those defeats and disasters, with no base of supplies nor any lines of communication left, with the failing fortunes of their cause plainly before their eyes, came back to Allatoona, and there, urged on by hunger, the sting of their long continued misfortunes ranking deep in their souls, and inspired by the very madness of despair, sought to snatch victory from defeat, and save for yet a little while the crumbling fabric, of their hopes.
It was a supreme effort of misguided valor and heroism. And it was only surpassed by the unequaled fortitude, invincible courage, splendid valor and unyielding heroism of that mere handful of Union veterans who successfully withstood and repelled the overwhelming numbers and repeated assaults of the enemy from half past 1 o'clock in the morning until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a period of thirteen and a half hours. And in that period the breakfast and dinner hours, for that day, came and passed unheeded by all. Without food for more than twenty-one hours, those men continued the fighting with unabated fury to the end. The smoke of the battle stood like a pall over the field, and shut out the light of the sun. The hills trembled beneath its shock. The valleys gave added forces to the deafening din of its musketry, and echoed and re- echoed the thunderings of the artillery. The cries of the wounded, for help, and the moans of the dying, mingled, most discordantly, with the angry shouts of the living. It was terrible, appalling, splendid, magnificent, sublime! And the victory there added another gem, of ever increasing brilliancy and splendor, to the crown of fame and glory, the great achievements of the Army of the Tennessee.
It was a dearly bought victory; but it was a great stake. General Sherman's army, of a hundred thousand men, had wrought and struggled and marched and fought, day and night, for all five months, and had achieved a victory over the enemy, in the capture of Atlanta, of immense value to the Union cause. The enemy now sought, by success at Allatoona, to convert that victory into defeat, in a single day. Under these conditions, the loss of the battle to the Union forces would have been a terrible disaster, and would have cast a deep, dark stain of shame upon the otherwise spotless and peerless record of the Army of the Tennessee. It was not so to be. A new page of high hopes had already been written, to the honor of the American Volunteer Soldier, that he was equal to every emergency in the hour of extreme danger, and that he would save the Union, and save the starry Flag of Freedom to the world. And now, here, that Volunteer was to be tested by fire; by those supreme test, of skill that comes only from practice, of endurance that comes only from discipline, of fidelity that comes only from intelligent conviction, and of courage that comes only from patriotic manhood and devotion. Would he fail, and cast the shadows of doubt and uncertainty upon that bright new page of the world's history? It could not be. To save their country and their country's liberties from a ruthless foreign foe, Leonidas and his band of brave Spartans, though overwhelmed and defeated by superior numbers, at the Pass of Thermopylae, fought to the death, and won imperishable fame. Here, at Allatoona Pass, a small band of Union Volunteers, against overwhelming numbers of their own race and blood, when great things hung upon the issue of the battle, fought with equal courage and valor, and won a splendid victory for the Union, for freedom, and for humanity. Shall their renown be less enduring than that of Leonidas and his Spartans? No, oh, no! By that victory, by all those supreme tests of skill, endurance, fidelity and courage, by the heat and flames of battle unsurpassed, the American Volunteer Soldier was immortal; and that new page of high hopes was set in the skies, brighter than ever before, illuminating light, to teach the world the way to Freedom's holy shrine.
Colonel Redfield, commander of the Thirty-ninth Iowa, was killed. Lieutenant Amsden, commander of that section of the Twelfth Wisconsin Battery that was in the western fort, was mortally wounded, and died the next day. General Corse, commander of all the Union forces, Lieutenant Colonel Tourtellotte, commander of the garrison, Colonel Rowett, commander of the brigade that reinforced the garrison, Major Fisher, commander of the Ninety-Third Illinois, were wounded. Every field officer, except two on the east and two on the west side of the railroad cut, was either killed or wounded. Officers of the line fell everywhere.
Captains came into the command of regiments, and sergeants into the command of companies. And yet, the battle never flagged for a single moment. If every officer in that whole command had fallen, the battle would have been fought out to the end just as it was. As it was, officers and enlisted men alike loaded and fired muskets and cannon, fighting side by side, elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder. Rank neither gave nor sought immunity from the heat and burdens of the battle. It was steady, persistent fighting, and for hours no commands were necessary. Capt. Clark Gray was in command of the Ninety-Third Illinois when the battle ended.
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