Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER III.

CONDITION OF THE REGIMENT-DEATH OF LIEUT. CULL

BATTLE OF BATON ROUGE-DEATH OF COL. ROBERTS

RETURN TO CARROLTON--CHANGES AND PROMOTIONS.

1862

N our return to Baton Rouge the regiment was in a de

plorable condition. Just thirty-six days before we had set forth from that rendezvous nearly eight hundred strong, buoyant with hope and eager for active service. In that short space of time, disease and death had so reduced our ranks as to leave us with less than one hundred enlisted men fit for duty. At a review which occurred a few days before the battle, two or three companies of our regiment were not represented, their services being required to bury the dead. Among those who fell a victim to disease, occasioned by our terrible exposure, was Lieut. Richard T. Cull of Company E, a most faithful officer. He died at Baton Rouge, and was buried there with military honors. Some days before the engagement we were joined by Capt. Porter with his company, and the men of D Company who had been left to garrison Fort Pike, numbering, in all, about one hundred men.

38

BATTLE OF BATON ROUGE-PRELIMINARIES.

The battle of Baton Rouge was fought on the 5th of August. On the morning of the 4th I was detailed as field officer of the day. I was not relieved from duty until the evening of the 5th, and therefore was not with the regiment during the fight, and saw it būt once during the progress of the action. Hence, in narrating the part which the regiment took in this battle, I am obliged to base my statements upon reports of those who participated in, and who were eye witnesses of, its movements during the day, and from such other materials and data as I gathered at the time and afterwards verified.

As the action was opened under my own observation I desire for the purpose of illustration briefly to refer to my personal experience prior to, and during the early part of the engagement.

On reporting to Gen. Williams on the morning of the 4th, I was instructed to carefully inspect the picket line and outposts as he was in receipt of information which led him to expect an attack from Gen. Breckenridge's army, which for several days had been hovering in our immediate front. " Our picket line was a good deal extended, and formed almost a semi-circle, and in executimg my orders I was engaged the better part of the day.

About dusk on the evening of the 4th I was apprised, by Gen. Williams, that his scouts had brought him intelligence which strongly indicated that the long looked for attack would take place either that night or in the early morning, and I was charged to direct our outposts and pickets to be especially vigilant, and to take every possible precaution

[ocr errors]

BATTLE OF BATON ROUGE-COMMENCEMENT.

39

against a surprise. I accordingly started at once to make a second tour of inspection, accompanied by Lieut. Charles Clark of our regiment and a mounted orderly. The night was intensely black, and the fog so dense as to greatly impede our progress. It was nearly two o'clock A. M. before we completed the rounds. Everything at that time being quiet, Lieut. Clark returned to his quarters. I had dismounted and was engaged in getting some refreshments, preparatory to making another tour, when a few straggling shots were fired from a direction immediately in front of our regiment. I hurried to the spot with my orderly, but in the darkness and fog rode through and beyond our line until I encountered the rebel skirmishers, who, after sharply calling a halt, fired a volley, by means of which I discovered my mistake and at once retraced my steps ; but on approaching our line, being mistaken for the enemy, our men opened fire, and for a short time we were exposed to the bullets of both friend and foe. Fortunately the fog was so thick that our exact position could not be distinguished, and we thereby escaped any serious consequences. .

I had scarcely time to deploy my skirmishers before a furious onset was made upon our position on the Greenwell Spring road, and about the same time another assault followed on the Clinton road some distance to the left.

Our men fought well, but we were outnumbered, and gradually driven from one stand to another, until at last we were obliged to fall back upon the main body when the action became general.

In the meantime Gen. Williams, to whom I had previously communicated the situation of affairs, rode up with a portion

40

BATTLE OF BATON ROUGE-COMMENCEMENT.

a

[ocr errors]

ram

of his staff. He seemed to have no particular scheme of defence in mind, and was apparently at a loss what instructions to give, but finding that the picket line could no longer successfully resist the enemy's advance, he ordered me to proceed to the line further on the right, which, at that time, had not been driven in, and to superintend operations there, and if forced back to the supporting columns I was directed to at once assume command of the pickets on the flanks resting on the river, which latter positions I was instructed to hold at all hazards, giving timely notice of any serious attack from that quarter. The General was extremely apprehensive of an attack on our left flank as he had been informed that the Arkansas was to descend the river and assail us from that point simultaneouly with the assault which the rebel army was to make in our front. This seems to have been a part of the enemy's plan, but happily for us, it failed, in that the “Arkansas" did not make her appearance until the next day when finding our gun-boats were moving forward to encounter her she was grounded and destroyed by her own commander,

In proceeding to the picket line on the right I passed our regiment which at that time was in line of battle in front of its camp. I stopped for a moment to give Col. Roberts the point of attack, whom I found had received no specific instructions as to what he was to do, and while we were conversing a spent shot from one of the rebel batteries ploughed up the earth near us, glanced over our heads and struck one of the men of D Company knocking him down and causing serious injury. I saw nothing more of the regiment until

BATTLE OF BATON ROUGE-CONDITION OF REGIMENT. 41

*

*

*

*

*

*

the engagement was over. Lieut.

Lieut.-Col. Fullam, in the letter to which I have adverted, thus refers to the condition of the regiment, and to the state of affairs before and on the day of the battle.

The day before the fight our “morning report showed 18 officers and 293 enlisted men“ 311 in all—for duty. Of this number, 1 officer and 42 « enlisted men were on guard duty, leaving 268 to engage " in the battle.

There were nearly 300 sick in camp, many of whom and several from hospital, although “ unfit for duty, joined our ranks during the action, prefer

ring to share the dangers of their comrades to remaining “ in security and inactivity.

Out of the 118 days “since our arrival at Ship Island we had not been able to “ drill as a battallion more than thirty times, and never to any effect since May 14th.

From the occupa“ tion of Baton Rouge, about the middle of May, up to the time “ of the battle, although it was well understood that our

troops were liable to attack, the earth had not been broken,

nor had a single tree been felled to prepare defences, and “ we found ourselves on the day of the engagement weakened " by disease, and almost in a state of disorganization, in a

position in which our gun-boats could not aid us, and with“out so much as a rifle pit to obstruct the enemy who greatly outnumbered us.

Gen. Williams “ directed that in case of attack the regiment should be “ formed in front of the camp and wait orders, but if there “ should be sharp firing in any direction, Col. Roberts might, “if he thought best, move to such spot. There was no posi“tion assigned us other than this, nor did I ever learn that

*

*

*

*

« ZurückWeiter »