«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
The next day the advance for six miles was over a succession of breastworks thrown up by the enemy along the line near Smyrna Church.l thousands of slaves had been employed to give the rebels a defense at every place where a stand was practicable. The division was now about two miles from the river. The Fourteenth corps were to the left, Twenty-third in the rear, the others on the right, when the regiment at 7 P. M. formed line on high ground in sight of Atlanta. The movements of the next day shoved the Twentieth corps somewhat to the left. The day was fiercly hot, and the musquitoes [sic] of the Chattahoochee were as bad as the rebels in their thirst
-117for Yankee Gore. A heavy firing told that the Seventeenth corps on the right was pounding at something. The enemy had formed a line with his flanks on the river, around the railroad bridge.
A skirmish line was put out; but they agreed with the rebel line to keep peace, until an advance was ordered and notice given, which truce was faithfully kept on both sides.
Sherman’s strategy soon hoisted Johnston out of this stronghold.
McPherson had switched from our right to our left, moved up the river some miles, boldly crossed and was moving down toward Atlanta; and other corps were also over. On the 9th, Johnston withdrew across the river and burned the railroad bridge. A grateful rest was now given to the Twentieth corps. With pickets advanced to the river, the men ate blackberries and slept for a week.
One of the “boys” thus writes of the experience during this brief respite:
“The men had little time during the past two months to devote to efforts of personal attention or cleanliness, and during the brief season of rest on the Chattahoochee river, nearly all the troops made the much needed repairs to clothing and general equipment.
The troops were peopled with ‘gray backs,’ and in this camp on the river everything in the nature of a kettle was used in which to boil clothes and thus rid themselves of this disagreeable pest. To see fully 500 naked men scattered along the river bank attending to boiling clothes, while about 500 more naked men were scattered in groups or playing cards in the shade of the trees, and all vigorously applying a brush of bushes to ward off the attacks of the winged insects of a southern forest, while above their heads, flaunting and drying in the summer breeze, were garments of varied hue and shape — altogether it was a sight to provoke a smile from even the gods of war.” During this delay on the river, the pickets became very friendly, and picket firing was by mutual agreement suspended. It is recorded that one day while the men on picket on both sides were standing on the banks of the river, under one of these private truces, a rebel officer rode up and ordered hie men to fire on the “Yanks” standing on the opposite bank. The men refused, insisting that they had agreed to a truce and they were not going to break it.
The understanding usually was that when the orders required these truces to be called off, the first volley should be harmless.
The corps then moved past the Fourteenth corps on the left, July 17th, and crossed the Chattahoochee at Pace’s Ferry, four or five miles above the railroad bridge, on a pontoon laid where the stream was about 150 yards in width, and then marched southeast toward Buckhead, though a hilly, heavily wooded region abounding in blackberries. The regiment encamped in the forest.
The enemy began to interpose objections very soon. Skirmishing began in good earnest when the corps started south at 7 in the morning. At 3 P. M.
the column halted and put up a line of breastworks. Hunger began to gnaw, and there were no rations. At 7 P. M. of the 17th the division, following the
-118Second, moved south one mile, and bivouacked near the north bank of Peach Tree Creek.
The next morning the whole army of the Cumberland was across the creek, and taking position in line of battle. At about 3 P. M. while adjustments of position were being made, and before any considerable breastworks had been thrown up, Hood came out of his entrenchments and attacked with fury.
The force of his assault fell upon the Twentieth corps, which was somewhat in advance of the Fourteenth corps on the right, and more directly in front of Hood’s advance. The Third Wisconsin was on the right of the Twentieth corps, somewhat refused and its line ran through a ravine; and the overlapping of the Fourteenth corps threw the left regiments — the Tenth and Twenty-first Wisconsin — in front of the Third regiment and part of Ruger’s brigade.
The story of this battle is briefly told by Van Horne122, in his “Army of the Cumberland”: “The enemy first attacked the right of Geary’s division, then passed around to attack him in front and rear. Williams’ division not being fully abreast, this advantage was possible. Geary was therefore compelled to change front to the right with almost all of his division, and extend his line to connect with Williams, leaving only five regiments, with his artillery, on his first line. When the noise of sincere battle was first heard by Gen. Williams, he was in the act of moving artillery to his skirmish line to dislodge the enemy from his fortified outpost; but warned by the heavy volleys of musketry on his left he deployed his division at double-quick — Knipe’s brigade on the right, Robinson’s on the left and Ruger’s in reserve — to await the developments of the attack. He placed his batteries by sections, to command his front and flanks, and held three sections in reserve. Hardly had these dispositions been made before the enemy advanced on Williams in great force, and having driven in his skirmishers, with his line of battle under cover of the thickets and undergrowth, approached very near without being seen. His attack, as in other cases, was direct in part, but heavy masses swept down the ravines to the right and left. Hearing heavy firing on his right, Gen. Williams sent the Twenty-seventh Indiana (of Ruger’s brigade) to reinforce Knipe’s right. This regiment and the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania speedily checked and drove back the enemy, and held the ground until the close of the action. On the left the attack was more threatening, because made with stronger columns; but Robinson’s brigade, the artillery and Geary’s line upon the other hill, poured ED. NOTE. Van Horne, Thomas B. (Thomas Budd), d. 1895. History of the Army of the Cumberland: its organization, campaigns and battles, written at the request of Major-General George H. Thomas chiefly from his private military journal and official and other documents furnished by him / by Thomas B. Van Horne ; illustrated with campaign and battle maps compiled by Edward Ruger. Cincinnati : R. Clarke & Co., 1875.
-119a destructive fire upon the enemy, and here, too, he was completely repulsed.
This first attack swept from Newton’s position to Col. Anson McCook’s brigade of Johnson’s division of the Fourteenth corps; but though signally repulsed, Gen. Hood did not desist, and soon again from Newton to Johnson the battle raged furiously.
“The second, general action was commenced upon Newton’s left in an effort to double up the line by taking it in reverse as well as in flank. This time Gen. Thomas sent for the artillery of Ward’s division, and in person urged the artillery horses to the greatest speed possible, and then directed their action.
These guns and all of Newton’s, with all kinds of metal most destructive at short range, opened upon the heavy, assaulting columns and they were again repulsed. Again the battle raged to the right; but as the National line was now compact, the enemy exhausted himself in direct attacks. His infantry assaults, as at first, extended from Newton to Johnson, and further to the right his fortified artillery was most active, but charge after charge from left to right was repulsed, until 6 P. M., when he abandoned his effort to break or turn the line.
In this action artillery was used with fearful effect, and so skillfully was it posted and so bravely defended that the enemy did not touch a single gun.
“When it is considered that four divisions and one brigade in open field, repulsed an attack of the army which was intended to initiate such offense as should destroy Sherman’s armies, the grandeur of this victory becomes apparent. Not Gen. Hood alone, but Gen. Johnston, also, was defeated at the battle of ‘Peach Tree Creek.’” The Twenty-seventh Indiana fired 100 rounds per man in this battle; and the gallant Col. Colgrove had his side turned black and blue by a cannon shot that grazed him and was supposed to be mortally wounded. He was disabled for the rest of the campaign. He is now an examiner in the pension bureau at Washington.
Our regiment did not as a whole become actively engaged; nor did the other regiments of Ruger’s brigade, though several of the regiments of Ruger’s brigade, though several of the regiments suffered losses. Some of the right companies of the Third opened a fire on the enemy, which assisted a regiment of the Fourteenth corps, that was the moment overborne. The Third lost two killed and five wounded.
KILLED — Company D: Cornelius Cornell and Andrew Oliver. — 2.
WOUNDED — Company C: Private Isaiah Bunt. Company D: Private L.
Clintsman. Company F: Private Daniel Snider. Company H: Russell Fulp.
Company I: James L. Rooney. — 5.
The loss in this battle in the Twentieth corps was: Williams’ division, 580; Geary’s, 476; Ward’s, 500. Sherman puts the enemy’s loss at 4,400.
-120General Cox estimates it at 6,000. Speaking of Williams’ division, Cox says:
“The reputation of that division gives assurance that it gave quite as good an account of itself, in the punishment of those who attacked it.
FTER the return from Chancellorsville, the army remained inactive for A several weeks in its camps north of the Rappahannock. The Third Wisconsin changed its grounds from the hillside where we had wintered to a level, open field near by, better located for summer quarters, quietly resumed the routine of camp life, and reorganized mess with the officers of the Second Massachusetts under the hospitable tent of Charley Johnson.
Battalion and brigade drill, under the command of Gen. Ruger, and a liberal detail for picket duty and a grand guard mount each morning made the time wear away. The army preferred to be up and doing; and it was not our fault that the month of May passed with no strokes on our part toward bringing the war to a close.
Early in June, Lee took the initiative. His army had been reinforced since Chancellorsville, and his men had come to regard themselves as invincible. A great Norther invasion was planned. The Confederate cavalry reinforced, remounted and numbering some twelve thousand, was reported to be near Culpepper. Hooker determined to make a strong reconnoisance [sic] in that direction to feel for the infantry, for he had divined that Lee’s infantry was moving in the same direction. He ordered the commander of his cavalry corps, Gen. Pleasanton,123 [sic] to cross the Rappahannock and feel the enemy. To make up for the numerical inferiority of our cavalry, supposed to be about 7,500 effectives, he directed that Pleasanton’s force be “stiffened,” as he expressed it, by two picked brigades of infantry numbering about 3,000 men. Accordingly, orders were issued, June 6th, to the commanders of the Third, Eleventh and Twelfth corps, to each send a command of 500 men, one or two regiments, to march that night to Spotted Church, to report to Brig.Gen. Adelbert Ames,124 prepared to be absent five days from camp, with 130 rounds of ammunition, by pack mules and on the person, without wagons, and knapsacks light. The command was to be one well disciplined and drilled, capable of marching rapidly and of endurance, with officers noted for energy and efficiency. Destination was confidential. A similar detail from other corps to report to Brig.-Gen. Russell125 was made. The troops selected from the Alfred Pleasonton, 7 Jul 1824 - 17 Feb 1897, 7/? West Point class of 1844.
Adelbert Ames, 31 Oct 1835 - 13 Apr 1933, 5/? West Point class of 1861; recipient of 6 brevet ranks, Ames was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893.
David Allen Russell, 10 Dec 1820 - 19 Sep 1864,38/45 West Point class of 1845; was a veteran of the Mexican War; killed by shrapnel at Battle of Winchester and posthumously brevetted to MajGen in the Regular Army effective that date.
-122Twelfth corps were picked men from the Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin. Colonel Hawley was ill then; and the ranking officer was Lieut.Col. Flood. Ames was to report to Pleasanton, keep his column concealed from the enemy, his own command ignorant of the destination, etc., etc.