1862 October 22: A Reporter’s Account of the Battle at Perrysville
From the October 22, 1862, issue of The Prescott Journal.
A Scene of the Battle at Perrysville [sic]
The following graphic word picture is from a correspondent of the Chicago Times :—
The rebel infantry were seen advancing. On they came with firm step, a huge mass of them, enough to crush on ordinary column of men. But Jackson1 was in front of his men, and cheered them up to duty. nobly and firmly they stood and waited the assault. On came the black mass of the enemy—a force five times greater than that against which they were moving. Our batteries played upon them earnestly, making huge gaps in their ranks, but still they moved forward, closing up the gaps as they advanced. And then, when within rifle range, our infantry opened on them; yet still with steadiness they moved forward, never wavering, never faltering.
Volley after volley greeted them, and rank after rank was thinned out. Yet still they pressed forward. Suddenly a terrible report! A thousand muskets were discharged at once, and the fire of death was ravaging our lines. Our new regiments quailed, but were re-assured by their General, and once more gave the advancing foe an answering volley. Their bayonets were levelled [sic], and with a shout and an oath the two parties came in collision. And then they swayed to and fro; backward and then forward; wrestling, shooting , stabbing, clubbing—fighting the one with a desperate effort to dislodge, the other with a desperate effort to hold their ground. Officers encouraged their men, and the men shouted back with eagerness.
At first we were crowded back, as if by the more momentum of the attacking party. And then rallying, our men pressed upon their assailants and drove them back. Then, hand to hand, they fought again for a while, until, gathering fresh strength and mustering all their weight for one mighty blow, the rebels again crowded us back. Once more our men were appealed to to [sic] stand firm and resist the shock. Officers placed themselves in front of their commands, and set the example of heroism.
In this struggle the brave Jackson fell; and here, too, Col. Webster,2 of Ohio, fell at the head of his brigade; and here a host of brave men fell; and yet the fight went on. Never had new troops shown such valor as did the Ohio and Indiana regiments that met this terrible assault. But they could not withstand the assault. They were literally pressed, crowded back, by the weight of the assault. It was like a man in a dense crowd, who is carried about whichever way the crowd sways, having no power to resist it.
And thus these men stood, opposing all their strength to their assailants, and yielding no ground that was not absolutely forced from them. They were thus crowded back perhaps three hundred yards, when darkness ended the contest, and both parties laid down in their tracks to rest. The enemy held the field, but they had not beaten us. They had crowded us off it; that is all.
And thus when night closed the engagement, we held the field of battle on the right and centre; the enemy held it on the left.
1. James Streshly Jackson (1823-1862) was a lawyer who served in the Mexican American war as a private in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry. In 1860 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from March to December 1861, when he resigned to join the Union army. Jackson raised a troop of cavalrymen and was commissioned colonel of the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in July 1862 and placed in command of the 10th Division in the Army of the Ohio. Jackson was killed in action during the Battle of Perryville.
2. George P. Webster (1824-1862) was the colonel of the 98th Ohio Infantry. He had started the War as the major of the 25th Ohio, being promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1862 and in July to colonel of the 98th.