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1864 July 30: News from the 16th Wisconsin Infantry, also in Georgia

August 3, 2014

The following letter from the 16th Wisconsin Infantry appeared in The Prescott Journal of July 30, 1864.  The headlines are from nearly a page-worth of reports from various Wisconsin regiments and do not refer only to what appears in the letter from the 16th Regiment.  The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain took place on June 27.  Many of the smaller battles and skirmishes did not have names.

Company G of the 16th Wisconsin Infantry was the Chippewa Valley Guards.  There also was a small handful of soldiers from northwest Wisconsin in other companies of the 16th.


The Advance to the Chattahoochie [sic].

How Rebel Works are Rendered Useless.

Story of an Escaped Prisoner.

Barbarous Cruelty of Rebels.

One Hundred Day Men at Memphis.

From the 16th Regiment.

The Assault upon the Rebel Lines June 27th—Galent [sic] Conduct of the Sixteenth—How they Filled a Gap in the Line—Tables Turned on the Rebels on the 29th—The Advance July 2d—Rebel Evacuation—The Entry into Marietta—A Reconnoissance [sic] on the 4th—News to the 6th.

July 6, 1864. }

Since writing on the 26th of June, the Sixteenth, as well as the rest of the grand army, has been actively engaged with the enemy every day.  We are now driving them across the river.

On the night of the 26th, the Third Division was suddenly called up and advanced about a mile to the Southclose up to the enemy’s works in front of Marietta.  At the same time, the Fifteenth Corps left its place in the line on our right, and marched around the base of the mountain to the right, joining Gen. Hooker [Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker], who had been very quietly making preparations to force back still further the rebel left.

Taking a minute for breakfast at daylight on the 27th, the division, in two lines, quickly moved upon the enemy’s line of pickets, who were posted on a ridge in a rather open piece of woods, in rifle pits or rail pens, faced with stone gathered on the face of the ridge.  Their position was very strong, and from their concealed coverts they poured in a destructive fire.  Our skirmishers engaged them very briskly, and were followed closely by their reserves, who soon secured the ridge.  When the line came up, we found in front a large clearing, sloping from the edge of the wood southward to a little run, then rising in the opposite side to a ridge higher than the one on which we were posted.  Beyond, the thicket again set in, and there, no doubt, we would find the foe strongly entrenched and well supplied with artillery.

The fourth division of our corps on our right was advancing in line, keeping up a strong skirmish fire.  From commanding positions in our rear our artillery was playing upon the rebels, and they employed all the time to annoy us on the advance, although concealed from their view.

Our skirmishers were well up the ridge on the opposite side of the field, and soon gained the summit, where they screened themselves as best they could and opened fire.After some little time spent in inspecting the line, it was found that they enemy’s works were more to the left.  The 1st and 2d brigades were therefore moved further to the left, while the 2d lay in reserve next to the 4th division.  Gen. Leggett [Mortimer D. Leggett] had been very actively engaged in making arrangements, and now commanded the advance.  The lines moved steadily forward until near the crest of the ridge, where the balls began to fall pretty thick, when at the double quick they crossed the ridge, and scarcely waiting to reply to it galling fire which met them, rushed upon the rebel works, which they carried in gallant style.

Immediately beyond was another ridge and another line of works more formidable still, where were plainly seen the batteries which were playing upon us, and also massed forces of the rebel infantry.  Our skirmishers were immediately pushed forward and ordered to keep up a heavy fire.  Some artillery was brought up and opened on there at short range, and every preparation was made to charge ;  at the same time our line was hid from their artillery fire.

Our maneuvering could all be seen from the rebel signal post on Kenesaw [sic] Mountain, and so early and active movement in force slightly startled Gen. Johnston [Joseph E. Johnston], and caused him to mass heavily on his right and leave his left correspondingly weak.  This served Gen. Sherman’s [William T. Sherman] purpose well.  A little before noon, Hooker, with three corps at his command fell suddenly upon them.  We had made a bold dash, been more successful than was expected, and now the enemy had massed an overwhelming force close upon us and most likely had discovered our purpose and weakness , and might rush on and crush us.

There was a long opening in our line between us and the 2d Division, and this they could also see from their mountain lookout.  Gen. Leggett was awake to the critical position he occupied.  He selected the 16th to make a show of filling the opening, and made every demonstration of an intention to continue to advance ;  moving his force as if to gain some advantage in position.  He ordered the 16th to move by the left flank into a wood, and then back to the rear and along the brow of the first ridge we occupied in the morning to the right.  Col. Fairchild [Cassius Fairchild], with admirable tact, conducted the regiment unobserved to the post.  He then detached three companies, deployed them as skirmishers, and advanced them upon the rebel line, filling up our broken line.  By making thus a strong show of fight, Gen. Leggett kept them from assuming the offensive, and held his position until night, the attack on their left also relieving us somewhat.  At night our whole force withdrew to our former position.

By our charge at that point we no doubt contributed more to the success of Gen. Hooker’s move, than if we had participated in the action on the right.  The rebels seemed to have a particular spite at our Division after this, and pressed our pickets continually while we remained in their front.  They principally fought Hooker though, endeavoring to hold him in check.  Toward morning of the 29th, they made a terrible assault on him for the purpose of retaking the ground they had lost on the 27th.  They had however, been closely watched, and made a signal failure.  In the afternoon Gen. Hooker noticed some movements that put him on his guard.  When they made the attack he made but little show of resistance until they were close to his entrenchments, then poured in deadly volleys in quick succession.  They fled precipitately.  He followed them to their works, capturing 10 cannon.

For two or three days after this, there was continual cannonading and skirmishing.  This army is well supplied with the most improved cannon, among which the Rodman and Parrot guns are deemed the most efficient.  Handled by skillful artillerists these could now shell almost any battery the rebs had opened, even on the highest point of the Mountain.  There were some signs of evacuation.  To prevent this and cross the river ahead of Gen. Jonston [sic] was now the policy of Gen. Sherman.  Accordingly on the night of the 2d of July, the whole left moved from that position, marched around to the right, and at night of the 3d, encamped about 25 miles from the starting point.  We were too late however.  The rebs had discovered our movements and evacuated double quick.

On the morning of the 3d, Gen. Thomas [George H. Thomas] entered Marietta unopposed.

On the morning of the 4th, to celebrate the day a little, the 16th and 31st Illinois were ordered out on a reconnoisance [sic].  Skirmishers were thrown out from both regiments, and we marched in two lines, the 31st in advance.  We started out a little to the south of east, and soon found a few cavalry scouts, who fell back as fast as we advanced, firing but little.  They led us on south, east, north, and toward every other intervening point of compass.We followed miles and miles, hours and hours, up hill and down, through deep ravines and over mountains, until about the middle of the afternoon, when we reached a small stream on which was built a flouring and saw mill.  Three-fourths of the whole country over which we had passed was woods, full of the thickest possible undergrowth of oak, hickory, pine, vines and briars.  We had marched in line all day, and were well scratched up and heated.  Taking a few minutes rest, three companies of the 16th were thrown out, the 16th regiment put in front, and Col. Fairchild ordered to take position on the opposite side of the stream.  We were moving along a ridge to the northeast.  On the left of the ridge the pond set back half a mile.  Over the centre of the ridge ran the road.  To the right, along the stream, the bank was precipitous.  The road descended at a sharp angle to the stream, and then ascended a height, rocky and woody.  To take the road seemed the only alternative, although the mills and tow houses made an excellent cover for the foe, the mills being above the and the house below the road.  The skirmishers advanced to the brow of the hill, and opened fire, which immediately elicited a reply from the hill and the house.  Col. Fairchild brought the regiment close up to the skirmishers, and opened on them in the house and on the hill, while companies G and C, supported by company I, rushed across the stream.  Those in the house broke ;  we followed them close about three-fourths of a mile, through a wood to a large open field.  The regiment followed and formed in line on the hill.  The skirmishers lay along the fence, and for an hour exchanged shots with the foe in their pits.—We ascertained that in our front lay a large force, fortifying.  The Colonel got the regiment in position and opened on them.  Gen. Dodge [Grenville M. Dodge], with a portion of his (16th) corps, had been for some time engaging the same force, about two miles to our le3ft.  He charged on them, about this time, driving them back and capturing about 600 prisoners.  He took a mill on the same stream we crossed and burned it.  The one we took, being out of repair, was left.  The rebels were firing on our skirmishers from left, front and right.  A reconnoissance [sic] disclosed them in considerable force on our right, and at night we were withdrawn to camp.

On the 5th wemarched south, winding to the left, until we reached the river below them entirely.  We formed our line, facing north, the 17th corps on the extreme right, and advanced until we found them posted on a hill, with open land south and west, in strong entrenchments.  Last night and all day there has been brisk cannonading.

In all our engagements we have had but half a dozen wounded, although we have had hot work and many narrow escapes.  It can hardly be expected we shall be so fortunate long, but with the commanders we have in Regiment, Brigade and Division, we need not expect the wholesale slaughter we have sometimes seen.

We get a good ration now :  salt meat one day, beef the next, with full ration of bread, coffee and sugar.  We feel confident of our ability to cope with the army against us ;  and you may expect to hear that Johnston is completely routed, some fine morning.

We get mail quite regular, and friends at home need not be uneasy on that point ;  only write and send them on.  This is written on the battle field, amid the jabber of soldiers, and the roar of cannon.  I hope you wil pardon a few mistakes.

Yours, &c.,   ****

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