1864 November 5: The 18th Wisconsin at the Battle of Allatoona
The following reprint from the Madison (Wis.) State Journal comes from the November 5, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.
From the Eighteenth Wisconsin.
THE DEFENSE OF ALLATOONA.
An Heroic and Successful Resistance.
The Losses of the Eighteenth.
Correspondence of the State Journal.
ALLATOONA, Ga., Oct. 9, 1864.
There is one regiment in the field from Wisconsin, that has suffered greatly, from the fact that no one connected with it has made it his especial business to blow for it. I do not purpose to attempt anything of the kind in this communication. My purpose is merely to give a brief account of a late brilliant engagement, in which the Eighteenth took a prominent part.
On the 5th inst., the expected attack upon this important post was made. Warning had been received two days previous from Gen. Sherman that Hood was North of the Chattahoochee, and that Allatoona was threatened, and must be held at all hazards. The post was held at that time by three regiments—the 4th Minnesota, 93d Illinois and seven companies of the 18th Wisconsin, with the 12th Wisconsin battery. Late at night on the 4th inst., Gen. Corse [John M. Corse], with a brigade of infantry, was sent to reinforce them, and with this small force of little more than two thousand men, we waited the attack on the morrow. At the early hour of two in the morning the pickets gave notice of the approach of the enemy, and the 18th Wisconsin was ordered under arms, and deployed as skirmishers. In this position it remained until daylight should disclose the number and strength of the force against us; all night the balance of the command was preparing for the coming contest.
Such was the disposition and number of our garrison, when the gray dawn disclosed the force arrayed against us, and as soon as it was light, the position of the rebel batteries was apparent, about 1200 yards South of our forts. The first Iron messenger was sent from our side, and seemed to do good service, disabling, at the first fire, one of the enemies [sic] pieces. Their artilliery [sic], seven pieces of large calibre for field service, opened soon after upon us, and an artillery duel was kept up for some hours, but as usual the damage done by artillery was very slight. It was apparent that our shots were decidedly more effective than theirs.
About ten o’clock the skirmishing of infantry was heard on the right flank, and almost immediately afterwards in our rear. Our position was completely surrounded. It was evident an overwhelming force was against us, and that the intention was to make short work in gobbling up our little garrison. We had no no [sic] sooner discovered the position of the enemy than a flag of truce appeared, under which the rebel Gen. French [Samuel G. French] sent a message to the General commanding our forces, demanding the surrender of the place “to prevent the useless effusion of blood.” It was sent back with the answer that “the Union forces here were expected to hold the place, and when Gen. French was ready to commence ‘the useless effusion of blood,’ we were ready to receive him.” Accompanying the demand for our surrender was an intimation that “if the garrison surrendered then they would be treated as prisoners of war.” Of course, however, according to modern logic, it would be very unfair for us to infer that the rebel General intended to intimate any alternative.
Hardly had the peaceful flag disappeared from view before the rebel lines were seen approaching our position. On they came with a defiant yell, charging against storms of grape and canister and death-dealing bullets. Twice the wave of human beings surged up to the very muzzles of our guns; twice the wave receded from the ramparts like billows from the rocky shore. One fort was carried—bayonets were crossed—numbers by their physical force overpowered the garrison ; our boys gave way and fell back ; and one part of our line was in rebel hands.—But as the last tattered Union flag retreated, and the rebels raised their shout of triumph, the trap was sprung, and from commanding batteries a storm of shell and shot was hurled among them, and they yielded their hard-won prize with severer loss than they suffered in acquiring it. Broken and discouraged, their ranks fell back, and the victory was ours. This fort that was taken was one of the old rebel works, and was to have been leveled, but the result proved that perhaps it was well enough the design was not carried out, although our forces suffered severely in falling back from it. There was no artillery in it.
After the defeated army had retired, we had time to look around and see what loss the brave garrison had had [sic] sustained. Over four hundred were killed or wounded, and nearly two hundred taken prisoners, making a loss of nearly one-third of the force engaged—a greater proportionate loss, probably, than any previous battlefield in this war can show. The rebel force must have been at least eight thousand, of which they lost in killed, wounded and prisoners, at least fifteen hundred.¹
The 18th Wisconsin being during the first part of the day, and during the first attack, on the skirmish line in front of our position (we were in the trenches to repel the final charge,) did not suffer as severely as the regiment which repelled the attack from the rear, but its loss was after all nearly as severe as that of the other regiment.
Three companies, F, E and G, under command of Capt. McIntyre,² were stationed two miles below Allatoona, at a railroad bridge. A strong block-house had been built there, and as it was supposed that Sherman [William T. Sherman] would have a force up for the relief of the post before the block-house could be destroyed, the garrison was left there. Simultaneously with the attack upon Allatoona, a demand was made for the surrender of this little force. It is said that the reply received was as brief and decided as that of General Corse at Allatoona, so one piece of artillery and a regiment of infantry were left behind to reduce the block-house, and bring the rebellious little garrison to terms. All day the siege was maintained, but it was not until dark, and then only after the heavier artillery was opened upon it and the block-house was on fire, that this garrison of eighty men yielded, literally smoked out, after having killed or wounded more than their own number. The loss here sustained by our regiment was one killed, four wounded, with four officers and seventy-five men taken prisoners. Captain J. W. Roberts,³ to whose vigilance and energy was chiefly due the fact that the block-house was in a condition to sustain a siege, so prolonged and and [sic] determined as this, had been a few days previous detached from his command and assigned to duty as Acting Assistant Inspector General on Gen. Jno. E. Smith’s staff.
At Huntsville, Ala., last winter the old 18th re-enlisted as a veteran regiment. More than three-fourths of the entire regiment will continue in the service after their original term expires. It was not practicable to give the 18th their furlough before this campaign commenced, which we supposed had terminated at Atlanta, but after the fall of that stronghold the regiment was preparing to enjoy a short respite from its labors amid the endearments and pleasures of home. In fact, the order for their relief was already in the hands of the division commander, but the telegraph arrested it there. There was work yet to be done ; Government still required their services. They have now once more nobly earned the right to revisit their homes and fire-sides, but eighty are only thinking of them in a Southern prison. If active steps should be taken to secure the exchange of any men in preference to others, this brave little band should be particularly remembered.
I send you for publication a list of the casualties in the regiment :
Company A—Anthony Brown, severely wounded.
Company B—Nelson Fountain, leg amputated.
Company C—John J. Singles, killed ; Jasper N. Powell, William Loucks, John J.Ross, Elijah S. Fraiser, David Caulkins, wounded.
Company E—Walter Whittaker, Robert Rinhards, wounded ; Cap. Luman N. Carpenter and 26 men, prisoners.
Company F—Charles Johnson, killed ; Robert Tennant, wounded ; 1st Lieut. Wm. A. Pope and 33 men, prisoners.
Company H—Benjamin Frazier, wounded ; Peter Backer, missing.
Company I—A. Boles, wounded ; Capt. Peter McIntyre, 1st Lieut. Oscar Todd and 16 men, prisoners.
Company K—Lieut. E. A. Saunders, wounded ; Robert Young, missing.
Companies D and G did not suffer any loss.
Yours &c., P
1. The Union had around 2,000 troops and sustained just over 700 casualties; the Confederates also had around 2,000 men with almost 800 casualties.
2. Peter McIntyre, from Columbus, enlisted November 20, 1861, was wounded at Corinth, promoted to sergeant, then 1st lieutenant (March 1863), and finally captain (August 1863). He mustered out with the company on July 18, 1865.
3. Joseph W. Roberts, from Oshkosh, enlisted in Company E of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry on April 21, 1861, was wounded at 1st Bull Run, and was promoted to captain of Company F of the 18th in December 1861. He was promoted to major on July 1, 1865, although was never mustered as the company mustered out on July 18, 1865.