Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/174
Southern Historical Society Papers
Towards evening General Lee sent me information "that things were going badly on the left," and that "it might be necessary to retire under cover of the approaching night." I at once hurried off orders for the artillery horses—which had been removed some distance to the rear to protect them from the fire of the enemy's artillery, under which they could not have lived half an hour—to be brought up. [It is proper to observe that about the middle of the day mist and rain arose, which entirely prevented my seeing anything that was going on beyond my own line.] The messengers had hardly gone for the horses before the break which, commencing some distance beyond the left of Lee's corps, extended to my line. Seeing it, the men on my left commenced leaving the works; but, at the call of their officers, returned at once, and held the line until the enemy were in fifty steps of them on their flank
On the 15th of December the battle in front of Nashville opened. Except some unimportant skirmishing, my division took no part in that day's fight; although its position was frequently shifted, and the line greatly attenuated, to fill vacancies in the works caused by the withdrawal of the troops. On the next day the enemy advanced early in heavy force in front of the new line, which we had constructed late the previous night, my division extending its entire length, part of it in two and part in one thin rank, from a short distance to the left of the Franklin pike. The skirmishers of the right of Lee's corps, Clayton's and mine maintained their positions so well, though in small force, that, in their subsequent accounts, the enemy have seen fit to magnify the affair with them into a desperate assault by two corps upon our first line, which was finally successful, but attended with heavy loss. Soon afterward their forces advanced to the assault, principally upon a part of General Clayton's line and upon Pettus' brigade of my division—exposing, in their assault upon Pettus, their flank to a fire from Cummning's brigade. Their success the previous day had emboldened them, and they rushed forward with great spirit, only to be driven back with dreadful slaughter. Finding at last that they could make no impression upon our lines, they relinquished their attempts, and contented themselves with keeping up an incessant fire of small arms at long range, and an artillery fire which I have never seen surpassed for heaviness, continuance and accuracy. This state of things continued until evening—doing, however, but little damage, my men keeping closely in the trenches, and perfectly cool and confident.