Page:Confederate Veteran volume 01.djvu/337

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
297
CONFEDERATE VETERAN.


MAGNIFICENT CONFEDERATE FIGHTING. GENERAL BOYNTON'S DESCRIPTION Of OUR SOLDIERS AT CHICKAMAUGA. As one advances in the study of the battle of Chick- amauga he must, at every step, become more and more impressed with the magnificence of the Confederate fighting. Since tlir first assertion that Chickamauga was for both sides the bloodiest battle of the war, in proportion to numbers and the time of the engagement, and that it far outranked in the percentage ol killed and wounded any of the battles of modern Europe, there has I n an industrious searching of records, both of our own war and ol recent famous foreign campaigns, to test the accuracy of the claims made for Chickamauga. But the further the investigation has proceeded, and ii is now sufficiently completed to allow general results to be stated with certainty, the more clearly the truth of the first assertion has been made to appear. It is not strange, therefore, that the discussions of the past year, which have served to dispel so many of the misapprehensions which clouded the public mind in regard to this battle, and dwarfed it in thehistorj of the country, should have created such widespread interest in its real history, and raised it at once t<> tie- very front rank of our nmst notable engagements. Tin marvel of German fighting in the great battle of Mars la Tour was performed by the 3rd Westphalian regiment. It suffered the heaviest loss in the Gei man army during the Franco-Prussian war. Ii went into the battle 3,000 strong, and its loss was 19.4 per cent. There was nothing in the campaigns of which this formed a part which exceeded these figures, and they became famous throughout the German army. Ami yet in our war there were over sixty regiments whose Losses exceeded this, seventeen of them lust above sixty per cent., and quite a number rangi d from seventy to eighty per cent. There were over a score of regiment- OH each side at ( !h ickaniauga who-e loss exceeded that of the Westphalian regiment. But the object of this letter is more particularly to set forth the character of the splendid lighting per- formed by every portion of Bragg's army on this noted field in ( reorgia. The battle of Saturday opened in front of General Brannan, on the extreme Confederate right, and here a brigade of Forrest's cavalry, dismounted, assisted almost immediately by < lonfederate infantry, assaulted the Union lines. As they were driven back by an overwhelming lire they were continiously reinforced for nearly four hours. The battle was continuous and constantly at short range. In fact, it was a distin- guished feature of the whole two day-' battle that most of the lighting was at close range, much of it band to hand, with the bayonet and clubbed muskets. For- rest's men in front of Brannan assaulted time and again, marching up into the very face- of the Union infantry, and in their final effort came on four lines deep, with their hats drawn down over their lace.-, and bending forward against the storm of lead as men face the (dements. The rapid tire of long and well-trained infantry seemed to have no effect upon these veteran-. and it was not until they had marched up into the line of lire of batteries, which, with double-shotted canister, enfiladed their ranks at a murderous range, that their advance was checked. Even here they stood and fought with desperation. Ector and Wilson of Walk- er's division, and Walthall and Govan of Liddell's, all marching to the assistance of those contending in this hell of battle, became, in turn, a- hotly engaged them- selves in front of I'.aird. and for hours on this portion of the field the scene just described mi the extreme Confederate right was repeated tor all of these brigade-. At the fust onset Walthall and Govan drove their lines over the flank of the regular brigade and captured its battery, only to be themselves pushed back again almost at the point of the bayonet, and so -battered from their own courageous exposure at short range as to be practically put out of the light tor several hour-. Nothing could 1 xceed the valor of these troops. Tie was nothing in the way of desperate fighting either of infantry or artillery which they were not called upon to lace. And they did face it with a courage seldom equalled, ami which it was impossible to surpass. Cheatham, moving to the support of Walker. turned on Johnson with irresistible fore, mid drove him well backward toward tic LaFayetti road, when Palmer arriving on Johnson's right, these two divis- ion-, acting in concert, drove Cheatham back a mile. and badly shattered bis entire command. Next ca Hood with I .aw and Bushrod Johnson's divisions and one brigade of Preston's, and these grappled with Davis, Woo.l and Sheridan along lines ol battle that at time- were scarcely two musket lengths apart, and thus till sundown this contest raged in tin thick woods betwei n the I. a Fayette road and the Chickamauga, each line bending backward as the other delivered its heaviest blows, and as if gathering strength by the recoil, in almost every instance, rushing forward again to -way the opposite backward in turn. There was no general stampede on either side al any point of the • day- battle, but weight of lim- and weighl of metal, and the momentum of blows vigorously deliv- ered controlled the result at every point. Late in tl ven Saturday, when the lighting on tic (lank- bad well nigh Ceased, came Stewart's division of Bate's, Clayton's and Brown's brigad pounding it- way past the flanks of two Union divis- ions, and, doubling back the Hank of a third, they pen- etrated beyond the LaFayette road Before its brave career was checked it had well nigh divided the Union line. It i- easy to see that ovei all tin- exti nded area of bitter and continuous lighting the loss must have "in terrific. The figures to be presented below will make t be character of this fighting, to which reference has thus been made in most inadequate terms, mi dearly understood. But stubborn, terrific and deadly a- was the Confederate fighting of Saturday, it became but ordinary performance when compared with the marvellous exhibition of courage and endurance which were exhibited in that army on Sunday before the Union breastworks about the Kelley farm, and upon the slopes of Snodgrass Hill and the Horseshoe Ridge. The Union line about the Kelley farm was estab- lished on the crest of a low ridge sheltered by heavy woods, anc^ the troops were protected in their position by a low breastwork of logs and rails v a lying from two to four feet in height. Time and again from pi o'clock till 2, the who],- right wing of the Confederate army rolled its lines in on the -light works in continual breaker-, only to he shattered and driven back as the waves of tl -i .hi go to pieces on the beach; brigade after brigade da-bed themselves against the salient of this low work, to be shattered and broken, and to retire with a loss SO great that after 2 o'clock, and throughout most of the afternoon, the right wing of the Confed-