Today in History:

81 Series I Volume XXIII-I Serial 34 - Tullahoma Campaign Part I


the Ninth Pennsylvania and Second Michigan Cavalry deployed as flankers and skirmishers, moved cautiously on Spring Hill. About 1 mile from camp our skirmishers drove in the pickets of the enemy, who, after a few rounds, retired, but so slowly as to keep up a continual skirmish till the battle opened. At the range of hills overlooking Thompson's Station, about 9 miles from Franklin, the skirmishers of the enemy made a very determined resistance, but we charged them, and they retired over the intervening valley and to the opposite hills. While this was going on, I halted the head of the column, but Colonel Coburn rode up and ordered it to advance, remarking that the enemy were in small force, and that we had nothing to fear. At this point the road turns sharply to the left and south (the previous direction for about 3 miles had been south of west), and for about three-quarters of a mile is perfectly straight, leading to the hills that bound Thompson's Station on the south.

The column had proceeded on this straight road some 500 or 600 yards, and was just entering the jaws of the pass between the hills that we afterward occupied as our position, when we were opened upon by a battery of the enemy, placed close on the right side of the road at about half-mile range. This was an 18-pounder, and the shell, passing close over the head of the column, struck in the ditch on the left of the road about 150 yards in the rear, and within a few feet of the side of the column, exploding and plowing up the dirt and stones, but, by some wonderful interposition of Providence, without killing or wounding any one. A 6-pounder also opened at the same moment, but the shell fell a few yards to the left in the field, doing no damage. The new troops were at once deployed to the right and left under the hills, to protect them from the shell that were now literally rained upon them, and our artillery brought forward and placed in position three guns upon the hill to the left and two upon the hill to the right of the road, and in a few moments were hotly engaged. In a moment a battery of the enemy of four guns (which had heretofore been masked) opened upon our left flank, completely covering the ground upon which our infantry and cavalry were placed, making it necessary to change their position, and also completely flanking our guns, and a battery to our right had previously opened upon our skirmishers in the valley, near Thompson's Station. This battery Colonel Coburn determined to charge and take, hoping to throw back the left wing of the enemy upon their center and force the position. This was the culminating point in the battle.

The column was formed, and moved from its position behind the guns over the crest of the hill and down into the valley below, prepared to charge the battery, while the enemy's guns thundered their shell upon it from front and flank. It bravely withstood the shock, and moved steadily forward, though its track through the fields could be plainly marked by the human mile-stones left in its rear. All at once the artillery on the side of the enemy ceased playing, and a dense mass of infantry began to show itself on the hills in our front. Colonel Coburn at once saw that all would be lost unless the column could be again retired behind our guns, and sent an officer to order it to fall back. But it was then too late; the avalanche had been started, and came sweeping down upon it, while from behind a stone fence near the railroad a perfect storm of lead was thrown upon it. Seeing that all was lost, I was ordered by Colonel Coburn to call in my cavalry and form it in such position as to cover his retreat.

I at once proceeded to execute the movement necessary to prepare for retreat, and formed my cavalry behind a small strip of woods about