The enemy held a strongly fortified position at this place, awaiting attack. The general disposition of our forces was the same as at Resaca, except that the Fifteenth Corps held the right, the Sixteenth Corps being on our left. The Fourth Division occupied the extreme right, connecting with the Second Division on the left. The Fourth Division occupied the extreme right, connecting with the Second Division on the left. Heavy skirmishing was in progress on the right, on our arrival, and the wounded were coming into (the) hospital rapidly. During the evening the Brigade went into position, on the right of the line, and threw up defenses at the edge of a large field, for the protection of the right flank. Morning found us well fortified to resist attack.
During the 28th the enemy assumed the offensive, opening with a fearful cannonading, succeeded by a fierce charge. The shrieking of the shells above our heads caused a panic among the non-combatants and negroes, who fled in consternation (p200) to the rear. Fortunately the enemy got too long range for efficiency, and the shells passed us before bursting The reserve skirmish post in front of the Regiment was made a special object, and the missiles burst on all sides, covering the skirmishers with dust, but injuring none. All watched the point with intense interest, anxious for the safety of their comrades, thus exposed to the direct aim of the enemy.
Soon the storm of iron hail was succeeded by that most exciting feature of a charge, the fierce and prolonged yell of the assailants. With that peculiar sound that marked the battle-cry of the rebels, the shout rolled along the lines, and roused to the highest pitch of excitement the troops in the trenches. It was in vain that they were ordered to keep down, and not expose themselves to the fire of the enemy. The hand of each man grasped his gun, as his eye almost leaped from its socket for the first glimpse of the advancing foe, in the edge of the forest that skirted the field. The face of a brave man, at such a moment presents a scene for the painter's eye, which can nowhere else be found. There is a secret delight mingled with the varied and contending thoughts and emotions of that moment of suspense. Never before had we so fully realized the inspiring influence of the hour of coming conflict; and no language is adequate to express the thoughts of which it was suggestive. (p201)
The moment of suspense was in striking contrast with the preceding scenes, and with those that succeeded. The complete picture of a charge involves the thrilling terror produced by a fearful torrent of bursting shells, the intense awe resulting from the sound of the human voice, rising in the peculiar scale of the battle-yell and mingling with the roar of artillery, the moment of solemn silence that intervenes, and the mingled roar, and whiz, and rattle, and clash, and yell of the ensuing conflict. All these combine to form a scene nowhere else witnessed by mortal vision, and one who has gazed upon it in all its dreadful reality cannot forget the impressions produced upon the mind.
The fierceness of the storm fell upon the left of the Fourth Division, extending thence along the line toward the left. It broke in all its fury upon the Second Brigade, occupying the angle in our line of works, against which the enemy rushed with daring impetuosity. The First Iowa Battery, which had been put in position on the skirmish line, with inadequate support, fell into the hands of the enemy, but was retaken after a fierce contest. Finally the struggle for the possession of the works was abandoned, under the terrific fire poured into the assailants from the trenches. On our immediate front the rebels had not even time to form their lines, after the first volley was poured into their ranks by the First Brigade. No (p202) troops could withstand such a fire; and, after repeated efforts to rally for an advance upon the works, they retreated in hot haste. The rebel losses in front of the Corps was estimated at two thousand five hundred, while ours did not exceed one-fifth of that number.
The left of the First Brigade suffered almost equally with the Second Brigade, in consequence of the ground in their front being densely wooded.
But three members of the Regiment were wounded in the charge. These were: Orderly Sergeant Lewis Murray, Company D; Sergeant James O. Rea, Company F, and John Shields, Company C.
The operations on our left had been attended with considerable loss. In the advance upon the enemy's position, on the 25th, Hooker had a severe engagement at New Hope Church, losing one thousand eight hundred men, and gaining no decisive advantage. After holding his position for several days, and slowly driving the enemy before him, by advancing his fortified lines during the night, it was decided to develop the left flank, to accomplish which the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Corps were ordered to be withdrawn and moved to the centre, to relieve Hooker. At ten P.M., May 29th, the right of our line was withdrawn, commencing with the First Brigade, which had (p203) left the works, and was moving toward the left, followed by the Second Brigade. Scarcely had our Brigade moved its length, by the right flank, when the enemy, having penetrated our design or suspected some movement of our forces, opened in front of the First Division, with his artillery, immediately succeeded by the shrill yell indicative of the coming charge. The necessity for prompt and vigorous action was apparent, and at once the order was given to about face and move at double quick to the works just abandoned. The sudden attack that hastened our return was speedily repulsed, and the enemy retired to his works. But the firing upon the skirmish line and the roar of artillery continued throughout the night, rendering it one of those scenes of awful sublimity forever memorable. The flash of the cannon glared upon our vision, and the sound reverberated in our ears during all that long night. The enemy suffered a severe loss in the assault, while ours was very small.
Our plans were not frustrated, but delayed. In that interval of two days between this and a second attempt, on the morning of June 1st, skirmishing continued almost constantly. The wounded were removed to the new position assigned for our forces, and on the completion of arrangements our lines were withdrawn, leaving a strong skirmish line to cover the movement, which proved (p204) successful. Hooker also withdrew from his position, being relieved by the right wing, and moved toward the left.
The Regiment was placed on the front line, at New Hope Church, the works being in close proximity to those of the enemy. On the next day Morris O. Witham, of Company C, was mortally wounded, while returning from the skirmish line, and died the following day. He was a noble and exemplary young man, and died cheerfully for his country, with his confidence in God alone. David G. Smith, of Company D, was severely wounded, and lost an arm, on the same day. The Regiment was in reserve on the 3d, and again in front on the 4th. Samuel W. Titus, of Company C, was wounded on the latter date.
During the night of the 4th Johnston abandoned his position and retreated toward Marietta, in consequence of the success of Hooker's movement upon the left flank. Another step had been made in our course toward Atlanta, and a brief period of rest was again allowed the troops. This also became necessary, in consequence of the condition of our line of communications. The railroad was opened only to the Etowah, the bridge being still unfinished. The retreat of Johnston had given us possession of the Allatoona Pass, and communications would soon be opened to Acworth, to which point General Sherman at once (p205) moved his army, employing the trains in forwarding supplies from the Etowah, while awaiting the completion of the bridges on the line of railroad. The right wing reached Acworth on the 6th of June, and remained in camp near that place till the 11th of that month. The Seventeenth Corps, under Major General Blair, arrived at Acworth on the 9th, with a force sufficient to supply the losses incurred during the preceding month. (p206)