In Front of Atlanta

How the 15th Corps Demoralized the Flower of the Rebel Army on the 28th of July 1863

by Tom Hubler


In penning this sketch the writer is compelled to go back to the battle of the 22nd of July in front of Atlanta, in which Logan's noble "old 15th" corps done its duty so gallantly, in order to watch its movements from the extreme left around to the right flank of Sherman's army, a distance of several miles. The entire army had made a movement en eschelon from left to right, by which the line was prolonged due south-east, facing east. Gen. Howard, who had now succeeded the lamented M'Pherson in command of the Army of the Tennessee, defended on the right, the Army of the Cumberland, General Thomas holding, the center, and the 23rd corps was on the left. To protect Howard's column from any sudden dash of the enemy, Jeff C. Davis' division of the 14th corps was ordered to a position so as to aid Howard if necessary. Davis' division, by some mishap, not knowing the roads probably, failed to report and the 15th corps, unaided and alone, fought one of the most sanguinary battles of the war. The enemy, divining Sherman's intentions, massed his troops on the 28th of July, and swung around on the Macon railroad.

The 27th of July had been excessively hot. The march of the 15th and 17th corps, from the extreme left to the extreme right, a distance of nine or ten miles, followed by one of the severest actions on record, had sorely tried the patience of the brave soldiers composing the latter named corps. Toward the evening of the 27th, however, a violent thunder-storm mitigated the sultriness, but flooding the earth, converting the roads into mire. Gratefully then, the troops hailed the hour which found them en bivouac in the fields around Ezra Chapel and near Atlanta. Poor fellows! they were not destined to enjoy uninterrupted and refreshing repose, for the rain fell in torrents during the night, and frequent thunderclaps startled them from their slumbers. There was little to cheer and inspire the heroes of many a hard-fought battle, as day broke on the morning of the memorable 28th of July. The rain had literally poured down, and the field afforded but scanty cover. The noble fellows could hardly keep their bivouacs alight. Gloom did not long pervade the ranks of Howard's troops. The trumpet, the drum, the bugle, sounded an early reveille, and immediately the whole camp of the 15th corps was in motion. Soldiers brightening up their guns, aids and staff officers galloping from headquarters, announcing to subordinate commanders the positions to be assumed by the respective brigades. The field where the battle occurred was very irregular, and extended from three to four miles from left to right.

The old 15th, headed by the fighting leader, John A. Logan, occupied a range of undulations; Howard was busily engaged in arranging his troops in "Battle's magnificently stern array."
and then rode along the ranks, escorted by a brilliant staff, in order to inspire his men for the contest. The bearing and skill of Howard, in this terribly contested battle, was worthy of the most glowing praise. He was every where throughout the action, and constantly under fire. He handled his troops splendidly.

At about 12 o'clock the signal for the fight was given. Hardee's, Stewart's and Lee's corps made a sudden and vigorous assault on the 15th corps. Heavy and murderous volleys were hurled into their lines, but the boys in blue wavered not. The rebels had massed in a dense piece of woods, and dashed in great force upon Logan. On came the rebels, in splendid style, their artillery tearing up the ridges, but the 15th remained rooted in its position. Now they move out in majestic order, under the personal guidance of Logan. They are within a hundred yards of the enemy's line, pouring into their ranks an iron hail-storm. The danger is iminent. Showers of balls saluted the rebels as they energetically pushed forward to the attack. The enemy seemed to grow like Hydra's heads, forever as they were repulsed, they returned reinforced to sweep the brave 15th from the field. But Logan's old veterans held their position. They yielded not an inch of ground. After a short breathing spell, the combatants renewed the fiery contest. A frightful cannonade opposed the advance of the daring and impertuous chivalry of the Army of the Tennessee. They bravely faced the hedge of bayonets, bristling from the guns of the proud and haughty foe.

Four dreadful hours the 15th corps stubbornly held the enemy at bay, and notwithstanding the frightful shower of shot and shell that plunged in every direction, the boldness and intrepidity of Logan's soldiery, and the firmness and dashing heroism of the gifted leader, deterred the rebels from advancing. The quick perception of Howard dictated a tremendous attack upon the whole of the rebel line. This attack was extended to the 15th corps, the victors of Vicksburg, the reapers of military honors on a score of battlefields. Logan formed his corps into two columns, hastily arranging the gallant fragments of the divisions which had survived the murderous combat of the 22nd of July. The boys moved steadily forward in the face of surging fire of artillery and musketry. The rebel column reeled and wavered. The first rebel column was defeated- the second advanced to its rescue. Logan's heroes, who had showed their metal at Resaca, poured upon the stubborn rebels with determined force. "Remember M'Pherson and revenge!" exclaimed the exalted chief- "let the whole line advance." The command was obeyed with enthusiastic shouts.

General Harrow headed his splendid division, (to which the writer and many from old Kosciusko county belonged) and fought where the battle raged the hottest. The other general officers, with the members of their staff, mingled with the soldiers on foot, and cheered them on in the bloody carnage. I can safely say that a thousand rebels were hurried into eternity by this single charge, and in front of General Reub. Williams' brigade the ground seemed literally strewn with dead and wounded rebels, proving, undoubtedly, that his men had done all their duty. The rebels fought with their accustomed gallantry, but human beings could not longer withstand the fierce and overpowering onslaught of the "old 15th," and finally their lines gave way at all points, and the whole force was in full retreat. In vain the daring Cleburne, who had lead the rebel advance, urged it to rally and resist in vain Hardee and Stewart launched their shattered troops upon the impregnable and conquering 15th corps.

Not a single rebel remained on the field. They had lost the day. Hardee was quick to see that his cause was hopeless. The flower of his troops was panic-stricken, and they abandoned their arms and hastened to our ranks and begged for mercy. Logan and Howard has several narrow escapes; the soldiers sainted them at the close of the battle with enthusiastic rejoicing.

The killed, wounded, and missing from the 15th corps were about six hundred, and the rebels five thousand. The sad scenes of the wounded and dying make impressions on one's mind that will never be forgotten. Here is a poor rebel with both legs off below the knee, waving a small spring to drive off the filies; here another with his nose and face shot off, moaning dreadfully; there a poor fellow minus an arm. Among our wounded soldiers there were no angry words, not a word of complaint escaped their lips. They were resigned to their fate, bearing, with sublime composure, their terrible wounds. A chaplain of an Indiana regiment, who is well known to some of the old veterans of Kosciusko county told me of one poor fellow who belonged to an Illinois regiment, and was mortally wounded on the 28th, that he was on the field after the battle, who snatched from his bosom a picture, and exclaimed: "This is a glorious cause, and would be a glorious death, were it not for the thought of wife and children." If women can bear severe wounds, sickness and anguish, more patiently than did the victims of that battle, they must largely be compounded of angel divinity. Worthy of a nation's gratitude and tears, were the services of the brave men of the 15th army corps, who fell and made no sign, on the 28th of July, 1863; their names and deeds ought to be perpetuated in shafts of spotless marble, with the inscription: "To the unrecorded and unrecognized brave."

Northern Indianian Mammoth Holiday Number Saturday December 28, 1878 front page

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