McClernand and not more than 500 yards from the enemy's outworks; indeed, my whole line was within easy cannon-shot from them.
The evening of the 14th (Friday) was quiet, broken at intervals by guns from the rebels. At night pickets were sent to the front along the line, which was retired somewhat behind the ridge, to enable the men in safety to build fires for their bivouacs. They laid down as best they could on beds of ice and snow, a strong, cold wind making the condition still more disagreeable.
The morning of the 15th my division formed line early, called up by the sound of battle raging on the extreme right, supposed at first to be General McClernand attacking. The firing was very heavy and continuous, being musketry and artillery mixed. About 8 o'clock came a message from General McClernand, asking assistance. It was hurried to headquarters, but General Grant was at that time on board one of the gunboats, arranging, as was understood, an attack from the riverside. Before it was heard from, a second message reached me from General McClernand, stating substantially that the enemy had turned his flanks, and were endangering his whole command. Upon this Colonel Cruft was instantly ordered to move his brigade on to the right and report to General McClernand. Imperfectly directed by a guide, the colonel's command was carried to the extreme right of the engaged lines, where it was attacked by a largely superior force, and, after the retreat or retirement of the division he was sent to support, for a time bore the brunt of the battle. After a varied struggle, charging and receiving charges, the enemy quit him, when he fell back in position nearer to support, his ranks in good order and unbroken except where soldiers of other regiments plunged through them in hurried retreat. In this way a portion of Colonel Shackelford's regiment (Twenty-fifth Kentucky) and about 20 of the Thirty-first Indiana, with their commanding officers, became separated from their colors.
Soon fugitives from the battle came crowding up the hill in rear of my own line, bringing unmistakable signs of disaster. Captain Rawlins was conversing with me at the time, when a mounted officer galloped down the road, shouting "We are cut to pieces." The result was very perceptible. To prevent a panic among the regiments of my Third Brigade I ordered Colonel Thayer to move on by the right flank. He promptly obeyed. Going in advance of the movement myself, I met portions of regiments of General McClernand's division coming back in excellent order, conducted by their brigade commanders, Colonels Wallace, Oglesby, and McArthur, and all calling for more ammunition, want of which was the cause of their misfortune.
Colonel Wallace, whose coolness under the circumstances was astonishing, informed me that the enemy were following and would shortly attack. The crisis was come. There was not time to await orders. My Third Brigade had to be thrust between our retiring forces and the advancing foe. Accordingly, I conducted Colonel Thayer's command up the road to where the ridge dips towards the rebel works, and directed the colonel to form a new line of battle at a right angle with the old one; sent for Company A, Chicago Light Artillery, and dispatched a messenger to inform General Smith of the state of affairs and ask him for assistance.
The head of Colonel Thayer's column filed right double-quick. Lieutenant Wood, commanding the artillery company sent for, galloped up with a portion of his battery and posted his pieces so as to sweep approach by the road in front. A line of reserve was also formed at