On Sunday morning, April 6, at the request of Colonel Raith, then commanding the regiment, I called upon General McClernand for permission to fire off the guns of our men, which were still loaded from the evening of April 4, when the pieces had been loaded in expectation of an attack by the enemy. The permission was granted, but the general directed that we should keep a sharp lookout for any engagement in front of us, and that in case anything be heard he be instantly informed of it.
But two of our companies had discharged their guns, when the colonel, hearing the distant report of fire-arms, ordered firing to cease and the regiment to get ready for action, and also directed me to report the facts to General McClernand. The general then sent me to Colonel Rearden, commanding Third Brigade, with orders for him to hold the brigade in readiness for action. Colonel Rearden, however, was ill, and requested me to inform Colonel Raith that he, being the next oldest and only colonel in the brigade now present, should assume command. In the mean time Colonel Raith had formed the Forty-third Regiment, the command of which now devolved upon me, whilst Colonel Raith, without any aides, or even any mounted orderlies, to assist him, found himself suddenly in command of a brigade, of which as yet but one regiment had got ready for the engagement, and the enemy already within a few hundred yards of our lines, but still concealed by the forest, and steadily driving our own troops in front of us toward our lines.
As ordered by Colonel Raith, I proceeded to the encampment of the Forty-ninth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, which was some distance to our left, with orders for that regiment to turn out instantly, brisk firing being then heard within a short distance from its color line, but those from whom it proceeded still concealed by the forest. My orders to turn out were met by the inquiry, "For what purpose?" And to my response, " That it was to meet the enemy which was engaged with our troops but a short distance in front," they said that the firing then heard was none other than our own men firing off their pieces. The infatuation that no enemy was about was so general, that I was also to a great extend affected by it, and rode forward in the direction from which the firing proceeded to obtain certainty. Not more than 200 yards in front of the Forty-ninth I came upon our own lines, then briskly engaged with the enemy. Hastening back to the Forty-ninth, I found that as yet little heed had been given to my previous orders to turn out. Upon communicating these facts to the officers that regiment was speedily paraded, but only in time to find itself pressed hard in front and flanked on the left by vastly superior numbers of the Confederate Army.
Having thoroughly aroused the Forty-ninth, I hastened back to my own regiment. The color line immediately in front of the encampment being but a poor position to await the enemy in, regiment was ordered about 100 yards forward, where it took a position sheltered by the brow of a hill and to the left of a battery stationed on the right and that distance to the front of our encampment. The two flank companies were now thrown out as skirmishers forward and to the left of our lines, the enemy crowding upon us in apparently great numbers from that direction. The enemy still advancing, so that we would soon have been exposed to a raking flank fire from the left, the now two right companies (F and D) were detached, to remain as a support of the battery. At this time large numbers of our own troops belonging to the division (Sherman's and Prentiss') heretofore in front of us, retired through our lines, and it was impossible to induce them to rally upon us, while the remaining companies changed direction on the eighth company to the rear, and