Numbers 81. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Humphrey M. Woodyard, Twenty-first Missouri Infantry.
HDQRS. TWENTY-FIRST MO. INFT., FIRST BRIGADE,
SIXTH DIVISION, ARMY OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Pittsburg, Tenn. April 12, 1862
SIR: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 6th of April, before sunrise, General Prentiss ordered Colonel Moore, with five companies of our regiment, to sustain the pickets of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry. The colonel had not proceeded more than half a mile when he met the pickets coming in, with many killed and wounded. Colonel Moore immediately dispatched Lieutenant Menn for the remaining five companies. General Prentiss, being in camp, ordered me to join Colonel Moore. We marched some 300 yards together, after I formed the junction, in a nearly westerly direction, by flank movement, four ranks, when the head of the column came to the northwest corner of a cotton field. We were here fired upon, and Colonel Moore received a severe wound in the right leg and Lieutenant Menn was wounded in the head. I then assumed command of the regiment,and formed a line of battle on the brow of a hill on the cotton field, facing nearly west. I held this position for some half or three-quarters of an hour and kept the enemy in check. He fell back and endeavored to out-flank me. Discovering this, I moved my line to the north of the field again. I was then joined by four companies of the Sixteenth Wisconsin Infantry. Having no field officers with them., I ordered them to a position east of the field,and as soon as this was done joined them with my command. This line of battle formed, facing south, behind a small incline, enabling my men to load and be out of range of the enemy's fire. The position proved a strong one, and we managed to hold it for upwards of an hour. Finding they could not dislodge us, the enemy again tried to outflank us and deal a cross-fire. I then fell back in good order, firing as we did so, to the next hill. Colonel Peabody, commanding First Brigade, here came up with the Twenty-fifth Missouri Regiment. I requested him to bring his men up to the hill on our right, as it would afford protection to his men and be of assistance to my command. He did so, but the enemy coming by heavy main center and dealing a cross-fire from our right and left, we could not maintain this position for over thirty minutes. We gradually begin to fall back and reached our tents, when the ranks got broken in passing through them. We endeavored to rally our men in the rear of the tents and formed as well as could be expected, but my men got much scattered, a great many falling into other regiments, under the immediate command of General Prentiss; others divided to other divisions, but continued to fight during the two days.
Falling back to the second hill, Major King received a mortal wound, and died in about thirty minutes. He rendered me great assistance in the action, cheering on and encouraging the men. His death is a heavy loss to us. He was ever active, energetic, and at his post of duty; vigilant in attending to the wants of the men. Adjt. C. C. Tobin, who is now missing, also proved himself very active on the field. His brave example in leading the men to fight had a good effect. He is supposed to be a prisoner, and taken at the same time with General Prentiss.