On the morning of the 6th the firing of cannon and musketry was heard in the direction of this place. Apprehending that a serious engagement had commenced, I went to General Grant's headquarters to get information as to the best means of reaching the battle-field with the division that had arrived. At the same time orders were dispatched to the divisions in rear to leave their trains and push forward by forced marches. I learned that General Grant had just started, leaving orders for General Nelson, to march to the river opposite Pittsburg Landing to be ferried across. On examination of the road up the river I discovered it to be impracticable for artillery, and General Nelson was directed to leave his to be carried forward by steamers.
The impression existed at Savannah that the firing was only an affair of outposts, the same thing having occurred for the two or three previous days; but as it continued I determined to go at once to the scene of action, and accordingly started with my chief of staff, Colonel Fry, on a steamer, which I had ordered to get under steam. As we proceeded up the river groups of soldiers were seen upon the west bank, and it soon became evident that they were stragglers from the army that was engaged. The groups increased in size and frequency, until, as we approached the Landing, they amounted to whole companies, and almost regiments, and at the Landing the banks swarmed with a confused mass of men of various regiments. The number could not have been less than 4,000 or 5,000 and later in the day it became much greater.
Finding General Grant at the Landing I requested him to send steamers to Savannah to bring up General Crittenden's division, which had arrived during the morning, and then went ashore with him.
The throng of disorganized and demoralized troops increased continually by fresh fugitives from the battle, which steadily grew nearer the Landing, and with these were mingled great numbers of teams, all striving to get as near as possible to the river. With few exceptions all efforts to form the troops and move them forward to the fight utterly failed.
In the mean time the enemy had made such progress against our troops that his artillery and musketry began to play into the vital spot of the position, and some persons were killed on the bank at the very Landing. General Nelson arrived with colonel Ammen's brigade at this opportune moment. It was immediately posted to meet the attack at that point, and, with a battery of artillery which happened to be on the ground and was brought into action, opened fire on the enemy and repulsed him. The action of the gunboats also contributed very much to that result. The attack at that point was not renewed, night having come on, and the firing ceased on both sides.
In the mean time the remainder of General Nelson's division crossed, and General Crittenden's arrived from Savannah by steamers. After examining the ground as well as was possible at night in front of the line on which General Grant's troops had formed and as far to the right as General Sherman's division, I directed Nelson's and Crittenden's division to form in front of that line, and move forward as soon as it was light in the morning. During the night, and early the following morning Captain Bartlett's Ohio battery, Captain Mendenhall's regular battery,and Captain Terrill's regular battery, Fifth Artillery, arrived. General McCook arrived at Savannah during the night of the 6th, and reached the field of battle early in the morning of the 7th. I knew that the other divisions could not arrive in time for the action that day.