The order was immediately given by the commanding general and our lines advanced. Such was the ardor of our troops that it was with great difficulty they could be restrained from closing up and mingling with the first line. Within less than a mile the enemy was encountered in force at the encampments of his advanced positions, but our first line brushed him away, leaving the rear nothing to do but to press on in pursuit. In about one mile more we encountered him in strong force along almost the entire line. His batteries were posted on eminences, with strong infantry supports.
Finding the first line was now unequal to the work before it, being weakened by extension and necessarily broken by the nature of the ground, I ordered my whole force to moved up steadily and promptly to its support. The order was hardly necessary for subordinate commanders, far beyond the reach of my voice and eye in the broken country occupied by us, had promptly acted on the necessity as it arose, and by the time the order could be conveyed the whole line was developed and actively engaged.
From this time, about 7.30 o'clock, until night the battle raged with little intermission. All parts of our line were not constantly engaged, but there was no time without heavy firing in some portion of it. My position for several hours was opposite my left center (Ruggles' division), immediately in rear of Hindman's brigade, Hardee's corps.
In moving over the difficult and broken ground the right brigade of Ruggles' division, Colonel Gibson commanding, bearing to the right, became separated from the two left brigades, leaving a broad interval.
Three regiments of Major-General Polk's command opportunely came up and filled this interval. Finding no superior officer with them, I took the liberty of directing their movements in support of Hindman, then, as before, ardently pressing forward and engaging the enemy at every point.
On the ground which had come under my immediate observation we had already captured three large encampments and three batteries of artillery. It was now about 10.30 o'clock.
Our right flank, according to the order of battle, had pressed forward ardently under the immediate direction of the commanding general and swept all before it. Batteries, encampments, store-houses, munitions in rich profusion, were ours, and the enemy, fighting hard and causing us to pay dearly for our successes, was falling back rapidly at every point. His left, however, opposite our right, was his strongest ground and position, and was disputed with obstinacy.
It was during this severe struggle that my command suffered an irreparable loss in the fall of Brigadier-General Gladden, commanding First Brigade, Withers' division, mortally, and Colonel D. W. Adams, Louisiana Regular Infantry, his successor, severely, wounded. Nothing daunted, however, by these losses, this noble division, under its gallant leader, Withers, pressed on with the order troops in its vicinity and carried all before them. Their progress, however, under the obstinate resistance made was not so rapid as was desired in proportion to that of the left, where the enemy was less strong; so that, instead of driving him, as we intended, down the river, leaving the left open for him to pass, we had really enveloped him on all sides and were pressing him back upon the landing at Pittsburg.
Meeting at about 10.30 o'clock upon the left center with Major-General Polk, my senior, I promptly yielded to him the important command
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