ascent, firing and loading with great coolness until the enemy was forced to retire from their first position to a second ridge in the rear, which, however, protected them from our fire equally as well as the one which they had abandoned. At this point our troops were halted, and finding that we were attacking a much larger force than I had anticipated, occupying also a most admirable defensive position, I deemed it prudent to make no farther advance, and determined, if possible, to hold on to the ground already acquired. In the position gained my men found partial protection while loading their pieces by taking advantage of the uneven nature of the grounds. This, however, was slight, as the enemy were so placed that many of our men were wounded by their fire some distance below the advanced front. Our position was one of extreme danger and exposure, and the fire of the enemy was heavy, coming sometimes in tremendous volleys, as if they meant by one fire to sweep us from the mountain. Most nobly did our troops sustain themselves.
Both regiments worked together with great coolness, and the men seemed only to be anxious to get steady aim when firing their pieces, without a thought of retiring. We held this position for at least an hour and a half before any troops arrived to re-enforce us, the enemy not daring to make the attempt to drive us back by a charge.
At about this time the Thirty-second Ohio, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Swinney, and the Eighty-second Ohio, under command of Colonel Cantwell, came to our aid and took position in our midst. The fighting continued around the crest of the hill at this point until I was informed that the Twenty-fifth Ohio were out of ammunition and that some of my own regiment (the Seventy-fifth Ohio) were in the same condition, although every man of my own regiment started in the action with 60 rounds. The evening also was well advanced, so that our men could only see the enemy by the flashes of their guns. The moon was shining, but did not give sufficient light to enable the men to shoot with accuracy. Under these circumstances I determined to withdraw the forces, and so gave the order. I formed the Seventy-fifth Ohio in line of battle under the crest of the hill, sufficiently low down to be out of the worst of the fire, and marched them down the mountain in this order as well as the nature of the ground would permit, so as at any time to be able to face to the rear and fire upon the enemy in case they should attempt to follow us. Upon reaching the road I halted and waited until the Twenty-fifth Ohio, the Eighty-second Ohio, and the Thirty-second Ohio had all turned to the road, when we marched back to McDowell. The action was a most severe one, as is shown by the report of the killed and wounded already in your possession.
My officers and men alike bore themselves most bravely in the action. Lieutenant-Colonel Constable, being sick, was unable to be with us, but Major Reily rendered most important and gallant service during the whole engagement, rallying the men and keeping them to their work, when (as it was the case at times) the enemy seemed by the increase of their fire to have brought new forces into the action.
I had but one officer wounded; and of them all, so far as they came under my observation, I can speak in the warmest terms as regards their gallant conduct during the action.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. C. McLEAN,
Colonel Seventy-fifth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.