our position both south and west, thus protecting the rear of the extreme right [Kirk's brigade] of the right wing. In this position my men bivouacked without fires for the night.
At 5.30 o'clock on the morning of December 31, as my men were building fires for cooking, rapid firing was heard on Kirk's front, which was almost instantly follow by the men of his brigade rushing in confusion and indiscriminately through our ranks and over my men, closely followed by a heavy upon us, and the large number of fugitives passing through and covering my front, together with peremptory orders communicated to regimental commanders of his brigade by General Willich the night previous, made it impossible for me to make a deployment or otherwise advantageously change my position.
To protect my men as much as possible from the enemy's fire, I ordered them to lie down. In that position they remained without confusion until my left wing was uncovered of fugitives and the enemy within 50 yards of my position, when I ordered that wing to fire, which was done with good effect, the colors of the leading column of rebels falling. Having received no orders as yet, and seeing the other regiments of the brigade falling back, I gave the order to retire by the right flank, on double-quick, which was done [but with some confusion], to a lane, about 400 yards in a northwesterly direction, where I placed Captains Willet's, Whiting's, and Comstock's, and Lieutenant Wells' companies in a very good position.
But few of our shots were wasted, the colors of the leading column of the enemy again falling under our fire; but, being closely pressed, I ordered the companies to retire on the same line of direction to a point on a small creek, about 500 yards distant, where I placed Captains Rowell's and Blake's companies under the partial cover of a thicket, and their fire most materially checked the enemy's advancing skirmishers, allowing me time to cross the creek with, and partially reorganize, my command, Captain Rowell's gradually following.
Following the line of the creek, I again crossed to a point some 500 yards southeast of the Second division hospital, where, in an open field, I joined a portion of each of the Forty-ninth and Fifteenth Ohio and Thirty-second Indiana Regiments. The enemy's cavalry appearing on our right, and their infantry approaching on our left flank, threatening to cut us off, I moved by the left flank, the other regiments following, in a northeasterly direction, to a position in the woods on the south side of the Wilkinson pike, and about equidistant from the hospitals of the First [General Davis'] and the Second [General Johnson's] Divisions, a position from which our fire, at short range over an open field, thinned the ranks and partially checked the advance of the rebels' closely pressing columns.
At this point, being informed of the loss of General Willich and Colonel Gibson, the next senior officer, the command of the brigade was assumed by Colonel Wallace, of the Fifteenth Ohio.
The force [to me unknown] which here formed upon the right and left flanks of our brigade having retired, in obedience to orders I retired my regiment in line and in good order, making several stands in the same woods with the balance of the brigade to and near the right of General Rousseau's division, where I was ordered by General Johnson to take position in a cedar thicket on the right with some troops [to me unknown] who were in front and joining on the right of said division. Soon afterward, the troops on my right and left of the line, which