At about 3 p.m. our skirmishers reported that the enemy's skirmishers were throwing down the fence in front of our line. Orders were sent to Colonel Price to let his first line fall back behind the crest of the hill, but before he could receive them the enemy were advancing across the field to the charge. They were formed in column, with a front of apparently two regiments. The first column was three regiments, or six ranks deep. This was succeeded by a second of the same depth, and a third of apparently greater. At the same moment their artillery opened from three or four different points, throwing shot, shell, and canister directly into us.
As the enemy's column approached to within 100 yards or so, the first line rose up and delivered a heavy fire upon their column, which checked it for a moment. They soon pressed on, however. The regiments of the first line (the Fifty-first Ohio, Eighth Kentucky,and Thirty-fifth and Seventy-ninth Indiana) fought gallantly until the enemy were within a few yards of them, when, overpowered by numbers, they were compelled to retire. This movement confused and disorganized the second line, which also as ordered to fall back. The reserve, consisting of the Nineteenth Ohio and, Ninth and Eleventh Kentucky, was now ordered up. They advanced most gallantly toward the crest of the hill and poured a destructive fire upon the enemy, whose first column was by this time almost annihilated. Their supporting column soon came up, however, and at the same time a force advanced along the river bank upon our right flank. Our men fought with the most desperate courage, as will appear from their severe loss, until forced back by the actual pressure of the enemy. Even then they broke from the right, file by file, stubbornly contesting the ground. At last, however, the right being forced back, the left was ordered to retire, which it slowly did, until the bank of the river was reached.
Attempts were made to rally the men at several points, but it was impossible, from the heavy fire and the close proximity of the enemy. Most of them were therefore forced across the river, where many of them rallied and returned with the first supporting troops; and I am proud to say that the colors of the Nineteenth Ohio, Ninth Kentucky, and Fifty-first Ohio were the first to recross the stream after the enemy's check. The tremendous fire of our artillery on the south side of the river, with Livingston's battery on the other, with the determined resistance they had met, had stopped the enemy the river; and now, as our troops pressed forward, they fled in confusion, leaving four of their guns.
Several brave officers had rallied a great number of our men, and were the foremost in the advance. Night now came on and closed the pursuit. The regiments were rapidly reorganized, and in a few hours were in a state of efficiency, and turned out promptly and cheerfully at an alarm.
The Second Brigade, Colonel Fyffe's, was not attacked, the front of the enemy's column not extending to them; seeing the right driven back, they also retired in good order.
Lieutenant Livingston's battery fired constantly and well from the first appearance of the enemy until the very last moment he could remain safely. He then crossed the river without losing a piece.
I cannot too much commend the gallant manner in which my men fought and the promptness with which, when forced to give way, they rallied and reorganized. Numerous instances of individual courage and devotion appear in the regimental and brigade reports.
To the commanders of the different brigades (Colonels Grider, Price,
37 R R-VOL XX, PT I