his receiving the message, receiving as his reply that it was too late, he could not help me.
At this critical period I learned from my staff officer, who had just arrived from the right, and from other reliable sources, that the right wing of the army and all the troops to my right and front had fallen back, vigorously pursued by strong columns of the enemy; that the enemy was passing rapidly to my right, and already held the mouth of the Rossville road, and were also occupying the ridge in front of my artillery reserve; also, that the enemy had placed artillery on the ridge and was pushing infantry up the ravine.
These facts being in my possession, I immediately turned Schultz's battery to the front, and rode forward alone to the crest of the hill to get a position for the battery where I had seen several pieces of our artillery in action a short time before. The smoke was so dense and the firing so heavy that I failed to see the enemy on the crest until I confronted his line within 100 feet of him.
Before they could seize my horse or take direct aim, I turned and rode back amidst shower of balls. On reaching the artillery, which was not more than 300 yards back, I found several pieces (which I afterward learned belonged to Bridges' Battery) firing upon the enemy, who was coming up the ravine.
I found but two regiments of infantry in the rear of the artillery, which was rapidly falling back and becoming scattered at the same time. Artillery farther to my right was dashing past at full speed. Infantry from my front and right was also in full retreat. I attempted to halt the fugitive infantry, but found it impossible.
I now received positive information that the enemy was turning my position on both flanks, that it was impossible to hold him in check with the small force I had, and that he was pushing after the trains on the Rossville road. I immediately ordered Colonel Blakeley, Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, to move off in advance of the artillery, marching in double column, and sent staff officers to bring up the other two regiments of Colonel Sirwell's brigade, together with every detachment of troops that could be found to guard the rear, until the artillery could get off. We were in a dense wood, crossed by numerous ridges and ravines.
I was totally ignorant of my locality or the direction of any of the roads. I took out my pocket compass and formed an opinion as to the direction of the Rossville road, which I struck about 1 mile north of the battle-ground. I found transportation, artillery, and troops, on this road in confusion; the soldiers pressing forward under the belief that the enemy was in close pursuit, although not yet in a panic.
I moved the troops to the first open ground and gave directions for their organization and return to the front. I just then learned that General Thomas was still in position, and rode back to communicate with him if possible, but found the road in possession of the enemy. My operations, after my return, are fully understood by you, as I communicated with you from Rossville on my arrival there.
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS. S. NEGLEY,