War of the Rebellion: Serial 050 Page 0402 Chapter XIII. KY.,SW. VA.,TENN.,MISS.,N.ALA.,AND N.GA.

Search Civil War Official Records

my division, shortly after daylight of the 20th, as support in rear of the First and Second Brigades. I had now two brigades in line, with one in support, Negley being on my right and Reynolds on my left.

After a continuous flank movement of some duration by the entire line to the left, the engagement began at about 9 a. m. by a furious attack on Baird's division, which, proving of a determined nature, my supporting brigade was ordered to support that division, Negley having previously been removed to the extreme left of the corps, and Van Cleve, who had replaced him, having shortly afterward been ordered in the same direction. Wood was now on my immediate right. Wood being almost immediately afterward ordered to the left, moved out of the line, while Davis took ground to his left to fill the vacancy caused by Wood. In this movement a slight interval occurred in the line, which the rebels took advantage of with great rapidity, intercepting and breaking the line of battle of the army at that point.

Wood being taken while marching by the flank, broke and fled in confusion, and my line, actually attacked from the rear, was obliged to swing back on the right, which it accomplished with wonderful regularity under such circumstances (with, however, the exception of a portion of the First Brigade, which, being much exposed, broke with considerable disorder).

The line being now broken, and severely pressed at this point, and great confusion prevailing in the supports, composed of Wood's and Van Cleve's divisions, I formed the remnant of my command (and such stragglers from other commands as I could rally and bring into position) in line to resist, if possible, the pressure of the now advancing rebels.

In this manner I succeeded in holding the enemy in check for a considerable time, until, finding that the rebels were moving on my right to gain command of the valley by which the right (McCook) was retreating, I swung back my right flank, and, moving about half a mile to the rear, took up a good position on a commanding ridge, General Negley (who had a portion of his command intact) having pledged himself to hold my right and rear.

Finding that this latter point was the key to the position so desired by the enemy, I made every preparation to defend it to the last, my command being somewhat increased by the arrival of portions of Palmer's [Van Cleve's?] and Negley's divisions, and most opportunely re-enforced by Colonel Van Derveer's brigade (Third), which having successfully, though with great loss, held its precarious position in the general line, until all in its vicinity had retreated, retired in good order, actually cutting its way through the rebels to rejoin my division. This gallant brigade was one of the few who maintained their organization perfect through the hard-fought passes of that portion of the field.

Nothing can exceed the desperate determination with which the rebels endeavored to gain possession of this point, hurling entire divisions on my small force in their fierce eagerness to obtain a position which would undoubtedly have given them the grand advantage of the day. My troops maintained their ground with obstinacy, evincing great gallantry and devotion in the most trying circumstances, until re-enforced about 3.30 p. m. by a portion of Granger's Reserve Corps, who took up the position that should have been occupied during the day by Negley's division.