They opened upon us quite briskly with their skirmishers and a section of artillery. I then made a short halt to feel them, and becoming convinced that they constituted only a party of observation, I again rapidly pushed forward my troops.
At this juncture, I sent back and ordered up Colonel McCook's brigade to watch the movements of the enemy at this point, to keep open the La Fayette road, and to cover the open fields on the right of the road, and those that intervened between this point and the position held by General Thomas. As rapidly as possible, Colonel McCook brought up his brigade, took the position assigned to him, and held it until he marched to Rossville from the field of battle at 10 p.m. At 6 p.m. the enemy opened an artillery fire upon Colonel McCook, but he soon silenced their battery, which had done little or no damage to his troops. At about 1 p.m. I reported to General Thomas. His forces were at that time stationed upon the brow of and holding a "horseshoe ridge." The enemy were pressing him hard in front and endeavoring to turn both of his flanks.
To the right of this position was a ridge running east and west, and nearly at right angles therewith. Upon this the enemy were just forming. They also had possession of a gorge in the same, through which they were rapidly moving in a large masses, with the design of falling upon the right flank and rear of the forces upon the Horseshoe Ridge. General Thomas had not the troops to oppose this movement of the enemy, and in fifteen minutes from the time when we appeared on the field, had it not been for our fortunate arrival, his forces would have been terribly cut up and captured.
As rapidly as possible I formed General Whitaker's and Colonel Mitchell's brigades, to hurl them against this threatening force of the enemy, which afterward proved to be General Hindman's division.
The gallant Steedman, seizing the colors of a regiment, led his men to the attack. With loud cheers they rushed upon the enemy, and, after a terrific conflict lasting but twenty minutes, drove them from their ground, and occupied the ridge and gorge. The slaughter of both friend and foe was frightful. General Whitaker, while rushing forward at the head of his brigade, was knocked from his horse by a musket-ball, and was for a short time rendered unfit for duty; while 2 of his staff officers were killed, and 2 mortally wounded.
General Steedman's horse was killed, and he was severely bruised, yet he was able to remain on duty during the day. This attack was made by our troops, very few of whom had ever been in an action before, against a division of old soldiers, who largely outnumbered them; yet with resolution and energy they drove the enemy from his strong position, occupied it themselves, and afterward held the ground they had gained with such terrible losses. The victory was dearly won, but to this army it was a priceless one.
There was now a lull in the battle. It was of short duration, however, for within thirty minutes after we had gained possession of the ridge, we were impetuously attacked by two divisions of Longstreet's veterans.
Again the enemy was driven back, and from this time until dark the battle between these two opposing forces raged furiously.
Our whole line was continually enveloped in smoke and fire. The assaults of the enemy were now made with that energy which was inspired by the bright prospect of a speedy victory, and by a consciousness that it was only necessary to carry this position and crush our forces to enable him to overthrow our army and drive it across