from the west. A little firing occurred between our skirmishers, as they entered the town, and small parties of the rebel cavalry and infantry, the latter retiring in the direction of the gap. This is a break in Taylor's Ridge of sufficient width for the river to flow and on its north bank room for an ordinary road and a railroad, when the ridge rises with abruptness on both sides 400 or 500 feet, and from thence, running nearly north and south, continues unbroken for many miles. Covering the entrance to it is a small patch of young trees and undergrowth.
It was represented by citizens friendly to our cause, and confirmed by contrabands, that the enemy had passed through Ringgold, sorely pressed, his animals exhausted, and his army hopelessly demoralized. In a small portion of it only had the officers been able to preserve regimental and company formations, many of the men having thrown away their arms. A still greater number were open and violent in their denunciations of the Confederacy.
In order to gain time, it was the intention of the rear guard to make use of the natural advantages the gorge presented to check the pursuit. The troops relied on for this were posted behind the mountain and the trees, and the latter were also used to mask a couple of pieces of artillery. Only a feeble line of skirmishers appeared in sight.
The only way to ascertain the enemy's strength was to feel of him, and, as our success, if prompt, would be crowned with a rich harvest of materiel, without waiting, for my artillery (not yet up, though after 9 o'clock), the skirmishers advanced. Woods deployed his brigade in rear of them under cover of the embankment of the railroad, and a brisk musketry fire commenced between the skirmishers. At the same time the enemy kept his artillery busily at work. Their skirmishers were driven in, and as we had learned the position of the battery, the Thirteenth Illinois Regiment, from the right of Woods' line was thrown forward to seize some houses, from which their gunners could be picked off by our men. These were heroically taken and held by that brave regiment. Apprehensive that he might lose his artillery, the enemy advanced with a superior force on our skirmishers, and they fell back behind Woods' line, when that excellent officer opened on the rebels and drove them into the gorge, they leaving, as they fled, their, dead and wounded on the ground. Our skirmishers at once re-occupied their line, the Thirteenth Illinois all the time maintaining its position with resolution and obstinacy. While this was going on in front of the gorge, Osterhaus detached four regiments, under Colonel Williamson, half a mile to the left, to ascend the ridge and turn the enemy's right. Two of these, the Seventy-sixth Ohio, supported by the Fourth Iowa, were thrown forward, and as the enemy appeared in great force, when they had nearly gained the crest, Geary ordered four of his regiments still farther to the left, under Colonel Creighton, for the same object, where they also found an overwhelming force confronting them. Vigorous attacks were made by both of these columns, in which the troops exhibited extraordinary daring and devotion, but were compelled to yield to numerical superiority. The first took shelter in a depression in the side of the ridge about 50 paces in rear of their most advanced position, and there remained. The other column was ordered to resume its position on the railroad.
All the parties sent forward to ascertain the enemy's position and
21 R R-VOL XXXI, PT II