History of the Battle of Decatur
First Lieutenant Albert Theodore Goodloe, Company D, 35th Alabama Infantry.
In what we supposed was a feint on Decatur, Ala., October 26-28, our regiment suffered a great deal. As we approached this place, which was strongly fortified, our regiment was the advance guard of the army, and Companies B and D the advance guard of the regiment. These two companies waded Flint River early on the morning of October 26, after we had had a dark, rainy, muddy before-day march, and stood picket beyond it until the pontoons could be put down for the balance of the troops to pass over, and then we were thrown forward to skirmish with the Yankees. They were cavalry and they soon came to view, but scarcely offered us any resistance. By a little strategem we drew them into an ambush which we had formed, and would have effectually ruined them had not about half our guns failed to fire from having been rained on so much after they were loaded. As it was, a number of saddles were emptied, and the coat tails of the Yankees not shot spread straight out behind them, as they beat about the hastiest retreat that I had ever witnessed. The scene was actually ludicrous, and we could not but yell them on with hearty bursts of laughster, albeit we felt disappointed that we had not brought down the last one of them.
At this juncture our entire regiment was formed into a skirmish line for the brigade, and approaching very close to the fortifications around Decatur, we were ordered to lie down and await further orders. A battery of our field artillery was planted in our immediate rear, and a duel engaged in with the Yankee heavy guns until night set in, there being no little sprinkling of musketry in the meanwhile. Our position was an exceedingly exposed one, and we suffered the loss, in killed and wounded, of some of our best men. In my diary I make special mention of "William Pettus, of my company, as brave a boy as ever fought for freedom," who had his leg fractured by a musket ball; and of "poor Marion Harlan, a Christian man and gallant soldier of Company C," who was instantly killed while in a recumbent position by a solid cannon shot entering his shoulder and passing lengthwise through his body.
Other casualties occurred at other times and in other commands, though not generally of a very serious nature for war times, until we drew off from Decatur, October 29, and went to Tuscumbia to make arrangements for crossing the Tennessee River, and going forward to Nashville.
Private W. E. Bevens, Company G, 1st Arkansas Infantry
On October 27th we marched seven miles and camped in line around Decatur. It was a rainy night, so dark we could not see our file leader. If there were any roads we could not see them. It was impossible to finish the line of battle. The army had lost its way. I was standing beside the other boys holding to a small sapling when a new line came up, moving as best they could in a hog path, each man guessing at the way and calling to the man in front. A log about knee high lay across the path and I saw three different soldiers strike that log and fall over it into the muddy slash. Each time the man's gun went splashing ahead striking the fellow in front. There was cussin' all along the line. Finally we ran out on the log and warned others who came along, turning them safely around that point. On October 28th we went further in, completed the line and fought the Battle of Decatur. The night after the battle it turned so cold we nearly froze to death, but we did not mind marching over frozen ground.
Seventy-Third Indiana Regimental Association
Seventy-Third Indiana Regimental Association. History of the Seventy-Third Indiana Volunteers in the War of 1861-1865. (Washington, D.C.: Carnahan Press, 1909), 193-194.
Image is of Lieutenant-Colonel Albert B. Wade, commander of the 73rd Indiana during the Battle for Decatur.
Colonel Thomas J. Morgan, 14th U.S. Colored
Infantry & Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V.
Colonel Thomas J. Morgan, 14th U.S. Colored Infantry & Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V.
Thomas J. Morgan. Reminensces of Service with Colored Troops in the Army of the Cumberland, 1863-65. (Providence, RI: Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society, 1885), 33-35.
Image is of Colonel Thomas J. Morgan, commander of the 14th U.S. Colored Troop during the Battle for Decatur.
Our next active service was at Decatur, Alabama. Hood, with his veteran army that had fought Sherman so gallantly from Chattanooga to Atlanta, finding that his great antagonist had started southward and seaward, struck out boldly himself for Nashville. October twenty-seventh I reported to General R. S. Granger, commanding at Decatur, Alabama. His little force was closely besieged by Hood's army, whose right rested on the Tennessee river, below the town, and whose left extended far beyond our lines, on the other side of the town. Two companies of my regiment were stationed on the opposite side of the river from Hood's right, and kept up an annoying musketry fire. Lieutenant Gillet, of Company G, was mortally wounded by a cannon ball, and some of the enlisted men were hurt. One private soldier in Company B, who had taken position in a tree as a sharpshooter, had his right arm broken by a ball. Captain Romeyn said to him: "You would better come down from there, go to the rear and find the surgeon." "Oh, no, Captain," was his reply, "I can fire with my left arm," and so he did.
Another soldier of Company B was walking along the road, when, hearing an approaching cannon ball, he dropped flat upon the ground and was almost instantly well nigh covered with the dirt ploughed up by it, as it struck the ground near by. Captain Romeyn, who witnessed the incident, and who was greatly amused by the fellow's trepidation, asked him if he was frightened. His reply was: "Fore, God, Captain, I thought I was a dead man, sure."
Friday, October 28, 1864, at twelve o'clock, at the head of three hundred and fifty-five men, in obedience to orders from General Granger, I charged and took a rebel battery with a loss of sixty officers and men killed and wounded. After capturing the battery and spiking the guns, which we were unable to remove, we retired to our former place on the line of defense. The conduct of the men on this occasion was most admirable, and drew forth high praise from Generals Granger and Thomas. Hood having decided to push on to Nashville without assaulting Decatur, withdrew.
General John Bell Hood, Army of Tennessee
Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart, Stewart's Corps, Army of Tennessee
We next encountered the enemy at Decatur, Ala., toward the end of October, driving in his pickets and skirmishing for a day or two, with a loss of some 135 men, but making no serious attack on his strongly intrenched position. Leaving this place, we moved to Tuscumbia, whence, after a delay of three weeks, we marched for Tennessee.
Major General Edward C. Walthall, Walthall's Division, Stewart's Corps, Army of Tennessee
Edward C. Walthall. Report of Major General Edward C. Walthall, C.S. Army,
commanding division. January 14, 1865.
Image is of Major General Edward c. Walthall.
After this had been thoroughly accomplished we moved by way of Dalton, and passing through Dug Gap on the 14th and Treadaway's Gap on the 16th, on by way of Summerville to Little Will's Creek, five miles from Gadsden, Ala. Here we remained from evening of the 20th to the morning of the 22d, and issued shoes and clothing which had been brought up to that point to meet us by previous arrangement. Our march from this point was through summit and Somerville to the neighborhood of Decatur, where we remained from the 26th to 29th, threatening the town, which was well fortified. Some skirmishing and considerable artillery firing occurred every day while we were there, but without results, except the loss of a few men. Through Courtland and Leighton we moved to Tuscumbia, arriving there the 31st, and moving thence up to South Florence on November 14.
Major General William B. Bate, Bate's Division, Hardee's Corps, Army of Tennessee
William B. Bate. Report of Maj. Gen. William B. Bate,
C.S. Army, commanding division, Hardee's army corps. January 25, 1865.
Image is of Major General William B. Bate.
On arriving at the latter place my command moved in conjunction with Cheatham's corps, to which it belonged, to Gadsden, Ala., and thence across Sand Mountain to Decatur, Ala., where on the morning of the 27th of October I was ordered on the Courtland road, and in the evening of the same day directed by General Cheatham to press my skirmishers as near as practicable to the fort. I pushed up a detachment from each brigade, under Major Caswell, during the night, and drove the enemy's outposts and skirmishers into the forts, and built skirmish pits on the same plateau with and within 200 or 300 yards of the fort. My skirmishers were connected on the left by those of Cleburne's division. The enemy came out early next morning, turning the extreme left of Cleburne's skirmish line, and passed to the rear of the left of mine, capturing 25 of my men. As soon as ascertained General Jackson, with Colonel Mitchell's regiment (being on the right), retook and held, with much promptness and gallantry, the pits, with a loss, however, of 8 or 10 men. In obedience to orders I moved my command with the corps that evening on the Courtland road; thence to Tuscumbia, where we remained for two weeks, and crossed the Tennessee River on November 13.
Account of a Mississippi Soldier.
Oct. 26, 1864 - 1 A.M. We left Summerville northward for Decatah which is 16 miles from this village. The weather is quite different this morning on account the heavy rains which fell last night and are still bathing the troops which makes it very difficult for us to march. But, on the go, got to Flint River at 12 o'clock. Stopped as we supposed to dry and warm, so we built fires of fence rails and about time we got our tricks off to dry, attention was called into line and crossed the river on our way to Decatah. We got in 1 1/2 miles of the place, found the enemy there strong and fortified. Attacked them at 2 P. M. heavy skirmishing ensued until night when all was again quiet. We fell back to a suitable place for the troops to build fires at 8 P.M. We formed a double picket line sufficient to defend ourselves. Still very cool and raining very hard. Our loss today is but few, the enemies unknown to me. I cannot give the positions of the different corps and Divisions as I have a gun and am forced to remain at my post. Our rashins are very short. 1/4 lb. dried beef and 1 lb. of cold cornbread.
Oct. 27, 1864 - In position at Decatah, Ala. at daylight this morning. The small armies and cannon opened slow but steady, enough for us to know that we were still to contend for the place. Scott's Brigd. Of Loring's Div. is skirmishing for the present, also a portion of Marhall's Div. which continued all day.
The enemy had two gunboats or transports temporarily prepared for the same, near our batteries but they did not make any attack on each other.
Oct. 28, 1864 - Still continued heavy skirmishing as yet no general engagement has taken place. 3 o'clock P. M. The gunboats and our batteries attacked each other. Our batteries were stationed on the South side of the river and above Decatah. Gunboats were still above battery but passed down after a sharp duel of about 1 hour. Night soon closed the sun, all moved back a piece and camped in the woods for the night. During the past two days the report is the Yankeys are fast reinforcing the place., it seems the commander does not wish to capture the place.
Oct. 29, 1864 - At 4 A. M. we were aroused from our sleep and at 6 A. M. we left this place. Struck the Memphis & C. R. R. 2 miles west of Decatah came down to Courtland 20 miles.
Second Lieutenant Daniel P. Smith, Company K, 1st Alabama Infantry
Daniel P. Smith. Company K, First Alabama Regiment, or Three Years in the Confederate Service. (Prattville, AL: The Survivors, 1885), 112-113.]
Image is the cover of a copy of the book.
The army crossed the state line of Alabama on the 18th, passed through Gaylesville, and camped three miles beyond, having marched fifteen miles. Fifteen miles were scored again on the 19th, the route taking us past the Round Mountain Iron Works, in Cherokee County. Reveille sounded at an early hour on the 20th, and by 3, A. M., the regiment was on the road; twenty miles were made by 2, P. M., when we camped five miles beyond Gadsden. A welcome rest of forty-four hours was here allowed the soldiers, and on the 21st some clothing was issued to those most in need. Another treat was the distribution of a large army mail, the accumulation of two weeks or more. The order to march was given at 3, A. M., on the 22d, but it was countermanded before we had gone three hundred yards, and it was 10, A. M., before the final start was made; fifteen miles were, however, accomplished before camping, the route being over Lookout Mountain. The army crossed the Black Warrior River on the 23d, and, passing through Brooksville, added seventeen miles to the march record. Though the road was very rocky, a march of seventeen miles was also made on the 24th; the town of Summit was the only point of interest. On the 25th the regiment marched thirteen miles to Somerville, and on the 26th thirteen miles to the lines around Decatur, a total of one hundred and thirty-five miles in ten days, including two days' rest at Gadsden.
A brisk cannonade was in progress when the regiment arrived, and it was at once ordered to the picket line. It had been raining at intervals all day, and the night closed in cold and gloomy. When the picket line was reached it was quite dark. At 10, P. M., an order was received to advance the line one hundred and fifty yards and dig rifle pits. It was impossible to see more than five feet in any direction, and as the command was deployed as skirmishers, the movement was executed with considerable difficulty, but the new line was at last formed. About the time the rifle pits were completed, the men supplementing the few entrenching tools with tin-cups and pans, the rain came pouring down, filling the pits and converting the whole ground into a marsh. The men were so exhausted that so soon as the rain had ceased and they had bailed out the pits all but those on guard lay down in the mud and fell asleep.
At daylight skirmishers were ordered forward, but finding the enemy in force they fell back to the picket line with a loss of one man mortally wounded in Co. E. Soon after daylight the regiment was relieved and rejoined the brigade. It rained at intervals all day, and to add to the discomfort of the soldiers no rations were issued except a little beef; there was no bread for two or three days. At this time began the private foraging, which later proved so disastrous to the discipline of the army. / On the morning of October 29, the regiment left Decatur and marched sixteen miles westward, along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, camping three miles east of Courtland. The line of march on the 30th was through a level, fertile country, but desolated by Federal raids, nearly every plantation building having been burned. We camped that night at Leedam, having marched fifteen miles and passed during the day through Courtland and Jonesboro. On the 31st a march of ten miles brought the regiment to Tuscumbia. The march record from September 29th now footed up three hundred and eighty-five miles.
Major-General George Henry Thomas, Army of the Cumberland
Nashville, Tenn., October 26, 1864 – 10.30 p. m.
(Received 9 a. m. 27th.)
Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck, Chief of Staff:
General Granger reports that the enemy appeared in front of Decatur this afternoon and drove in his pickets. He reports them about 10,000 strong. Have gun-boats patrolling the river above Decatur, and as large a force as I can send at the different fords and ferries on the river, to defend them and prevent the crossing of the enemy. Have not heard from General Sherman to-day, nor from the lower part of the river.
GEO. H. THOMAS
19th Tennessee Infantry, Army of Tennessee
Soon after leaving Gadsden we struck Sand mountain, a dreary and desolate looking country. After a march of seventy-five miles we reached Decatur on the 17th, where we found a garrison of ten thousand, well fortified, with a fort commanding every approach to the city. Hood did not attempt an attack on the fort, as it was not his intention, nor could he have taken it without considerable loss of men and considerable loss of time, which just now seemed to be of more value than men. And too, if he had taken the place without the loss of a single man, it would have been of no importance to the army. We remained here, however, two or three days, with pickets around the town, from the river above to the river below.
Our division was encamped in an open field of nearly a mile in extent, and directly in front of their fort, and near a small cemetery. During the evening of the second day, we (the writer) went out to our vidette post. The rifle pits were just large enough for three men, and were out just in front of the fort which stood on an elevation over-looking an open field between us, and not seeming more than four hundred yards away. Now and then a cannon shot from the fort would pass over us. As we returned from the vidette post, and had gotten about thirty or forty yards away, there came a shot from the fort which was aimed at us to hurry us on. It struck the ground about a hundred yards behind us, bounding and striking the ground about every forty yards, passed us about ten feet to our right and went on bounding to the woods.
Account of General P. G. T. Beauregard, commanding the Department of the West
Alfred Roman. The Military Operations of General Beauregard in the War Between the States 1861 to 1865: Including a Brief Personal Sketch and a Narrative of His Services in the War with Mexico, 1846-8, Vol. II. (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1884), 292-293.
On the 22d General Beauregard instructed Lieut.-General Taylor to order General Forrest's division and Roddy's brigade of cavalry to report to General Hood, between Guntersville and Decatur. Forrest was then about Jackson, Tenn., and Roddy at or about Tuscaloosa, guarding the Tennessee River from Eastport, on the left, to the eastward beyond Guntersville. On the 23d he addressed a communication to Lieut.-General Taylor, relative to the new change of base to Tuscumbia, and what he desired him to do in that connection.
Having now completed all his orders and instructions, General Beauregard, on the 24th, started to rejoin General Hood's army, which he supposed to be then crossing the Tennessee River, at or near Guntersville. On his way thither he stopped at the home of the young heroine Miss Emma Sansom, who within that year had intrepidly piloted General Forrest during his pursuit of General Grierson's raiding expedition through North Alabama. This young woman had received a unanimous vote of thanks and a grant of public lands from the General Assembly of the State of Alabama. She was absent at the time of General Beauregard's visit, and he missed seeing her.
When he had gone nearly two-thirds of the distance to Guntersville, to his surprise and disappointment, he was informed that General Hood had turned off to the left, on the road to Decatur, some fifty miles westward, again neglecting to report the important change in his programme, despite General Beauregard's impressive remarks to him at Gadsden, on the occasion of his former omission of a like nature. When he finally joined General Hood, on the 27th, at Decatur, which was then being invested by the Army of Tennessee, General Beauregard cautioned him anew, in a pore pointed manner, against the irregularity of his official proceedings, and openly expressed his regret that Hood had gone so far down the river to effect a cross - a movement which would increase the distance to Stevenson by nearly one hundred miles, and give Sherman more time to oppose the march in force.
General Hood said that he had understood, when half-way to Guntersville, that the crossing at that point was strongly guarded by the Federals, and that there was no crossing-point below nearer than Decatur, which he thought he could take without serious loss. General Beauregard was of opinion that the capture of Decatur should have been accomplished by a coup de main at daybreak, for the enemy, now aware of General Hood's presence and intention would be prepared to meet and resist him.
The reconnoissances that day showed that the place was too strong and too well garrisoned to be assaulted; and, again changing his plan, General Hood now resolved to attempt a crossing below Decatur, half-way to Courtland, where, he had been informed, he would find a favorable point of passage.
On the afternoon of the 28th the Engineers reported no favorable point nearer than Courtland, some twenty miles to the west. The army, therefore, left, on the 29th, for that town, which was about seventy miles distant from Guntersville. Already four to five days had been lost. Upon arriving there the Engineers, who had been sent on ahead of the troops, reported that a crossing could be effected, but not without difficulty.
Captain Robert D. Smith, Company B, 2nd Tennessee Infantry
Robert D. Smith. Confederate Diary of Robert D. Smith. (Columbia, TN: Captain James Madison Sparkman Chapter, UDC, 1997), 155-156.
Picture is of Andrew J. Cross, Company H, 2nd Tennessee Infantry.
Octo. 24th (1864) Monday
March at sunrise. We have had beautiful weather for the last week or so. Cross Raccoon fork of Sand Mountain. Pass through Summit. Passed a jug factory – white clay jugs. Regiments disbanded for a few days as they pass their homes. Leave the Whitesburg & take the Decatur road. Travel in Blount, Marshal & Morgan counties. Came down the Mountain. Very rough road. Camp in Potato Valley. 14 miles to Summerville. Robert M_____ S______ made a shelter of seven rails & a fly. Cold night.
Octo. 25th (1864) Tuesday
March at sunrise. Great many ladies at a house on the road. Lt. Secue(?) & I found as many persimmons as we could eat. Marietta unfit for service. Robert rode Tenpenny & I walked to Summerville. Neat courthouse. Camp in the edge of town. Arrive at Summerville at 12 o’clock M. Gen. Hood’s Hd Qrs in a little frame law officer. Took a bath in the branch. Work on property return. Pitch our tent. Cold rain. Capt. Mitchell, 35th Tenn., came to see us & gives us a description of the surrender of Dalton. His regt is on post duty in town. 15,000 men, 15 gunboats & 1 transport reported at Decatur.
Octo. 26th (1864) Wednesday
Men talking with Gus Boyd early & he found that the train was prepared to leave at 5 o’clock but we had received no orders. As soon as we could dress & get everything in the wagon the train moved without giving us time to cook anything. Nothing to eat all day. Hard cold rain; roads terribly cut up. Genl Hood passed us going to Decatur & made his Hd Qrs in 3 ½ miles of town. Camp in 2 miles of town at 2 o’clock P.M. Cannonading. One man lost his arm & one man his leg. Forrest reported just across the river. One Yankee prisoner at Hood’s Hd Qrs. Breakfast at 6 o’clock P.M. Retire at 10 o’clock P.M. Hard rain tonight. The water rose in our tent for 3 or 4 inches. We are drenched through & through. (2 o’clock A.M.)
Octo. 27th (1864) Thursday
Hard rain & running water ran us out of our tent at 2 o’clock A.M. Found a tin bucket of persimmons, which we ate. Work on Property Return. Skirmishing & cannonading. Move at 2 ½ o’clock on the Decatur & Da_____ road. Beautiful country. Fine forest trees.
Octo. 28th (1864) Friday
Saw the stars & stripes (Yankee flag) floating over Decatur – Yanks captured one of Loring’s Div. Batteries, but we recaptured it. Rations very scarce. Robert bought some meal & salt from Capt. Joe Moore at Gen. Hood’s Qrs & we breakfasted at 2 o’clock P.M. Tenpenny fell in the pond with me. Reed orders to march at daybreak in the morning. Cold weather.
Octo. 29th (1864) Saturday
March at daybreak – very cold weather. Citizens say that Gen. Sherman visited Decatur lately. Troops march down the R.R. Trains down the dirt road. Desolate country. R.R. destroyed. Water bad & scarce. March 19 miles, very fast. Camp at 3 P.M. in a beautiful grove owned by one of Roddy’s staff.
Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, U.S. Army, commanding
About this time Beauregard arrived upon the field, not to supersede Hood in command, but to take general charge over the entire district in which Hood and Sherman were, or might be, operating. He made the most frantic appeals to the citizens for assistance to be rendered in every way : by sending reinforcements, by destroying supplies on the line of march of the invaders, by destroying the bridges over which they would have to cross, and by, in every way, obstructing the roads to their front. But it was hard to convince the people of the propriety of destroying supplies which were so much needed by themselves, and each one hoped that his own possessions might escape.
Hood had soon started north, and went into camp near Decatur, Alabama, where he remained until the 29th of October, but without making an attack on the garrison of that place.
The Tennessee River was patrolled by gunboats, from Muscle Shoals east ; and, also, below the second shoals out to the Ohio River. These, with the troops that might be concentrated from the garrisons along the river at any point where Hood might choose to attempt to cross, made it impossible for him to cross the Tennessee at any place where it was navigable. But Muscle Shoals is not navigable, and below them again is another shoal which also obstructs navigation. Hood therefore moved down to a point nearly opposite Florence, Alabama, crossed over and remained there for some time, collecting supplies of food, forage and ammunition. All of these had to come from a considerable distance south, because the region in which he was then situated was mountainous, with small valleys which produced but little, and what they had produced had long since been exhausted. On the 1st of November I suggested to Sherman, and also asked his views thereon, the propriety of destroying Hood before he started on his campaign.
On the 2d of November, as stated, I approved definitely his making his proposed campaign through Georgia, leaving Hood behind to the tender mercy of Thomas and the troops in his command. Sherman fixed the 10th of November as the day of starting.
Account of Major William Anderson McTeer, 3rd Tennessee Cavalry, U.S. Army
The notes had barely faded away when a Confederate regimental band appeared across the way and struck up “Dixie” to the delight of the waiting Southern troops.
Corporal Richards, not to be outdone, then conducted the 102nd Band in “The Star Spangled Banner.” The tune was not yet the national anthem but was a favorite among soldiers.
The Confederate band replied with one of its unofficial national airs, the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”
The impromptu concern went on for several more selections, each side presenting one of its favorites until, at the end of a tune, someone shouted out that he was “going to shoot.” The bands beat a hasty retreat, both sides scrambled for cover, and shooting began.
Report of Brig. Gen. Granger to Maj. Gen. Thomas
Report of Brig. Gen. Granger to Maj. Gen. Thomas
The following received:
Decatur, October 26, 1864.
R. S. Granger:
The enemy are attacking us.
C. C. Doolittle,
I have no troops to put at the fords and crossing. I leave here immediately with all the troops I can raise.
(Same to General Rousseau.)
Report of Col. Lyon to Maj. Gen. Thomas
The following dispatches are just received from captain of gun-boat General Thomas, with the further information that he has left Whitesburg or Decatur:
U. S. Streamer General Thomas,
Off Hobson's Island, October 28, 1864.
Capt. M. Forrest,
Commanding Eleventh District, Mississippi Squadron, Bridgeport:
Sir: Dispatches all received. Just from Fort Deposit. Saw no enemy since yesterday. I shall start for Decatur immediately, and if I can force the vessel over the bar you will hear from me this afternoon from Decatur. River rose one inch in the last twenty-four hours.
Acting Master, Commanding.
U. S. Streamer General Thomas,
October 28, 1864.
From latest information I can get the main force of the enemy has moved down the river, but I think they will attempt crossing at Guntersville or Fort Deposit. I think the latter place, the river being narrow and a good artillery road for them to come on. Opposite this place is every appearance of fences being down for the moving of cavalry. I fired canister at them, and could see them running through the corn-field. I should go to Decatur and be back here to-night; the river rose last night. Russell's brigade of cavalry is left at Guntersville and one corps at Warrenton.
Acting Master, Commanding.
Colonel, Commanding Post.
Report of Lieut. Col. Espy to Lieut. Wilkins, acting aide-de-camp
Decatur, Ala., October 31, 1864.
Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken in the action of the 28th and 29th October by the Sixty-eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry:
The regiment arrived by rail and crossed the river at 2 a. m. on the morning of the 28th instant and was assigned to a position to the right of post headquarters. One hundred men, under the command of Capt. G. E. White, were immediately detailed as skirmishers (see report of Captain White, marked A*). The position was retained until 3 p. m., at which time the regiment was ordered to the right of the fort and at 7 p. m. on the picket (see report of Capt. H. D. Moore, marked B†). The regiment was relieved from picket at 8 p. m. of the 29th. On the morning of the 30th at 10 o'clock the regiment was ordered on a reconnaissance on the Courtland road. It marked three miles from Decatur and supported the cavalry for four hours while they were engaging the enemy quite heavily. At 3 p.m. the regiment was ordered from the field and reached our present encampment at dark. Casualties: Wounded, Private Isaac Rogers, Company D, both thighs, severe; Private Elwood Kilgore, Company H, right thigh, slight; Private John W. Shafer, Company I, right hip, severe; Private Nelson Hamel, Company E, hand, slight; Private William Bruner, Company A, stomach, slight. I captured 11 Enfield rifle muskets.
H. J. Espy,
Lieut. Col., Commanding Sixty-eighth Indiana Infantry.
Lieut. P. V. Wilkins,
Acting Aide-de-Camp, Post Decatur, Ala.
Report of Capt. Albert F. Beach, Battery A, First Tennessee Light Artillery.
Decatur, Ala., November 3, 1864.
In compliance with special order from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the recent demonstration of Confederate forces, under command of General Beauregard, against this post:
Wednesday, October 26, I received an order from post headquarters to prepare my command, consisting of four guns, for immediate action. As soon as harnessed, I moved two guns out to redoubt on picket-line of Somerville road and opened fire upon the enemy's line of battle, which was replied to by a rebel battery partially masked, consisting of one 12-pounder gun, one Parrott 3-inch gun, and two Whitworth rifled guns. The fire was kept up with great spirit until dark, resulting in our holding our position, with a loss of 2 privates killed and 2 privates wounded, and a loss of 8 horses killed and 3 single sets of harness cut and shot to pieces. Thursday the guns were placed inside of works and used in occasionally shelling the enemy's position. Thursday night, by command of the general commanding, I erected a battery for two of my guns on the north bank of the river to co-operate with the gun-boats in keeping a rebel battery silent that commanded our river communication with north shore of the river. This proved a complete success, resulting in keeping the enemy's guns silent, blowing up two limbers or caissons, and inflicting a loss of 13 killed in rebel battery. One section of my battery stationed at Athens, Lieutenant Tobin commanding, joined the command Friday, October 28, at 2 a. m., and was placed on right flank of works, doing excellent service. Friday night the two guns stationed on north bank of the river were recalled and placed on left flank of the works. I am credibly informed that on Wednesday my guns killed and severely wounded 17 of the enemy, also 10 horses, and 2 mules, and 1 caisson blown up. I presume that all will agree that the execution of my guns was excellent. In closing I will add that it is impossible to praise any one in particular where all vied in doing their duty, and none were cowards; yet justice compels me to especially notice the gallant and efficient conduct of Lieutenants Murphy and Kridler. They richly earned all the encomiums that may be passed upon them.
ALBERT F. BEACH,
Captain, Commanding Battery A, First Tennessee Light Artillery.
Lieut. William A. McTeer,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Report of Col. Charles C. Doolittle, Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, commanding post of Decatur, Ala.
SIR: I have the honor to submit, for the consideration of the general commanding, the following report of the part taken by my command in the defense of Decatur, beginning on the 26th day and ending on the 30th day of October:
For some days previous to the 26th I had been watching the movements of Hood's army as well as those of Forrest and Roddey, and scouted the surrounding country as thoroughly as possible with the amount of cavalry at my disposal. On the morning of the 26th I sent out two parties of fifty each on the Somerville and Courtland roads. The one on the Somerville road met a pretty strong force of the enemy about three miles out, and were obliged to retire. From the fact that this regiment, Tenth Indiana Cavalry, had only been mounted and equipped as cavalry the day before, I was somewhat of the opinion that the officer in charge had overestimated the force of the enemy, which he named at 300 to 400, and not expecting the advance of Hood's army for a day or two at least, I was of the opinion that it might be a scouting party of Roddey's command. At 1.30 p. m. my videttes reported the enemy advancing on the place. I immediately directed the different commands to be in readiness for action, and rode out to the advance post on Sommerville road to learn the extent of the movement. Seeing the enemy's columns forming into line, with skirmishers out, I hastened to camp of Second Tennessee Cavalry and directed Lieut. Col. W. F. Prosser to return to headquarters and hurried forward a section of Battery A, First Tennessee Light Artillery, Capt. A. F. Beach commanding, and the Tenth Indiana Cavalry, about 300 strong, under Maj. Thomas G. Williamson. They were moving at a walk, and hearing firing I rode to the head of the column and directed Major Williamson to trot and report to Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser. I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser to look well to the river-bank and to extend the right so as to meet the enemy at all points. The artillery had in the mean time got into position in the small redoubt commanding the Somerville road and vicinity, as directed, and soon opened fire on enemy's line of battle. I had placed the picket reserve of the Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, which was stationed in this redoubt, as a support to this section; it was small, but all I could give it just then. I had ordered Captain Bullock, provost-marshal, to get all not on duty of bridge guard and provost guard and bring them up as support. Finding that I could hold the enemy in check, about twenty minutes after the artillery opened fire I ordered the right wing of the Twenty-ninth Michigan Infantry, a new regiment which had just arrived and been placed in position behind breast-works on the left flank, to move to the front and occupy the line of rifle-pits on the left of redoubt. This they did, under a warm fire from the enemy's battery and small-arms, in good style for a new regiment. Soon after, I ordered up the balance of the regiment, directing 100 men under the major to be sent to Fort No. 1. About 4 o'clock I ordered Capt. Charles S. Cooper, chief of artillery, to send a section of Battery F, First Ohio Light Artillery, to occupy a small earth-work on the left and about 300 yards in rear of the redoubt occupied by Battery A, First Tennessee. Opening upon the enemy with 12-pounder Napoleons, soon silenced the enemy's battery of five guns. The fight continued until dark, the enemy being unable to drive us back an inch, notwithstanding he made several attempts to charge my line in his usual boisterous manner. I then withdrew my forces inside main works, leaving 100 of Twenty-ninth Michigan to strengthen the picket-line and hold this line of rifle-pits. I had stationed all of the One hundred and second Ohio Infantry left in camp, with a detachment of about 150 men of Thirteenth Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry, under Captain Bake, in Fort No. 2, which fort I placed immediately in charge of Col. William Given, One hundred and second Ohio Infantry, with instruction to watch well our right flank. During the engagement my pickets on the line from the redoubt to the river on the right remained in their position, and when night came my picket-line was intact. I have since ascertained that I was attacked by Walthall's division, of Stewart's corps, Hood's army, 5,000 strong, whom I really fought with less than 500 men and a section of artillery, as the Twenty-ninth Michigan and the small detachment of Eighteenth Michigan Infantry were not engaged. I am satisfied that the bold front I showed him deterred the enemy from charging and saved to us a strong position, which if held by the enemy would have caused us much trouble and great loss of life. The enemy attempted to send in two flags of truce, but owing to the fact that he continued moving his troops into position, they were not permitted to come in. I suppose it was a demand for surrender, which would never have been acknowledged by me.
The general commanding arrived at dark and assumed the general direction of movements. During the night the gun-boat Stone River arrived with detachments of One hundred and second Ohio and Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, numbering about 1,200 men; also a detachment of the Seventy-third Indiana Infantry, from Athens, numbering eighty men. The morning of the 27th dawned upon us, showing the enemy still in front of us on our left, and extending around toward river nearly to the Moulton road. Re-enforcements came in slowly, consisting of 250 Fourteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, under Col. T. J. Morgan; 195 Sixty-eighth Indiana Infantry, under Lieut. Col. H. J. Espy, and about 70 men of the Thirteenth Indiana Cavalry, equipped as infantry, under Captain Wilson. Another detachment of Seventy-third Indiana, under Lieut. Col. A. B. Wade, arrived, making about 150 of Seventy-third Indiana Infantry. Northing worthy of especial mention occurred during the day, with the exception of the driving back of enemy's skirmishers on our front and right flank by a detachment of Seventy-third Indiana Infantry, under Lieutenant Wilson, Seventy-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry. For particulars see sub-report marked A.
On the 28th, about 3 a. m., the enemy drove in a position of my pickets from Moulton road to river on our right, and established themselves in gopher holes within 100 yards of our works. I endeavored early in morning to re-establish my line, but found the enemy too well protected to move them. By direction of the general commanding, Capt. William C. Moore, with about fifty of Eighteenth Michigan Infantry and a few from district headquarters, clerks and orderlies, moved down the river under cover of the bank and formed as skirmishers. He moved on the double-quick, driving the rebels out of their holes and capturing 115 prisoners. In this they were ably assisted by the Sixty-eighth Indiana Infantry, a detachment of which regiment was on picket, and many of the prisoners were taken by them. The artillery in the forts rendered great assistance. I refer you to Captain Moore's report for particulars. About noon, by direction of the general commanding, I ordered Colonel Morgan, Fourteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, now numbering about 500 men, to charge a battery on the river-bank, planted by the enemy during the night previous. I respectfully refer you to his report, marked B, for the result. To assist Colonel Morgan in his charge I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Wade with his command into line of rifle-pits on our left flank, and posted one piece of Battery F, First Ohio Light Artillery, in the redoubt and small earth-work on that line, with direction to employ the enemy while Colonel Morgan was moving on the battery. Our garrison at this time numbered only about 2,500 men. These bold moves had a beneficial effect upon the enemy. Re-enforcements arrived rapidly and were assigned positions in the works, special reports of which were made by commanding officers, and are submitted herewith as part of this report, giving us a total of about 5,000 men. The morning of the 29th brought with it indications of the enemy's leaving, and a reconnaissance by Colonel Morgan, details of which are given in his report, developed the fact that only a strong rear guard remained. About 4 p. m. the enemy was driven out of his last line of pits, and I reoccupied the old picket-line and my own headquarters, which I had been obliged to vacate. Detachments of Fourth, Eighteenth, and Twenty-ninth Michigan Infantry, One hundred and second, and One hundred and seventy-forth Ohio Infantry, under Col. J. W. Hall, Fourth Michigan, in all 950, were sent out at dark on Courtland road. A very strong picket of the enemy was met about two miles out, and the command returned to camp late at night.
The morning of the 30th found us in peace and quietness, the sun shining brightly, and a sense of relief was entertained by all. I pushed out a reconnaissance on Courtland road, under Colonel Morgan, consisting of his own regiment and Sixty-eighth Indiana Infantry, with eighty of Second Tennessee Cavalry, under Major McBath. The rear guard of enemy was met within two miles of town and driven a mile or two. The expedition returned to camp at 4 p. m. When I consider that we were confronted by the whole of General Hood's army it seems miraculous almost that we could escape capture. Our works, although strong in some parts, are very weak in others, and if we had been subjected to a heavy fire of artillery it would have been almost impossible to remain, and with new, untried troops forming the principal strength of our garrison, an assault by such an army would have made me very anxious. Our garrison never exceeded 5,000 men, with nineteen pieces of artillery, two of which came during the night of the 28th from Huntsville. I must say, however, that I never saw troops in better spirits, and their determination was strong not to give up the works. Through rain, day and night, with loss of sleep and hard work, I never heard any complaint. Information gained from escaped negro soldiers, prisoners, and deserters established the fact that it was the intention of the enemy, determined on by Generals Beauregard and Hood at Palmetto, to take Decatur, and if he failed in that to winter at Corinth. Hood's aggregate was about 40,000, with sixty pieces of artillery. He was heard to admit a loss of 1,000 in killed and wounded alone, and this is fully confirmed by soldiers and citizens. The whole of our losses during the siege in killed, wounded, and prisoners is only 113. One hundred and thirty-nine prisoners were captured, including 7 commissioned officers; 32 small-arms were taken, principally Enfield rifles. For the action of the artillery I refer you to reports of Captain Cooper, chief of artillery, and Captain Beach, Battery A, First Tennessee Light Artillery. The conduct of all the troops was admirable and deserving of praise. Captain Wilson, thirteenth Indiana Cavalry, in charge of a detachment of his regiment, alone merits censure. He has been placed in arrest and charges preferred against him.
I cannot close this report without extending to the commanding general my thanks for the latitude given me, his junior; and to all the troops, officers and men, I extend my thanks for hearty co-operation. I would especially mention Col. William Given, One hundred and second Ohio Infantry, who was immediately in command of Fort No. 2; Lieut. Col. A. B. Wade, Seventy-third Indiana, and Maj. Edwin M. Hulburd, Eighteenth Michigan, who were at different times in command of Fort No. 1. They were untiring in the discharge of their duties. Col. Thomas Saylor, Twenty-ninth Michigan; Col. M. B. Houghton, Third Michigan; Col. J. W. Hall, Fourth Michigan; Col. J. S. Jones, One hundred and seventy-fourth Ohio; Lieut. Col. H. J. Espy, Sixty-eighth Indiana; Captain Blake, Thirteenth Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry; Captains Bullock and Reed, Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, rendered great service, but to Col. T. J. Morgan and his command, Fourteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, I am especially indebted. His skill in handling his men and his bravery under heavy fire are worthy of notice. Lieut. Col. W. F. Prosser I cannot praise too highly, and I am much indebted to him and Captain A. F. Beach for the success of the first day's fight. Major Williamson, Tenth Indiana Cavalry, deserves notice. He held his position against heavy odds. The conduct of Capt. William C. Moore and Lieut. R. H. Baker, Eighteenth Michigan requires no especial mention from me, as the general commanding observed their brilliant, bold dash on enemy's pickets. Capt. John J. Stevens, post inspector; Capt. C. S. Cooper, chief of artillery; Lieut. C. T. Hewitt, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Lieut. P. V. Wilkins, aide-de-camp, deserve especial mention for gallantry in carrying my orders on the field under heavy fire. I would also mention Capt. H. H. Rowe, of the general's staff, who assisted me during first day. Surg. J. M. Evans, post surgeon, gave every attention to the wounded. I have not mentioned Lieut. Col. J. M. Thornburgh, as he was acting more immediately on the staff of the general commanding. Again, I say I cannot praise too highly the conduct of all, and I would respectfully suggest that all engaged be ordered to inscribe upon their banners "Decatur." Permit me also to remark that for a long time the garrison of Decatur has been too small, and that the troops have been much overworked. In my opinion this garrison should never be less than 3,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, with the present amount of artillery. As a point from which the enemy can be observed and information obtained it is unsurpassed, and the nature of the ground on the north side of river renders it of the utmost importance that it be retained in our possession. In the hands of the enemy, it would occasion us a vast amount of trouble.
I submit list of casualties, marked C; report of prisoners captured, marked D; report of ordnance captured, marked E; diagram of works marked -, and sub-reports of different officers.
Colonel Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, commanding.
Lieut. Samuel M. Kneeland,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., District of Northern Alabama.
Recapitulation of strength of garrison: First day, 1,500; second day, 2,500; third day, 5,000.