Burns, Robert – August 14, 1863

Michigan Civil War Collection Rare and Notable

Click here for this soldier’s biography: http://micivilwar.com/authors/burns-robert/
Regiment: 4th Michigan Cavalry Battles Mentioned: Shelbyville, Tennessee; Tullahoma Campaign, Tennessee Historical Figures: David S. Stanley, George Crook, Gordon Granger, Horatio P. Van Cleve, Robert H. Minty, Robert B. Mitchell Camp at McMinnville Tenn Aug 14 1863 My dear Davidson Yours of 29th ult with post- script of the 30th I received several days ago. I have been looking for another from you in answer to one I sent by Porter enclosing $250. I suppose the money safely reached you. You will see by the heading above that we have again dropped back into Tennesee. We are now cooperating with Genl Van Cleve’s Division which is stationed here. I have met Otis his A.A.G. sev- eral times. We are now watching the left flank of our army and East Tennesee.     We shall not probably stay here very long. We have been on a couple of scouts since our arrival and in one of them the 4th Mich had three men killed.    Our Brigade now consists of 4th Regulars. 4th Michigan. 7th Penna and 3d In- Diana. 1st Brigade 2d Cavalry Division. Genl Turchin was removed from the command about two weeks ago, and Genl Croaks commands the Division. We however are detached from the Division for the present. Genl Stanley still commands the total cavalry and Col Minty the Brig- ade. I am yet A.A.A.G. in spite of the above heat ing.         I have been very well, and am so now, tho’ not quite as tough for the last two weeks. I am beginning to be troubled with head aches from which I never suffered be- fore, and ten days ago was threatened with a fever, that however I drove off. I am one to the toughest of them. I am very sorry you did not receive my letter of the 28th June as in it I described as well as I could what I saw in the battle at Shelbyville. The thing was warm then and to give a descript tion of it now when it is old and cold is not as easy as it was then.           I send you with this fine Southern papers in two packages and Col Minty’s official report of our actions since Caving Murfreesboro.        I wish you would have it published in one of the Kalamazoo papers. We have sent it to the Detroit Free Press and advertiser and it will probably appear in a few days. I wish you would keep a copy for me and also send me one. You see my name is mentioned in it. I will de- scribe it to you as well as I can.   When we started from Christiana in the morning our Brigade which had not acted with our Divis- ion (that being about 15 miles to our left) for several days was in the rear. Genl Mitchell and the 1st Division having the advance. Genl Stanley and Genl Granger having command of the movement.                After marching a few miles and some time before reaching Guys Gap Genl Stanley sent back word to Col Minty to “take the lead with his Brigade the 1st Div be- ing too I [  ?  ] slow”         So we filed by Genl Mitchell and his Div and took the advance. I will show you how we were situated, thus [hand drawn map takes up rest of page] If you can make much out of that you are swart. Guys Gap is about nine or ten miles from Shelbyville tho’ on the sketch it looks like a short half. Allow for fore shortening.                               As we approached the Gap the 1st Mid Tenn as you will see by the report were ahead We were right behind saw the chase and hall[  ?  ] ed them on. We followed them through the Gap they by that time having disappeared in the distance After calling in the other regiments which were out as flankers we followed them at a swart trot 4 or 5 miles. About a mile from the house marked at the bottom of the page, the column was halted, We the Field + Staff rode up to the house from which we could see the enemy’s works. The house was on one hill and the entrenchments on another about a mile or more apart. The rebel rifle pits and en- trenchments were twelve miles long extending from a place called Horse Mt to the Duck river in the form of a curve and completely protecting Shelbyville where we entered them it was three miles in front of the town. For about a half mile in front of the pits the ground was perfectly clear every tree cut down and almost every stump uprooted a dangerous place to go over when a reb was squinting over a rifle bar- rel. In front of the cleared place about an abbtis of felled trees was place about ¼ of a mile wide and 2 reaching the full length of the entrenchments. There were trees tumbled down and mixed in the most wonderful confusion, a scientific slashing which was almost impossible for a very small short tailed dog. This slashing was not in the road. The house was about half a mile back of that.    As soon as we appeared at the house the rebels opened on us with ar- tillery from their guns in the entrenchments (I have marked where they stood. They were afterwards moved into the town as soon as the 4th Michigan struck them on the night) Their shots were all thrown over our heads, and we did not mind them much. You may think that strange but it is actually so. The family were in the house and were well frightened, ev- ery time a shell would go over us the darkies would throw themselves on the floor and “halle- lujah” They fired some 15 or 20 shells at us without doing any damage. We were there about an hour. Col Minty sent back for the different regiments to come up. As they came up my darkey appeared leading a fresh horse for me. The one I was on was pretty badly used up. I shifted saddles and remounted. The 7th Penna (one battalion or 1/3 of them) under Capt Davis were dismounted and sent forward on foot to feel the way directly in front and drive any of the rebels out of the a- battis if any were there. The 4th Michigan was sent to the right mounted about ¾ of a mile with orders to enter the rebel works at all or any cost. Off they started keeping hidden behind trees as much as they could.    The 3d Indiana was sent to the left with the same orders.              The other two battalions of the 7th Pa. the 4th Regulars + what we could gather to gether of the 1st Mid Tenn remained with us at the house.                 We stayed there about a half hour watching Capt Davis and his dismounted men creep and dodge to- wards the entrenchments. The rebels were blazing away at them when they could get a chance but our men kept themselves so well covered that nobody was hurt” The artillery too was thun- dering at us. We had no artillery as nothing but our Brigade was within 7 miles of us. In about half an hour we heard the Michi- gan Rifles (Colts Revolvers) backing away to the right and the rebels in front of us appeared to be inwardly disturbed. Their artil- lery immediately became “demoralized” and “chang- ed into bare” back into town.     At this mo- ment Col Minty ordered Thompson of the 7th Penna to charge up the hill and over the entrenchments.                               I went with them. Couldn’t hold in any longer. Away we went with sabres drawn and our horses doing their prettiest. As we entered the works we passed the dismounted men of the 7TH Penna who cheered and threw up their hats in right loyal style. I can hear them now even above ours which were none of the weakest.    After entering we met the 4th Michigan driving the rebels from the right and it was one grand scene of con- fusion. Every body dashing frantically ahead and seeing who could be in at the death first. Terrified butternurts and exultant blue coats. We kept on down the road about two miles when we saw a perfect stream of butternuts who had been driven from the left and who were running across the Fairfield Road through the lots for Skull Camp Bridge.   About twenty of us turned up the Fairfield Road to the left to cut them off.        Where the Fairfield and Main Roads joined there was a lot surrounded by a very high staked board fence (slabs driven endways into the ground) The rebels were pour int through this and across Fairfield Road when we struck them. Just before I reached the stream of them I saw a rebel in the lot dismounted aiming through the force at me. He was not more than 25 feet off, half way across the road, at the same moment I was firing at a rebel who was escaping through the fence at my right. I missed mine though I fired twice at him. My friend on the left fired at me and struck my horse on the fore leg, but did not wound him enough to disable him immediately. At the moment the reb fired he was cut down by two Penn- sylvanians. Just then I sat upon something sharp, or at least felt a severe pain in the place where the body fits the saddle, I supposed that I was shot there and about the only feeling I had about it was mortification that I should be struck in the back. I was very much bored about it for a moment in two, and the place where troubled me more than the wound. So you see about what a little thing one will be thinking of in a fight. I was neither hurt nor scratched All this time my horse was on the jump approach ing the place where the rebels were escaping from the lot. I had emptied my pistol and put it in the holster. At them we went with sabres, to cut in- two the stream. They out numbered us at least five to one, but they were terribly frightened. I knock- ed two from their horses and we at last managed to turn them back into the lot. For a few minutes it was clubbed musket, and sabre cutting. I never was in such a tight place before. Men were knocked from their horses without the slightest regard being paid as to whether the place was a good one to dis- mount or not. I was not hurt.     As soon as we had turned back the stream of rebels we com- menced to take prisoners. We had so many that we could take them in no formal way. We made them dismount let their horses go throw their arms on the ground 3 and march into a corner. We took about 80 or 100 which was fully 4 times our number. We had so many that we began to look anxiously for some more of our men to help us guard them. In a few minutes a company of 7th Pa appeared and relieved us.          We rode back to where Col Minty was a half mile back from the corner and found that about 350 prisoners had been taken in all. All over the field just such little quarrels had taken place as I had seen.    The rebels were in the town at the four corners with their artillery. They were going to make a stand there. Col Minty sent back to Genl Mitchell for some artillery. In about half an hour it came up and two pieces were stationed in the road less then half a mile from the rebel battery, one on each side of the road. A shot was fired from each an dthe 7th Pa under Capt Davis dashed forward on to the rebels between our guns I went with them too. The rebels fired one round too from their artillery and “skedaddle” One of their shells burst about 15 feet from me killing one man and two horses. My horse almost trod on the man as he tumbled. Davis and his men went in like fiends and cut down the drivers of one of the c[  ?  ] before it could be stirred but a little ways. The main body of the rebels turned first around the corner to the left then the next to the right towards the bridge. At the R.R. Depot they tried to make a stand and gave us a volley from the buildings. Three or four of our men fell close by me. One poor fellow was pitched headlong from his horse into a mud pud- dle a few inches deep and as I passed him his eyes were setting and his mouth gasping being half filled with mud and water. We drove the reb- els into the river where they were drowned by the dozens. As we reached skull camp Bridge the 3d Indiana struck the Ford near the mill on the left driving crowds of frightend rebels before them into the water. 43 dead rebs have already been taken out from the river at the ford and 75 near the bridge. On the bridge the 3d piece of artillery was taken from them.            After the whole thing was over Genl Mitchell rode up and about two hours after him in came Genl Granger and the next day it is telegraphed all over the country that Genl Mitchell’s Division of Cavalry had taken Shelbyville and that Genl Gran- ger had entered the place a conqueror +c +c All sheer humbug neither Genl Mitchell nor Genl Granger were within four miles of the town while there was any fighting going on and I do not believe either of them was near enough to bear the artillery firing. Not another soul had anything to do with it excepting our first Brigade. We felt very sore when we saw the newspaper reports. All in the army here say that it was the most brilliant Cavlary dark of the war and had it happened in the Potomac Army would have been heralded far and wide.            After arriving at the river my horse became so lame I was compelled to give him up.  Col Minty mistakes my horse was not wounded in the Battery charge but in the first one. Send me a Free Press with the Col’s report if you do not get it printed. I have strung this out to a pretty good length more than I intended when I started Let me hear from you soon. I have received nothing from Kalzoo since the 30th nor “from any other man” or woman.            We are hoping to be pushed ahead and he in at the death of the rebellion. I wish it may not be far off.          Give my love to Mother. I did receive her letter by Mr. Miller. Do not forget to send those boots by Porter. Joe Huston has resigned and expects to start for home in a few days. Good bye. God bless you all. This to Mother too,         Your affect son + brother Direct Murfreesboro                                      R. Burns [On Envelope:] J. Davidson Burns Esq Kalamazoo Michigan