Burns, Robert – August 28, 1864

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: Historical Figures: Edward M. McCook, Eli Long, George Stoneman, Hugh J. Kilpatrick, Robert H. Minty, Samuel W. Ferguson Head-Quarters 1st Brig., 2d Cavalry Division, Near Sand Town, GA August 28 1864. My dear Davidson A few days ago I wrote you a few lines announcing my safe return from one of these raids which leave generally been so unfortunate in this Department On the 18th at 1 AM our and Col Long’s Brig- ades the 1st + 2d all under Col Minty left our Peach Tree Creek Camp on the left of our army and at 7 the next morning reported to Genl Kilpatrick at Sand Town, having during the night passed in the rear of our army to its right. We remained quietly at Sand town during the 21st and at sundown started to cut the rebel communications south of Atlanta. Two well equipped expeditions Stoneman’s and McCook’s had been totally ruined in attempting the same thing. We however imagined we were made of sterner stuff and started off in good spirits. The command consisted of the 3d Cavalry Division (Kilpatrick’s) under Col Mur- ray of the 3d Ky Cav’y, being 5th Iowa, 3d Inda 8th Inda 2d Ky 3Ky 5 Ky 10th Ohio + 92d Ill about 2400 men and our brigade the 4 U.S. 7 Pa + 4th Mich and Col Long’s the 1st Ohio 3d Ohio + 4th Ohio. the two latter Brigades being under the command of Col Minty. We knew that all the fighting would have to be done by us and Long’s men before we started and so it turned out. We had about 2400 men with us too. The whole was commanded by Genl Kilpatrick and a good deal of a little man he is too, not at all afraid to be in the fight himself. Away we went Col Murray’s Division being in the advance it was a bright beautiful moon light night and we should have en- joyed it [ ? ] if we had not been up all the right preceding. We enemy’s pickets. When we had to go slowly driving them before us dis[   ?   ] to feel the woods in both sides be, so that it was moving before we reached the Atlanta and west Point RR near Fair burn at Red Oak. We had torn up about a half mile of the track and were moving on when the rear battalion of the 7th Penna near suddenly attackenby a force of dismounted men and artillery (The column, you must know, was 4 or 5 miles long and the rear or front might be fighting briskly and the other end knew nothing about it ex- cept when the artillery was opened) just back of where the rebels struck our column were the ambulences and the darkies Cading officer horses pack mules +c They of course skedaddled each nigger and ambulance driver bolted for the woods. Several shell exploded among the colored brethren and they thought the kingdom had come. Three ambulances were swashed to pieces and about 50 or the sueaks who hang around the doctors shape were scattered contraband came crawling out of the woods scared almost while. The 4th Mich which was in rear of the ambulances now came up and drove the rebels back to their haunts. All this time the head of the column was kept moving on as time was precious and we could not halt for slight “scrimmages” Genl Kilpatrick not being satisfied with the progress Col Murray was making, ordered our Brigades to come to the front and Murray to take the rear. Long’s Brigade had the advance and had not gone more than half a mile when he found a strong force of rebs in his front. He had to dismount his men drive them from the rails must works they had thrown up. weren’t again and he would find them in the same position a half mile farther on. This was tried two or three times when it was determined to march on foot altogether and drive the rebels steadily having men behind to lead the horses from which the riders had dismounted. I was up at the front all the time with Col’s Long and Minty. We drove them steadily until we came to the valley through which Flint River runs when the rebels were reinforced by Fergusons Brigade of Cavalry (We had been fighting Russ’ Brigade thus far) and opened on us sharply with artillery when we commenced descending the hill the shells and bullets settled merrily around us knocking the hark and dirt in close proximity to our heads. Two guns of our battery (We had with us guns of the Chicago Board of Trade Battery, which belongs to our Division, and Murray had with him four guns of the 11th Wisconsin Battery) Were soon brought up and succeeded in silencing the rebel Artillery. The very first shot struck a rebel Artillery man, burst in live and blew him to atoms. Our men were all then dis- mounted and went forward at the double quick under fire of our eight guns and drove the rebels clear into and through Jonesboro. Our regiment had the advance being deployed as skir- mishers. We then seized the Rail Road for which we had been aiming since we started, and commenced to swash it gener- ally, The track was Torn up, the depot and public build- ings [   ?   ] and destruction was let loose. We destroyed about two miles of the track. While this was going on the rebels returned to the attack. Our command was sent to melt them while Col Murrays tuned over rails. The rebs had been driven southward and our forces were pushed that way to shove them farther. Before us, was darkness and rebels, behind the burning buildings and smoking ruins. It also commenced to thunder lighter and pour down rain. All this time while we were skimirshing with the rebels Genl Kilpatrick had one of his hands close behind us playing Yankee Doodle. Hail Columbia and other airs very provok- ing to rebel ears. It appeared as if Chaos had come again. Soon the whistle fot the cars could be heard in front of us and we knew by the sounds that the enemy were receiving reinforcements from bellows. It was then determined to “flank” them. So about midnight our brigade followed by Col Murray’s Division moved in a South Easterly direction about 7 miles Col Long’s Brigade being left to cover the rear. I stayed with Col. L command. While waiting for the command to move out. I fell asleep on the ground and came very near being left. However we all got away clear. About seven miles out we found our Brig- ade and Col Murray’s command feeding by the side of the road Our Brigade was on a hill about a mile in front of Col Murray rode over to our Brigade and sat down to get a bit. Col Long halted just in rear of Col Murray (this was about 6 A.M. of the 20th) Our Brigade had just been ordered to mount and move forward when Col Long was attacked by the rebel cavalry which had followed us from Jonesboro. It now consisted of Russ Ferguson’s and Armstrong’s Brigades about 45oo men. Our brigade moved on and turned sharply to the right in a South Westerly direction for the purpose of striking the Rail road again about eight miles below Jonesboro. I stayed on the hill to witness the skirmish- ing for a little while. From where I was all the [     ?     ] of our new could be distinctly seen. It was a beautiful sight. The rebels could be perceived moving towards our men and were driven back whenever seen by them. It was the best chance ofseeing the whole of a skirmish I ever had. I remained as long as I could and then galloped after our column. Col Long had orders to follow as quickly as possible and Col Murray was to come after him. We in the mean time pushed for Sinejoy’s Station. When within a mile and a half if the R.R. we halted for Cols Murray and Long to join us. This they soon did having driven back the enemy. About a mile from the rail road the road forked. the two prongs striking it about a half mile apart. A few hundred feet in front of and parallel to the R.R. another road [   ?   ]. The 4th Michigan was sent by the right hand road to the R.R. which it reached without any difficulty and commenced tearing up the tracks they sent word to us by the parallel road mentioned what they were doing. Our column the 7th Penna in advance moved down the left hand road having for the last mile or two been driving about a dozen rebel cavalry men. As we hoped the parallel road the firing became hotter and [   ?   ] I had been with the advance urging them forward as it was extremely necessary to reach the rail road as soon as possible and rode hack to have more men sent to reinforce the advance quard when a devil of a fusil- ade took place. The 7th Penna was immediately dismounted and seat forward into the woods (one battalion of it had been the advance quard) Hatter grew the firing and the cares of the ad- vance who had dismounted began to [   ?   ] hacks. The 4th regulars who were next were dismounted and sent in and I was told to go back and hurry up two of Long’s reiments have them dismount and husle in. Before that could be done the 7th PA and 4th Regular had been driven from the woods in confusion the former leaving two Captains and one Lieut + the latter one capt dead or wounded in the bands of the enemy the field was like this [hand drawn map]                          We had run on a brigade of rebel infantry who were lying in the woods by the side of the R.R. behind barricades a Division was also hushing in on our right near the print where the 4th Mich were at winks. Longs men were immedi- ately put in position to check the advance- ing rebels and our Battery brought up. The woods in front and on our left was swarming with rebels. The 4th Regulars and 7th PA were gathered together and made to support the battery. Poor fellows they were badly cut up. One of Longs Regiments was formed near the fork of the road the 4th Mich was send for and placed there too. the rebels tried again and again to take our battery. It fought magnificent ly. It was a glorious sight to see it sweep those woods with grape and canister sending marry a howling rebel to eternity. The guns men supported them well. One of the guns by the rebound had broken it trail short off so that it could not be drawn from the field. When the next of the pieces had been withdrawn Col Minty called for some volunteers to drag off that gun try hand. I collected about 20 of the 4th Michigan men went down there and helped pull it off The rebs were then very close to us. While this was going on we could hear musketry and artillery firing directly in our rear The Cavalry with which we had been skirmishing early in morn- ing had followed us and had attacked us from “behind” Thus you see we were in a pretty tight box, a brigade of infantry in our front and partly on our left. A division moving to hit us on the right and but a little distance off; and three Brigades of Cavalry in our rear. Stoneman and McCook caved in under just such circumstances. It was quickly decided what to do. We must leave the R.R. alone for the present and [ ? ] the rebel cavalry. We were withdrawn from fight- ing the infantry who now had become very quiet probably because effecting some combinations with their cavalry and expecting con- fidently to “gobble” us all whole. The whole command was faced to the rear as follows [hand drawn map]                          Our Brigade was formed on the right hand side of the road each regiment in a column of fours four men abreast or the whole regiment in a column presenting a front of [ ? ] four even The 4th U.S. were on the left the 4th Mich in center and 7th Penna on right. Long’s Brigade formed in close column with regimental front I.E. each regiment formed in live the man side side. [   ?   ] [hand drawn map] The last regiment was deployed in rear of the others 20 as to cover a large [   ?   ] of ground and pick of prisoners and [ ? ] [   ?   ]. You see we were to break through the rebels, smash them, and Long was to sweep the ground and gather them in. This was very quickly decided and acted on as we had not much time to lose. I happened to be near Genl Kilpatrick before to determined what to do. Our Brigade was then drawn up in line in front of the 2d Brigade He turned to me and asked “Capt can you r men charge through and break those rebels in front of us?” “Yes sir they can” What would be the best formation do you think! In line or in column”? In column of fours. I think each regiment to form a column and then the rebels attention would be distarted” “We will have them so how do they gen- erally charge? with sabre or firing?” “With sabre Sir” “Good! so tell Col Minty to have them charge in that way and drive the              rebels   to            “              at this moment Col Minty rode up and the regiments were quickly formed as I have marked. Afew of our men were in front of us dismounted skirmishing with the rebels. They were told to thrown down the fence behind which they were. The rebel skirmish as were keeping them engaged as much as possible while a large force of them were throwing up rail breast works where I have marked Barricades. We were formed just behind the brow of a hill. Our skirmishers were on the crest of it. The rebel artillery to our left and front was playing over us Bullets and shot were flying thick over our heads. We drew sabres trotted until we came to the top of the hill and then with sheer upon cheer started at the gallop. What a sight it was! I rode at the head of the 4th Mich or centre column. Capt Thompson our Inspector of whom I have written you, on my right and Col Minty on the right of Thompson Down the hill we went the rebels turning their batteries of canister and grape upon us. While the bullets of the skirmishers and dismounted men whistled fiercely. The battery away on our right threw shells. We leaped fences, ditches, barricades and were among them. Their skirmish line did not attempt to stand and the men behind the barri- cades turned to run just before we reached them. It was too late. Our fellows were mounted and on the gallop, and we did cut them down right and left. I was just about to strike two when they threw up their hands and surrendered I passed them by leaving someone in the rear to take care of them. A third who did not surrender quick enough. I struck full on the top of the head, felt my sabre sink in, saw him fall and dashed on. I think I killed him, but did not wait to see. The rebel artillery was very hot at this time. I could almost feel the balls as they swept by. Col Minty’s horse was shot. Poor Thompson was hit close by my side and fell. He is yet missing and we do not know what has become of him. The last seen of him he was dismounted, wounded trying to rally some men to take the rebel battery. I hope he is not dead. Our column and the 7th Penna dashed straight forward into the woods. The field over which we passed was at least a half mile wide with three fences. One partially built barricade and a half dozen ditches or fullies washed out by the rain from two to six feet deep and from 5 to 12 feet wide we no sooner would leap one of them when we would have to go flying over another. Our horses went kiting over the fences some of them they [   ?   ] down. Of course a good many of our men were dismounted Upon reaching the woods we could not go so fast and could not keep in column. They were full of flying rebels. We soon struck a path or [   ?   ] which I have marked and turning to the right followed it about a mile and a half when we turned to the left and joined the [   ?   ] column on the road. The 4th Regulars in- stead of keeping parallel with us as was intended seeing an opening in the fence by the side of the road, and finding very high fences in front of them, turned to the left and struck out on the main road (as I have noted in sketch) They ran on to the rebels in the road near the battery and sent them flying and were soon among the led hones of the dismounted men in the rear and among the ambulances which were collected together in a disorganized body in the road. A perfect stam- pede took place. The bone holders did not attempt to hold the animals and a general “skedaddle” took place. Riderless bones and driverless ambulance were scattered in all directions. Our men were in the midst of them shooting and cutting. As the rear of the 4th Regulars was passing the battery a part of them with scattered men from the other regiments dashed on to it drove the gunner from their pieces and captured three of the guns. One of our orderlies shot the captain. We brought away one of the pieces with us. The other two were as injured about their running gear that they could not be hauled off as they were spiked and left. The charge continued for about two miles when the command was collected together again. Col Long’s Brigade did not charge in line as was intended but finding the ground impracticable for it formed in column and followed the 4th Regulars. Col Murrays command in- stead of sweeping all to the left of the road as we supposed they would do turned to the right and filed in after Col Long. Had he done as was expected both sides of road would have been cleaned out. As it was a good worry rebels escaped off to the left. Immediately after the charge and while are were pushing through the woods it commenced to rain. It came down in torrents. I had lost both hat and rubber over coat in the brush and in just five seconds was soaked saturated, even my boots were so filled that the water ran out of the tobs. The command pushed on for McDonogah. Before the whole of it had moved fiercely attacked by the Division of Rebel Infantry, which I have men- tioned was moving in on our right as we fared the R.R. our left and rear as we were now going. Col Long fought them for about two hours when his ammunition began to give out. He was obliged to retire (Here Col Long was wounded twice) and the 4th Mich and 7th Penna were found to hastily throw up. The 4th Regulars had been sent on, their ammunition [ ? ] been all expended. We borrowed one of Long’s regiments to assist the 4th Mich + 7th Pa. Long passed his men through when the rebels came on to us. There we had it hot and heavy. The rebels charged two or three times but was bloodily repulsed. All this fighting was done dismounted and was for the purpose of holding back the rebels until our main column could get out of the road. Our battery of three guns now, during this fight hunt one gun and wedged another got a shell half way down into it, so that it could neither be fired nor pushed down so that we had but one to use but that was used with effect. The rebels were playing with their artillery into our column along the road. You see our two Brigades had to do all the fighting obliged to lead the charge and cover the retreat.            As soon as all the column had got into the road and moved about a mile our regiments were withdrawn and followed it.                The rebels did not attempt to pursue much farther. Their infantry could not keep up with us and their cav- alry was too thoroughly scattered to be gathered together again. We pushed slowly on to McDonaugh crossed [Hand drawn map]                            Walnut Creek and about 2 oclock in the morning lay down by the side of the road for a few hours rest. How terribly tired we were. Men would be almost impossible to awaken them two or three men would fall asleep together upon their horses their [   ?   ] would stop and the whole column behind them would halt too sup- posing that there were some obstruct- tions ahead. Hundreds of men were sometimes asleep in that way on their horses and in the mud for one or two hours at a time. Once during one of the halts, I fell asleep on my horses for two hours during which time we had a terrible storm of rain, which drenched me more, if possible than I was. I knew nothing of it until I awoke, and then found myself in a stange crowd, the column in the [   ?   ] time having moved on. It was raining and pitch dark and in fine we had a terribly disagreeable time of it. About 2 o’clock we found a place to halt. The head of the column had been in since 8, but the tail was de- layed by the causes I have mentioned. You never yet have known what fa- tigue is. We had not slept a wink for the nights of the 17th 18th 19th and until 2 o’clock of the morning of the 21st except what we could [ ? ] riding along. We had not had but three meals and but little time to eat them in. Had fought seven Red line is our route. Camp Marked “Aug 17” is where we started rom and returned to. pretty tough fights besides skirmishing +c.+c. Oh, how tired and sleepy I was!      At day break the next morning we started on again. At Colton River the Brigade was gone and the stream terribly swollen by the rains. It could not be forded and the horses was obliged to swim it. The current was very swift. We had a terrible time crossing it. One man and about 50 horses were drowned in the attempt. We were obliged to leave behind the disabled cannon we had brought thus for in a wagon. A good many men who had gone through the fighting bravely dreaded to enter that stream we lost also two wagons and one ambulance. It was almost heart rending to see the poor wounded fellows carried across Some were fastened on to horses, while others were car- ried over in the ambulances. I saw one with three in t[ ? ] over, fill with water and go down the stream. However the men were rescued. I shall never forget crossing Cot- ton river. We all finally got over. If we had been attacked by a large force before we had succeeded in crossing a great number of us would have been cap- tured. We were almost wholly out of ammunition and many an anxious glance was cast to the rear. We ex- pected every moment to hear the roar of Artillery. It was a relief when the rear of the column was on the North side. We then crossed South River burning the bridge behind us and all the bridges on each side for ten miles. During the day we marched slowly and encamped that night at Sithonia. The next day we returned to our camp on Peach Tree Creek having made a circuit around the the two great armies of Hood and Sher- man. We did not do all that we had hoped to do when we started but we did all we could.             On the 25th we marched to Vinierg’s Bridge having crossed the Chattahoochie River and yesterday came here where we hope to recruit for a few days. Our horses are in the vulgar heat expressive style, “played out” The army now is on another flanking enterprise We could not get Atlanta from the front and we are now pushing west and south of Atlanta towards Fairburn and Jonesboro. The rebels must leave Atlanta if they want to save their rail road. The one through De- catur we thoroughly destroyed some time ago. We are now at the rear and our brigade is temporarily de- tached from the Division. The army is about ten miles in front of us. We probably will be ordered to the front again in a few days.             Thin is a long campaign and a very trying one. We are almost worn out but are determined to see the thing through. We are beginning to be disappointed in regard to the Virginia Campaign. Did hope that we would be in Richmond[ ? ]this I see on looking this over that I have written a very lengthy and somewhat egotistical letter. I suppose you want to know what I did and saw and you will probably see accounts of the raid and “vary” mention of my name. “Full many a flower” +c. I sent a sketch to Harper’s Weekly. You will see accounts in NY Tribune N.Y. Times and a good one in Cincinnatti commercial I have not heard from you in some time. Do not recollect when now but not since your July 28th Still look for Willy. Have every day reports that he is at such and such places on the way here. Do hope be he may come. I have not heard from Mother in a few weeks. All are well in Greene I trust. Give my love to Madge. I wish I could drop in and take breakfast with you. Good by God bless you both.       Your affect brother Robert J. Davidson Burns Esq Kalamazoo Mich