Burns, Robert – May 8, 1865

Michigan Civil War Collection

Click here for this soldier’s biography: http://micivilwar.com/authors/burns-robert/
Regiment: 4th Michigan Calvary Battles Mentioned: Selma, Alabama Historical Figures: Edward M. McCook, Eli Long, Emory Upton, General Johnson (Confederate), James H. Wilson, Jefferson Davis, John F. Miller, Nathan B. Forrest, Robert E. Lee, Robert H. Minty Head Quarters 2d Brigade 2d Division C. C., Military Division of the Mississippi Near Macon Ga May 8 1865. My dear Davidson I have been intending for a long while to write you and give an account of our doings in this part of the country but have heretofore had no opportunity of sending a letter off. In fact I do not know when this will be started, but I will try to have it ready for the first opportunity.  I suppose you have seen in the papers some account of our doings if they will allow us a column or two in the same sheet which contains the surrender of Lee & Johnsons. On the 22nd and 29th ult I wrote you short notes telling of my health and safety. It is doubtful whe- ther you have received them, as they were to travel by an unsafe road to reach you. March 22nd we left Chickasaw the extreme North West corner of Alabama to see what we could do in the smashing line. We were about 10000 cavalry and con- sisted of the 1st 2nd & 4th Divisions commanded respectively by Genl McCook, Long & Upton all under Genl Wilson We had the usual luck of a marching column until the 1st of April, starting out of and getting into camp at most unreasonable hours wading through swamps and bogs you would think impassable. We had until then met no enemy.     On the 1st Millers (the 1st) Brigade which was some 12 miles in front of us had a severe fight with Forrest, capturing three pieces of Artillery and about 300 prisoners. We were not engaged that day but marched 46 miles and during the night joined Miller Brigade at Plantersville about 20 miles from Selma.     There had been skirmishing all along the road and we saw many a dead reb and horses lying in the dust.         On the 2nd we started again at 6 ½ A.M. one Brigade in the advance followed by Millers and that followed by Upton’s Division.   A few miles out we ran across a few scouts but they quickly re- tired and we pushed on to Selma. About 6 miles from there we turned from the main Plantersville Road to the right and approached the city by the Summer field Road.      We were looking for a fight. All pack mules sneaks, cooks & cowards were ordered to the rear and none but effective men allowed in the column. By the road on which we came there was a hill which partially over looked the city and from that we could see what we had to do.      Between a half & three fourths of a mile in front of us was a line of small forts con nected by heavy embankments in front of the latter was a deep ditch come half filled with mud & water and in front of the ditch was a line of strong [   ?   ] or posts about ten feet long driven firmly into the ground as firmly a near to each others as they could be placed In side of the forts and embankments were Genl Forrest and 7000 men.  All there I could myself see from the hill on which we were.            There were fully twice as many rebs in sight as there were in our two Brigades (Genl Upton had continued on the Plantersville Road and approach- ed the city in that direction)    We had in the Division on the hill about 3500 men. Our skir- mishers were immediately pushed forward part way down the hill which part of the business Genl Long directed me to attend to. so I moved down with them. We had no sooner showed ourselves than the reb skir- mishers opened on us. They were lying a short way in front of the palisades concealed behind weeds & stumps.         We made a rush for a fence in front of us where we could be a little under cover, and there for nearly an hour we lay popping away at each other. The bullets would strike into the rails in front of us with a suggestive thug. Pretty soon Col Minty and afterwards Genl Long and Wilson came down.    After a short consultation between them it was decided that we must assault and carry the works.   It looked like a pretty tough thing to attempt to drive such a number of men from so strong a position but it must be done that right, or we might find it still more difficult in the morning. The main body of our men were lying behind the hill our skirmishers only in front of it.           We went back to where they were dodging the bullets the rebs sent after us.    Our command war formed thus or rather it had got into this position when the order to charge was given. [Hand-drawn map] We were to have started at the signal of a gun being fired by Genl Up- ton, but we had no sooner showed ourselves alone the hill than the rebs opened on us with their Artillery, and it was difficult to distinguish any particular gun in the [  ?  ].           Genl Long gave the order for us to go in, directing that the 4th Michigan should remain where it was to protect our Battery (the Chicago Board of Trade) and the 37 Ohio should look out for our flank & rear.  So the 4th Ohio, 7th Penna and three of Millers Regiments were all that were actually engaged in the charge. We were all dismounted.        Just as we started Col Minty directed me to go to the 7th Penna and see that they “left abligued” and hurried forward so that they might be on a line with the 4th Ohio by the time they struck the works. I did so and went in with them. We gave a cheer and made a rush. The rebels opened on us with Artillery and small arms, but could not stop us. Our battery from behind was pitching the shell & shot over our heads. our men cheering, [   ?   ] firing & running.         I never shouted so. It was a perfect pandemonium.                        Our men were falling wounded and dead on every side. No one cared; all went for- ward, we must take the works or we should be awfully cut up.            My own sensations were those of perfect recklessness.    I expected to be shot, but really did not care. A shell bursting close in front would not even make one wink.  On we went got through or climbed over the palisades how I dont know waded through the ditch and were over the embankment among the rebs.           As they saw us jumping in among them they fled, the most of them towards the left our men pursued driving them from their forst and capturing their artillery.          In this charge Genl Long Com’d’g Div. Col Miller Comd’g 1st Brig. Col McCormick Com’d’g 7 PA Col Biggs 125 Illinois were wounded & Col Dobb of 4th Ohio Killed so you see the leading officers were not behind the men. Out of 33 officers of our Brigade who went in, 9 were killed & wounded Shortly after entering the works, I was directed to return to the hill and order up the led horses. I did so passing over the ground on which our poor fellows were lying dying On arriving at the hill, I ordered forward the horse, and then joined the 4th Regulars who had just come on the field with Genl Wilson. (Genl W. had before we charged gone back to Genl Upton)             The 5 Ohio & 4th Mich were also ordered up to the front. and followed at a little distance the 4th Regulars. We again entered the works and moved over to the right to cut off the retreat of the rebs. Our men had driven thrm over to the left towards the Planterville Road and captured everything there. When Genl Upton came in with his Division and struck them in flank & rear driving them [  ?  ] well to the right again.      We had reached to near the forts marked & when a perfect storm of bullets & [  ?  ] opened on us.   Genl Wilson then ordered the 4th Regulars and to draw sabre and charge and directed me to have the 3 Ohio suport them (the 4th Mich had not yet come up.) I gave Genl W’s orders to Col Howland, and then started for the head of the 4th Regular column We were all then going on the full run.     Our artillery by that time was then up near our right and blazing mer- rily away.        The rebel artillery from the fort in front war answering too briskly for safety.        The bullets were fal- ling in the road about & in front of us, just as the first drops of a heavy storm, knocking up little clouds of dust in the same way.         I remember noticing the same thing when we were coming down the hill in the first charge.     I had nearly reached the head of the 4th Regular column, being on a very fast horse, and riding a little to one side, when they were driven back in the wildest confusion. They had run on to a deep ditch, orver which their horses could neither climb nor leap. From the fort on the other side the rebs were firing wickedly with all the weapons known to civil- ized warfare.   They (our men) might have by turning a little distance to the right (as we afterward discovered) have gone around the ditch. As it was around they came on the run. I was nearly knocked off my horse, run- ning full against one of them. For a moment there was a horrible confusion. The 3 Ohio which was following on the jump was nearly run over.      Then Genl Wilson or- dered the 3 Ohio & 4th Mich (which had just come up) to dismount and storm the fort on foot.          This we done as quickly as possible.          I went in with them again though this time I kept my horse. We approached the fort and made a rush over the ditch and embankments, but the rebels had left [   ?   ], excepting a few stragglers. leaving their artillery in our hands.  I with two or three others, who hap- pened to be mounted, rode into the city firing it and capturing a few rebels who had not taken their departure speadily enough.     We then went to the other side of the town which was already in possession of that portion of one men who had turned to the left and Genl Upton’s Division. There Hell had brok- en loose. The darkies were standing in the streets with pitchers and pails of whiskey which they were distributing to the men (at this time it was just dark). Our men, half drunk were breaking open stores plundering, robbin, firing buildings, and conducting them- selves like devils.        They had made a glorious fight it, and thought themselves entitled to a full swing. We had captured 2300 prisoners. 26 pieces of artillery in the works, and about 70 in the arsenal. Forrest himself escaped with about 200 men and the rest of his command was scattered all over the country. He told one of our Surgeons after- wards that he never had been so whipped. About midnight we got into some sort of a camp. Our quar- ters were in a house filled with rebel wounded. Their groans however did not prevent our sleeping.            Nothing could we were completely tired out.            The men could sleep any where. One instance while on the skirmish live in the afternoon with the bullets whistling in all directions. I saw on man lying [                              ?                              ] in the corner of the fence, snoring vigorously. May 9. Must stop for the present. Jeff Davis is said to be trying to cross the Ocumlgee below here, and we are ordered to guard the river for a hundred miles, and catch the illustrious & notorious fugitive.   When I get the $100000 offered by the President for his apprehension I will visit you. I leave this to be forwarded the first opportunity Yours Affecly R. B. Give my love to Mother & Madge [On Envelope:] May 27, 1865 J. Davidson Burns Esq Kalamazoo Michigan