Gunners for the Union brings together two intimate views of the Ohio Volunteer Artillery. Books concerning the artillery of the Union army are necessarily—and for obvious reasons—fewer in number than those of the infantry or cavalry, so this special Leonaur edition is particularly useful. One of the accounts is quite small and would probably not have seen re-publication in its own right. The first, Our Battery, concerns the first regiment, and the second, A Battery at Close Quarters, the eleventh regiment. In Our Battery the reader joins author O. P Cutter and the 1st Ohio Volunteer Artillery at the engagements of Wild Cat, Mill Springs, Perryville, Stones River and Chickamauga. The story of Company B is entertainingly recounted and the book concludes with a roster role which will be useful to historians and genealogists. In Henry Neil’s shorter account of the 11th, A Battery at Close Quarters, we read of the actions of his battery of guns at Iuka and Corinth. Following Neil’s account is ‘An Army Experience,’ by John B. Sandborn, the Commanding Officer of the First Brigade, Seventh Division, Army of Tennessee. This is another eyewitness account of the Iuka and Corinth battles that describes Captain Neil’s part in them. It was originally published in 1884 in the St Paul Pioneer Press newspaper of Minnesota. Keenly observed by an onlooker at the scene it is a valuable contribution to both this book and the historical record.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
On Friday morning, January 17th, 1862, in accordance with orders of the previous evening, the entire available force then at Somerset, set out, as was then supposed, for another reconnoisance, towards the enemy’s lines. Subsequent events showed that it resulted far different from what most of the men anticipated. All camp equipage was left behind, in charge of a sufficient guard. At an early hour a start was effected; but, owing to the bad condition of the roads, slow progress was made. The late rains had swollen Fishing Creek, so that it was almost impassable; and it was at a late hour of the night ere the Battery succeeded in crossing the stream.<br>
It now commenced raining quite hard, but the men bravely pushed forward, and, near midnight, arrived at the camp of General Thomas, who had a large force under his command. They had come over the Columbia road. This was quite a surprise to all, except such officers as were in the secret.<br>
It now became evident that an exciting time was at hand, and that a battle was soon to be fought. But little did we soldiers dream that it would result so gloriously to our cause as the sequel will show. The rain kept pouring down, and all were wet to the skin, having no tents to protect us. At daylight next morning, it was still raining. A consultation was held between Generals Thomas and Schoepf, the result of which was known only to themselves. A part of Schoepf’s Brigade was ordered back to Somerset, to act as a reserve. Our battery, with the two Tennessee regiments, remaining. Teams were sent to Somerset for provisions, with which they were loaded, and sent forward. The rain, which had fallen heavily during the entire day, had swollen the creek to such a height that they were not able to recross until the following morning.<br>
All of Saturday the men remained in camp, on account of the rain. The various regiments were scattered over a large extent of ground. On Sunday, January 19th, at an early hour, a part of Woolford’s Cavalry, who were on picket guard, were driven in by the advance of the enemy, and soon thereafter the attack was commenced on the Tenth Indiana Infantry, who were camped in an advanced position. The Tenth stood their ground manfully for a long time, although they were opposed by four times their number. At length the Fourth Kentucky came to their relief.<br>
The engagement had now become general. For a time our guns could not be brought to bear upon the enemy, owing to the nature of the ground, and the position of our troops, without endangering our own men. After considerable manoeuvring, a portion of the guns were got into a favourable position, and soon begun to pour in a deadly fire upon the enemy. Shot and shell flew thick and fast. Each discharge wrought fearful execution, and the rebel ranks were rapidly thinned.<br>
The fighting had now become terrific, the advantage changing alternately from one side to the other; and at times it was difficult to tell how the battle was going. Our troops fought bravely, not once flinching. Although their comrades were falling around them, still they pressed bravely forward. General Zollicoffer fell in the early part of the engagement, having been shot through the heart by Colonel Fry, of the Fourth Kentucky.<br>
The enemy had now begun to waver, and gradually gave ground, when the gallant Ninth Ohio made a grand bayonet charge, which scattered them in all directions. The retreat then became general. Our forces followed them up, firing volley after volley into their disordered ranks. In the meantime, the guns of our battery were doing fearful execution among the fleeing rebels. Many of the shells exploded in their very midst.<br>
We still kept up the pursuit, the rain all the time falling heavily, which rendered the roads almost impassable; but on we went, through woods, over logs and stumps, through brush and mud. At times it was all our horses could do to pull through, and our progress was consequently slow. The roads and woods were scattered with the dead and wounded of both armies. The track of the fleeing rebels was strewn with muskets, swords, knapsacks, overcoats, &c., which they had thrown away to facilitate their flight.<br>
At about five o’clock we had succeeded in driving the enemy behind their intrenchments at Mill Springs, being a distance of eight miles from where the battle commenced. Reinforcements had now come up, and though the men were nearly exhausted, having eaten nothing since early morning, and were saturated with the rain, the guns were soon got in position, and opened with shell on the enemy’s works. The rebels replied with a few ineffectual shot, their shell falling far short of their destination. Kinney’s and Wetmore’s Batteries were also engaging the enemy from different positions. About eight in the evening the enemy’s guns were silenced, and in a short time the firing ceased altogether. An hour later quiet reigned in the camp.<br>
Our weary men now stretched themselves on the cold, damp ground, to obtain a little repose from the toils of the day. All slept near their post of duty, and were ready to spring into action at sound of the bugle. At early dawn they were at their stations, to renew the battle; but no sound came from the enemy’s camp.