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From The 20th Michigan Volunteers

From The 20th Michigan Volunteers image
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(Our n-iahbor, Dr. C. B. PonTER.has kindly furnished us tbe following letter from liis brothr, a Lieutenant in Co. F, 20th Michigan Infantry, detailing the action of the regiment in the siege of Knoxville. lts interest is such to all our readers - Waslitenaw haring five companies in the 2Oth- that we need make no apology for its length- Ed. Aboüs ] Knostille, Tenn. Dec. 10, 1863. Deak Brotukk : - It s with pleasure not unmingled witb pain that 1 oommence thislotter. Since the 14tb day of Novamber we bave been in the présenos of tbe eneray, and many tbinss bave occurrcd tbat will be esting to our friends in Wasbtenaw, and it is iny deaire to give a faithful aceount of wbat bas been done. My letter will thus be loug, as it is a long - and sad story for some individuáis - fur our country, a glorious oae. Tlie brigade was in wiuter quartors at Lenoir, sis miles fruai Loudon, od the Tennessee Kiver. A part of tbe 23rd A. C. lay at Loudon, uuder tbe command of Gen. White. Ou the 14th of November ordera carne to pack everyiliing. Early in tbe niorning a part of Gen. WuiTu's command inade its appearance, on a grand skedaddle for Knoxville. It was reported tbat the enemy were crossing threo divisions below Loudon Gen. Uurnside, who was at Knoxville, being notified of the moveinent, made lus appearance at 9 o'cloek, A. M., and ordered the wholt; column, together. with tbe 9th corpa to Loudon, which place we reaehed at tl) ree o'cloek, P. M. He moved the wholu force down the river to whero the enemy had luid bis pyntoou bridge. Some skirmishing took place, but no engagement. The enemy bad chosen a bend in tbe river, which was well fortiíied naturally by bilis, for bis crossing. The anny bivouaced near Ibe enemy that tiight, a-id on the lötb, Gen. ]$urnmde withdrew bis forces and fo'l back to Lenoir Tbe eneuiy pressed our atd considerable skirmishing took place. The night of tbe Ifith, (SündaJ',) was a very cold and cbeerkss oue, and the 20th Michigan was tbrownoutfto protect onc of our fronts towards tbe ene my. No fires were ailowed ; and tbe men were obliged to keep all their accoulreinents and kntpsucks on, and to keep awake and on the alert uvery mo inent; and mauy of the boys declared they were üeginning to kuow what soldiering was in real earnest Yet. r:ot a inan repined at bis lot or expressed himself as sorry that be ever cnlisted iu the cause of bis country. Early in the morning of the 16th, botb corps commenced tbeir retreat towaids Knoxville. It was condueted as oiilv Gen. Buünside can conduct a re treat, thougli a few wagons were burnt, a few old mulcs abandoned, and a few stragrglors pieked up during the day. - The 3rd brigade of the 9th corps, (in vrfarofa is the 20 th Michigan,) covered the retreat. The enemy entercd tbe town as our reM guard left. They pressed closely, until about seven miles out from Leuoir we found it necessary to fonu a line of batile. A sharp engagement took place, during which the brigade lost about ono hundred and fifty men, killed and wonnded. (Tho brigade was 1200 strong.) Col. Hüntington Smith, of tbc 20th, feil during this first engagement. He was sitting upon bis horse, in tho rear of the regiment, which was drawn up in line behind a low rail fentc, and botly engaged. The ball struck him in or near the left temple, ur.d came out on the opposite side of bis head. We lost in him a gallant commander, and a kind but strict disciplinaria!). He was kind and indulgent to bis men, but always insistcd on the obedionce, becoming a suldier. Wc nest feil back to Campbell's Station, where we again held the cneiny from 1 o'cloek, IM., until dark. Tbey eharged our left, but were repulsed. - Liout. Benjamin, with bis battery of 120I ponndei-p, together witb the 2nd llhodc Island, of 12-pöundere, played bavoc with them. Thoy attempted several times to gain our flank, but wero as many times foiled. I will here remark, that we were notfigbting South-westorn troops, but they were Longstreet's entire corps, and greatly outnuinbercd us. Most of tbe green troops of tbe 23rd Corps had moved on, aud the veterans troops of both eides were here pitted against cach other. Tbcy had been sohoolod in Virginia, and had often foughfc ecli other there. Tho field was a valley ruDning North ! aDd South, a small oreek runciug througb ' 5t8 ength, aod od tiie rod i xnall collection of liouses, ealled Catnpbellsville, nnd is near Carnpbell's Station, on the Kailroad. At sundown our batteries . took a position on the high ground on the east side of the valley, and the infantry iramediately feil back. A most furious artillery duel then took place betwen the rebel aud federal batteries, a id the troops on passing the guns were exp i3ed to tbis dreadful fire. All saw that the fiery ordeal must be passed, and the she'ls bu-st around, over, nmong them, as fast os it was possible for the rebel carinon'ers to throw thera, yet, sfraago to say, not a man in the 2Oth was hurt. Not a man quailed er exhibited any fear, but steadily, and in the most orderly manner, took thtir proper stations to suppurt the batteries. AU feit that, altheugh tbey were retreating, they were not flying panic stricken, but were inflicting a severe puiiishment upon the eneiny for thcir lemerity iu approaching U3 too near. At dark we again moved on towards Knoxville, whigi placo WO reaciied at 4 A. M., of the l7th. We had then been two eutiie nights without sleep, and had marched twenty-thiee miles thrnugh mud atid water ; liad not stopped to eat, and had been eight bours of the time under fire. Iinmediately out of Knosville, upon t!ie west, s a fortifkation partly finished, upon which tho lst División of the 9th Corps took positioi). Upon the cast sido of the town a-e still belter works, whieh were manned by other troops. Colonel Cambrón crossed the river vvith a brigade, to hold some very high hills. We immediately dug rifle pits and entreoched ourselves as well as possible. The enemy appeared before uight and laid siege to the place. Gen. Bürkside told the troops that they must hold the place at all hazards. On the I8th the rebels sueceeded iu driving in our outer linea. Averysharp fight oecurred out one and one half miles from the fort, in which some of the 23rc Corps were engaged. Gen. Saunders was killed. I do not know what Sta'e he was from. Our skirmish line was then establislied about one hundred rods in front of the fort, ind the enemy's about forty rods beyond. The skirmish ers dug pits to shield themselves, anc were relieved every twenty-four hours, at night. Our regiment furuished tbirt} men and one Lieutenant. 0,; the morning of the 24th, the 2nd Michigan maaC charge upuu a rifle pit from whiüh rebel sharpshooters had piek cd off several men in the fort. Jt proved to be a very disastrous one, as it was a desperate undertaking. They went out with 160, and returned with only 92 men, though mosi of the wounded came in afterwards. In tho meantime the rebels had cross ed the river, (Knoxville is situated upon the north bar;k of the Holston River,) and had sueceeded in planting a battery upon a hill which commanded a part of our works. Skirmishing took place between thera aud WoLToitu'sCavalry cvery day. On the 25th, a heavv fight took place, nfantry being engaged on botli sides. - The enemy were very severely handled, und our forces captured two hundred prisoners and two pieco of artillery - It was during this fight that Captain Wiltsie, of Company H, feil, rnoftally wounded. He was lookiug over towards where the firin wus heafd, when ho received the fatal shot in his back, from tlo rebel rifle pits. I think it was a chance shot. He died upon the 27th.- He was considcied a bravu and efficiënt officer, and is an irreparable loss, nat only to his compiiny but to the regiment. On the night of tho 28th, the rebels seemed bent on a row, They coiumenced driving in our pickets upou all sides about eleven o'clock. The men cleared tho tronches for actiou, and were in them till noon on SuuHay. At dawn, Sabbath morning, they made a desperate charge with three entire brig&des upon the N. W, angle of the fort. This part of the fort. was defended by a part of the 2nd Michigan, 79Ü N. Y., Co's. A, G. D, and G of the 20lh Michigan, and a part of Bkiíjami.n's Battery. They wcro repulsed with terriblo 6laughter. Lieut. B. intually lit the fuso of his shells and throw them over the parapets by hand. Tluy Uft over 250 dead and dying upon the field. Ouc regiment with its Colonel ! was captured. The moat was piled with the dead, one upon anothor. I nover wish to look upon another eighl so horrid. We don't know how many they carried away, but their Ioís could uot hnvo bepn less thnö G50 to 700 men. - Large nurabers skulked behind logs, and afterwards gavo themselveg up. Somo were shot two or thrco times, and soma literally torn to pieoes. An armistice was granted during the aftomoon to take care of tho wounded ' and bury tlw }eá. QOQ ptcd of rma were brouglit into tbe fort. We !ost obly about five killed and ten wounded during the action. They kept two batteries laying upon us for over an hour. Tliis was tbc last attcmpt upon tbo 'ort or upon any part of the works.- 7he prisoDers stated tbat Oen. Long trekt liad promised theni a holiday ín inoxvilie, and, that tliey had nothing )üt Gen. Bürxside's green troops to figbt, tbat the 9ih A. C. were not there. Well, the siege continued till the mornng of tbe 5th Dec., when we found tho,, ranche cloar of the greybacks. All tbe ïarm they did, aside from tbe chnrge, was to keep up a constant fire on the fort jy sbarpshooters, occasionally picking off a man. Tliey orected batieries and riflo pits upon the west and north of u, whicb our artillerists would oecasion:illy ahell, but tbey seldom replied. Re-enforcatoents ore coming for us from nooga, and wc are free again. h This letter is ilready too long, but I cannot close without relating a few incidents. Col. Wolford cut a mean caper with the cbivalry, a few days ago, over the river. His largo tent stood in tbs apex of a field in tbe shape of a V.- The enemy epproaebed in the openiDg, and were densely maseed and eagerly pressing forward, iutent on capturing all of the Colonel's equipage, &c, wben, lo I tbe big tent belehed forth a volume of fluiiKi and smokc, grape and canistcr, that put onc huodnd and forty men hort - du combat. Tbe Colonel had masked bis guns in hia tent. Tbis brave Kcntnckian is very much of a Yankee. One great mcans of our success ia repelling the charge of Sunday morning was the telegrapli wire that wasstretebed around the fort, abcut a foot abcve the ground. It made sueh a terrible tripping among them tbat, as tbe prisoner say, tbey were afraid to raake anotber attempt. Some of them ECf-med to be utterly astonisbed tbat we should treat them so kindly. They said that thej txpected lo be " snatcbe.l bald headed." At Leuoir, the 3rd brigade uurnbered 1200 men, of whew wo bave lost, ia küled, wounded, and missing, over 800. At Canipbell's Station tbe loss of tbe 20th was tbree killed, twenty-nine wounded, and fifteen missing. Tbe men have been for the last eighteeu daya on quarter rations. Their greatcst concerp now is to get letters to their homes as soon aspossible, knowing that their friends are unensy about them. The following aro tbe ñames of thosewho were killed, ivoundud, or are missing from CbV. B, D, II, K, and F, all of Wnshtenaw County. Co F bas not yet lost a man, tbongli constantly exposed ; but tbree have been taken prisoners. Co. B bas esciped neaily ns well. Filkins, shot ia tbe eibow, and Geo. Croman, prlsoner. Co. D. Wounded - Iieut. Oliver Blood, head süght. Joseph Garrison, leg amputated. Theordotc Hogers, leg sligbt, Joseph Price, head, slight. Missing - Abrnm llomig, Jacob Neidliammer. Co. F. Taken prisonert whilo in picket. - Andrew P. Furr, Ann Arbor. James Cuff, Sharoü. George Hawkiiip, Brooklyn. Co. II. Killed- Capt. W. D. Wiltsie, Ann Arbor. Corp. Almizo Hüigbt, Saline. TVounded - Corporal J. A. Dell, Saline, arm slight. " ■ Frank Philüps, Ypsilanti, arm sligbt. " August Ludwig, Ann Arbor, sboulder, blight. Jas. TV. Mead, Aun Arbor, ehotilder, slight Henry Bcnton, Lodi, nrra, slight. Wm Brown, shoulder, elight. Geo. Harrar, Lodi, hand, Beverg, Jas. Kennedy, Northfield, lost finger. Missing - Lt'vi Suow, Scio. John Shorman, Ann Arbor. Joseph Hoag, Saline. Co. K. Jxilled- George II. Ewing, Henry B. Franklin, Sylvan. Aaron Vanatter, Dexter. Wounded- ' Serg't. Jameg S. Spencer, Manchester, face, slight. Serg't. Q. K. Brownell, knee, slight. Orton VvTi]Hams, Jr., Stookbridge, arm Fred. Loman, Sylvan, baad, slight. Prisoners - i Gilbert Showers, Sylvan. 1 George H, Croman, - ; - r 1 forgot to say before, tbat this fort i has been namod " Fort Sannders," ín honor of tbo General wbo was killed oti the J8fe.