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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#14 of 52) 

Aftermath of the Battle at Perryville; the pursuit of Gen. Bragg.

“Our division remained near the town of Perryville until morning, and then resumed the march at a safe distance from the enemy. When not more than one mile from the field, we passed some buildings filled with the rebel wounded. We were now in what is known as the “blue-grass” region; and it was unmistakably the finest country we saw in the Sate of Kentucky.
“One of the great precautions of Col. Hines was always to be ready for a surprise, particularly early in the morning; and it proved quite an advantage on the morning of Saturday, October 11th. Suddenly as the coming of a storm, the sound of musketry and cheering was heard in the direction of our picket lines. A heavy force of the enemy’s cavalry had succeeded in surprising our cavalry outposts; and were driving them hastily towards our camp. In an instant Col. Hines was on the line, called his regiment together, and as soon as the arms could be taken from the stacks, we were ready for orders. The rebels could have found no better time for a surprise. Our artillery horses were unharnessed, and the artillerists were either in bed or cooking their breakfasts, as were also nearly all the men of the other regiments. Col. Wagner, on being aroused from his slumbers by the noise of the enemy, could find neither staff officer nor orderly, but seeing the 57th standing in line, he walked down to where we were, and said to our colonel, “Take your regiment out there and keep those fellows back until we can come out.” As we moved off, we could hear him shouting to the other regimental commanders to ‘get their men into line.’

“Our skirmishers had a good position behind a stone fence which crossed the large field in our front, and kept up a constant fire on the enemy. The 57th were now withdrawn behind the brow of the hill to prevent the enemy from discovering our real force; and every man was ordered to commence cheering and yelling, by which it was hoped to distract them, and thus prevent a general rush on our position before the other troops could come to our relief. A portion of Cox’s battery was soon in position, and commenced throwing shell at a body of cavalry that had just emerged from the woods and were charging down our line of pickets. After making a charge, which failed to break our line posted behind the fence, they turned and left the field. But for the timely appearance of our regiment and the battery, to oppose their advance, they would undoubtedly have dashed into our camps. Fortunately, we lost mo man. We returned to the grove where we remained until that night.

“At midnight we were aroused, and ordered to get breakfast and prepare to march as quickly as possible. The column pushed forward briskly, and at 9 o’clock our advance overtook the rear guard of the rebels. Gen. Wood immediately formed his troops in line of battle, and drove the enemy to Stanford, where they commenced firing from a battery posted on a hill beyond the town. Our artillery was now brought into action and soon after, the rebels fled.

“It was a fact that could now no longer be concealed, that Bragg had succeeded in making his escape, and that the main body of his army was well on their way toward the Cumberland Gap. On Wednesday, the 15th, our march continued along the winding road through the hills until midnight. Our division marched for Columbia, Kentucky, where we arrived on Saturday, October 25th, after a march of near one hundred miles in five days, over a rough and broken country. When we reached we were out of rations and a majority of the men were suffering from hunger. Snow fell on the night of our arrival, which found us without our tents or anything to protect us from the storm.

“On the 30th of October, we marched to Glasgow and went into camp with the welcome tidings that the paymaster was in camp, and would soon commence paying off the troops. We received four months wages from Maj. Baber. Large numbers of men now left for home. Desertions first commenced at Louisville, though they were much more frequent after payday than before.

“Almost the entire army was disheartened at the failure of so large a force to accomplish anything under the direction of our commander, Gen. Buell. All our movements plainly demonstrated the fact that instead of pursuing the retreating foe, and forcing him to fight, general engagements had been studiously avoided. Many times during the campaign we were in such close proximity to the foe that we could easily have brought on an engagement; but when we came near them in daylight, we invariably received the order to withdraw to a safe distance, only to follow them at the hour of midnight, when it was known they were gone. Gen. Buell no longer possessed the confidence of his army, and the events of each succeeding day but served to augment the increasing demoralization.”

(Kentucky, October 10 - 30, 1862)

Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

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