O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1 [S# 24]
DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863.
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.
No. 16.--Report of Col. H. J. B. Cummings, 39th Iowa Infantry, of
engagement at Parker's Cross-Roads.
HEADQUARTERS THIRTY-NINTH IOWA INFANTRY,
Battle Ground, Parker's Cross. Roads, December 31, 1862.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken
by my regiment in the battle of Parker's Cross-Roads this day:
Upon arriving at the cross-roads we were halted, and remained in that position
some time, while the Fiftieth Indiana Infantry, deployed as skirmishers and
supported by two pieces of artillery, engaged the rebels upon the hill to the
right and west of the road. We were then ordered to file to the right, up the
lane, to take position in the woods upon the hills, and upon arriving there I
was ordered to countermarch and take position about a mile south of the cross-
roads, and there formed in front of a few log houses, upon the left of the One
hundred and twenty-second Illinois Infantry.
About 11 a.m. I changed front forward on first company and moved north about a
quarter of a mile, and again formed on the left of the One hundred and twenty-
second Illinois behind a fence. Here we were exposed to a murderous fire from
two pieces of the enemy's artillery in front and a battery of about six guns
upon our right, which enfiladed my entire line; we were also exposed to a
heavy musketry fire from the enemy's dismounted cavalry. My men were in a low
skirt of timber, but returned for a long time, with much energy, the fire from their
rifles. Notwithstanding the grape, canister, and shell of the enemy were falling
thick upon them, wounding many, they behaved admirably and fought with much
coolness; and here allow me to remark that they were greatly encouraged by the
presence of Colonel Dunham, commanding the brigade, who, amid the thickest of the
iron hail, rode in front and rear of them, urging them to do or die for their country.
After fighting for an hour or more in this position some officer came down to
my right and gave an order, which several of my officers say to me was "Rally
to the rear." Had the officer passed down as far as my colors he would have
found me, and I am satisfied I could have had my command heard my voice; have
about-faced the regiment, and led them anywhere without confusion; but, being
raw troops and imperfectly drilled, they mistook the command for an order to
retreat and commenced breaking to the rear from near the right of the
regiment, which, despite my efforts, became propagated along the whole line. I
hastened toward the right of the retreating men and ordered a halt and the
command to form, and had done much toward reforming when we were opened upon
by a heavy fire of dismounted men, who had advanced under cover of the thick
underbrush to within 50 feet of my men. They then in more confusion fell back
toward the fence, and received standing the fire of the enemy's artillery, and
under it and the fire from the rear the confusion became worse. Companies F
and D, and several from other companies, formed upon the now right of the One
hundred and twenty-second Illinois, which had faced to the rear, and assisted
them in driving the rebels back at the point of the bayonet, taking a number
of prisoners. Under this fire, so unexpected from both front and rear
(and the enemy's cannon seemed to be entirely concentrated upon our left,
to save their own force in our rear), about half of my regiment broke to
the left of our line as formed behind the fence and crossed the road into
the corn-field upon the opposite side.
Assisted by Colonel Dunham, Lieutenant-Colonel Redfield, who was severely
wounded; Major Griffiths, who had been struck on the head by a spent grape-
shot, and yourself, I attempted to halt and reform the scattered men. The
enemy turned their cannon upon us and we were fired upon by their cavalry, and
I was unable to form a line until we reached a skirt of timber about a quarter
of a mile from where we laid in line. Here I formed and marched back upon the
left again of the One hundred and twenty-second Illinois.
Let me say that in this confusion we found a number of the One hundred and
twenty-second Illinois and of the Fiftieth Indiana, but they fell in with us
and marched back to the battle ground. Shortly afterward, perhaps half an
hour, and at about 1.30, re-enforcements arrived and the battle ended.
I have omitted to state that at the cross-roads Company A was detached from
the regiment and guarded our trains. When we fell back to the ground on which
the battle was fought, they, or rather all but 15 of them, with Company G, of
the One hundred and twenty-second Illinois, were stationed at the house in the
rear of our line of battle. Here they three times repulsed a regiment of
cavalry who attempted to force their way through the lane to reach our main
body. The 15 spoken of were near the trains, and there succeeded in capturing
over 40 of the rebels.
There were many cases of individual bravery among those under my command; but
to particularize would make my report too lengthy. I must, however, say that,
from information received through reliable men of my command who were taken
prisoners and paroled, I am satisfied that the rebels had men dressed in our
uniform so close in our roar that they could see our exact position--knew the
numbers of our regiment and strength.
Allow me to add that while I cannot take the room to name the many of my
company officers who did their whole duty, I must bear witness to
the coolness and bravery of Lieutenant-Colonel Redfield (who ceased his labors
only when his wound compelled him), Major Griffiths, Surgeon Woods, and
Adjutant Tichenor. They rendered me all the assistance possible.
The following figures show the number of my officers and men that took part in
Field and staff. 5
Company officers 21
Enlisted men 379
My report of casualties is as follows:
Total loss 47
Company C, with the exception of 5 men, were left on picket at
Huntingdon, and did not arrive in time to take part in the engagement.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. J. B. CUMMINGS,
Lieut. JOHN R. SIMPSON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Brigade