O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1
DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863.
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.
No. 6.--Report of Lieut. Col. Adolph Dengler,
Forty third Illinois Infantry, of operations December 18-27, 1862,
including engagement near Jackson.
HDQRS. FORTY-THIRD REGIMENT ILLINOIS VOLUNTEERS,
Bolivar, Tenn., December 28, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor to lay before you a report of the
operations of the Forty-third Regiment Illinois Volunteers while
under my command, from December 18 to the 27th:
On the morning of December 18 I received orders from Brigadier-General
Brayman to move the regiment immediately to the depot supplied with
one day's rations. We left Bolivar at 11 a.m., arriving at Jackson at 3 p.m.
The same evening I received orders from you to advance on the Lexington road
for about 5 miles, or to such a distance as should bring me in close
communication with the Eleventh Illinois and Fifth Ohio Cavalry. I met them
about 3 miles from Jackson and stationed along the road a strong picket line
about three-quarters of a mile in advance.
That part of the Lexington road near which the engagement of December 19 took
place runs through a plateau, bounded on either side by a ravine running
parallel to each other. The road runs through the ravine, nearest to Jackson,
in a northeasterly direction till it reaches a grave-yard called Salem
Cemetery, from whence it takes a due easterly course. You ordered me to occupy
a position near this bend of the road. I placed my second battalion on a
gentle slope, the left wing of this battalion almost touching the road, facing
east, while the first battalion occupied a more forward position on the right
of the second, leaving about 100 yards between them. Skirmishers were detached
from the first battalion and stationed to the right, in front of the same,
along the edge of the wood, covered somewhat by a fence. Just in front of the
line of skirmishers were a cotton-press and several small outhouses, beyond
which the rebel line of skirmishers extended. The right wing of the Sixty-
first Illinois held Salem Cemetery, somewhat in the rear of our second
battalion, but from which position the road is completely controlled.
Early on the morning of December 19 you advanced with the cavalry, who were
soon engaged in a lively skirmish with the enemy, lasting about half an hour.
The enemy had in the mean time brought their cannon in position and commenced
on our cavalry, who immediately retreated within our lines. Now commenced a
brisk firing between our skirmishers and those of the enemy, while the main
body of the rebel cavalry was being massed just beyond the highest ridge over
which the road runs. Slowly at last they came in view, advancing cautiously
for the first 100 yards, then putting their horses in a brisk trot till within
150 yards of us, when amid deafening cheers they charged headlong down the
road upon us. My men, however, had been cautioned to reserve their fire. I let
the enemy advance till within 30 yards of us, when at my command the men
poured in a deadly volley, causing great havoc among them. The enemy,
terrified at such a destructive fire from an unknown quarter (for they had not
suspected our presence, as we were well concealed), came to a momentary halt,
which proved to be the cause of their destruction, for at this critical moment
a well-directed fire from the Sixty-first and first and second battalions
completed their confusion. In wild disorder they turned from the road to the
right and left in the open fields, hurrying their shattered and
broken ranks without the range of our guns. After a lapse of some fifteen
minutes they commenced shelling the wood where we were stationed. The range of
their guns was very exact, shells bursting all around us. I was then ordered
by you to fall back 50 yards, in which position we were not better protected
than in the former one. You had in the mean time received intelligence that
large re-enforcements were being sent from Jackson and ordered me to fall back
l mile and there await them. Your orders were executed in the promptest manner
and best order, and after the re-enforcements arrived I again advanced with my
regiment and that night encamped on the ground where the fight of the morning
had taken place. I may justly be proud of the valor of my men which they
have displayed on this occasion. All officers and soldiers have behaved well
and deserve my heartiest thanks for their gallant conduct.
The loss from this regiment is very trifling. We have only 2 men slightly
wounded, while the enemy's loss must have been very considerable. We learned
from the inhabitants living along the road that the rebels lost between 60 and
80 in killed and wounded, besides 3 prisoners which we took in the morning.
The regiment sustained in this fight its old reputation for bravery so gallantly
and nobly won on the bloody battle-fields of Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing.
On the morning of December 20 we again advanced till within 10 miles of
Lexington. Here we encamped for the night, this regiment occupying the
advance. Not having come up with an enemy, the expedition returned on the 21st
to Jackson, where the regiment was encamped on the fair ground.
Colonel Lawler, commanding post, ordered me on December 23 to report my
regiment at 5 p.m. on the Bolivar road, the men to be supplied with three
days' rations. Marched the same night to Medon Station, from where, on the
25th, we reached Denmark at noon. From here we marched, by way of Glover
Creek, to Toone's Station, arriving there at 11 a.m. on December 26.
The regiment had now been on the move from December 18 to the 26th. Many of
the men had not provided themselves with blankets, and in consequence suffered
a great deal from exposure during the nights, as no shelter of any kind was
provided for them. They had few cooking utensils, and none could be obtained
at the quartermaster's department at Jackson; and even for those we had we
could not procure any transportation. The weather up to the morning of
December 26 had been very favorable. The men had borne the excessive
fatigue of long marches very cheerfully, but on Friday morning a drenching
rain commenced pouring down, making the roads almost impassable and
using the men completely up. Under these circumstances I thought it
advisable to dispatch Adjutant Wagenfuehr to you to inform you of the
condition of the regiment and to solicit your endeavors to have the regiment
returned to Bolivar. You were kind enough to procure from General
Brayman an order for the regiment's return, on the receipt of which
I immediately started for Bolivar, arriving there at 6.30 p.m.
This brings my report to a close.
Although meager, it will still convey
to you a general view of the operations of this regiment for the last
nine days. Before concluding, I wish to assure you of, and thank the
men for, the patient endurance and fortitude with which the officers
and men have borne the hardships during this time.
In conclusion, colonel, allow me to assure you of the high regard and
confidence myself, officers, and men of this regiment feel toward you, and
which have only been strengthened by the skill and valor you displayed
in the engagement of December 19.
I am, colonel, with much respect,
Col. ADOLPH ENGELMANN,
Forty-third Regiment Illinois Volunteers