This demonstration was an attempt by Rosecrans to fix the attention of Bragg on the Shelbyville front. It looked every bit like a major attack was brewing in front of Shelbyville. This demonstration on the far left of the Confederate defense worked even better than Rosecrans had hoped. Contrary to his orders to defend the eastern end of the line, he moved almost his entire cavalry force across the Confederate front.
The cavalry screen that Bragg was depending on for early warning on the right of his line was virtually gone before the first Union troops appeared there. The Union Cavalry moved down the Lewisburg Pike toward Shelbyville until they encountered their first real resistance about a mile south of Eagleville.
Here the 7 th and 51 st Alabama Cavalry and the 2 nd and 4 th Georgia Cavalry supported by a battery fought a delaying action. The fight lasted about two hours before the Confederate troopers were pushed back by the 9 th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The Pennsylvanians were then relieved by the 2 nd Michigan who over ran the small Confederate camp at Rover and continued on toward Unionville.
Just outside of Unionville the Union cavalrymen ran into Confederate infantry who utilized a road that did not appear on any of the Union maps to gain the Federal flank. The next morning the march was taken up toward Versailles until orders were received to proceed to Middleton.
After contact with Confederate pickets a battle line was drawn up with the 1 st Wisconsin Cavalry and the 2 nd Indiana Cavalry straddling the road. They drove the Confederate skirmishers back into town and waited for the infantry column to catch up.
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An effective fire from inside several buildings was received and the Federal commanders became impatient. A battery was brought up to engage the pesky snipers and force them from the buildings. A charge then cleared the enemy from the town. Again ignoring their success, the cavalry withdrew to the area of Christiana where they were to link up with the infantry. Known as the all Illinois Brigade 22 nd , 27 th , 42 nd , and 51 st , it was led forward by five companies of the 39 th Indiana Mounted infantry, under Lieutenant Colonel Fielder Alsor Jones.
The brigade held the crossroads until relieved at p. Around a. In the vanguard of the advance were the other five companies of the attached 39 th Indiana Mounted Infantry, under Colonel Thomas J. So rapid was the advance that three Confederate troopers were taken prisoner as they cut wheat.
From these prisoners McCook learned that only two regiments were stationed in the gap and he decided to make a determined push against them. Willich was ordered to move his infantry column up as soon as possible to take advantage of the opportunity. On his arrival Willich deployed two regiments 15 th Ohio and 49 th Ohio across the road. After probing the defense he discovered that the hills on which the defense was set were steep, rocky, open for most of the distance but topped with trees.
They had no intention of giving up their responsibility without a fight. Both sides began a series of flanking efforts. Willich continued to extend his flanks and, upon assuming command of the 29 th Indiana and 77 th Pennsylvania from the newly arrived 2 nd Brigade, gained a clear advantage. Left behind was their camp where the victors found a table set for dinner.
The defenders took up a secondary position on the next set of hills where the artillery could be used more effectively.
The 29 th Indiana and the 77 th Pennsylvania were ordered to find a weak spot in the new position and to take possession of the hills. Swinging around the left of the enemy the 77 th Pennsylvania charged, or more accurately struggled, up the hill toward the Confederate line.
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Colonel Thomas Ellwood Rose, commanding the 77 th , reported that the men could only advance up the slippery steep incline by pulling themselves forward using the saplings and bushes for hand holds. Fortunately the expected resistance did not materialize. Brigadier General St. John Richardson Liddell had seen the untenable position for what it was and ordered a withdrawal to the main camp near the village of Bell Buckle.
The gap had been taken and as night came on the opposing artillery continued to trade shots, but each side issued orders for their troops to hold their position. At a. They were followed by two divisions of infantry. Kirkpatrick of the 72 nd Indiana, preceded by a forward deployed unit of 25 scouts from the 17 th and 72 nd Indiana. These men met the pickets of the 3 rd Kentucky Cavalry just two miles after leaving the Murfreesboro defenses. This small force was easily pushed back to the reserve located on a heavily forested hill in the gap.
Kirkpatrick deployed a company on each side of the road and drove the Confederate troopers from their position, taking two prisoners. The advance was ordered to continue forward to prevent the enemy from occupying defensive works known to be in the gap. The retreat of the Confederate cavalrymen was so disorganized that as they scattered the regimental colors were left behind and a small train of seven wagons was left undefended and captured.
With nothing left to stop them the column continued on to the southern end of the gap. The contact between the two forces was not reported to the Confederate commanders responsible for defending the gap until p. Brigadier General Bushrod Rust Johnson reported that the first he heard of the attack came from two disheveled local boys who appeared at headquarters to report the advance. Moments later this report was verified by a wounded cavalryman and an officer from the 1 st 3 rd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. Bate immediately put the 20 th Tennessee, 37 th Georgia, and the Eufala Light Artillery on the road to the village of Beech Grove at the exit to the gap.
They had barely left camp before meeting remnants of the retreating Kentucky Cavalry.
About a mile from camp they came upon a section of the cavalry that included their colonel and a few of his men. This group joined the column to act as guides and scout forward. Learning from the cavalrymen the extent of the Union advance Bate sent word back for the deployment of his remaining regiments. The main body continued on to Beech Grove where they were determined to arrest the Union advance. The first effort at attacking the Federal advance was made by the 20 th Tennessee and the 37 th Georgia. Wilder was determined not to surrender the ground already gained.
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He refused an order to fall back and set a defense to fend off the expected Confederate counter-attacks. Major General John McAuley. Palmer, commanding the lead division did not receive them until a. In an effort to save time he also disobeyed orders to move without baggage. The march finally began at a. Palmer quickly regretted having the excess weight along.
The roads were quickly turned to mud and the travelling became very difficult. The column had a battalion of the Pioneer Brigade along and they worked feverishly to improve the roads but it was a losing battle against the rain. Progress was agonizingly slow. In the lead the th Illinois ran into a brief resistance just beyond the village of Bradyville and pushed them back about a mile. Unhappy with the rate of advance and being stalled by such a small force Palmer ordered a portion of Company C of the 7 th Illinois Cavalry, his personal escort, to make a charge against the defenders. Here XXI Corps would suffer two of the three casualties that they would experience during the entire campaign.
The other brigade of his division had been stripped away at the last minute to reinforce the Shelbyville front. The march began again the next morning and made reasonable progress until they reached Gillies Hill. The slope and condition of the roads brought progress to a halt. Palmer stopped the main column at Hollow Springs and awaited his supply train. Details were sent back to assist moving the wagons along but it was slow, exhausting work. As many as 50 men pushed and pulled each wagon along with the mules.
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The column would wait at Hollow Springs until June 27 before the movement could resume. The effort to get behind Bragg was stalled by the weather and poor decision making. The main effort of the Union campaign was stuck in the mud. Back at Hoover Gap Wilder prepared to defend his prize. He set his forces for the expected Confederate response by placing two companies of the 98 th Illinois to the left of the road.
To the right the Union line started with the 72 nd Indiana on a hillock on which there was a graveyard. They were supported by two mountain howitzers on the front of the hill. They were supported by the rd Illinois.