Bygones of Monroe:
The 15th Michigan in the Late Battle near Corinth
Corinth, Sunday Night, October 5. 1862
Dear Brothers: I wrote you a letter Thursday night last, in which I gave you an account of an attack on the 15th stationed at Chewalla, by the advance guard of what was supposed to be a large army of rebels under Price and VanDoran. I told you that Gen. Oliver went out with the balance of his Brigade to support the 15th. I said that this might prove to be the beginning of the great battle which was to decide whether the detested rebel rag or the glorious “Stars and Stripes” should continue to float over Corinth. This supposition has proved correct, a great battle has been fought! The Union Army has been victorious! Oliver with the 2nd Brigade of McArthur’s Division, being the 6th of the Army of west Tenn., and especially the brave 15th Mich., which it included under McDermott has, (in the language of Napoleon, when writing of McMahon) “covered itself with glory!” I will not attempt to give you a correct or detailed account of the battle, nor can I give you the, decisive result as the battle is still going on, cannonading being plainly heard even now, 9 o’clock at night, in the direction of the enemy’s line of retreat. I will jumble what I can of the facts together at present in order that you may be enabled to allay the anxiety of the friends of the brave men of the 15th who were engaged in this fierce and terrible battle. Oliver, after reconnoitering the advance guard of the enemy, with which the 15th had been skirmishing all the way from Chewalla on Thursday, placed two pieces of artillery which he had with his Brigade in position about four miles from Corinth on the Chewalla road and waited the advance of the enemy. They did not allow his patience to tire in the morning for they commenced the attack before sunrise, the 15th Mich., being still in the advance. The enemy advanced in force driving in our skirmishers and showed such a bold front that Gen. Oliver after a short stand thought it prudent to fall back to a better position, an eminence about a mile in the rear, which he did in good order keeping out skirmishers to check the advance of the foe all the way. In crossing a very rough bridge however, the axletree of one of the Artillery carriages got broken, which disabled the piece. Our men spiked the gun, rolled it into the creek and destroyed the bridge. This gave them sufficient time to gain the hill in good order on which they planted their remaining pieces, with which they poured a terrible fire into the advancing foe. Here on this hill and its vicinity the most desperate fighting took place which was done by the Brigade, which here consisted of the 15th Mich., and 14th Wis., with one piece of artillery the 18th Wis., having been detached and sent on another road to guard a bridge about 2 miles to the left of our line of battle to prevent the enemy from outflanking our troops and getting in our rear. The 18th consequently did not participate in the struggle for the hill which was held by this handful of brave men against 5 times their number during 2 hours, and until McArthur arrived with the rest of his division. The above officers complimented
Gen. Oliver and Col. McDermott for the coolness and bravery displayed by them. I will here say in this connection that the officers and men whom I have talked, all agree that both Oliver and McDermott proved themselves brave and consistent soldiers, and showed by the manner in which they handled their respective commands under difficult circumstances that they have not been idle in studying tactics.
The 15th Mich. has done honor to the State from which it hails. Its praise is in everybody’s mouth. When the Reget. (or rather what was left of it) arrived in Corinth and passed through the streets in the evening after Friday’s fight, the cry was raised, “there goes the Regt. that first engaged the enemy and stood so well.” Cheer after cheer went up and was participated in by the soldiers drawn up in the streets, and by traders and men from all parts of the Union.
Adjutant McBride behaved nobly; he was everywhere in transmitting Gen. Oliver’s orders. Tim, (who was out with Regt. several times with provisions and water) told me one time when he came in that he was almost sure McBride would be killed he acted so reckless. He however came out of the fight both days without a scratch. Most o the Co. officers stood bravely, amongst those whom I heard praised for a display of courage were the Adam’s, LaPoint, Barnaby, Bell and several others whose names I cannot now think of. There are some names I omit to mention who were on the sick list, and consequently were not with their men. I now come to the least desirable part to write on. About 9 o’clock Friday morning the ambulances of the 15th arrived in town with a load of wounded, amongst them Lieut. F. Adams, who had received a gunshot wound through the flesh of the sword arm above the elbow. The ball passed near the bone causing an ugly wound. He is doing well and was down to the wagons to see us today. The ambulances continued from that hour till late in the afternoon to make trips as fast as the horses could go and return until it brought in as many as 30 wound from the 15th. They were placed in a long shed or Gov. building, by the R.R., and well attended by our Surgeons. Quite a number are killed or missing but the number is not yet known. I however think that there are not many who belonged near Monroe.
One of the Olsen boys slightly; Sergt. Clark, Co. H, in shoulder; Corporal Lamkins, Co. K, wounded; Sergt. McKnight, Co. B who used to live in Monroe, is severely wounded in the right breast or shoulder. It is thought he cannot live. Sergt. Miller from Detroit, Co. E, in abdomen, and cannot live.
I saw a number who were wounded in the arms and legs, whose names I cannot give. I will send you a complete list when I can obtain it. Rosenecrans who had chief command of the Union troops continued to send out fresh troops of Infantry, Artillery and Calvary, but the enemy continued to bring fresh brigades to his front, and our troops were obliged to fall back steadily before him until late in the afternoon, when the line of battle extended along a distance of 4 or 5 miles and with half a mile of the town. Our batteries which had been previously erected to protect the town on that side were in the mean time throwing shells into the enemy from the time became in range. He however came steadily on, our men disputing every inch. Night closed in leaving the combatants in a semi-circle on a hill around the west and north side of the town. In the morning the enemy commenced shelling the town from some batteries which he erected during the night, some of his shells exploded in town killing a few persons and doing damage to buildings which caused a general pack up of goods and stampede of traders and civilians. The enemy’s guns which opened about 4 o’clock in the morning were silenced before 6 by our heavier ones which were more admirably worked. Still however he came on with his Infantry; and about 10 o’clock after extending his line of battle on our right and crossing the Columbus R.R. and gaining a position on the north side of the town he came on with a whole brigade and charged on a battery which had been erected the night previous night in the edge of town to guard that point. I having gone to town on horseback to try to find and talk with our officers and men happened to be within 20 rods of the battery at the time. Here I had my first experience of a battle. I cannot conceive anything more grand or terrible than that attack. The enemy came on like hungry devils; and though mowed down by hundreds they drove our men from the guns and went right through the battery into the town. Here they committed a fatal mistake. Instead of trying to hold the battery or using the guns on the town they were so hungry and so anxious for plunder that they went right through the battery into the town. Here they were met by a terrible fire of infantry from some troops who were ready to receive them and the same time taken by a cross fire from two other batteries, the consequences was their dead were piled up in dozens in the streets, and not more than fifty or a hundred of the whole brigade were left alive. This ended the close fighting for the day. The enemy faltered along his whole line and commenced to fall back. Our batteries continued to shell them, and our troops to pursue them. At night Rosenecrans rode along the line and was received with cheers. He announced to the officers and men that the enemy was defeated and in full retreat along the whole line pursued by our troops. He left his dead and wounded on the field and a large number of prisoners who still continue to arrive. They admit having 55,000 troops with plenty of artillery. Oliver has two more regiments attached to his Brigade and is in pursuit of the enemy. I will give you more particulars in my next. I cannot give you the number of killed and wounded, but that of the enemy is very large, wounded principally with our shells.
I remain &c, John Doyle
(Monroe Commercial, October 23, 1862, Page 1, Column 4)