Report of Col. Daniel McCook, Fifty-second Ohio Infantry, commanding Thirty-sixth Brigade.
HDQRS. THIRTY-SIXTH BRIG., ELEVENTH DIV.,
THIRD ARMY CORPS, ARMY OF THE OHIO,
Battlefield Chaplin Hills, October 9, 1862.
SIR: In obedience to the orders of General Buell, conveyed through you, at 2 a.m. of the 8th instant I moved three regiments of my brigade, viz, the Eighty-fifth Illinois, the Fifty-second Ohio, and the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois, to the foot of Peters' Hill, the position I was ordered to carry. At this point, discovering the enemy's force upon the hill above, I deployed the Eighty-fifth Regiment Illinois upon the right of the Perryville road and the Fifty-second Regiment upon the left, throwing skirmishers to the front, enveloping my flanks. The skirmishers had scarcely taken intervals when a severe and galling fire was opened on them. As soon as sufficient ground was gained to the front I deployed the One hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment Illinois upon both sides of the road as a reserve. Although all my regiments were fresh from their homes they moved steadily up the hill driving the enemy, who contested warmly every step, and occupied the crest of the heights, which gave us a commanding position over the surrounding country and one of vast importance at a subsequent part of the day. There I halted my battalions in a favorable position, keeping the One hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment well in reserve under the crest of the hill and throwing skirmishers at such a distance from my line as to keep the enemy's sharpshooters, who still occupied a skirt of woods on the slope of the hill to the front, from annoying my regiments lying in position. About this time Captain Barnett's battery arrived and was put into position upon the left of the road. Two of his pieces he could not use on account of the inexperience of the men detailed to man them. With the remaining four he did good service during the day. The enemy, knowing the importance of the position he had lost, being re-enforced, advanced to retake it. He opened a battery upon the Eighty-fifth Illinois and began using spherical case. I ordered a section of Captain Barnett's battery upon the extreme right of the position to reply to this and ordered the right wing of the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois to take position to the right of the battery to support it. The enemy's fire for about fifty minutes was very severe, but Captain Barnett, after compelling him to change position three times, finally drove him off. The steadiness with which the Eighty-fifth and One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois withstood the fire was admirable, as they were unable to reply and had during it a considerable number wounded. After this the firing almost ceased, with here and there a straggling shot aimed at mounted men. At this juncture General Sheridan arrived upon the field.
The enemy under Buckner soon began massing troops in the skirt of woods into the edge of which I had thrown my skirmishers. General Gay, commanding cavalry, came up and attempted to go toward Perryville, when his further advance was checked by the enemy in the woods. He dismounted a portion of his cavalry, and, supported by the skirmishers of the Fifty-second Ohio Regiment, advanced into the woods, where we afterward learned there were two rebel brigades.
The action quickly became sharp, when the Second Missouri Infantry, and soon the Forty-fourth Illinois to support it, were ordered into the woods. They drove the enemy from there across the open fields in front and took possession of a wooded hill beyond the Bottom House, upon which the rebels afterward planted their batteries, most destructive to the right of General McCook's corps. In the mean time we had observed the head of General Rousseau's division debouching into the field to our left from the Mackville road. At about the same time the Second Missouri attacked the woods. The Eighty-sixth Regiment Illinois, belonging to my brigade but being upon picket, was ordered to advance over the open fields to the left and seize the extreme left of the wood. This they did in gallant style at a double-quick, driving the enemy before them, and in doing which 1 private was killed and 11 wounded. General Sheridan then ordered that the Fifty-second Ohio go forward to relieve the Second Missouri. I met this regiment coming back, having been ordered to leave the advanced position it occupied.
The Fifty-second was halted in the woods so hotly contested. You soon ordered my brigade forward to form line of battle on the farther edge of the woods so often mentioned. Captain Hescock's battery, supported by the Eighty-sixth Illinois, had been here doing good service for some time by enfilading a battery planted upon the hill abandoned by the Second Missouri, and playing upon General Rousseau's division, just getting in position. The line General Sheridan selected was an admirable one, and General Rousseau formed his division upon a continuation of it, his right being separated from General Sheridan's left by the dry rocky bed of a stream which wound off toward Perryville.
The last regiment of my brigade was getting into position and the enemy's batteries had begun to play upon General Rousseau's division upon our left when we were ordered to fall back at least half a mile and assume the position carried in the morning, leaving General Rousseau without support on the right, exposing his flank. The enemy was not disturbed any longer by the batteries of our division --- began to tell with effect upon General Rousseau. The enemy, assured by our retrograde movement, began to show themselves upon our right. A portion of Colonel Greusel's brigade got out of position, and the line, as formed with respect to my brigade, was as follows: The Thirty-sixth Illinois was on my left; the Fifty-second Ohio immediately upon its right, supporting a part of Captain Barnett's and Hescock's batteries. The Eighty-fifth Regiment was upon the right of these batteries. The One hundred and twenty-fifth acted under your orders in the last action. I am happy to learn it behaved finely, and I must trust to your report to do it full justice. The Eighty-sixth Regiment was held in reserve upon the pike, with orders to watch the woods to our left and resist any attempt to turn our flank. The enemy made two determined attacks to carry the position, and at one time was repelled by the bayonet, in which charge the Eighty-fifth and One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois Regiments gallantly took part. The enemy reformed and advanced again. The Thirty-sixth Illinois being out of ammunitions I ordered the Fifty-second Regiment into line, and after an engagement of thirty minutes the enemy was driven from the field.
Too much praise cannot be given to the coolness, bravery, and steadiness of the troops of the brigade. To Col. R. S. Moore, of the Eighty-fifth Regiment Illinois, I call your special attention for his coolness, experience, and bravery on the field. Colonels Irons, Harmon, and Lieutenant-Colonel Cowen all deserve honorable mention for conspicuous bravery and judgment in action. Lieutenant-Colonels Dilworth, Magee, and Langley ably assisted their respective colonels, and were everywhere present where duty called them. Majors Cummings, Bean, and Lee, and Captain Clark, acting major of the Fifty-second Regiment, all performed well and ably their respective duties. A very large share of the honor of the day is due the respective regimental officers. Many instances of gallantry in line officers came under my notice, but regimental reports must suffice for these. With great pleasure I can call your attention to the conduct of my staff. Dr. Moore, brigade surgeon, coolly dressed wounds under the hottest fire and personally superintended the removal of the wounded. Captain Viemont was conspicuous through the day for his cool daring and assistance he offered me. Lieut. J. A. Mallory, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. E. L. Anderson, Lieut. J. J. McCook, and Lieutenant Ashley all bore themselves with commendable gallantry and distinguished themselves by the intelligent manner in which they conveyed and executed my orders.
With the sincerest pleasure imaginable I call your attention to the signal bravery and daring heroism of Charles Common and Samuel J. Marsh, privates of Company A, Fifty-second Ohio. Their conduct was the admiration of all who saw them.
The casualties in my brigade are as follows: Six killed, 43 wounded, 6 missing.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Captain LEE, Assistant Adjutant- General, Eleventh Division.
Testimony of Colonel DANIEL. McCOOK, Commanding, Thirty-sixth Brigade, Eleventh Division, Third Corps, Army of the Ohio.
Transcript from Phonographic Notes of the Buell Court of Inquiry.
OR Vol. 16, Pt. 1, P. 238 – 241
Col. D. MCCOOK (a witness for the defense), being duly sworn by the judge-advocate, testified as follows:
By General BUELL:
Question. Colonel, will you state to the Commission, if you please, what you know of the operations in front of Perryville on the evening of the 7th and on the 8th? Confine yourself, if you please, to important incidents, so as not to occupy more time than is necessary for yourself and the Commission. Also please state your name and position in the service of the United States.
My name is Daniel McCook, colonel of the Fifty-second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at that time commanding the Thirty-sixth Brigade and still commanding it, forming a part of the Tenth Division of the Third Army Corps of the Army of the Ohio. On the night of the 7th of October, 1862, my brigade went into camp within about 4 miles of Perryville, on the Springfield pike. We encamped on the right of the road, three-quarters of a mile from it, in line of battle. The Eighty-fifth Illinois, one of the regiments composing my brigade, was detailed for picket at 2 o'clock that night. I had just got my troops into position when I received an order from Maj. J. M. Wright, one of General Buell's assistant adjutants-general, ordering Major-General Gilbert to throw forward one of his brigades and seize the ground in front of Doctor's Fork, which our corps was depending upon for water, and also to consult Captain [Ebenezer] Gay as to the position and conformation of the country. This order was properly referred to General Sheridan by General Gilbert, and General Sheridan ordered my brigade to execute the duty. I immediately got on my horse, wakened up my men as quietly as possible, left orders for them to file into the Springfield road and there await further commands, while I went to find Captain Gay. During my meanderings to find Captain Gay I stumbled into General Buell's camp, and asked the sentinel if he could tell me where Captain Gay was. General Buell, I suppose recognizing my voice, requested me to come in. I found Captain Gay, got the information desired from him, put my column in motion for the high ground, which I subsequently learned to be called Peters' Hill. On the advice of General Buell I had dispatched a staff officer to get a battery from General Sheridan. He sent me Captain Barnett's Illinois battery. As soon as I got to the outpost Colonel [Nicholas] Greusel pointed to me the enemy's picket line, which was on the crest of Peters' Hill. I formed the Eighty-fifth Illinois on the right of the Springfield pike, the Fifty-second Ohio (my own regiment) on the left of the Springfield pike, throwing forward well to the front and flanks two companies of each regiment as skirmishers. I formed the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois, another regiment composing my brigade, the right wing on the left side of the road and the left wing on the right side. My skirmishers had scarcely taken intervals, it being a bright moonlight night (between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning), when the enemy opened upon me with a heavy musketry fire. My skirmishers advanced steadily up the hill on the left of the road, it being open ground; but being wood on the right of the road, the principal force of the enemy was concentrated there, and the Eighty-fifth Illinois made very slow progress. As soon as I discovered that their progress was so slow I ordered my skirmishers to change direction to the right, followed by the battalion, attack the rebels in flank, and drive them from the woods, thereby gaining the crest of Peters' Hill. In carrying this position I lost 6 men killed and 27 wounded. I threw my skirmishers 1,000 yards to the front, far enough to keep my main line from being annoyed, and ordered my men to lay down on the crest of the hill, well covered by it. By this time Barnett's battery had arrived. I put four guns into position on the left of the road, commanding the open country and valley, upon which part of General Rousseau's division subsequently formed; two guns I put off to the right of the road, commanding another open plain stretching off toward Perryville.
By this time it had got daylight. I dispatched staff officers to General Buell and to General Sheridan, informing them that I had carried the position and would await further orders. I hardly had the right section in position when the rebels came down the Springfield road from Perryville with a battery and what seemed to be two brigades of infantry. They put their battery in position on the hill at the back of the Bottom house and began shelling the woods. As soon as I saw them go into position I ordered the right wing of the Eighty-fifth Illinois onto the crest of the hill to the right of the section of the battery, as a support to it, which I had before ordered to the right of the road. I then ordered my men to lay down. The rebels shelled the woods for an hour and a quarter. Supposing from the quietness which I required my men to keep that they had run us out of the woods they deployed in the open ground to attack us. I restrained the impatience of the men till they got within 200 yards of me, and they only waited for one volley, which was delivered by the Eighty-fifth Illinois and the right wing of the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois and the section of artillery.
About this time two regiments of rebel cavalry showed themselves on the left of my position on the Mackville road, their infantry pickets being scattered through the field. The cavalry was heading from Perryville out toward Mackville. I opened on that cavalry with the two James guns which I had left on the left of the road and drove it back. About this time I became apprehensive from clouds of dust which I saw on my right hand and dust also which I saw to my extreme left along the bottom of Chaplin Creek that they were turning my position and surrounding me, and sent back to General Sheridan or General Gilbert, I do not remember which, for re-enforcements. General Gilbert came out, preceded a few minutes by General Sheridan, and examined my position, and told me not to advance any farther and that he would go back and report to General Buell. That was about 6 o'clock in the morning. Two brigades of General Sheridan's division were immediately dispatched to my assistance.
About this time there seemed to be a lull in the firing; occasionally a sharpshooter would annoy the line; my skirmishers would reply. Immediately on the left of the Springfield road was a grove of timber. Buckner came up with two brigades, slipping along the dry bed of Doctor's Fork, and got into those woods about 250 yards in my front. As soon as this was discovered the Second Missouri, supported by the Forty-fourth Illinois, with a section of artillery, was ordered to dislodge them. A few minutes before Captain Gay came out with his cavalry. He desired me to throw forward my skirmishers and clear the wood, which I declined to do. He then reported to General Gilbert, from whom I received a note telling me to hold my position - not to advance. This was between 6 and 7 o'clock in the morning. Captain Gay started his cavalry into the woods, and they came back very rapidly; then he dismounted a portion of his command, and the Second Missouri and Forty-fourth Illinois, with Gay's cavalry dismounted, drove the rebels from that piece of woods, which movement was hastened by General Fry opportunely ordering forward the Eighty-sixth Illinois Regiment, which was on picket, to charge the left of the piece of woods over the open fields. The Second Missouri followed up their advantage, following the rebels over the open-country clearing beyond Sam. Bottom's house up through his orchard, and seized the line of heights, over which they could see Chaplin River very plainly, being the same line of heights and the same orchard occupied at a later period of the day by eighteen guns of the enemy. By some person's orders this regiment was ordered to fall back to the wood from which we had cleared the rebels. About this time all firing and appearance of the enemy ceased in our front. This happened between 7 and 8 o'clock.
Between 9 and 10 o'clock I received a note from General Gilbert informing me that General McCook was coming up immediately to my left, and that I must not be alarmed at any appearance of forces in that direction. About 10 o'clock I saw the head of Rousseau’s column coming up to the Russell house on the Mackville and Perryville road; they went beyond the house a short distance and seemed to be halted there awaiting orders. Between 11 and 12 o'clock the same day General Gilbert, I think, ordered forward [Henry] Hescock's battery and Sheridan's division to occupy the same woods from which he had driven General Buckner. We went into those woods and formed a line of battle, our right resting over the Springfield pike. About this time Captain Gay, finding that he could not get down the Springfield road to Perryville, made a detour off to the left, and went down through the open fields to the left of Peters' Hill, and an artillery fire opened. A short time after this the rebels began to make their appearance with their artillery on Bottom's Hill and in the mouth of Doctor’s Fork with their masses of infantry. Captain Hescock, whenever he saw them appear on this hill with their artillery, would open upon them or enfilade their position, and whenever the rebel masses would show themselves in the mouth of this Doctor's Fork he would drive them back. Between 12 and 1 o'clock everything was quiet except these occasional escapades of artillery, happening about every half hour; between 1 and 2 o'clock General Rousseau put [Cyrus] Loomis’ [Michigan] battery into position, which soon opened, and formed his line of battle, the right of it resting on a barn, which was subsequently burned by the rebel artillery, and his left stretching off obliquely in the direction of Chaplin Fork. His line was a continuation of General Gilbert's line. With the aid of Hescock, Loomis soon silenced this battery on [Samuel] Bottom's Hill, part of it in [Samuel] Bottom's orchard, and for some time the battle seemed to be over.
About 2 o'clock General Gilbert ordered us to fall back from our position in the woods. General Gilbert's line was separated from General Rousseau's by the rocky and dry bed of what I learned to be Doctor's Fork and about 150 paces distant. About 2 o'clock we were ordered back on this hill, our troops being raw. The regiments fell back individually in good order, but the brigades became so mixed up that I halted mine and would not move a step till the other brigades passed me. We fell back, forming a circular line on Peters' Hill, and with our left flank to the woods above referred to and the original line. I pointed out to General Gilbert the danger of our left flank and requested him to permit me to fill the woods we had just left with skirmishers, which request he granted; and in order to prevent a flank movement, under the cover of the woods I put the Eighty-sixth Illinois behind a picket fence, faced it by the rear rank, and told it to open on any troops it saw coming through the woods. We had scarcely got into this new position when eighteen pieces of the enemy's artillery galloped up to Bottom's Hill and opened on General Rousseau's right. This position had been enfiladed, and no doubt by Captain Hescock's battery. Two brigades of rebels formed in front of the new line of General Sheridan and attacked us. They came within 100 yards of our batteries, when the whole line charged bayonets on them and they ran. Our whole division was laying there, about four regiments deep, not covering more than a brigade and a half in front. The rebels reformed under the crest of the hill and attacked us again. By this time some troops on our right attacked them in flank and they fell back and left us; this was about 3 o'clock. The two attacks of battle lasted an hour.
After we drove them off the excitement which attends such little affairs as this subsided. I turned around and saw the barn on General Rousseau's right in flames, and saw the rebels in three lines in line of battle, with two regiments doubled on the center, their left flank coming up Doctor's Fork. They changed direction slightly to the right; these two regiments doubled on the center made a right partial wheel. They were so near I could see the daylight through their ranks with my glass. I saw them envelop and drive back Lytle’s right flank. At that time our division, with two batteries, was lying idle. I begged General Sheridan to at least allow us to open on them with artillery, for from the fierceness of the engagement on our left and the weak attacks on our right I felt satisfied that the rebels were concentrating their whole force against our left wing. The answer I received to this earnest entreaty was that it might concentrate the fire of the enemy's artillery upon our troops. This came to me from General Gilbert through General Sheridan. I suggested that the troops could be moved over on the other slope of the hill, which was a backbone, and would be perfectly safe.
The rebels, after they had pulverized Rousseau's right with their eighteen guns, moved a portion of their artillery from Bottom's Hill to the clump of trees on the left of the Mackville road as you go toward Perryville. At the time I made the request to turn our batteries on them we could see them going into battery in this new position spoken of. We at last did, by General Sheridan, get permission for these batteries to open on the rebel battery and rebel column as we saw them on our left. We then opened a concentric fire upon them, crossing our fire in the enemy's battery. At the second discharge I saw one of their caissons blow up, and in one of those regiments doubled on the center that I spoke of before I saw the standard go down three times, caused by the execution of our artillery. This seemed to check them, which check we afterward learned was assisted by the arrival of Gooding's brigade on the field. By marching my regiment 250 yards over an open-plain corn field I could have taken the rebels in rear and flank and had them between Lytle's battery and my own.
About this time or shortly afterward darkness fell upon the scene, and we bivouacked on the hill I had originally carried in the morning. There was a strong wind blowing in the direction of General McCook's army corps from the direction of General Buell's headquarters; it was so high that at times I could distinguish musketry a half mile from me. It is my impression that I was informed by one of the signal officers on our hill, about fifteen minutes after 2 o'clock, that General Rousseau had telegraphed he was attacked along his entire front by infantry, cavalry, and artillery. I am not positive that the signal officer informed me that General Rousseau sent that dispatch, but I am satisfied that such a dispatch went through the signal office, and that this conversation was extorted by a burst of indignation of mine, coupled with a few oaths, demanding of General Sheridan why we had been ordered out of those woods.
Commission adjourned to meet December 24, 1862, at 10 o'clock a.m.