In the process of trying to figure out the 7th Indiana vs. 8th Indiana battery confusion, I also had to resolve the presence and actions of yet one more battery, the 6th Ohio. In the process, I found both an impressive tactical performance and and interesting character.
The 6th Ohio came onto the field at about 3:00 p.m., with the rest of Tom Wood’s 1st Division, 21st Corps, up from Lee and Gordons Mills. When the division halted along the Lafayette Road behind Heg’s and Carlin’s Brigades, the battery stopped as well, about 150 yards south of the Viniard farmstead. They remained limbered. Captain Cullen Bradley, who commanded the 6th, was also the divisional artillery chief; though in combat his battery usually operated with Harker’s brigade. At this point Bradley left the 6th to ride forward and confer with Harker and Wood.
A little later, Harker was sent into the woods farther north, eventually to outflank Rebels in Brotherton Field and help close the breach torn open by A.P. Stewart’s attack. The 6th, however, did not go with. Instead, they remained in the road for some time, awaiting orders.
The battle reached them sometime around 4:00 p.m. when Heg’s line collapsed, routing through Buell’s brigade to their rear; all just north of Bradley’s position. nearly simultaneously, Samuel Beatty’s brigade was enfiladed and routed, running through Carlin’s regiments. In short order, four Union brigades were temporarily all but destroyed as combat effectives.
The Rebels delivering this blow were Robertson’s Texans, though other Confederate regiments played a role (Trigg and the 6th Florida, some of Gregg’s regiments, etc.) With the infantry in retreat, the artillery was exposed.
As noted, the section of the 7th Indiana was temporarily abandoned. The 2nd Minnesota and 3rd Wisconsin shifted position. The 8th Indiana limbered, breaking through some of their own infantry (Buell’s Brigade, principally the 58th Indiana) and fled to the rear. Rifle fire from the 4th and 5th Texas swept through the 8th Indiana’s left section, killing enough horses to prevent one gun from escaping – it was abandoned on the field.
The 6th Ohio also fell back, ultimately taking up position along Wilder’s line about 200 yards west of the Lafayette Road. They suffered few losses.
However, this was not because they were not in the thick of things. The 6th was menaced by attacks from the 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas, sweeping to close with Buell’s routing line. The 100th Illinois delivered a charge into the teeth of these onrushing Rebels, which provided at best a temporary check. Bradley and the 6th, however, were up to the task.
Bradley ordered the battery to retreat by section, firing as they went. The last section did so via prolonge, a fairly desperate technique that in this case worked like a charm. Firing and then being dragged back by hand, the guns of the last section negotiated the ditch (later famous as Benning’s ‘ditch of death’) and then the low breastworks flung up the night before by the 17th Indiana. In thinking about this manuever, I was struck by how effective and professional it was. It seemed more like the performance of a regular army unit than a volunteer battery. No slight is meant to the Volunteers, but the regulars sometimes brought an unmatched sense of hard-bitten professionalism to the task at hand that made RA units just a little bit more capable than their citizen-soldier counterparts.
Time for a little digging.
It turns out that Captain Cullen Bradley must have known his stuff. In 1861, he was First Sergeant Cullen Bradley of Battery D, 2nd US artillery. He enlisted in the regulars in 1846, rising through the ranks of Batteries B and D of the 2nd, to become top sergeant.
Bradley was born in North Carolina. His family moved to Lebanon Tennessee when he was young. He joined the army apparently out of a sense of patriotism, saw service in Mexico, and liked it well enough to stay on. More unusually, he was allowed to resign in 1861 to accept a Captain’s commission and take command of the 6th Ohio. My understanding is that few enlisted men were allowed to resign (as opposed to officers, who resigned in droves to take state commissions at much higher rank.) The 6th Ohio was being formed by John Sherman of Ohio, who intended to raise an entire brigade of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Several regular officers were connected with this effort, since Sherman wanted to instill a sense of professionalism in his new command. Charles Harker was one such regular, and apparently he helped get Bradley into captain’s bars.
That effort paid off. Bradley and the 6th performed very well at Stone’s River, and he was Wood’s divisional artillery chief for several years. the 6th was often praised for their discipline and drill, as well as for their combat skills.
Bradley left the service in February, 1865, when the battery was mustered out. He’d gotten married the previous year, and, having been a soldier for 20 years, he settled in Clay County Indiana, and took up farming.
I’d like to know more about him. He wrote at least one article for the National Tribune, and I am now very curious to see if I can find any of his papers. They are not at the Indiana State Library, the Historical Society, or any of the major Universities, but they might well be in a county historical society. The most likely candidates are either Clay or Putnam Counties, Indiana.
The more I think of it, the more impressed I am with the 6th. Nice work in a tight spot.