September 18, 1863. “Presently, Crash! came their artillery.”

From the journal of John C. McLain, 4th Michigan Cavalry, Minty’s Brigade; at Reed’s Bridge.


September 18.

Cloudy and cold this morning. No orders for moving until 11 A.M. Boots and saddles sounded and we went out on the double quick to meet the rebs. They were advancing, we had some sharp skirmishing. We were driven slowly back across the Chickamauga. We formed in line on the west bank of the creek. They threw shell among us pretty lively, killing my horse under me and wounding Cap. Pritchard. I went to the wagons with my saddle. After I left Charley Rickard was killed and Ferman wounded. They sent Charley’s horse back to me and Ferman’s for George Munger, his horse was shot. A sharp fight after dark.

McLain’s account is rather terse. Captain Henry A. Potter, also of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, has left us a more detailed description: 

Fri – Sept. 18th

Cool and cloudy – autumn weather, ordered to saddle up at 4 A.M. expecting to move – but at 7 A.M. stable call was blown. we unsaddled and fed our horses. At 10 A.M. I was ordered to go out with my company under Capt Pritchard and “L” co & reinforce the 7th Penn, as word was sent in that they were attacked by a heavy force of the enemy. Before we were ready to move “Boots and Saddles” blew at Brigade Hd’Qrs, but H & L Cos were in the advance.

When we came up there was considerable skirmishing. I was ordered to move to the right to prevent a flank movement. Moved down in the camp [at Peeler’s Mill] we occupied the first night & farther on into a road where we had a view of the rebel line. They were in strong force. Artillery was plainly visible in the road. A strong flanking party of the rebels moved to our right, when I was ordered to fall back. The 4th regulars were on the right.

Moved back and joined the battalion. We then rode into a cornfield on our right & onto a hill to support our section of artillery. From that view I could see by the clouds of dust a heavy column coming towards us on the left. Our guns presently opened upon them. We were answered promptly by the rebels with four pieces. I could see them when they loaded.

As soon as the smoke cleared away orders came to fall back, which we did. We rejoined the regiment & moved to the left of the road & in line of battle moved through the woods. Our skirmishers soon saw the rebel infantry. We dismounted half of the men and moved upon them. A smart skirmish ensued but [we] were obliged to fall back by overpowering numbers. Formed in line again, again were driven back. Passed through our [new] camp and past the Regulars, towards the river which we succeeded in crossing without loss.

Formed in line on the left to cover the retreat of the 4th [Regulars] presently Crash! came their artillery in the midst of us. A shell passed a few feet over my head & wounded one of my men seriously – Chas. Hall – and two horses. We broke to the right under cover of the woods. Here Capt. Pritchard was wounded in the arm by a shell. Again we formed & dismounted to fight on foot, sending the men toward and along the river. From the left where I was sent to watch for them, I saw three separate lines of their infantry move from the left & swing around towards the bridge.

I sent word to Major Gray to that effect and he moved the regiment back once more into the woods, skirmishing all the time. Wilder’s force was in our rear. But Col. Minty received orders from General [Thomas J.] Wood to fall back to Gordon’s Mills, which we did by 5 o’clock. The enemy followed us closely, & firing in our rear. At dusk heavy skirmishing was heard on the road we came in on. We went out there, our regiment to support the 59th ohio and 44th Ind. Infantry. A sharp fight took place.

The darkness putting and end to the day’s work, we remained as pickets during the night. The men suffered from cold & hunger. Not a mouthful since breakfast. Such a cold night is seldom felt at home in Sept.

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