The hill upon which it took place is a round, lofty elevation, a third of a mile from our camp, surrounded by deeply-wooded ravines, and cleared for the space of about two acres on top. To take and hold this, Col. Coburn, with half his regiment, dashed off through the bushes in a trot from the camp, like boys starting out on a turkey hunt. In ten minutes they could be seen on the high summit taking places. Very shortly they were fired on; the fact is, it was a scramble between Coburn's men and Zollicoffer's which should get on the hill first, approaching from opposite direction. When the firing had fairly commenced, at intervals in the roar could be heard, in the camp, the shrill, wild voices of Coburn, and Durham, his adjutant, crying out, “Give them hell, boys!” “Dose them with cold lead!” “Shoot the hounds!” “Load up, load up, for God's sake!” “Give it to old Gollywhopper!” Then the boys would cheer and yell till the glens re-echoed.
Capt. Dille, during the fight, in rushing around and helping on the cause, ran astride a brier bush, the nethermost part of his unmentionables was torn, and a flag of white cotton was seen flaunting in the air. One of the boys said, “Captain, it can't be said of you that you never turned tail on the enemy." By the way, the Captain is a heroic follow, and did, as the boys say, “a big job of fighting." He has a queer old fellow in his company named John Meinherter, a crack marksman, with a big goggle, rolling eye. John would take his tree, fire, and then move on a little. At one time he was peeping over a stamp taking aim, when a ball struck the stump a few inches from the top at the opposite side, which knocked bark and splinters in his eyes. “Bully for Jake!” says John. This is now a cant phrase in the camp. “Bully for Jake” can be heard at all hours.
When Major Ward, of the Seventeenth Ohio came over the hill with a part of the regiment, Col. Coburn took him down the hillside in front of the Kentuckians in a somewhat exposed place. Some one asked the Colonel why he put him there. “Well,” said he, “I eyed him, and he looked like an old bull-dog; so I put him down where he could wool the hounds.” The Major, you know, never before had a compliment paid to .his homely, sturdy face, being rather hard-favored. Next day some of the boys got the joke on him by telling him they had heard his beauty complimented. He asked for the compliment, got it, and dryly remarked, “that it was rather an equivocal recommendation of his pretty face."
Almost every officer fought gun in hand, except Cols. Coburn and Woodford, who were armed with navies. Capt. Hauser, Adj. Durham, Capt. Dille, Lieuts. Maze and Scott, more than the men themselves, blazed away at the rebels. What could not men do with such examples set them. When part of the Kentucky boys fled, Capt. Alexander screamed out to the men, “Boys, if you are such damned cowards as to run, I'll stay and die.” Instantly a boy scarce sixteen years old turned back, ran up to the Captain's side, saying, “Yes, Cap, and I'll stay and die with you.” He did stay, and others followed his example. In the afternoon, when the fighting had ceased, General Schoepff came over to the hill, and taking Cols. Coburn and Woodford by the hand in the presence of the boys, thanked them for saving the hill, for it saved Camp Wildcat, and prevented a retreat of our whole force to the other side of the river. Just then a shower of balls whizzed around, and one knocking the dirt in his eyes, the General quietly rubbed it out, and looked around as unconcerned as if at dress parade. He is a noble-looking man, a Hungarian patriot, one of Gen. Bem's officers, who spent three years in Turkey with him drilling their army.
Just before the enemy made their charges, there could be seen two regiments in a neighboring fold. One of the boys said to Col. Coburn, “We'll have to retreat." Another sturdy little fellow stepped up and swore he was not of the running kind, and he'd stay and fight anyhow. He got three cheers; so the boys concluded to stay, and did stay about there all that day and night. Such pluck makes one man equal to four. The boys captured an orderly sergeant's book, love letters, a diary, &c., giving details up to the hour of battle. The utmost confidence in victory was expressed.
Since the battle, some of our boys were out looking at a grave of one of the secesh; he had not been well buried, and one hand stuck out. "He's reaching for his land warrant," says one.
When Col. Coburn and Capt. Dille were rallying the flying Kentuckians, the former found a crowd sheltered behind one stump: he cried out, “Pile out, pile out, boys; it don't take seventeen men to guard a black stump." It was electric, they after this fought like men.
visitors since 08/11/2004
Page updated 05/25/2006