Allatoona Gap - October 1864
Major General Samuel G French had been ordered to cut the Federal supply line at Allatoona Gap, Georgia. He did not hesitate to deploy his brigades in heavy attack columns immediately upon his arrival. Above, the Federals bristled in a thin line stretching almost a mile and a half from the railroad gap to the edge of the ridge.
French, sensing his numerical advantage, sent a message to the Federal commander,
“I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.
“Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.”
Brigadier General Robert Corse, having just arrived with reinforcements, allowing him a second line, which were in defilade and invisible to French, replied, defiantly,
“Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the "needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.”
French found it agreeable immediately. At a range of about 1000 yards the Federal guns began to boom from the heights as French’s columns moved forward smartly. He massed two batteries of Napoleons between Chalmers’ right-hand brigade and the center brigade of Jones Withers. The guns began to bang away at the 11th Michigan in their earthworks about 500 yards away.
Chalmers advanced behind a double line of skirmishers - the 21st Alabama and 5th Mississippi – on a narrow front up the steepest part of the Federal line. Crowning the Federal left was the 19th Illinois and the Battery M, 1st Ohio Artillery. The Ohioans had had an early success when a shell hit one of J. H. Kolb’s cannon and completely destroyed it. However, as the skirmishers pushed up the hill, the guns switched targets, spraying canister like angry, lethal, bees, downslope.
Withers attacked on a wider front, with the 26th Alabama on the left and the CGRB on the right. He applied pressure to Battery G, 1st Ohio Artillery, and their supporting infantry, the 78th Pennsylvania. The 26th soon got into an uneven firefight with the Federal guns.
On French’s left, at the end of the ridge, Brigadier General J K Jackson sent forward Wheat’s Battalion and the 5th Kentucky. Supported by Bouchaud’s battery of rifled guns, they were soon pressing Brigadier General J Beatty’s brigade. Wheat and Bouchaud directed their attention against the 37th Indiana while the Kentuckians threatened the far flank.
Battle was intense all along the line with the lead Confederate units gradually worn away and the Federal units at the schwerpunkts also being battered. After two hours French sensed the Federal line cracking and ordered a full assault. The lines of butternut and gray surged the last hundred yards.
Corse, too, had seen his front line begin to waver and determined the time was right to maneuver those reserves heretofore unseen to French. The veteran 42nd Indiana ascended a small rise to the left of the decimated 37th. Greeted warmly by Bouchaud, they delivered a devastating volley to stop the 25th Alabama and plug the gap where Battery G was fighting sponge stave to bayonet over the gabions.
Likewise, on the right, the 11th Michigan finally gave way but forward into the gap marched the 18th and 74th Ohio to thwart the surge of the 1st Louisiana and 10th Mississippi.
A rider galloped up to French with a note that Federal columns were on the move on the road from Atlanta and he called of the attack, even as its momentum died at the lip of the fortifications on the anvil of the fresh reserves and their concentrated volleys.
Corse suffered casualties of almost 25%. French, with a considerably larger force, though at a decided tactical disadvantage in terms of altitude and dirt, lost almost 30%.
We use Mr. Lincoln's War rules and 15mm figures.
The country is in flames! Smoke rises high above the forest spurring on Major Lathrop and his small supply column. Flour, freshly ground at the Hadley Mill, critical for surviving the long winter ahead. But the natives had risen in anger and devastation had touched the Connecticut Valley even as the amber, crimson, and gold leaves fell from the trees and the first cold winds swirled down from the north. Villages, towns, and isolated houses all along the great river, from its mouth to where white habitation lagged in the mountains of western Massachusetts, had been struck. Residents had died in their fields, on their stoops, and down the trails.
Lathrop had thought the natives might strike the mill or his wagon and haulers and so had stripped Springfield of its militia. A single platoon was left with instructions to retreat to the blockhouse if attacked. From the pall on the horizon, he hoped to God! they had made it to the blockhouse. He also hoped Major Pynchon had gotten his message and was hurrying to catch up.
The major had lived the past fifteen years on the frontier and had scouts deployed to both flanks as he rode behind the creaking wagon and the few bearers. Yet the command was still surprised when the three bands suddenly rose form the undergrowth and poured lead balls and ash arrow shafts tipped with sharpened flint.
Captains Moseley on the left and Treat on the right steadied their men and got them firing. As always the natives proved elusive. Shot after shot would thunder from the militia muskets only to be met with unremitting and unslowed. Not so the militiamen. Lathrop saw them one after another be struck by missiles from the unseen enemy. A man with a musket ball through his elbow, the arm hanging limply unusable as blood poured from the severed artery. Another foaming from an arrow lodged in his chest, lung pierces, gasping for breath.
After less than five minutes the whoops came from the left. Lathrop pulled his pistol and braced with the wagoneers as a band of warriors, painted, screaming, and brandishing tomahawks emerged from the forest and struck Moseley’s depleted company. Lathrop watched Moseley stop a tomahawk with the butt of his musket but then have his skull split in two by a second warrior.
And then, the warriors were upon Lathrop and the wagoneers. The pistol misfired and Lathrop went down, the light fading from his eyes.
Two days later he woke, in a straw bed, Captain Marshfield nursing a bottle of rotgut in the chair nearby. Marshfield, in his perpetually slurred speech, related the rest of the battle. The natives, being led overall by Mettawump and with the bands of Nonotuck in the front of the trail and Pocotuc on the right, had followed Mettawump’s charge and converged on the wagons. Only a handful of Captain Treat’s company survived, racing back down the trail to find Major Pynchon advancing.
Lathrop had survived because he fell under the wagon which the natives soon set ablaze. None ventured underneath the flames to scalp the unconscious officer, leaving him to the fire. Once the wagons were fully engulfed they pulled out, the barrel of rum and the militiamen’s muskets their only spoils – and 42 locks of hair.
By the time Pynchon’s force cautiously advanced there was nothing to do but pull the major to safety and hurry on to Springfield. There they found the Widow Morgan leading the survivors in a spirited defense of the blockhouse and the 67 souls who had crowded in. Five unfortunates had been caught on the street. 22 houses, five barns, and a dozen other buildings had been destroyed in part or whole.
It would be a long winter.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..