A letter from Pvt. William Christie, 1st Minnesota Battery, to his father. Christie’s battery lost three men killed and six men wounded.
I supposed you have heard of the great battle on the 6th and 7th of this month. You will be proud to know that we were in the front of the battle, and that our Battery did its duty nobly and well. On Sunday morning very early the enemy drove in our pickets. At 7 o’clock we were ordered to the front. Nobody thought that it was anything more than a skirmish; we supposed that soon we should be back again in camp. We had marched only about 10 minutes when we were ordered to get into battery, “action front.”
We did so as soon as possible for the enemy were with[in] 20 rods of us. Just at this moment one of our men belonging to the right section was fatally shot as he was turning his team. The bullets were pouring upon us like a hail storm. Just as soon as we got our guns into position we began to give them our compliments with shell and canister.
But we had not been there long when the regiments that were supporting us broke and fled; the[y] had suffered terribly in a few minutes. So we had to get out of that place as fast as we could. Stinson was killed as we came into battery. Our captain was severely wounded in the thigh. His horse was killed; T. D. helped him to mount another. Another man was shot through the ankle (died of the wound.) and many others were hit by the bullets. We limbered-up and fell back a short distance; unlimbered again, and poured the canister into them. Lieut. Pfaender was then in command; he acted with the greatest skill and courage. Having fallen back half a mile though the camp of the 16th Wis., we had a little rest. But soon we were posted in a new position. While we were waiting for orders here the shot and shell from the rebel guns fell all around us, but without doing us much harm.
At about 10 o’clock we were again ordered forward and took our position in front of the 25th Missouri, 12th Mich., and other regiments, or fragments of regiments, from out Division. When I say “we,” I mean our left section. The right section was a little distance to our right, with the 8th, 12th, and 14th Iowa. Our Center Section had been disabled and was ordered back to the Landing. Our guns were all right; we got a high compliment from gen Prentiss; he said he was—“proud of the Minn. Battery.” I tell you we raked down the rebels to some purpose; you would have thought so if you had seen the ground there after the battle. After some hours of this work and the repulse of several attacks, the enemy evidently saw that our guns were few in number. (I am speaking now of our own section, the left)—; they crept up through the heavy brush and timber, and suddenly poured upon us a terrible fire. Ten of our horses were instantly killed.Of the men, No. 3 on our gun and No. 1 on the howitzer were shot dead. Lieut. Peebles was shot through the throat; Sergeant Clayton in the thigh; Sergeant Conner in the side; Joe Johnson, an old friend of mine in Minn., was shot through arm and shoulder. Our two slain heroes, Taxdahl and Tilson, fell with their faces to the foe.
The balls flew fast and furious, Both my horses were killed while I was holding them. Not a horse belonging to the other gun was left alive. In the two gun detachments every man but one was hit. T. D. got a rap on the arm with a heavy bullet that passed between his arm and his body; I had still a more severe contusion, on the calf of my left leg; if it had not been for the tree top that I stood in (the tree had been felled by the infantry that lay behind us), I would have got a serious wound. The infantry shouted to us to fall back, and then they poured in their fire and heaped the ground with rebel dead and wounded. I cannot tell you how everything went on around us; but we saved our guns, losing only our limbers; but even these we found the next day, after Beauregard was driven from the field.
The fight was kept up until dark. Beauregard occupied our campground, sure of victory in the morning; in fact he told his men that they would water their horses in the Tennessee after only two hours of fighting next day.
He was so sure of victory that he did not destroy any of our tents; but his men despoiled us of everything else, clothing, letter-paper, etc.; in fact everything that they could carry away, thus leaving us nothing but the clothes we had on. On the next day we found many of their dead with three pair of pantaloons on. Nearly 20,000 of our men were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner; we think the rebels lost even more than that. What I have written is only a small part of what I saw; and that was very little in comparison with the whole. We faught a winning fight on Monday, from daylight in the morning till about half past two in the afternoon, when they left the whole battlefield to us.
I will close by saying I more fully appreciate the blessing of life after my many narrow escapes on Sunday.