Description

    Battle of Resaca Report from General Nathaniel C. McLean to Assistant Adjutant General Edmund R. Kerstetter. Six pages (on three bifolia) in a secretarial, 7 7/8" x 10", Camp on Petits Creek, Georgia; May 22, 1864. Addressed to Captain Edmund R. Kerstetter, Assistant Adjutant General, 2nd Division, 23rd Corps concerning the activities of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 23rd Corps, under the command of McLean, from May 5 through the Battle of Resaca, which occurred on May 13-15. The report is accompanied by a tattered envelope which has writing (in pencil) on the outside indicating that it contained copies of the report of McLean's operations in Georgia. In part:

    "I have the honor in obedience to orders, to report, that, on the 5th inst. I assumed Command of this Brigade, the in Camp at Red Clay, Ga. At 5 oclock A.M. on the 7th we marched with the balance of the Corps, on the road to Tunnel Hill, and went in to Camp, distant some three miles therefrom. On the 8th we marched to the top of Rocky Face, where we bivouacked for the night in rear of Genl. [Charles B.] Harkers Brigade of the 4th Corps. I caused breastworks of stone to be built on the mountain, which made our situation impregnable. We were not attacked however, and on the 9th descended the mountain and advanced in line of battle along the Valley, at its base, our skirmishers driving those if the enemy handsomely before them, until forced into their Rifle pits at a narrow pass, which was strongly fortified. When we had approached within very short range, with our first line, the enemy opened with artillery-throwing his first shot directly into the 25th Michigan killing one man and wounding three others. For a few moments the fire was very hot, and I was ordered to halt, which I did, getting my men under cover and out of range as rapidly as possible.

    Subsequently under cover of the woods, my line was advanced again, to within a very short distance of the Rebel Works, and my skirmishers were constantly engaged until night terminated the conflict.

    At about 7 oclock the next morning, I was ordered to withdraw which order I obeyed. The enemy not daring to follow except at a very safe distance. We fell back to the Gap, where we remained until the next day, when we marched for Snake Creek Gap, which we reached on the 13th and after marching for a considerable distance in line of battle towards Resaca, went into Camp for the night. On the 14th we again formed with a heavy line of Skirmishers, in front, who were constantly more or less engaged, and advanced towards Resaca. This continued until we reached a point, where by going some distance on our left flank we could gain a view of some fortifications, but could judge little of their character or strength. Immediately in our front, the ground was very broken with high ridges, and covered with a dense forest, filled with undergrowth, to such an extent, as to make it impossible to see the whole length of my line.

    I had formed my Brigade in two lines. The 3rd Tennessee, on the right, 80th Indiana in the centre, and the 25th Michigan on the left. The 6th Tennessee and five companies of the 13th Kentucky...were formed in the 2nd line, the former in the rear of the right, and the latter of the left....About one oclock, I recd. peremptory orders from my Division Commander Brig. Genl. [Henry M.] Judah to advance and storm the Rebel works. I stated that a part of the 14th Corps was in front of me, and was ordered to march over there, and advance immediately. No information was given me of the strength of the Rebel Works, or the nature and character of the ground over which the charge was to be made. The only other order I recd. was to recall my skirmishers when my first line came under fire, and to order my men to advance with a yell and take the works. No discretion was given me, as to the manner of the attack, and my whole duty was simply obedience to the reiterated command. I accordingly ordered an advance, and as well as I was able kept my men in line in passing over the troops of the 14th Corps, and through the dense and tangled undergrowth of the forest. We passed over one or two ridges and valleys, and at length reached a ridge the top of which was within musket range of the earth work, which crowned the hill fortified by the enemy. They here opened fire upon us, but my men steadily advanced, passing over a fence at the foot of the hill, where they came upon a plain exposed to the full fire of the enemy, from artillery and musketry. As soon as the cleared ground was reached, the whole line started forward with a tremendous shout, for the Rebel Works. Never did men more gallantly breast the storm of death which was hurled upon them form every quarter. And their advance continued until they were broken by a bog and creek into which they plunged more than waist deep. To climb the opposite bank under such a murderous fire was more than they could do....Under these circumstances we were forced back, leaving fully one third of the attacking party killed or wounded on the field. A large number of the men found protection under the bank of the creek, and from there kept up a constant fire upon the men who worked the Artillery in the rebel works, and succeeded in compelling them to load their guns laying down....Both of my lines were engaged in the charge and every Regiment suffered severely....I desire to say that without one exception, as far as my personal observation went (and I kept with my men through the whole extent of the charge,) both men and Officers conducted themselves with most distinguished gallantry...."

    At the bottom of the last page, McLean has written a note indicating that the report was never sent: "The above report was written on the day it bears date, and was not sent in because of the loss of the reports of the regimental commanders. They were all captured by Wheelers cavalry near Cassville Georgia together with the records of the brigade."

    Condition: The report has two horizontal folds with light creasing, and scattered foxing.



    More Information:

    Nathaniel McLean (1815-1905), born in Ohio, was the son of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and two-time presidential candidate John McLean (1785-1861).  He was a lawyer and farmer in addition to serving in the U.S. Army. For his brave service in the Battle of Second Bull Run, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in September 1862.  McLean commanded the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 23rd Corps in General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. He resigned his commission on April 20, 1865. After the war, McLean lived in Cincinnati and worked as a lawyer for a few years before moving to Minnesota, where he retired and pursued farming.  In 1885 he moved to Bellport, New York, residing there until his death. 

     

    The Battle of Resaca, fought at Resaca, Georgia, on May 13-15, 1864 was the first major struggle of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.  Confederate forces under General Joseph Johnston fell back from Dalton (Rocky Face Ridge) on the night of May 13 and prepared position west and north of Resaca.  On May 14 portions of the Union 20th, 14th and 23rd corps attacked. Gaining little ground. After successfully stopping the Union advance, Johnston ordered General John B. Hood on the Confederate right to counterattack the Union's 4th Corps. The Union left was unsupported and the initial attack by Confederate forces met with success. Heavy fire from Captain Peter Simonson´s six gun battery, on the Unions extreme left, firing canister shot and the timely arrival of a division of the 20th Corps stopped the Confederate advance.



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