Report of Lieut. Col. Elias Neff, 40th Indiana Infantry


No. 43 – Headquarters Fortieth Indiana Infantry

Headquarters Fortieth Indiana Infantry, Chattanooga, Tenn., November 17, 1863.

Captain: I have the honor to report that, on the afternoon of Monday, November 23, my command being at that time on picket duty, having received an order to advance the line, I at once did so. The left of the line of skirmishers soon met those of the enemy, and after a brisk encounter drove them, with a loss to us of 1 man killed and 4 wounded. The line thus advanced was held by my command until midnight, when, being relieved, I moved it, under orders from General Wagner, farther to the left and formed it upon the right of the front line of the brigade. This position, relative to the brigade, was retained during all subsequent operations.

During Tuesday all was quiet. Wednesday, about 1 p.m., an order to advance was received. A forward movement was made for a distance of nearly one-fourth of a mile, when a halt was ordered, and everything prepared for a rush upon the rifle-pits of the enemy, then about one-fourth of a mile in front.

At the word of command the men marched forward briskly, gradually increasing the pace to a run after emerging from the thicket that, up to this time, had screened the pits from site. In a few moments the pits were in possession of the skirmishers, and the regiment occupied them soon after, loosing 1 man killed in the movement. The men were with difficulty restrained from a farther advance at once, but those who had rushed on were recalled, and for ten minutes all lay under the shelter of the parapet. Again came the order to move forward, and with alacrity it was obeyed. The distance to be traversed to the foot of Mission Ridge was fully another quarter of a mile, and it was made at a run with but small loss, though under severe fire. This position, owing to the steepness of the ridge and its peculiar formation, was comparatively safe. The men, taking advantage of any species of shelter the ground afforded, began the ascent.

Scarcely had this movement upon the ridge commenced when the order to fall back to the rifle-pits was received from General Wagner, through an aide, and given to the men. It was with the greatest reluctance, almost amounting to a refusal at first, that this order was obeyed, but the sence of duty prevailed, and they fell back, suffering very severely in the movement; but the shelter thus obtained was not long made use of. Again, under the proper order, the line advanced to its former position, again losing heavily in the movement. Now commenced the struggle; man by man, as each would gather breath, firing as they went, the brave fellows rushed up, always onward, never backward for one moment. The fire here was, on the part of the enemy, rapid and well sustained, both by the infantry and the batteries upon the ridge, which at this time poured aconstant shower of grape down the slope; but the advance was not even checked, only so far a necessary for rest, and in less than an hour the crest was gained and the enemy driven in utter confusion from the front. As the regiment reached the top of the ridge and swept forward the right passed through, without stopping to take possession, the battery at General Bragg’s headquarters that had fired so venomously during the whole contest. Halting then for a few moments to give time for those who were not up to reach me, and joined by a few men of the Fifty-seventh Indiana, under Captain Dunn, of that regiment, who had been in command of them as skirmishers in my front, and had shown marked courage and energy, I moved forward down the hill, capturing prisoners and firing effectively upon those who attempted to escape. The route of the enemy was complete at this point. At the foot of the hill some stores were captured and two wagons with their teams. The number of prisoners taken was fully 200, and, as I could spare no men to guard them, I ordered them to the rear and lost sight of them. In a few moments again I was ordered to move forward by General Wagner, and the small remnant of my command having come up, and a line of skirmishers , under Captain Elliott, Company A, thrown out, I moved forward, and in less than half a mile again encountered the enemy drawn up on a crescent-shaped ridge, with the horns encircling the flat upon which we were advancing, and completely commanding it at all points. The battery had been placed in position here by the enemy, and was vigorously worked during our advance. To storm the hill with the force we then had was clearly impossible, but retreat was not to be thought of; to whatever shelter could be found was taken advantage of, and the fire unremittingly kept up from our thinned ranks for an hour and a quarter. The rifle-balls passed in almost every direction, front and flanks, but no man, save the wounded, passed to the rear; but at the same time it seemed certain that anihilation or capture awaited; no help seemed available, when a cheer upon our left announced a movement upon their flank, and the enemy at once fled, leaving in our hands two more pieces of artillery, one wagon loaded with ammunition, and on box of new rifles.

In this second engagement our loss was 40 in killed and wounded. The total loss was 20 killed and 138 wounded-about 45 per cent of the whole number engaged.

Eight commissioned officers were wounded, Captain Dooley, Company F; Captain Marks, Company I; First Lieutenant Hanna, Company C; Second Lieutenant Youkey, Company K, severely and dangerously.

I cannot express too high appreciation of the conduct and gallantry of both officers and men of my command. The record of loss in both is sufficient eulogy.

Respectfully submitted,

Elias Neff

Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Fortieth Regt. Indiana Vols.

Capt. H.C. Tinney

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brigade, Second Division.


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