Battle of Wauhatchie "A Southern Retreat" October 28 - 29, 1863
Shortly after midnight on October 29, 1863, Gen. Micah Jenkins's brigade of South Carolinians launched a rare night attack on Gen. John W. Geary's Union corps at Wauhatchie, TN. The Union line, in the shape of a V with sides facing to the east and the north, was fiercely attacked on both fronts by screaming Rebels rushing out of the darkness. Though the sudden attack pushed the Union soldiers backward until the two fronts were almost back to back, Geary's stalwart men managed to fight off Jenkins's attackers and hold their positions.
Three miles away at Brown's Ferry, Gen. Joseph Hooker, commander of the XI and XII Union Corps, heard the sounds of battle at Wauhatchie and dispatched two divisions to Geary's assistance. Marching toward the boom of the guns, the lead division, commanded by Gen. Carl Schurz, took the wrong road and got mired in the swamp. Geary's men continued to hold fast. Schurz's troops eventually extricated themselves and marched on toward Wauhatchie, only to run into the Rebel brigade of Gen. Evander M. Law, which was positioned on a small hill that dominated the road from Brown's Ferry. Law's men were greatly outnumbered and almost encircled by Schurz's division, but the hilltop position was naturally strong, and several vigorous Union assaults were repulsed with great slaughter. Then Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr's division reinforced Schurz's men, and together they drove the Confederates off the hill with a furious bayonet charge.
As the Union reinforcements began arriving at Wauhatchie, Jenkins realized that the attempt to capture Wauhatchie was failing and ordered his troops to withdraw. A rumor circulated through the Yankee camps that Union mules that were stampeded by the fight had made the Rebels believe they were being attacked by cavalry, causing the Southern retreat. Union losses in the battle were 78 killed, 327 wounded, and 15 missing. Confederate losses were 34 killed, 305 wounded, and 69 missing.
Fascinating Fact: The Union quartermaster whole mules supposedly made the charge forwarded the following recommendation to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant:"I respectfully request that the mules, for their gallantry in this action, may have conferred upon them the brevet rank of horses."
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