The day before the Battle of Ruff’s Mill was fought, the 50th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was sent out on a reconnaissance along Nickajack creek to ascertain details of the position of Confederates in southern Cobb County. The Union Army was flanking Johnston, and hoping to catch him unguarded in a retreat across the Chattahoochee river. The following account of the day’s adventures was recorded by Corporal Erastus Winters, of Company K. I am certain it occurred near where the Concord Covered Bridge is now located, as it mentions a church (Concord Baptist Church), and the injury of David Noble, who is else where documented as being injured at Ruff’s Mill. I thought this might be interesting on this July 3rd, 154 years later:
I call to mind that on one occasion the Third Brigade had been resting in the rear for a day or two out of the sounds of the muskets, and it had been quite a relief to us, but now came an order for us to go out and hunt for the rebels, as they were supposed not to be far off.
Company “K” was deployed in front as skirmishers, the balance of the regiment being in rear as supports. We moved along slowly, eyeing every stump, bush or tree for the usual puff of smoke from some hidden foe’s musket, but all remained quiet until we struck a cornfield on a hill-side. The corn was about knee high, and we had advanced about half way up the hill towards a public road, when the familiar crack of a carbine came to our ears, and a puff of smoke arose from the corner of a piece of woods on our left, and lazily drifted away.
Two or three of our boys fired at the smoke, but saw nothing.
We advanced up to the road, and found a high rail fence on each side of the road, and looking over across an old deadening in close musket range, we saw the enemy’s skirmish pits, and they were there ready for business, as the balls that struck those fences bore ample testimony.
We had been sent out to hunt rebels, but as the balls began to whistle around us, and strike those fences, I began to feel as though I had not lost any that I was particular about locating just then.
However, as other skirmishers came up and joined us on the right, we raised a yell, and over those fences we went, and started down through that old deadning.
That Yankee yell was too much for the Johnnies in those skirmish pits; they deserted them at once; their officer, as I suppose, was mounted on a yellow horse, and the way he made “Old Yaller” paw gravel was funny to see; he stood not on the order of going, but went at once.
But while we were having all this fun, the rebs were not idle.
As soon as they saw us jump those fences, they opened on us with a jackass battery from their main line half mile away.
Oh! How they did shell us while we were coming down through that deadening. In the hollow, just before we reached the Johnnies’ pits, was an old fence row, with a lot of old logs lying in the corners.
A comrade by the name of Reynolds and I were together, and as we were both large men, we were a good target for the shells. As Reynolds and I dropped behind a log in a fence corner, a shell dropped in the corner on the other side, and burst, throwing dirt all over us. It was a splendid shot, and if the fence had not been there, I guess it would have got us both.
We lay there for a few minutes, and then the officer that has charge of us ordered us into the woods on our left. How the Johnnies did yell when they saw us break cover for that woods.
They turned their battery on the woods, and while they did us no harm, the racket they made was certainly demoralizing.
There was an old church building in the woods, and some of the officers and men were in there, looking around when a shell came through the building. It is needless to say those men and officers soon sought safer quarters.
With all the shelling, only one man, Corporal David Noble of Co. “K”, one of the color guard, was hit on the calf of his leg with a piece of shell, but only disabled him for a few days.
As we had been sent out to find the rebs, and we had located them, our duty for the occasion was performed, and we were ordered to return to camp. As we retraced our steps toward camp, those pesky Johnnies followed us up with that jackass battery, and kept pitching shells at us.
When we got back near camp, we were halted and ordered back out again, but our Lieutenant gave me a gun that he had got somewhere on the raid, and ordered me to take it into camp, and turn it over to the ordinance officer, so I did not get to go back with the boys that afternoon.
There were more troops went out with our brigade on the second trip, and together they cleaned that nest of Johnnies out.
These little noisy skirmishes were of almost daily occurrence on the flanks of the army during this campaign, and while there was a certain amount of danger attached to them at all times, yet we managed to extract a good deal of sport out of them sometimes.
They afforded us very good exercise for our bodies, and kept our sowbelly and hardtack well settled, besides Uncle Sam expected us to be doing something to earn our sixteen dollars per month, and I sincerely believe that I voice the minds of all who were engaged in that campaign, when I say we earned every dollar of it.
Erastus Winters survived the war, returning home to Ohio, but not without injuries. He and many fellow soldiers in the 50th were injured in the Sultana Steamboat disaster.
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