On the night of the 14th General Joseph E. Johnston ordered the withdrawal of Major General William Bate’s Confederates from Pine Mountain. A letter of Colonel J. N. Wyatt, 12th Tennessee, of Major General B. F. Cheatham’s Division, describes the mood of Tipton’s foot soldiers in mid-June:
“Gen. Leonidas Polk was killed by a shell from the enemy…the fatal missile of death deprived us of a hero in whom the administration and the country reposed entire confidence. In him the troops of Tennessee lost their best friend and the whole country one of its ablest commanders. (Vaughan’s Brigade) moved a short distance to the left and lay under arms awaiting orders.”
On June 15 the 19th Infantry, an east Tennessee regiment in Strahl’s Brigade was transferred to Maney’s Brigade joining Tipton’s men in the 9th Regiment; the 41st Tennessee was transferred from Maney’s to Strahl’s command. Colonel Francis M. Walker of the 19th assumed command of Maney’s Brigade.
The Confederate abandonment of Pine Mountain caused Union General William T. Sherman to mistakenly assume the Rebels were in full retreat. Federal infantry pushed past Pine Mountain and moved against Cheatham’s entire division line. For the next two days the West Tennesseans were engaged in heavy skirmishing.
Tipton’s men in the 51st Tennessee enjoyed a pleasant morning on the 15th. D. C. Neal noted the “roar of cannon” during the morning. He wrote the firing was kept up all day and that the “brigade (Colonel John C. Carter’s) has moved to the front line of works; that seems to be the place for Cheatham’s and Cleburne’s Divisions.”
On the 16th, Neal reported heavy firing the full length of the battle line. Neal noted the 51st Tennessee was skirmishing with the enemy and that Union artillery was shelling the road near General Cheatham’s headquarters. Neal closed his daily writing thus:
“In the evening our men brought in several prisoners; we have several wounded; this is the 40th day of the fight. When will we get to rest. Our boys have note rested one day since we left Dalton…”
By the 17th Lieutenant General William J. Hardee’s four divisions were deployed in a line along high ground overlooking the east bank of the rain-swollen Mud Creek. This line ran in a north-south to near the Latimer House before turning back to the northeast. Hardee’s men formed the left of the Southern line. Cheatham’s Division was now four miles closer to Marietta and occupying a defensive line previously prepared under the direction of the engineers. Tipton’s men and the rest of the men in the 4th & 5th Tennessee, Strahl’s Brigade, were behind the main line in reserve. That afternoon the Federals unsuccessfully attempted to drive Cheatham’s skirmishers from their rifle pits. That evening a Union attack on the Confederate left caused Cheatham’s Division to move rapidly to the support of the threatened sector. One of Cheatham’s Brigades, probably John C. Carter’s, was extended one brigade front to form on the left of Major General Patrick Cleburne’s Division. Together, elements of the two divisions repulsed an attack of Yankee cavalry and artillery. D. C. Neal of the 51st Tennessee wrote of the day’s campaigning:
“Very little change in (our) position; this morning the firing seems to be the same and near the same place. At 8 a.m. the Regiment has moved 2 miles to the left…two men were brought in wounded from my Regiment while on picket.”
On the 18th, Cheatham’s Division shifted to within three miles of Marietta and went into bivouac.
Continued next week.