The 6th Wisconsin Battery
Capt. Henry Dillon
The Charge of the 6th Wisconsin Battery
A Col. Archibald has given an eye-witness account of Dillon's famous charge at Jackson.
"Word had just come to us that while Grant had supposed he was moving against Pemberton with 18,000 men he was in reality hurling into 50,000, Johnston having joined Pemberton during the night of the 13th.
To say we felt chilly when the news reached us is to put it mildly. I remember wishing for a few moments that I was back home on the farm.
McPherson, Crocker, Logan and their respective staffs withdrew to a hillock some little distance off the pike and reviewed the situation.
I sat on my horse beside Henry Dillon, who was at this time acting as Division Chief of Artillery. Things seemed desperate enough. Retreat we would not and to go ahead seemed suicidal.
Suddenly, the boy we all knew as 'Dillon's kid', because of his youth and slight appearance and the fact that he was never far away from the Captain, dashed up, his black horse covered with foam. He brought a return message from Gen. Grant, who was with Sherman a mile away. In silence McPherson read, his handsome, kindly face cloudingas he handed the paper to Logan, who tossed his black mare while his eagle eyes snapped as he turned to Dillon who was noted among us for his quick and witty answers.
'Well, Captain, Grant says McClellan can't in any case reach us before the sun goes down. We are outnumbered ten to one in our present position. Yet Grant says Jackson must fall.'
The quizzical expression deepened in Logan's eyes as he studied Dillon. Then with a hearty laugh he concluded:
'I'm hungry and it's time for dinner. So suppose you walk up and take the town.'
For an instant we waited for Dillon's usual witty retort, but he just scanned the group before him and finally spoke, not to Logan or McPherson, but to the kid who had fallen in behind.
'Ride down to the battery, Al, and tell Clark to be ready to ride on an instant's notice.' Then without another word he followed the youngster down the road which was by now well-nigh impassable.
We held our breath as he wheeled his bay horse, sank his spurs deep into it's quivering flanks and in a moment was flying through mud and water at a gallop. On he came, bounding up the pike until he halted beside the 6th as it lay in the road ready for his command. Suddenly a bugle blared 'Forward'. The harness strained, the wheels rumbled. 'Trot', they were off. 'Gallop'. We only gasped. Had the man gone mad?
Then above the din, above the brazen notes of the bugle, we heard the voice that had earned him the name of 'Bell' Dillon.
'Damn the rebels, boys. Come on. Come on!' he shouted.
For an instant his sword flashed in the sun, which at that moment had forced it's way through the clouds as if to better view the brave deed about to be enacted.
Again the bugle rang, again came a volley in that clear, cool voice.
Panic stricken troops in front scattered to right and left and down the road thundered the battery of artillery. The men straddled their guns and left the cumbersome caissons behind them.
On they went at breakneck speed. The drivers lashed their horses while well in front, sword upraised, his red hair and beard like flame in the sun, rode the Captain. Neck to neck with his bay mare came the coal black horse with the boy called Al.
Not once did they swerve or falter, not once did they hesitate. Faster, faster they went, now off the pike onto the plain, through a blinding shower of mud, over stones, into ditches half filled with water.
Now a cannon leaps high in the air as the wheels strike a log or stump but not a horse stumbles or falters, not a driver slackens his pace. Over ditches where a farmer couldn't drive a wagon. On. On. The drivers yelling like mad. Five guns, sixty horses and over a hundred men rushing for the brow of a hill as if he who reached it first might be knighted.
The bugle and Dillon's bell-like voice reaching a high pitch above the clatter."