On the morning of May 15, Lt. Gen. John B. Hood instructed his division commander Maj. Gen. Carter Stevenson to position a battery so as to bear on enemy artillery "annoying General Hindman's line." Stevenson ordered Capt. Maximilian Van Den Corput to place his "Cherokee Battery" of four Napoleons some 20 years in front of his entrenched infantry. (Civil War artillerymen had to see their targets, and to get at the "annoying" enemy battery, Confederates had to place their cannon actually in front of their lines.) Soldiers constructed an earthen lunette for the guns, but before they could connect it to their main line with rifle pits, Federals attacked the center-right of the Confederate line. They were repulsed elsewhere, but here two Federal regiments of Brig. Gen. John Ward's brigade stormed up to the Rebel earthworks. Col. Benjamin Harrison led one of them, the 70th Indiana.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Harrison leading the 70th Indiana in an assault against Van Den Corput's Battery. (Library of Congress)
By then Van Den Corput's infantry supports had run away, and "with a wild yell," Harrison reported, his troop "entered the embrasure, striking down and bayoneting the rebel gunners, many of whom defiantly stood by their guns til struck down." Some men of Col. Adolphus Buschbeck's brigade also go into the battery embrasure. Soldiers of the 33rd New Jersey even planted their colors on the counterscarp of the ditch.
This was the scene of heavy fighting during the struggle for control of Van Den Corput's guns. The battery position was left of this image, on land saved by the American Battlefield Trust in 2011.
Douglas Ullman, Jr.
The Northerners received heavy fire from Stevenson's troops and had to withdraw back down the slope, leaving the battery unmanned. Neither side could sortie forward to reclaim Van Den Corput's battery. By 3 p.m. both sides resorted to heavy skirmishing and artillery dueling while the Confederate cannon sat in non-man's land. "Come on - take those guns!" yelled the Southerners. "Come on and taken 'em yourselves!" came the Northerners' reply. After dark Brig. Gen. John Geary ordered troops to sneak forward, quietly dig through the earthwork, and with ropes drag the four guns back into Union lines. The mission was successful. The Cherokee battery was the only artillery lost by Johnston's army during the Georgia Campaign.
Men from Geary's division dig through earthworks to drag Van Den Corput's guns back to Federal lines.