Union soldiers choose their ground
After the initial contact between the Union and Confederate forces in the foggy half light of the winter morning, Colonel Speed Fry, commanding the 4th Kentucky Infantry (US), pulled his men back to a rail fence on a hill east of the Mill Springs Road. After a brief lull in the battle, during which Confederate General Felix K. Zollicoffer was killed, the fighting was resumed.
As the Union soldiers deployed along the fence, the Confederates regrouped in the ravine. Suddenly, after this quiet interlude, came the fiercest fighting of the battle. The fight at the fence was bloody and at times hand-to-hand. The Confederates tried desperately to push the Yankees off the ridge, but the determined Union soldiers refused to be moved.
"Our boys soon drove them back to the main line and then advanced as Zouaves by lying flat and firing, wheeling on their backs and loading, rising and running forward about ten steps and again dropping and firing. This was kept up until the entire 10th Indiana regiment was driven from the field by our brave Grenada and Duck Hill boys."
- James R. Binford, 15th Mississippi CS.
The enemy was advancing with fixed bayonets, but the Minnesota boys came up to them with an Indian yell and such a volley as there was poured upon them for 40 minutes was never before heard, When the enemy gave way for us, we were so close to each other that some of our boys pulled their guns out of their hands. There was nothing but a fence between us."
- David Griffin, 2nd Minnesota, U.S.
"... with a shout that would have warmed an Egyptian mummy, we rushed up to the 15th Mississippi with only a fence between us and the enemy and did the best we could with our old flintlocks. Mine went off once in the action and although I wiped the "pan" and primed a dozen times it would do so no more. I had just taken aim and pulled the trigger and was waiting for the hammer to descend, when I felt a "new sensation" across the small of my back; it was like the cut of a knife, and I knew I had been shot ..."
- James L. Cooper, 20th Tennessee CS.
"I moved the regiment through the brush and over logs to the place designated, and coming to a fence parallel with my line we hotly engaged the enemy before us and put him to flight with great loss."
- W.C. Kise, 10th Indiana US.
Our entire line, putting their guns through the cracks of the fence fired into them with ball and buckshot, and the scene that followed beggared description. The screams and groans, officers cursing and begging, trying to rally their men, I shall never forget the scene ... it almost makes my blood run cold to think of it."
- James R. Binford, 15th Mississippi, CS.
We were so close on them that one of the men had his beard and whiskers singed by the fire of one of the muskets; ... another caught hold of one of their muskets and jerked it through the fence. The two stood and fired at each other, their muskets crossing; both fell dead."