"Every one for himself was the motto."
Much of the Confederate Army retreated through this area. They headed south along the Mill Springs Road toward their camps and fortifications just this side of the Cumberland River.
Mississippi and Tennessee regiments that had fought in the ravine and along the hotly contested fencerow on this side of the road also passed through this area as they left the battlefield. These men had fought long and hard. When finally they attempted to withdraw, Union infantry and artillery flanked their line.
Union cannons rolled into position on the Confederate right flank and quickly fired over fifty rounds into the Southern troops. This was too much to endure. Private David Scales of Company B, 20th Tennessee said, "We were overpowered and had to fight our way out." Seventeen-year-old Private James L. Cooper of Company C said, "It was anything but an orderly retirement. With much confusion, the retreat began. Every one for himself was the motto, and to get back to camp as soon as possible was the idea." Colonel Horatio Van Cleve of the 2nd Minnesota summarized the action saying: "The enemy having met with so warm a reception in front, and afterward being flanked ... on the right by a portion of our left, who by their well-directed fire drove them from behind their hiding places, leaving a large number of their dead and wounded on the field."
"I reluctantly permitted my entire command to retreat"
"Perceiving the fortunes of the day were against us, and that we could no longer maintain the unequal contest, I reluctantly permitted my entire command to retreat in the direction of our works at Mills Springs. Late in the afternoon my command reached our encampment at Beech Grove and took possession of the fortifications formerly erected at that place. Our position being wholly untenable, it was determined in a council of officers ... to abandon it and return to the opposite bank of the Cumberland." - Confederate General William Henry Carroll
A Grand and Gallant Charge
On the other side of the Mill Springs Road, a bayonet charge led by the 9th Ohio prompted the collapse of the left flank of the Confederate line. James Scully of Thomas' staff later wrote: "I witnessed the grand charge of the Gallant McCook with his Dutchman and a more splendid thing I never witnessed." Major John A. Brents of the 1st Kentucky concurred when he wrote, "The 9th Ohio made as gallant a charge as was ever witnessed."
Fearful of being outflanked and trapped, some of the Tennessee soldiers fled in panic. From this side of the road, just south of where you now stand, the 29th Tennessee fired into the flank of the 9th Ohio. This slowed the Union advance and allowed many Confederates to escape southward, A bit farther south, the 29th Tennessee and the 16th Alabama Infantry Regiments also made a stand before following their comrades in the general Confederate retreat toward the Cumberland River camps.