November 3rd, 1863, dawned on what was to be, for the Eighty-Third, an eventful day. The enemy had followed us back quite closely, thinking we were on the retreat and would be an easy prey. The regiment was ordered to go out with the wagons for forage.
We had barely started when there was an alarm. We piled out of the wagons and took our places in line of battle. The alarm having subsided, we tried the foraging train again, and were making some headway in getting it ready, when skirmishing began in earnest. The Seventeenth Ohio battery limbered up and began firing to check the enemy from coming in our rear to capture the guns. The Eighty-Third ran to its assistance, and our sudden appearance caused the enemy to change its mind. They divided, riding to the right and left, flanking us. As the field was level, we could see the whole movement and knew what to do without being told. The only thing to do was to get back and do it quick. We knew there was plenty of assistance if we could only reach it. We could see the cavalry racing towards our flanks and we expected every moment to have them face us and pour a volley of shot into us. The day was very warm and the excitement with the weight each had to carry soon exhausted us. As it was there were a good many taken prisoners but the Eighty-Third met with the least loss.
The Twenty-Third Wisconsin Infantry of our brigade is most certainly under everlasting obligation to our regiment for the preservation of their colors in this battle. The written accounts of both our boys giving the details, are present with me and are as follows:
George Sweeny, of Company F, writes and says:
"When the attack began, I left the regiment temporarily to reach my tent and secure some money that was in my knapsack. On the retreat through the woods, I was well in the rear and when about midway of the woods I saw the Twenty-Third Wisconsin color bearer, totally exhausted and lying against a tree. I asked him if he was wounded and he said, 'No.' Well, you will be captured if you stay here. He said, 'I can't help it.' I told him I would save the flag, and so took possession of it. There was no time for tarrying as the bullets were coming uncomfortably close. These added speed, and I happily escaped with the flag and finally turned it over to its proper owners." ....
Our camp was completely destroyed. What was not taken away was piled up and burned. As soon as the enemy had completed the work of destruction they departed after upsetting all our camp kettles, spoiling what little chance we had for dinner. The Colonel and Adjutant lost all they had, as did about all of the line officers.
The brigade loss was 680 killed, wounded and taken prisoners. Our regiment lost 55, all prisoners, there being no record of any having been killed. The force against us is variously estimated at from 3,000 to 10,000.