The following morning, December 17, 1861, dawned beautifully clear and grew into a balmy Spring-like day complete with crystal blue, sunny skies. A glorious day to go about any business. Construction crews remained busy, as did the 32nd Indiana picket force south of the bridge. Around midday a patrol from Captain Jacob Glass's Company B, engaged Rebel skirmishers a mile forward and on the right of the Union position in a woods near Rowlett's Station. Quickly advancing the remainder of the company to support his patrol, Glass directed the men to fire a volley at the party of enemy infantry causing them to immediately withdraw. He prudently retreated upon the sudden appearance of large Confederate infantry and cavalry forces.
While Captain Glass stabilized the right, First Lieutenant Max Sachs, temporally replacing an ailing Captain John L. Giegoldt, pushed forward the left by advancing his Company C south alongside the Bowling Green Pike. Sachs signaled a bugle alarm to the remainder of the regiment as his company successfully repulsed a sudden wild cavalry assault from a company of Terry's Texas Rangers. The general alarm was met with remarkable speed and enthusiasm.
In desperation to assist imperiled comrades, nearly every company commander rashly stampeded their men headlong across the bridge with no sense of order and started to climb the rise to aid the threatened companies. With the absence of Colonel Willich, who was away at Division Headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel von Trebra expeditiously assumed command of the 32nd.
Gaining control of the situation von Trebra quickly formed his line of battle by placing Companies K, G, and F (under Captains Andreas Winter, Peter J. Welschbillig, and Frederick A. Muller) on the right wing in support of Captain Glass. The lieutenant colonel would lead Companies A and I (under Captains Frank Erdelmeyer and William Sievers) forward to support Lieutenant Sachs on the left wing. Von Trebra instructed Major William Schnackenberg to form reserves back along the pike towards Munfordville.
Assembling to the Major's command rushed Companies E and H (under Captain Philip H. Monninger and Lieutenant Peter Cappel, replacing bed-ridden Captain Franz Kodalle) along with eleven Company D men led by Captain John Schwarz. The disciplined and compact Union formations moved to the attack. While the sudden Yankee onrush appeared to confuse the Confederate infantry, the Texan cavalrymen were not in the least bit intimidated.
Possibly sensing a crushing victory, the Texas Rangers stormed down with reckless speed upon the Yankee lines. They drove in as close as fifteen yards, with some individual horsemen passing between the lines, before opening up a fusillade with shotguns and revolvers. With the coolness of veterans, the Union infantry cut loose with a destructive volley that emptied several of the Rebel saddles.
It was during this attack that Lieutenant Sachs, incited with the thrill of combat, rashly moved a platoon of Company C from the protection of woods into an exposed position on the open plain. Using two haystacks as flank cover, Sachs formed his men at arms ready facing the Confederate troopers. This impertinent personal challenge to the Rebels drew a rapid response as the Texans swiftly enveloped the vulnerable group, demanding repeatedly that Sachs surrender his sword and order his men to drop their weapons. The young lieutenant defiantly refused; a multitude of weapons blazed as one.
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