In the early morning hours of August 30, 1862, a handful of Confederate cavalry approached the Union line near Mt. Zion Church, where they were met by a burst of fire from Federal artillery. The Union salvo was answered in kind. An artillery duel raged as both sides deployed their infantry, Gen. Mahlon Manson placing his Union infantry across the high ground east of Mt. Zion Church and Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne pushing skirmishers forward as he looked for an opportunity to flank Manson's line.
Cleburne also ordered a company of sharpshooters from 2nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment forward to harass the Federal right flank. Captain James J. Newsom of Company C was given command. As the company neared "a large brick residence (Pleasant View), Newsom could clearly see both the Union artillery and the 69th Indiana in his front. He quickly divided his company, Newsom and half of the men moving north and west of the house and the remainder, under Lt. William E. Yeatman, taking position north and east of Newsom. Once in position, the sharpshooters popped away at the Union line for an hour.
The fire from the small band of Confederates held the Union line in check, or at least made the jumpy, new soldiers wary and, for a while, kept their heads down. Newsom realized he had found the end of the Union line and sent Lt. Yeatman back to his colonel with the information. Newsom's information may have been critical to the final result of the fighting here but gathering it cost him his life. After reporting to Lt. Col. John A. Butler, Yeatman hurried back to his company, only to find two of his comrades carrying the wounded Newsom toward the rear. Capt. Newsom died that day. He may have been the first casualty of the 2nd Tennessee but he would not be the last. Of the 300 men engaged 112 of them became casualties, a frightful percentage even by Civil War standards.
The British army began using sharpshooters, crack shots with rifles, in the 1760's. By 1862 both the Union and Confederate armies employed sharpshooters. Initially, the Union army created two regiments of sharpshooters. Later, both sides determined that the soldiers were best organized in smaller numbers, generally as a single company attached to a regiment.
Rather than overextending his line, as Manson was doing, Cleburne Kept the Federal troops in check by harassing their right flank with his sharpshooters. The sharpshooters kept the Union infantry busy while an unseen infantry division advanced north through the Mound Creek ravine.