One Man’s Obsession

I thought I would take a look at the sources I have assembled over the years. Frankly, I’m a bit shocked at how much stuff I’ve accumulated. Just the photocopied stuff alone runs to 35 binders and 9 linear feet of shelf space.

first, I’d like to note the increasing number of materials that I can find online. In addition to hundreds of public domain published items like memoirs and regimental histories, I have stumbled on at least 40 collections of previously unpublished stuff that has found its way to the web, usually through genealogy sites or the like – and not counting manuscript repositories. I’m confident that this total will only grow in the future. This is easily the coolest part of the web, for me…

I have something like 858 other manuscript collections from repositories, gathered laboriously over the years.

Another great source are period newspapers. I have letters from 150 different titles, and I know that many more are out there to find.
Adding in veterans publications (National Tribune, Confederate Veteran, and the like) gives us another 327 post-war accounts.

To that I must add roughly another 140 items collected from genealogy newsletters and the like. The Allen County Indiana Public library was invaluable here. They have an amazingly complete collection of such periodicals, from the lowliest xeroxed or mimeographed newsletter to full runs of state and local historical periodicals.

Then there are the published materials, including regimental histories and personal memoirs. My last count noted about 330 of these.

Of course, there are overlaps, duplications, and the like – but working down that list, I estimate that ! have between 1,700 and 1,800 different primary source descriptions of the battle and the campaign. Some are good, some bad, some wildly improbable: but each a different voice coming to life. I value all of them.

And note – I haven’t even mentioned the OR. I guess I better add several hundred more names to the list.

I’m not trying to bragg here (well, maybe a little – oh, and sorry for the pun.) Instead I decided to take stock of all these accounts to try and see what percentage of the participants I can say I have heard from. The accepted figure for the men engaged is 130,000, but counting the unengaged troops, the detailed men, civilians, etc – I’d have to say that a closer count might be 160,000. I have 2,000 accounts, give or take. Suddenly that doesn’t seem like such a large number.

Of course, by historical standards, it is a massive body of material – and it should be, since it took a large chunk of my 49 years to accumulate. I’d hate to think I wasted that time. But still, there are an awful lot of participants who will never be heard from.

And we know there are more. Archibald Gracie corresponded with and solicited accounts from many veterans, for his book “The Truth About Chickamauga.” He only quoted from and used a fraction of what he had, and he planned a second volume focusing on the Confederate side of the story that never got written. George Dolton, as I mentioned in the last post, also collected obsessively. Dolton was from Illinois, lived in St. Louis after the war, and the family eventually ended up in California. Along the way, George’s collection seems to have vanished.

I wonder what these people could add to the story?

Maybe I will find out – because I am always looking for more accounts. If anyone finds a trunk full of old letters labeled “Gracie” or “Dolton” you’ll call me, won’t you?


2 Responses to “One Man’s Obsession”

  1. david foote Says:

    So, I’ll give you another. The following from the diary of Pvt. Peter Tracy Co D 98th Il. published in the Robinson Argus Crawford Co. Il March 17, 1864.

    Sept 10-crossed the Tennesse river at the mouth of the Chickamauga and went into camp within one mile of the Georgia state line

    11-Marched on the road to Ringgold and began to skirmish with Forest about ten o’clock and continued all day to Tunnel Hill.

    12-About faced and came back to Ringold, and thence on the Lafayette Road to within five miles of Gordon’s mill; and here we found the rebs again in large numbers and fought them two hours–with some loss. We drove then like we always do, until dark and under cover of night. Col. Wilder took us out of there to Gordon’s mill, where Gen. Crittenden’s corps was camped about five miles to the right. We went into camp about 12 o’clock at night.

    13-We lay in line of battle all day. The rebels adavanced on our skirmishers, but found it too hot for them. Our company was called out to reinforce the skirmish line and lay there till dark. We then went back to camp about four miles.

    14-Moved camp to Gen. Reynold’s headquarters. Camped first night near Lookout mountain.

    15-Got to the division and went into camp.

    16-Put up tents and lay in camp all day, and made rools.

    17-Ordered to march back to the left, which we did. Went by Crawfish springs and by Gordon’s mill and on about three miles on the Chickamauga and camped.

    18-The rebels began on Colonel Minty about 11 o’clock, and went on our brigade about 12, and a brisk fight ensued. I started with a detail from the brigade to the teams, about ten miles off, for provisions, just as the fight began.

    19-Got back to the brigade with rations and pack mules about 10 o’clock. Found the brigade in line of battle, and skirmishing in front, our division just going into position. All was calm and firm, no excitement–but the rebels were advancing on us, and soon it began in earnest, with musketry and a few pieces of artillery, and continued all day without intermission until nearly dark, and then the firing ceased for about one half hour only to begin with more fury than ever, and ceased about nine o’clock at night, with only an occasional shot from some skirmishers. We were moved from time to time all day; but our brigade was not engaged that day, although the bullets frequently passed through our lines. We lay in line all night and got so near in front we could hear the enemy give commands and the wounded call for help. Poor fellows, I wished That I colud help them.

    20-The sun rose clear, but the smoke of the day made it foggy, and it did not clear away for some time in the morning. All was quiet except the moans of the wounded and the commands of the rebels in our front, which plainly told us they were forming their lines for another days bloody work. We had, during the night, moved our lines back on a range of hills about one half mile, and massed our artillery so as to sweep them when they came. Our brigade was moved back about 8 o’clock to the rear line, behind a fence, which we converted into a breastwork in short order, but we were destined not to get to use it, as the boys said when we were making it it was too nice for us to lay behind. About ten o’clock it began again in earnest with musketry and artillery. The roar of the artillery was sublime. The musketry was so great that the noise was only a flat sound that shook the earth. It was awful. The rebels massed their forces and advanced. We could tell as we lay on the right of the heavy fighting. About 12 o’clock orders came for us with our Spencers to go in on the double quick about one quarter mile–98th in front–Co. D to the left. There they had just broken through Sheridan’s division, and we had to close the gap which we did in fine style, and drove them before us–recaptured Sheridan’s artillery, and only stopped because we were ordered to. Just while we were in the hottest of it, Old Rosey and staff came up and looked at us for a moment; no doubt attracted there by the heavy firing, for the is no other brigade in the army that can shoot like we can–just as fast as counting–and the boys yelled like savages as they always do. It tickles them to see the rebels run. We had four wounded in our company. Col. Funkhouser was wounded through both thighs. We were soon ordered off the field and back to Chattanooga to guard our right flank, and camped for the night within three miles of Chattanooga.

    21- marched into Chattanooga-98th ordered to guard prisoners to Stephenson, Alabama. Started about 10 o’clock with 1,600. Marched 8 miles and camped.

    22- marched all day in dust-agreat many prisoners gave out-nothing to eat but beef & coffee.

    23-marched till after night again and turned the prisoners over to Stepenson, and went into camp about 12 o’clock at night.

    24-Started back to brigade

    25-Marched all day and camped at night.

    26-Marched back to the brigade at the mouth of the Chickamauga.

    27-We went into camp and remained three days

    David Foote
    box 39
    Robinson, Il 62454

  2. Dave Powell Says:


    wonderful, thanks. I had not previously explored the Robinson Argus, and the March 64 publication date might have meant that I missed it anyway, so I really appreciate the contribution. Some good detail in Tracy’s account.

    Dave Powell

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