A short walk up a small wooded hill on the southwest corner of the Chickamauga National Military Park will lead any reasonably ambitious battlefield trekker to a very unusual monument. It is a cement triangle with a single row of 8-inch cannonballs imbedded, and in the center, a small iron tablet bearing the name of Union Brigadier General William Haines Lytle. At first glance, it does not look like any other monument on the field.
Once upon a time it did, but not any more.
This monument marks the spot where General Lytle was mortally wounded at midday on September 20th, 1863. Lytle’s Brigade, part of Sheridan’s Division, was then rushing to the fight in the immediate aftermath of the Confederate breakthrough, and slammed into elements of Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s Rebel infantry division. A desperate fight ensued, in which Lytle did not survive. His brigade was broken and retreated to the west. His body fell into Rebel hands, were a number of Confederate officers commented on seeing his body or trying to help him in his dying moments. His corpse was temporarily buried on the field near Hall’s Ford, alongside Hindman’s field hospital, until a party of Federals reclaimed him under a flag of truce and moved his remains to Cincinnati, where he was formally interred at Spring Grove Cemetery later that fall.
Originally, Lytle’s shell pyramid was like all the other mortuary monuments to fallen brigadiers. For some reason, however, the pyramid became the source for replacement 8″ shells for the other pyramids – probably because Lytle’s location was more out of the way than the others.
You see, originally, these pyramids were simply stacks of original shells, stacked loose. As such, they were relatively easy (if you call carrying an 8 inch shell easy) to carry off as souviners. Eventually, all the shells were replaced with cast concrete replicas and cemented in place, to prevent this kind of ‘borrowing.’ For some reason, however, Lytle’s monument did not get rebuilt. It sits today, just off the trail, in a small clearing atop the hill that now bears the Brigadier’s name.
As you might infer from the link, however, there is now an effort to restore to Lytle his due. The Sons of Union Veterans, Lytle Camp in Cincinnati have undertaken to raise the money to rebuild the pyramid. At $200 per recast cannonball, it’s going to take a fair amount of cash to get the job done, but if you were on the Chickamauga Study Group last year, you have now helped: I have applied $121 dollars of the money raised last year, in conjuction with another $500 or so raised by the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table from their tour a couple of weeks ago, towards the project.
the Cincinnati SUV folks are partnered in this project with the Friends of Chickamauga, and donations are being accepted by the friends.