You may be interested to know that I have the letters written by my great-great-grandfather, Private Henry J. Cline (75th Indiana Infantry) to my great-great-grandmother, Lovina Cline, while he served in the Union Army.
The letters make no reference to the battle of Chickamauga. One was written August 16, 1863, and the next one after that was written October 19, 1863. He made no reference to the battle of Chickamauga, although in other letters he made a few oblique references here and there.
I doubt whether the letters are of any historical value. They are mostly the letters of a husband to a wife. They do give some idea of the everyday life of an infantry soldier, and he mentions others in his regiment who were from his home town area, which was Boxley, near Noblesville, Indiana. He gave Lovina instructions on what bills to pay and how to take care of the farm and homestead, and had obviously gotten letters and some pictures from home, which he commented on. However, Lovina couldn’t read or write. She had to have his letters read to her by a neighbor, and had to have someone write letters on her behalf.
I was bequeathed the letters by my maternal grandmother, Ethel (Bailey) Benjamin, who was a granddaughter of Henry and Lovina. In the packet of letters was an article that appeared in the Noblesville Ledger in September of 1963 — a hundred years after the battle of Chickamauga. In that article, written by Joe Burgess, a Nobelsville historian, was a list of Indiana 75th solders who were killed or wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga. The article said that Pvt. Henry J. Cline was wounded in the left thigh.
Henry made no mention of being wounded in his letters — probably because he didn’t want to scare his wife.
I have been researching all of Henry’s movements and battle experiences with an eye toward writing a narrative of his war experience, justaposed with the letters and annotations of my sources. So, I went back to Joe Burgess about 10 years ago. He was still alive, and we met in his home. He could not remember exactly where he found that reference to Henry’s wound, but he thought it might be from a surgeon’s log. He had apparently been working in the Hamilton County Courthouse many years earlier, and saw a pile of old records which were being gathered for destruction. He asked if he could have them, and the courthouse people said “yes.”
Anyway, I continued digging, and eventually discovered that after the war, Henry Cline applied for and received a disability pension — not for his wound, but for severe and disabling varicose veins — apparently a common complaint among Civil War soldiers.
In his application, (of which I have a copy) he was asked if he ever had been wounded in battle, if so, to describe the wound. In his own handwriting, he said he was shot in the left thigh, removed himself from the battlefield, found a creek, sat down in it, removed the ball with his pocket knife and wrapped the wound in a poultice.
A couple of years ago I visited the Chickamauga battlefield, found all of the markers identifying the 75th’s positions during the battle, and essentially re-traced Henry’s steps.
On the morning of the 19th, the 75th was held in reserve until early afternoon. They had been ordered into position by Gen. Reynolds and were putting themselves in order when Gen. Palmer noticed that some Confederate soldiers were driving through between Tanyard and Poe’s fields, forcing Union soldiers back across the road. Palmer ordered the 75th into the breech, and by all accounts, the 75th charged with “brigade-like strength” to drive the Confederates back.
Henry Cline was almost certainly wounded in this charge. With aid from the battlefield markers and maps, I surmised that he made his way south and west toward a battlefield hospital that had been established just west of Lafayette Road. There is a creek just west of the road.
My theory is that Henry saw the carnage of dead and dying men at the hospital and decided he would be better off tending to his own wound. Just imagine: he likely saw amputated arms and legs, blood everywhere and saw and heard men screaming in agony.
Anyway, I sat in the creek for a few minutes and thought of my great-great-grandfather and the countless other soldiers – Union and Confederate – who served with loyalty and distinction.