Back from another weekend in the woods of North Georgia. I am a bit late in writing up anything on the 2015 CCNMP Seminar in the Woods because I came down sick just after I returned home (with an ineffective trip to Knoxville to give a CWRT talk – failed – in between) and haven’t been functioning well.
We had 30+ attendees, despite the record storms sealing off the north and northeast from Chickamauga during the week leading up to the seminar. We have a sizeable sum of money left over after expenses, and this year, by consensus, we are going to use it to support the Civil War Trust’s ongoing preservation efforts at Brown’s Ferry and around Dalton Georgia – both very worthy sites. More on that later when I contact the trust about the specific donations.
On Saturday afternoon, I had a bit of a funny – and humbling – moment. Just when you think you know the battlefield really well…
We were following John Turchin’s brigade, moving through the woods south of Brock Field (at the time, those woods were clear, just more of the much larger historic Brock Field.) We were tracking the markers for the 36th and 92nd Ohio, who moved in line facing south across the south end of the field. We were moving east, and in the middle distance – say 100 yards through the leafless timber – was another bright blue War Department tablet. It was facing east, not south.
That confused me. Who was that, I wondered. Suddenly, I was dislocated on what I have come to regard as “my” own battlefield. Was it a Union battery tablet? It couldn’t be another Union brigade, I thought, for I didn’t know of another tablet down here. I do know that some of the accounts of Dodge’s brigade, of Johnson’s 2nd Division XX Corps claim to have come down this far, but I didn’t know of a tablet to them. Could it be a tablet new to me?
Still confused, I called a head to Jim Ogden, the Park Historian. He would know, right? After all, it it is anyone’s battlefield, It’s Jim’s to call his own. I asked who’s tablet that was ahead of us. Jim, a little nonplussed, looked back at me and said, “Turchin’s.” He obviously wanted to ask if I needed a lie-down or something, but was too polite to say so in front of the group.
That snapped things into place. I had simply – like so many before me – lost my situational awareness on the battlefield.
Above is a picture of the tablet. To be fair, it is confusingly placed. In addition to facing east (when we generally know that Turchin’s line faced south) it is also placed at the left end of Turchin’s line, beyond even the position marker for the 11th Ohio (the small stone pillar, not this tablet.) Typically, a brigade tablet is supposed to be placed in the center of the brigade line, oriented so that as you read it you face the way the brigade faced. This is important, because often these tablets use directions and distances that only make sense if everything is oriented correctly.
The tablet is actually only to the 11th Ohio of Turchin’s Brigade, which is another rarity. War Department tablets were placed for every brigade and battery as well as higher echelons – divisions, corps, and even the armies. They were not placed or authorized for individual regiments. As we stood in front of the tablet, I asked Jim if he was aware of any other tablet on the field (note, not monument, there is a difference) that was essentially marking the actions of a single regiment. He said no, at least not offhand. Neither could I.
The 11th Ohio’s commander was Philander P. Lane, a machinist and businessman from Cincinnati Ohio, and a man who prospered after the war, though he suffered from his various war wounds. In addition to the usual regimental history, Lane was the subject of a biography, published in 1920, of his wartime service – rare for a Colonel. He held regimental reunions on his estate in Norwood Ohio, and clearly he pulled some weight in postwar Ohio politics.
I’ve yet to ferret out other connections, though one important link seems likely. Cincinnati was also home to Henry Van Ness Boynton and Henry M. Cist, two very important players in the post-war Chickamauga story – with Boynton, formerly commander of the 35th Ohio, was the Cincinnati Gazette’s Washington DC correspondent, and eventually became the park’s first and most influential historian.
Lane died in 1899, though he was an invalid for the last decade of his life, having suffered a stroke in 1889, before the park was established.
So if I got lost on my favorite piece of battlefield, one I should (by now) know intimately, at least I proved once again my own adage – that every time I come to the field I still learn something new.
Hopefully, over time I will find out a bit more about Colonel Lane and the “regimental” tablet.