Archive for September, 2015

September 21, 1863. “Bragg . . . was cheered long and hard.”

September 21, 2015

Chickamauga sparked a rare moment of celebration within the Army of Tennessee. Never before had Bragg’s army gained such a clear-cut, unequivocal triumph. 

From the Diary of Surgeon Ropert P. Myers, 16th Georgia: 

Sept 21, 1863. (Chattanooga)

Genl Bragg rode down the lines today, and was cheered long and hard. He had no uniform on, simply a loose blouse. He rode a beautiful bay horse, his staff and escort very large – quite different from the Genls of the Army of Northern Virginia, Genl Lee and all his Lieuts & Majors were accompanied with a small staff and escort.

When Bragg reached the vicinity of Kelly Field, he encountered Major General John C. Breckinridge. For once, personal enmity was set aside. 

From the letters of E. John Ellis, 16th & 25th Louisiana, Adams’s Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division: 

Field before Chattanooga, Oct 4th, 1863

My Dear Brother,

[On Monday September 21st] Bragg rode along the lines where all of the troops were Bivouacked amidst the wildest enthusiasm of his victorious army. As he passed our brigade I noticed Gen. Breckinridge down among the men, with his hat off, whooping as lustily as any private. I am glad they have buried the hatchet. Breckinridge though not much of a military man is the impersonation of all that is gallant, chivalrous & generous; while Bragg is truly a great man.

September 20, 1863.

September 20, 2015

The combat of the 19th proved inconclusive. Not so that of the 20th. Confederates under John C. Breckinridge came near success early on Sunday when they turned George Thomas’s left, but were repulsed. Their success, however, only strengthened Thomas’s concern for his northern flank, and redoubled calls for reinforcements. By 11 a.m, the Union right was dangerously weakened in order to meet those calls. James Longstreet’s attack against the newly-vacated line in Brotherton Field quickly overwhelmed those few defenders – the men of Jefferson C. Davis’s small division – quickly. Then Hindman’s troops assailed Horseshoe Ridge.

Four days later, Private Joel H. Puckett of the 24th Alabama recounted that morning’s experiences to his wife:

Camp near Chattanooga, Sept 24, 1863

Dear Mollie,

Sunday morning we charged his breastworks and drove him about a mile. Our reg was engaged from nine to twelve A.M. [p.m.] Here we sustained a heavy loss in our company. Mollie here at one time I bid you goodbye for ever. Loften was killed in the first charge. We captured a great many waggons, 8 pieces of artillery, lots or Ordinance, small arms canteens etc.

We rested until 3 p.m. Our company was thrown out as skirmishers and when we found him [the Federals] he was on a Vicksburg hill in mass. Our reg charged that hill three times. Many a brave man fell, but we piled that ground with Yankee slain. Our division was fighting McCooks Corpse and we still had that hill to take inch by inch.

I saw many wounded by my side, and thank God we slept that night on the battlefield, and the Yankees never stopped till they reached Chattanooga. I took one prisoner by myself and help to take others. [G]ot me a pair of blue pants, a splendid pr of boots, 3 rings shell [?] an gutta percha [gum blanket] a fine tooth comb and 80 dols in green back, also 2 zinc canteens.

A. Loften was shot in the head. Pate in arm – amputated. Clordy knee – leg amputated. Hooper – head. Moor – hand. Archibald – shoulder and foot. Leonard – arm amputated. These were the worst wounded. Our reg lost 114 killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was immense. I only speak of the battle where I saw it. The rest of us are all well.

J. H. Puckett.



September 19, 1863. “Center Shot.”

September 19, 2015

You may have seen this picture before, as it has been posted elsewhere from time to time. The full story behind it is remarkable.
Jacob Miller

This striking image is of Union Private Jacob Miller, Company K, 9th Indiana Infantry. Miller went into action with the rest of his regiment about 1:00 p.m., in Brock Field. the 9th belonged to Hazen’s Brigade, of Palmer’s Division, the 21st Corps; they fought men from two brigades of Tennesseans from Frank Cheatham’s division, Polk’s Corps. Miller’s account departs from my previous practice in this series, in that his story is a post-war reminiscence, not something written closer to the event. However, his story is so striking – alarming, upsetting, and inspiring – that I feel it belongs here. I have excerpted some material. 

The History of My Wound, by Jacob Miller.

While on the firing line hear the Brock Cabin at the battle of Chickamauga, while lying down to take aim at an enemy, some Johnny Reble got careless with his old musket and accidentally or otherwise pulled the trigger while the muzzle was pointed my way. I stopped the full charge of lead, consisting of one round ball and three buckshot, between the eyes, passing to the left under the frontal bone crushing my left eye out of the cavity well. I thought I was done for.

My Captain told me . . . that when I was hit I lay on my face a short time before I got to my feet with the blood streaming from the wound. The captain asked me if someone should take me to the rear [but] I said no.

Thus I started back carrying my gun. Of course I did not realize anything for some time after that. [Here Miller must have fallen or lain down.] At last I became conscious and raised up in a sitting position. Then I began to feel for my wound. I found my left eye out of its place and tryed to place it back but I had to move the crushed bone back as near together as I could first. Then I got the eye in its proper place. I then bandaged the eye as best I could with my bandana. I could hear the firing not far away, some of the bullets even striking hear where i was sitting.

When I got to my feet to find out where I was, I could see no one. I did not know which way to go or what to do, so I poured some water out of my canteen on the bandage. Then I sat down against a tree with the idea that someone would come past me and would know how to act or what to do.

[Here Miller recounts meeting a wounded Confederate, giving him water, and having him point out the direction of the Union rear.]

Then I got my gun and hastened in the direction he pointed out through the thick woods that came to a point where the firing was off to the side. I advanced cautiously and had not gone far when I heard a noise behind me, which proved to be some of the enemy coming up to form the line. Just at that point I heard the command given to halt and lie down. I was making myself as scarce as possible but it was slow work as my good eye was getting almost closed.

I was picking my way the best I could among the trees and underbrush to get back from the fierce conflict, trying to find a road. After struggling for a while I came out on a byroad, wending among the trees. I was very glad as my head was swollen so badly that my good eye was at times closed with the blood running into it and clotting there. As I had but little water in my canteen, I had to use it to wet my parched lips and throat.

While I went along the road I heard a horse coming toward me and when I was close enough for me to see who the rider was, I discovered it to be my first captain, [now] Major William P. LaSelle. He halted as I called his name and saluted, and [he] asked who I was. I replied that I was Miller number three of Co. K. He ordered me to drop my gun and everything but my canteen and grub sack and get on his horse. He said he would take me to the field hospital. I obeyed his order, all but letting him take me back. I urged him to hasten to the regiment but not to go in the direction from which I had come, as there were some of the enemy there, and none of our troops. He rode away from me and I learned later that he went straight into the Johnnys and was captured.

[Miller apparently did not let the major take him to the rear, for he goes on to recount more struggles on his own, an encounter with some men of the 4th Michigan cavalry, collapsing in pain and exhaustion, before being retrieved by two stretcher bearers, who finally carried him to the divisional hospital. There, however, he received grim news.]

When it came my turn I was examined by the surgeons. They discovered that the wound was mortal and that I would die soon, and that it was foolish to do anything with it. But they bandaged it with wet bandages and I was laid in a tent. . . .At last I became unconscious. That was a mercy to me after what I had passed through. . . . Next morning I came out of my swoon, or whatever you might call it. I wet the bandage and had a good draught. I found the swelling had diminished in my eye and that I could see a little. After a time a surgeon and a scribe came into the tent and when they got to me, the doctor was surprised to see that I was still alive.

[This was September 20th, and the hospitals were being evacuated, except for those men too badly wounded to be moved. The Confederates were approaching, and the men left behind would soon all be prisoners. Miller determined otherwise.]

After he had gone from the tent I went to the spring, filled my canteen, wet my head and washed as much of the blood off my face as I could, because I had made up my mind that I would not be taken a prisoner as long as I had strength to make a step toward Chattanooga. I would rather die trying to get there than to be captured.

     MIller managed to make his way back to Chattanooga, partly walking, and then riding in an ambulance, by Monday September 21. There his wound was re-dressed. Over the next week, Miller journeyed to Bridgeport, where he was placed on a train. At Nashville he was finally bathed, his would cleaned, and dressed again. His next stop was Louisville, and then the large Union hospital complex at New Albany Indiana, just across the Ohio River – into “God’s country,” as Miller told it. 

Miller recovered sufficiently to move from patient to semi-invalid hospital attendant. In the Spring of 1864, he was in Madison Indiana, working in wards numbers 3 and 6. He secured a 30 day furlough in June, and went home to Logansport. He still carried the musket balls in his forehead. 

I went to Dr. J. M. Fitch’s office, to [see] his partner, A. C. A. Colman. I told him what the doctors in the different hospitals had said about an operation on my wound. I told them if they would do the operation I would risk the dying part of it. They put me in a barber’s chair and probed for the lead, found it, and got hold of it with forsips. They pulled it to where it had gone in but the frontal bone had knit to the skull bone where I had placed it, so the ball was bigger than the hole, thus it could not come out.

Miller was discharged in August of 1864, with his comrades in the 9th, at the expiration of their enlistment. He returned home, but would suffer the effects of his wound the rest of his life. 

Seventeen years after I was wounded I was washing the pus off my face one morning when something hard dropped into the pan. When I took it out I found it to be a buckshot. Thirty-one years after being wounded two more buckshot fell into the pan while I was washing, so you can see how I have been handicapped. The wound is open and pus discharges continually, so much so that I cannot go into any society for fear of offending anyone. I do not belong to any society except the Methodist Church and the G.A.R. My left eye is blind, my hearing is bad and infirmities of old age are creeping on my. I was eighty-two years old on the fourteenth of August, 1920.

I have no kick coming against any one for my condition. If it was possible for me to meet the deluded enemy that shot me I should congratulate him on being a center shot, for that gives me the name of “Center Shot.” I am proud of my wound and of my service, and am glad that I was a small link in that great chain of soldiary that brought back Old Glory without a single star missing.

September 18, 1863. “Presently, Crash! came their artillery.”

September 18, 2015

From the journal of John C. McLain, 4th Michigan Cavalry, Minty’s Brigade; at Reed’s Bridge.


September 18.

Cloudy and cold this morning. No orders for moving until 11 A.M. Boots and saddles sounded and we went out on the double quick to meet the rebs. They were advancing, we had some sharp skirmishing. We were driven slowly back across the Chickamauga. We formed in line on the west bank of the creek. They threw shell among us pretty lively, killing my horse under me and wounding Cap. Pritchard. I went to the wagons with my saddle. After I left Charley Rickard was killed and Ferman wounded. They sent Charley’s horse back to me and Ferman’s for George Munger, his horse was shot. A sharp fight after dark.

McLain’s account is rather terse. Captain Henry A. Potter, also of the 4th Michigan Cavalry, has left us a more detailed description: 

Fri – Sept. 18th

Cool and cloudy – autumn weather, ordered to saddle up at 4 A.M. expecting to move – but at 7 A.M. stable call was blown. we unsaddled and fed our horses. At 10 A.M. I was ordered to go out with my company under Capt Pritchard and “L” co & reinforce the 7th Penn, as word was sent in that they were attacked by a heavy force of the enemy. Before we were ready to move “Boots and Saddles” blew at Brigade Hd’Qrs, but H & L Cos were in the advance.

When we came up there was considerable skirmishing. I was ordered to move to the right to prevent a flank movement. Moved down in the camp [at Peeler’s Mill] we occupied the first night & farther on into a road where we had a view of the rebel line. They were in strong force. Artillery was plainly visible in the road. A strong flanking party of the rebels moved to our right, when I was ordered to fall back. The 4th regulars were on the right.

Moved back and joined the battalion. We then rode into a cornfield on our right & onto a hill to support our section of artillery. From that view I could see by the clouds of dust a heavy column coming towards us on the left. Our guns presently opened upon them. We were answered promptly by the rebels with four pieces. I could see them when they loaded.

As soon as the smoke cleared away orders came to fall back, which we did. We rejoined the regiment & moved to the left of the road & in line of battle moved through the woods. Our skirmishers soon saw the rebel infantry. We dismounted half of the men and moved upon them. A smart skirmish ensued but [we] were obliged to fall back by overpowering numbers. Formed in line again, again were driven back. Passed through our [new] camp and past the Regulars, towards the river which we succeeded in crossing without loss.

Formed in line on the left to cover the retreat of the 4th [Regulars] presently Crash! came their artillery in the midst of us. A shell passed a few feet over my head & wounded one of my men seriously – Chas. Hall – and two horses. We broke to the right under cover of the woods. Here Capt. Pritchard was wounded in the arm by a shell. Again we formed & dismounted to fight on foot, sending the men toward and along the river. From the left where I was sent to watch for them, I saw three separate lines of their infantry move from the left & swing around towards the bridge.

I sent word to Major Gray to that effect and he moved the regiment back once more into the woods, skirmishing all the time. Wilder’s force was in our rear. But Col. Minty received orders from General [Thomas J.] Wood to fall back to Gordon’s Mills, which we did by 5 o’clock. The enemy followed us closely, & firing in our rear. At dusk heavy skirmishing was heard on the road we came in on. We went out there, our regiment to support the 59th ohio and 44th Ind. Infantry. A sharp fight took place.

The darkness putting and end to the day’s work, we remained as pickets during the night. The men suffered from cold & hunger. Not a mouthful since breakfast. Such a cold night is seldom felt at home in Sept.

September 17, 1863. “It is trying on a mans nerves to be placed in this position.”

September 17, 2015

Down in McLemore’s Cove, both armies remained in close proximity. Reynolds’s Division, Thomas’s 14th Corps, was stationed at Pond Spring on September 17th – awaiting the arrival of McCook’s men from the south. William Miller belonged to the 75th Indiana, and described an uneasy night on picket: 

September 17, 1863

Orders came for a detail of twenty men from the company to go to the right and relieve Gen Turchin’s men who had a fight at Bailey’s Cross Roads. We started about noon and met our ambulances coming in with the dead and wounded. We relieved Turchin’s men about sunset. I was sent with Wm. Starr and J. C. Millihen on picket and it was dark where we was posted and we could not see what we have in front. Our orders were for one to stand while the other[s] slept as they could not relieve us. We could hear the Rebs in their camp and they are so close we can hear them talking and swearing. They are moving camp from the noise.

I stood my several tricks and tried to sleep while the others were on duty but I have too many things to think about. It is trying on a mans nerves to be placed in this position. Out in the woods with but two companions and them sleeping and in hearing of the enemy and not knowing what moment they may demonstrate. It causes a man to think of all the mean things he ever did in his life and he will keep his eyes and ears open.

A little circumstance occurred tonight that frightened me terribly. I was leaning against a Red Oak tree and everything was quiet when I thought I heard the brush rustle in my front. I was all attention as I could not see very far. Soon I heard it again. This time I am certain and finally a third time accompanied with a “Whee-Who Who-Who oh” and I felt my hair assume a perpendicular as I thought a Reb had me sure. I stepped back, and about ten feet up in the tree, a clear sky delineated the out line of a “screetch owl” perched on a limb, who was the innocent cause of my alarm. I “Smiled a Surole” and held my position manfully until relieved. I tell this to illustrate the nervous condition I was in and I don’t know if anybody else would done as I did. I knew what it was in an instant but his scream went through me like a shot.

Several miles to the northeast, a Union column from Granger’s Reserve Corps threatened the Confederates in Ringgold. Rebel Private W. J. Davidson, the 41st Tennessee, Gregg’s Brigade of Johnson’s Provisional Division, recorded that incident in his diary: 

September 17, 1863

During the day we heard that a battle was expected every day between Bragg and Rosecrans, and that we were now in seven miles of the enemy’s advance. General Bragg had increased his army by reinforcements from Virginia and Mississippi, and was supposed to have about sixty-five thousand men wherewith to match Rosecrans’ one hundred thousand hitherto victorious and well-armed troops.

Thursday evening a courier announced to General Gregg that the enemy’s cavalry had driven in our pickets beyond Ringgold, and were then in possession of the place. In a short time, the brigade was under arms and on the march. Had to wade the Chickamauga three times in going one half-mile. Heard artillery firing ahead, but, after taking position on a hill overlooking the town, learned that Bushrod Johnson’s Brigade had driven the enemy off. The brigade was then marched back to camps and ordered to cook four day’s rations, which consumed the greater part of the night.

September 16, 1863. “If that is so it will help us out a heap.”

September 16, 2015

By September 16, the Confederate mood seems to have shifted. Talk of retreating and desertion is on the wane. The letters are more upbeat, buoyed by daily-arriving reinforcements and the fact that now the Federals seem to be falling back. Private John W. Cotton served in the Confederate 10th Cavalry, a composite unit made up of Georgians and Alabamans. Cotton hailed from Coosa County, Alabama. His unit belonged to the newly formed cavalry division of John H. Pegram, Forrest’s Corps. He was writing to his wife and seven children.

Tennessee Camps 15 miles northwest of dalton 7 miles south of ringgold, September 16, 1883,

Here we are 15 miles northwest of dalton. we stayed camped on the battlefield where they had a fight last saturday [probably Leet’s Tanyard] we lost 5 men and the yankeys 17 killed. we taken some fifty prisoners. we had only one regiment in the fite and I dont know how many yankeys. we whipt them. they are about three miles from here now. we expect to fite every day. the first georgia had a skirmich with them today. they tried to take some yankey wagons but failed. I expect we will bee into it before many days.

there will be a big fite before many days some where between here and rome and I expect it will be the worst battle that has ever been fought in this war. they say we have got the largest armey there has ever been together since this was commenced and I feel confident that we will whip the fite. if we do I think that will bring about peace.

there has been several small fites with the cavalry and we have drove them back. it was thought three days ago that they were retreating back across [the] tennessee river but they dont think so now. we keep heering that longstreet have retaken knoxville and a number of prisoners. if that is so it will help us out a heap.


Major Henry A. Potter of the 4th Michigan Cavalry (Minty’s Brigade) was one of those nearby Federals: 

[Peeler’s Mill,] Wednesday, September 16th, 1863.

Disturbance last night. Report says Pegram’s forces are at Ringgold. Our pickets in that direction were fired on, or they fired on a squad of rebels – ‘to horse’ sounded and every man was in his saddle – the teams were not loosened from the wagons at all thro the night – quite an excitement this morning.

I was ordered to go to the bridge over the Chickamauga & see if it was destroyed – it was safe – our battery was planted on a hill fronting the camp & the guns masked – we are waiting – ready for anything that may turn up – Rumor that knowing individual says our forces on the right & Burnside on the left have swung around & formed a connection 7 that [the] rebels are surrounded & must fight us – we will see – In afternoon moved back 2 miles & camped for the night.

September 15, 1863. “McPherson’s corps has joined McCook on the right…”

September 15, 2015


From the diary of Lt. Robert B. Davidson, the 35th Ohio, 

Sept. 15, 1863.

Weather hot.  we started at seven (7) AM and encamped at twelve (12) noon, after a march of four miles.  Water is plenty and good all over this country but we are unfortunately not close to a good spring this time.  This is a very fertile country, especially the valleys.  The finest corn I ever saw in these valleys.  MY diarrhea is worse today.  It is reported that McPherson’s Corps has joined McCook on the right, and Burnside has joined us on the left.  The reserve corps had moved up.  Genl. Steadman ( commander in the reserve corps) has come up with his division.

The rumors concerning McPherson and Burnside are interesting. Of these, only the news about Steedman was accurate; leading elements of the Reserve Corps reached Rossville the previous day.

Captain William A. Boyd, the 84th Indiana, Steedman’s division of the Reserve corps, describes his march through Chattanooga to Rossville on the 14th: 

Near noon we passed over a part of Lookout [Mountain] high above the river overlooking the city of Chattanooga, and the beautiful valleys and hills adjacent. We left the town to the left and halted at Rossville Georgia, six miles to the east of south. Rossville is entirely untenanted, and never held more than six or eight log homes. The last one of them was the former residence of the Cherokee Chief John Ross. A large cool spring issues from the base of the mountain in rear of the house.

September 15,

We made a shelter of the bushes and limbs of trees. The men had nothing but rubber blankets and the officers but little more.

Sergeant Styles Porter, of the 52nd Ohio, was also present at Rossville on the 15th, describing some internal strife:  

Sept 15, 1863.

Still without rations, some of the boys go out to try their luck foraging, but a few carry it to excess. Then General Gordon Granger sends out a mounted squad of infantry with orders to bring in every soldier they could find. Something like a hundred are caught, about fifty of whom are brought to General Granger’s headquarters, where he had them tied to trees, with their shirts off, intending to have them whipped. When the whip was brought Granger ordered the guard to use it, but the guard refused. The excitement got up the men gathered in knots, discussing the matter. Col. Dan McCook, Major Holmes and Captain Rothacker went to General Granger and protested, with the result that the whipping was abandoned. The General and his staff would certainly have been annihilated by the infuriated soldiers had not the haughty chief let the men go without whipping. Still, to satisfy a fiendish disposition the General ordered an unusually heavy camp guard and seven roll calls a day. I have often wondered why so many of our army officers take so much pleasure in insulting and wounding the feelings of respectable men.


September 13, 1863. “We was going to try and draw them on to some chosen ground.”

September 13, 2015

On September 13, Union troops under Horatio Van Cleve moved south from Lee and Gordon’s Mills, conducting a reconnaissance towards Rock Spring. They soon collided with Confederates belonging to Stahl’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division, of Polk’s Corps; engaged in a similar effort. This skirmish did not escalate into a full scale battle, but clearly, both sides were present in force.

Private William Sylvester Dillon was a member of Company E, the 4th Tennessee Infantry, one of those engaged that morning: 

September 13,

We marched about two miles towards the enemy again formed in line of battle – when my company and B was thrown out as skirmishers we had only to advance about 200 yards when we were ordered to halt and wait the advance of the enemy. Almost immediately our cavalry videttes were engaged with their advancing skirmishers, but only exchanged a few shot with them [before] falling back – when close behind their skirmishers on the brow of the hill appeared their main line of battle in beautiful array, but a battery of ours just behind us quickly opened upon them and after two or three well directed shots they broke and fled and quickly in turn brought a battery to bear upon our battery. [T]hen our battery was withdrawn and our entire line fell back.

This maneuver convinced me that a report I heard this morning was true – that we was going to try and draw them on to some chosen ground – but the General failed in this for after following us very cautiously for about 1 1/2 miles they withdrew at night to the same ground they [held] last night. This ended a very hard days duty.

That same day, Union Lieutenant Alfred L. Hough, staff officer to General Negley, expressed similar frustrations about the Confederates: 

Sept 13, 1863, at Stevens Gap on top of Lookout Mountain,

My dearest Mary,

I find the Generals of Divisions and Genl Thomas in consultation. They don’t know whether to advance or not and are I believe waiting for information. If we could get Bragg’s army in a position where our whole army could concentrate we would fight him, but he will not fight. I was in hopes Chattanooga would end our campaign, but am now afraid we will have to go to Atlanta. I cannot begin to tell you of our work, but if I live it will be long a subject of conversation. From all accounts it is decidedly the hardest campaign of the war.

I suppose you will be glad to hear of the occupation of Knoxville and Chattanooga, thereby giving us East Tennessee, but their army is still in existence, and it is our duty to follow it until it is destroyed, and that may yet be through a deal of hard work.

September 12, 1863. “The whole country was a wilderness of timber…”

September 12, 2015

From the diary of William H. Records, 72nd Indiana, at Tunnel Hill, Georgia: 

September 12, 1863.

When the morning came instead of engaging the enemy on our front we were ordered to retreat to Ringold. We withdrew under cover of the timber leaving a line of Skirmishers firing at the enemy until we were well away. On arriving at Ringold we drew three days rations in haversacks and after some delay the brigade moved out on the road leading to Lafayette Ga. After proceeding about eight miles the advance encountered the enemies advance on the “Nick-a-Jack Trace.” They – the rebels – retired upon their column and our advance promptly followed, and soon came upon the enemy’s position at

Rock Springs

Where we fought a battle which we gave the name of Rock Spring. The 72nd [Indiana] Regt was about the third regt from the front today. As soon as it was ascertained that the enemy was in force each regt was brought rapidly forward and ‘prepared to fight on foot.’ By the time we were forming artillery was being used but that did not continue very long. When everything settled down to a very ominous silence . . . four companies of the 72nd viz A F D & I was detached from the rest and sent to the left of [the] position occupied by the rest of the brigade.

The whole country was a wilderness of timber scarcely a clearing of any description to be seen  in any direction. For that reason we could see nothing, and it looked very much like going it blind to be preparing for battle in a woods like this. When ready to dismount Capt. W. H. McMurtry directed me to take charge of the horses and gave me some further directions about the men and then run on after the company having sent it on with 1st Lieut. R. A. Vance.

What made me take such notice of the Captains instructions in regard to the horses, etc. was because here forore, he was in the habit of having nobody in command of horse holders and trusted everything to their fidelity. There was little or no firing going on until our battalion of four companies arrived at the position assigned when they encountered the 6th Ga. all ready in line. There was about six hundred rebels concealed in the brush and our force averaged about thirty men to the company, which made only 120 men for us.

The enemies line overlapped ours at both flanks and as soon as the firing began they began closing their wings around ours, and had it not been for our men being armed with the Spencer Rifle – a seven Shooter – there is no doubt but the entire battalion would have been ‘gobbled up.’ But as it was the struggle was a fearful one while it lasted. The enemy was repulsed at a fearful cost to us. Co. I lost her Captain, Wm. H. McMurtry. He called Wm. Harvey as he fell, [but] died before he could tell Harvey what he wanted done.

1st lieut R. Vance then took command of Co. I.

Geo. Brooks, private, of Co. I. killed. Jacob Allen wounded. The entire loss of killed in the four companies was 8, and 8 wounded, which made a total loss of 16 out of 120. Co. D escaped without a scratch.

This affair happened up on a hill to [the] left of Rock Springs as you go towards Lafayette. The dead were all carried down to a house [Dr. Leet’s] on the road near the spring. It was now nearly night and the force we retreated from this morning was now on our back – Wheler’s [really Forrest’s] cavalry.

In our front was Pegram’s brigade of Mounted Infantry, a part of which we had just fought and then in front an to our right lay Clayborne’s [Cheatham’s] division of infantry. We did not stop to burry our dead, but laid them all on a porch of the house and left them. The wounded was taken along in the ambulances, poor fellows. How they must have suffered. One died before we reached camp.

Soon after starting we could see the light of campfires and we thought it must be our infantry, but orders were to keep very quiet. Presently some scouts that were ahead came back and reported that it was rebels camped in line of battle. To our right was a high rail fence. This was taken down very carefully so as not to make any noise for rebel pickets were not 200 yards off. We then took to the fields and woods for it.

Col. Monroe with his regt the 123rd Ill was covering the rear, for Wheeler was pressing hard upon us. Failing to elude him by moving out of the roads and going in the woods, Col Wilder at last resorted to a ‘false camp’ and that had the desired effect. . . .We managed to get to Lee and Gordons Mills that night where we found Crittenden’s Army Corps.

September 11, 1863. “The rebs got everything…”

September 11, 2015

On September 11th, 1863, five brigades of Federals – 8,000 men in Negley’s and two thirds of Baird’s Divisions, 14th Corps – were nearly overwhelmed by roughly 25,000 Confederate troops in McLemore’s Cove. Bragg attempted to bring no less that four of his own divisions: Hindman’s, of Polk; Cleburne’s, of Hill, reinforced by all of Buckner’s Corps, to bear on Negley’s combined column. That effort failed, but only by the narrowest of margins, mostly due to the timidity of Hindman and Buckner. It remains the battle that almost was.

Wallace W. Darrah of the 10th Wisconsin was a member of Starkweather’s brigade, Baird’s command. Writing home on the 13th, Darrah described the events of September 11th. Darrah’s narration is a little breathless; I have tried to lightly edit it for clarity.

Dear Sister Helen,

The morning of the [11th] we marched out whare Negley layed and stopped thare a little and the pickets was drove in and then we mooved out into the field and formed a line and the rebel skirmishes was drivein [driving] Negley’s men in pretty fast and our line relieved them and took the front. Co. B . . . was sent out to skirmish and while we was out thare fighting our men fell back and our 3 companies came pretty near bein captured. We was so near the rebels we could hear their officers give commands. Thare was a rebel battery mooved in front of us and I heard the Captain give the command ‘battery forward into line,’ and we thought it was our one battery.

While we was in line of battle we took off us knapsacks and when we went onto the skirmish line we left them thare and they was left when the line of battle fell back and they was left on the field and captured so the rebs got every thing we had packed over the mountains. While we was falling back I found a rubber blanket & tent so I am all right for now.

The rebs had one division and one corps in this valley and two small [Union] divisions had no business with them but they did not get much out of us for we fell back to the [Lookout] mountain and then they could not surround us no[r] flank us. In one time thare they was on three sides of us pouring their best licks and if had not been for the mountain they would have gobbled us every man.”

Milwaukee resident Lieutenant William Mitchell of the 1st Wisconsin, also in Starkweather’s brigade, described a similar experience: 

In line of battle, foot of Lookout Mountain, Sep 12, 1863,

Dear Tom,

We crossed the Tenn. River on the 4th and have had the toughest time I have ever experienced in crossing Raccoon [Sand] and Lookout Mountain. The artillery and wagons were handed up by doubling the teams & by men from the infantry. In some places the road led up the Mt. at about an angle of 45 degrees. In descending all the wheels were locked and men holding back with ropes. The road is strewn with broken wagons & dead horses & mules. The march I think rivaled Bonaparte’s over the alps.

We arrived in the valley yesterday morning, our division having been hurried forward to reinforce Negley . . . We went into line about 1 PM yesterday, the pickets firing during the time. . . . A large rebel force appeared on our left coming down the valley and threatening our rear, between us and Lookout Mountain. . . .So we commenced a retrograde movement by Genl Negley’s order. It was the first time the brigade was forced to fall back. Starkweather’s brigade covered the retreat, which was conducted in fine style. Segile [he means Franz Sigel] could not do it better.

As soon as the enemy . . . saw the movement, he threw his cavalry in heavy force upon us. For over two miles we retreated, our skirmishers & battery emptying rebel saddles by scores. About 5 PM at one of our halts (we halted at every good position & gave them grape & cannons) I was ordered to take Cos. C & D and relieve Goodrich. I did so but our battery persuaded the rebs that it was safer for them to remain at a distance, so my line never fired a shot, while Goodrich had his hands full.

Now Tom, please don’t publish this. We are a rough looking set, worn out & covered with dust. I never wanted to fight as bad in my life as when these d-d rebs pound their volleys . . . and Yelling after us with “Run you Yankee sons of b-s.”

Unfortunately, Confederate accounts of this incident are harder to find. William E. McNally of Company K, the 37th Tennessee, was in A. P. Stewart’s Division, Buckner’s Corps, opposing Darrah and Mitchell. 

September 15, La Fayette Georgia,

On the 11th we had a considerable skirmish on the Graysville Road between Rock Spring and [La Fayette.] The enemy were completely routed and would, it is said, have been captured had it not been for a blunder of one of our officers. There has been skirmishing in every direction from this place and a general engagement is daily expected.

Our young country’s prospects now look dark indeed. The enemy is advancing on every side, the country is flooded with a greatly depreciated paper currency, which is the Government’s “promise to pay.” This is worth with speculators – which class have overrun the whole land – about one fifteenth as much as gold or silver; besides this, there is much dissatisfaction in the army and among citizens; but with all these disadvantages, I still feel confident of our final success.