By September 8th, many Federals were giving vent to unbridled optimism, buoyed by their successful crossing of the Tennessee River and unhindered march across North Georgia. Sergeant George Marsh of Company D, the 104th Illinois Infantry, Negley’s Division of the 14th Corps, was one.
On a little mountain in the woods, Georgia, Sept 8/63
We are here lying down in line of battle to support our battery [Bridges’s Illinois Battery] which is masked in the edge of the woods, or rather on the edge of a field. I suppose they expect to drive a force of the Confederates into our trap but we can see or hear nothing as yet.
We are between the Lookout and W. Chickamauga Creeks, near Tallulah Lake, in the east part of Dade Co. or in the next county E of Dade. Chattanooga is almost exactly north of here perhaps 12 or 15 mls distant. We must have nearly have surrounded the place [Chattanooga] by this time. Is there anything of our movements in the papers or do they know as little as we do?
I am inclined to think we will get Bragg in Chattanooga as Grant did Pemberton in Vicksburg. Deserters report Bragg’s troops badly demoralized, N. Carolina troops almost in mutiny, & Miss. & Tenn. no better. I was talking to one of the Miss. troops & he hated to give it up but it kept getting worse & worse & he finally came over to our lines.
One recurring theme among Federal accounts is of tales of deserters, and the heartening (for Union ears, anyway) tales they told of mutiny, demoralization, and the like. Marsh and his comrades – indeed, the whole Army of the Cumberland – were perhaps growing a bit cocksure when it came to their opponents.
I have been unable to determine the location of the “Tallulah Lake” Marsh references. There is a modern-day Tallulah Lake and Falls in Georgia, but many miles east of Dalton, far from the scene of this campaign.
One final note, Marsh was awarded a Medal of Honor in 1897 for a feat of arms performed on July 2nd, 1863; leading a force to capture the Elk River Bridge in Tennessee.