Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Push Toward Missionary Ridge

Note:  The events that follow are but a portion of the Battle for Chattanooga which occurred primarily from November 20 -30 in 1863.  Although many accounts are available, no great appreciation for these events can be gained without seeing the unique terrain first hand.  A visit to our oldest National Battlefield Park (Chickamauga) and the surrounding sites in and around Chattanooga is imperative.  Blue and Gray magazine's Missionary Ridge edition (XXIX, #6) provides a wonderful tour from the encyclopedic mind of Jim Ogden, Chief Historian of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

On November 23, 1863, General Thomas gave the order to push the Confederate skirmish line back toward Missionary Ridge.    The observation of Cleburne's forces' withdrawal along with rumors that the entire Army of Mississippi was heading towards Knoxville had caused Grant to request a reconnaissance in force.  From Orchard Knob he would have a better view of the enemy's movements. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions, under Sheridan and Wood respectively, with Baird (3, XIV) protecting their right  and Howard (XI) their left moved forward, driving back the enemy pickets.  

Although their orders were to observe and report back to General Grant after returning to their entrenchments, General Wood's and Sheridan's Divisions took and held their positions.  This over-exuberance was entirely understandable, coming from the men who had been repeatedly routed at the Battle of Chickamauga only two month's earlier, who had been mocked and derided for their failures when, in fact, they were never put in a position to succeed due to leadership blunders and miss-communications, who had been starved for weeks after being on half-rations much of that summer.  When given the chance to run some rebel soldiers off their high ground, they would not be denied.  Their professionalism would no longer be in doubt, they would show Grant (who had commanded the 17th Kentucky at Fort Donnelson and Shiloh) that they were not the bunch of undisciplined recruits they had been made out to be. They would take and hold this ground and it would become Grant's Headquarters for the rest of this engagement.

Of their performance on that day:  I never saw troops move into action in finer style than Thomas's did today. They are entitled to the highest praise for their soldierly bearing and splendid bravery.
Grant's chief of staff, John Rawlins (Cozzens, p 135) *



The view from Grant's Headquarters on Orchard Knob.  Missionary Ridge is in the distance.



Orchard Knob Military Reservation monuments, viewed from the east.


See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chattanooga_Campaign#Orchard_Knob for a brief summary of this and other actions in this Battle for Chattanooga.


*
  • Cozzens, Peter. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 0-252-01922-9.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Breaking the Siege

View from Lookout Mountain toward Missionary Ridge.  Bragg's Headquarters during the Siege of Chattanooga was near the gap in the center of this frame.  The Civil War City of Chattanooga lay mid fame to the left.

Once the"'Cracker Line" had been opened and Sherman's troops had arrived from their successful siege of Vicksburg, Grant's next objective was to break out of Chattanooga and attack The Army of Mississippi in their strong holds on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.

To this end, Bragg was being cooperative, having detached Longstreet's corps from their position on Missionary Ridge to Chickamauga Station.  There, they would entrain for Knoxville in a failed attempt to retake that city.  To further exacerbate his own problems, he would then order arguably his best field commander, General Patrick Cleburne to follow Longstreet.

Meanwhile, Granger's IV Corps (including the 17th Kentucky) was stretched along the southeast border of Chattanooga, parallel and opposed to Bragg's right which was defending the northern end of Missionary Ridge.  Wood's Division (including the 17th Kentucky) occupied a particularly suitable defensive position froning his headquarters on a large prominence.  Today, this area is called the Fort Wood Historic District and is about one mile northeast of Orchard Knob Military Reservation, our next scene.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Siege of Chattanooga

There were times of short rations but in general the amount of food was adequate.  The only time the Seventeenth suffered a real shortage of food was during the time they were part of the Army of The Cumberland, and under siege in the area of Chattanooga, Tenn., in the fall of 1863.
                                                                                                                                   John Blackburn,
                                                                                                                                   Regimental Historian*


The retreat into Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga left the remnants of Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland isolated from their supply lines to the east as well as to the west.   The Confederates' hold on Lookout Mountain and the neighboring Wauhatchie Valley blocked resupply from Dechard and their position at Missionary Ridge prevented resupply from Knoxville.  

The Union chose to concentrate on Opening the Cracker Line, so named because of the Hard Tack wheat cracker that was the staple of a soldier's ration, and in a series of operations in and about the Wauhatchie and Lookout Valley finally were able to modestly supply the dwindling army as the sick and wounded continued to perish in Chattanooga.  

It became clear that, in order to save the Army of The Cumberland from certain defeat, Washington had to get involved.

The President's order of October 18th, which created the Military Division of the Mississippi with General Grant in command, placed General Thomas at the head of the Army of the Cumberland.  He assumed command formally on the 19th, and General Rosecrans having dictated a farewell to his army, left for Cincinnati before it was generally known that he had been relieved.

... In compliance with the President's order of September 28th, the Fourth  (Corps) was formed on the 9th of October, by the consolidation of the Twentieth and Twenty-first, and at the same time the Reserve Corps was attached to the Fourteenth.  ...  Under the new organization, there were three brigades in each division, designated as the First, Second and Third, and three divisions in each Corps, similarly distinguished.  Major-General Gordon Granger was assigned to the command of the Fourth Corps, and his division commanders in the numerical order of divisions were Major-Generals J. M. Palmer and P. H. Sheridan and Brigadier-General T. J. Wood.  **

The Seventeenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, remaining in Sam Beatty's Brigade, is now assigned to Wood's Third Division of Granger's Fourth Corps.


*    Blackburn, John, A Hundred Miles, a  Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972,  p.89
**  Van Horne, Thomas B., History of the Army of the Cumberland, 1875, pp. 394-395

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chickamauga, The Report of Col. Stout, 17th Ky. Vol. Inf.


Courtesy of Ohio State's eHistory Online


Official Records Extract, Volume XXX Part 1, Chapter XLII, pages 815 - 817

Numbers 183.

Report of Colonel Alexander M. Stout, Seventeenth Kentucky Infantry.

HDQRS. 17TH REGIMENT KENTUCKY VOLUNTEERS, Chattanooga, Tenn., September 24, 1863.

CAPTAIN: The following report of the operations of the regiment which I have the honor to command, from the 18th instant, when your brigade left Crawfish Spring, Ga., to the 22nd instant, when my regiment rejoined the brigade at this place, is respectfully submitted:

You will recollect that, on the evening of the 18th, we took position on the north bank of Chickamauga Creek, and heard heavy skirmishing on our left during the evening and next morning until near the middle of the day. It became evident from the roar of firearms not only that the battle had begun in earnest, but from the change in the direction that our forces were yielding ground.

Then, by your order, we moved quickly to the scene of conflict, near 2 miles distant. Arrived there, the brigade was formed in two lines, the Seventy-ninth Indiana Volunteers on the right in the first line, and the Nineteenth Ohio Volunteers on the left, the Seventeenth Kentucky Volunteers on the left. The first line at once engaged the enemy. The Seventy-ninth Indiana [Colonel Knefler], finding a battery of the enemy in its front, charged upon it and silenced it, but was almost immediately repulsed by the enemy and driven back through my regiment, which at once opened upon the enemy, who was partially concealed by a dense cover of underbrush. The firing on both sides was very severe, and continued for near a half hour, when the enemy fell back, still leaving the battery. We here captured 5 prisoners, and the company skirmishers which I had thrown out on my right captured 3 more. An order was then received from General Van Cleve, as I understood it, to advance. And I did advance to within 50 paces of the battery, when seeing that the regiment on my left had halted, my own was halted also. But a little before this advance, and after the firing had ceased, some officers and men of the Seventy-ninth Indiana advanced to take the captured artillery to the rear, when a portion of my command did likewise, and wheeled two of the pieces with the flag of the battery to the rear through my lines. The detachments from the Seventy-ninth Indiana wheeled the other two or three pieces through in the same way. In the meantime, the enemy were seen and heard moving to my right, as if to turn it; and two or three regiments from some other brigade moved from our rear to my right, when the enemy attacked them with great fury, and almost immediately turned their right, advancing and firing with great rapidity; they broke to the enemy's fire upon the right flank and rear, and to escape capture fell back to the left and rear by companies; the first company first, then the second, and so on, until all were in retreat to the left and rear, the enemy in greatly superior numbers advancing and firing with great rapidity.

It was here that First Lieutenant John D. Millman, a faithful and gallant officer, was killed, and Captain J. W. Anthony was shot through the right hand. We fell back through a dense wood to a small open field of high ground, from which one of our batteries was playing upon the advancing enemy, and there we ourselves confronted him in support of the battery. We, with the aid of others, succeeded in checking his advance in our front, but we hardly had time to become aware of this success before we felt the fire right across the battery upon our right and rear.

Being again compelled to retire, we pursued the same course as before, until we reached a high and commanding ridge about 1 mile from the battle-field, where the brigade formed again and we rested for the night. By 7 o'clock on the morning of the 20th, we became aware that some of our troops had moved in our front at least a mile distant, and had engaged the enemy. The firing increased in intensity, and by 9 o'clock it became manifest that our forces were being driven. We were moved down the slope, by the general's order, in double columns, the Nineteenth Ohio on the right, and the Seventy-ninth Indiana on the left, in the first line, the Ninth Kentucky on the right, and the Seventeenth Kentucky on the left, in the second line

.When we reached a road in the valley running parallel with our line, we were quickly deployed into line of battle; the first line came at once under fire, while the second, being only about 40 paces to the rear, became almost equally exposed. The enemy in overwhelming numbers were advancing and firing rapidly, and at the same time turning our right. Our retreating forces in our front where running turning our right. Our retreating forces in our front were running over us; we were between the enemy and open ground, while they were concealed by a dense cover of underbrush. The Nineteenth Ohio soon broke to the left and rear across my right, while the shots of the enemy began to pour into my right and rear directly down the road. It was impossible then to change my front, for a battery of our artillery was passing through my line to the rear, and the uproar was so great, and the dust and smoke so dense, that the officers could scarcely be seen or heard. We were compelled to fall back or be captured, as we were without support. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Vaughan received a shot through the leg, while gallantly doing his duty, and was carried off the field. Sergeant-Major Duncan was here shot through both legs, and was saved. With the major, adjutant, and colors, and about 100 men I moved to the left and rear, several times halting and firing a volley at the enemy, but in every instance outflanked until we reached the crest of a high ridge running from north to south and then turning at right angles and running westward. There we found fragments of various commands, including a small portion of General Brannan's division. These were hastily formed along the crest and preparations made to hold the position. It was immediately between the battle-ground and this place. The enemy soon appeared, when our little force opened fire upon him with great spirit-the most of the company officers of my regiment were with me. Captain Nall and several others, who had picked up guns, fought with their men. The men as well as officers seemed to be sensible of the importance of holding the position. Our little force, increased to some 1,500, Colonel Cram and Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, of the Ninth Kentucky, with a small portion of that regiment, took a position and held it until dark. A few men of the Nineteenth Ohio and Seventy-ninth Indiana were also with my small command. By hard, determined fighting, the enemy was held back until late in the evening, when a part of General Granger's command arrived and took position on our right and engaged the enemy just as he was about to turn our right. A desperate fight ensued and lasted until nearly dark. Our little fight on the crest I must consider as the most brilliant of the two day's battle. Thousands of the enemy were there driven against us.

Colonel Walker, of General Brannan's command; Colonel George P. Buell, of the Fifty-eighth Indiana, commanding First Brigade, First Division, Twenty-first Ohio, and Major D. M. Claggett, of my own regiment, attracted my attention and excited my admiration by the fearless manner in which they encouraged and directed officers and men along our line. Colonel Walker had no command of his own, Colonel Buell a very small one, but rendered great service to all commands by their confidence and enthusiasm. Of my own regiment, I am unwilling to single out by name any company officers when all did so well during the two days. I cannot name one of them who acted badly. The men fought gallantly when they had a chance to fight, as I knew they would. While fighting for the rebel battery, they stood without flinching under a most deadly fire. There one company [D, Captain Gist], of 41 men, had 11 wounded.

We went into battle on both days under great disadvantages. Each day we were thrown suddenly under fire to support troops who were being driven pell-mell over us by the enemy in superior numbers and flushed with success, and always outflanked. 

The firing having ceased, at night on the 20th, not knowing where to find our brigade, I reported to Brigadier General T. J. Wood, commanding First Division, Twenty-first Army Corps, who had moved his command near us. At his instance I joined myself to his First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Buell. In a few minutes we commenced to move in this direction, and bivouacked near Rossville that night.

Next morning we moved to the left up and along the mountain range bounding the Chattanooga Valley on the east; took position and remained until 11 o'clock that night, when we moved within a mile of this place and camped.

On the morning of the 22nd, we joined you here. I had sent out an officer on the 21st to find you, and he returned after night with an order from you to join the brigade at once, but General Wood detained us. General Wood and Colonel Buell treated us with great kindness. My men had shot away their 60 rounds of ammunition.and were out of rations. They bountifully supplied us with both, and made us feel at home. 

My losses are as follows: Our officer killed; 2 wounded severely. Of enlisted men, 7 killed, 95 wounded, and 16 missing. Total casualties, 121. I send herewith a list of them.*

Respectfully,
A. M. STOUT,
Colonel, Commanding.

Captain O. O. MILLER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Brigade.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Retreat to Chattanooga, Sept. 21 - 22, 1863

The Federals never intended to make Rossville a permanent defensive position because it was too easily outflanked from the north or west.  By the night of September 21, the Army of the Cumberland had recovered some of its organization after the disaster of the previous day.  The Army trains were either back in Chattanooga or on their way to Bridgeport, beyond immediate danger. Accordingly, after dark, Rosecrans ordered Thomas to withdraw to Chattanooga, occupying the old defensive lines first erected by Bragg's men when the Rebels held the town....[with Thomas in the center, Crittenden on his left and McCook on his right]...

Only a handful of Federals remained outside those lines as a rear guard.  Minty's Cavalry covered Rossville Gap, infantry detachments [Dick's Brigade] watched Missionary Ridge to the north, and Brig. Gen. James G. Spears' Federal East Tennessee brigade defended the northern end of Lookout Mountain.  Other Union troops [under Whitaker] crossed over to the northern bank of the Tennessee River to protect against Rebels crossing either upstream or downstream.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 254]

These remaining outposts were challenged by the full force of Longstreet and Polk and all except Whittaker on the northern bank were forced to withdraw behind  the perimeter of Chattanooga's defensive lines.  With the Yankees so compressed and fortified, a new plan would be needed if Bragg was to destroy Rosecrans once and for all.

Colonel Stout's report of September 24, 1863 provides the only record of the actions of the Seventeenth during these two critical days. 

On The 21st,.. 

... we moved to the left up and along the mountain range bounding the Chattanooga Valley on the east; took position and remained until 11 o'clock that night, when we moved within a mile of this place and camped
.
On the morning of the 22nd, we joined you here. I had sent out an officer on the 21st to find you, and he returned after night with an order from you to join the brigade at once, but General Wood detained us. General Wood and Colonel Buell treated us with great kindness. My men had shot away their 60 rounds of ammunition.  [http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/recordView.cfm?Content=050/0817]

The cost of the campaign was frightful.  Officially, Rosecrans reported 16,179 killed, wounded and missing.  Bragg reported 17,804, but 18,500 is probably a more accurate estimate for the Rebel army.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 256]

Of the 487 men of the Seventeenth Kentucky that officially were engaged at Chickamauga, six men were killed, 105 wounded and 15 reported missing for a total of 126 casualties by the time this battle was over. The totals for their brigade were 1,384 engaged, 16 killed, 254 wounded and 61 missing for a total of 331 casualties. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 272]


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rossville Gap, Sept. 20 - 21, 1863

Upon being ordered to retreat from Snodgrass Hill on the evening of Sept. 20, 1863, Thomas' aggregate of defenders becomes difficult to follow as they attempt to regroup at Rossville.  Many troops fled the field in disarray on that afternoon.  Generals Rosecrans, McCook and Crittenden followed the mob of fleeing troops to Rossville Gap, and then on to Chattanooga, leaving large numbers on the field bravely continuing the fight against overwhelming numbers.

Each left the field separately about midday via the Dry Valley Road and each eventually ended up in Chattanooga.  While retreating as far as Rossville was inevitable, their decisions to ride to Chattanooga, made individually and for a variety of reasons, damaged each man's career.

Rosecrans' encounter with Chief of Staff James Garfield famously resulted in Rosecrans hurrying on to Chattanooga while Garfield returned to the battlefield to find the embattled Maj. Gen. George Thomas.  McCook forced a civilian guide to lead him, and ended up bypassing Rossville entirely.  Crittenden tried for a time to rally stragglers along the Dry Valley Road before telling a member of his staff, "I believe I have done all I can."  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 250]


The Ninth and Seventeenth Kentucky Infantry made decisions at the regimental level, joined by other officers and men of their own brigade and were indeed detached from their brigade commander who was fleeing with (or trying to rally) most of his men.  Following their exact movements after dark is difficult.  It is certain that they were not with Brig. Gen. Sam Beatty, but most likely remained with Brannan's Division of Thomas' XIV Corps.  This assumption is based solely on their proximity and later correspondence, since Gen. Brannan failed to mention them is his official report.  Powell and Friedrichs state that "One division, Van Cleve's of the XXI Corps was so badly disrupted that it could not be reformed even in skeleton form until the next morning."  [page 250]   Whether this skeleton included Sam Beatty and his stragglers and or the Ninth and Seventeenth (et al) survivors from Snodgrass Hill is unclear, but it is likely that Col. Stout and his men remained with Brannan's division on the night of the 20th as defensive positions were being created.

Note:  The following excerpt from Col. Stout's report dated Sept. 24, 1863 provides clarification:

The firing having ceased, at night on the 20th, not knowing where to find our brigade, I reported to Brigadier General T. J. Wood, commanding First Division, Twenty-first Army Corps, who had moved his command near us. At his instance I joined myself to his First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Buell. In a few minutes we commenced to move in this direction, and bivouacked near Rossville that night.
Next morning we moved to the left up and along the mountain range bounding the Chattanooga Valley on the east; took position and remained until 11 o'clock that night, when we moved within a mile of this place and camped. [http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/recordView.cfm?Content=050/0817]


When dawn on the 21st arrived, the Army of the Cumberland was in surprisingly good shape considering the disaster that had befallen it the day before.  Most of it's formations were intact, if still suffering from straggling, and Thomas had been able to refill his cartridge boxes from ammunition found or moved to Rossville.  The Army also had an imposing defensive position in Missionary Ridge. Bragg would be hard-pressed to simply smash through Rossville Gap by sheer force.  Any formal attack there would likely cost the Confederates a great deal more men.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 250]  



Chickamauga Photo Album

The following pictures were taken at Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park 150 years (minus 14 days) after the battle.


Viewed from the south, the approximate position of Beatty's Brigade when first formed in line of battle on Sept. 19, 1863.  They charged the enemy to the east where they were heavily engaged and captured Carnes' Battery.

Viewed from south/southwest, the crest of the slight ridge at Brotherton's Field, showing position of 26th PA Battery.  With the rest of Beatty's Brigade engaged in the woods across the road, they provided artillery support from the rear.  Unfortunately, their shells frequently fell on their own brigade.  As the Rebels took the woods, Beatty and others fell back to this position and made a brief defensive stand on Sept. 19, 1863.

Brotherton's Cabin as it might have appeared on Sept. 20, 1863, flanked by Confederate artillery and occupied by sharpshooters.

Approximate position of Beatty's Brigade on Sunday, Sept.20, 1863 viewed from east/southeast, with LaFayette Rd. to your back and Brotherton Field and Road to your left
.
Marker on Snodgrass Hill with view of Confederate positions.

Memorials to the Seventeenth Kentucky and other Regiments that here made their last stand in the Battle of Chickamauga at sunset on Sept. 20, 1863.

To the victor belong the spoils, to the loser the courts of inquiry.  Johnson's Division drove the center and right of the Union Army  from the area of Brotherton's  and Poe's Fields, cleared the brief resistance at Dyer's Field and challenged the Yankees at Snodgrass Hill until they retreated to Rossville at sundown on September 20, 1863.  Rosecrans, McCook and Crittenden were dismissed for their failures.  Thomas was given command of the Army of the Cumberland, having gained control of most of it during the battle.  His last stand on Snodgrass Hill earned him the nickname, however well deserved, of "The Rock of Chickamauga".


The 17th Kentucky at Chickamauga, Tablet Records



Tablet located at Lee and Gordon's MIlls.

There was another table located outside the battlefield that is presently missing.  Per Jim Ogden, Chief Historian, it was located on the "East side of LaFayette Road 1/2 way between Scott's and Lee and Gordon's Mill."

Dated September 19, 1863 before noon and identifying Sam Beatty's brigade, it read:
     This brigade with its division arrived on this ground from Crawfish Springs Sept. 18th and formed on the left of Wood's Division where it remained until 1 p.m. on the 19th.  At that hour it received orders to march at double quick to the support of Gen. Palmer's Division then heavily engaged at Brotherton's.  It moved at once by the LaFayette Road and went into action on Palmer's right about 1:30 p.m.



Tablet located in Brotherton's Field


Tablet located about 500 yards south of Brotherton R. and 300 yards east of LaFayette Rd. on horse trail.  Thanks to Dr. Anthony Hodges (Volunteer Historian) for guidance in locating this site.

Tablet located near Brotherton's Cabin.



Second of two tablets located off Dyer Rd. west of the cemetery


Tablet located on Snodgrass Hill, the first knoll to the Right of Thomas' position near Snodgrass House.




Friday, September 20, 2013

Chickamauga, Sept.20, 1863, (Part 3)

The ferocity and timeliness of Johnson's attack thoroughly destroyed the Union lines at Brotherton's and Dyer's fields by noon.

The pandemonium spread like a contagion through the blue ranks. Packed tightly behind Connell's line, Beatty's four regiments had been subject to enemy fire through at least three assaults without being able to fire back.  Now they were being run over and through by a routed battery (the 8th Indiana), which crushed men indiscriminately where they lay. These same men were facing the collapse of the Federal line to their front.  Not surprisingly, they also broke.  Indiana Pvt. Leander Munhall recalled the moment, "We were just literally tore to pieces and scattered in every direction."  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 172]


Much of the brigade fell back in disarray and left the field, retreating toward Rossville Gap.  This is the point where many scholars (Powell and Friedrichs among them) lose track of the Seventeenth Kentucky and the rest of Sam Beatty's brigade.

Retreating in order under the command of Col. Alexander Stout, the 17th Kentucky along with the 9th Kentucky under Col. Fredrick George H. Cram ..."with officers and men of the 19th Ohio and 79th Indiana in all from 330 to 360 men were rallied [on Snodgrass Hill] and with other troops held the position until withdrawn about dark." [Iron tablet on Snodgrass Hill]

Their participation in this epic defensive battle is clear, but certain facts are still in doubt.

The following excerpts are copied from one of my favorite links, the Seventeenth Kentucky Homepage on anglefire.com and they present a strong argument against those who claim that Sam Beatty's brigade was routed and disorganized.  Sam may not have joined them on Snodgrass Hill, but his officers and men served well and with distinction.

In Gen. Crittenden's report [page 611, Chap XXII of this battle he mentions three regiments, 44th Ind., 9th Ky., and 17th Ky., which rallied and formed on Snodgrass Hill on the right of the main line on the second day, and fighting all day, only left the field when ordered at 7:30 p. m. Gen. Thos. J. Wood mentions this fact in his report, and says the fact that these regiments preserved their formation and did not retire when other troops did, was most creditable. Gen. Beatty, in the report of his brigade, says these regiments made a stand and held the hill by the most terrific fighting, until dark, when they withdrew by order and joined the army at Rossville. 

(** Of the engagement on Snodgrass Hill, Col. Stout, in a letter, November 23, 1893, says: "I have always contended that the 17th Ky. was the first to start the line, and the others came up and formed." In another letter, dated November 26, 1893, he says: "I lay great stress upon my statement that we were the first to form the new line upon the right of Thomas, almost at right angles with him. He (Gen. Walker) says that we were the first to raise our colors on the new line." Gen. N. B. Walker, who was then colonel of the 31st Ohio Volunteer and an officer in the regular army, was a member that day, of Gen. Brannan's staff, in a letter, December 2, 1881, to Col. Stout, says: "You will remember that there was much confusion with the troops on the morning of the 20th of September, 1863. Your regiment was formed on the line with some of Gen. Brannan's, and some others, which did not belong to his division. For instance, the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and, I think, the general meant to include both your regiment, the 17th Ky., and 21st Ohio, in his report, but he ought to have mentioned both regiments in the most honorable manner. I now say that your regiment the 17th Ky., was the first organized body of troops on the new line on the hills on the morning of the 20th. I well remember that when your regiment came upon the first hill one of your captains was carrying your colors, and I directed him where to plant the colors, as a guide to the deployment I wanted you to make. I offered to take the flag in my hand to indicate the precise point I wanted it to occupy, but the captain would not allow me to take it out of his hand, but stepped forward with me and planted the staff, saying that the flag should not quit his living hand. Your regiment immediately deployed on the right, and there remained and fought as bravely as men ever did. through the entire battle of the day." As early as July 4, 1878, Gen. Walker wrote to Col. Stout, saying: "Yours were the first colors on the new line, and they waved in grand defiance of the enemy all the day long, and until the unfortunate order to fall back came."  [http://seventeenthkyinf.angelfire.com/timeline.html]

Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863 (Part 2)

When the Confederate attack came that Sunday morning the men of the Seventeenth Kentucky were again in the second line of defense, but only a few paces behind the front line.  The two lines were so close together that there was really little difference in the amount of fire received from the attacking gray lines.

At the moment of the attack...the Seventeenth had, in the immediate group, about a hundred men. [Blackburn, pages 127-128] 

Approximately 1,200 men were mustered in to the 17th and 25th Kentucky regiments 21 months prior at Calhoun, Kentucky and 425 had formed the combined unit after Shiloh.

By 10:15 AM, despite the reinforcements purloined from McCook and Crittenden, General George Thomas' left had indeed been turned by Breckinridge and he called for the last of his reserves (four regiments of Grose's brigade) to shore up his flank.  Grose's four regiments provided little resistence to the 13 regiments of Adams and Stovall (CS) and he was immediately routed, taking refuge in Kelly Field. [Powell and Friedrichs, pages 150-155]   Breckinridge's sweeping action, however, had the effect of stretching his lines thin and concentrating Thomas' men.  Thus the battle in the northern part of the field continued while Thomas bombarded Rosecrans with requests for more men, as has been his habit.

Contemporaneous with this battle,  A. P. Stewart  has ordered his men across Lafayette Road from Poe Field.  The fighting between the Union and Confederate lines in this part of the field is horrendous, with heavy fire from artillery and musketry being accurately aimed in both directions, neither army able to get the upper hand until...

About 10:30 a.m. Capt. Sanford Kellogg, Thomas' nephew and aide, instructed Brig. Gen. John Brannan in Poe Field to move the rest of the division to Kelly Field.....Brannan consulted with Fourth Division commander Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Reynolds. In the wake of A. P. Stewart's repulse, Reynolds believed he could hold on alone, but urged Kellogg to ride to Rosecrans and inform him that Brannan's move would leave Reynolds' right flank near Poe Field exposed.  After Kellogg left, Brannan and Reynolds changed their mind but failed to recall Kellogg or send another courier to clarify matters.  Kellogg wasted no time informing Rosecrans of the original decision, and Rosecrans reacted just as quickly by dictating an order (later referred to as "the fateful order of the day") instructing Brig. General Thomas J. Wood to "close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him."

Wood's front was quiet, but plenty of Rebels lurked in the timber to the east.  Wood knew that Brannan's men were in line netween his division and the position Reynolds occupied farther north, but he had no idea that Brannan had been ordered away.  Puzzled by the order and seeking clarification, Wood showed it to XX Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Alexander McCook, who happend to be present.  McCook insisted that it was peremptory, and that Wood must pull his brigades out of line, move north behind Brannan, find Reynolds, and report to him immediately. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 166]

Wood followed the order, leaving a second gaping whole in the Union line. Tragically, Sam Beatty's brigade had earlier found their hole to fill. It was between Brannan and Beatty.  Thus, when Brannan departed they were exposed on their left and when Wood abandoned his position they became exposed on their right. The later consequence proved to be catastrophic as Brig. Gen Bushrod Johnson (CS) chose that moment to attack with McNair in a frontal assault and Sugg sweeping the Union's right (Beatty's brigade) obliquely to the north.

...The Confederates rushed forward in great numbers, firing rapidly and with great accuracy, into the blue lines.  The front line immediately rushed back in confusion and Colonel Stout's men [the 17th Ky] found themselves in the front line.  Sam Cox and his men [A Co.] found suddenly that there was nothing between them and the enemy except a small growth of timber and brush.

Even a battery of artillery, which had moved to the support of the Seventeenth, rushed back through the ranks of the Kentuckians, leaving them without support of any kind.  A retreat was in order again as it would have been foolish to stand against such overwhelming odds as were rushing through the underbrush.  
[Blackburn, pages 127-128]


Note:  The events leading to the Confederate Breakthrough have been the subject of much study through the years, as well as the central point of multiple Military Courts of Inquiry.  Powell's succinct and factually based  version has been reprinted here.  For an entirely different viewpoint, try Van Horne's History of the Army of the Cumberland   (beginning at page 335) written at the direction of one Major-General George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga".

Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863 (Part 1)

At daybreak on Sunday an impenetrable mist covered the field of battle, obscuring the armies; but the sun rose in the sky like a huge blood-red ball, gliding along the mountain tops, and soon dispelled the mist.  [Blackburn, page 127]


Rosecrans met with his commanders at the Widow Glenn's cabin the previous night and reallocated his troops.  Thomas was to take charge of the left and Negley's division would be moved from their position at Brotherton's northward to his support, leaving McCook to take charge of the right (essentially fortifying Negley's abandoned position at Brotherton's Field).   The two remaining divisions of General Crittenden's XXI Corps would be held in reserve at Dyer Field with Wood in front and Van Cleve forming the second line. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 140]

By 8:00 AM, Negley had moved to Thomas' support and Crittenden's units had  formed in Dyer Field, abandoning the fortifications they had built through the night, but McCook's men had made little movement for their positions of the previous night.  Brotherton's was unprotected. After dressing down Negley for moving too quickly, Rosecrans found McCook still at the Widow Glenn's and chastised him for his inactivity.
[Powell and Friedrichs, page 142]

 By 9:00 this had become a crisis and an agitated Rosecrans ordered Wood forward from his position in Dyer Field. Wood formed his division along a line behind the crest of Brotherton's Field, finally covering Negley's exposed right .  Wood realized that his division would not quite cover the frontage abandoned by Negley and so requested and was granted the loan of Barnes' brigade from Van Cleve's division.  This move left Van Cleve alone in reserve with just the brigades of Dick and Beatty and he was ordered to a position behind Wood with the instructions to advance and engage wherever he should find an open spot in the lines.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 144]

It was about this time that Thomas, still fearful of being out flanked on his left, ordered Brannan's division northward to support Baird, mistakenly believing that Brannan was held in reserve.  Once again, Thomas' initiative created a problem for Rosecrans by shifting resources to the north.  Meanwhile Longstreet, without making a move, now fronted Brotherton's with overwhelming force as well as dominating the Federals' right flank. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 146]

McCook had yet to move from his overnight position.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chickamauga, Sept. 19, 1863 (Part 3)

At approximately 2:15 PM, Confederate General A. P. Stewart sent the brigades of Clayton (Alabama), Brown (Tennessee) and Bate (mixed) against what remained of Beatty and Dick.


Henry Clayton's large Alabama brigade, passing thropugh the wreck of Marcus Wright's command as the Tennesseeans fell back in disorder....

Cpl. Edgar W. Jones, marching in the ranks of Company G, 18th Alabama, recalled the experience.  "Standing in line the firing began seemingly without any command," he wrote years later, "and in three minutes the engagement was something awful.  The slaughter was dreadful.  We discovered that we were within perhaps fifty yards of the enemies main line."

Still, the Alabamians made headway, driving back the front rank of both Beatty and Dick....Beatty's and Dick's second lines [9th & 17th KY, 86th IN and 13th OH] , however, were solid bedrock upon which to rally, and both Yankee brigades held there.  Clayton's Alabama regiments recaptured the remains of Carnes' battery, minus several of the guns dragged away by the 79th Indiana, but beyond that they could not go.
(Powell and Friedrichs, page 82)


About 3:00 PM, Clayton withdrew from the fight, being replaced in line by the Tennessee brigade of Gen. John C. Brown, which covered the front of both Beatty's and Dick's.  Brown immediately ordered his men to charge, despite limited visibility.


...T. I. Corn of the 32nd Tennessee wrote that "the battle was now on in dead earnest.  The woods were ablaze in many places, and smoke made it difficult to see far in any direction.  According to N. J. Hampton of the 18th Tennessee, the smoke was so dense "we could not distinguish the enemy from our own men ten steps away."  As the 32nd passed through Carnes' position, Corn spotted thirteen dead horses in a single pile. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 82]


At approximately 4:00 PM, with an added push from Sheffield, Stewart's four brigades drove Beatty and Dick across Lafayette Road near Brotherton's cabin where they joined the artillery- 26th Pennsylvania and four guns of the 7th Indiana Battery.  Here they were joined by elements of the 9th Indiana, 124th Ohio and 41st Ohio of Hazen's brigade and made a brief stand with  Stewart's troops advancing from the front, and Johnson's brigade of Johnson's Division from the right.  At 4:30 they were forced to withdraw further west to Dyer Field and then to the slope west of Dyer Springs road where they bivouacked for the night.

Well, that depends on what the definition of "bivouack" is.  It was widely known that Rosecrans had little use for sleep, and he frequently shared his insomnia with his troops.  On this night, his menwere to build fortifications and the sound of axes could be heard ringing through the night.  On his pension form, S.T. Brown's only combat injury was reported as "leg wounded by ax at Chickamauga."  This was likely the night it happened. *

*  Blackburn, John,  A Hundred Miles, A Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972, page 126. 


Chickamauga, Sept. 19, 1863 (Part 2)


At 12:45 PM, Palmer's and Hazen's Brigades become heavily engaged with Smith's Brigade (CS) supported by Dawson's Regiment and Scott's artillery, at Brock Field, near the center of the battlefield.  (Powell and Friedrichs, page 32)

At 1:00 PM, as this battle expands and intensifies, Van Cleve orders the brigades of Sam Beatty and George Dick north along Lafayette Road (double quick time) approximately two miles to a position just south of Brotherton Field.  They immediately form to the right and advance some 200 yards east into the woods where they are in a position to out flank Wright's Brigade of Tennessee Volunteers who are lined up behind Carnes' (CS) Battery.

In Beatty's brigade, Marcus Woodcock of the 9th Kentucky remembered the moment he entered the fight:  "We were almost completely exhausted by the long run we had been compelled to make [nearly two miles]....Our brigade fronted...[a] regiment at a time[,]those that fronted first commencing a musketry fight with the enemy...and then the whole brigade made a general charge." Alongside them, struggling to keep up, hustled Dick's four regiments.  Initially, Dick expected to fall in behind Beatty's men, "But," he reported, "the First Brigade having obliqued to the left...my front line...was immediately engaged and gallantly drove the first line of the enemy." 

Carnes' gunners and the men of the 38th Tennessee bore the brunt of the attack, but had very little time to prepare for it. Carnes reported the crisis to Cheatham, who replied, "hold [your] ground for as long as possible."  When Federal fire began cutting down his artillerymen, Carnes ordered the drivers up to work the cannon, "and, giving the enemy double charges of canister at close range," held the Yankees in check.  The return fire, however, remained very intense.  Confederate Lt. L. G. Marshall remembered the open lid of a limber chest drawing the fire of "hundreds of hostile... shots" so that it "made the chest resemble a huge grater."  (Powell and Friedrichs, page 78).

With the 38th Tennessee driven back, Carnes was forced to abandon the battery, the four guns taken and moved toward the rear.

Note:  Special thanks to Dr. Anthony Hodges for his assistance in locating the markers at this site.





Ckickamauga, Sept.19, 1863 (Part 1)

Our volunteers from Ohio County, Kentucky awoke this morning to await further orders.  After a hearty breakfast of hardtack and coffee they waited near the southern end of Lafayette Road with the rest of Beatty's Third Brigade of Van Cleve's Division, Crittenden's XXI Corps, Army of the Cumberland.

Rosecrans' troops are generally stretched from north to south along Lafayette Road, a sound arrangement in that the road allowed for rapid re-supply or reinforcement of any position along the line.  Bragg, after crossing  West Chickamauga Creek, chose to concentrate his forces opposite the middle of Rosecran's thin blue line.

Around 11:00 AM, an isolated battle began on the northeastern section of the battlefield near Jay's Mill.  Rosecrans ordered General George Thomas to move his XIV Corps north along Lafayette Road to Kelly's field.  Repeating a pattern of behavior noted by this author during the march on Corinth, Thomas took the initiative to move east into the woods in pursuit of what he thought was an isolated Confederate regiment. Finding that this isolated regiment was, in fact, the right flank of Bragg's entire army,  Thomas called for help.

Rosecrans obliged by sending Richard Johnson's Division of McCook's XX Corps from their position at the Widow Glenn's house and ordering Crittenden to detach his northern-most division, under Palmer, to reinforce Thomas.  This maneuver left the center of Rosie's thin blue line weakened, directly opposite the strength of Bragg's "sledgehammer" arrangement of Buckner's and Hood's Divisions.

As Thomas is engaged by Liddell and Walker (CS), who are supported by Forrest's Cavalry, he pulls Brannan et al. back to Lafayette Road at noon.


Note:  The troop movements reported above were condensed from Powell and Friedrich's' Maps of Chickamauga, 2009, pages 58-69.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Not Tenting Tonight

Van Cleave's Division abandoned their position near Crawfish Springs on this date in 1863, essentially leapfrogging Wood's Division which remained anchored at Lee and Gordon's Mills.  Palmer's Division made a similar move, flanking both Wood and Van Cleve  to the north along Lafayette Road toward Brotherton's farm.  Thus, Van Cleve was now in the center, with Palmer to his left and Wood to his right.

These moves were in response to skirmishing heard to the northeast, where Wilder's (US) Brigade was engaged by Walker's(CS) Reserve Corps as well as information that Polk's Army was headed due north.  It was therefore only prudent that Van Cleve and Palmer should parallel his movements, keeping West Chickamauga Creek between themselves and the enemy as they did so.

The Seventeenth Kentucky, in Sam Beatty's Brigade, Van Cleve's Division of Crittenden's XXI Corps bivouacked that evening on the east side of Lafayette Road less than a mile north of Wood's fortifications at Lee and Gordon's Mills, with Palmer's Division about one mile to their north and also on the east side of Lafayette Road.  They were facing the east and the Confederate divisions of Polk and Buckner.  There was little more than a mile of flat, lightly wooded terrain between the lines and skirmishers were within shouting distance as the men consumed their evening rations and laid down to rest.  By this time, these veteran volunteers did not need to be told, no camp fires were lit that night.



Note:  The above information, as well as future troop movements through the next few days are compiled from three principal sources.  They will be referenced when specific information is provided by a particular source.

Powell, David A. and Friedrichs, David A., The Maps of Chickamauga, 2009, Savas Beatie LLC, New York.

Ogden, Jim, (Chief Historian); Hodges, Anthony (Volunteer Historian)  and the interpretive staff at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia for personal communications, valued guidance locating markers on the battlefield and providing legends from some tablets now missing.

Robertson, William G., The Battle of Chickamauga, Civil War Series, 1995, Eastern National for America's National Park Service.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Consolidation at the Mill

Wood's brigades occupied Lee and Gordon's Mills on the afternoon of September 11.  This advance party was joined by the rest of Crittenden's Division on the 12th with Van Cleve taking a position south of the mills and Palmer to the south of Van Cleve.

Wood remained at the mill itself, occupying the positions so recently abandoned by the Confederates.  Colonel Opdyke of the 125th Ohio Infantry remarked, "the mills here are good and there is a large amount of wheat stored but the rebels destroyed the machinery."

In response to the gathering of Federals at the mill, General Polk deployed his army in a wide line behind the mill, facing north.  Except for a brief reconnaissance on this, the 14th of September, all parties involved remained in place.


Lee and Gordon's Mills as it stands today.  The Confederates abandoned on September 11, 1863 and fled to the tree line across the open field in the distance.


Lee and Gordon's MIlls: the business end, showing dam and sluicegate.


Much of the information in today's post came from this tablet located at  Lee and Gordon's Mills.

Ref:  Powell and Friedrichs, The Maps of Chickamauga, 2009 Savas Beatie LLC, New York

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bragg Checks Wood at Lee and Gordon's Mills

On this, the eleventh day of September, the chess match between Rosecrans an Bragg continues into the day and through the night.  Both men now realize that Crittenden has spread himself too thin along Ringgold Road.

Crittenden is ordered to stop his forward troops at Ringgold and consolidate his forces.  He orders Wood's Division to the area around Lee and Gordon's Mill, leaving the one brigade to garrison the city of Chattanooga.

Bragg moves to the opposite bank of the creek at the mill but inexplicably refrains from attacking Wood's compromised division.

Van Cleve continues southward and takes a position on Wood's right, less than a mile distant. Palmer follows a similar plan, forming on Van Cleve's right.  The two armies are now facing off across a small creek and a few hundred yards of open terrain, with the Union soldiers seriously out-manned.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Crittenden Pushes Southeast

According to Van Horne's History of the Army of the Cumberland, Crittenden continued his pursuit of Bragg along the Ringgold Road (modern US Hwy.41) on this, the tenth day of September, 1863.  He leaves only one brigade of Wood's Division to guard Chattanooga, which is now a veritable ghost town, the secession-minded citizens having fled when Bragg pulled out. Rosecranz now realizes that Chattanooga is partially unguarded from the southeast and dispatches an order to Crittenden to halt at Ringgold.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Game Is Afoot

Note:  Much of the information regarding troop movements in these days before the Battle of Chickamauga are taken from pages 318-327 of Thomas B. VanHorn's History of the Army of the Cumberland:  It's Organization, Campaigns and Battles, 1992, Broadfoot Publishing Co., Wilmington, DE

Since January of 1863, Rosecrans and Bragg had been playing a game of cat and mouse throughout middle Tennessee, with Bragg as the mouse.  His series of tactical retreats following the Battle of Stones River were designed to keep his forces intact as he fell back to the prized city of Chattanooga.  Rosecrans, on the other hand, had the Army of the Cumberland spread from Nashville to Tullahoma, leaving brigades and /or divisions behind to garrison his newly won territory.

With fall approaching, both generals knew that a decisive engagement must come soon.  Neither could stand the political fallout that would follow another winter of inaction.  Bragg continued his southward movement, essentially leaving Chattanooga for the taking.  He prized the higher ground to the south and concentrated his army near Rossville, Georgia, just across Chickamauga Creek from Chattanooga.

On this day in 1863, possibly mistaking Braggs' withdrawal as a sign of weakness, Rosecrans orders General Thomas L. Critttenden, who had only recently departed McMinnville, Tennessee, to take Chattanooga.  Crossing the Sequatchie River north of Chattanooga, part of his XXI Corps entered Chattanooga from the north through Harrison and the remainderfrom the south via shelmound.  Crittenden sent Woods' Division to occupy the city and, pursuant to Rosie's orders, advanced the rest of his corps through Rossville and on to Crawfish Springs, Georgia on the trail of Bragg.  The Seventeenth Kentucky, being in VanCleve's Division, participated in this action with the head of the column reaching Rossville by this evening.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why They Fought

On September 1, 1863, it had been nearly eighteen months since the men of the Seventeenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry had seen a major battle.  They had been assigned to the rear guard at Perryville, saving them from facing the brunt of Bragg's assault aimed directly at their cohorts in McCook's division.

 Colonel McHenry's dismissal for refusing refuge to runaway slaves while in Kentucky, one of the four remaining slave states in the Union, had shattered their ranks.  Though few deserted, it took some time for the spirit of the regiment to be restored. Thus, for a while they were assigned garrison duty in Russellville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Tennessee.  They had just arrived in Clarksville around Christmas of 1862 and were celebrating New Years while their former comrades were in the thick of the Battle at Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

In Rosecrans' subsequent call for reinforcements, the Seventeenth was ordered to join General Thomas L. Crittenden and they participated in the remainder of the Tullahoma Campaign, securing Middle Tennessee in preparation for the assault on Chattanooga.  The men were excited to leave Clarksville and be returned to action, limited as it was.  They now felt like they could contribute to the war's end.

During this period of quiet, the men had been granted time for the soul searching required to temper the unit.  Colonel McHenry's dismissal had lanced the sore that had been festering since the war's beginning and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation should have made it clear that this war was being fought to put an end to slavery, though it was technically crafted as a punishment for those states who had seceded.

Like most Union Regiments from the four border states, but most of all in the Kentucky units, these men had volunteered to save the Union, not end slavery.  In this regiment there were, in fact, many slave owners, especially among ranks of the officers.  How could they now continue the fight that would, if won, destroy their own way of life?  Or did they innocently believe that their states would be spared from the abolitionists as reward for their loyalty to the Union?

The best illustration of their dilemma is found in Beth Chinn Harp's book, Torn Asunder:  Civil War in Ohio County and the Green River Country.  

Consider the following two letters:

January 30, 1863
From Andrew M.Barnett, Co. D, 17th Ky
To Ruth A Lindley

Dear Aunt,
...I have not heard from Virge since he went to his regiment.  I am afraid that he will come dissatisfied by his Col. being throd [sic] out of his office.  I glory in Col.McHenry's spunk I hope that he will be promoted to generalship before a week...
"The Union as it was, the Constitution as it is" is my motto.*

Mrs. Lindley's brother, Virgil Bennett's, views were expressed in the following excerpt from a letter written to his sister a few weeks later.

February 6, 1863

Louis, I would like to hear from you and hear your opinion on this war.  I think you could afford to come and see me now for this unit is death on abolish (abolishment of slavery) Louis I guess you would like to know my opinion about this war  I am like a was before  I like Lincoln about as well as I ever did, he has not surprised me in the least but I think he has surprised several in our regiment  for there is Dick Stevens, he used to be a strong supporter of old Abe but he is a stronger secesh now than old Dr. Rowan Note ever was it is not worth my while to write my views on the subject for you can read old John H. McHenry's speech to his son Col. McHenry.  I stand just on his platform and I think that no man can object to it.  I am no secesh but if I could speak in tones of thunder I would say to all the world that I am far from being an abolitionist  I allow to stand by the Union and Constitution as long as I live and I want you to do the same and if Tom is taken from you I shall quit the service if I have to do at the risk of my life and thousands of my fellow soldiers will do the same.*

Virgil's letter indeed reflects the sentiment of thousands of Union soldiers and illustrates the political shrewdness of "Old Abe".  If he had made the Emancipation Proclamation apply to the four border states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, there would likely have been a massive desertion from the Union ranks.  Instead, he allowed them to believe that they would be able to maintain their slave-based economy and lifestyle after the war, relying on their allegiance to our Constitution as motive to kill and be killed for the duration of the war.

Virgil died serving his country, thus being spared the ultimate betrayal by his government and seeing Tom taken from the family in December of 1865, when slavery was Constitutionally abolished in Kentucky.


*  Harp, Beth Chinn, Torn Asunder: The Civil War in Ohio County and the Green River Country,  McDowell Publications, 2003, p.32


Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Things

Since the fall of Corinth in May of 1862, the control of the Tennessee River and destruction of General Bragg's army had been primary objectives of Buell's Army of the Ohio.  Buell's failure on both fronts had led to his dismissal and the subsequent reorganization of the Union's western armies.  In the fall of that year, The Army of the Cumberland was formed and tasked with these objectives, it's leadership handed to General William S. Rosecrans.  It was apparent at that time the the War Department's patience had been exhausted, and results were expected in short order.

Rosecrans assumed command in October of 1862 and challenged  Bragg near Murfresboro, Tennessee at the Battle of Stone's River that New Year's Eve and the first two days of 1863.  Despite having one of the highest casualty rates of all battles in this awful, bloody war, the results were militarily inconclusive. Rosecrans garnered support, however,  for having repelled two Confederate assaults and causing Bragg to withdraw to Tullahoma.

General Rosecrans' plan for securing middle Tennessee is nearing it's completion in August of 1863, after yet another reorganization and reinforcements that included the Seventeenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. The XIV Corps was separated from Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland.  It's center wing, now designated as the XIV Corps, remained under General George H. Thomas,  it's right wing the XX Corps under Alexander McCook and it's left wing the XXI Corps under Thomas L. Crittenden.

Nashville has now been secured as well as the surrounding high ground, known as the Highland Rim.  It has been a long summer campaign which would be characterized as "advance and hold" in today's jargon.  In it's final contribution to the Tullahoma Campaign, Crittenden's XXI Corps, containing the Seventeenth Kentucky, was ordered to McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee where it remained, performing various patrol assignments throughout the months of July and August..

McMinnville sits along the southeastern limit of the Highland Rim and the base of the Cumberland Plateau, strategically located about 35 miles south of Cookeville and 70 miles northwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee. These two months were a relatively quiet time for the Seventeenth.  Bragg had taken refuge in the vicinity of the small but critical city of Chattanooga, which had a pre-war population of about 1,500 citizens.  This population more than doubled throughout the summer as wounded Confederate soldiers were evacuated from Nashville hospitals.  

Transportation was the primary generator of Chattanooga's economy thanks to it's location on the eastern bank of the Tennessee River at  Moccasin Bend, where the Tennessee changes its southerly course and flows to the east across northern Georgia and Alabama.  It was also the northern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, thus being connected by rail to Atlanta and thence to Savannah, Georgia.  It was also in Chattanooga that the Western and Atlantic met the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, thereby connecting two of the South's busiest ports by rail to the Mississippi River.  With New Orleans secured, Chattanooga was vital to the Union's control of the expanse of Confederate States west of the Cumberlands.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Captain's Courage, Part 2

As mentioned earlier (see July 27, 2012 post in this blog), Captain Samuel Cox of Co.A, 17th Ky. Vol. Inf.  apparently suspended the contributions to his diary while stationed in Pulaski, Tennessee in July of 1862.  Now, approximately one year later, his courage is being challenged in nearby McMinnville. General  Bragg had been driven from their native homeland, but there was little else he could point to as far as progress toward ending the war.  News, when it arrived, from back home was troubling.

John Blackburn's regimental history of the Seventeenth provides the following insight into the psyche  of the regiment and Captain Cox in particular, during the long, hot summer of 1863.


...By this time the men had been away from home a year and a half and the long separation from loved ones was having it's effect in the ranks of the companies.  Even the usually level headed Sam Cox began to feel sorry for himself.  

Sam Cox was a brave soldier and leader of men.  Though his actions in combat do not suggest it, he admitted, on more than one occasion, that he was constantly obsessed with a belief that he would not survive the war.  This was a conviction but not such a fear that he could not perform his duties.  A fear did develop though, and it was such a fear that it might well have affected his capabilities as a leader had there been occasion for conflict with the enemy before he got over the fear.  During the spring of 1863 Sam became convinced that his family, including even his mother, had ceased to be concerned about him!  This belief gnawed at his emotions and he constructed, in his imagination, a black picture.  Letters seemed to have been "too few" lately.  "Perhaps",  thought Sam, "the folks at home are much more concerned about brother Will in the Southern Army".  Sam was of course wrong in his thinking.  Letters had indeed been few but it was because Sam had been so constantly on the move that the mail seldom caught up with him.  The folks at home were concerned, and very much so, both for Sam and for Will, and the loved ones at home lived in dread that news would come of the death or injury of either of them. 

At this unhappy time in Sam's life he did receive a letter.  The letter was from his mother and sister, and it is the type of letter that has been needed for only the soldiers of the Civil War.  In America's other wars mothers and sisters did not have loved ones on opposite sides.  The portion of the letter that the mother wrote said:  "I am much concerned about you Sam, but I am also concerned about Will.  You are both my boys and I love you both to the same extent.  I pray constantly for the welfare of both of you and I pray that you will never meet in battle."  The fear of sons meeting as opponents in battle was constantly in the mind of Mrs. Cox, as it was with many Civil War mothers. Sister Jennie also assured Sam of the concern and love of the family back home.  Jennie said that her children spoke often of "Uncle Sam".  Sam Cox did not learn until much later that in the homes of both his mother and his sister very careful plans had been made for the reception of both Sam and Will in the event either or both came home wounded or sick.*


*  Blackburn, John, A Hundred Miles, A Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972, LOC 72-93774, pages  114-116.