During the period of rest afforded the army around Vicksburg important events were occurring in East Tennessee. The enemy had retired from Chattanooga, which place was occupied by Rosecrans, who moved forward, with his columns beyond supporting distance, in pursuit of the retreating foe. Bragg, having received re-inforcements, perceived his advantage, and attacked with vigor, on the 19th of September. The battle, thus begun to our disadvantage, was continued on the arrival of the distant columns, during the 20th and 21st, resulting in a disastrous defeat, and the retreat of the shattered army to Chattanooga, where it was reduced to a state of siege by the confident enemy.
In the meantime the Military Division of the Mississippi had been created, and Major General Grant assigned to command. This was followed by the assignment of Major General Sherman as (p116) his successor in command of the Department and Army of the Tennessee. Major General George H. Thomas superseded General Rosecrans in command of the Department and Army of the Cumberland, and Major General Joseph Hooker was ordered from the Potomac to East Tennessee, with the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps. The Fifteenth Corps was also designated for service in Tennessee, and Major General F. P. Blair assigned to command. The Corps was placed en route from Vicksburg to Memphis in September, the Fourth Division breaking camp at Messenger's Ferry on the 28th day of that month.
The passage to Memphis occupied eight days, in consequence of delay by low water and a deficiency of transportation for the division, a portion of which was compelled to await the arrival of boats at Memphis, which detained the advance of the fleet for several days. In addition to this the supplies of fuel for the fleet had to be collected at Griffith's Landing, on the east bank of the Mississippi, by unloading the army wagons from the boats to be employed in conveying the wood from the forest. While at this place, October 3d, the news of the defeat of Rosecrans, at Chickamauga, was received by the troops. The fleet consisted of fourteen steamers, the same number with that which bore us down the river four months previous. (p117) But the long and frequent delays rendered the passage far less pleasant. Besides, we were ignorant of our destination, and innumerable conjectures were made respecting our future career. The recent disaster indicated the possibility of our being ordered directly to the scene of hostilities in Tennessee. But on reaching Memphis it became evident that we were destined to march into the interior. The troops disembarked on the 9th of September, after an absence of precisely four months, and went into camp for a single day, near the city, marching on the morning of the 11th.
It was reserved for the Fourth Division to march to Corinth, while the rest of the Corps were transported by railroad. This gave us the opportunity of viewing once more the scenes of our trial and suffering during the preceding winter. On the first day's march, and while moving leisurely near White's Station, our ears were saluted by the report of artillery in the distance, and the column was at once pushed forward to Germantown, where we learned that the small garrison at Collierville had been attacked by a considerable force of the enemy. The march was resumed, and continued till the close of day, in order to secure the place against renewed assault. A portion of the force was pushed rapidly forward to aid in the defense till the main body could reach the place. We passed our former camp at Fort Loomis, now deserted (p118) and still, and arrived at Collierville to learn that the gallant little garrison, consisted of the Sixty-sixth Indiana, aided by a detachment of the Thirteenth Regulars just arrived --with Generals Sherman, Ewing, and Lightburn--on the train from Memphis, had repelled the assault of the combined forces of Chalmers and Richardson, numbering several thousand men. Our loss was about twenty killed and forty wounded, with nearly a hundred prisoners. A small detachment of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry was also camped near the place, when the enemy came suddenly upon them and captured Chaplain S. G. Miner, while conducting the Sabbath morning service, with a number of the audience. The chivalrous enemy also seized, and were about to hold as a prisoner, Mrs. Mary Graham, wife of Maj. Graham, of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, but she was finally paroled, through the entreaties of a citizen with whose family she was temporarily living. Chaplain Miner was taken to camp, and brought before General Forrest in due time, who promptly demanded his watch, at which time the owner demurred, and without avail. The watch became property of the wretch who afterward outraged all the laws of civilized warfare at Fort Pillow. The loss of the enemy on this occasion was never known, but information subsequently derived from citizens along the line of our pursuit, indicated that it must have been severe, a (p119) large number of wagons having passed loaded with the dead and wounded. A number of the dead were left upon the field, among whom the troops, formerly stationed at this place, recognized the familiar countenances of two citizens living a few miles distant.
The presence of General Sherman inspired the little garrison with an unyielding determination to repel the assailants, the General being in the fort encouraging the men with his usual coolness. The brave men of the Thirteenth Regulars loved their former commander, and fought with desperation, while the Sixty-sixth Indiana gained great honor by their bravery. Had our arrival been timely for effective pursuit the enemy might have been severely punished; but he made good use of the time occupied by us in marching to relieve the garrison, to effect his escape. It was a singular coincidence that the troops who had constructed the defenses at this place, six months previous, should have so narrowly missed the opportunity of resisting the first attack of the enemy, after an absence of four months. All regretted having been denied a share in the triumph so nobly won.
Brigadier General Hugh Ewing had been assigned to command the Fourth Division, relieving General Smith at Memphis. Brigadier General J. M. Corse, of the Second Brigade, was in command of the Division during the march to Corinth, (p120) under whose direction we resumed our course the following day, and camped at Mt. Pleasant, Miss., twelve miles south of Collierville. This place had afforded refuge to guerrillas; and some of the inhabitants were believed to have been connected with the recent movement of the enemy, and all the unoccupied buildings, with some of the suspected citizens' dwellings, were burned on the following morning. The troops marched to La Grange, on the 13th, a distance of thirty-three miles, reaching camp tired and hungry, and not a little out of humor on account of the rapid and almost constant marching. Usually frequent opportunities were given the men to rest, but on this occasion the command moved forward with but three or four halts during the entire day. At such times the patience of the men would give way, and loud imprecations were heaped upon the heads of innocent and guilty alike; for anger is unreasonable, and makes no distinction between friend and foe. During the confusion and darkness of the hour following our arrival at camp we were so unfortunate as to step upon one of the weary boys, who had wrapped his blanket around him and gone to bed supperless, when an awful volume of oaths burst upon our devoted head, and we retired before the storm of passion we had unintentionally aroused.
At such a time the power of endurance is most thoroughly tested, and he who continues calm amidst the almost universal prevalence of complaint may be regarded as invulnerable. When, to all the necessary toils and privations of the soldier's lot, is added a seeming disregard for the comfort of the troops, on the part of those charged with peculiar responsibilities, the deep feelings of the soul are stirred under a sense of personal injustice, and the utmost self-control is essential to restrain one within due bounds. Whether well or ill-founded, these impressions produce feelings of resentment, which constitute a grumbler for the time being, and, habitually fostered, render him an inveterate specimen of that genus homo, than which a more unpleasant or unenviable character can scarcely be found. A large camp of such men, busily occupied, for the first hour after arrival, in comparing the range of temperature upon the scale of thermometer of patience, is a scene worthy of the attentive study of the moralist as well as the artist. Such a scene was presented at LaGrange, in the camps of the Fourth Division on this occasion. But a refreshing rest, with the early morning meal, greatly repaired the shock produced upon the sensitive nature by supposed cruelty, and the troops cheerfully moved forward on their course. (p122)
We were among familiar scenes, and thoughts of sadder days and sorer trials were awakened as we moved through Grand Junction, and passed beside the graves in which the dust of so many of our comrades reposed. Since we turned aside from this burial place of forty of our number, more than fifty had followed them to their last home. Nine months previous we buried our first martyr at this place, and now we could count nearly a hundred missing ones from the ranks where they then stood. We were again on our uncertain course, the end of which no one could predict. Wherever we had moved, our course could be traced by the graves of our fallen companions, and such waymarks would continue to indicate our pathway during the future periods of our service.
A march of twelve miles brought us to our camp on Turkey Creek, followed by a like distance on the next day. Again, on the 16th, we were detained till a late hour in reaching camp on Muddy Creek, having crossed the Hatchie battle-field, where General Hackleman fell the preceding year. The troops reached Corinth on the 17th, and went into camp east of the place. During the night occurred another of those memorable storms, under unfavorable circumstances, when all were thoroughly drenched for want of sufficient protection, our tents having been forwarded by railroad from (p123) Memphis and not yet arrived. This event, with the general appearance of desolation that prevailed in the entire region of the place, rendered Corinth the synonym of discomfort, in our vocabulary. In the midst of an uncultivated region, and bearing the traces of rebel operations during our siege of the place in 1862, it presented very few attractive features. Our stay was brief at this place. The marsh was resumed the next day, General Ewing assuming command of the Division. On the 19th we reached Burnsville, Mississippi, a Station on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad Between Corinth and Iuka, and eight miles from the latter place.
This road had been opened from Grand Junction to Corinth during the summer, on the abandonment of the route from Columbus to Corinth. The road was now opened farther east, and Iuka was again held by our forces, and made a temporary base of operations, preparatory to the great march before us. The entire Corps was in camp near this place, and on the road thence to Corinth, receiving the necessary equipments for the march to Chattanooga, which now became our evident destination. Camp and garrison equipage, clothing, and Commissary stores were issued to the troops, and payment made for the moths of July and August. At last all was ready for cutting loose from our communications, and on the 26th of October the Division moved to Iuka, and thence (p124) to Eastport, on the Tennessee, the following day. Here the troops were ferried across the river by gunboats, and camped on the north side, in the State of Alabama. The remaining Divisions of the Corps effected a crossing a few miles above Eastport.
The region of the Tennessee is one of great fertility, but at that time not more than one fiftieth part of the improved lands was under cultivation. The sweeping rebel conscription of the able-bodied white men, with the no less sweeping demand of both armies for horses, mules, and cattle, forced the abandonment of the lands, except so far as the actual necessities of the people prompted them to cultivate enough to supply their own wants. On our advance from Florence we found the lands more generally cultivated, and supplies were abundant along our route of march.
At Gravelly Springs a mounted rebel fired upon Captain Bloomfield, A. A. General of the Brigade, and pursuit was made, but he escaped. He was believed to be a citizen, and the place was only saved from destruction by great vigilance. The First Division had a brisk skirmish on the same day, near Tuscumbia, before crossing the river. On the 1st of November, the entire Corps was collected at Florence, at which time General Sherman arrived, and the troops were at once ordered forward. The necessity for rapid movement was (p125) occasioned by the existing condition of affairs at Chattanooga, where our forces were in a state of siege, and in need of prompt relief.
It was General Sherman's purpose to cross Elk River, and move direct to Stevenson, via Huntsville. But on reaching that stream, near Rogersville, it was found at a high state, in consequence of recent rains, and could not be forded, while the construction of a bridge would occupy much valuable time, and it was at once decided to move up the north bank of the river to Fayettville, and thence to Winchester, thus reaching Stevenson through Crow Creek Valley. Accordingly the column was headed to the rear, and returned to Rogersville, thence moving in a north-eastern course.
This deviation from the intended line of march led us through a cultivated region never traversed by an army, and forage was abundant, of which the soldiers, who had not forgotten the luxuries of Jackson, availed themselves with great freedom. The people were astonished at the coolness with which their well-filled larders were emptied of their precious contents. But entreaties and tears were of no avail. With a single inquiry "Where is the man who lives here?" and the reply, "He is in the army," they were well satisfied of their right to consume the supplies of armed foes. They often presumed that the husband, son, or brother was (p126) absent as an armed rebel, without making any preliminary inquiry. If any men were seen on the premises they were usually aged, infirm, or beardless boys, and only lacked the strength to make them rebel soldiers. It did not materially affect the case that these were Tennesseeans, knowing well how often they had met the former citizens of that State on the battle-field. And a very good reason, in addition to all this, was, that these people were living much better than the army, notwithstanding their enmity, and this ought not to be permitted. And it is worthy of remark that for a time few fared better than the soldiers.
The Corps reached Fayettville November 8th, where the troops were allowed one day of rest, resuming the march the next day, and camping at night in the "Barrens," an extensive region of country unfit for cultivation, and wholly uninhabited. On the next morning we emerged from the wilderness into one of the liveliest valleys in all the broad land. The view of the Cumberland Mountains in the distance, and the contrast between their long blue lines of beauty and the rich fields, clothed in emerald and smiling under the bright light of a November sun, was pleasing to the eye. In all our previous landscape views none equaled this, and non afterward surpassed it. That the dwellers in such a region could have conspired against the national life evinced a want of harmony (p127) between the lessons of nature and the perverted minds of men. That a soil so productive, an air so pure, and a scene so lovely should be marred by oppression and treason filled us with deep sadness.
Passing through this rich valley to Winchester, we reached communications with the external world on the 11th of November. After receiving fresh supplies, the troops commenced the ascent of the mountain at Cowan's Station, toiling up the deep ascent, while the trains struggled to gain the summit. The view of the beautiful valley, through which we had passed, charmed the eye, while the rugged sides of the mountain, which appeared so regular in the far off vision of yesterday, now gave forcible illustration of the truth that "distance lends enchantment to the view." It is thus with the toils and privations of the soldier. Though apparently too severe for endurance, when viewed in all their native roughness, if seen in the great range of human difficulties, which form the mountains of life's vision, up whose sides ambition may climb to look down upon the plain below, they wear an air of beauty mingled with sublimity.
Soon we lost sight of the lovely valley, and pursued our mazy course among the sublime scenery of the mountain-top. Through the forest that crowned its summit, into deep gorges, and along the side of yawning chasms, on a narrow and rough inclined plane, prepared by the hand of (p128) man, we moved forward, impressed with ever-varying emotions of pleasure and surprise at the scenes before us, till at nightfall the column paused in a deep gorge, beside a rapid mountain stream, to pass the night. The train stood still in the narrow track in which it had moved, while the weary mules were fed, and the troops sought such nooks in the mountain side as were available, building their fires and preparing their coffee, which, always invigorating to the weary soldier, never was more inspiring than at the close of that day in the mountains. In wandering over the narrow space occupied by the Regiment, Lieutenant Hubbard, of Company F slipped suddenly into an unobserved opening in the surface, catching himself by the arms, as his body was descending vertically into the bowels of the mountain, when a friend assisted him out of his perilous position. Had he fallen it is doubtful if he would have escaped alive.
In this deep gorge, at the solemn hour of midnight, a burial scene transpired which produced the most vivid impressions of the true solemnity of death that our mind ever received. A member of the One Hundredth Indiana died at a late hour, and it became necessary to bury him before morning. It was therefore effected at once. A place was selected near our tent, and the grave was dug to the depth of a foot, reaching the solid rock. The (p129) body was placed in the shallow vault, and placed with poles to afford protection, the earth being thrown over them, effectually covering the dead from human sight. The hour, the place, the event, and its attendant circumstances conspired to render the incident deeply impressive.
Morning found us in busy preparation for the descent of the mountain which was effected during the forenoon. Descending the Crow Creek Valley, a narrow defile between two spurs of the mountain, we reached Anderson Station, where we camped. David Scott, of Company K, died in ambulance on the way down the valley, and Amos Bucy of Company H, and Hiram Wood, of Company E, died the following morning, all being buried at that place.
The Corps arrived at Stevenson on the 14th of November and reached Bridgeport on the 15th, where was our base of supply for the army at Chattanooga. The enemy occupied the railroad between our besieged army and this place, cutting off all communication upon the south side of the Tennessee. The only route for reaching Chattanooga was by the mountain wagon road on the north side, a distance of sixty miles, over which it was almost impossible to convey sufficient supplies to subsist the army on short rations. The bridges at Bridgeport and Whiteside had been destroyed when the enemy retired across the Tennessee, and much time was necessary for their reconstruction. (p130) The line of communication with Nashville had also been temporarily severed, but was again restored, and supplies were accumulating rapidly at Bridgeport on our arrival. The prospect, which had been gloomy for our cause in Tennessee had begun to brighten, under the direction of Grant, who had assumed command of all the forces concentrated in the vicinity of Chattanooga.
On the 17th of November the Fourth Division crossed the Tennessee, at Bridgeport, moving to Shell Mound and thence up Nickajack Cove, a deep gorge in Sand Mountain, pausing awhile at the Nickajack Cave, an immense cavern in the mountain side, near Shell Mound, into whose yawning mouth we penetrated as far as allowed to go. A guard was stationed within the entrance to prevent the soldiers from imperiling their lives. It was reported that some of those who had visited the interior had never returned, the cave extending for many miles into the heart of the mountain. A large and rapid stream of pure water flowed from the mouth, up whose tortuous course visitors might safely pursue their way for some distance. The entrance to the cavern was through a vast amphitheatre whose walls were irregular, and the floor of which was the rocky bed of the stream, with a ledge of rocks projecting from the south wall half way across the diameter. The ceiling consisted of one vast rock, spanning the apartment (p131) and resting firmly upon the opposite walls. This space had been obstructed by large leaches for draining the nitre from the earth, removed from the interior for the manufacture of saltpetre by the rebels, considerable quantities of which had been produced. The grandeur of the scene presented, when on a subsequent occasion we penetrated the darkness beyond, and looked out, through the cavernous mouth, upon the blue sky and fleeting clouds, was awfully impressive, leading the mind to reflection upon the mighty power of the Great Architect.
Near this place an Indian village once stood, bearing the name of the cave. A foolish story has gained credence and the sanction of Appleton in his "Traveler's Guide," to the effect that the name of this cave is derived from the fact that a band of negro robbers, led by one Jack, occupied the place as a secret retreat. Hence the cave was called "Nigger Jack's Cave," which in process of time became "Nickajack." But the oldest inhabitants know nothing of such an origin for the name. The bones of the buried Indian race are still found near the site of the ancient village.
Shell Mound, a Station on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, derives its name from the fact that in the excavation for the track a large mound was found to consist almost entirely of shells. These were probably deposited by the (p132) Indians ages ago, and subsequently covered with an alluvial deposit in the overflow of the banks of the Tennessee, which flows near the mound.
We pursued our march up the narrow defile in the mountains, an rudely constructed railroad extending from Shell Mound to the "Castle Rock Coal Mines," at the head of the Cove, near the summit of the mountain. The trains toiled up the steep acclivity, which became very abrupt and devious on nearing the coal mine. Night came on, rendering the ascent perilous as well as difficult. The road wound along the south side of the ravine, upon a narrow track excavated in the mountain-side, while above and below was a frowning height and yawning depth. In attempting to reach the summit, in the darkness of the night, the wagons were often upon the verge of the precipice below and two were finally precipitated down the steep, lodging against the trees in their descent. It was found to be impossible to accomplish the object till morning, and the train paused in its place, while the troops again passed the night in the heart of the mountain. It was fearful to contemplate the dangers through which the train had passed, as we moved forward the following morning. Fortunately none of the drivers were hurt, and but one wagon lost. Never had an army passed through this deep gorge since Jackson led his troops up the same steeps during the Indian (p133) war. The mountain top was at length attained, and a brief rest afforded the troops. Near this point the three States of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia unite their boundaries. During the day we were in all three of these States, on our way across the mountain. The summit is a rolling section of country, with a scattered growth of timber, and light sandy soil. The inhabitants were of the poorer class, who had no interest in the success of rebellion. Nevertheless they had been forced to aid in the effort to destroy the nation's life and crush out their own liberties, by establishing a gigantic despotism in the place of a liberal and free government.
In the afternoon of the 18th of November we reached the opposite side of the mountain, and camped on the summit, overlooking the beautiful Lookout Valley and the little town of Trenton, Dade County, Georgia, while the vast wall of Lookout Mountain bounded the vision on the southeast. The evening was calm and beautiful, and the sunlight gilded the scene before us with a glow of almost unearthly loveliness. The eye never tired of gazing upon the landscape spread out before us, as we sat upon a projected rock and drank in its beauties. Then the wish for the divine art of painting was awakened in many minds, that the scene might be faithfully transferred to canvas. But, alas! how vain the thought. The visions of (p134) beauty and sublimity afforded us from these mountain summits must forever linger in memory, without one touch of the pencil to preserve their form. In the absence of the painter's skill we seized the pen, and drew an outline of the scene, with a few of the thoughts it suggested in the mind of the observer. The latter are reproduced in the following paragraph.
All the enginery of war falls into insignificance in the presence of these works of defense thrown up by the Almighty, and our combined armies seem like crowds of ants upon their several hillocks. Why does man contend, amid such sublime scenery, for the subversion of liberty, whose principles are as enduring as these mountain ranges? We see the appropriateness of the figures employed by the sacred writers, drawn from the mountain scenery of their own Canaan. We can understand, too, why Christ went up into the mountain to pray and to teach; for who could fail to feel the force of His teachings, amid the sublime works of God, whom He represented in His nature, life, and character! Where could the Son of God so hold audience with the Father as in the mountains of Judea? Infidelity must stand mute in the presence of a person like Christ, tempted, praying, teaching, dying on the mountains, and from them ascending into heaven.(p135)
The town of Trenton was occupied by a small force of the enemy, a portion of which was surprised and captured by our advance. The Second Brigade moved up the valley to Johnson's Bend, on a reconnaissance; the Third Brigade occupied Trenton, while the First Brigade held a position on the mountain, overlooking the valley, and was distributed at different points along the summit, with orders to build extensive camp fires, and thus deceive the enemy in regard to our force. The display made on the evening of the 18th indicated the presence of several Divisions and aroused the attention of the enemy, which was the sole object of the diversion. In this we were successful, completely puzzling the enemy as to the strength, object, and subsequent movements of the forces so suddenly appearing in the valley and threatening the rear of the force occupying Lookout Mountain.
On the 19th the First Brigade moved along the crest of the mountain, and descended into the valley above Trenton, remaining in camp till the Second Brigade returned, on the 21st, when the entire Division moved down the valley toward Chattanooga. While halting at Trenton the Court House was accidentally destroyed by fire. The day was in striking contrast with that spent upon the mountain, being cold and rainy, dispelling the enchantment of our beautiful vision by the stern (p136) realities of deep mud and thoroughly drenched clothing, followed by an uncomfortable night.
Major General Hooker, with the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, had driven the enemy from the valley and occupied the ground, the enemy returning to the mountain side, where he held a strong position. On the 22nd we continued our march, through and in rear of Hooker's lines, and crossed the Tennessee under cover of night at Brown's Ferry, moving up the valley four miles and camping at a late hour. We were at last at the scene of coming conflict, and immediate preparations were made for re-crossing the Tennessee and moving upon the enemy's flank on Missionary Ridge. The next day was spent in anxious expectation of movement, while fighting was in progress in front of Chattanooga.
The morning of November 24th found us in motion. Under cover of the night a force had been thrown across the Tennessee, below the mouth of the Chickamauga, and the pickets of the enemy were surprised and captured before any alarm could be given. Everything progressed favorably, and a pontoon bridge was soon thrown across the river. Meanwhile, troops were continually crossing on the steamer Dunbar, which the enemy had failed to destroy on the evacuation of Chattanooga. By noon the Second, Third, and Fourth Divisions were thrown across, under the (p137) personal direction of General Sherman. In consequence of the breaking of the pontoon at Brown's Ferry, by floating trees thrown into the river by the enemy, the First Division was unable to effect a crossing, and Davis' Division of the Fourteenth Corps, holding a position on the north side of the Tennessee, was ordered across and placed in reserve on Crutchfield's plantation, while General Osterhaus reported to General Hooker. The movement of the previous day had resulted in our favor, and the enemy was driven from Orchard Knob, a strong position between our defenses and the enemy's main line on Missionary Ridge, giving our forces possession of the valley up to Citico Creek. The successful accomplishment of our object at Crutchfield's had extended our control of the south bank of the Tennessee to the mouth of the Chickamauga.
Our army consisted of the following Corps: Major General Hooker -- with the Twelfth Corps, under Major General Slocum; the Eleventh Corps, under Major General Howard; and the First Division, Fifteenth Corps --on the right, in front of the enemy on Lookout Mountain; Major General Thomas --with the Fourth Corps, under Major General Granger; and the Fourteenth Corps, excepting Davis' Division, under Major General Palmer -- in the centre; and Major General Sherman --with three Divisions of the Fifteenth Corps, (p138) under Major General Blair; and Davis' Division of the Fourteenth Corps -- on the left.
The operations of November 4th were mainly upon the right, where General Hooker forced the enemy from his entrenched position, and compelled the evacuation of Lookout Mountain. The contest continued till midnight, the roar of artillery reverberating through the valley, in the stillness of the night, and the flash of the guns being distinctly visible at a distance of five miles. No advance was made by the centre, during the day. General Sherman formed his lines, and moved forward by the right flank, meeting no opposition, and occupied a prominent position, overlooking the enemy's works at Tunnel Hill, where he entrenched during the night. The disposition of the forces was as follows: the Second Division on the extreme left, the Third Division in the centre, and the Fourth Division on the right. A Brigade of the Eleventh Corps also reported to General Sherman for duty, and was placed in reserve behind our right, while Davis remained at Crutchfield's plantation. The Second and Third Divisions, with the Third Brigade of the Fourth Division, held an entrenched position on the summit of the hill. The Second Brigade of our Division was also entrenched, at right angles with the front line, while the First Brigade lay in reserve during the night. (p139)
From the summit of the hill occupied by our troops a clear view of the field of operations was afforded. The sun rose in glory after a dismal cloudy day, and a cold, cheerless night, shedding his enlivening influence over the scene of the approaching conflict. The valley of the Tennessee, with the beautiful stream running like a silver thread through it, Walden's Ridge, and Raccoon Mountain in the distance, and Lookout Mountain, with Chattanooga at its base, were all clothed in beauty, while man was preparing the enginery of destruction for the fierce contest which was to decide the fate of that great central point in military operations in East Tennessee.
What Austerlitz was to Napoleon Chattanooga was to Grant. More than a hundred thousand men were awaiting the final struggle of military power for the possession of Missionary Ridge, each party apparently confident of triumph. The hour for action had come, and Sherman led off in an attack upon the enemy's right, all being quiet in the centre. At 8 A.M. the line of battle was formed, and at 10 o'clock all was ready for the signal to charge upon the works of the enemy, who had already opened upon our extended lines from the batteries that crowned the summit of the Ridge. The rebel line was in position, in front of our right, ready to dispute our advance. The order was given to charge, and our lines advanced (p140) upon a run, forcing the enemy up the steep hillside. The battle raged in all its fury, the shrieking of shells, the whizzing of bullets, and the reverberations of artillery combining to awe the beholder. The First Brigade formed the right of the line, the Regiment being on the extreme right. In beautiful and unbroken line the command pressed forward through open fields, throwing down and leaping fences, and crossing ditches, till it approached the railroad, when it was ordered to lied down under cover of a gentle acclivity, while the battle continued to rage furiously on our left.
But little time was given for careful observation. The wounded began to fall to the rear, bringing the report of the killed. One and another of the soldiers who had become objects of affectionate regard, were brought form the field, or came hobbling on one limb. One of these, mortally wounded, calmly committed himself and the friends he loved to the care of God, at the same time clasping a friend in his arms. Another lost his right eye, and in the midst of intense pain said, "I thank God, if I die, that I perished in a noble cause."
For five hours the Brigade occupied their exposed position, during which time many noble men perished. The only fire the troops could give was delivered while lying upon the ground. The battle continued to rage upon our left, where successive (p141) assaults were repulsed. Another attempt was made to gain the summit. Our forces pressed the enemy closely, when re-inforcements arrived to aid the foe. With guns almost meeting those of the enemy our brave men still held their ground, while death cut them down every moment. The enemy succeeded in flanking the right of our line, when the heroic band was compelled to give way. The hillside was the object of interest to every beholder. The enemy continued to pour a murderous fire upon the retreating lines, accompanied by yells of triumph, which rung through the valley below. The entire line was withdrawn within the entrenchments, having suffered a severe loss. But our demonstrations upon the enemy's flank had secured his defeat, by weakening his centre. Bragg had moved a heavy force to his right, to resist further assaults, when Grant perceived the the advantage, and ordered Thomas to advance. The enemy's works were speedily carried, and the victory was ours. Bragg retreated toward Dalton during the night, and Chattanooga was relieved from a state of siege.
The loss in the Fourth Division was severe. In the First Brigade nearly five hundred were killed and wounded. Among the killed was Colonel O'Meara, of the Ninetieth Illinois, a brave and noble officer. The loss of the Regiment was less severe than that of the other regiments of the Brigade, in consequence of the ground it occupied (p142) being more protected against the fire of the enemy. The following is a complete list of casualties in the Regiment:
Field and Staff -- Wounded: Adjutant J. D. Bond, Quartermaster James A. McClellan.
Co. A -- Wounded: Orderly Sergeant J. M. Tobias, E. F. Dennis, David Okes, I. S. Wagner.
Co. B -- Killed: Captain Frank H. Aveline, Casper Miller, Henry Ridenbaugh. Wounded: Sergeant James Strouse, E. J. Amspaugh, Goerge Buser, George Gray, George Inks, Samuel Hague, Jacob Kincade, P. P. Miner, Orin Rima, P. J. Weismantel.
Co. C -- Wounded: Captain Hezekiah Beeson, Corporal William E. Mowbray, james M. Evans, William H. Kelly, William Lowry, William Metzger.
Co D -- Killed: William Skevington, Jacob Vanscoy. Wounded: Captain George Bowman, Sergeant William Irelan, Corporal James H. Edwards, James Rider, H. E. Scott, James W. Sines.
Co. E -- Killed: Sergeant Joshua Woodward. Wounded: Sergeant H. A. L. Green, Corporal Samuel L. Johns, Corporal J. E. Kirk, Thomas F. Carter, Elisha Dearing.
Co. F -- Wounded: Corporal Joseph Coar, I. M. Keith, J. C. Mitchell. (p143)
Co. G -- Killed: Corporal E. B. Cooper, George W. Kelly. Wounded: Captain James Huston, Orderly Sergeant Ralph Copper, Sergeant Jacob Hiday, Daniel Hoover, William Scott.
Co. H -- Wounded: 1st Lieutenant J. E. Hart, Joseph D. Camp, Nathaniel Cohee, Elijah Asbury.
Co. I -- Killed: Henry Blauser, Henry Smith. Wounded: Monroe Kreiter, William Snyder, Joseph Wedrick.
Co. K -- Wounded: Sergeant L. T. Barbour, John Linton, Patrick McTigue, Joseph Pompey.
The following day was spent, by a detail from the Brigade, in burying the dead upon the battlefield, an arduous task and full of sadness. Thirty five were buried where they fell, occupying the entire day and till o o'clock P.M. The scene presented on that day was one long to be remembered. Upon the hillside, where the repeated charges had been repulsed, the dead thickly strewed the ground. Of the wounded at Division Hospital about forty died and it was our sad duty to commit them to rest. The following members of the Regiment died of the wounds received:
February 15th 1864 -- Captain Hezekiah Beeson, Company C
December 20th 1863 -- William H. Kelly, Company C.
December 30th 1863 -- Elisha Dearing, Company E.
Of the lamented dead none was more missed from the society of those comrades in arms who (p144) survived than Captain Frank H. Aveline. He was an efficient officer, and greatly beloved by his company. His most intimate friends evinced deep sorrow over his sad fate. One of these spoke of the sadness that marked the last interview on the morning of the battle, when Captain Aveline seemed to be impressed with a presentiment of his fate. The news of his death affected his friend to tears, the first he had shed for many long years. The father came, soon after receiving news of his death, and conveyed the remains to Fort Wayne, where the afflicted family received them, and laid the precious dust to rest. His Company contributed $400 to purchase a monument, which was executed from a design by his friend, Major Baldwin, a broken column, draped with the flag for which the martyr died.
Sergeant Joshua Woodward, of Company E, was a young man of noble character, and died lamented by all his comrades. His afflicted family was inconsolable over his death. His calmness on the battlefield after receiving the injuries of which he soon died, evinced a willingness to meet his fate with true Christian resignation. William Skevington and George Kelly were two interesting and noble boys, who fell in the charge.
Casper Miller had served five years in the German States, five in the Regular Army of the United States, two in Mexico, and nearly three in the late (p145) war, when he was suddenly killed by a shell, and struck a second time immediately afterwards. Corporal E. B. Copper and Henry Ridenbaugh had their heads torn off by shells, and were not distinguishable except by a small remnant of hair at the back of the head, and by their clothing. Henry Smith of Company I, was greatly lamented by his comrades, who loved him for his genial spirit and musical talent, with which he cheered many weary hours while in camp.
Captain Beeson, of Company C, was struck, on the
right foot, by a cannon ball, which fearfully mangled the limb, but with
unconquerable resolution he resisted all appeals in favor of amputation, and,
after suffering nearly three months, was in a fair way of recovery, when
erysipelas set in and carried him to the grave. His loss was lamented by
all who knew him, but most deeply by his Company, who loved him for his kindness
and watchful interest in the welfare of his men.
"None knew him but to love him;
None named him but to praise." (p146)