In honor of Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes, CSA

150 years ago, my great grandfather, Nathan Richardson Oakes, served as a private in Company D of the distinguished 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee. He participated in the great Civil War campaigns, including the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville. I am writing about his engagements as well as some details about fighting for the Lost Cause. I hope to honor him and commemorate the events and individuals that contributed to making this a renowned unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Camp conditions in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry near Chattanooga

There was one enemy which both Northern and Southern soldiers fought in common: lice. It was simply one of the consequences of serving in the army. Most men would have enlisted without lice. However, it would not have taken long for them to acquire the insects. Unsanitary camp conditions and living in close contact with other soldiers practically ensured that everyone suffered with infestation at some time or another.

Sgt. Thomas Settle of Great Grandfather Oakes's Company D, 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, actually wrote home about it. Imagine a mother's reaction at receiving this note, an excerpt from a longer letter:*
Camp Near Chattanooga
Sept 29th 1863 
Dear mother as I have written to some of the rest and have time to write yet I feel it my duty to write you a few lines. I am still in good health and able to eat all the rations I can get. I have no news of much importance to write as I have written all the news I had in other letters.
Here Settle discusses news about family and friends, some interesting and some tragic. He then turns to his own personal condition.
Well mother I am in fine health. I weigh one hundred and forty pounds and am as gray headed as Pa was when I left Home liking a little. I am as Lousy as a hog, that is Body lice, and have got the itch the worst you ever saw. Now I know you are ready to say you Lazy Boy, I know you could do better than that. Well I will tell you the truth. Their is not a man in our Regt from the Colonel down but what is Lousy. I dont make no more of sitting down in a crowd and pulling of my shirt and picking the lice off of me than I would to sit down to a good meals victuals at Home. I have caught as many as 4 or & 6 at one time and the others more but we never write such things Home. I thought I would let you know something about it. 
Now I will have to close. Give my Love to all the family and except the same. And Believe me as ever your devoted son until death,
 Thos B. Settle

* I took some minor editing liberties with punctuation and formatting.

Source: "Settle Letters," a transcription of which was generously shared with me by descendant Raymond Settle. Many of these letters are now available on the Fanin County TxGen Website. The original letters are part of the Settle Family Collection, 1860-1864, in the University of Mississippi Department of Archives and Special Collections.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A brief truce

Beginning on today's date in 1863, the opposing sides reached a temporary truce for a couple of days in order to recover Federal soldiers who had been wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga. Gen. Braxton Bragg allowed a train of ambulances and hospital supplies to relieve thousands of wounded soldiers that were now under control of the Confederates. It was both a humane decision and also a way to shift the burden of care for the wounded to the Federal army at Chattanooga.

The truce also provided an opportunity for soldiers on both sides to meet and interact with their opponents. A general understanding soon spread throughout the lines that soldiers on picket wouldn't fire on their counterparts unless provoked into a fight. Common soldiers took the opportunity to trade for coffee and tobacco, share newspapers, and exchange information. Some even played games together.

Whatever the scene in the informal "neutral zone" along the lines, there was no truce between the artillery batteries of the opposing sides. Guns continued to roar back and forth, constantly reminding the soldiers of a looming battle.

Source: Mountains Touched With Fire, Wiley Sword

A 32nd Mississippi Infantry soldier's perspective of Chickamauga

I have a great fondness for soldiers' firsthand accounts of military action and aftermath. Theirs are the personal perspectives and remembrances of the struggle and tragedy of battle, which is often lost in the official reports and general accounts written later.

Sgt. Thomas Benjamin Settle of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, was one of Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's comrades in Co D, posted on this date in 1863, on Missionary Ridge. I am very grateful to his descendant, Raymond Settle, for sharing this letter1 that "Ben" sent home just a week after the bloody Battle of Chickamauga. With apologies to Sgt. Settle, I've taken a few liberties with the punctuation and formatting of his letter to make it easier on the modern reader.
Camp Near Chattanooga Tenn
Sept The 27th 1863
Mr David Settle
Kind Father,
I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you hear from me.  I am in fine health and in better spirits than I have been for some Time.
We have had a hard fight near this place. It commenced on the nineteenth of this month and ended on the Twentyeth [sic]. We had a very hard fight, lost a great many men but succeded in driving the enemy from the field but they fought very stubbornly all the while but our men went to the field determined to drive the enemy back. And they fought with that determination.
The enemy is at Chattanooga. They have that place well fortified and we will have to devise some other means besides fighting to get them from this place. I was out on Picket in three hundred yards of the Yankies [sic] all night. They were busy building breast works all night. So was our men. We have a decided advantage of the Yankies [sic] here. I think if we can get them routed from this place and can follow them up we will clear North Mississippi of the Yankies [sic]. I fear that it will be a long time before we have peace but I believe it will come some day. But I dont know whether I will live to see it or not.
My time in this Regt is half out and I have been well blessed so far with health and in being spared from being cut down in Battle as many of my comrades have. I have been in the service over two years and have not been in but two fights yet. I have been in several Skermishes [sic] but have not been in but two regular Engagements and came out safe without a scratch.
We have one of the Bravest Colonels in the world he is not afraid of minnie balls nor anything else... Hall2 was in this engagement. He stayed at his post all the time and fought very bravely. Some of our Boys did not fight as well as I thought they would but it was a very dangerous place and they were afraid of getting hurt. They were none of your acquaintenance that flickered. They stood square.
Thom Webster poor fellow was killed on Sunday. Very early after he got into the fight he was shot in the right breast died instantly. He was a noble young man. He was liked by every man that knew him in the Regiment but poor fellow he is gone. The others that were killed you were not acquainted with them. They were all good soldiers. The wounded was G. F. Rodison very slight. _.G. Lidden3 very slight Elerson Walker4 also very slight G.W. Carter, B.B. [Bailey] and Jefferson [Murley] all slight. Several of them are still with the company.
Well I reckon you are tired of such news as this. I was sorry to hear of Uncle Bens misfortunes. I know it goes very hard with him but many others have fared the same way.
Well Father I would send some money home but I fear that Confederate money will play out as soon as the war closes and I would loose it entirely. I will try to buy something that will do me some good. I have fifty Dollars on hand and will draw some more this evening. Uncle Sam is in fine health. He just left here and gone to see some of the Boys in the 9th South Carolina Regt. They are here. He sends his Love to you all.
I will have to close. Give my Love to all the family and except [sic] the same. And Believe me as ever your son until Death,
T. Ben Settle
[ P.S] I hope my dear little sister has recovered her health long before this.
[P.P.S.] Tell mother I have not forgotten her. I think of you all every Day.

1Sometime after sending me his transcription of Thomas Settle's letters pertaining to Co D, the "Settle Letters" were published on the Fanin County TxGen Website, where they are now available.
2He may refer to Sgt. Maj. Andrew Jackson Hall, who was promoted to 2nd Lt. after the battle and transferred to Col. Lowrey's staff.
3He probably refers to Pvt. J. O. Liddon who was in Co. D.
4He may refer to Pvt. Alexander A. Walker who was in Co. D.

Source: "Settle Letters" transcript by Raymond Settle. The original letters are part of the Settle Family Collection, 1860-1864, in the University of Mississippi Department of Archives and Special Collections.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cleburne's Division at Chattanooga

On today's date in 1863, from his advanced position on Missionary Ridge overlooking Rosecrans's disheartened Federal army, Gen. Patrick Cleburne pushed forward his skirmishers to within 200 yards of the Federal earthworks in front of Chattanooga. Establishing a line of battle, Cleburne's men skirmished with the enemy, driving them back about a mile. Cleburne was willing to turn his advance into a full-scale assault, but the divisions on either side of him fell back. By the next day, he had little choice but to do likewise, again taking position on Missionary Ridge.

Author Craig L. Symonds summarizes that on the surface the Confederate position on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain looked nearly impregnable. However, a number of factors made it more insecure than it seemed: 1) Gen. Braxton Bragg’s reduced army occupied lines that were far too extended for his depleted forces. 2) The difficult terrain made it tough to shuttle forces from one point to another; each division had to rely largely on its own assets to beat off an enemy attack in its sector. 3) No defensive position is any stronger than its flanks; and if the Federals could seize either Lookout Mountain on the left or Tunnel Hill on the right, there was no way Bragg could hold Missionary Ridge.

Unable or unwilling to perceive these weaknesses, in the days ahead Bragg will merely stretch his weakened army to cover his front and continue to behave as if the Federals in Chattanooga were still under siege. On the other hand, what else was he to do? Bragg believed, rightly, that his army was in no condition for a prolonged offensive. He faced a severe food shortage and his supply line was stretched. His transportation system was in a near state of collapse. And Bragg's own physical and mental state was in serious question.

So, due to his delinquent pursuit and follow-up after the Battle of Chickamauga, resulting in throwing away his chance to flank the city, Bragg determined that he had no alternative now but to settle down to a siege.

During this period, Co. D of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry (Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's company) was placed on picket duty. From Capt. F.S. Norman's terse report of Co. D's actions: "From [Chickamauga] to Missionary Ridge Sept. 24, have been on picket and encampment duty up to the present date.” The men of Co. D will continue the same through November. From the end of September through the end of the year, their Captain Norman will be the Acting Major, commanding the 32nd Regiment.

Sources: Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens; Company D Muster Roll for September-October 1863; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bragg's triumph

Confederate General Braxton Bragg was slow to admit his army's victory at the Battle of Chickamauga. But finally, on today's date in 1863, he issued the following victory message to his troops:

Field of Chickamauga, September 22, 1864. 
It has pleased Almighty God to reward the valor and endurance of our troops by giving to our arms a complete victory over the enemy's superior numbers. Homage is due and is rendered unto Him who giveth not the battle to the strong. 
Soldiers, after two days of severe battle, preceded by heavy and important outpost affairs, you have stormed the barricades and breastworks of the enemy, and driven before you in confusion and disorder an army largely superior in numbers, and whose constant theme was your demoralization and whose constant boast was your defeat. Your patient endurance under privations, your fortitude and your valor, displayed at all times and under all trials, have been meetly rewarded. Your commander acknowledges his obligations, and promises to you in advance the country's gratitude. But your task is not ended. We must drop a soldier's tear upon the graves of the noble men who have fallen by our sides and move forward. Much has been accomplished. More remains to be done before we can enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom.
By 7 AM on today's date, Cleburne's Division, my great grandfather's, completed a 2-day march, arriving in the afternoon on the crest and eastern slope of Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga. Cleburne then sent units in front of Chattanooga at the foot of the ridge, to establish a line of battle.

By the time Cleburne's men arrived, the Federals were fortifying the city, and not, as Bragg had expected, evacuating it. Rather than pushing his men forward in an attack on Rosecrans, Bragg soon will determine that he has no alternative now but to settle down to a siege and starve the Federals into surrender.

Bragg will establish an extensive 6-mile line of rifle pits along the western side of Missionary Ridge, then west across the valley south of Chickamauga, and on to the western slope of Lookout Mountain. Most of the army will be stationed at Missionary Ridge.

There won't be much fighting over the next 2 months. During this period, Cleburne’s Division will remain in its position 3 miles from the north end of the Confederate line. In the course of the ensuing weeks, the troops will undergo severe hardships, including exposure to rain and cold, because of the shortage of tents, blankets, and shoes.

On the other side of the battle line, by today's date in 1863, Rosecrans had withdrawn his temporary outer defensive lines to a 3/4-mile semicircle around the perimeter of Chattanooga. At its deepest point the defenses extended more than 2 miles inland from the Tennessee River. Rosecrans is preparing to defend against a frontal attack.

Sources: Official Records, Vol 30, Pts. 2 & 4; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Mountains Touched With Fire, Wiley Sword; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The first national military park

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Silent Cannon at Chickamauga

After a hundred years
Nobody knows the place,—
Agony, that enacted there,
Motionless as peace. 
Weeds triumphant ranged,
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone orthography
Of the elder dead. 
Winds of summer fields
Recollect the way,—
Instinct picking up the key
Dropped by memory. 
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
In 1890, Congress authorized the establishment of the Chickamauga battlefield as a national military park, the first and largest in the nation. Officially dedicated in 1895 as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, it owes its existence mainly to the efforts of 3 veteran Union generals of that famous battle in 1863: Henry Boynton, Ferdinand Van Deveer, and Henry Martyn Cist. President Benjamin Harrison, himself a Union vet who fought in Georgia, signed the bill establishing the park. On the 32nd anniversary of the battle of Chickamauga, September 19 & 20, 1895, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was formally dedicated. 

Established to commemorate the battle and preserve the area for study by military historians, the site includes more than 1,400 historical markers and monuments, many of which were placed by veterans of the campaign. Hundreds of these surviving soldiers on both sides of the conflict returned to the battlefield to locate their positions when a specific event occurred. Most of the monuments and historical markers were planned and placed there by participants of the battle. These were usually located where the soldiers did their most notable fighting. Today, the combined Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park encompasses 8,500 acres. It is the most extensive and sprawling of the many national military parks in the country.

Sadly, the words of Emily Dickinson's poignant verse are true of countless battlefields and cemeteries that have been lost to neglect and the march of time. However, thankfully the vast acreage that today comprises the Chickamauga Battlefield,* as well as Chattanooga, are well-preserved. And the agony enacted on those grounds is still recalled 150 years later.

Thanks to the Civil War Trust and countless financial donations, new acreage is being purchased and added to Civil War battlefields throughout the nation where the war was fought. Right now, the Trust is in the process of obtaining 109 additional acres of the Chickamauga Battlefield, the site around Reed's Bridge, where the opening movements of tis famous battle began. Donations may be made at the Civil War Trust website.

Sources: The Chickamauga Campaign, Patrick Abbazia; Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park website

Victory and vacillation

Initially, Bragg was unable to believe that the Confederates had won the Battle of Chickamauga on yesterday's date in 1863. It caused him to delay following up on his victory, which could have meant the complete destruction of Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland. The opportunity for overwhelming victory was allowed to pass. His enemy is defeated, but it is not yet vanquished.

On the morning after his victory, Bragg’s generals awaited orders to pursue Rosecrans while his army was defeated and demoralized, and before it could fortify its position in Chattanooga. Even later in the day when he realized that a complete victory had been achieved, Bragg failed to press forward rapidly. By vacillation and indecision he wasted a great opportunity purchased at a tremendous price in killed and wounded.

Instead, Bragg moved up his battered army to the heights overlooking Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. From this position he hoped to dominate Rosecrans's supply lines. His hoped his siege of the city would either force the Union into retreat or, weakening it, would thereby more easily defeat it in another battle. From the high ground on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, Bragg hoped to take Chattanooga without much of a fight.

On today's date, a Monday in 1863, Cleburne’s Division got a welcome day’s rest, cooking newly issued rations in the morning. Then in the afternoon, the men conducted the task of gathering up abandoned arms and ordnance as well as adding up the casualties. Of the 5,115 men in the division, a total of 1,743 were officially listed as killed or wounded, and 6 were missing. In Lowrey's Regiment, in which my great grandfather served, 25 were killed and 141 were wounded. Maj. F.C. Karr, one of the regiments's founding officers, was also killed.

Late in the afternoon, Cleburne received orders to march his division toward Chattanooga. They covered half the distance before nightfall, bivouacking at Red House Ford, which crossed the Chickamauga 5 miles east of Rossville. By 7 AM on the 22nd, the division will be marching again, arriving at the base of Missionary Ridge in the afternoon.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds

Friday, September 20, 2013

The cost of victory

With the Federal Army of the Cumberland routed from the Chickamauga battlefield and driven to Chattanooga, Bragg's Army of Tennessee won a critical victory on this date in 1863. There was just one flaw to this triumph, though: Victories aren't ultimately decisive unless the enemy is vanquished; and, while defeated, Rosecrans's army was not destroyed at Chickamauga.

Due to an overwhelming lack of Confederate coordination between the 2 wings of Bragg's army, the Union army was not held in place for either complete destruction or its surrender. Instead, Bragg lost tactical control of the various elements of his force, and his indecisiveness and detachment precluded him from altering his plans as the battle dynamics changed. His poorly coordinated assaults of heavily fortified positions led to needless waste of life and limb. At least 12 of his regiments lost more than half their numbers in the battle.

Indeed, the cost for both sides was horrific, making the Battle of Chickamauga the bloodiest of any fought in the Western Theater in the entire war. The total losses (killed, wounded, and missing) for the Federals were 16,170; for the Confederates, 18,454. Each army lost nearly a third of the men it took into the fight.

For Patrick Cleburne's Division, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes served in the 32nd Mississippi, the losses were severe. According to the Official Records, of the 5,115 men in the division, a total of 1,743 were officially listed as killed or wounded—1 out of every 3. In spite of a fight of over 2 days, partly at night and in thick woods, only 6 men were listed as missing.

While Chickamauga is counted as a clear Confederate win since Rosecrans's army fled the field, in the larger picture of the Chattanooga Campaign, the results today are indecisive.* Because Bragg did not follow up his victory, the Federals were allowed time to fortify Chattanooga and reorganize their army while the Confederates lay siege. In the weeks ahead, the defeated army will grow stronger while the victors will be weakened by the wait. The Union army that will sweep up the slope at Missionary Ridge on November 25th will be much stronger than the one than ran away from Chickamauga today.

* Though clearly defeated on the battlefield, Rosecrans will eventually consider his retreat to Chattanooga a kind of win. His reasoning was that since possession of Chattanooga had been his original plan, now that his army was in control of the town, his ignoble retreat had turned into a success. At least one Union general and army historian, Henry Martyn Cist, apparently agreed: "At seven o'clock on the morning of the 22d, the Army of the Cumberland, again united, was in position, holding the coveted prize, still strong enough to prevent the enemy from attempting further to dispute our possession of the town."

Sources: Official Records, Vol. 30, Pt. 2; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozens; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist

With Forrest's Corps at Chickamauga

While this blog is devoted mainly to the history of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, in which my Great Grandfather Nathan Richardson Oakes served, I also had another ancestor, Great-Great Grandfather David Crockett Neal who on this date was part of the victorious Confederate army that routed the Army of the Cumberland. Great-great Grandfather Neal served in James H. Lewis's 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment,1 which fought in Gen. Nathan B. Forrest's Corps with the Confederate infantry.

In July of 1863, after seeing fighting in the Tullahoma Campaign, Great-Great Grandfather's 6th Tennessee was transferred to the First Brigade of Forrest's Corps in Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. The regiment saw some skirmishing in North Georgia (Summerville and Ringgold) before joining in the battle at Chickamauga from September 18-20.

At Chickamauga, portions of Forrest's Corps fought as dismounted cavalry alongside infantrymen on the Confederate right flank,2 in the area where Great Grandfather Oakes fought. After helping to drive Rosecrans's army from the field on September 20, Forrest's men vigorously pursued the retreating enemy, taking hundreds of prisoners. Noting the obvious panic and disorder of the retreating Federal army, Forrest advised Gen Braxton Bragg that he should follow up the victory with an immediate attack to recapture Chattanooga, which Bragg had vacated weeks earlier. Urging Bragg into action, he wrote the next day,"Every moment lost is worth the life of a thousand men." But the commander-in-chief remained indecisive about pursuit.

Nathan Bedford Forrest
The inaction provoked Forrest openly criticized Bragg, who he believed had failed to capitalize on the Confederate victory. Frustrated with his commanding officer (some accounts say that Forrest threatened Bragg with his life, while others recall that it was Bragg that persecuted Forrest), Forrest requested a new assignment, and in October 1863, he was given independent command in Mississippi.

Promoted to major general in December 1863, Forrest fought a series of small engagements in Tennessee before defeating a much larger Union force at the Battle of Okolona in February 1864, and again shattering the Federals at Brices Crossroads in June. Forrest will be credited with several successes before he rejoins the Army of Tennessee in its ill-fated Battle of Franklin in November 1864. A master of cavalry deployment, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest will continue to distinguish himself throughout the remainder of the war.

1 In the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th Tennessee was commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Lewis. It fought in Nathan B. Forrest's Cavalry Corps in Frank C. Armstrong's Division, in Armstrong's Brigade, which was commanded by Col. James T. Wheeler. On September 28, Forrest was ordered to turn over his forces to Gen. Joseph Wheeler, and the regiment was reassigned to the 2nd Brigade of John A. Wharton's First Division in Wheeler's Corps.
2 Fighting with D.H. Hill's infantrymen (Great Grandfather's Oakes's corps), the lieutenant general was uncharacteristically impressed. Author Stanley F. Horn writes, that while the battle progressed Lt. Gen. Hill took of his hat to Forrest and said: "General Forrest, I wish to congratulate you and those brave men moving across the field like veteran infantry upon their magnificent behavior. In Virginia I made myself extremely unpopular with the cavalry because I said that so far I had not seen a dead man with spurs on; but no one can speak disparagingly of such troops as yours." Horn also notes that coming from the Virginian army, Hill was unfamiliar with how Western cavalry fought. Riding into position in a battle, every fourth man in the ranks would be assigned the duty of holding the 4 horses in the rear, while his comrades moved up to attack on foot. The horse-holders would keep up with the fighting as it developed so that the horses were available for quick transportation when needed.

Sources: The 6th Tennessee Cavalry (unpublished manuscript), John F. Walter; That Devil Forrest, John Allan Wyeth; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Mountains Touched With Fire; Wiley Sword

The death of poet Gen. William H. Lytle

There were myriad brave men who performed remarkable deeds on the Chickamauga battlefield, on September 18-20, 1863. One stirring example is Federal Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle, also a renown American poet.

As the Federals fled the Chickamauga battle line in the face of Longstreet's breakthrough this afternoon in 1863, not all the soldiers ran. Before Thomas made his famous stand on Horseshoe Ridge, Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle, commander of the First Brigade of Sheridan's division, led his men forward in a desperate charge to stem the overwhelming Rebel torrent.

Wiliam Lytle was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1826, to the son of a U.S. Congressman, directly descended from a distinguished Ohio pioneer family. After establishing a law firm, Lytle followed his family's tradition of military service, joining the army to fight in the Mexican-American War. He served with distinction during the war. While in Mexico, Lytle’s writing abilities became evident as he penned a series of letters, which were much admired for their poetic tone, and beautiful description of the Mexican scenery. Friends and family shared his letters, and some were published in Cincinnati newspapers.1 

After returning from the war to his law practice, Lytle was elected an Ohio state legislator. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Lytle, now a major general of his state's militia, was commissioned colonel of 10th Ohio Infantry. While commanding a brigade in Virginia, he received a severe leg wound, requiring convalescence at home. After a 4-month recuperation, he returned to duty, fighting in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, where he was again wounded and also taken prisoner. He was released in a prisoner exchange and returned to Rosecrans's army where he was soon promoted to brigadier general. One of the most beloved brigade commanders Lytle continued to serve in Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland up through his mortal wounding on today's date in Battle of Chickamauga.

Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle monument at Chickamauga
as it looked originally. The monument has since been
severely vandalized. Efforts are underway to restore it
through contributions to Friends of the Park.
Around noon, as the battle turned into a Federal rout, Brig. Gen. Lytle tried to hold his First Brigade in a brave but doomed hope of blunting the Confederate onslaught. "All right, men! We can die but once! This is the time and place. Let us charge!,” his men recalled him shouting as he attacked.

Leading from horseback, Lytle was struck in the spine and then the left side of his face before falling from his horse. One of his officers helped ease him to the ground. Then, wading through the lethal enemy fire, his men moved the general to a large tree where he died moments later. By now, the brigade had broken up and fled, leaving their fallen leader to the victors.

As Providence would have it, the general was killed by fire from the brigade of his old friend, Gen. Patton Anderson. Soldiers were posted to guard the body on what is now called "Lytle's Hill." Through the day, other Confederate officers stopped to pay their respect. That evening, soldiers paid tribute by reciting Lytle's poetry over campfires.

Later, during a truce between the armies at Chattanooga, Lytle's body was recovered and returned to Cincinnati. There funeral services were held on October 22, 1863, the largest such ceremony in that city until that time.

Already a celebrated American poet by the start of the war, by his death Lytle was one of the most famous generals in the Federal army. His most renown poem, "Antony and Cleopatra," published in 1857 in the Yale Book of American Verse,2  was beloved by Americans on both sides of the struggle. No doubt the ballad was one of those recited on the battlefield in his honor on this date. The poem was based on a scene from the Shakespearean tragedy as dying Mark Antony speaks to Cleopatra:
I am dying, Egypt, dying!
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arm, O Queen, enfold me,
Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear,
Listen to the great heart secrets
Thou, and thou alone, must hear.

Though my scarred and veteran legions
Bear their eagles high no more,
And my wrecked and scattered galleys
Strew dark Actium's fatal shore;
Though no glittering guards surround me,
Prompt to do their master's will,
I must perish like a Roman,
Die the great Triumvir still.

Let not Cæsar's servile minions
Mock the lion thus laid low;
'T was no foeman's arm that felled him,
'T was his own that struck the blow:
His who, pillowed on thy bosom,
Turned aside from glory's ray—
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
Madly threw the world away.

Should the base plebeian rabble
Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where the noble spouse Octavia
Weeps within her widowed home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness,—
Altars, augurs, circling wings,—
That her blood, with mine commingled,
Yet shall mount the throne of kings.

And for thee, star-eyed Egyptian—
Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
Light the path to Stygian horrors,
With the splendor of thy smile;
Give the Cæsar crowns and arches,
Let his brow the laurel twine:
I can scorn the senate's triumphs,
Triumphing in love like thine.

I am dying, Egypt, dying!
Hark! the insulting foeman's cry;
They are coming—quick, my falchion!
Let me front them ere I die.
Ah, no more amid the battle
Shall my heart exulting swell;
Isis and Osiris guard thee—
2  Lytle's poetry is available on Kindle in Poems of William Haines Lytle.

"Our last reckless charge that broke the enemy’s lines" | Day 2 of the Battle of Chickamauga

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson
With the arrival overnight of Gen. James Longstreet with 2 additional brigades, Confed-erate Gen. Braxton Bragg decided a hasty reorgani-zation of his army was in order. He placed the army's left, under Longstreet and the right under Leonidas Polk. Orders were made for a dawn attack, beginning with Polk's right wing in the north, with each division joining suc-cessively down the line from to the south. However, in the con-fusion and darkness, orders went astray and commanders could not be found. The Federals used the time to strengthen their mile-long defensive breastworks.

Toward morning on today's date, a Sunday in 1863, Gen. Patrick Cleburne received an order from Polk, explaining that he had sought in vain to locate Cleburne's corps commander, D.H. Hill, and so directed Cleburne to attack the enemy as soon as he could get into position. Polk sent an identical order to Gen. Breckinridge, now in position on Cleburne’s right.

About 7 AM, Hill received his copy of the orders, and immediately sent a message to Polk, explaining that it would be an hour before his divisions could move. Further, Hill informed Polk, “General Cleburne reports that the Yankees were felling trees all night, and consequently now occupy a position too strong to be taken by assault. What shall be done when this point is reached?” Bragg's reply came about 8 AM, with an order for Hill to attack as quickly as possible.

However, it will be 10:00 AM, 3 hours late, before Breckinridge opens the battle by striking toward Federal Gen. George Thomas's breastworks to the north of Cleburne's men. Two of his brigades drove all the way to the LaFayette road. But the left of Breckinridge's Division ran up against fierce fire from behind stronger fortifications, and the shot-up division was turned back. Confederate Brig. Gen. Ben Hardin Helm, President Lincoln's brother-in-law, was killed in the attack. By noon, Breckinridge's Division was ruined.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Now it was Cleburne's turn. From Cleburne's report of that morning:
I received orders from Lieut. Gen. Hill to advance and dress on the line of Gen. Breckin-ridge, who had been placed on my right. Accordingly, directing each Brigade to dress upon the right, and preserve its distance, I moved forward. Breckinridge was already in motion. The effort to overtake, and dress upon him, caused hurry and some confusion in my line, which was necessarily a long one.
Cleburne moved his division forward to began their own attack against Thomas's main line of defensive works. Almost immediately his men came under fire, and the advance became disorderly and needed to be rectified. However, before Cleburne could straighten out his lines, the men came under shattering firepower coming from the enemy's line.  According to Cleburne:
Polk's brigade and the right of Wood's encountered the heaviest Artillery-fire I have ever experienced. I was now within short canister range of a line of log breast-works, and a hurricane of shot and shell swept the woods, from the unseen enemy in my front.
This deadly fire was direct, and came from that part of the enemy's breast-works, opposite to my right and right centre; the rest of my line—stretching off to the left—received an oblique fire from the line of breastworks, which, at a point opposite my centre formed a retiring angle running off toward the Chattanooga-LaFayette road behind.
To the division's right and center the enemy's works ran about a half-mile north and south, and nearly parallel to the LaFayette road toward Chattanooga, which at this point was only 300 yards beyond. There Cleburne's men encountered the center of the Yankee fortifications, their works forming an angle, both sides running west toward the road. From Cleburne's center to his right were Lucius Polk's Brigade and Col. Mark P. Lowrey's Regiment of Wood's Brigade, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was fighting. Lowrey's men advanced in the lead in the most exposed part of the attacking line. It was nearly impossible for the men to line up an enemy target in their sights, so well fortified were the Federal log works.

Cleburne's report continues:
Passing toward the left at this time, I found that the line of advance of my Division, which was the left of the Right Wing of the Army, converged with the line of advance of the Left Wing of the Army; the flanks of the two wings had already come into collision—part of Wood's Brigade had passed over Bate's Brigade of Stewart's Division, which was the right of the Left Wing, and Deshler's Brigade, which formed my left, had been thrown out entirely, and was in rear of the Left Wing of the Army. I ordered Wood to move forward the remainder of his Brigade; opening at the same time in the direction of the enemy's fire with Semple's Battery.
That part of Wood's Brigade to the left of Lowrey's Regiment, and to the left of the Southern angle of the breast-works, in its advance at this time, entered an old field bordering the road (Chattanooga-LaFayette), and attempted to cross it in the face of a heavy fire from works in its front; it had almost reached the road, its left being at Poe's house (known as the Burning House), when it was driven back by a heavy oblique fire of small-arms and Artillery which was opened upon both its flanks. The fire from the right wing coming from the South face of the breast-works, which was hid from view by the thick growth of scrub-oak bordering the field. Five hundred men were killed and wounded by this fire in a few minutes.
At this point, the Confederates were well within the enemy's kill zone when their advance was checked. For Lowrey's troops it was the most severe ordeal they had yet experienced in the war. As Lowrey's men gained the summit of a ridge, they came under fire from a long line of infantry and a battery firing grapeshot from behind breastworks. "When they reached the top of a ridge 230 yards from the enemy's breastworks," reported Lowrey, "they took position behind trees and kept up a regular fire until the whole line had moved up to their position. The firing was heavy from the enemy's breastworks, and my whole line was soon engaged." Nearly a quarter of regiment's men were cut down here, including Maj. F.C. Karr and several of his men who tried to rescue him.1 Sgt. Thomas J. Webster, Pvts. James P. Carter, Jerry M. Layton, and John W. Looney of Great Grandfather's Co. D were also killed. Many other friends from his hometown of Kossuth, Mississippi were killed or wounded near this spot.

There was so little protection that the Confederates lay down and did their best to fire back at the log defenses, while at the same time erecting what little defense they could of limbs, rocks, and brush that could be hastily collected. Lowrey's report continues:
A battery could be seen from my right wing, and the smoke from the enemy's guns was all else that could be seen at which to direct our fire, as the enemy's works were constructed over the crest of the next hill. Being disengaged a considerable distance from the left of Polk's brigade, so that a line of infantry much longer than my own poured a direct and cross-fire into my ranks, and a battery only 230 yards in my front all the time pouring grape-shot upon us, made the fire by far the most severe I have ever witnessed.
In a very short time, I lost over one-fourth of my command in killed and wounded. Nineteen of my men now sleep in one grave near where the colors stood, all of whom were killed near that spot. I would have caused my men to fall back over the crest of the hill and cease firing, but having had orders to go forward and engage the enemy and none to fall back, I supposed it was my duty to keep up the fire, and that a movement was going on the enemy's right flank that would soon remove them from their stronghold.
Lowrey's Regiment clung to the crest for over an hour, while the rest of the Wood's Brigade was driven back with heavy losses. Supposing some other advance would be made to relieve him, Lowrey held on. But when his ammunition was practically exhausted, each man having expended his 40-round issue, Lowrey was forced to pull back his regiment as well. Captain Coleman of the 15th Batallion Sharpshooters, who followed Lowrey's decision to withdraw, observed: "Owing to the gallantry and coolness of Colonel Lowrey, his regiment fell back in fine order, and this inspired my own company… The good order preserved under so hot a fire was remarkable."

When Wood's Brigade withdrew, Cleburne moved up Deshler's Brigade to fill the gap it left, intending to connect Dreshler with the left of Polk's Regiment. However, by this time Polk's left had been driven back and was in serious danger. Cleburne was compelled to order Polk to fall back and join Wood's men in a strong defensive position more than 300 yards in rear of the point from which they had been repulsed.

Deshler moved his brigade forward toward the right of the enemy's defenses, but he could not go beyond the crest of the low ridge from which Lowrey had been forced back. Cleburne ordered Deshler to take cover there and hold his position as long as possible, while the rest of the division rested several hundred yards behind. Sadly, while in command of the advanced position, Gen. Deshler was killed when a shell hit him in the chest.

Other brigades were thrown forward in series rather than together. Some further to Lowrey's left made it as far as the LaFayette road before being turned back. Consequently, while each unit fought vigorously, they were not victorious. Gen. Leonidas Polk's decision not to assault Thomas with his whole wing had been a mistake. Bragg's plan that morning for a series of sequential attacks all along the line did not achieve the expected breakthrough.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
For Cleburne’s and Breckinridge’s Divisions that morning, their attacks were repulsed at great cost. To their credit, wrote Hill, the men fought in a single line without reserves or supporting forces, and they had assailed formidable breastworks. Their heroism and sacrifice had not been in vain, however, and their attack did have a significant influence on the outcome of the battle. Their piecemeal assaults, although repulsed, were so forceful that Gen. Thomas repeatedly called for reinforcements. Rosecrans, convinced that the Confederate army planned to turn his army's left, hurried heavy reinforcements (Gen. T.J. Wood's Division) to Thomas from the Federal right. The gap that opened shortly before noon offered Confederate General James Longstreet the opportunity to pierce the Federal right and achieve a decisive outcome.2

At 1 PM, Gens. Longstreet's and John Bell Hood's men surged through the opening at the Brotherton field, striking the exposed Federal right flank. Within 10 minutes the Rebels were across the LaFayette road, driving a deep wedge into the Federal rear. The Union center and right were routed and fled. Most of the demoralized Federals fled to Chattanooga, as did Generals Rosecrans, Crittenden, and McCook. Also fleeing was the Assistant Secretary of War, Charles A. Dana, who was present at the battle as an observer for Secretary Stanton. Part of a single division, Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's, stopped upon reaching a gap in Missionary Ridge, but it did not return to the battlefield. By sunset, which came around 6 PM, essentially the whole Federal army was full retreat through McFarland's Gap, not stopping until they got to Rossville on the outskirts of Chattannooga.

Yet, one obstinate Yankee corps general, George Thomas, did not flee. He was commanding the forces in Cleburne’s front when Longstreet attacked, and he remained in place. Only his unbroken line along the LaFayette Road, plus a few thousand more Federals on Horseshoe Ridge, still held the field.

Thomas soon formed a new line to his rear on Horseshoe Ridge from where he made a stubborn stand that halted Longstreet’s pursuit. With reinforcements, yet outnumbered 2 to 1, Thomas resisted Longstreet’s vigorous assaults throughout the afternoon, earning him the well-deserved nickname, "The Rock of Chickamauga," as well as the Thanks of the U.S. Congress. At 4 PM, Thomas received orders to withdraw from Rosecrans. The message was brought by future President, Chief of Staff James A. Garfield, who famously rode under enemy fire through the battlefield to Thomas on Snodgrass Hill. With the Federal army safely behind him at Chattanooga, Thomas quietly withdrew to Rossville under cover of darkness, there to await a renewed attack that never came. Then on the 21st, he retreated on to Chattanooga with the rest of the Federal army.
During Longstreet's attack on Thomas's position, Cleburne and Breckinridge regrouped their men for another assault. At about 3:30 PM, Polk ordered Cleburne to attack. Just before 5 PM, Cleburne had formed his battered men in a line and advanced. This time the Rebel attack was too heavy to be resisted. Cleburne's men drove the enemy's skirmishers, as my Great Grandfather recalled, "in our last reckless charge that broke the enemy’s lines."3 With help from the artillery the men took the works from which they had been repulsed that morning.

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson

As the Federals were fleeing, Polk's Brigade, with Lowrey's Regiment following in support, took up the pursuit some distance up the LaFayette road. Capturing the enemy's artillery and hundreds of prisoners, Cleburne halted his division in the enemy's camp to await further orders. His victorious men had finally gained the LaFayette road for which they had fought for 2 days. There they will camp for the night, while less than a half-mile to the west, Gen. Thomas is gathering a Federal force to make a stand on Horseshoe Ridge.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
The direction from which Cleburne's men attacked the Federal breastworks
in the Kelly field along the LaFayette Road

Initially, Bragg was unable to believe that the Confederates had won without following his battle plan. He, therefore, delayed in following up on his victory, which could have meant the complete destruction of Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland. The opportunity for overwhelming victory was allowed to pass.

________________________ The 32nd Regiment Roll of Honor ________________________

"Many of my best men fell," wrote Col. Mark P. Lowrey. Indeed the 32nd Regiment lost 25 killed and 141 wounded.  Major F.C. Karr was shot and died soon after the battle. The various companies selected the following men for the Roll of Honor: Smith Scroggins, (killed), Co. A; J.B. Milton (killed), Co. B; Samuel H. Stevenson, Co. C; J.W. Looney (killed), Co. D; Monroe M. Miller (killed), Co. E; J.M. Cooper, Co. F; C.H. Reed, Co. G; Sgt. John Calvin Dean, Co. H; C.C. Campbell (killed), Co. I; Sgt. T. W. Crabb, Co. K.

For his actions in this battle, Col. Mark P. Lowrey was promoted to brigadier general on October 4, 1863. He will be given command of Wood's Brigade, which will henceforth be called "Lowrey's Brigade." In his report of the battle, Lieut. Gen. D. H. Hill wrote: "Col. M. P. Lowrey has been deservedly promoted, and a worthier object of advancement could not have been selected." Gen. Cleburne said after the battle that Lowrey was “the bravest man in the Confederate Army."

In 1899, an old veteran from among this rescue party wrote to the Confederate Veteran magazine (Vol 7): "At about the time Maj. F.C. Karr fell Cleburne’s column fell back two hundred yards to get ammunition. Gen. Mark Lowrey came down the line and cried out: ‘Boys, you have left your major on the field, and he is still exposed to danger!’ Five men immediately volunteered to bring the wounded major from the field. They were D.W. Rogers, Jessee Cheeves, Serg. Hanks, Serg. Crabb, and W.P. Hammons. The Federals were still pouring a deadly fire into the field, and shot and shell were plowing the ground in every direction around the wounded officer. The five men walked across the field without faltering for an instant, and had secured the Major and were bringing him back to their line stretched on a blanket, when a bomb exploded among them. The brave fellows fell in a heap, with shattered limbs and bodies. They were rescued by other comrades, but all were maimed for life." 
2 Gen. John Bell Hood was severely wounded at the height of this assault, requiring the amputation of his right leg. He had earlier received a serious wound at the Battle of Gettysburg, rendering his left arm useless for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, this dedicated soldier will continue to lead men in battle. He will return to field service during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, and replace Bragg as the commanding general of the Army of Tennessee.
3 From a letter Nathan R. Oakes wrote to the editor of the Confederate Veteran magazine (Vol. 7, 1889). One of Great Grandfather's comrades in Co. D, Thomas "Ben" Settle, wrote home a few days after the battle: We have had a hard fight near this place. It commenced on the nineteenth of this month and ended on the twentieth. We had a very hard fight lost a great many men but succeded in driving the enemy from the field... They fought very stubbornly all the while, but our men went to the field determined to drive the enemy back, and they fought with that determination."

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West, Glenn Tucker; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Confederate Veteran, Vol. 7,  January 1899-December 1899; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill; National Archives Civil War Service Records; Official Records, Vol. 30, Pts. 1 & 2

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cleburne's sunset attack | Day 1 of the Battle of Chickamauga

The first day of the Battle of Chickamauga opened on this date, a Saturday in 1863. Just after daylight, a Union force from George Thomas's division was ordered to Jay’s sawmill to confront what was thought to be a lone Confederate brigade. Instead, the Federals ran into Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry.1 The 2 forces clashed the dense woodlands. The fierce fighting compelled Bragg to shift some of his forces to the right of the battle line. By 1 PM, the battle there reached a lull, and the fighting began to shift toward the middle of the Confederate line.

All morning the fighting rumbled southward, roughly following the LaFayette road, passing from the Confederate divisions of Cheatham, Walker, and then Stewart. Both sides took heavy casualties but neither gained an edge. Then around 4 PM, Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Stewart launched a charge that pushed back the Federal center across the LaFayette road, and it nearly carried the fight. But this attack stalled. To the south, Gen. John B. Hood had some success with driving his opponent on Stewart's left, but he gained no significant advantage for the fighting. Bragg needed to crush the Federals.

Hope lay with Gen. Patrick Cleburne, whose division will soon have an opportunity to change the dynamic of the battle. His men, having listened to cannonading all morning, are about to enter the fight. Early in the afternoon, Cleburne was ordered to move his division northward to Thedford's Ford, there to cross the Chickamauga Creek and to report to Gen. Leonidas Polk who would direct him into line. Cleburne set his men out on the 6-mile march along a road which was clogged by marching troops,  wagons, and artillery.

A little further up the road, and observing Cleburne's men marching under their distinctive blue and white banners, Gen. Forrest remarked to a subordinate, “Do you see that large body of infantry marching this way in columns of fours? That is General Pat Cleburne’s division; hell will break loose in Georgia in about fifteen minutes.”

Arriving ahead of his men at Thedford’s Ford, Cleburne received orders to continue northward to reinforce the right wing of the army under Gen. Polk. Bragg's plan was to attack the Federal army on its left flank, cut it off from Chattanooga, drive it southward to McLemore’s Cove, and there destroy it. Gen. D.H. Hill’s Corps, including Cleburne’s Division, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, was to spearhead the attack.

Artillery was firing in the east as Cleburne's men reached Thedford’s Ford in the late afternoon. Moving his men along immediately, the troops took off their shoes and pants, and holding their clothing and rifles high, they crossed the creek and resumed their march for 2 more miles over ground on which the battle had been raging all day. They arrived near the extreme right of the Confederate position just as the sun was setting.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Battlefield marker, September 19th, 6 PM
At about 5 PM, Cleburne formed his tired men in a line 300 yards behind Liddell’s and Cheatham's divisions, which were lying prone in a long skirmish line. When Gen. Hill rode up, he ordered Cleburne to ready for an attack even though it meant an evening fight in heavy woods on unfamiliar ground against an unknown foe. The Federals were posted behind defensive breastworks, albeit hastily con-structed, and they offered heavy artillery and small-arms fire.

Cleburne personally deployed his brigades in a line. He placed Gen. S.A.M. Wood’s Brigade, which included Great Grandfather Oakes's 32nd/45th Consolidated Mississippi Regiment, in the center with Lucius Polk's Regiment on the right and Dreshler's on the left. At 6 PM, Cleburne issued the order to advance. His troops passed through the ranks of Liddell’s prone men who gave them a cheer as they moved forward in a single rank into the twilight through the smoke-filled woods.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Battlefield marker, September 19th, 6:30 PM
“In my front," wrote Cleburne after the battle, "were open woods—with the exception of a clearing (fenced in) in front of my centre, the ground sloping upwards as we advanced. Ordering the Brigades to direct themselves by Wood’s (Center) Brigade, and preserve Brigade-distance, I moved forward—passing over the first line—and was in a few moments heavily engaged along my right and centre. The enemy, posted behind hastily-constructed breastworks opened a heavy fire of both small arms and artillery.”

In this attack, Col. Lowrey's 32nd/45th Regiment of Wood's Brigade was among the first to strike the enemy. Polk and Dreshler advanced through the thick and dark woods, but in the center lay the cleared Winfrey field directly in front of Wood’s men. As they stepped into the open ground and crossed the field, the Federals let loose a devastating fire. Years later, Lowrey recalled "my regiment charged gallantly through an open field on the most exposed part of the line." His regiment aimed its attack at the enemy's barricaded fence at the far edge of the Winfrey field. In his official report of the 32nd/45th Regiment's attack, Lowrey wrote:
The advance was accordingly made, and I soon passed a line of our troops lying down. As I approached an open field in my front my skirmishers soon engaged the skirmishers of the enemy. I pushed my line of skirmishers forward as rapidly as possible, but their advance was slow, as the ground was hotly contested. My main line gained rapidly on the skirmishers, so that by the time the main line reached the first fence they received a volley from the enemy’s main line, which was behind the next fence, about 200 yards distant. My main line then commenced firing as the skirmishers in their front retired to their rear, and the whole line was soon engaged. I pushed my regiment forward as rapidly as possible, but their advance was slow, as they were compelled to pass through an open field against a line of battle of the enemy strongly posted behind a fence. The advance, however, was steady, and the enemy's line began to give way as we advanced within 40 or 50 yards of the fence. Up to this time the enemy had fired rapidly, but as it was already getting dark they overshot us, only killing 5 of my men and wounding about 20, which was a small number considering their great advantage.  
During the advance some brigades got out of alignment, and some units fell back. In the confusion and terror of the nighttime battle, combatants on both sides fired into friendly ranks. Cleburne reported, "For half an hour the firing was the heaviest I had ever heard; it was dark, however, and accurate shooting was impossible. Each party was aiming at the flashes of the other’s guns, and few of the shot from either side took effect. In the darkness and smoke, the fire was mostly inaccurate, and men desperately tried to distinguish friend from foe."

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Tree line from where Wood's attack began
Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
The direction of Wood's attack through the Winfrey field (foreground),
and into the enemy-held woods beyond

Having crossed the field and clambered over the first line of entrenchments, Lowrey's men then came under fire from the enemy's main works about 200 behind. The division's lines by now had become confused and overlapping. Because of fear of shooting into friendly troops, Lowrey ordered a cease fire. By then, Cleburne had ordered Maj. Hotchkiss, whose batteries were behind Wood's Brigade, to bring up his artillery in front of the brigade. Hotchkiss, who was wounded in the attack, later reported he "let fly the dogs of war into the Yankee ranks" with double canister within 60 yards of the enemy's breastworks. The artillery fire, combined with pressure from Polk’s Brigade on the right, forced the enemy to fall back into the heavy woods.

Col. Lowrey ordered his men to hold the position while he reorganized his 32nd/45th Regiment for a further advance. In the meantime, Gen. Hill rode to Lowrey and ordered him to hold the position until further orders from Cleburne. By now, Wood's Brigade had taken the enemy's position, capturing 3 artillery pieces, 2 regimental colors, and 100 prisoners. In the struggle, it had also killed Col. Philemon Baldwin of the 6th Indiana, who was commanding the 3rd Brigade.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Monument of Col. Philemon P. Baldwin, 3rd Brigade. In the
center rear of the picture is the cannonball shell monument
marking the position where he was killed.

Further pursuit became impossible in the darkness, so around 9 PM, Cleburne halted his brigades. For all the fighting and terror, the attack had succeeded in pushing the Federals back only 300 yards. Rebel skirmishers were placed a quarter-mile in advance of the soldiers who slept without campfires in the miserable, near-freezing temperature. Some of them dozed with dead Federals for pillows, and everyone was painfully aware of the groans of the injured and dying scattered about. They also could hear the sound of axe blows and falling trees, which indicated that their renewed attack in the morning would mean assailing enemy defenses. Of the results of this fight, Author Steven E. Woodworth comments, "30 percent of the best division in the Army of Tennessee had become casualties while inflicting about equal losses on the enemy, and that was no bargain for the Confederacy."

As Cleburne's attack closes the first day of fighting, losses were great on both sides. One historian estimates casualties for the Confederates as high as 9,000. The Federal loss could have been as many as 7,000. There was one encouragement for the Confederates, however: The long-awaited Gen. James Longstreet had arrived. Overnight, Bragg placed Longstreet in command of the Left Wing of his army, and that will make all the difference in the fighting tomorrow.2


From Lieut. Gen. D.H. Hill’s Report of today's action, 1863:
In the afternoon I received an order to report in person to the commanding general at Thedford’s Ford, and to hurry forward Cleburne’s division to the same point. Soon after Breckinridge was ordered to relieve Hindman at Lee and Gordon’s Mills. I found, upon reporting to the commanding general, that while our troops had been moving up the Chickamauga, the Yankees had been moving down, and thus outflanked us and had driven back our right wing. Cleburne was ordered to take position on the extreme right and begin an attack. We did not get into position until after sundown, but then advanced in magnificent style, driving the Yankees back some three-fourths of a mile... We captured 3 pieces of artillery, a number of caissons, 2 stand of colors, and upward of 300 prisoners. His [our] own loss was small, and fell chiefly upon Wood’s brigade, which had to cross an open field and encounter breastworks upon the opposite side of it.
Gen Hill paid a rare complement when he reported of Cleburne’s men: “I have never seen troops behave more gallantly than did this noble division, and certainly I never saw so little straggling from the field.”

1 Great-great Grandfather, David Crockett Neal, was presently serving in Forrest's cavalry in Frank C. Armstrong's Division, in Armstrong's Brigade, which was commanded by Col. James T. Wheeler.
2 Overnight (19th-20th), James Longstreet arrived with 2 brigades. Three of his brigades arrived earlier, in time to participate in the first day's fight. Tonight, Bragg takes the risky step of reorganizing his army into 2 wings, placing the left under Longstreet and the right under Leonidas Polk. Because of the difficult reorganization in darkness and general confusion, the daylight attack on the 20th will not take place as ordered by Bragg. Orders went astray in the dense woods.

Sources: Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens; Mark P. Lowrey Autobiography; Six Armies in Tennessee, Steven E. Woodworth;  Official Records, Vol. 30, Pts. 1 & 2; Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 9; Confederate Military History, Vol 10; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill