1862-1865 Illinois Infantry. 92d Regiment.

Ninety-Second Illinois Volunteers online

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fell back, without fighting, at Gordon's Mill, about one o'clock
P. M. The advance was halted at the Mill, and horses fed from
a cornfield, and a feed of corn put into forage bags; and as the
Regiment was preparing to move forward, an orderly, from
General Rosecrans, rode up with orders to the Colonel to send
his Regiment to the foot of Lookout Mountain, on the Summer-
town road, and report in person for further orders to General-
Rosecrans, in Chattanooga; it thereby becoming apparent that
the Regiment could not report to him in Lafayette. Before the
Regiment could take the road, it was filled with a division of
infantry marching south, that found its journey southward im
peded by a heavy force of Rebel infantry, just beyond Gordon's
Mill ; so strong, indeed, that no troops under Rosecrans ever
marched any farther south on that road. As soon as the road
was cleared of the infantry division, the Ninety-Second retraced
its march to Rossville, and on to the foot of Lookout Mountain.
The Colonel rapidly rode to Chattanooga, and was ordered bv
General Rosecrans to open communication with General George
H. Thomas, somewhere on the top of Lookout Mountain, south
of Chattanooga. An hour before sundown, the Colonel returned,
and the men dismounted, and, leading their horses, began the
toilsome ascent of Lookout Mountain, the head of the column
reaching the summit near dark. A storm had come up, and !he
rain poured down in torrents. The Regiment on the mountain



NINETY-SECOND ILLINOIS. 105

top was enveloped in the clouds, that seemed to sweep the very
ground. A guide was pressed into service, and leaving a squad
of men belonging to Company K, as a courier post at Summer-
town, the Regiment pushed along down the top of the mountain
in the storm and darkness, establishing frequent courier stations
with the men of Company K, until all of that company were on
such duty, and then with the men of Company C, exhausting
that company also. It was a tedious march; the storm, con-
tinuous, and the darkness so thick it could be felt; the animals
and men weary, and many of the men would fall asleep upon
their horses. It was a rough road, and the artillery was contin-
ually falling in rear. The head of the column would halt; and
when the artillery closed up in rear, the Commander of the
Artillery would cry out, " Artillery closed up;" and it would be
taken up by the officers along the line, until the head of the col-
umn was informed, when it would push along, feeling its way in
the darkness. During these halts, many of the exhausted men
laid down by the road-side; and when the column started, their
horses would keep their places in the ranks ; but it was so dark
that their companions could not tell whether the horses had riders
or not, until they found the saddles empty in the morning. At
three A. M., the picket of General Thomas halted the column.
The Regiment went into bivouac: and the Colonel, accompanied
by Major Lawver, proceeded to General Thomas's head-quarters
to deliver his dispatches, which he accomplished at four o'clock
A. M. on September twelfth, and by six o'clock A. M. of that day,
had returned a letter twenty-five miles over the courier line, and
placed it in the hands of General Rosecrans, at Chattanooga. At
nine A. M., the exhausted men were roused; and an hour after-
ward, the Regiment moved down off from Lookout Mountain to
the east, by Cooper's Gap, leaving Companies K and C on cou-
rier duty, and they did not join the Regiment again until long
after the battle of Chicamauga. Details were sent out for forage,
and the Regiment rested at the foot of Cooper's Gap. On the
thirteenth, the Regiment moved farther into the valley, and
camped at Pond Spring. On the fourteenth, the Ninety-Second
moved at daylight, with orders to scout along the north-west side
of the Chicamauga River, and open communication with Gene-
ral Crittenden at Crawfish Springs, and inform General Critten-
den of the position of the Union troops. Every road and
path crossing the Chic miauga was found picketed by the Rebel
pickets; reached Crawfish Springs at eleven o'clock, and came
13



io6 NINETY-SECOND ILLINOIS.

very near being fired upon by the Union infantry there encamped,
who insisted that the Rebels had been seen a little while before
on the road by which the Regiment approached; learned that
Crittenden had marched toward Lookout Mountain ; rested half
an hour, and fed our animals. A strong scouting party was sent
back to Pond Spring, by the road just marched over, and the
Regiment followed on the road Crittenden had taken. The
scouting party found the Rebel videttes occupying the same sta-
tions as before, at every crossing and path over the Chicamauga,
and the woods full of Rebel soldiers, claiming to be deserters
from the Rebel army, which they depicted as in full retreat.
Orders were obeyed, and they were not molested. Three roads
were found over which Bragg's forces had moved from Chatta-
nooga, evidencing the fact that he had deployed his army south
and east of the Chicamauga. If in full retreat, with the abundant
leisure at Bragg's disposal, his columns would not move by di-
visions over unfrequented roads, leading nowhere except into the
dense forests south and east of the Chicamauga. Crittenden's
command was found, while it was halting for a rest, at about two
o'clock P. M. The Colonel had been directed to explain to Gene-
ral Crittenden the position of the Union troops, and did so ; and
informed him that everv road and path across the Chicamauga
was held by the enemy. General Crittenden very testily replied
that there was no enemy between him and Lafayette. He found
out for himself afterward, and to his cost. The Regiment re-
turned to Pond Spring, and the result of the scout was officially
reported. During the night, the Colonel was ordered to deliver a
sealed letter to General Crittenden, from General Rosecrans, and
he detailed a Corporal and four men to carry it ; the Corporal
found General Crittenden's head-quarters, at four o'clock A. M.
on the fifteenth, but at first, was refused permission to deliver his
dispatch, as General Crittenden had ordered that his slumbers
must not be disturbed. But the Corporal persisted, and delivered
his letter to the General in person while Crittenden was Iving in
bed; and, by insisting upon it, received from him a written receipt
for the package, which was returned to the Colonel. During the
fifteenth and sixteenth, the Regiment lay in camp at Pond Spring,
sending scouting parties, as ordered, in every direction, except
across the Chicamauga. That was a locality not comfortable to
scout in; and it appeared as if there was no anxiety to learn any-
thing about its topography, or who occupied it. Just at dark, on
the sixteenth, General Rosecrans and staff rode by the camp, and



NINETT-SECOND ILLINOIS. 107

there soon came an order to the Colonel to report to General Rose-
crans, at the head-quarters of General Reynolds, and the Colonel
did so, when General Rosecrans demanded to know why his
dispatch to General Crittenden, on the evening of the fourteenth,
had not been promptly delivered; and he was informed that it was
promptly delivered at Crittenden's head-quarters before daylight
the next morning, and Crittenden's receipt was handed to General
Rosecrans. He then sent for the Corporal who delivered it, and
inquired of him all the particulars, as to where and at what time
his orders to Crittenden were delivered. The Colonel detailed all
the iniormation the Regiment had obtained scouting. Generals
Rosecrans, Thomas, McCook, Reynolds, Baird and others were
present. The Colonel expressed it as his opinion that Bragg was
in force in the immediate front, when McCook, even more testily
than Crittenden had before done, replied that there was no enemy
to amount to anything between them and Lafayette ; that he could
march his command into Lafayette without the loss of five men.
Alas, for McCook! he learned for himself, too, afterward, and not
wholly to the credit of h,is sagacity or generalship. General
Thomas quietly, but very persistently and patiently, inquired about
the topography of the country the Ninety-Second had scouted over,
the roads and bridges across the Chicamauga, and listened
silently and attentively to the detail of all that the Ninety-Second
had learned regarding the country or the enemy. On the morn-
ing of the seventeenth, Company E, Captain Van Buskirk, was
ordered to report to General J. B. Turchin, whose brigade made a
reconnoissance to the foot of Pidgeon Mountain, at Dug Gap,
where he found the enemy in strong force, and fought desperately
all day. The Regiment was ordered out also, and spent the day
in scouting around the flanks of Turchin's command, finding a
considerable body of Rebel cavalry on his right flank. While
Company E was holding the valley road, on Turchin's right, a
heavy column of dust was observed approaching from the south.
McCook was expected from that direction ; and, after barricading
the road, not desiring to fire into our troops, Corporal Henry
Schlosser, of Company E, of Forreston, was sent up the road waiv-
ing his handkerchief. He was taken prisoner, and died in Ander-
sonville grave 2,585. While taking back the horses, private
Charles H. Giles, of Company E, of Baileyville, was instantly
killed. The enemy charged the barricade held by Company E, but
did not take it. John Evans, private Company E, of Polo, was
wounded. At sundown the fighting ceased, and the Regiment



io8 NINBTr-SECOND ILLINOIS.

went into camp on the old ground at Pond Spring. Charles H.
Giles was the first man killed in the Regiment. He was buried
that night near Pond Spring, by the light of fat pine torches, with
appropriate ceremonies by the Chaplain. On the eighteenth, the
Regiment remained in camp most ot the day. The men had noth-
ing to eat except green corn, and the animals nothing at all. A
few scouting parties were sent out. At two P. M., learning that
the brigade train was a few miles up the valley, the Regiment
marched to the train and drew three days' rations and one day's
forage, and returned to camp at Pond Spring. At daylight, on
September nineteenth, the Regiment was in the saddle, and
marched slowly with the infantry columns on the road toward
Gordon's and Chattanooga. At eight o'clock, the artillery and
musketry firing by a portion of Thomas's corps became heavy and
continuous. About ten o'clock A. M. the Ninety-Second was
ordered into line near Widow Glenn's house, where General Rose-
crans made his head-quarters. A soldier writes: " A man came
along and asked, ' What regiment is this in line here?' I answered,
' The Ninety-Second Illinois, Wilder's Brigade.' ' That is good,'
said the man. I turned and looked at him, and saw the buttons
in groups of three on his coat, his shoulder-straps being hidden by
a common cavalry overcoat. When he says, looking at the men
coming out of the woods in front of the Regiment, ' What men
are those coming up there?' I said, 'I am told that is Hazen's
Brigade.' He then inquired rapidly, ' What does it mean? Where
is that fighting? How long has it been going on? What troops
are engaged? How far is that from here? What does that dust
mean? What does it mean?' To these questions I answered as
promptly and definitely as I knew how, for I saw I was in the
presence of the General commanding. He gave directions to his
men to open the road in the rear, and to establish his head-quarters
at the house, and immediately up went a field telegraph line." In
a few minutes General Rosecrans ordered the Regiment to throw
down the fence in its front and on the farther side of the field,
which was done, and the Regiment remained there about an hour,
when orders came from General Reynolds to move farther toward
the left, and the Regiment mounted and galloped up the road a
mile or more, and found General Reynolds, who ordered it into a
thick piece of woods. The men dismounted and held their horses,
and stray bullets from the Rebels rattled over the Regiment, cut-
ting the leaves on the trees. After some time the Regiment was
ordered to cross to the west side of the road, and go beyond a hill,



NINETY-SECOND ILLINOIS, 109

and hitch the horses in the woods, out of danger, and return dis-
mounted, General Reynolds saying that all his troops were hotly
engaged, and that the Ninety-Second was his only reserve. The
Regiment soon dismounted, hitched their horses to the trees, and

marched back to General Reynolds, who was found on a hill



having himself crossed to the west side of the road, and the Ninety-
Second was directed to reinforce King's brigade of Reynolds' di-
vision, and the Regiment marched down the hill, and just before
crossing the road at the foot of the hill the troops of King's brig-
ade came out of the woods beyond, in disorder and retreating.
General Reynolds ordered the Ninety-Second to return to the top
of the hill and form in line. The order was executed with difficulty
under the straggling fire of the enemy, the men obeying orders
and falling into line while the soldiers of King's broken brigade,
in full retreat, poured through the Regiment and by its flanks, pur-
sued by the gray-coated Rebels. The Ninety-Second poured into
the enemy a heavy fire, which halted the Rebel advance at the
edge of the timber at the farther side of the open field and across
the road : but they kept up a light fire for a little while, from the
timber, and then they came out in a long line of battle, stretching
far beyond both flanks of the Ninety-Second, and again the cool
fire of the Regiment, and a battery of artillery on its left, sent the
enemy in their immediate front back to the cover of the timber
across the road; but the flanks were being enveloped, and the
Ninety-Second could not alone repulse the yelling gray -coats, who
had just broken the line of King's entire brigade, and, flushed with
victory, were pressing forward their steady line of battle, and the
Ninety-Second was ordered to fall back to the horses and mount.
It was but the work of a moment, and the Regiment was soon be-
yond the range of the Rebel infantry. The loss in this engage-
ment was: In Company A, Lieutenant William Cox, wounded;
Sergeant Legrand M. Cox, severely wounded. In Company B,
Sergeant William F.Campbell, wounded; private John D. Mc-
Sherry, killed; private James J. Guthrie, wounded; private Edgar
S. Lent, wounded. Company C, private James T. Halleck, killed.
Company D, private Charles J. Reed, killed; private Jacob M.
Snyder, wounded. Company E, private John Donohue, mortally
wounded; private Coates L. Wilson, mortally wounded ; private
John J. Thompson, severely wounded ; private Jacob Sellers,
killed. Company G, Lieutenant William McCammons, severely
wounded; private James Foreman, wounded; Corporal Joseph B.
Train, wounded ; private Ernest Koller, wounded ; private Nathan



no NINBTT-SBCOND ILLINOIS.

Corning, killed. Company H, Sergeant Roster J. Preston, killed ;
Sergeant John M. Hendricks, severely wounded; private William
S. Harlin, mortally wounded; private Cyrus Eyster, wounded.
Company!, Sergeant William H. Price, wounded ; Corporal James
A. Colehour, wounded ; Corporal James A. Bigger, killed.

There were many horses lost, not by Rebel shot, however, but
taken by the straggling infantry, while the Ninety-Second was
absent from them. The Regiment never dismounted after that,
without leaving a guard with their horses. Once out of range of
the enemy, the query arose of what to do. The Regiment was
without orders, and many troops were streaming off toward Chat-
tanooga; but the Ninety-Second was not demoralized by its effort
to retrieve the disaster to King's brigade, although it was .a fruit-
less effort, and the Regiment had met with loss. The Regi-
ment sought the left flank of the troops of the enemy that had
broken through the Union lines, in the gap left when King's
brigade was pushed back, found it, passed by it, and in its rear,
and found Wilder's brigade, and went into line of battle on Wil-
der's left, filling a part of the very gap made by the Union repulse,
where the Regiment lay in line of battle all night, listening to
the agonizing cries of the wounded calling for water; and, before
daylight, on the twentieth, was stretched out in line of battle on
horseback, to hold Wilder's brigade front, while the balance
of the brigade went back a mile or more, and formed in line on
the right of McCook's corps, on a range of hills. When it grew
light, the enemy was seen along the front, and there was a little
skirmishing, but the firing gradually ceased, and the Rebels ven-
tured out into the open field in _our front, to pick up their
wounded. The men of the Ninety-Second saw them carrying
them back, and had no heart to fire upon them while engaged in
such a work. Wilder had been charged by the gray-coats several
times, over that open field, the day before, and his Spencers had
punished them severely. Wilder's brigade was invincible; it
never failed to repulse a charge, and never was repulsed when
charging. Not long after sunrise, a heavy column of Rebel
troops, in column of regiments, was observed passing by the left
flank of the Ninety-Second, moving very slowly, making not a
sound, unaccompanied by an officer on horseback, and frequently
halting, as the light skirmish line in front of them would halt.
Information was sent to McCook, who irritably denied the truth-
fulness of the information. Little by little, the gray-coated
soldiers of the enemy, and, as silently as darkness, crept along.



NINETY-SECOND ILLINOIS. rn

It was said to be Longstreet's corps. Their skirmish line was
but lightly engaged; but the heavy column of the enemy, some-
times dropping down on the ground, concealed in the corn-field,
or by the thick underbrush, slowly, steadily pushed t9ward Mc-
Cook's left. Lieutenant Colonel Sheets, of the Ninety-Second,
was sent to see McCook in person, and saw him, detailing to him
the information, and was most abruptly and ungraciously received
by McCook. The Ninety-Second could make no impression by
attacking such a dense mass of the enemy; nor could it do so
without positive disobedience to orders, by leaving the position it
was assigned to hold. The Rebel column was far off on its left
flank, and had far passed it, and McCook was again informed of
the coming avalanche, but he would not heed the information, or
do what he might easily have done, push out a few regiments of
his own troops, and demonstrate the truthfulness, or otherwise, of
the information repeatedly sent him. Hours passed by, and then
that quiet, creeping, heavy column of Rebel regiments sprang
upon the left of McCook's corps with a yell, and with irresistible
force. Although McCook had been repeatedly informed of the
approach of that column of the enemy in such overwhelming
power, it was a perfect surprise to him. In less than ten minutes
his left was irretrievably lost, and the amazed and astonished
General looked on helplessly, his corps broken into fragments,
and floating off from the battle-field in detachments and squads,.
like flecks of foam upon a stream. The eight companies of the
Ninety-Second, on horseback, were scattered out in a thin line,
covering a brigade front, the men only in talking distance of each
other, and were the only advanced troops in front of McCook, and
were really in front of the right of his corpse; and the charge of
that column was the signal for the whole Rebel line to advance,
and the Ninety-Second had to fall back rapidly, to avoid being
enveloped, and it joined Wilder's brigade, that was on the right
of McCook. Colonel Wilder, from the hills McCook had occu-
pied, saw the long column of Rebel regiments, and instantly
conceived the bold idea of charging through the very center of
the Rebel column, taking it in flank, and pushing for Thomas, on
the left. He was just the man to have led such a desperate
charge. He had five regiments, and a splendid battery, four
regiments armed with the Spencer Repeating Rifle, and the
Ninety-Second, with three companies of Spencers. He intended
to form two regiments front in line of battle, with opening for the
battery, a regiment on each flank in column, and the Ninety-Second



ii2 NINETT-SECOND ILLINOIS.

in line'of battle in rear of the battery ; and the Ninety-Second was
just moving to take its place in this desperate charging column,
when Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, rode up to
Wilder, and ordered him not to make the attempt, and positively
ordered Wilder to withdraw to Chattanooga, on the Dry Valley
road. Wilder was daring and desperate ; Dana, a coward and an
imbecile; and but for Dana's order, the gallant Wilder would
have undertaken that desperate charge, and would have succeeded
in joining Thomas with a portion of his gallant brigade. Gath-
ering up the artillery McCook's corps had abandoned, and, proba-
bly, a hundred ambulances of wounded, Wilder lingered until
nearly night; then sullenly retired, followed by Forrest's cavalry,
and, long after dark on the twentieth, bivouaced a mile south of
the Summertown road, about five miles south of Chattanooga, in
the shadow of Lookout Mountain. It is not the province of the
Publication Committee of the Ninety-Second to write the com-
plete history of that battle; the foregoing is but a fragment for the
use of some future American Macaulay.

Doctor Clinton Helm, Surgeon of the Ninety-Second, re-
mained upon the battle-field, caring for the wounded, until he was
taken prisoner, and, as a prisoner, for two weeks longer attended
to the wounded Union soldiers upon the battle-field of Chica-
mauga, when he was marched, with about fifty other Yankee
Surgeons, to Ringgold. From there he was taken by cars to
Richmond, Virginia, and, on the tenth of October, was confined
in Libby Prison. On the twenty-fourth of November, he was ex-
changed, and returned to the Regimental Pulaski, Tennessee.

At sunrise of the twenty-first, the Regiment was in the saddle,
and, finding the brigade supply train at the foot of the Summer-
town road, drew rations, and marched through Chattanooga,
crossed the pontoons to the north side of the river, marched to a
point opposite the mouth of the Chicamauga, and bivouaced. On
the twenty-second, light fortifications, facing the river, were
thrown up. On the twenty-third, the Regiment marched to Har-
rison's Landing, and went into camp, with orders to picket the
Tennessee as far north as the Hiwassee, as the only dependence
for rations to feed the army at Chattanooga were wagon trains
over the mountains, on the north side of the river from Bridge-
port, and well-grounded fears were entertained that the enemy
would cross parties of light troops to the north side of the river,
and put an embargo on the' Yankee cracker line. They did cross,
and .burned three hundred wagons loaded with rations, in the Se



NINETY -SECOND ILLINOIS. 113

quatchie valley ; but did not cross at any point guarded by the
Ninety-Second Regiment. They crossed farther up the Tennes-
see, where the crossing was better. Our picket line was so long
that, frequently, a Corporal and three men did picket duty for days
in succession, at important river crossings, without being relieved .
It often happened that not a well man was in camp for days to-
gether, except the field officers, the Chaplain, and Assistant Sur-
geon ; and not all of them remained in camp, for some of them
would go galavanting around the country, visiting the secesh las-
sies! The Committee on Publication do not feel inclined to tell
who those galavanting officers were, except that the gay and
festive Major was, probably, not among them, and that Chaplain
Cartright was. The Committee have concluded to give an
account of one of the Chaplain's visits : The Major, out riding
for health one afternoon, passed a Tennessee palace, not far from
camp, where he observed one of the beautiful lassies of that beau-
tiful country engaged in the romantic occupation of coloring
home-made cotton cloth butternut color, a chemical metamor-
phosis which is accomplished by boiling butternut bark in water,
in large kettles, and dipping the cloth into the liquor procured by
such boiling. It may be remarked here, that from time imme-
morial, in all of those countries where cotton is the staple crop,
and butternut, or black-walnut trees are found (and they probably
are found in every climate where cotton will grow), this peculiar
butternut colored cloth is the almost universal dress of male and
female; although the same material, colored by some mysterious



Online Library1862-1865 Illinois Infantry. 92d RegimentNinety-Second Illinois Volunteers → online text (page 11 of 37)