Charles A. (Charles Addison) Partridge.

History of the Ninety-sixth Regiment, Illinois volunteer Infantry online

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he seemed to say to his audience of five States and to the two
armies at his feet, that human valor could not avail against
his natural strength.

We knew something about the difficulties of the proposed
battle ground. From our former camp on Moccasin Point we
had become familiar with the rocky outlines of the mountain,
and knew something as to the position and strength of the
Rebel works ; and that morning, through occasional breaks in
the clouds, we caught glimpses of Point Lookout, with its
crowning battery ; we could see the sheer descent of the
palisades, declaring, with cold, stony logic, that the crest of
the mountain could not be carried by direct assault, and lower
down we knew that there were steep ravines, rock-strewn
slopes, terrible tangles of felled timber, and strong lines of
works filled with watchful foes. We were willing to face
men, but were we not asked to do that and to fight with the
elemental forces of nature at the same time ? Yery little time
was left us, however, to debate the chances of success or
failure. The time for action had come, and at once we set
out to make, if possible, a secret side entrance on the lofty
stage of that splendid theatre of war.

The troops commanded by Gen. Hooker in the battle of
Lookout Mountain were, Gen. Geary's Division of the Twelfth
Corps, Gen. Osterhaus' Division of the Fifteenth Corps, and
Gens. Whittaker's and Grose's Brigades of the Fourth Corps.
The Reserve Corps, to which we had belonged until within a
few weeks of this time, had been incorporated into various
commands, and we now belonged to the Second Brigade, First



1863] CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN. 265

Division, Fourth Army Corps, our Corps commander being
Gen. Granger, with Gen. Charles Cruft as Division com-
mander for the time being, and Gen. Whittaker as Brigade
commander.

The general plan of the battle was that while Gen. Hooker
was making a direct attack on the mountain in the face of the
Rebel works, a flanking force under cover of this attack and
concealed by the fog, should cross Lookout Creek, scale the
side of the mountain, advance in line-of -battle along the side
of the mountain, with their right resting on the palisades, and
strike the enemy on the flank and rear.

Gen. Geary's Division and our Brigade formed this flank-
ing force ; Gen. Grose's Brigade of our Division being left
in the valley to seize the road bridge just below the railroad
crossing, repair the bridge, cross over and form a junction
with our line when we should have advanced that far.

From Wauhatchie we marched up Lookout Valley under
cover of the fog, and before crossing Lookout Creek to make
the direct ascent of the mountain we laid aside our knapsacks
and all the dead weight that we could possibly spare. In our
coming struggle with altitude and gravitation we must carry
no needless burdens. The man, his musket, and something
to put in it, was about all that such ground permitted. Even
the horses of the field and staff were left behind. Lookout
Creek was so high from recent rains that it was not easily
crossed. Our Regiment clambered across on an old dam
which was in part overflowed, reaching the right bank at about
8 A. M. The direct ascent of the slope was effected with no
opposition save that offered by the difficulty of the ground.
When the right of our column neared the palisades we formed
in line-of-battle, our right resting near the perpendicular
rocks which rose grimly above us, our line stretching far down
the slope toward the creek, and then we advanced toward the
Rebel works, sweeping the entire side of the mountain. Much
of the ground over which we advanced was rough beyond
conception. It was covered with an untouched forest growth,
seamed with deep ravines, and obstructed with rocks of all
sizes which had fallen from the frowning wall on our right.






266 HISTORY OF THE 96TH REGIMENT, ILL. V. 1.

The ground passed over by our left was not quite so rough ;;
but, taking the entire stretch of mountain side traversed by
our force in driving the enemy around Point Lookout, it was
undoubtedly the roughest battle field of the war.

At first our Regiment was in the second line, but soon
we were ordered to take the right of the first line, as close
under the palisades as possible, which position we retained
during the day. This necessarily required us to face the
steepest and roughest ground along the whole line, and
brought us nearest the sharpshooters, who were posted along
the crest of the ridge; but that which seemed to threaten
our destruction was, in fact, our safety, for the guns of the
upper battery could not touch us, even when their depressed
muzzles almost kissed the rocks ; and though the steep, raking
shots of the sharpshooters, fired from the edge of the cliff,
had a very wicked sound as they went whizzing down the
regimental line, most of them were too high to do any injury.

But our advance at first was unopposed and seemingly
unnoticed. The attention of the enemy was centered on
Osterhaus, who was engaged in forcing a crossing directly
on his front. The silence was almost painful for a time.
Every moment we expected to hear it broken by sharp shots
from the rocks overhead, or by a rattling volley from behind
the innumerable boulders in front of our advancing line. But
nothing was heard save the tramping of many feet, and the
hard breathing of men unused to mountain climbing.

But soon heavy skirmishing began on our left toward the
base of the mountain. Grose was forcing his way across
Lookout Creek and preparing to bring his right into alignment
with Geary's left, and farther down the creek Wood was rang-
ing his battle front, with the intention of climbing into the
clouds over the rebel works.

At 11 A. M. our left connected with Osterhaus' right, and
the line-of-battle was complete from the palisades to the-
mountain's base, thence curving away toward the northern end.
of Lookout ; a sickle of Mars, whose blue blade and fire-tipped
edge was that day to sweep around its point as a pivot, and.
reap a glorious harvest.



1863] SWEEPING ABOUND LOOKOUT. 2CT

The upper slopes and northern end of the mountain were
now assailed by a fierce artillery fire from batteries in Look-
out Valley and on Moccasin Point. A number of command-
ing hills in the valley took a strong interest in the topography
of Lookout, and began to drop shells in advance of our line
in places where they were likely to do the most good for us
and over the shoulder of the mountain we could hear Bran-
nan's guns on Moccasin Point, defying their old antagonist
with a fury which boded ill for all who lay within the range
of that upsoaring tempest of iron.

And the batteries of the enemy were prodigal of powder,
now that the hour of conflict had come. The guns on the side
of the mountain swept the slope, along and up which our
troops were making their toilsome advance, and the high-
perched battery on the crest of the mountain threw iron gages
at the feet of its circle of antagonists in both valleys, chal-
lenges which were promptly accepted and gallantly answered,
1 The auricular effect of this artillery fire on us, who were
close under the palisades, was grand and startling beyond
description. The rocky sounding board rising on our right
tossed back the reports of our own guns, and multiplied them
into a continuous roar, and when the guns above our heads-
made answer it seemed as though the entire vault of the sky
had exploded with each report. A little later in the day, when
this battery was thundering out of the clouds which densel}-
shrouded the crest of the mountain, it would have required
but little stretch of the imagination to have supposed that
"cloud-compelling Jove" had appeared as champion of the
Confederacy, and, from a new Olympus, was hurling thunder-
bolts of modern make with more than his old-time vigor.
But alas for the cause which no champion could save ! for the
blue-coated Titans needed no Ossa on Pelion to aid them ia
their upward climb, and in a few hours they would pluck the
thunderbolts from the cloud. This artillery fire quickened
our advance along the side of the mountain, and opposition
was soon developed on our immediate front. It was a skir-
mish fire at first, but it became more and more spirited as we
advanced. A Rebel soldier came running toward us with



268 HISTORY OF THE 96 r ra REGIMENT, ILL. Y. I.

uplifted hands, in token of surrender, and taking this as an
earnest of victory, our men clambered over the rocks with
cheers, driving the advance line of the enemy before them.
Soon we came in sight of their works, but to our joy we saw
that they had been constructed to resist a direct attack from
below, and that from our position we could rake them with an
enfilading fire, or even pass around their refused flank and
attack them in rear.

No doubt our leaders ordered a charge, but with such
advantages in plain sight, to charge and capture the works
hardly called for a formal command. Soldierly instinct was
enough ; or, if anything more had been necessary, the yet
fresh memories of that bloody field, lying eight or nine miles
on the other side of Lookout, would have made us irresistible
had the opposition been twice as great.

Col. "W. F. Dowd, of the 24th Mississippi, who commanded
this part of the Rebel line, says, in a description of the battle
published in the Southern Bivouac, that his orders were "to
hold his post till hell froze over ; " and, thinking at this junc-
ture that the ice was about five feet thick, he ordered his men
to fall back.

But the gallant Colonel does not seem to have been well
informed as to the temperature of the infernal regions at that
particular time, for the resistance which he opposed to our
advance was such as a thin skin of ice would oppose to a
Cunarder when under full headway. Our charge on the
entrenchments was like the rush of an avalanche. The enemy
forsook their works and retreated along the side of the moun-
tain toward the Craven House, leaving many prisoners in our
hands.

No regular line-of-battle confronted us after this until we
reached the eastern side of the mountain ; but the broken
Rebel line maintained an active skirmish fire, and the rough
nature of the ground afforded them such ample cover, and at
the same time made our advance so difficult a task, that our
progress, though steady, was not rapid.

The cloud, which had not been very dense when we charged
on the enemy's works, now settled very densely along the side



1863] THE BATTLE IN THE CLOUDS.

of the mountain, and was at once a source of perplexity and
a great protection. Wrapped in a seamless mantle of vapor r
we became confused as to locality, direction and distance.
Some of our men became entangled in the felled timber,'
which, at this point, obstructed the slope, and were separated
from their command. But the cloud effectually concealed us
from our unassailable foes on the upper part of the mountain,
who could have inflicted severe loss on us had the day been
clear.

This battle has been poetically termed "The Battle above
the Clouds," but literally it was a battle in the clouds. It
seemed like a war waged by the elements rather than a battle
fought by men. The viewless artillery of the skies seemed to
bellow above our heads and beneath our feet, and the bursting
shells were dread thunderbolts. To some minds it seemed
like cloud and fire capped Sinai, when God came down on it&
dread top to give the law. From the veiled summit burst
thunderings and lightnings, and the mountain quaked a&
though the feet of Jehovah were treading its high places ; and,
as of old, a vast concourse of spectators in the valley below
were anxiously waiting to see what results would come forth
from the clouds. And did not God, by the results of that
day and the day following, say to the States which lie around
that commanding summit, ' ' Let the oppressed go free ? " The
original Emancipation Proclamation was written by the God
of Battles with fire and steel, and President Lincoln some-
what tardily copied it with pen and ink.

At 12 o'clock our line was swinging around Point Lookout,
the right of our Regiment being the pivot, and the left of the
line sweeping around toward Chattanooga. Is it too much to
say that the clock of history struck high noon when that mighty
index finger pointed due north on that rocky dial face? Cer-
tainly the afternoon of the Southern Confederacy began to
decline from that hour.

The cloud now began to lift, and spectators in Chattanooga
Valley could dimly see our advancing line. They needed no
courier from the mountain side to tell them that those advanc-
ing flags meant victory ; and as we had little breath for cheer-



270 HISTOKY OF THE 96'rH REGIMENT, ILL. Y. I.

ing, they cheered for us with all their might. The Brigade
Bands in the valley began to play, and we wrote the score
which inspired them.

Before 2 P. M. we had reached the eastern side of the
mountain, and were driving the enemy toward the Summer-
town Road. Members of the NINETY-SIXTH will never forget
the headlong charge over the "nose " of Lookout to the relief
of the 40th Ohio, when in the eagerness of their advance they
were actually in the rear of part of the Rebel line, and were
in danger of being crushed by superior numbers. The descent
between us and the enemy was almost as steep as a Gothic
roof, and down this declivity we slipped and rolled rather
than charged on the astonished foe. Bullets and shells they
had expected, and had become somewhat accustomed to, but
when we threw a whole Regiment of men at them they
promptly retired. This movement on our part was a most
timely and telling one, for the position of the 40th was peril-
ous. Colonel Champion grasped the situation in an instant,
and, with the instinct of the true soldier, gave orders for a
left wheel. The Regiment executed his orders unhesitatingly,
and, gaining a position along a rude fence, poured a destruc-
tive fire into the ranks of the startled enemy. Instantly the
40th saw the movement, and not only ceased to retreat, but
instantly rushed forward across the opening and charged
the foe, capturing a section of artillery and a large number of
prisoners. As soon as their relief was assured the NINETY-
SIXTH swung to its former position, still occupying the extreme
right of the army and again advancing.

Our lines were now plainly visible to the Army of the
Cumberland in Chattanooga Valley, and as they saw the flash
of guns and the gleaming of steel brought out distinctly by
the dark background of rock above us, it required no Daniel
to interpret the meaning of that stern writing on the wall.
It said of Bragg, whose headquarters lay directly over against
us on the crest of Missionary Ridge, "Thou art weighed in
the balances and found wanting." One libration of the scales
the day before had shown his weakness before Chattanooga ;
and now Lookout, which was expected to weigh heavily



1863] THE MOUNTAIN EVACUATED. 271

against us in the hour of conflict, was being lifted lightly in
air by the ascending beam of another victory, its vast bulk
and great natural strength being outweighed by the courage
and audacity of our attack ; and on the morrow the sharp
crest of Missionary Ridge being the pivot of the beam the
broken fragments of Bragg's army "weighed and found
-wanting " would be tumbled out of war's dread scale in the
confusion of utter defeat.

There was no severe fighting on the mountain after 2 P. M.
'The Rebel line, reinforced by Gen. Jackson's Division from
the upper part of the mountain, occupied a very strong posi-
tion some distance south of the Craven House, and there they
made a determined stand to retain possession of the Summer-
town Road, the only road by means of which they could
speedily withdraw their forces and artillery from the moun-
tain. By this time our ammunition was almost expended,
and exhausted as we were by our hard climb up and around
the mountain, we were in no condition to drive the enemy
from their last position by dint of bravery and bayonets.
Later in the day reinforcements came to us from the Chatta-
nooga side of Lookout, bringing such supplies of ammunition
&s they could carry on their persons, but the battle was not
renewed. A skirmish fire was maintained until late into the
night, varied by a considerable demonstration made by the
enemy between nine and ten to cover their intended retreat.
They withdrew during the night so cautiously and silently that
the mountain was in our possession for some time before we
became aware of it.

There has been some dispute among military critics as to
whether that rough-and-tumble fight over the shoulder of
Lookout was a battle or not. Some say that though it was
striking in spectacular effect, affording abundant materials for
the use of the artist and poet, yet from a military stand-point
it hardly deserves to be called a battle. But if these adverse
critics had viewed the battle from the front rank of the force
which fought it, they might have been converted to the con-
trary opinion. This strange misconception arises in part from
the smallness of our loss -on that eventful day, and in part



272 HISTORY or THE 96TH REGIMENT, ILL. Y. I.

from the dwarfing effect of the grand movement which rolled
the Rebel lines from the crest of Missionary Ridge on the
day following. But the smallness of our loss was due to
favorable natural conditions, and Missionary Ridge has glory
enough of its own without reaching across the valley to rob
Lookout of its laurels.

Had the day been clear our loss would have been very
heavy. So great were the natural advantages possessed by
the enemy, that, could they have overlooked the move-
ments of our forces, they would not have been driven from
their natural fortress except by an engagement which would
have reddened the rocks of Lookout with the blood of many
brave men. A captured Colonel declared that if it had not
been for the cloud their sharpshooters would have riddled our
advance like pigeons, and would speedily have left our com-
mand without leaders. The men who took part in that
engagement know that it was a formidable undertaking, and
let no one attempt to take their glory from them. It is true
that General Fog commanded on the side of the mountain,
while Gen. Hooker commanded in the valley, and the former
covered our advance so effectually with his cloudy battalions
that our loss was comparatively slight ; but even with this
advantage in our favor we earned our battle laurels by hard
climbing and gallant fighting. The glory of a battle should
not be measured by its mortality list, but by the courage of
the men engaged in it, and by the measure of their success.

And the battle was by no means a bloodless one on either
side, as may easily be gathered from the loss suffered by one
Rebel Regiment, the 24th Mississippi. According to the
report of their Colonel they had three hundred and fifty-six
men and officers present for duty in the morning, of whom
one hundred and ninety-nine were killed or wounded! during
the day. The -iOth Ohio, of our Brigade, suffered a consider-
able loss, both in killed and wounded, including Maj. Acton,
who was killed. The loss in our Regiment was small, because
we were so close to danger that much harm passed harmlessly
over us.

The following is the



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1863] THE LOSSES. 273

LIST OF CASUALTIES.

KILLED. Esau Rich, of Company B.

WOUNDED. Adjutant E. A. Blodgett, hand ; First Lieutenant Robert
Pool, Company A, head ; Sergeant John Vincent, Company A, ball en-
tered just below right eye and passed out back of left ear, but he recov-
ered ; Harry Menzemer, Company A, slightly ; Nicholas Wearmouth,
Company A, left side ; Harlow D. Ragan, Company A, hand ; Second
Lieutenant George H. Burnett, Company B, scalp wound ; James Lit-
wiler, Company B, face ; W. V. Trout, Company B, foot and leg ; Cor-
poral Henry A. Webb, Company D, head ; R. 8. Thain, Company D, leg ;
Sergeant R. J. Cooper, Company E, hip ; James Junken, Company E,
side ; William S. Nash, Company F, chin and left shoulder ; Corporal
John W. Swanbrough, Company G, foot ; Joseph K. Clark, William
Joyce and John King, all of Company G, were each wounded in the
head ; First Lieutenant George W. Moore, Company I, leg ; Harrison
Gage, Company I, arm ; Daniel Malone, Company I, leg ; First Lieu-
tenant E. E. Townsend, Company K, foot ; Corporal Henry W. Goding,
Company K, head ; Thomas Carleton, Company K, leg ; Oscar W.
Cowen, Company K, body.

Some of these wounds were slight, and did not disable the
recipients. A few, however, proved severe. When Sergeant
Vincent was shot, all thought that his wound was necessarily
fatal, and supposed they would never see him again ; but he
was so full of courage and manly strength that he soon recov-
ered, and, notwithstanding the loss of an eye, returned to the
Regiment, doing gallant service and carrying the colors in
several engagements. Corporal Swanbrough's wound was
received while carrying the colors. He had been the only
one of the Color Guard to escape at Chickamauga, and was
now among the first hit. His wound disabled him for only a
few weeks. Lieutenants Moore and Townsend were each dis-
abled for a time, but not permanently. Indeed, not one of
the entire list of wounded was absent from the command for
more than a few months.

Our Brigade captured two pieces of artillery and a large
number of prisoners ; and when we reached the top of the
mountain the next day, we found in the abandoned camp of
the enemy a great variety of stores and supplies which they
had left behind in their precipitate retreat.
18



274 HISTORY or THE 96TH REGIMENT, ILL. Y. I.

That night bivouac on the "nose " of Lookout will never
be forgotten by the men who tried to court sleep amid a chaos
of rocks, swept by a keen northwest wind. We longed for
our knapsacks, but they were miles away and a thousand
feet below us in Lookout Valley. Camp fires seemed indis-
pensable, but they were a dangerous luxury, for certain sharp-
shooters on the rocks above us, like the "King of Shadows,"
loved " a shining mark," and more than one camp-fire group,
while cooking their much-needed supper, were disturbed by
officious offers of the enemy to settle their coffee with lead.
But shots in the dark are uncertain ; and, in spite of Rebel pro-
tests, we speedily promoted old Lookout, putting shining stars
on his shoulders and decorating his rugged breast with a slop-
ing sash of camp fires, very comforting to us, and a blazon of
victory to our comrades in the valley.

But when we sought sleep that night we were made to
realize that rubber blankets form a poor protection against
cold ; that rocks are uncomfortable pillows, and that though
a slightly sloping bed may be favorable to slumber, yet when
it rises fifteen or twenty degrees above the horizontal line,
sleep will be in inverse ratio to the steepness of the slope.
But so great had been the fatigues of the day that though our
pillows were no softer than those pressed by the head of Jacob
of old, and our bivouac was rougher than the ancient Bethel,
yet we snatched sleep enough for a soldier from the jaws of
difficulty, and were ready in the morning for whatever might
lie before us.

The morning of the 25th dawned clear and beautiful.
Boreas had wielded his windy besom so diligently during the
night that not a wisp of fog or cloud clung to the crest of
the mountain, nor cobwebbed a corner of the rocky ravines.
But fog had served us so well the day before that we were
almost in love with it, and we began to wish that the vapory
army which had departed during the night might return again
to assist us. All illusions as to distance and danger were now
dispelled. From where we lay the crest of the mountain was
startlingly near, and the unassailable strength of the position
was only too evident. Point Lookout and the palisades on






1863] THE FLAG ON THE MOUNTAIN. 275

either side frowned above us, and so close at hand that to all
appearance an army of schoolboys might have stoned us out
of our position. As the light increased we watched anxiously
for some evidence of hostile presence on the rocks above us,
but as we saw neither nutter of flag nor flash of steel, nor
glimpse of moving gray, and heard not so much as the snap-
ping of a twig on that summit which had been the especial
seat of battle thunder the day before, we began to suspect
that the eagles of war had forsaken their eyrie, and that by a
bold climb we might gain the deserted nest.



Online LibraryCharles A. (Charles Addison) PartridgeHistory of the Ninety-sixth Regiment, Illinois volunteer Infantry → online text (page 25 of 90)