Isaac C Doan.

Reminiscences of the Chattanooga campaign. A paper read at the reunion of Company B, Fortieth Ohio volunteer infantry, at Xenia, O., August 22, 1894 (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryIsaac C DoanReminiscences of the Chattanooga campaign. A paper read at the reunion of Company B, Fortieth Ohio volunteer infantry, at Xenia, O., August 22, 1894 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Chattanooga Campaign.

A Paper Read at^the Reunion of Company B,

Fortieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at

Xenia, O., August 22, 1894,






Chattanooga Campaign.

A Paper Read at the Reunion of Company B,

Fortietli Oliio Volunteer Infantry, at

Xenia, O., August 22, 1894,









[41 N a l^alniy autumn day — September iStli, 1N63, wliile the C'hatta-

noo<^a Valley lay nestled within its rugt^ed moinitain borders, bathed
in the mellow rays of the Southern sun, the I^'irst iJrii^Mde, h'irst Division
of the Reserve Corps, broke camp near Crawfish Springs, and moved
out along the Ringgold road.

This brigade was composed of the Fortieth Ohio, Eighty-fourth
Indiana, Ninety-sixth and One Hundred-and-fifteenth Illinois Infantry.

Eate in the afternoon, just as the head of the column reached Chicka-
mauga River, the sharp crack of a rebel picket gun rang out upon the
air. The column halted, and almost immediately we saw a mounted
officer riding rapidly toward us from the front, the ranks opening at his
approach. As he reached our company (B, Fortieth O. V. I.) he si)oke
to our Captain who at once gave the order: "Company 15, forward —
double quick — march ! "

Upon reaching the head of the column we saw the dead body of a
Union soldier, lying upon his face, his life-blood mingling with the dust
of the road.

We crossed the stream and de[)loyed as skirmishers, while on our
right was deployed a company of the Ninety-sixth Illinois. We moved
cautiously through the thicket until we reached a fence beyond which
was an open field with stumps every few minutes, from behind which the
Johnnies were firing salutes in honor of our arri\al. W^e halted awhile at
the fence and returned their compliments, when we were ordered to

We cleared the low fence at a bound, and made a rush for the rebel
line of skirmishers, who gave a i^arting volley and showed us their gray
backs, while we gave them every encouragement to go. We were then
halted and lay down while one of our batteries pla\ed over our heads,
shelling the opposite woods.

As it was nearly dark the firing soon ceased. I lay, for se\eral
hours, by the stumj) which formed my temporar\- fortress, occassionally
hearing faint noises, as of some one moving stealthily. '^' * ."


/ kept awake! About midnight it grew still and I began to be
decidedly lonesome and crept over to a stump where I had seen a
comrade before it became dark — he was <,w/^. The skirmishers had
been withdrawn silently, and I had been missed in the darkness, and
was out in the enemy's country all alone.

I 7i.<cnt hack for reinforcements — cautiously, however, being fully alive
to the ilanger of being taken for a rebel, and of falling a victim to
mistaken identity. I had only gone a few steps when I heard the cock-
ing of a gun and the words " Haldt, who gooms dere." I sung out
" Fortieth Ohio," without delay, for those Dutchmen of the Ninety-sixth
Illinois had the reputation of shooting and then saying halt.

I am glad tlicy reversed the order in this instance. I was directed
to advance, and told that I would find Company B on their left : the
companies having been retired a few i)aces and closed ujjon the left,
which brought the Ninety-si.xth boys in rear of my position.

About daylight we were ordered back to the brigade, then more
than a mile in our rear. This was our first taste of the great battle of
Chickamauga, of which we were destined to draw a full ration a little
later. It is significant that the Indian name " Chickamauga " means
" river of death."

The next day we moved out in two lines of battle and encountered
the enemy at the same point. Our regiment, forming the left wing of
the the front line, took position l)ehind tlie fence I have before men-
tioned, and began a musketry duel with the rebels, who were behind the
fence on the opposite side of the field. We fought there for an hour or
two : the bullets rattling against the fence, knocking the dust into our
eyes and making themselves generally disagreeable. I always like a
bullet better when it is lying still, or going the other way. Several of
our comjjany were wounded; none 1 think were killed at this ])oint.
()ur Captain was wounded in the foot, and removed from the field early
in the action, leaving our .Second l.ieuteiianl in conunand of the com-
pany, who directed me to take charge of the left Hank, he remaining
near the right of the com])any. This gave me the pri\ ilege of standing
u|) and (j\LTlo(jking the work, instead of liiding behind the bottom rail of
the fence as 1 felt very much like doing.

Our ccjmpany formed the extreme left of the line and in low ground,
and the line passing <jver a small hill we < Duld not see the right of the

•After the fight had been going on lor an hour or two, the rebels in
our front raised a yell and came tearing o\er the fence and across the
field toward us. This seemed t(} be our opporltmity, and we commenced
issuing them rations of lead as fast as p<»ssil)le. W luii looking to the


right we saw our wliolc line on a regular slanii»Ltlc - disappearing into
the woods as if by magic. l''our or Cue of iis look trees and gave them
another round '* for hick," for we agreed that it was a shame to run just
as we had a cliance to do some execution. We were rewarded l)y a
withering cross-fire from right and left, and looking around we saw the
rebels bearing down upon both sides of us. We were being enclcjsed as
in the jaws of dealli. The regiment had been llanked ui)on the right.
.A. movement that was concealed from us by the intervening hill.

We zvcnt right away from there. We went through the Chickamauga
with neatness and desjjatch.

As we emerged from the bushes on the west bank, we came upon
the One Hundred-and-fifteenth Illinois, drawn up in line, guns at a
ready, a thousand eager fingers trembling upon the triggers. We
dropped and crawled between their legs, and while we were struggling
through, the whole line opened fire with a terrific volley. Had we been
a moment later we w^ould have got the full benefit of that volley, and this
paper would never have been written.

You may be sorry before I get through, but I'm glad I got through
that line as soon as I did.

Our line re-formed, but the whole brigade was forced to fall back,
both flanks having been turned by a greatly superior force. The retreat
was in good order, every foot of ground being contested for about two
miles, when we were reinforced by the Second Brigade and stayed the
tide until dark. We lay on our arms all that night. Next morning we
felt for the enemy all over the ground traversed by our forces the day
before : but he had vanished from our front. (Jone to swell the mass
that was being formed with the intention of crushing that immortal hero,
Oeo. H. Thomas.

All that day we heard the stertorous breathing of a terrible battle,
which was raging away to our right rear. About noon we took up our
line of march in a southwesterly direction, in a direct line for the point
where the clamor of war was most incessant. We moved with great
celerity through the forest and across the farms. No fences barred our
progress, for the presence of vast armies for several days had rendered
the country defenseless.

We soon came across signs of recent conflict, disabled cannon, dead
horses, mangled corpses, in both blue and gray, and all the bloody
paraphernalia of cruel war. Many of the dead were torn and blackened
and burned by bursting shell until the ghastly fragments were indescrib-
ably shocking, and not at all calculated to encourage soldiers who knew
they were just going into battle, and were candidates for a similar fate,
with reasonable prosjiects of being elected. The hardest part of a battle


is going into it. MikIi worse than going out. I tliinl< any thoughtful
man upon going into battle, must go with a deadly sadness at hi.s heart.
I have seen the thoughtless and fool-hardy go in with a laugh and jest
u]>on their lips, but they were not nearly so apt to stand fire as those
who advanced with i)ale cheeks and serious aspect, for these had antici-
l)ated the danger and l)raced their nerves to meet it, and the shock of
battle did not come to them as a surprise.

Well, we were going into one of the most terril)le battles of modern
times, and many of us began to realize it by this time. Off to the
south we could see the dense smoke of the battle, as well as hear the
crashing of musketry and the booming of artillery, and the shot and
shell began to pay their res])ects to us in a " way we despised."

We were hurried along the rear of the battle line toward the right
of Clen. 'I'homas' command, which was sorely pressed.

The firing of the musketry was so incessant that the ear could not
distinguish the separate discharges. Imagine a few hundred gushers, of
the gas well variety, all turned loose at once, and you will have as good
an "illustration as you are likely to get in time of peace.

We were not allowed time to contemplate the battle as spectators.
Drannon's division, holding the right, was being flanked by I.ongstreet's
ten fresh brigades.

Already the troops on llrannon's right were overwhelmed, and the
enemy, flushed with victory, was charging down upon the rear of his
position, when our two brigades were hurled into the " imminent deadly

It would seem as though every man realized that the fate of the
array depended upon this charge, and with the energy of desperation
and "a fury born of the impending peril, we charged the enemy," and
though he "welcomed us with bloody hands to hospitable graves," we
faltered not, until we had driven him back and formed our line extend-
ing along "Horse Shoe Ridge" — a name rendered historic by the
carnage of that terrible Sundas afternoon, September jolh, 1863.

We were in two lines of battle, while the enemy was massed ten
lines deep in our front, and this heavy force was thrown against our
slender lines, in charge after charge of inconceivable fury. .\nd more
than (jnt e during the afternoon our front line was driven back from the
crest of the ridge, over the rear line which was lying some thirty yards
down the northern shjpe, with bayonets fixed and " blood in their eye,"
and as soon as the front line passed over them, they would leap to their
feet, and with a yell and murderous volley, right in the teeth of the rebel
horde, would hurl them ba< k as (piickly as they came, regain the vantage


ground upon the ridge, while tlie other line would lie down and hold
themselves in readiness to return the compliment.

In this way, in a very little while, the whole hillside was thickly
carpeted with the dead and dying (jf both armies. The blue and the
gray intermingled in a frightful mixture of writhing agony and stark
staring death.

We soon, however, had our line firmly established upon the ridge,
and all the legions of Satan failed to prevail against us ; so that night
found us still in triumphant jiossession of it, but at what a fearful cost.

The ofificial report places the loss of our two brigades, in tliis
action, from 2 : oo P. M. until dark, at 44 i)er cent.

These two small figures contain a pathos which my pen has no
power to portray. We knew, however, that the enemy must have lost
more men, as their ten lines furnished more food for powder than
our two.

If we overshot the front line our bullets had some chance of taking
effect later on. And thus the massing of the enemy which would have
told with fearful effect upon us, had they succeeded in breaking through
our lines, became a source of heavy loss to them under the circum-

I have always been thankful that there was no Joshua present to
stay the downward course of the sun that day. For night found us with
empty cartridge boxes, though many had borrowed largely from the
boxes of the unresisting dead, who had no further use for them.

I fired eighty rounds from my breech-loading carbine, and the
cartridge chamber became so hot that I could not bear my hand upon it,
and I vvas actually afraid the thing would shoot back in my face when I
would put in a new cartridge.

Night put an end to the great battle of Chickamauga. At once a
defeat and victory for the Union army. A defeat, because we were
compelled to fall back to prevent being surrounded by superior numbers,
leaving the field, our dead, and many of our desperately wounded to the
tender mercies of the most cruel enemy of modern times. A victory, in
that Chickamauga, the bone of contention, remained in our hands.

In good order we marched back to Rossville, about half way from
the battle-field to Chattanooga.

I had reason to be thankful for the moderation of the pace, for one
of my shins had been used as a back-stop for an almost spent grape shot,
and I became very lame before reaching our place of bivouac. I was a
cripple for several days, and my limb bore a black spot for a month,
but no pension was the result. It did not even leave an honorable scar.

That night we took position on Missionary Ridge and awaited the


approai h o\' the enemy, which was distinguished for that caution with
which the burned child apjjroaches the fire. For they did not strike our
lines until about 3:00 P. M. next day, and then not hard enough to
drive in our pickets. Monday night, about midnight, we silently moved
down off the ridge and took position in hastily constructed earthworks
immediately around Chattanooga, lea\ing our picket line at tlie foot of
the ridge on the outside, to throw dust — or something — in the eyes of the
rebels as thev felt for our position in the night. Next morning, seeing
the crest of tlie ridge clear, they moved suddenly upon o'lr pickets and
easily gobbled them ; as they had no chance for speedy retreat up the
steep side of the ridge. This is one of the saddest of the fortunes
of war — a picket line being abandoned, to certain capture, as a vicarious
sacrifice to secure the safety of an army. Our regiment had thirty-six
men and officers — the remnant of Company H — taken in on this
occasion, and they were given the freedom of the stockade prison —
inside the "dead line"— at Andersonville, where they spent the winter
in the full enjoyment of the luxuries of that famous place of entertain-
ment provided for them by fiends in human form, whose wanton cruelty
has made them the standing disgrace of the century in which they hved,
whose inhumanity has no parallel in civilized history, and is not exceed-
ed in the annals of savage warfare. Our boys found the kind attentions
and high living so enervating as to be positively unhealthy, for the fol-
lowing spring only fifteen of them left it alive, and they were walking
skeletons, half clothed in miserable rags.

On the 22d our brigade took position on Moccasin Point, on the
north bank of the Tennessee River, immediately op])osite the frowning
brow of Lookout Mountain, where we guarded the river front and were
at liberty to contemplate the rare beauty of this magnificent specimen of
mountain scenery. Two miles in height of mountain slope I clad in the
many colored robe of autumn ; its l)ase la\ ed by the pellucid Tennessee.
The songs of innumerable birds mingling with the ri])])ling of the waters
in a gentle roundelay — punctuated at inter\als by the staccato notes
of the festive rebel gun — followed by the not-to-gentle (lro])ping of an
oun< e of lead uncomfortably near the \i'ntiirous N'ank who protruded
his head beyond the bushes in order to enjoy the sylvan scene: remind
ing him that there is no rose without its thorn.

This was starvaticju camp. l""or a full month we were on less than
• piarler rations, and the normal <ondition (jf the stomach was ravenous.
\Vc so(jn cleaned the cornfield down to the last s])routed nubbin on the

.After 1 had been hungry for about two weeks, I struck a teamster,
who had some ( orn for his mules; and begged him for an ear. He


declined as tlie mules were (uer worked, liaiiliiij; our rations o\er sixty
miles of mountain road. They were daily dyin^^f by scores, and there
must be no lack of rations for those that were still able to pull.

It was easier for a hungry soldier to pull a trij^^^ger, than lor hungry
mules to pull a wagon load. My judgment accepted his reasoning, but
my appetite was not so easily convinced — so I bribed him with ten cents to
look the other way while 1 stole an ear. 1 ate it raw. it was g(X)d
enough that way, and 1 was'nt proud.

I hoi)e the mules enjoyed what was left, as well as I enjoyed that ear.

I have seen the boys dig the grains of corn from the stiff mud
where the mules had fed, and rui)bing the mud off, eat them without
parching. They had the best of seasoning, a good api)etite. We often
thought vvith the poet:

"The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year."

On the 27th of October we were ordered down to lirown's i'erry to
co-operate with a force who, before daylight that morning, had glided
down the river in a fleet of boats — rounding Moccasin Point, and slipi)ing
past the rebel pickets without disturbing their rest, effected a landing at
the Ferry, and constructed a pontoon bridge on which we crossed.

Here we waited, to hail the approach of, and smooth the way for,
Oeneral Hooker, who was moving up from Bridgeport, Alabama, with
the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, driving the rebels out of the valley
south of the river, thus shortening our cracker line to twenty-two miles.

We lay guarding the ai)proach to the Ferry; and soon the Veterans
from the Army of the Potomac began to file past. At this the battery of
twenty pounders on Lookout opened fire and rained their misshapen
fragments of iron around us in a very intrusive manner.

To be sure they were aimed at Hooker's men, and not at us, who
were lying down ; and if any of us were hit it should not count. But
unfortunately it did count with fatal effect to many a brave comrade.

The only sort of protection in our line was a large white-oak tree,
some distance to the right of our comi)any, and I viewed with envy two
soldiers sitting on the safe side of that tree.

I very soon ceased to grudge them the [)osition ; for a shell i)urst
close beside them, a piece struck a gun, drove the breech i)in through the
knee of one of them, and sent the naked barrel humming over our heads.
A large fragment struck the other man, tearing his arm off at the shoulder,
causing his death in about twenty minutes.

I was again reminded that there is no safe place in a battle. Pres-
ence of mind is not so good as absence of body.

This movement brought us full rations whereat we greatly rejoiced.
We returned to our old quarters on Moccasin Point, and my bunk mate


and I slcjit for tht' setoiul ni^lu in a lioiisr that wc hatljiist spent a month
in biiikling. It consisted of pine poles driven into the ground to form a
stoekade pen about six feet S(iuare, thatched with pine-feathers. A
hixurious bed of poles attached to the wall, padded with a feather bed—
(pine-feathers). A regular stone fire-place, with mud and stick chimney.
The roof consisted of the two sections of a dog tent.

Our kit of tools was (oinjiosed of a hatchet, that wasn't sharp from
one nick to another. 1 hope 1 shall have your sympathy when I say,
that we were orderetl down the ri\er next tlay and never saw that dandy
soldiers" rest again.

We next went into (amp in Nickaja( k ("ove — about two miles south
of Shell-Nh)und, a station on the Nashville & Chattanooga Rail Road,
where we built log cabins and again prepared our winter cjuarters.

Not f-dr from this camj) are several large caves. One is known as
Murrell's cave, supposed to have been one of the hiding i)laces of the
celebrated " Land Pirate," John A. Murrell, who for years scourged
this ]jart of Tennessee.

A party of us visited this cave, found it for the most i)art a narrow
tunnel through which flowed a shallow stream in which we had to wade
a portion of the way — occasionally widening into chambers, here and
there branching into lateral i)assages that wandered off into the vague and
shadowy regions of the dark. Two of us turned back before the rest of
the party, and as my comrade carried our only candle, T chd not notice
how short it was — until the others were beyond ear shot — when we made
the startling discovery that we had not more than half enough to light us
out (jf the cave. We made all the haste, consistent with the state of the
roads and the preservation of our flickering light. lUit when we were
yet some two hundred yards from the mouth of the cave the last dro]) of
tall(jw was exhausted, and we lookctl upon that expiring tlip, as a man
might gaze uj^on the dying face of a iVieiul. l'\jr it left us in ioUxl if not
outer darkness.

We read of a darkness that once fell upon I'^gyjtt which was so thi( k
that it ( ould be felt. Well 1 felt this darkness in my very soul.

We dare not mcne lor tear of following some lateral passage and
getting out of the usual line of tra\el or of stumbling into some jiitfall in
which the cave abounded. How long we stood there 1 know not. Long
enough to indulge in some very un|)leasanl conje< lures that the rest ot
the party might run out of light and not \)r able to return to us, or
returning take some other route and " pass by on the other side. ' I ong
enough to feel <onvinc:ed that the S( riplure which says, "Men love dark-
ness rather than light" had no application to us. Long enough to
remember all the stories we had ever heard of people lost in these caves,


until starvation found ihcni aiul < lainu'd iIriu lor its own. .\\ur \si; iiad
become thoroughly uneasy, we heard another party coniinf; in, making
the usual lot of noise, and it was only by the most diligent and vigorcMis
use of our lungs that we got them to come to our assistance, f(jr they had
actually turned and started out when they happened to get still encnigh to
distinguish our shouts from the roaring in their (jwn heads.

On emerging from the cave we procured a suppiv of < andles ami
started afterour comrades who, just as we reached the entrance, appeared,
muddy and panting, with about a half an inch of candle in the ])arty.

They were a little wiser than we were — about three fourths an iiuh.

Under the mountain on the west (jf our camp Nickajack, was
Nickajack cave, the largest in this region. U])on the mountain above is
the point where (Georgia and Alabama join upon the south line of
Tennessee. So that within the darksome w inding i)assages of the cavern,
you can become a tenant at will, of either of the three states. .\ good
place to dodge the Sheriff. The (juestion of jurisdiction woidd be a i)er-
plexing one and the dodger would have am[)le ojjporlunity for keejjing

No wonder the highwayman, IMurrell, had a fancy for this neighbor-

About a dozen of us got lea\e of absence for a d;iy, pro\ided
ourselves with candles, provisions and hatchets, and set out for this cave.
Near its mouth was an old saltpetre manufactory, dismantled by the
rebels when comj)elled to abandon it. The nitre was obtained from a
brown earth brought from the cave — said to be very rich. This cave is
provided with the inevitable stream of water running through it, and the
obvious inference is that this is the active agent in pnnlucing the cave, —
the stream [)roviding itself a channel through the heart of the moun-
tain by finding and dissolving out the softer i)ortions. We entered a long
flat boat and were wafted by jjush poles some half mile into the cave
where we found our stream issuing from beneath some rocks too low for
the boat to i)ass under. We accordingly landed ami began such an
exploration as our limited time would allow. The cavity divides and
subdivides into a vast number of passages which cross and recross each
other, forming a net work of dark alleys that are very bewildering.
Some of them are said to be over five miles in length.

We selected one and followed it to the end, marking with our
hatchets each branch or cross road — so that we might return the same


Online LibraryIsaac C DoanReminiscences of the Chattanooga campaign. A paper read at the reunion of Company B, Fortieth Ohio volunteer infantry, at Xenia, O., August 22, 1894 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)