John J. Hight.

History of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 online

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Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 15 of 47)
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enemv o\er the nose of Lookout, or to enter Chattanooga should the enemy
evacuate or make feel)le resistance. — [ I'm/ Horiu's History of llic Army of
tlir C limber hi ml .



— Crittenden's Corps Moves after Bragg — Stub-
born Opposition — Discovery of Rebel Plans —
Critical Condition of Rosecrans' Army — Concf;n-


the Battle — Fifty-eighth in the Fight — Charg-
ing THE Enemy — Noble Lives Sacrificed — A Night
ON THE Battlefield — Changing Position — Battle
OF the 20TH — Break in the Lines — Confusion and
Disaster — The Rebels Checked — Rose;crans'
Army Saved.

IN order to more fully understand the situation and the
events that are to tbllow, it will be necessary to take a
general view of the armv under General Rosecrans. The
movements of Crittenden's Corps have already been
sufficient! V explained, so we will turn attention to the other
two Corps of the army.

General Thomas crossed the Tennessee at four different
points — Caperton's Ferrv, Bridgeport, mouth of Battle
Creek, and Shellmound — and crossing Sand Mountain on
converging roads, united in Wills or Lookout Valley, in the
vicinity of Trenton.

General McCook's 20th Corps crossed the river larthor
south and marched over some verv rough roads, crossing
Sand Mountain to Vallev Head, at the foot of Lookout

All these movements, including- those of Crittenden's
Corps, previously mentioned, were completed by the 6th of
September. The armv of General Rosecrans at that time
lay along the western base of Lookout Mountain, tVom
W'auhatchie. the position held b\' (reneral Wood's Division.


to X'alle}' Head — McCook's position — a point thirty-tive
miles distant. The plan for crossing the river and advanc-
ing on the rebel stronghold in Chattanooga had thus far
been successtul. and the commanding General had reason to
congratulate himself. But the enemv was ye{ in Chatta-
nooga, the objective point of the campaign. To dislodge
him it would be necessary, either to carrv the point of Look-
out Mountain, where there is only a narrow passage between
it and the river, or, to cross the mountain through the gaps
further south and threaten Bragg's line of communication.
.\s the tbrmer scheme seemed to be imjiracticable the plan
of crossing the mountain tarther south was adopted.
Accordingly, General Thomas and General McCook were
ordered to move their commands across the mountain —
Thomas to cross bv Frick's, Cooper's and Steven's gaps,
and occupy the head of WcLemore's Cove. McCook was
to move across the mountain into Broomtown \alley, and to
support the cavalry in a reconnoissance against Lafayette
and Rome.

These movements were all remarkably successful, and
resulted in forcing Bragg out of Chattanooga. It was a
great victory, and there was great rejoicing in its accom-
jilishment with so little sacrifice. There was a general belief
among soldiers of Rosecrans' army, that Bragg's army was
now in full retreat through Georgia. This opinion was
siiared by the people generally, but we all found lu)\v badly
we were mistaken a few da\s later. We soon learned,
that while Bragg was in Chattanooga he was a less formi-
dable foe than when he had thrown his army against Rose-
crans', scattered as it \vas among the mountains, tor a
distance of nearly t'orU- miles. Bragg was quick to see his
advantage, and by his rapid moNcments toward Rome, led
Rosecrans to believe, at first, that his em-my was in full
retreat, far southward. ( General Rosecrans soon discovered
his error, however, and then it was that his own situation
became alarming. With his three corps scattered as they
were, neither detachment bring within supporting distance


of the other, hedt^ed in bv impassable mountains, it did not
require much military knowledge to understand how easy it
would be for Bragg" to crush each detachment in detail.
This was Bragg"s purpose, and, except for a tardiness and
a blunder on the part of his own officers, it would most
likely haye been accomplished.*

The foregoing will suffice for an account of the general
moyements of the army, and we may now resume the thread
of our story in regard to the moyements of our own K.egi-
ment, and the part of the army with which it was more
immediately connected.

Thursday, September io. — It was in the nature of a
surprise to most of us when the orders came to march this
morning. About ten o'clock we moved out on the road to

* In the effort to defeat Rosecrans in detail, Bragg's first combination was
direct against Tliomas; and this fact doubtless saved Crittenden's Corps,
which was in air and in no state of preparation to resist the attack of an
equal force, much less a great army. McCook's Corps was at the same time
in complete insulation at Alpine, and not far from Bragg's army. Thus far
the mo\ements of the three columns met the expectations and wishes of the
rebel comniander. Crittenden had diverged to the east on the Ringgold
road; McCook had advanced far from support, and Thomas had moved
directlv toward his armv. His army now comprised about fifty thousand
men. He had been joined by two Divisions from Mississippi, and his own
estimate placed his infantry at thirty -five thousand men; and almost into the
midst of this vast armv Xegley had penetrated. As soon as his head of
column had appeared at McLemore's Cove. General Bragg had given orders
for a movement in great force against him. At midnight on the 9th, he
gave orders to General Hindman to adxance with his Division to Davi^"
Cross roads, in Xegley's front, to co-operate with Cleburne's Division and a
force of cavalry from Hill's corps. Cleburne being sick and Dug and Cat-
lett's Gap being heavily obstructed. CJeneral Hill failed in his part of the
combination; but Hindman advanced and was at Morgan's three or four
miles from Negley. earlv in the afternoon of the loth. To prevent a mis-
carriage of the movement altogether, at eight a. m. General Bragg ordered
Buckner with his Corps to join Hindman at NIorgan's three miles from
Davis' Cross-roads, and verv near to Negley. Bragg was very urgent in
regard to the movement, as he had inferred that the three advancing columns
were moving for concentration near his position. To assure success by giv-
ing strong support to the forces already in Xegley's front, he directed (ien-
eral Polk to send a Division of his Corps to Andei'son's. to cover Hindman
during his operations. Fortunately for Xegley and the army there was
delay. Hindman propo-ed a change of plan, and in waiting for instructions
the dav passed awav. General Bragg refused to modify his orders, and at
midnight repeated them with emphasis. Xegley. as has been seen, was still
unsupported and in ignorance of the elaborate combination which had been
formed to overwhelm and cajiture him, for in addition to the foiu" Di\isions
at Morgan's and Anderson's. Walker's corps was ordered to support Cle-
burne at Dug Gap. — [I'a// Home's History of flic Army of the Cinii-
berhxtid .


Lafayette, passing through Rossville and turning off toward
Ringgold. Palmer's and Van Cleve's Divisions are in our
advance. Wagner's Brigade, of Wood's Division, was left
in Chattanooga as provost guards. We marched about ten
miles, camping at night near a new bridge across Chicka-
mauga Creek. The rebel cavalry, in large numbers, are
near us. This evening they made an attack, dashing into
camp and capturing about sixty-tive men belonging to Gen-
eral Palmer's Corps. Our Brigade was called into line to
resist an attack, but the rebels did not follow it up.

Friday, September ii. — ChickcDiiauga ! Name destined
to live in historv forever I It is said that the Indian word
means "The River of Death." How little did we dream
on this loveh' Friday morning that this name, perhaps con-
ferred because of some dark Indian tragedies, was soon to
be rendered sadly appropriate I How little did the hundreds
who bathed themselves in its waters think that it would
drink the blood of many of them.

Harker's Brigade moved across tlie country to see what
the cavahy meant, which hung about us. Buell's Brigade,
under the direction of General Wood, moved about two
miles farther towards Ringgold. Here we remained until
near night. The rebel cavalry still prowled about our lines.
At one time they assaulted our train, but were repulsed.
An hour by sun we fell in, and marched across the country
to the right. We marched for a mile or two along the south
side of a range of hills. We then crossed over the ridge,
and soon came again to the Chickamauga. The bridge was
torn up. A few moments' work repaired it. We were here
a mile or two higher up the creek than where we camped
the preceding night. We found extensive signs of the rebel
cavalry camps of the preceding night. After crossing the
bridge there were two roads — one leading to Lafayette and
the other to Chattanooga. We took the latter. We con-
tined to advance on ti)is road until we defiled into tiie main
Chattanooga and Lafayette road. The Brigade then faced
boldlv south and marched in the trail of Harker. He had


l^een drivini^ the enemy all day. They were in superior
numbers, and drove verv stubbornly. But by presenting
almost his entire Brigade in a line of skirmishers he suc-
ceeded in impressing them with the idea that his force was
large. About eleven p. m. we arrived at "Lee and Gordon's
Mills," on the Chickamauga River. Tt seemed to me that
we marched eight miles.

Here we met wonderful, and I have no doubt true, tales
of the proximity of the rebels. Bragg, A. P. Hill and Polk
had been here the preceding night. The w^hole rebel army
was so near that we could see their camp lires and hear their

The followincr day we lay about in the sun all day.
Palmer and Van Cleve came up in the course of the after-
noon and camped beyond the Chickamauga.

On Sunday we took up a strong position in line of battle.
An attack seems to have been anticipated. In the evening
I preached a sermon from Micah iv : 1-4, to a large congre-
gation. There was good attention.

From Monday to Thursday we maintained the same posi-
tion. Palmer and Van Cleve moved to our right, driving
the rebels from Crawlish Springs. There was some little

Friday, September 18. — This morning I was busily
engaged in fixing my tent when orders came to "fall in."
The Regiment was ordered into position about eleven or
twelve o'clock. The right wing went into an open iield
near the bank of the mill pond. The left wing took up a
position in the edge of the timber as flankers. The enemy
was reported to be approaching in force. A private of the
8th Indiana Battery, by climbing a tree, got a sight of the
enemy. ^ Not thinking him reliable Sergeant Alvis was
sent up. He saw the enemy come up in force, and on
double quick, and pass to the left. A number of shots were
fired by the 8th Indiana Ijattery and the 6th Ohio. Van
Cleve's Division passed from Crawfish Springs to our left.
The enemy continued to move to the left. They crossed

ij!(> cHAiM.AiN iii(iiri'"s iiisroin of tiik

the Chickamaiiga where we had crossed it ihe preceding
Friday. Thev vigoroiisly engaged Minty s and Wilder's
Brigades of cavah-\', dri\ing tliem back. Near chirk I went
to our Division tield hospital, about one-halt" mile trom
Crawtish Springs. While on the wdy niv ears were saluted
bv keen and continuous musketry, Ibllowed by loud cheer-
ing on our left. I do not know the cause.

At the hospital ot the ist and 3d Brigades I found near
fifty of Wilder's and Minty's men wounded. Among them
was Lieutenant Drury. Chief of Ordnance on Colonel
\\'ilder"s statf. His foot had been almost torn otf by a shot,
yet he did not dismount. After hunting up Colonel Wilder
and reporting to him his condition he rode back to the
ambulance. When I saw him iiis leg had been amputated,
lie was resting comfortabh'.

Saturday, Septembkk 19. — Last night was very cold,
I did not rest well, partly on that account, but more on
account of my mistriyings lor to-da\'. 1 have been about
too much not to know that we are on the eve of a battle.
I know also that to us will not necessarily be the victory,
because it is us. 1 have eyer\' reason to anticipate a most
terrible assault. All nigiit our troops have been passing from
right to left. Brannan's Division, and all of General
Thomas' Corps changed their position. There was but little
lighting early in the daw 1 rode down to the Regiment. I
foimd them h'ing in the same position. About twelve I
returned to the hospital. On the way I met General Rose-
crans, in full gallop, at the head of McCook's Corps.
Instantly I saw that he had accepted battle. I told them at
the hospital that in thirt^■ minutes the}' might listen for the
rattle of musketry. It came. McCook's Corps continued
to pass. The hospital was uncovered by these movements.
All things were loaded uj") and moved toward ihr tiring. I
went with the hospital department.

At 2 : 30 p. m. orders came to the 58th Indiana in their
position, one-halt mile to liie right of Lee antl ( Gordon's
Mills, to call in ]")ickcts and skirmishers. ]")ix'j')aralor\- to going


to the battle, two miles and a halt to their lett. A part came
in, and the rest were almost in, when the order was counter-
manded. They were sent out a^ain. In a tew minutes
thev were again ordered in. Before thev reached the Reg-
iment, it liad moved oti' to the scene ot^ action. It went on
double quick. The Regiment took position to the let't ot"
the road on which we had come on our march to Lee and
Gordon's ^Nlills.

In their rear were some rail breastworks. In front, on the
left, a dw^elling and a stable, a paling garden fence, and
other obstructions. The caissons of tw^o batteries were before
them, and still in acKance of these the guns of the 8th Indi-
ana Batter\' in action.

The Regiment was ordered to lie down. Then thev
were ordered to fix bayonets. By this time, Davis' men in
front were falling back in confusion. The caissons of the
two Batteries and two guns came running and turned, pell
mell, through our Regimental lines. Several of our men
were injured. Our line was sadlv broken. The order was
given to charge. The Regiment pressed forward as best
the}^ could. But the line could not be maintained, on
account of the house, the fence, the stable, and the endless
confusion of the hour.

But, notwithstanding these obstructions, and the general
confusion that reigned about them, the ist Brigade went into
the charge with a vim and vigor that would have accom-
plished victor}', if such a thing was possible. But it was
simply not within the range of possibilities. The men
pressed forward as best they could, closing up the line after
the obstructions had been passed. Across the road, into an
open field they went. The right of the 58th was in the open
space, the left Companies advancing in a little skirt of
timber. For a few minutes, all was comparativelv quiet in
front of our lines. Then the storm bursted. The rebels had
pressed the Regiments back on our left flank and upon our
right, and now turned with redoubled fury upon our Brigade.
Companies B, G and K. on the left of the Regiment, had


advanced to within a few yards of the enemy, lying upon
the ground, before they were discovered. Then the rebels
raised up and poured a deadly volley into our ranks. The
fire was returned, and tor a few minutes the air was so tilled
with smoke that it was impossible to see anyone at a distance
of a few feet. The firing was at short range, and the
destruction was terrible. Poinding that they were in a trap
and without support, our men withdrew in considerable
haste and with some contusion, leaving several killed and
wounded on the grounds. The right of the Regiment, being
in the open field, did not get in such close quarters with the
rebels, and consequently did not suffer so much. When Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Embree saw the extremelv hazardous situation
in which the Regiment was placed, he ordered a retreat.
This order w'as heard and obeved bv the right wing of the
Regiment, but the Companies of the left wing did not get
the order until it was too late to extricate themselves from
the deadlv ambuscade in the woods.

Within a verv short time, the scattered fragments of the
Regiment came together on a new line, which was formed
behind the house, where they had first formed. Here thev
assisted in repelling a charge of the enemy, and followed
them, driving them beyond the road again. In a short time
the rebels rallied, and drove us back to our former position.
Several charges and counter-charges were made across this
field during the afternoon, but without an\- jiermanent
advantaofe to either side. At the edtje of the woods, a little
distance beyond the house, was a hastilv erected breastwork,
made from fence rails. This was the rallying point for our
Brigade, and from here there was poured a destructive fire
into the ranks of the enemy as they came within range.

Colonel Buell, commanding the Brigade, having had two
horses shot luider him up to this time, mounted the tem-
porar\- breastworks and with hat in hand urged his men to
stand their ground. Tlie contest was short. The enem\-,
although greatly outnumbering our little torce at tliis point,
could not w ithstaiul the galling tin* that was jioured into their


ranks at short range. After two or three well directed vol-
leys the rebels turned and fied. Colonel Buell then called
to his Regiment to follow him in a charge after the retreat-
ing enemy. With a wild cheer they leaped over the rail
barricade and started. Other Regiments on that part of tlie
line joined in the charge, and the enemy was driven back to
the w^oods beyond the tield, where we had our first engage-
ment of the afternoon ; thus all the ground lost was recov-

This was about the last of the lighting that evening except
skirmish tiring, which at times became almost equal to a
general engagement. Three and sometimes lour Companies
of the 58th were required for skirmish duty, while the Regi-
ment was lying in line of battle waiting developments of the

About seven o'clock the two opposing armies rested in
battle array, each in a condition of watchtulness, but neither
with a disposition to continue the tight during the night. It
was very certain that Rosecrans' army had all they wanted
for that day, and it was equally certain that Bragg' s army
was not spoiling for any more tight. Each army was will-
ing to wait until next day before renewing the conflict. So
we remain resting on our arms during the night. And a
terrible night it was ; very cool, and no fires could be per-
mitted. All around were the dead and dying. The cries
and moans of the wounded are most distressing. The most
horrible features of a battle are the experiences of the living
soldier on the field the night after the battle.

This has been a da^• of sad experience for the 58th Indi-
ana. Their losses in killed and wounded have been terrible.
Let us go back over the events of the day, and note some of
the casualties in our Regiment :

Among the mortally wounded was Captain Charles II.
Bruce, of Compan^' K, who was as gentle a spirit and as
true a patriot as ever fell in Liberty's cause. He tell in the
first charge, and died nt'xt dav at the field hospital, while
tlie battle still ra^ed all around liim. We left him on oin*


retreat, with his head at the root of a tree and his blanket
wrapped around him. Captain Bruce was only twenty-two
vears ot age, and was a tine. looking officer, and a courteous
gentleman in every respect. lie served through the three
months' service as bugler in the iith Indiana. Was com-
missioned 1st Lieutenant in Company K, 58th Indiana, in
November, 1861, and a few months afterw^ard w^as promoted
to the captaincy. He served for some time as Chief of Ord-
nance, on General HascalFs staf^\

Of Captain Bruce's Company of twenty-three non-com-
missioned officers and men, three were killed on this same
charge. They were Corporal J. C. Reneer, and Privates
Alex Knox and Matthew^ Swan.

In Company G, Corporal Thomas Dedman, and Privates
Obediah Wyatt and William Rock were killed.

Company B suffered severely' in this first charge. Pri-
vates B. A. Low^ry, Robert L. Wallace, Ham Woods, W. E.
Thompson, James W. Cochran, were killed outright, and
Corporal Samuel K. Carnahan, John R. Sprowl, and Lieu-
tenant James D. Foster were mortally wounded. A number
of others were severely wounded in this Company, and
several were taken prisoners in this first charge. The loss
in Company B was thirty, out ot sixtN'-one officers and men
w^ho went into the fight on this ciiarge.

Among the killed at other times, during the afternoon,
were James A. Broiles, of K ; Kzekiel Boren, of A ; W illiam
Robinson, of D. Mortally wounded, Lindsey Holder, of C.

William Robinson was perfectly conscious that he would
not live, and made several simple requests of his comrades, as
to messages to friends, etc. He was taken to the field
hospital but told them not to put him in the tent, as that was
needed for those w'ho might live. He only asked to be
placed in an easy position and given some water. The poor
fellow dii'd during the night.

Robinson was a great big, large hearted fellow^ somew-hat
rougii in his manner, but withal of a gentle disposition. I
remember that he once cann' to m^' gate, whili' I was jiastor


of the M. E. Church, at Princeton, and gave me live dolUirs
towards repairing the church. This was as much as the
leading members could be persuaded to give. In giving his
life for his country he showed himself a better man than
many whose professions are much more loud.

Of Company E, Sergeant Gilbert Armstrong, a famous
sharpshooter, who sported a Henry rifle, was severely
wounded in tiie shoulder. The history of this man is full of
thrilling interest. lie was in the Mexican war. He was a
Western steamboatman in the meantime. His rill- was a
present from his tellow soldiers. AMien lu- was wounded
he gave his rifle to Lieutenant H.J. Barnett, of C()mpan\' V.

I must not omit to drop a tear to the memory* of "Grant,''
a celebrated flghting cock, belonging to the old sharp-
shooter. He had long rode in the ambulance to the exclu-
sion of weary men's knapsacks and the annoyance of the
sick. He was a great terror to my mare, wiio always
passed him on double quick. He was appropriately lel't on
the battlefield. When he could be seen no more he was
heard to crow. Poor rooster, I tear — nay, hope — he was
eaten by some hungr\' soldiers on that fatal frosty night.

I was on the field at a late hour of the night, gathering up
the wounded. I conducted a train of ambulances to the field
and back to the hospital after all the wounded were in.

We had one hospital tent up. It was full of suflering
men. Lieutenant Drury. who had been hauled about all
day in the ambulance with one leg ofl', lay (juietly in one
corner. Captain Bruce was about midway on the same
side, fully conscious that his end was near. Captain Davis
was opposite, seemingh- the worst wounded man in the lent.
On every side were men suffering untold agony. Outside
of the tent and near the corner were Robinson and Carna-
han. Poor Carnahan was mortally wounded in the abdomen.
He could not understand wh^' he was not put in the tent,
and why his wounds were not dressed. The tent might be
of use to some — not to him. His sulferings w ere great. He
did not die until next da\- near noon.


There was a row ot' rail tires in tin- front and rear of the
tents, tor the ni^ht was extremely eold tor September.
About these lay, or huddled, the sutlering victims of blooch'
Chickamanga. Of course amid such scenes there was but
little sleep or rest.

Such is a feeble account of the doings of mv own Regi-
ment on this noted day. May we never see such a dav

Sunday, September 20. — By request of Doctor Blair, I
started earlv with our Rejjimental ambulance, driven bv
John Everett, to hunt up our wounded in the various hos-
pitals. We first visited Van Cleve's and Palmer's. At the

Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 15 of 47)