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 27 of 47)
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self all he can without shrinking from duty.

I ascended along the rebel works. The mountain side is
thickly set with a growth of oaks, and a pine here and there.
Soon I stand upon the summit of Pine Mountain. Most of
the trees have been cut from the top, and a rebel fort built.
Here fell Lieutenant-General Polk, of the rebel army, on
the 14th inst. He was struck in the side by a piece of shell
and was terribly mangled. Once a shepherd of the fold of
Christ — a Bishop in the Episcopal Church — he laid aside
the robes of his holy office, to battle with carnal weapons for
human slavery. He must have often been smitten by his
conscience. "He, that being often reproved, liardeneth his
neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and tliat without remedy."


"Do you wish to see his monument?" asks the inscrip-
tion in St. Paul, London, refering to its builder, Sir Chris-
topher Wren, "Look about you." Here, over many miles,
nature's wonders commemorate the greatness of Deity.
The sun is shining with golden beauty on the Allatoona
mountains, though clouds shut him from our gaze. The
regions of Etowah are also illuminated. Thus in life,
though the present is gloom}', there is sunshine on the
mountain and the river beyond. Where I now stand, a few
days since, the proud traitors stood, and looked in scorn upon
the hated Yankees, in the valley below. They could see
them by thousands behind their entrenchments. I imagine
the rebels held these Yankee ditches as much in contempt, as
Remus did those of Romulus. And perchance the Lieuten-
ant-General, named above, bethought himself another Jupiter,
holding in his red right hand the thunderbolt of Divine

The northern mountain side is torn in many places by the
shot and shell fired by our guns. The throne of Jupiter is
much battered.

North of the mountain, not onh' can be seen Allatoona,
but many other mountains. Away to the noi'theast, as far
as sight can pierce,

"Alps on Alps arise.''

To the northwest the land is more level. Ever3^where the
forest seems almost unbroken. Here and there can be seen
a cleared field.

On the mountain there are two signal stations. One on
the south communicates with Kenesaw Mountain, and
another on the west with Lost Mountain. The latter's flag,
swinging against the clear sky, is black ; the former's, hav-
ing an earthly background, is white. Lost Mountain must
be about ten miles to the right. It is well named, for it
stands without a fellow.

Southward a grand scene opens upon our view. In front
of Lost Mountain there are innumerable chains of hills and
ridges. Hid away in some of these, from our view, is the


Chattahoochee river. Ten miles in front of us, on a com-
manding hill, is the Georgia Military College. It seems, at
this distance, a magnificent building. It stands in an open
space, with a few shade trees and out-buildings surrounding.
This side of the college there are a few house tops, which I
suppose mark the site of Marietta, concealed from our view.
Just to the left of the college, and apparently six miles from
us, is a hill, and then the twin mountains — Kenesaw. The
one upon the left is the higher. Each is stripped of foliage
at the summit, save a few scrubby brush, and one tall tree
upon the left mountain, reserved, no doubt, for a lookout.
The sides of these mountains are very rocky. On the tops
the rebel parapets mav be seen with the naked eye.

Still to the left, and farther away, there are mountain
ranges, connecting Kenesaw with the great mountain chains
of Tennessee, Carolina, and Virginia. Nearer where we
stand, there is a constant succession of hills and valleys.
Though heavily timbered, there are some open spots. On
the left is the railroad. In front, in a long line of about ten
miles, may be seen the entrenchments and tents of Sher-
man's armv. Through the opening, here and there, winds
the long, sluggish wagon train, bearing rations or ammuni-
tion to the front, or wounded to the rear.

The winds are gently playing in the mountain pines. The
fleecy clouds are flying athwart the skv. Now they
thicken, and while nature scatters from one hand the sun-
shine, from the other the baptism of water is poured on hill
and valley.

But hark :

'• 'Tis the cannon's loud roar,"'

and tile crash ot musketry, that falls upon our ears !
"Lol from the regions of the North

The red'ning storm of battle pours,
Rolls along the trembling earth,

And fastens on Corinthian towersl"

From early morning until night the cannonading-
increased. During a part of the afternoon it raged furi-
ously. When darkness came the flash of the guns could be


distinctly traced. The musketiy was only hea^'y skirmish-
ing. It is grand beyond any description, thus to look upon
the battle, and I sat and gazed for several hours upon this
scene. Our army appeared to advance a little upon the
right, but no disposition was manifested, upon either part, to
press the battle. How strange, that man will thus disturb
the beauty and repose of nature !

Tuesday, June 21. — After the fashion of the times, we
have had showers to-day. Though we are on the moun-
tains, we are in the mud.

The fury of the battle increases to-day. It burst forth
during the forenoon and raged until dark. Indeed, there
was neither beginning nor ending. There is no moment, of
either day or night, when there is an entire cessation of

The fighting is more to the right, and seemingly more
advanced. The country is full of entrenchments, con-
structed by Governor Brown's pioneers for the army.
When the rebels are driven from one line, they fall back to
another. This makes hard work for our army.

This morning we had pontoon drill, by the four Companies
of the Regiment who are to serve as Pontoniers, The vari-
ous squads of men are numbered in sections, each with a dis-
tinct duty. One section carries "balk," another "chess,"
another ties the "lashings," etc. The men learn very fast,
and soon will make excellent Pontoniers. The Pontoniers
who have just left us are generally lazy. Our men are
American farmer boys, and are naturally intelligent and

Whisky rations are issued to the men. This is quite com-
mon in the army at present. The uncommon exposure of
our soldiers has led the commissary department to procure
stimulants for them. The idea prevails with many, that men
can endure more when they have whisky. This idea is
common with those who are the victims of that lassitude
which follows intoxication. But men who abstain entirely
from strong drink can endure far more than those who use


stimulants. To them, the heat of summer, the cold of win-
ter, the damp entrenchment, and the battle long protracted,
are not so trying as to the victims of intoxication. The tem-
perate man retains, undiminished, the lorce of nature, while
whisky shatters and destroys the constitution. As a medi-
cine, it may be useful, but in every other case it is an evil.

Officers and men who are under the influence of whisky
are unfit for their duties. Battles hav^e been lost, and men
slaughtered, by whisky. There are hundreds of men now
in their graves, who have been killed in battle, either because
they or their officers were drunk.

I rode down on the battlefield this afternoon. The rebels
had line alter line of heavy works, and face in almost every
direction. Our men seem to have fought from almost every
point of the compass. The trees are torn by big and little
shot. As one rides through these forests, it seems that no
one could pass through such a storm of battle, as lately swept
here, without having a charmed life.

I fell in with a scout, who was in Marietta yesterday. He
estimates the rebel forces at 80,000, including 15,000 Geor-
gia militia. The}^ are well clothed and fed, for rebels, and
are in excellent spirits. The}- seem to manifest no disposi-
tion to evacuate. They do not like the nomination of
Andrew Johnson for Vice-President. The}' regard him as a
traitor to the South.

Major Downey, Dr. Iloltzman, Lieutenant Milburn, the
band, and a few men, came up from Chattanooga on the 23d
and joined the Regiment. They had charge of a few valises
— among them was mine — and some other items. This side
of Dalton a portion of the train, containing this propert}'-,
was deserted. Major Downey and his crew abandoned his
charge, with two guards. The rebels plundered the train,
carrying ofl' the valises.

Saturday, June 25. — AtkM- breakfast. Dr. Iloltzman and
I mounted our horses and rode to Big Shanty, which is the
depot for the Army of Tennessee. The station is said to
have been named from the shanty — 40x70 feet — built here


by the contractor, who graded this portion of the raih^oad.
This was the biggest shanty then in these parts. There
were innumerable trains about the depot. We could see no
end to wagons in any direction.

We next rode to General Thomas' headquarters, which
we found to be in motion. They were pitched a half mile
to the right of General Howard's, and the Marietta and
Dallas road. By order of Colonel Buell, we selected a camp
a mile in the rear for the Pontoon train, and then returned to
camp by a short route. There has been some firing, but no
general or special engagements, to-day.

Sunday, June 26. — At twelve m. we marched to the new
camp selected yesterda}'. We are now within cannon range
of the enemy. We camped near the hospitals of Newton's
and Wood's Division. I preached at the 2d Brigade, 2d
Division, hospital. T stood by the roadside, and began
declaiming on "Prepare to Meet Thy God." A storm was
threatening, and as many of the wounded were laying about
outdoors, there was some confusion caused by carrying
them in. Worse than this, in the midst of my holding forth,
two wagon trains met upon the road, and had no little jam-
ming and crowding to pass each other. One teamster, think-
ing to shine above his fellows, had hung tinkling bells about
his mules. He jingled several heads out of my discourse,
but what the congregation lost in preaching, they gained in
the prettv music of the bells, and the ejaculations of the
teamsters. *

Monday, June 27. — It was early rumored that there was
to be a grand charge on the rebel works, on Kenesaw
Mountain, at eight a. m. This filled m'^ with misgivings,
for I not only feared a repulse, but a coiuUer-charge, in the
confusion which must ensue. Our train was close enough
to be captured in such an event. Taking as good a position
as possible, I waited to see or hear the charge. In the early
morning there was considerable cannonading and musketry,
preliminary to the grand charge that took place at nine
o'clock. Our loss was about 1,800 men ; among them was


the gallant General Harker, who tVll mortally wounded.
We were repulsed, and there was nothing gained by this
great sacrifice. It was very disheartening to our troops.
The impression now is that we cannot take their works bv

In company with Dr. lioltzman and Sergeant Farmer, I
rode to Ackworth, ten miles. We turned to the right a
mile in the rear of our camp, and passed between Lost and
Pine Mountains. There w^ere no troops on the road, but
there were straggling Yankees all the w^ay. Here were two
or three in a house, talking to the people. Here is another
washing himself in a creek. Here are two running a mill.
Wandering about the fields might be seen the inevitable mule
drivers, hunting' cane and green apples. Both are scarce.
We stopped a few moments at Widow Hull's. This good
woman is poor in spirit. Her eldest son — aged seventeen —
went off a few^ wrecks ago, with the Georgia militia. He
thought that the task of driving off the Yankees would be
short. Then he could return, like a true patriot, to the
parental root. But the tide of war swept by, destroying his
mother's farm, and bearing him away. Wliere he will go
and what will be his destiny, none can tell. May God pity
all such youths.

Speaking of Dr. Holtzman, I remember very well the
morning when he joined the Regiment, soon after the battle
of Shiloh. 1 was the onh' man in it with whom he was
acquainted. He had been laboring the preceding dav to
reach the Regiment. He had sold his trunk, and sacrificed
a can of peaches sent me by my sister, Mrs. Mar}' Legg.
He had drawn a horse from a Qiiartermaster and came with
two carpet bags. He called at several headquarters on his
way, hunting for the "58th Indiana \"olunteers." It was
nearly night when he reached General Buell's, and, with a
d Miiocratic frankness, in keeping with one fresh from the
people, asked for the privilege of staving all night I The
astonished and courteous Adjutant, Colonel Fry, forgetting
hiinsrlf, asked: "Who the devil are vou?" "I think,"


added General Buell, "that you had better report to your
command, sir, iuiiucdiatch' ! " The new Surgeon did not
stand on the order ot' his going, but went. He wandered
about, stumbling over guard lines, until he came to a friend,
who kindly gave him a bed under a wagon until morning.
Such are the trials and tribulations of the innocent. Dr.
Iloltzman knows more now. He ^vouId not think of asking
a Major-General for the privilege of staving all night in his

General Harker, whose death has been noted, was an
accomplished and gallant officer. In the morning of June
27th, he led his Brigade in the deadly charge on Kenesaw.
When in about thirty vards of the enemy's works, there was
a slight wavering in our lines. He turned to Lieutenant
Zack Jones, of his staff, and gave command for the bugler
to sound "Forward I " When Lieutenant Jones turned his
head, Harker had fallen, pierced through the arm and into
the chest. After much labor he was borne from the field.
After leaving some messages he expired. A neat coffin was
made by our Regimental mechanics, and his bodv was
embalmed as well as it could be here, and the remains sent
to his friends. He was a very brave man and was always
at his post.

Thursday, June 30. — Our people seem to be pretty- well
satisfied with assaulting the enemy's works. There was
heavy cannonading yesterday. Late in the afternoon our
guns made the dust rise in clouds from about the summit of
Kenesaw. The popping of guns did not abate at nightfall.
I must have heard five hundred reports of cannon, while we
were at meeting in the evening. I was awakened at two
this morning by the loudest roar of musketrv that I had
heard during this campaign. Orders were issued for har-
nessing the mules, and a detail was made of Pioneers to pre-
cede the train in case of a march. But the clatter ceased
soon. I iiave not learned the particulars.

Lieutenant Williams, of Colonel Buell's stafT, returned
this evening from Chattanooga, whither he went to escort


the body of Colonel Bartleston, of the looth Illinois Volun-
teers, who was another gallant officer killed in the charge on
Kenesaw. At Shiloh he lost his left arm. At Chicka-
mauga he was captured. He returned recently to his Regi-
ment from Libbv Prison. When killed, he was Division
Officer of the Da}', and was in advance of the skirmish line,
on his horse. He fell, pierced by the ball of a sharpshooter.

At two p. m. this morning a very strange and interesting
occurrence happened in camp. Corporal Vincent McPaul,
of Company D, dreamed that we were encamped under
some great shelving rocks. He thought they were about to
fall on the camp of Compan}' D. He began a most hideous
yelling, that awoke everyone in camp. Men who had slept
undisturbed in the roar of battle, were aroused. He jumped
on Sergeants Benjamin Laswell and Barrett and made strong
efforts to save them, and then bounded into "I" street, before
he was secured and awakened. B}^ this time, everybody
was awake. The news spreading from one to another, there
was a great burst of mirthfulness. Loud laughter rang on
the still night, until the voice of Major Downey commanded
silence. McPaul has been troubled with such dreams since
he was wounded at the battle of Chickamauga.

Saturday, July 2. — A grand movement began to-day,
involving, perhaps, the entire separation of McPherson's
and Thomas' armies. The former began moving to the
right, a part of his forces. General Thomas says that he
can defeat Johnson's army. After McPherson and Scho-
field go, Johnson may attack Thomas in front. If he does,
he will be repulsed. He may move on our flanks. Defeat
must even then befall him. There is no hope for the rebels
but in flight.

Our present camp had been constructed in almost any
style. This afternoon orders were issued to straighten up
the tents and police the quarters. "We are going to move,"
said the men. "W^henever they begin to tix up camp, we
are sure to move." This is a common remark amongst the
soldiers on such occasions.


Sunday, July 3. — The dav dawned on us in genuine Julv
style. Near our camp the Army of the Tennessee was still
rolling by in a continual stream. Rumors began to prevail
that the enemy was gone, which proved to be true. They
could not endure flanking. We soon received orders to
march at eleven a. m. I improve the morning hours by
preaching a sermon. Most of the men were engaged and
could not attend. But a respectable congregation assembled.
I felt (as is usual with me in camp) libert}^ in preaching the
gospel. I felt satisfied all day because I had preached.
When an3'thing prevents our usual meetings on the Sabbath
day, I am tormented by many misgivings.

The march to Marietta was greatly retarded b}^ the long
trains crowding in that direction. We passed an intricate
labyrinth of field works, constructed by our army. Some of
them were strong, and some mere shadows of protection.
They were made as our men gained the ground. Our
troops had left them and gone forward. But sad memorials
were left behind in the graves of our gallant dead. Great
was the slauirhter of the brave in the battle of Kenesaw.
They are usually interred together, fifty or more in a spot.
The killed upon the field sleep amongst the works. And
then wherever a hospital remains for a day or two there is a
grave yard. Each man is laid away as decently as time and
circumstances will permit. Tiie blanket which warmed him
when living is wrapped about the soldier's lifeless lorm.
The sunburnt survivors place some boards, or sticks, to pro-
tect him from rude contact with the earth. The soil is gently
laid upon the bosom of the dead, while a few silent tears
steal down the rough cheeks of some long-tried comrades.
A board — a mere fragment of a cracker or ammunition box
— is placed at his head, telling the name, Compan}^ I^^S^"
ment, and day of death. The Chaplain offers up prayers to
God for the far-off' household, where the anguish of the sad
death will soon intrude itself, and for those who stand about
the newly made grave. There was some ingenious carving
on some of these headboards. In the lontj hours of our


patient waiting before the Kenesaw, men had found time to
carve most handsome!}', not only the name, but also striking
devices. These memorials are onh' a little shorter lived than
those of stone, erected at home.

We passed along the lines until we came to the spot where
the grand charge of the 27th ult. had been made. Here a
sight, such as I had never beheld, presented itself to my
view. I had stood upon many battletields, but never had I
seen one where the missiles of death had played such havoc
amongst the timber. It was where General J. C. Davis'
Division fought. Our works approached within nineteen
steps of those of the rebels. The trees were as thick with bul-
let marks as flies upon a sugar barrel. A little chestnut, five
inches in diameter, was chopped to shreds. A large chest-
nut tree, with the help of one solid shot, had been cut down
b}^ bullets. The arms of the ugly abatis — formed bv thrust-
ing green sticks an inch and a half in diameter, and two
yards long, with sharpened points, at right angles, and at a
distance of three inches apart, through thirty-foot green logs
about five to ten inches in diameter — were shot into brooms.
One would serve to sweep a tent. In the logs, designed to
protect the rebel heads, the bullet marks were seen by thou-
sands. The headboards of some poor fellows who had fallen
between the works, and had been buried under a flag of
truce, were shivered by the balls.

The work of the rebels here is a lunette, crowning the
summit of a hill. It is very solid, and was evidently made
before the Yankees came. In front it is well protected by
a strong abatis, described above. In tiie rear there is an
open way, dug for the protection of the combatants passing
in and out. There are all kinds of protections, such as
ingenuity or fear prescribed. Still farther in the rear there
are other lines of works, made since the great charge.

"A deep tangled wild wood"

hid the rebels from our men. But the deadly charge had
been determined. Those who were fated to lead the forlorn
hope, ate their morning meal as men ;\yv wont to do in the


house of death. The trains are sent to the rear. The
charging Divisions are massed. At nine a. m. our skirmish
line advances, driving that of the rebels before. Behind it
comes the solid lines of battle, with guns uncapped and bay-
onets lixed. Down the hill, on which stood the supporting
lines, and bravely np the next, where death stood ready
to welcome them, rolled the wave of battle. Fast and thick
upon the hillside fell the dead and wounded. Harker,
swinging high his hat in air, and calling to his men to follow,
fell, mortallv wounded, from his gallant steed. Some fal-
tered, but the bravest pressed on.

The lines were lost in the woods. The abatis checked the
advance. The well protected rebels stood bravely at their
works. But the race of heroes is not extinct. The banner
of beauty and of glory is planted on the enem^^'s works. A
moment more, and the tide of battle would have swept over
the rebel lunette, and rolled through their lines, like the
waters of the Mississippi through a crevasse. But there is
a point where humanity can do no more. God has set
bounds to man's endurance. In His providence. He said
this day to our battle ocean : "Thus far shalt thou go, and
here shall thv proud waves be stayed." The loyal wave,
having lashed its fury on the devoted hill, and left its high
water mark of blood, recedes, but not within its former
bounds. Ground is gained, and bravely held. By filling
pork barrels and cracker boxes with dirt and stone, and,
crowding them before the sappers and miners, a still nearer
approach is made. Already a mine had been dug about fif-
teen feet towards the rebels. Had the 3^ remained a little
longer, they would have been blown up.

I have learned the explanation of the terrible firing on the
morning of June 30th. Some men in Davis' Division called
out aloud, "Forward I Guide center! Double Quick!
March!" The rebels, thinking the Yankees upon them,
began firing turioush'. Our men, laboring under the same
delusion in reference to the rebels, responded with much
vigor. The firing passed along the line, the cannons


loudly roar, and a great noise was kept up for an hoiu\ Was
there ever an^^thing more ridiculous? So completely were
both parties convinced of their folly, that there was an almost
an entire cessation of the firino- from that time to the evacu-

The fighting was done amongst the hills and woods.
Georgia, thus far, is a land of barren oak hills, thinly popu-
lated, and generally covered with the native forests.

We found some little evidences of man's presence, as we
drew near to Marietta. We soon entered the town, and rode
along one of the main streets to the public square. In the
suburbs, at a house where we stopped to get a drink at the
well, there was a respectable looking, elderlv lady, neatly
dressed, sitting in the door wa}-, with a a sad countenance.
She was now reaping some of the fruits of rebellion. There
were inhabitants in some of the other houses.

We camped in the town, in the yard of an ex-governor of
the State, but "his excellency" was not at home. A ver}^
foolish and abortive effort was made to prevent the men from
tearing dowai the plank fence to make bunks of. They were

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 27 of 47)