John K. Duke.

History of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men online

. (page 10 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 10 of 24)
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brio^ade. Colonel Cockerill and Colonel Jones rode into town, and
as we were passing a cotton-gin was fired. Colonel Cockerill
commenced saying something about firing the cotton-gin, and
Colonel Jones said it makes it hot for the boys to pass, I wish they
had waited. Colonel Cockerill began to talk about vandalism.
Colonel Jones said : " People who have been as conspicuous as
these, in bringing this thing about, ought to have things burned ;
and I would like to see those chimneys standing there without any
■ house. " When we came back a few days later, the chimneys
were there, but there was not a rail or anything which would burn

On July 9th, as we -were advancing, we met General Sher-
man's army corps coming from Vicksburg to join with us at Jack-
son. On the evening of the 9th, when within about four miles of
Jackson, a brisk cannonading was opened upon us. This caused
a halt for the night. The 9th army corps. General Burnside com-
manding, came up during the night. On the morning of the 10th
the siege of Jackson began, and it extended over the next seven

On the 10th our division moved out to the left of Jackson, and
within sight of the enemy's skirmish line. Between us and the
enemy's fortifications there was a stretch of at least two miles of


Open field. Onr line of battle was formed with the 5.Srd and the
70th Ohio in front ; the remainder of the division to move in
columns in our rear. Here was, to the spectator at least, one of
the finest military sio^hts that were ever witnes.sed in the Army of
the Southwest during the four years of war. Here were twenty
thousand resolute men, most of them in sight, in almost perfect
alignment (contour of ground excepted), ready to move at the
sound of the bugle : '' Forward ! Guide right ! Double-quick,
march ! " We had not long to wait. With what determined step
we moved ! and while no man attempted to evade duty, many and
many a one, no doubt, said what was perhaps his final prayer,
kissed the photo of loved ones, and as he braced himself for the
trying ordeal said : " Here is for God, country, and home ! "

As we moved forward we drove the enemy's skirmishers.
Their hospital was in front of their fortifications and between the
lines of battle. In addition to their hospital flag — and that was
their protection — they had also hoisted their rebel flag in defiance
of the usages of honorable warfare. This hated flag was soon dis-
placed and " Old Glory " flung to the breeze by the 58rd O. \\ I.
Steadily we moved on and were meeting with opposition, but not
more severe than we had frequently encountered, if as much so.
We had just about concluded that the army was retreating, and
that we were perhaps fighting a division or two covering the re-
treat, when, to our consternation, we were saluted with a roar of
mu.sketry and a fusilade of shot and shell from their cannons which
let us know without a moment's warning that our thoughts as to
evacuation were a delusion. But steadily we pressed on, contend-
ing for every inch of ground, until night closed in upon the scene.
We camped in line of battle, just where we halted. Not much
sleep was indulged in, however, as the batteries from the enemy's
fortifications shelled us throughout the night. All night long we
were like ducks dodging thunder.

On July nth, as daylight ushered in the Sabbath morning,
they opened the battle with an artillery fire which was terrific and


effective. This had a tendency to disorganize our line to a limited
extent. While nnder this fire two inexperienced Indiana regi-
ments broke in full retreat, but were checked and returned to their
proper place in line of battle before any further demoralization set
in. The position occupied by the 53rd was particularly hot, and
the firing was destructive. During the hottest of the morning's
fight one company of the regiment was moved out in front, and
deployed as skirmishers not to exceed four hundred yards from the
enemy's line of fortifications. The shelling from the enemy's guns
that day will never be effaced from the memory of those present.
An officer of the 99th Indiana, who was upon the reserve line,
durino- the dav was writing a letter to his wife. A strav shell
came along and took off the arm which was doing the writing, and
also killed one of the 70th Ohio men.

July 14th. — The cannonading this morning was not so brisk,
but on the skirmish line there was constant firing, and at times so
pronounced as to partake of the form of battle. During the after-
noon a flag of truce came into our lines, requesting an armistice
for four hours ; we to bury the dead and care for the wounded
within our lines ; the enemy to do likewise. This was agreed to,
and proper details made to carry out the terms of the armistice.
During this four hours of intermission of battle our boys and the
Johnnie rebs met at the skirmish line upon the most cordial terms
and traded and exchanged not only compliments but coffee, salt
and the like, with our enemy for tobacco. To see them thus
together one could scarcely realize that in four short hours each
would be striving to see which was the best shot. It was no un-
usual occurrence to hear such exclamations as : " Look out,
Johnnie!" or. "Yank, time is up, and I am going to shoot at
you ! "

During the early part of the day a general commanding a
division in General Sherman's corps, without orders, charged upon
a battery with one brigade and lost 500 men killed. This general
was immediately placed under arrest. During the afternoon the

53Rn OHIO volunte?:r infantry. 1 1

left wing of our regiment Wv*s ordered to the front and placed upon
the skirmish line. Musketry and cannon firing continued through-
out the night.

July loth. — Tremendous cannonading and the roar of mus-
ketry continued throughout the day, but, so far as our part of the
army was concerned, was not so disastrous. They seemed for the
last day or two to be over-shooting us ; but a limited number were
killed or wounded during the day. We remained in the same
position the entire day, compelled to eat cold victuals, and glad to
have cold fat " sow-belly " to spread upon our hard-tack.

Little or no rest was had during the night of the 15th, as the
intensest excitement prevailed. At about 2 a. m. of the 1 6th we
commenced maneuvering, changing positions and reforming lines,
as we expected an attack or charge from the enemy. This is a
slow process with so many troops, unless the battle is on and haste
necessary. We were disappointed, however, in an attack, and we
learned afterwards that the enemy was then making preparations
for retreat. During the afternoon two regiments of our troops
attempted to storm a portion of the rebels' fortifications, and such
cannonading and roar of musketry followed that it almost shook
the heavens. Our forces succeeded in getting inside the works,
driving the gunners from the battery, but our boys were
in turn driven out by superior force, and upon their retreat the
enemv double shotted their cannon with grape and canister and
killed and wounded them by the score, some fifty odd being killed.
Some eighteen or twenty rebels in a trench outside of the fortifi-
cations were doing very effective sharp-shooting work. They
had picked off several of our officers and men. They were finally
charged upon by some forty or fifty of the (kh Iowa boys. They
brought back into our line sixteen prisoners, and those who
were not brought back alive were left to be buried.

July 17th. "Grape vine" news was disseminated that ten
thousand cavalry were in our rear, communications cut off, etc.;
but such bad news was but the prelude to better, as at about nine


a. m., we were assured that Jackson was evacuated and that the
rebel forces were in full retreat, and our advance in full possess-
ion of the city. During the afternoon our brigade moved out
along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad. Our business
was to tear up and burn several miles of the road. It may be in-
teresting to those who have never engaged in such work to know
how it is done. We first detached the rails, then piled the cross
ties in hollow blocks, set fire to them, and laid the rails across the
ties, when the middle of the rails was heated red hot the ends
would drop down, then with the railroad chairs upon hand-spikes
two soldiers, one at each end, would take hold of the rails and
twist them, thus rendering them useless until re-made by the
rolling mills. It rained very hard durmg the night, but notwith-
standing that fact the heavens for miles around were illuminated
by the burning of the city of Jackson. The boys evidently did
'not want property left to guard, and but little was left for guard-
ing. A few public institutions, such as the Insane Asylum with
its inmates were left. The chimneys of Jackson were the mon-
uments left to mark the once wealthy city. Our boys were
seven or eight days under shot and shell and when the oppor-
tunity came to retaliate, they used the torch effectively.

July 18th. We had about completed our mission on the
railroad, having destroyed some twenty miles together with a
number of station houses, one hundred bales of cotton, and one
flour mill, and were now retracing our steps to Jackson. On our
way back we met Welsh's division, which had also been en-
gaged in the destruction of the road. We reached Jackson about
noon, tired but ready for rations three times a day, and to obey
promptly any and all orders given.

The streets of the city had been dug up for fortifications of
various kinds, but the most inhuman and diabolical work of all
was the planting of torpedoes in unsuspected quarters, under the
pavements and all along the river fronts. Some innocent women
and children were killed by such deviltry. Hereat some of our


officers became incensed and sent out a lot of our rebel prisoners
to search for the hidden torpedoes. But little heed was paid to
them and we hoped they would be hoisted with their own petard.

June lOlh, our reg^iment marched to Jackson, takings a clean-
ing up bath in the Pearl River, washing clothes, and the like. A
part of the year the Pearl River is navigable as far as Jackson. In
our bathing we discovered that the bottom was covered with shot
and shell, thrown there no doubt to prevent their falling into our
hands on evacuation.

A flag of truce came into our lines with some eighty of our
boys as prisoners, asking for an equal exchange of prisoners in
our hands.

July 20th. All was quiet, nothing worthy of note trans-

July 21st. Congratulatory orders were read, complimenting
us for bravery and our perseverence in the capturing of Jackson.
Nothing further unusual occurred. Hot and hotter the sun beat
down upon us as we lay there in camp.

From July 22nd to August 9th we made our way back to
Messenger's Landing on Black River, by slow marches, reaching
our objective point on August 9th. We went into camp on high
ground, christening it Camp Sherman, Mississippi. The sickly
season was now on us with full and deadly effect, men and officers
were dying daily. Quite a number of the sick were fortunate
enough to secure furloughs and returned to " God's country " to be
nursed back to health by the kind hands of mothers, sisters, and
wives. Only those who have soldiered can form any idea what a
blessing home is to a sick man.




From August 9th to SOth, 18G3, we remained in camp doing
but little or any duty. Sickness prevailed to a great extent, and
we lost three men in our regiment by death..

September 2nd, details were made from the regiment for for-
aging, returning with 142 bales of cotton and a limited amount of

On the 7th we moved our camp some two miles, for sanitary
reasons, and during the week were reviewed by Geneial Sherman.
Here we experienced one of the longest rests we had at any time
during our four years' stay with Uncle Sam. General Grant issued
orders that a certain per cent of officers and men could be fur-
loughed home for thirty days. A large number of officers and
meUj including our colonel and lieutenant-colonel, availed them-
selves of an opportunity to visit once more the home-land and
those whom they loved.

On the 15th we made preparations to break camp, marching
to Vicksburg, thence by transports to Memphis, reaching the latter
city October 9th, 1863.

At the organization of the regiment at Camp Diamond, Jack-
son, Ohio, Companies A and B were the only one ones honored
with arms, and they of the Springfield pattern. About the time
the regiment was to depart from Paducah, Ky., the remaining
companies were armed with the x\ustrian rifles, these being of a
different calibre from the Springfield. On October lOth we were
relieved of these old guns and given the new Springfield, which


did away with the einbarrassinent of having to be served with two
sizes of cartridges.

On the 11th two divisions of our corps were sent by rail to
Corinth, Miss. The other two divisions were to make forced
marches and join the corps at that point. As usual, the 53rd O.
V. I. was one of the unfortunate regiments which had to make
the march. We took up our line of march at 6 a. m. At noon
we passed through Colliersville. At this place the headquarters
train went thundering by, General Sherman and staff being on
board. When at or near Germantown, 26 miles east of Memphis
the train was held up by the rebel General Chalmer, and a
spirited engagement ensued. For a short time it looked as
though General Sherman and staff would be taken prisoners.
This was so obvious at times during the engagment that some
of our officers and men lost courage. The rebels on one or two
occasions during the engagement boarded the train and contrived
to get hold of General Sherman's extra uniform in one of the
baggage cars. A rebel in one of the cars had managed to take off
his old shoes and pull on a pair of officer's boots, but just as he
jumped from the car to go to his own lines one of our men, seeing
he had captured some clothing and especially a fine pair of boots,
shot him through the heart, and before he was done kicking the
boots were off and upon the feet of our own soldier. The guards
however, managed to hold the rebels off until General John
Corse with his command came to their relief, and the cavalry re-
treated under cover from the field.

Mathew S. Lyons, a member of Co., F., 53rd O. V. I., re-
ceived a terrible wound during the day. It can perhaps be best
related in his own words : ''While approaching Colliersville,
Tennessee, I received a wound from a minie ball in the left
brow, which owing to the depth of penetration the surgeon failed
to locate or extract. I was carried upon a stretcher by details from
the regiment, being unable to be conveyed by ambulance, and
left at the hospital at La Grange, Tennessee, a distance of twenty-


eight to thirty miles from the scene of the conflict." Strange as
it may seem, he survived and was received as a veteran and dis-
charged with the regiment in 1865. He now resides at Flat,
Pike county, Ohio; is married and the father of a large family.

Our division camped at this place. Early the next morning
we were sent south of our line of march for the ptirpose of keep-
ing General Chalmer and his force off the railroad and from
destroying the same. We camped for the night twenty-eight
miles south-west of La Grange, Tenn. The Division camped for
the night at La Grange, but moved the next day to Moscow. The
following day we moved as far as Cedar Creek. At this same
place June 13th, 1862, we received pay when upon the march
from Corinth to Memphis. We next moved to Pocahontas and
camped for the night, and then proceeded to Corinth the next
day. We rested at Corinth some three or four days. October
22d we again took the road by v/ay of Burnsville to luka. Here
we camped and rested. On the 23rd we resumed our march to
Eastport on the Tennessee River and crossed the river under
guard of gunboats, which had been dispatched here to protect our


Just at this point some of our officers rejoined the regiment
from their furlough, fresh and with many a loving message from
the large hearted, loyal people of the North.

On the 30th we reached Florence, Ala. On November 2nd
we crossed Shoal's Creek, marching through a beautiful country
abounding in springs and forage, all of which we greeted with a
"thank God," and did ample justice to each.

On the 3rd we led the advance upon the line of march, and
after marching 12 miles went into camp for the night. On
November 4th we continued our march through streams and
over mountains not camping until 10 p. m. Marched at 6 a. m.,
on the otli. Rained all day. We forded Ritching Creek, waist
deep, going into camp at noon.


On November (ith we took up our line of inarch at 1 1 a. m.,
and camped near Pvlkton for the night. On the 7th we marched
ten miles and camped at 'S p. m.

November Sth was Sunday, but the j^tern war seemingly heeds
not the injunction, " Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh
day is the Sabbath of the Lord Thy God, in it thou shall not do
any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-ser-
vant or maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger which is
within thy gates. " Yet who would doubt that the God of nations
was directing our movements, guiding our leaders to the ultimate
success of our arms and the overthrow of rebellion and the utter
annihilation and destruction of the national sin of slavery?

We marched through Fayetteville, a town of about 2,000 in-
habitants. We crossed Elk River here on a magnificent stone
bridge, and camped at 12 m.

On November the 9th we reversed the order of the divine in-
junction above quoted and rested on Monday, remaining in camp
throughout the day. On the 10th we took up our march at 8 a.
m., marching 20 miles. Our hardtack was exhausted and no sup-
ply train near. The troops, however, were in excellent cheer and
condition. No bread for breakfast on the 11th, but we marched
eleven miles, passing through Winchester and camping in view of
the Cumberland Mountains.

On the 12tli we marched at 9 a. m., crossing a chain of the
Cumberland Mountains near Cowan's Station. There was no for-
age for beasts and in consequence a large number of mules died
from starvation and over-work. It was no unusual sight to see
trees as high as the animals could reach, barked and eaten for
food. To a casual observer, our movement through this particular
mountain pass would have seemed to be impossible ; yet, inspired
by patriotism and love of home, we surmounted every obstacle and
slowly but surely pressed on. Night overtook us in the pass and


we camped in the road. The whole surface was covered with
huge rocks. Necessity being the mother of invention, these huge
rocks were made to serve us as tables for supper and breakfast ; the
lesser ones for chairs and pillows. Our wagon train had man-
asfed to o-et to where we had communication and we resplenished
our empty haversacks, ditto our stomachs, much to our satisfac-
tion. No army was ever mustered under any flag that so uncom-
plainingly did every duty under any and all circumstances as the
one under the leadership of Generals Grant and Sherman. If they
had plenty they were happy, if minus the needful, still contented
and happy, and fought the more valiantly.

A glance backward through the mountain pass would have
caused one to think a cyclone had passed that way. The pass
was strewn with broken wagons, caissons, camp equipage and dead
mules. The poor, abused mule suffered the most. For instance,
one of them got off of the road and was hanging over a precipice,
endangering the other mules of the team. This one was cut loose
and dropped 200 to 300 feet below. A large sharp-pointed rock
caught the mule amidship, and there he hung kicking, with en-
trails protruding, until death ended his suffering.

It began to rain at about 5 o'clock on the morning of the 14th.
We took up our march at daylight, reaching Andrew's Station at
9 a. m. • We crossed the State line into Alabama and camped four
miles from Stevenson. On Sunday, the 15th, we continued our
march, passing through Stevenson and camping one mile from
Bridgeport. Throughout the Kith we remained quiet. On the
17th we moved at daylight, crossing the Tennessee River at
Bridgeport on pontoons. We rested at Nickajack Cave, where
saltpeter was manufactured for the rebel arms, and camped near
Trenton, Ga., after a hard day's march of twenty-three miles.

On the 18th we marched at 6 a. m., forming in line of battle
as we neared Trenton. At 11 a. m. our batteries were shelling
the woods in our front, dislodging the enemy and also causing de-


moralization and horror among the innocent women and children
in the villas^e. The 53rd was among- the first regfiments to enter
the town and expel the enemy. At night the camp-fires of the
enemy npon Lookont Monntain were plainly visible.

"On the 19th the 53rd Ohio and the i)7th Indiana were
ordered to reconnoiter as far as Lookont Monntain to ascertain the
obstrnction, if any, and, as far as possible, gain some idea of the
forces in onr front. In our movements we were compelled to ford
creeks waist deep several times. But few shots were fired at us,
and those without serious effect. "^/Ve returned to camp at 9 p. m.,
when several of our boys, supperless and drenched to the skin,
were detailed for picket for the night. Such is the fate of war ;
but obedience is the first duty of a soldier.

On the 20th we remained in camp during the day. It began
to rain early in the evening, and rained all night. The rain con-
tinued on the 21st, but we broke camp at 7 a. m., and, marching all
day in the rain, camped near Lookout Mountain. Our pickets
and the enemy's were only about forty rods apart. No tents, no
rations, and no sleep !

Sunday, November 22nd, was not a rest day for us. Orders
were received to have 100 rounds of cartridges and three days'
rations issued to the men. We commenced marching at 1 p. ra.
over rough country, crossing the Tennessee River near Chatta-
nooga on pontoons, and camped for the night near the river. On
the 23rd we remained in camp all day. Heavy cannonading was
heard in our front.

At a. m. on the morning of the 24th we moved out of
camp, reaching the river at 7 a. m. There was fighting on the
opposite side of the river. The troops were crossed upon pon-
toons. The pioneers were busy constructing a bridge across
Chickamauga Creek. Three miles from Chattanooga our brigade
was ferried across the river in pontoons. Brisk cannonading was
heard all along General Hooker's line. A battery of our own


division opened out briskly as we marched out and took position
upon a hill near Mission Ridge. Our line was shelled to some
extent in response, but a twenty-pounder was run out upon the
line and soon silenced the enemy's guns. As night settled down
upon us we abandoned our guns and took to the spade, pick, and
ax, and built a strong fortification in full view of the enemy's
camp fire. A general engagement opened early the following
morning, the 25th, all along the line. At nine a. m. the First
and Second Brigades engaged the enemy. The wounded were
carried back in large numbers, including quite a number of field
officers, General Corse being of the number. Our line was ad-
vanced and gained the railroad. The o3rd was detailed to sup-
port a battery and received its full share of shot and shell. The
Third Brigade, of which the 53d was a part, suffered severely and
lost several men in battle, and a considerable number were also
taken prisoners of war. Later in the day a general advance was
ordered all along the line and Lookout and Mission Ridge were
taken. We returned from the support of the battery late at night
and went into camp.

The enemy was in full retreat on the 26th with General
Jeff. C. Davis and his corps in hot pursuit. It was cold and
frosty during the nights of the 25th and 26th and hundreds of the
wounded left upon the field suffered intensely, many dying from
exposure. During the night the 53rd proceeded to the river. In
the morning we crossed Chickamauga Creek and marched down

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Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 10 of 24)