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 12 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 12 of 24)
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This movement induced General Bragg to send a large part of
his army to Resaca to resist General McPherson, who was
threatening his line of communication. We were not halted
until within two miles of the railroad at Resaca, where we met the
rebel advance. The battle of Resaca, at least that part of it in
which the 53rd was most engaged, occurred the first day. May
13th. although severe fighting lasted all along the line the 13th,
14th, and 15th. Upon the morning of the 13th, while our col-
umn was on the road, General Kilpatrick rode up and requested
General Morgan L. Smith, our division commander, to move off
of the road and allow his cavalry to pass as he was anxious to get
to the front to attend to the enemy's cavalry which wa:s harassing
our skirmishers. His request was granted, and he struck the
rebel line sooner than he expected, and in less than 15 or 20
minutes he was being conveyed back to the rear through our
lines, in an ambulance with an ugly gun-shot wound in his
thigh. The Second Division was at once swung into line of bat-
tle, skirmishers deployed, and soon the roar of musketry was
heard. The 53rd was upon the extreme right of the Army of
the Tennessee ; its right flank resting near the Oostanaulu
River. We stayed under fire for some time in line of battle,


while our skirmishers were advancing, feeling of the enemy's
line. When the command rang out, "Forward ! Guide right !
march !" the battle was on. In our advance we were exposed
to the fire of the enemy in front and right flank from a stockade
across the Oostanaulu. The murderous flank fire killed only a
few, but wounded many. Here a companion of the historian,
who up to this time had never been struck and was present for
duty at every engagement and frequently boasted that the rebel
bullet had not been made to hit him, was struck, and as he
dropped his gun and caught up his leg, he cooly remarked, "John,

by , the bullet has been made, and I have caught it in my


One of the first men wounded in the Atlanta campaign was
William Willis, of Co. D. He was shot through the arm. He
ran to one of the field officers and lifting his arm from which the
blood WIS flowing, cried out : "Look there : lean whip the man
who did it." Fortunately for "the man who did it" the
Oostanaulu river flowed dark and deep between them.

In moving forward the 58rd and 37th Ohio Regiments were
halted at the edge of the field, while the remainder of the corps
was being lined up to our line of battle. The fire from across
the river and from the skirmishers in front was so severe that
our commander. Colonel Jones, said to Lieutenant Colonel Von
Blessing of the 37th Ohio : "We cannot stay here, we will have
to either advance or fall back. 1 propose that we move forward
and drive the rebel skirmishers across the creek in fiont of us."
Colonel Von Blessing assented to this suggestion of our regimental
commander, and we moved forward and drove the skirmishers
from their position in front of us and took it ourselves. Gen-
eral Logan who was on top of the hill and saw the movement,
remarked to a staff officer, "There are two regiments gone to
hell." He thought we would go too far and be captured, but
such was not the case, as we held our ground and remained there
until the night. For four long hours we were under a galling


fire and suffered severely ; our men going down all around us, and
a constant stream being carried to the rear for treatment. We
withdrew a short distance under cover of darkness and lay upon
our arms all night ; but in full view of the enemy's camps.

Heavy skirmishing commenced at 4 a. m. the morning of
the 14th. Companies E and K of the 53rd were upon the skir-
mish line under Command of Captain Galloway. About noon the
captain received instructions to advance the line of skirmishers,
which we did and to within about 100 yards of the skirmish line of
the enemy. It was ordered that our brigade, with that of Giles A.
Smith, should charge the rebel line of fortifications at 4 p. m. It
was also understood that at the proper signal, the skirmishers
were pour into the rebel line in their front, while the two brig-
ades mentioned were to execute the charge and carry the enemy's
line. In this assault Colonel Jones had his horse shot from un-
der him. The brigades moved "double quick," and with a yell
and with such a deafening roar of musketry that commands were
useless, but the boys knew quite well what to do and they went
on pell-mell, closing up their ranks as one by one they fell out
from wounds or death. We soon drove the enemy from their
first line of fortifications, occupying them with a shout and Old
Glory was planted upon the works. The firing and fighting was
kept up until G p. m., but we had gained our position and their
works, and in full view of Resaca. Our losses were heavy. The
losses of the entire army for the three days' fighting at Resaca
were 600 killed and 3375 wounded. The two companies, E and
K upon the skirmish line fired during this engagement over
4000 rounds.

On Sunday, May IGth, the fighting was continued; our bat-
teries shelling their works. Our regiment, however, did not do
much. On the l()th we were relieved by the 37th Ohio for rest
and needed sleep. The enemy evacuated their forts during the
night ; their rear guard firing the bridges. We advanced and
saved the wagon bridge, but the railroad bridge was partially de-


stroyed. We then passed on to Resaca. The enemy's line of for-
tifications and forts was the best we had encountered. We took a
large number of prisoners. In their haste they had left their dead
unburied upon the field. On Tuesday, May 17th, we were pursu-
ing the enemy in the direction of Rome, skirmishing as we went.
The cavalry in our front was driven back twice during the day.
We doubled-quicked to the front and routed the enemy each time.
Heavy fighting was going on to our left. We camped late at
night and Oh ! what a good rest and sleep we did have. We re-
mained in camp quiet during Wednesday, the 18th, until 2 p. m.
and then moved, passing through Adairsville. The march was
continued through the night and until 4 a. m. Within the next
two hours, or at G a. m., on the 19th, we were again upon the line
of march and finally camped within two miles of Kingston. There
was heavy skirmishing throughout the day. On the 20th we re-
mained quiet all day. The railroad trains came up from Chatta-
nooga with supplies. In passing, the fact may be mentioned that
General Sherman had expected the destruction of the bridges be-
tween Chattanooga, and Atlanta and had duplicates of the bridges
and trestles made ready to be replaced on short notice, hence the
reader and student of history can readily understand why the
trains so nearly followed ns. In other words, the organization of
this army was as near perfect as any human transaction could be.
This enabled us to keep our cracker-line open with " God's coun-
try. " Saturday and Sunday, the 21st and 22nd of May, we en-
joyed a rest ; but on the 23rd we moved at 6 a. m., and continued
our march until we had gone some 20 miles, and then camped.
The train from Chattanooga brought us mail, the first for some
weeks. How the cheering letters from home aroused our spirits
and nerved us for the carnage soon to follow ! Upon the 24th we
passed on to Vanworth, and covered some eight miles of march.
On the 25th we marched at 8 a, m., and went into camp after
marching ten miles. There was heavy cannonading on our left.
At sundown or soon after, while in camp, we were summoned to
assemble and ordered to move and re-inforce General Thomas. We


marched until 11 o'clock and ag^ain camped. Thursday, the 20th,
we marched at 9 a. m. There was skirmishing in our front. We
were then advancing on Dallas. The maneuvering in our ap-
proach to and capture of the town was magnificent, and to an ob-
.server it was a spectacle to be remembered. We steadily advanced,
driving the enemy in our front, passed through Dallas and pre-
sumed we were destined to camp peaceably for the night ; but a
short distance beyond the village, to our surprise, we were soon
under a brisk fire.

We immediately swung into line of battle and were hotly en-
gaged ere we were fully aware of what was going on about us.
The 53rd was in the advance, as usual, received the first shock of
battle and suft'ered correspondingly. We held our own until late
at night ; slowly but surely advancing — the enemy just as stub-
bornly retreating.

On the 27th, at 4 a. m., the fighting was on, and it contin-
ued throughout the day. We were exposed and suffered severely.
We formed a line of battle across the Dallas and Marietta Railroad.
The 53rd was at an angle in the line. We were further advanced
than any part of the line on either side, and lay in a semi-circle at
this road. We realized that the enemy was in large force, and
hastily constructed a work. The next day (the 2Sth), about 12
o'clock, we were attacked by the rebels all along the line. Imme-
diately in front of the o3rd Ohio there were three lines in the rebel
column. It was Finley's brigade of Florida troops. The enemy
in our front was of Bates' division, and composed principally of
Kentucky and Florida troops. The charge of the Florida brigade,
which the o3rd and 37th Ohio resisted and repulsed, was an ex-
tremely gallant one. As they ascended into the semi-circle where
we had a galling fire upon their front, right and left flanks, they
came with heads bowed down and their hats pulled over their eyes
as if to hide from view their inevitable death. Our murderous
fire, while we had them in this death-trap, was that of precision.
Our aim was deadly. It seemed as though nothing short of utter


annihilation could stop them. They left 600 dead in the semi-
circle. The charge was not checked until their line was shot to
pieces, and that within fifty feet of our line of fortifications. Their
colors were planted in advance of their line. Then it was that
Major Dawes wanted to shoot that color-bearer. Our field oflScers
were in a position where they could see the line, and were doing
what they could to encourage us to hold our own. Unfortunately
we ran out of ammunition, and Colonel Jones ordered a fresh sup-
ply, and Captain Crumit, of Co. D, got out of the trenches behind
the men and went along with a pick opening the boxes of ammu-
nition, while every one else was largely protected. Colonel Jones
and Major Dawes were near together, and they realized that it was
a fight to the death — there was no retreat in it. To allow the
rebels to break the line at that time would have lost us our trains
back of us. We knew they had a great many more men than we
had, but we were able to repulse this attack of overwhelming
numbers, and helped to save that wing of the army. We took a
large number of prisoners, among them the colonel commanding
the brigade, Burke.

In the center of our regiment a road leading to Lost Moun-
tain was left open for future use, our fortifications coming up to
either side. Back of this road, a short distance, was a section of
DeGrasse's 20 Parrott guns, and in the rear of all, our trains. It
was the evident intention of our enemy to force their way through
this road and capture our trains. In the heat of the fray Major
Dawes apprehended that our line might give way at this point and
rushed to the road just as their line was within about 50 feet of
ours. Their color-bearer was shot down, immediately the colors
were caught up one of the color guards. The line began to
waver. Just prior to this Major Dawes received a severe facial
wound. The bullet struck the left side of the lower jaw, carried
away the body of the inferior maxilla to near the angle. It took
off his lower lip, tore the chin so that it hung down, took out all
the lower teeth but two and cut his tongue. It was the most hor-


rible looking wound that the* writer saw during his entire
army service. While in the ambulance going to the rear for
treatment, he wrote in the dust upon the opposite side, " Good
for a GO day's furlough." Just prior to his receiving this awful
wound he was struck in the back of the head by a glancing ball.
This, however, was so small in comparison to the other that but
little attention was paid to it. As to the nerve of the Major, and
how he survived this terrible ordeal, the reader may judge. He
underwent several very difficult surgical operations. It was not
until near the close of September, 1S()4, that the most difficult
and trying operation was performed upon his jaw. Dr. Black-
burn performed the operation at the Officers' Hospital, Cincinnati,
Ohio. He was one and a half hours under the surgeon's knife, and
steadilv refused the use of anaesthetics. This was some four
months subsequent to his receiving the wound and the jagged
pieces had been put together and a sort of chin formed. This
flesh was all cut loose, then a gash cut through the cheeks on both
sides of the angle of the jaw, slits were then cut parallel with tlum
so as to get a loose strip of flesh an inch wide, which was only at-
tached to the face at the angle of the jaw. These strips were
pulled and stretched so as to meet over an artificial under jaw and
teeth to form an under lip. The tightening and stretching of
these strips caused the upper lip to be pushed out of place and to
protrude, so that a gore had to be cut out on each side and sewed
up ; then the flesh which had been loosened from the chin was put
back and trimmed so as to fit in with the new under lip. He lay
upon the table unbound, obeying every direction of the operator,
turning his head as directed until the agony and the loss of blood
exhau.sted him and only a shiver ran through his frame. About
the time they were ready to release him from the table. Dr. Black-
burn said, "Major, I must finish up with two more stitches." The
Major, to whom no voice was left, raised up one finger to plead
for only one. His brother who was present cried, '' Dr. Black-
burn, don't touch him." Then it was the Major raised up both



fingers and the two stitches were taken. During the operation he
came very near strangling with blood in his mouth, and in a
spasmodic effort to get his breath threw out his false teeth and
chin which were not replaced, and it was perhaps well they were
not ; but this made, a month later, another operation of compara-
tively limited extent, necessary. This terrible wound eventually
healed. He regained his speech much to the satisfaction of him-
self and friends. By simply a casual glance at his face with a
full grown beard, one would scarcely have detected his wound.






Sunday, May 29th was principally occupied with skirmishing,
cannonading and burying the dead — our own in separate graves,
with wooden head-stones, with name, company, regiment, date of
death cut in the head-stones by pocket knives. Usually the
enemy's dead were buried in trenches, ranging from ten to fifty in
each. I have seen them, when we were pressed for time, or bullets
were flying through the air more thick than healthy, buried on
top of each other in a trench with scarcely enough dirt to hide
them from sight, and occasionally have seen them buried with
arms or legs exposed to view.

On the 30tli we skirmished considerably. Our corps com-
mander, General Logan, was slightly wounded, also his chief of
artillery, Colonel Taylor. We were relieved from the front line,
but not permitted to return to the rear out of reach of flying mis-
siles. A number of our men were wounded while on the reserve.
Firing and cannonading continued throughout the 31st. A stub-
born assault was made in the evening upon oiir works, which we
repulsed. The Lieutenant-Colonel of the 83rd Indiana was killed
in front of our regiment as he unnecessarily exposed himself. The
enemy's skirmisheis advanced near our line and took position be-
hind trees and logs and kept up a constant fusilade during the

June 1st, 1864, our wing of the army being in advance of the
regular line, we were ordered to fall back to the fortifications on
alignment with the residue of the 15th Corps. Our enemy by
some means became aware of our desire to evacuate this part of


the field and annoyed us by several charges, no doubt thinking
that if they could succeed in breaking our line they would capture
a large wagon train just to our rear ; but they were ignoring the
fact that a part of the fighting 15th Corps was in their front, and
we extended to them a warm welcome to a hospitable grave. Our
cannon and caissons were wrapped with blankets to deaden the
noise, and were moved out during the night. We were detailed
as the rear guard for the train and artillery. Just prior to day-
light as we left the works one of our boys near the center of the
regiment was struck by a minie ball and instantly killed. As
the ball struck him in the forehead it sounded as if some one had
been slapped in the face with an open hand, and the report of the
slap was loud enough to be heard distinctly for two or three com-
panies. Our dead comrade was carried along with us until we
took our new position, and then buried. We marched some ten
miles and relieved the 20th Corps.

Skirmishing still continued throughout the 2nd. Captain
Galloway, of Co. K, was appointed to act as Major. The killed
and wounded were brought into our lines in large numbers.

June 3rd and 4th it rained, and aside from skirmishing noth-
ing unusual occurred. Sunday, the 5th, Co. K was detailed for
the skirmish line. In taking their positions it was discovered that
the enemy had retreated southward. We started in hot pursuit at
12 m. It was raining and the roads were bad. The morning of
the 6th opened up fair We marched at 6 a. m., going some
seven miles, and camped one mile to the east of x'\cworth. We
had been out of provisions for twenty-four hours. Our boys soon
discovered some potato patches and in a few minutes the new tu-
bers were in our camp-kettles for supper. Our trains came up late
at night and rations were issued to us.

On the 7th, 8th and 9th we remained quiet. On the 10th,
however, we marched to Big Shanty Station and took our position
for the night and threw up fortifications. Saturday morning, the
11th, it was raining. The railroad train came up in the evening.


The engineer ran his engine a considerable distance beyond onr
line to a water tank and filled his boiler-tank. It was thonght by
most of us that it was intended to draw the fire from the enemy's
siege guns on the monntain, but subseqnent information developed
the fact ihat this was not true and that it was simply an act of
bravado upon the part of the engineer.

On vSunday, the 12th, we did not move. Monday, the l.'Uh,
we moved at daylight to our left and near the base of Lost Moun-
tain. On the 14th we skirmished during the day and there was
heavy firing throughout the night. On the 15th there was heavy
cannonading and fighting on our left. Advanced at 2 p. m., sup-
ported by the infantry and artillery, driving the enemy and cap-
turing (500 prisoners of the 31st Alabama regiment, including
their colonel. This capture was made by our own regiment. Gen-
eral Thomas on our right, took a large number of prisoners, also.
During our advance the thunder of the artillery was fearful. It was
during this charge that the rebel general, Polk, was killed. The
smoke of battle and the fog made an impenetrable darkness.
General Osterhaus' division was vigorously attacked at 1 1 p. m.,
but the attack was handsomely repulsed.

On the l(3th there was heavy skirmishing and we marched to
the right to support General Osterhaus. As we were taking our
position a 12-pound shot passed through the column of the 30th
Ohio, taking off the legs of one of their men, and passing through
our regiment it struck one Co. E boy on the ankle. At dark we
relieved a regiment of the 17th i\rmy Corps, taking their place in
the fortifications.

The enemy opened fire upon us early on the morning of the
17th. We were compelled to keep close to the ditch, as the shot
and shell were flying thick and fast. After our batteries got into
position they soon silenced those of our enemy. We made a feint
and with a yell started upon a charge, giving our enemy plenty of
grape and canister, which together with the roar of musketry, cre-
ated consternation in their ranks, but accomplished nothing. It


was simply to detract attention from another part of the line where
they were expecting to make considerable effort for the retaking of
some works. Four of our regiment were wounded in the feint.

On Saturday, the 18th, it was raining in torrents but we
kept fighting still. There was one killed and one wounded in
the 53rd. There was heavy skirmishing on our front and a gen-
eral engagement by Generals Thomas and Hooker. The enemy
evacuated during the night. One of the 53rd was wounded.

On Sunday, the 19th, the enemy retired to Kenesaw Moun-
tain leaving the pass between Kenesaw and Lost Mountain open.
From their mountain position they opened up a murderous fire.
We made an advance on their works while it was raining in tor-
rents. With screeching shells, hissing bullets, and the general
roar of battle we had an experience never to be forgotten. We
took lodgment at the foot of the mountain and had control of the
pass. What a gloomy night ! rain, smoke, fog, cries for help, the
wail of the dying, praying with those needing prayers, car-
ing for the wounded, burying the dead, and this is but a faint
picture of war. Oh, may the God of nations spare the youth of
this land from ever beholding such death, destruction and calam-
ity. The purpose of this and similar narratives is to

"Gather up the fragments — let nothing be lost,
To show the next ages what liberty cost."

The morning of the 20th was but a repetition of the morn-
ings for the past 30 days, heavy cannonading, roar of musketry,
and cries of the dying. It rained hard all day. We took a great
many prisoners. It was still raining the 21st. The enemy are
fortified on the mountain. Five of our companies were on picket
and it still rained in torrents. One of Company C's men was

God blessed us with warm sunshine on the 22nd, and the
first for many days. Were the windows of heaven opened upon
us for so many days of rain as floods of tears for the thousands of


otir dead and dyiii

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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 12 of 24)