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 13 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 13 of 24)
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line in rifle pits at the. far edge of the woods. The advance through
this brush was slow and difficult, and was made at great loss to our
men. Colonel Jones did not discover the rifle pits until within


about thirty steps of them, the brush was so thick ; he then ordered
the men to take the rifle pits. They were manned by the 63rd
Georgia Regiment, and seemed to have as many men in them as
we had. But we charged, and in a hand-to-hand fight took the
rifle pits. This was the only hand-to-hand fight we saw in the
war. We took about a company, or perhaps more, of the rebels as
prisoners. In the hand-to-hand fight men fought with bayonets,
butts of guns, etc. During this encounter sixteen muskets in the
hands of the boys of the 53rd Regiment were broken in two.
There was a big fellow bringing up his gun at Colonel Jones,
when the Colonel commanded him to throw it down and surren-
der. He did it. Lieutenant Boice, of Co. .F, came up to Colonel
Jones, his revolver smoking, and said : " I have a notion to throw
that thing away. I just emptied it at a fellow and yet he ran
away from me." As soon as we had taken this work, our line was
formed and we marched on to take the main work. We had gone
about two hundred yards when the colonel found we were being
enfiladed on either side by rebel works. He ordered the men to
lie down and protect themselves as well as they could. His adjut-
ant was despatched to General Ivightburn, brigade commander, to
know if they were coming on, and if any one was going to charge
the works at another point, or if we were to be supported ? General
Lightburn inquired of the adjutant : " Is Colonel Jones out there
yet? " He replied : " Yes, sir ; and intends to stay there until he
gets orders to fall back." Orders were immediately given us to
fall back to the edge of the timber. We had lain down, and
Colonel Jones galloped along the line and told the men to get up
and cheer as if they were going to charge the works, and instead
of running forward, run back getting on the other side of the rifle
pits. When we fell back there were quite a number of men who
were left wounded on the field. We lay in this position until
night. The 53rd was the only regiment that passed through the
timber. Colonel Parry was shot at the rifle pits and his regiment
went no further. The works were not more than 500 or 600 feet


from the regiment. In this action we lost about one man in every
three we took into action. The main part of the battle was over
in a few hours.

We marched some distance and camped for rest and
sleep. The skirmishing continued upon our front and a heavy
attack was made noon our right during the night. On the 29th
and -'U)th all the regiments remained comparatively quiet. We
were mustered for pay. The report for the month, as to killed,
wounded, and missing, was for the entire army 7,530.

On July 1st nothing occurred worthy of note, excepting an
artillery duel throughout almost the entire day. On the 2nd, at
sunrise, we took the road and marched seven miles, passed the 4th
14th and 20th Corps, relieving the 23rd Corps upon the extreme,
right, leaving Kenesaw Mountain in our rear. We spent the night
in erecting earth-works.

July 3rd was Sunday. After two months of such campaign-
ing what would the soldiers not have given for one quiet day of
rest and a square meal at mother's table ! We moved one mile in
advance of our works and then the shot and shell were too much
for us, and we retreated half a mile to escape the shelling. We
reformed and again moved forward at 2 p. m. Word was given
that the enemy had evacuated the mountain, and that we had cap-
tured Marietta, Ga., with 3,000 prisoners. Orders to charge w^ere
given, and away we went with a yell ; the bullets flying thick and
and fast, and two cannons playing upon us with shrapnel. Find-
ing we were exposed we halted in a ravine. Away we went again
across the field under a terrific fire, our men falling by the score.
Again we raised the yell, and this time gained their works. The
53rd, 30th, and 54th Ohio regiments bore the brunt of this engage-
ment. The 53rd lost 36 killed and wounded, and was relieved
after night by the 1 6th Army Corps, and returned to camp for
needed rest.

After this engagement we marched in the direction of At-
lanta on the right of the army and near the Chattahoochie River.


The Army of the Tennessee was taken to the left flank at or near
Rossville ; there we crossed the Chattahoochie River and strnck
the Atlanta Railroad, not far distant from Stone Monntain. The
53rd was the first regiment to strike the railroad. We had a mild
skirmish for possession and tore up a large amonnt of the road
Onr army then was deployed along this railroad in the direction
of Atlanta until July 20th, with more or less skirmishing and fight-
ing throughout the interim. At the close of the 20th our part of
the army was located between Decatur and Atlanta, and not to ex-
ceed two miles from the doomed city.

At sunrise of the 21st we moved out on the railroad and dis-
covered that the enemy had left their works on our front the
night previous. At sunrise the 22nd our regiment and the 111th
Illinois were ordered to advance towards Atlanta as far as we
could go. We moved out, driving the rebel skirmishers before us.
As we reached quite an elevation a galling fire centered upon us
and caused a halt. At this eminence it was possible to see within
the streets of Atlanta, not to exceed one mile distant. Our posi-
tion invited their shells and they honored the invitation ( ?) by
cutting loose upon us in good shape. A lot of sawed timber near-
by enabled us to improvise some works for our protection. The
two regiments mentioned were one mile in front of the line of
battle or any support. We were accompanied by a section of a
battery, two guns, who returned their compliment of shells in such
a determined manner that the rebs readily understood we had come
to stay. The enemy massed their forces upon our left and charged
the 16th and 17th Corps. The assault was a terrific one. They
would drive our forces back, when we would reform and retake
the lost ground. This maneuvering and fighting was repeated
some five or six times during the afternoon. About 4 p. m. the
column moved out at double-quick and assaulted the 53rd and
the 111th Illinois. The latter regiment stampeded from our line,
leaving the 53rd alone to resist the onslaught until the two guns
could be run off, when we were ordered to retreat. The enemy


followed us, pouring upon us a murderous fire for nearl>' a mile.
When we reached our main line most of the force had been sent
to the left to assist the assault upon that part of the line, but one
brigade of our division remained. With the assistance of twelve
pieces of artillery and the one brigade we stubbornly resisted the
assault. Our artillery opened with grape and canister. The fight,
seemingly, was one to the death, as each side was stubborn. Near
our line was a deep railroad cut and an open road, and the enemy's
force began filing in through the cut, striking our rear and
massing behind a large seminary, delivering a destructive fire upon
our front and rear and capturing our batteries. Finding our rear
endangered we fell back in good order, but felt the full effect of
the captured cannon, which they turned upon us. We fell back
to the next line of works, nearly a mile, and as we retreated pun-
ished our foes as much as they were punishing us. We reached
the fortifications exhausted and famished for water, but mortified
that we had lost all we had gained in the morning. At this
juncture our gallant and fearless corps commander, Major-General
'' Black Jack " Logan, rode along our line and said, " Boys, the
loth Corps never was whipped and cannot be wdiipped. You
must take that line again." We rallied all the men of our brigade,
about fifty to each regiment, and with a re-inforcement of a brig-
ade from the 16th Corps, we fixed bayonets and moved at double-
quick, determined to regain our lost position ere darkness closed
in upon us.

The enemy was upon the alert, and as we approached re-
ceived us with a deadly fire ; but their determined resistance did
not deter us and we moved on and into their works taking the
entire command prisoners, including nearly all their officers, and
all our cannon but one. Here night closed in upon us, and what
a night it was ! Within a radius of several acres were at least
seven to eight or perhaps nine hundred dead or dying. As far as
the eye could reach there was carnage and death. Attention was
given to the wounded regardless of color of uniform. We as ten-


derly cared for those who wore the gray as for those of our boys who
had fired the shot that made our enemy hors de combat. Those who
slept at all did so among the dead and the groans of the wounded.
Our regimental loss for this engagement was 49. During the
day's action our corps d'arme commander, chivalrous, brave, lion
hearted. Major General James B. McPherson, fell mortally wound-
ed, dying soon thereafter. More than a passing notice is deserved,
but this is a regimental history and not a history of the Civil War.
The list of casualties of the various battles, so far as our own his-
tory is concerned, will be given later on.

Colonel W. S. Jones was now placed in command of the Sec-
ond Brigade. Owing to the shifting changes occasioned by the
death of General McPherson, Lieutenant Colonel Fulton now
commanded the regiment and Captain Galloway, of Co. K, acted
as major.

A day or two after the battle of the 22nd the Army of the
Tennessee was moved to the extreme right of the army, passing to
the rear of the Army of the Cumberland. On the morning of
the 28th of July, when we were beginning to swing into line of
battle on the right near Ezra Chapel, General Lightburn sent for
General Jones and told him he wanted him to go out into a piece
of woods in front of them with his regiment and charge the
enemy who was on the hill in front. He said, "I want you to go
promptly." Generals Logan and Sherman were both watching
the movement. The instructions were obeyed. The regiment
formed fronting the hill. Before we charged, it was discovered
that there were more men on the hill than we had, and a messen-
ger was sent back hurriedly to General Lightburn to send a reg-
iment to be placed on our left. A glance to our right revealed a
large cavalry force. Our adjutant was dispatched to General
Smith to send two regiments to be placed on our right, as the
cavalry was liable to swoop down on us from the right and rear
and capture the whole command. Knowing that we were ex-


pected to move promptly, and the regiment which finally came,
the 47th Ohio, on our right, being a little slow in coming, we de-
cided to charge the hill alone. We did so, and took the hill.
About the time we had straightened up our line on the Lick

Skillet road a regiment appeared on our left. A glance over the
hill in front of us enabled us to see a line of rebels as far as the
eye could reach in either direction.

About this time a staff officer came to Colonel Jones with a
message from General Smith, division commander, saying that he
would send a regiment, but to tell Colonel Jones not to be afraid,
that he was only fighting a few cavalry. Colonel Jones told the
staff officer to give General Smith his compliments and tell the
general that he was not afraid, but that he could not whip Hood's
army with two regiments, and we were fighting Hood's army. In
a very few momefits our whole line was firing, and the rebel line
started to advance upon us. We held our position longer than we
should have done, but for the reason that it was thought, if we fell
back without making a stubborn resistance the army would be
surprised and possibly defeated. The right of our skirmish line
was captured, and our retreat became really a rout. We fell back
until we came around the right of the line. Just before we got
back to the main line we met the two regiments coming to our
assistance. Major Hipp, with the 37th Ohio, was one of them.
He asked Colonel Jones what he should do. The Colonel replied :
" Fight like the devil — there is nothing else to be done here." It
was only a moment or so until he was shot from his horse. We
went back, reorganized and charged up the hill and took the lines.
We took up the fence and constructed temporary works. Twelve
or fifteen regiments came to our rescue. We fought five hours
and made seven or eight charges that afternoon. We buried right
in our immediate front the next day 1,000 rebels. The Second
Division did the most fighting. Loss about 250 men. We herewith
append the official report of General Logan as to this engagement :


" Headquarters Fifteenth Army Corps ^ \

''Before Atla?ita, Ga., fiily IWi, 1864. /

''.Ueiitenant-Colonel William T. Clark^ Assistant Adjiitniit-General
Army of the Te^tnessee^ Present :

" Colonel — I have the honor to report that, in pnrsuance of
orders, I moved my conrmand into position on the right of the
Seventeenth Corps, which was the extreme right of the army in
the field, during the night of the 27th and morning of the 28th ;
and, while advancing in line of battle to a more favorable position,
we were met by the rebel infantry of Hardee's and Lee's Corps,
who made a determined and desperate attack on us at 11:30 a. m.
of the 28th, (yesterday).

" My lines were only protected by logs and rails, hastily
thrown up in front of them.

" The first onset was received and checked, and the battle
commenced and lasted until about 3 o'clock i'^ the evening.
During that time six successive charges were made, which were
six times gallantly repulsed, each time with fearful loss to the

" Later in the evening my lines v/ere several times assaulted
vigorously, but each time with like result.

" The worst of the fighting occurred o)i General Harrow'' s
and Morgan L. SmitJCs fronts^ which foryned the centre and right
of the corps.

" The troops conld not haz'e displayed greater courage^ nor
greater determination not to give ground. Had they sJiozvn less^
they would have been driven from their position.

" Brigadier-Generals C. R. Woods, Harrow, and Morgan L.
Smith, division commanders, are entitled to equal credit for gal-
lant conduct and skill in repelling the assault.

" My thanks are due to Major-Generals Blair rin 1 Dodge for
sending me re-enforcements at a time when they were much


" My losses were fifty killed, four hundred aud forty-nine
wounded, and seventy-three missing; ; aggregate, five hundred and

" The division of General Harrow captured five battle-flags.
There were about fifteen hundred or two thousand muskets left on
the ground. One hundred and six prisoners were captured, ex-
clusive of seventy-three wounded, who were sent to our hospital,
and are being cared for by our surgeons.

" Five hundred and sixty-five rebels have up to this time
been buried, and about two hundred are supposed to l)e yet un-

" A large number of their wounded were undoubtedly carried
awav in the night, as the enemy did not withdraw till near day-
light. The enemy's loss could not have been less than six or sev-
en thousand men.

"A more detailed report will hereafter be made.

" I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

" Major-General, Commanding 15th Army Corps.

From July 2-4th to August 3rd inclusive, it was simply a re-
petition of the week preceding. During this interim we were
constantly engaged with the enemy ; part of the time skirmishing,
making several charges, and in building fortifications, we had in
fact, little or no rest. We were under fire August 4th, but not in-
viting the same , in fact, we were wanting rest. So many of our
commanding officers, field and line, were either dead, disabled by
sickness or wounds, that we scarcely knew whom to obey. At
this time Captain Galloway was in command of the regiment,
Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton being sick. We advanced in the even,
ing under cover of darkness, and worked throughout the night
constructing a lino of fortifications. Daylight revealed the rebel
skirmish line near our own and the exchanging of compliments
was harrassing, not to say deadly.


At 9 a. m. two companies of the 53rd were sent forward to
re-enforce our skirmishers and to force the rebel skirmishers back.
They were driven from their position with the capture of several.
They in turn were re-enforced and charged, driving us back and
capturing their rifle pits. At 3 p. m. another charge was ordered,
this time by five companies. At the hour of the charge a severe
rain storm came on and delayed action until G p. m. The enemy
gave way, losing several by death and many prisoners. An of-
ficer of the 70lh Ohio was killed in this charge, in front of our
regiment. We fortified during the night. There was heavy
fighting upon our left centre.

The principal amusement of our batteries was the throwing
of shells into the city of Atlanta from several locations, all of
which was certainly not amusing nor entertaining to the non-com-
batants in the city. Atlanta was encircled with fortifications
and they, the rebels, as usual "expected to die in the last ditch,"
at least so said some of the plucky prisoners. Some of the pris-
oners taken by our regiment said that two more such slaughters
as they had been given on the 22nd and 28th of July would ruin
Hood's and Johnston's army, to which we were ready to exclaim,

Sabbath, August 7th was ushered in by the booming of can
non after a hard night's rain. Night attacks were so frequent that
undressing for bed was a forgotten habit of the past. We went to
bed like the horses with our shoes on, ditto as to clothes. We
had not undressed for bed since we left winter quarters, May
first. Skirmishing continued on our front line all day. A
severe artillery duel took place in the night. Casualties lim-
ited along our line. Such is war, but considering what we
had undergone it was a surprise and gratification that any
one was alive to tell the story to those at home.

We were ordered to make a charge to hold the attention to
our 15th Corps, while the 23rd and 14th Corps would take a po-


sition on the railroad on our right. General Palmer was ordered
to report to General Schofield of the 2.'>rd Corps. The 15th Corps
obeyed orders. General Palmer failed, and thus by disobedience
and y>«/^;/j^^ was relieved of the command, and about the same
remarks apply to General Hooker.

We received orders August 2()th to move out quietly at 8
p. m., but while we were congratulating ourselves that our move-
ments were unnoticed the enemy's artillery opened upon us vig-
orously. Our pickets held their pits until the column was in
motion. Some of the bolder of the "Johnnies" came running for-
ward to our line of pickets and were either captured or killed. A
number of our brigade were wounded while getting out of reach
of the batteries. We marched to the right upon the Sandown
road. The night was hideously dark and it was necessary to
build fires at intervals of 100 yards to enable us to keep the road
and follow the lead of the army. We marched all night through
the rain and mud. At sunrise we hastened to get breakfast and
then moved on, leaving Sandown one mile to our right. At 4
p. m. we halted and threw up works. Here we were out of
reach of bullets and shells, and when we did get to lie down on
the ground how we did enjoy the sleep ! In the morning we had
our first new corn for breakfast. Thanks to the farmers near our
camp. We broke camp and moved out at 3 p. m., striking the
Montgomery railroad south of Atlanta, 18 miles, and as a
train passed out of that city. Here the old scene of skirmishing
commenced again. In the evening the 53rd went some two
miles reconnoitering through the woods. As it was very dark,
and discovering no enemy we returned to camp. In the
morning we commenced destroying the railroad, filling the cuts
with trees and all manner of obstructions. Having accomplished
our object, we struck out for Jonesboro on the railroad ; this being
the Columbus and Georgia railroad, and the only road left open
for the foes to get supplies on. At li a. m. we came upon part of
Cleburn's and Hardee's Corps and some artillery with cavalry


under Wheeler. The oord and 47th Ohio fought to the left of
the road, the balance of the brigade upon the right. We moved
out, driving the enemy from their works. They retreated a short
distance, when their artillery opened upon us while they impro-
vised some temporary works. Our cavalry force came dashing up
to our assistance and again routed our foes, and we proceeded
some 8 miles further, fighting more or less all the way. Generals
Howard and Logan were near us most of the day and compli-
mented us for the way in which we drove the enemy before us.
Our object was to make Jonesboro by night. When within one
mile of the town, darkness encompassed us and prudence dic-
tated a halt, and fortifications were thrown up ; all of which was
accomplished under a heavy fire. The rumbling of cars could
be heard all night long bringing re-inforcements to the enemy.
At day-break firing commenced. The first line of the enemy's
works was about 200 vards to our front. Cannonading and ar-
tillery opened up briskly. Lieutenant Boice, of Co. F, o.3rd,
beintr among our first dead.

During the afternoon of this, the olst of August, we noticed
preparations for a charge, and made ready to receive them. At 2
p. m. they came with a yell, attacking our whole line. We re-
served our fire until they were quite close, when we opened up a
continuous fire, some of our officers standing back of the firing-
line biting off the ends of cartridges and urging coolness and rapid
firing. I'nder the galling fire we were delivering, confusion soon
overtook them and they fell back in disorder. Many of them took
positions behind trees and were afraid to either retreat or come
into our lines. Our boys made it their business to go after them,
and they were either captured or killed. The space between our
works was strewn with their dead and wounded. Their loss was
excessive, ours slight ; the oord one killed and seven wounded.

On September 1st trains were running south constantly.
General Sherman visited our line and was well pleased with the
results, and complimented the division. The 14th Corps was at


Rough and Reach- vStation between lis and Atlanta, and coniinj; on
down towards ns to strike the enemy's flank in onr front. We
anxiously waited for this. At -"•> p. ni, the distant roar of musketry
was heard in the right direction, nearer and nearer the volume
came, and soon the gallant 1 1th Corps was upon the flank, and ere
thev could retreat had captured eleven pieces of artillery and one
brigade of infantry, including a general and his staff, llnfortu-
natclv night closed in and prevented them from joining our forces
and pursuing the enemy. The losses upon both sides were heavy.
During the night there were three distinct explosions, shaking the
earth like a mighty earthquake. It was our enemy blowing up

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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 13 of 24)