|September 19-20, 1863 Chickamauga, Georgia|
|HDQRS. TWENTY-SIXTH REGT. OHIO VOL. INFANTRY,
Chattanooga, Tenn., September 26, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor herewith to report the part taken by the Twenty-sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, of Colonel Buell's brigade, under my command during the series of battles recently fought between the Union and rebel forces on and near Chickamauga Creek, Ga,.
During the 16th and 17th instant, while Colonel Buell's brigade was occupying the left bank of the Chickamauga at Gordon's Mills, Ga., and holding the tongue of land between the creek and the La Fayette road, my regiment was posted near the sharp bend of said creek, convex to our position one-half mile from the mill.
On the 15th, being somewhat annoyed by the enemy's cavalry scouts approaching by the road and firing into my camp from the high ground beyond the creek, I stationed, by Colonel Buell's direction, a line of sharpshooters along the left bank of the creek to hold them off. But on the 16th, as they became bolder, I threw a footway over the creek and advanced a line of sharpshooters as pickets over the creek, extending them across the neck of land formed by the bend in the stream. This last position was within musket range of the main road to La Fayette, on which the enemy's cavalry was continually showing itself with increasing boldness. On the same evening a detachment from my regiment was thrown still farther to the front, holding a point on the La Fayette road about 1 mile from the mills. On the evening of the 17th, a dash was made by a few rebel cavalrymen on this post, but was promptly repulsed, with the loss of 1 wounded on the part of the enemy.
This detachment was now immediately increased to 30 men, another post established one-quarter of a mile farther out on the road, and my whole line on the right bank of the creek considerably strengthened; about 100 men of my regiment now guarding this, the enemy's point of approach. During the night of the 17th, there was considerable movement on the road in front of this advanced line, and a systematic effort to draw the fire of the sentinels as if to ascertain their position.
On the morning of the 18th, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to surround and surprise my advanced post, 34 men, and at the same time my lookouts reported him advancing in heavy force. Shortly after, my sharpshooters were driven back by a heavy line of skirmishers covering the movements of the enemy now advancing in two lines of battle. In obedience to orders, my force beyond the creek was withdrawn to the left bank, the crossing cut away, and my regiment covered by a double line of sharpshooters and skirmishers posted on the creek, and facing the enemy's lines. During the remainder of this day, the night, and the 19th up to 3 p.m., I held the last-described position, skirmishing occasionally with the enemy at long range, and without casualty on my side. The enemy in the meantime passing heavy columns of troops along our front from right to left in the rear and under cover of his troops who had taken position in my immediate front.
At about 2.30 or 3 p.m. of the 19th, when the brigade was ordered to the left on the Chattanooga road, my regiment took the road in the rear of the One hundredth Illinois, and moved with the rest of the brigade at a double-quick some 2 miles to where the battle seemed to be raging with the utmost fury. Arriving at this point, where the conflict seemed fiercest, and the enemy was apparently pushing back our lines, my regiment was immediately thrown into line at double-quick on the right of, parallel to, and about 40 yards off the road, the Eighth Indiana Battery being on my right, my left resting in the woods.
In my immediate front, and for 75 yards in front of the prolongation of my line, to the right, was heavy timber, thickly grown with jack-oak bushes, making it utterly impossible to see what was going on 20 yards distant. Seventy-five yards to my right this timber made a right angle to the front, leaving on its right and in front of the road an inclosed field extending about 500 to 600 yards along the road and 600 to 700 yards to the front, being limited in each direction by timber and thickets. On my left and at my flank the line of timber in my front made a right angle to the rear, crossing the road and forming a dense cover for several hundred yards, and then opening into a half cleared, but bushy and thickly weeded field; 30 to 40 yards in the rear of, and parallel to, my line, as before mentioned, was the road, and in the rear of this another inclosed field, extending about 400 yards to the rear of, and 600 to 700 yards parallel with, the road toward the right, and being bounded by timber in both directions. This last field descends with an easy slope from the road about 100 to 150 yards to a narrow ditch or gully and then rises with a slight grade to the timber in its rear. The gully varies in depth from 1 ½ to 3 ½ feet and in width from 3 to 6 or 8 feet, its border at intervals being slightly fringed with weeds and willows. This description and the accompanying sketch will, I trust, make plain the movements of my regiment during the battle on the 19th p.m.
Having been originally posted in my first position under Colonel Buell's immediate supervision, as above described and as shown in the sketch, I immediately caused my men to lie down and simultaneously received instructions from General Wood that the position must be held. Even while receiving his instructions, and before the men had been allowed a moment to recover their wind after the rapid march, it became manifest the lines in our front were broken and the enemy pressing them rapidly back. In a moment more dozens, then scores, and finally hundreds, of straggling soldiers came rushing through the woods and over my line in the wildest disorder and most shameful confusion, there seeming to be no effort to either check or control the retreat, and at the same time a most galling fire began to reach and take effect upon my men, though lying close upon the ground.
In the meantime, I was holding my fire until our own men should be out of the way, intending, when the rebel line should show itself, to deliver my fire by volley and meet him at a charge with bayonets (previously fixed). As I was about executing this intention, a mounted officer came galloping to the rear calling out, "for God's sake, don't fire; two lines of our own troops are still in the woods." At the same instant I discovered a rapid fire enfilading my line from the timber on the left, most cruelly cutting my command. My horse fell under me pierced, as afterward appeared, with nine balls; my acting major was dismounted and wounded, and the rebel line appeared in front within 20 yards, advancing firing. I immediately commenced firing and ordered a charge, but the command could be only partially heard, and the charge was not made. The rebel advance in front, however, was momentarily checked and his fire weakened; but the battery on my right had already been withdrawn; a heavy line of rebels were already on my left, and rapidly gaining my rear, making it impossible to hold my position even for a moment longer except with the certainty of capture I reluctantly gave the command to retire across the road to the fence immediately in my rear. This was done in tolerable order but under a most galling fire, Lieutenant Burbridge, Company H, and a number of men being killed, and Captain Ewing, acting major, with perhaps 30 to 35 men, too badly wounded to get away, being left on the ground. This conflict was short and bloody, begun at a great disadvantage, kept up with the highest heroism, and the ground only yielded when the bayonet had been freely used and defense had become hopeless.
On retiring to the fence to position No. 2 the regiment was in great part promptly rallied, though under a severe direct and cross fire and the loud cheers of the advancing rebels. From this position an effective fire was poured back into the enemy, and he was compelled to retire to the timber for cover. But now a most terrible fire was concentrated upon us, direct and right and left oblique, there being no support on either of my flanks. The officers and men conducted themselves most heroically; many of the latter and all of the former, particularly those of the left wing, to whom my attention was more closely directed, disdaining the cover of the low fence and defiantly receiving and returning the concentrated fire of more than twice their front.
Again the enemy was closing up on my left flank not 30 yards from it and rapidly gaining my rear. I still hoped, though I had not seen it, there was some support on the left, and, depending for support for my right upon a rally that was being made around some old buildings 250 yards distant on the prolongation of my right, as well as upon a few brave heroes scattered along the fence between me and those buildings, I determined to hold the fence a few minutes longer; but it seemed of no avail. There was now almost a semicircle of fire around us; it was growing hotter every moment; we were beginning to receive the fire of our own troops rallied in the ditch below us and in the woods beyond. The five left companies had lost from one-half to three-quarters of their numbers. The left center company had but 5 men left from 24, and I of its officers was killed. Lieutenants Morrow, Ruley, and Williams, each commanding a left wing company, had been cut down while most gallantly cheering on their men in the unequal contest. Lieutenant Platt, of Company G (the Ninth), though still commanding his company, was painfully wounded, and already too many noble privates had written themselves heroes with blood stains upon the sod. It was a proud thing to have died there with those that were dead; it was duty to save the remnant of the living for still another struggle.
I now gave the command to fall back to the ditch. Many wounded had already sought this as a place of refuge from the storm of musketry, grape-shot, and shell now sweeping the field from the edge of the timber on both sides. Many others had also rallied here from the troops that had retreated over my line as above mentioned. Many of my own men had rallied here when the line first fell back and were fighting bravely from the imperfect cover the shallow ditch afforded. From this third position another defense was now opened, and for a few moments vigorously and effectually maintained. But this line, like the others, was flanked and raked with a murderous fire. Many of the wounded were again struck, even the second and third time. The enemy had not yet attempted to cross the open field. Our own artillery and infantry were already pouring into them an effective fire from the timber in the rear. The troops collected around the old buildings before mentioned were successfully holding the enemy's left, and under cover of their fire a brave remnant of my command with myself made good our retreat by the right and rear many others moving directly to the rear through a very storm of bullets.
I immediately proceeded to reform my regiment, and after moving my colors into the open field, succeeded--with the assistance of my officers, conspicuous among whom were Captains Ross. Adair, Hamilton, and Acting Adjutant Grafton--in rallying the bulk of my surviving men. Supported by a few men of the Thirteenth Michigan bravely rallied around their colors, and another fragmentary regiment of, I think, Davis' Division, and a few brave spirits of various regiments under the immediate command of General Wood, we charged across the field under cover of Bradley's and Estep's batteries, but in the face of a galling fire. We were joined as we charged by many brave fellows who had staid in the ditch, and a few others who had remained by the fence. But here Captain Ross and Lieutenant Shotwell, both of the color company, fell mortally wounded, and many others less conspicuous, though equally brave, were stricken down. Our little line staggered for a moment under the concentrated fire opened upon it from the woods, but pressing quickly forward firing we entered the woods at the point where the Eighth Indiana Battery had formerly stood, and nearly parallel to our original line, driving the enemy steadily before us. We entered the woods 200 yards, when, perceiving a rapid cross-fire on my left flank, I changed front to the rear on my first company, and, taking cover behind the fence at the edge of the woods, soon beat off the enemy in that direction. At this juncture I perceived a compact rebel line 500 to 600 yards distant advancing across the field from the woods in front of the road. I now changed front to the rear on my tenth company and ordered my men to lie down until the enemy should approach; other troops of our brigade then being on my right, somewhat to my rear, and a strong line of Sheridan's division at the same time coming up in my rear across the field in the rear of the road, this line halted near the road just as the enemy's fire was becoming severe, and commenced firing into my rear. I promptly moved back to the fence, and taking position under its cover awaited the onset. It was opened with a most murderous fire, driving back upon me a Kentucky regiment (of Sheridan's division, perhaps), which was advancing in line obliquely across my front. The entire line was broken by the shock. I held my command for a few minutes at the fence, but seeing the uselessness of attempting to hold the position, fell back to the ditch, where I rallied a few men, and from which Captain Potter and Lieutenant Renick, with their companies, A and F, gallantly advanced and drew off one of Captain Estep's guns which had been left behind. In this effort Captain Potter was badly hurt by being run over by the gun.
At this point Captain Hamilton was wounded. We drew back in tolerable order to the timber, when the regiment was again formed, mustering about 147 men out of 335 who had entered the battle, and 14 officers out of 24. Our ammunition was here replenished, and in obedience to Colonel Buell's orders, we were moved to a position in the woods near the road and on the right of the field in front of the road. It was now night, and movements for the day were over with. While moving to and after getting into our last position about 40 more men joined me who had become separated from the command during the progress of the battle, but the most of them gave sufficient evidence of having acquitted themselves well, fighting under the colors of other regiments of the brigade. The casualties of the day were very heavy. The officers and men behaved excellently, in many instances heroically. I know not a single instance of bad conduct on the part of an officer, nor can I say that a man was clearly guilty of misconduct, a few perhaps might have rallied better, despite the stampeding around them.
Immediately when all was quiet for the night, I detailed Lieutenant Foster and 10 men to go carefully over the battle-field and see that all my wounded were gathered up. He found many who had been overlooked by the hospital attendants and saw them carried away. Four musicians were wounded carrying off the wounded during the action.
Lieutenant Platt, of Company G, though wounded almost at the first fire, remained with his company until the close of the action, and when urged to go to the hospital consented, but first found his way back to the battle-field, where he remained until midnight until his last wounded man was cared for, and at the hospital gave his attention to his men rather than to himself during the night.
About 3 a.m., Sunday, my regiment, with the rest of the brigade, was moved about a mile to the left, where breakfast was taken, rations issued, and then again to the front, and put in position, under Colonel Buell's immediate supervision, on the crest of a hill on the right of the brigade. After resting there perhaps half an hour, about 8.30 or 9 a.m. we were again moved to the front one-half to three-quarters of a mile, and posted behind a rude breastwork of logs on the extreme right of the first line of the division, having the One hundredth Illinois on my left, the Thirteenth Michigan in my rear, and Davis' division, Twentieth Army Corps, on my right. We seemed to be occupying the middle line of a valley about one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, between two parallel ridges. From this point I threw forward a line of skirmishers, who almost immediately drew the fire of the enemy. A few minutes later I was ordered to the front to support the One hundredth Illinois, which had gone forward. I immediately moved to the front to my line of skirmishers, but not knowing exactly where to find the One hundredth, halted a moment, had my men lie down under the fire they were receiving, and endeavored to discover Colonel Bartleson's position.
At this moment Colonel Buell ordered me to remain where I was until further orders. A half hour later I was ordered to leave four companies on the line of skirmishers and return to the breastwork. This movement drew upon me the enemy's fire, by which were wounded Second Lieutenant. Mathias, commanding Company I, and 3 men. From this time, while we held this position, my skirmishers were more or less actively engaged with the enemy.
About three-quarters of an hour later I received an order from one of the brigade staff--Lieutenant Williams or Jones, I think--to move my command off by the left flank, and to follow the One hundredth Illinois. As my skirmishers (four companies) were then engaged, I asked if they were to be called in, and was told they were. I hesitated a moment lest there might be some mistake, but was told the order was imperative and the movement to be executed promptly and rapidly. I at once ordered my skirmishers in. The movement I since learned was made by the whole division. My skirmishers were scarcely drawn in until their line was occupied by the enemy's, and before I had marched a regimental front stray shots came whistling through the trees. I was marching in very quick time to keep in sight of the One hundredth. The battery marching in a parallel line on my left found much difficulty in making its way over the rocks and through the timber, and the enemy's fire was rapidly approaching nearer and increasing in rapidity. At this time we received orders to double-quick, which tended much to increase the excitement of the moment, the artillery dashing along against trees and over stones at a headlong rate. The One hundredth rapidly gaining the rear-first by a left oblique, and then by the rear rank, and the growing unsteadiness of my own men made me extremely anxious for the issue. I immediately fell back from the head of the column to gain a position on its left flank, as it was now very sensibly inclining to the rear, but at the same moment a mass of fugitives from the front struck my command on its right flank, and, becoming completely mingled with it, carried the whole to the rear about 50 or 75 paces into a corn-field before we could extricate ourselves and rally. This, however, was soon effected under fire, the command faced to the front, and ordered to charge back into the woods. It was gallantly done, but revealed an extended rebel line rapidly approaching and already considerably advanced on my right. I immediately retired my regiment to low ground in the corn about 200 paces from the edge of the timber from which we had emerged and just at the foot of the hill in our rear, but finding myself supported neither on the right nor left, and the position being untenable by reason of timber 150 yards to the right from which the enemy was already firing upon me--striking down several of my men, and Lieutenant Hoge, commanding Company H--I retired half way up the hill to a fence now parallel to my line.
Rallying behind this, I hoped, with the support of several batteries posted on the crest of the hill several hundred yards above and another regiment rallied under cover of the same fence row with mine 100 yards to my left, to hold the position. Captain Baldwin, of Colonel Buell's staff, here joined me and assisted in rallying the men of various commands who were falling back from the woods below.
He could give me no information of Colonel Buell's whereabouts. I remained at this fence about fifteen minutes, maintaining and receiving a steady fire. The enemy in front was held in the timber below, but meeting no opposition he advanced on the right under cover of a tongue of timber stretching part way up the hillside, and being entirely hidden from view by the weeds and bushes along a fence row perpendicular to my line and at the edge of the timber, had almost turned my right flank before he became visible. At the same time I discovered the regiment on the left had fallen back before a heavy line advancing on its left, and that the guns above were being retired. I promptly fell back rapidly, but in tolerable order, halting for a moment in rear of the Eighth Indiana Battery; but the enemy had already gained the timber crowning the prolongation of the ridge to the right, and scarcely 150 yards distant, from which position he had forced back a portion of the Thirteenth Michigan; he was also coming up in heavy lines on the left.
There was no support anywhere in sight; every man in the command saw and felt the hopelessness of attempting a stand at this point, and as the batteries were already moving off, finding it impossible to rally my command in any force, I fell back into the woods, assisting one of the batteries as we retired. The woods here were filled with fugitives from various commands (utterly disordered, and, in spite of [the efforts of] my own and other officers of Colonel Buell's brigade, both of the staff [and] line), making their way to the rear. With the assistance of Major Hammond and several line officers of the One hundredth, my own officers, still all together, and Lieutenant Lillie, of the Thirteenth Michigan, bearing his regimental colors, my own men and a few of the One hundredth Illinois and Thirteenth Michigan, [were rallied] at a point on the crest of another hill perhaps 200 yards in rear of the first. With my command [and] another battalion made up of the men of various regiments rallied on the ground under command of a colonel unknown to me, and a battery or parts of batteries near by, it was determined to hold the position. But being entirely cut off from any organized support, ignorant of the extent of the disaster, Captain Baldwin, Lieutenant Jones, Lieutenant ---------, of Colonel Buell's staff, being unable to indicate the position of brigade or division headquarters, I thought it my duty to establish communications with the troops who still seemed fighting to the left and front. Accordingly, instructing my officers to pick up and keep together any men who should be found, I went in the direction of the firing, and for some time, perhaps a half hour, sought to make my way to our troops, but found myself completely cut off from them by the enemy. Returning to where my command was left, I found the ground likewise occupied by the rebel skirmishers. (I have since learned that soon after I left the command the artillery was all withdrawn, and the battalion of infantry, commanded by the colonel of whom I have spoken, had been removed by the rear, whereupon, after consultation, my own officers and those already mentioned of the Thirteenth Michigan and One hundredth Illinois and Colonel Buell's staff, finding themselves entirely unsupported and with no object to remain longer where nothing could be effected, and capture was almost certain, determined to retire.)
Making my way out with much difficulty, and under frequent fire, from skirmishers, I finally gained the road, finding it filled with soldiers, artillery, trains, line, staff, and field officers. Learning by inquiry that a stand was being made several miles to the rear, I rode rapidly for this point in order to rally the greatest possible number of my command.
Arriving here about 4 p.m., I found the most of my regiment detachments of the other regiments of the brigade, a few of the Third Brigade, the most of Colonel Buell's, and a part of Colonel Harker's and General Wood's staffs, and the colors of the Third Brigade. Assuming command of the whole, I took immediate measures to pick up and collect any others of the division who should come in, and reported to Colonel Lodor, of General Crittenden's staff. He ordered me to fall back to Rossville, where I arrived after dark and went into camp. On the next morning (the 21st), I turned over the command, numbering about 600 officers and men, to Colonel Buell and resumed command of my own regiment. My regiment has since remained with the brigade, without further action or casualty, to the present time.
Subjoined is a schedule report of the casualties on the 19th and 20th; the most of them occurred on the 19th. The left wing, it will be observed, suffered most severely, both in officers and men, not less than one-third being left on the ground of our first position. I think no prisoners were taken except the wounded, among whom was Capt. S. H. Ewing, Company B, acting major. Surgeon McGavran, Hospital Steward Dunnen, and 4 musicians were captured at the field hospital, near Gordon's Mills.
The command was most unfortunate in its positions on both days, but, under all the circumstances, behaved with the most commendable valor where valor could be available for good. I cannot wonder that after more than half its officers and men were killed and wounded up to noon of the 20th, and many others were unavoidably separated from the command during the terrible struggle of the 19th, and by the overwhelming force thrown upon the flank of the brigade while marching to the left on the 20th, completely crushing it, and dashing it to atoms, as it were, against the hill in the rear, the remnant of the men, still gathered around their colors with their officers, pressed farther and farther back by continued flank attacks, left entirely without support, and nearly surrounded, should fall in with the immense columns of troops moving to the rear, and seek, with the rest, a place of safety. It might have been wiser to have done so sooner.
The following are the casualties of the command during the actions of the 19th and 20th: The staff surgeon, McGavran, captured at field hospital; Captain Ewing, Company B, acting major, wounded and captured; non-commissioned Staff Serg. Maj. B. A. Rabe wounded; Hospital Steward V. E. Dunnen captured at field hospital.
O Officers. B Killed.
M Men. C Wounded.
A In action. D Missing.
E Aggregate loss
----A----- ---B---- ----C----- ----D---- -----E----
Company. O M O M O M O M O M
A. 3 38 .... .... .... 13 .... 2 .... 15
B. 2 41 1 4 1 16 .... 5 2 25
C. 3 34 2 2 .... 17 .... 7 2 26
D. 2 44 .... .... .... 13 .... 4 .... 17
E 2 32 1 3 .... 14 .... 2 1 19
F. 2 36 . ... .... .... 8 .... 4 .... 12
G. 2 40 .... 5 2 13 .... 7 2 25
H 3 24 1 3 2 17 .... 1 3 21
I. 3 34 .... 4 1 10 .... 5 1 19
K.1 31 .... 2 .... 12 .... 6 .... 20
Total. 23 354 5 23 6 133 .... 43 11 199
Aggregate loss of officers 12
Aggregate loss of enlisted men 201
I am, sir, very respectfully,
W. H. YOUNG,
Capt. J. G. ELWOOD,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Brigade.
| Official Report by Lt. Col. W.H.Young, 26th OVI
Source: Official Record: Vol XXX, Part IV, Series 53, page 667
|Excerpts from Captain Kelly's sketch- " Lest We Forget"|
|1st Brigade Commander Colonel George P Buell's Report|
|1st Division Commander General Thomas J Wood's Report|
|CSA General's Reports|
|Chickamauga Battlefield Photos|