|The view for Dick's Brigade, 130pm on September 19, 1863 (stop #2); Confederates in the woods to the east|
It's a cool August evening in Georgia, rare I would expect as it would be the same back home. Very pleasant with low humidity. I've dragged a chair out the door and sitting on my "front porch" as it were at the Super 8. I get a few strange stares but if you've seen me before you can imagine I'm used to it.
Anyway, I will put pen to paper (or digits to laptop) and try to describe Chickamauga. I'm no historian and this will be no dissertation on the subject as there are those who know more than I, have written extensively on the subject, and the experts still argue over it. So I won't wade into that fray. But I will attempt to describe the basics, grandpa's part in it, and my general thoughts on the subject.
Geographically, the battlefield of Chickamauga lies SE of Chattanooga. Chattanooga sits in a bend of the Tennessee river where it curves north then back east. The Tennessee on the north and Lookout Mountain on the south form the western side; the Tennessee forms the north boundary; Missionary Ridge (MR) runs north and south along the east side. South of Chattanooga and along the western side of MR is Rossville, GA. Passing through the Rossville gap in Missionary Ridge eastward one enters the valley in which Chickamauga creek flows, south to north and into the Tennessee. Further south of Rossville is McFarland gap, another way through Missionary Ridge west of the battlefield. Rossviille and McFarland are primary routes from Chattanooga. About mile and a half south of Rossville, along the south border of what is now Ft Oglethorpe (est 1949) GA is the Chickamauga battlefield site.
If you recall my last writing about Shiloh, which occurred in 1862, the army has primarily been in middle Tennessee and Kentucky chasing General Braxton Bragg and has been successful, after the battle of Stone's River (Murphreesboro), TN in pushing him back to, and through, Chattanooga and is attempting to annihilate his army so they may establish a supplies base in Chattanooga for the drive into the deep south through Atlanta.
As the story unfolds, Bragg has formed a scheme to trap the 70,000 man Army of the Cumberland commanded by William Rosecrans outside of Chattanooga but due to failures in the implementation of the plan they are still on the loose and arrayed east of the Lafayette (pronounced LaFAYette) Road from Lee and Gordon's Mill in the south to Reed's Bridge Road in the north. Bragg still has plans to cut off the Union troops by getting around their left (north) flank, cutting them of from Chattanooga and driving south to destroy them. He will try this many times over the course of the battle which takes place Sept 19/20 1863.
Bragg's Army of the Tennessee, bolstered by troops from Virginia and Eastern Tennessee has grown to 66,000 and are formed along the east side of the Chickamauga with Federal troops guarding the bridges at Reeds Bridge and Alexander's Bridge.
Bragg kicks off his assault on the Federal left flank and plans for his commanders to move forward in order from north to south as the attack progresses. The attack proceeds and the battle rages all day in a brawling give and take matter all along the line with the Federals eventually falling back along the Lafayette road where they stood firm. Both sides suffered terrible losses. At the end of September 19, the bloodied armies were arrayed along a shortened front and the Lafayette road as the general no man's land. As the sun came up on September 20, Bragg again attempted a turn of the the Federal left held by General Thomas. Due to the pressure and Rosecran's realization of Bragg's plans, he began sending support north along the line. An error in communicating an order resulted in hole left in the Union front lines at the Brotherton field. Rosecrans ordered Crittendon to move Wood's division but the message didn't make sense, "The general commanding directs you to close upon Reynolds as fast as possible and support him:. "Close up" is a lateral move (to the left in this case) and "support" puts troops behind. Rosecrans had mistakenly thought a division had already been pulled out of the line (Brannons) and Wood could not close up on Reynolds, as Brannon was already there. So, to follow orders as best he knew, he pulled out of the line and proceeded north to support Reynolds as part of Thomas' division leaving a gaping hole in the Federal line.
At this opportune moment (for the Confederates) Longstreet was kicking off his attack and, seeing the hole in the Federal lines, fed everything he had into that hole. The result was disaster for the Federals. They were routed and began a general retreat back towards McFarland's Gap (the route to Rossville being through the battlefield). Many units attempted to stand and fight but with little success. With some exceptions though: Wilder's Lightning Brigade with their 7 shot repeating Spencer rifles who held around the Widow Glenn's house in the south allowing the army to flow around them to safety until being ordered to retreat themselves and, of course, the stand of several units commanded by General George Henry Thomas on Horseshoe Ridge, also known as Snodgrass Hill. These units held the ground until dark before retreating back to Rossville where the rest of the army was preparing to defend Chattanooga.
The battle comes to an end with the Confederates taking the field but failing to keep Rosecrans from Chattanooga and worse yet knowing another battle would have to be fought The Confederates were not happy with Bragg even though they had won the battle. They now occupied the high ground around Chattanooga on MR and Lookout Mountain as well as the Chattanooga Creek Valley (between Lookout Mountain and MR) and could block the best roads, railways, and waterways into the city, creating a siege and pushing the Army of the Cumberland towards the brink of starvation. But that's for the next part.
So, in all of this battle, where was grandpa? As the Hurricane and I went to stop number 1 we found ourselves with the 59th at the beginning of the battle at the far right flank of the Federal line west of Lafayette road north of the Glenn-Viniard road. The 59th (LTC Granville A Frambes) as part of Col George F Dick's Brigade, Van Cleve's Division and Crittendon's 21st Corps along with the 44th Indiana were here at 4am on
|Viniard Field where the bodies of the dead and wounded were |
so many, one could cross without touching grass
|Dick's Brigade's marker, Stop #2|
|59th OVI Monument, east of Brotherton Rd (Stop #2)|
Dick's Brigade in flank. At the same time Clayton advanced against its front and the brigade retired to the crest next west of the Dyer house (NPS Map#225). We found our way back to the Vibe and then west to stop number 3, out in the Brotherton field, south of the Brotherton house. This is the exact location where, on the next day, the gap would open in the Federal line. But grandpa wouldn't be there.
|Dick's Brigade's view east from|
their position in the Brother-
ton field. Stop #3
Back to the Vibe and on west to Chickamauga-Vittetoe (what I believe is referred to above as Crawfish Springs) road for stop number 4. This takes us to the morning of September 20. At 9 o'clock this brigade then in position on the slope west of Vittetoe road was sent forward with S Beatty's brigade on it's right to the first ridge east of the starting point, then toward the main line, and upon arriving in rear of General Brannan's division near the Poe House were ordered still farther to the left (north in support of Thomas' divisions along with the rest of Wood's brigades as a result of the order given by Rosecrans noted above). Dick's Brigade soon after took position in the woods west of Kelly Field in rear of Stanley's brigade of Negley's division but almost immediately withdrew to the left and, with the exception of the 44th Indiana, and fragments of the 86th Indiana and 13th Ohio which rallied on Snodgrass Ridge, soon proceeded to McFarland's Gap and then to Rossville (NPS Map #164).
We left stop number 4 on the west side and went to stop number 5 on the west side of Kelly field where the unit was last before the general retreat ensued. It is apparent that the 59th arrived in line not long before the disaster was upon them and fled for Chattanooga along with most of the 44th Indiana. As noted above a good part of the brigade made the stand on Snodgrass Hill. So for those of us among the family who want to know about grandpa, that appears to be his story at Chickamauga. One thing the NPS marker does note is their statistics: Strength in action 9/18/1863-1122 officers and men. Casualties: 16 killed; 180 wounded; 83 missing; total 279; percentage of loss 24.87. Wow, 25% casualties. And the 59th wasn't a part of some of the worst fighting. I'll note one instance below.
I move on now to other things I saw while there and will make a few comments on those. The Hurricane and I walked along the line held on September 19 by the US regiments at Lafayette road. The fighting here was
|21 Army Corp adopted the|
acorn as their symbol
|Lytle Mortality Monument|
I had also almost forgotten about General Lytle. In addition to my membership in Old Abe Camp #16, Department of Kansas, SUVCW, I am a member also of General Lytle Camp #10, Department of Ohio, in Cincinnati. I had seem some stories of my brothers there who had worked on the Lytle monument at Chickamauga. As we were driving I caught the sign out of the corner of my eye and stopped to see it. At the next stop the story of Lytle was told at one of the NPS stops. It seems in the Confederate onslaught on the 20th he was rallying his troops when shot. His body was found by the Confederates who, recognizing who he was and respected him even though the enemy, posted a sentinel over his body, secured his personal effects, and returned his body later under a flag of truce. Would that even our enemies thought well of us.
We also saw the tower built to commemorate the Wilder Lightning Brigade. The brigade was mounted
Finally, and most notably, is the stand on Snodgrass Hill where a heroic stand withstood a heroic attack. Repeatedly the hill was assaulted and repeatedly defended, sometimes at bayonet, without which the Army of the Cumberland would have been lost along with Chattanooga and very likely, extending the war. For leading his troops in this stand, General Thomas becomes known as "The Rock of Chickamauga" and his star rises.
|A view of Snodgrass Hill conditions|
His exploits here, and as grandpa's leader at Chattanooga, evidently impressed grandpa to such an extent that he named his firstborn son after the war, in 1869, George H Thomas Bartlow.
More in the next episode as we move to the battle of Chattanooga including Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge.
|General George Henry Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga|