All pictures of Chickamauga National Battlefield courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, and were taken about the time the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Battlefield was dedicated in 1895.
Today, when we want to learn about a particular campaign or battle of the Civil War, we have the benefit of hindsight--of records, reports, and personal narratives along with the scholarship of numerous historians. These works provide us with an understanding of the event in question that the participants themselves could never have imagined. And, during those tumultuous years, if the men in the field weren't always sure of what was going on, then the folks back home usually weren't any better informed. Back on the home front there were usually two main sources for war news--the letters received from the family members and friends in the service, and the newspapers.
We're all aware of the fact that news in the 1860's traveled much slower than it does today. Reading through newspapers of that era gives a person a better idea of just how long it could take for even important information to reach northwestern Ohio. Important details from some of the biggest battles could take a week or more to reach this corner of the state. And even when the news did arrive, there was no guarantee as to its accuracy, or authenticity.
What I would like to do here is, through several selected articles, give you an idea of how the battle of Chickamauga was covered in one of the local papers, the Daily Blade. The messages the newspapers brought to the homes here in Toledo following that fight were varied--from early news of a great victory to the realization that things did not turn out quite the way they had hoped. In the days just before the fight, numerous items were being printed about the war effort--including reports received from Army of the Cumberland headquarters. The first two selections are reports that were printed in the Blade on September 18, 1863--the day before the battle would begin. One interesting note is the amount of information printed in these reports. With information like this provided by the newspapers, who needed spies? It's little wonder that many generals distrusted newspapers and their reporters!
HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
10 Miles north-east of Lafayette, Ga.,
On evacuating Chattanooga the enemy retired to Lafayette, and massed a force at that place, taking possession of the gaps of Pigeon mountain, directly in front of Thomas' column. The rebel force had been made formidable by new additions from Johnston, Buckner, Hindman and Maury. Deserters report the enemy now superior in number to the army they had at the battle of Murfreesboro'. Among the division are Cheatham, Dey, Cleburne, Stewart, Buckner, Breckenridge, Claybourne, Hindman, Slaughter, and detached brigades of Jackson and Anderson; in all 39 brigades of infantry--not less than 65,000.
The formidable numbers and position compelled Gen. Rosecrans to concentrate his forces necessarily much scattered crossing Lookout Mountains. The two lines of the opposing armies may now be represented crescent shaped [around] pigeon mountain, which extend as an arc circle around Lafayette, the rebels holding the interior and we the exterior of the mountains. The two forces are within a few miles of each other but effectually separated by a range of mountains. The rebel position can only be approached by 3 gaps, Catlett's, Wing, and Blue Bird, which are strongly guarded. The rebel position covers excellent lines for retreat on Rome and Calhoun, where they will probably make a new line should they be defeated here. There are rumors that they have been retiring for a day or two, but this is considered unreliable.
In the fight with General Negley the rebels lost over 30 killed. Our loss was 7 killed, and 35 wounded. (Blade: Friday, September 18, 1863)
The second report, appearing below the first, is dated September 17th:
All quiet. No attack has been made. The enemy remains in possession of the gaps of Pigeon Mountains and about Lafayette. The lines are very close, with occasional skirmishing. Capt. Drury, Chief of Artillery on Van Cleve's Staff, was shot in the bowels by a sharpshooter. The wound is dangerous. It is reported Longstreet has arrived at Resaca with 20,000 men. Our army is in splendid health and spirits. (Blade: Friday, September 18, 1863)
From the contents of these two reports, it was obvious that a fight was soon expected. What the communities back home reading the above in their papers did not know was that the big event was already beginning to take place. That weekend, Saturday, September 19th and Sunday, September 20th, was fought the battle of Chickamauga. With no paper printed on Sunday, the first hint of what had taken place south of Chattanooga appeared in Monday's edition:
Our news from the Cumberland army is very important and by no means satisfactory. Bragg has been heavily reinforced from different directions, and Saturday attacked Rosecrans, near Lafayette, about 20 miles from Chattanooga. The fight lasted about 7 hours, with varying success, and closed as night set in, leaving each force on the ground occupied in the morning. The contest is reported as a severe one, causing heavy loss to both armies, but no decisive result was attained.
By the following despatch from Louisville, it would seem either that Saturday's battle was more decisive against Rosecrans than our reports indicate, of that another battle was fought on Saturday [Sunday?]:
"LOUISVILLE, Sept. 21--12:45 A.M.--Our army, under Rosecrans, has been badly beaten, and compelled to retreat to Chattanooga, by Bragg, with heavy reinforcements from Lee, Beauregard and Joe. Johnston. The military occupation of the lines will prevent the transmission of particulars to-night."
It is to be hoped that this view is not correct. (Blade: Monday, September 21, 1863)
Unfortunately for the editor, and everyone else, the report was correct. This would, however, be the most accurate piece of information printed in the Blade over the next few days as regards the events at Chickamauga. As a matter of fact, very little information of any kind appeared about the battle for the next few days, although many must have suspected that something "big" had taken place. That Thursday the following falsely optimistic report was printed:
The situation of affairs in Rosecrans' Department seems to be more and more encouraging. There is but little doubt now that however we may view it on our side, the rebels have met great and unexpected defeat.--They made the attack on our forces in the belief that they would overwhelm them and thus remove the chief obstacle to the repossession of East Tennessee. They supposed they had massed forces in sufficient strength to accomplish this, and such seems to have been the confident expectation at Richmond. What, then, must be their disappointment at Rosecrans' gallant and heroic defeat of this great scheme?
The reports of arrivals of reinforcements for Rosecrans are not fully corroborated, but a despatch from that officer, dated last night, says, "I can't be dislodged." This confident statement will go far to relieve the public mind as to his safety and inspire it with hope in his final success. (Blade: Thursday, September 24, 1863)
Appearing in that same issue of the Blade, is this dispatch from Rosecrans' Chief-of-Staff, General James A. Garfield. From its tone it is apparent where the editor of the Blade got the idea of the great victory. It also makes me wonder just which battle Garfield was reporting on!
Gen. Garfield, Chief of Rosecrans' Staff, telegraphed from Rossville, near Chattanooga, Sunday, Sept. 20, 8:40 P.M., as follows:--
"Thomas has left Baird's, Brannon's, Reynolds', Wood's, and Palmer's divisions in good order, and has maintained almost the exact position occupied in the morning, except that the right has swung back.
"Lytle fought a most terrific battle, and has damaged the enemy badly. Gen. Granger's troops moved up just in time, [and] fought magnificently. The fighting was far fiercer that I ever saw. Our men not only held the ground, but at many points drove the enemy splendidly. Longstreet's Virginians have got their bellies full.
"Nearly every division in the field exhausted its ammunition.
"Turchin charged the rebel lines and took five hundred prisoners, became envolved, swept around their lines, and cut his way out in another place, but abandoned his prisoners.
"Another brigade was attacked just at the close of the fight, and its ammunition being exhausted, it 'went in' with the bayonet and drove the enemy, taking two hundred prisoners, and have them yet.
"On the whole, Thomas and Granger have done the enemy fully as much injury to-day as they have suffered from him, and successfully repelled repeated combined attacks most fiercely made by the rebel army, frequently pressing the front and both flanks at the same time.
"General Mitchell left Crawfish Springs with his trains safe with him." (Blade: Thursday, September 24, 1863)
As much as they were interested in the successes of the Army of the Cumberland and the Union cause in general, most people of Toledo were particularly interested in the well-being and successes of their own regiment, the 14th Ohio. The first mention of the 14th Regiment came in Friday's issue of the Blade. Again, it was an inaccurately positive report, demonstrating once more that few knew just how severe the fight had been:
We are indebted to Mr. C. O. Brigham, for the following despatch received at the telegraph office here from Cincinnati:
"Captains Moore, Pugh and Pomeroy, and Lieuts. Bigelow, Bennet, Cobb and Marshall were slightly, and Lieut. Van Meter severely wounded in the late battle in Georgia. None reported killed."
While the friends of the 14th sympathize with the wounded, they will rejoice in the exemption of the command from more severe casualties. (Blade: Friday, September 25, 1863)
Perhaps it seemed odd to the folks reading the paper that only officers were wounded. Finally, the truth of what happened in north Georgia began making its way into the newspapers. On Saturday, September 26th, a week after the battle had been fought, the first really in-depth account of it appeared in the Blade. It took up nearly one-fourth of the four-page journal. But not until the following Tuesday did the first real news of the 14th Ohio appear. This news came in the form of a letter written by a member of the regiment to a friend back home. Written by Lieutenant Marshall Davis of Company E, the communication was composed the day after the battle and sent to his friend, Charles Knox. Like many others who have just come through a horrific fight, Davis wanted the folks back home to know that he was alright.
ROSSVILLE, Ga., Sept. 21, 1863.,
DEAR KNOX:--The mail is just leaving, and I thought I would pen you a line to let you know that I am yet alive, as you will no doubt hear many rumors of our battle of yesterday and the day before. I am weak, tired and sick, and cannot write as I would if I were more composed.
We have had a fight and been repulsed, though not defeated. We fell back last night five miles from the battle-field, and are re-organizing and shall attack them again within an hour. We have just been reinforced by Burnside and I think we can whip them.
It was the most terrific battle of the war, and the old 14th is badly cut up. The regiment went into the fight with 441 men, and came out with 267, and our whole Division was cut up in proportion. The men fought bravely, but we were outnumbered, and it was no use.
I will give you a list of officers wounded: Capt. Moore, Co. A, slightly in the head; Capt. Pugh, Co. I, slightly, (is around); Lieut. Bigelow, Co. I; Capt. Pomeroy, Co. D; Lieut. Cobb, Co. A; Lieut. McBride, Co. F. They are all doing well, and will all recover. Capt. Pugh was commanding our company (E) when he was wounded, as I did not reach the regiment until the afternoon of the first day. So you see I got into business right off. I went into the fight with 42 men, and came out with 17.
General Steedman immortalized himself by coming to our relief with the Reserve Corps, and when one of his regiments was retreating in disorder, he seized the old flag, and crying out "You shan't dishonor the Old Flag!" he boldly dashed towards the Rebs, and the regiment rallied and drove the enemy back. It was a most glorious feat, and nobly did he perform it. His horse was killed under him, and he was slightly wounded in the hand. Moe is all right. So is Kingsbury. (Blade: Tuesday, September 29, 1863)
The Blade on October 2d contains a full-length account of the 14th Ohio at the battle of Chickamauga, written by a member of that regiment who regularly contributed letters to the Blade, signing himself as "N."
CHATTANOOGA, Sept. 23, 1863.
Long before this communication will reach you, the intelligence will have been received of another great and bloody battle between our army under Rosecrans and the rebels under Bragg, which I regret to say has thus far resulted rather disastrously to the Union army. I would not represent it as a defeat, but it certainly is no victory.
I cannot attempt any minute description of this, by far the most bloody battle of the war, but merely refer to those results in which our friends at home are most deeply interested. Anxious hearts are beating with painful solicitude while awaiting intelligence of the fate of their kinsmen in the Army of the Cumberland.
On the morning of the 19th inst., after a tedious and severe night march, our troops found themselves at daylight in the vicinity of the enemy, with whom some of our cavalry and infantry had been skirmishing the day previous. The army of Bragg having been lately strengthened by reinforcements from Lee's and Beauregard's armies, and conscious of great numerical superiority, the rebels awaited our entrance in the trap which they had prepared. The evacuation of Chattanooga was evidently a strategical movement to embolden Rosecrans and draw him into a position where they expected to annihilate his whole force.
In the advance, on the morning, was the 2d brigade of the 3d division of General Thomas' corps. This brigade consists (or rather consisted, for it is sadly reduced by casualties of war,) of the 14th Ohio, 4th and 10th Kentucky, and 10th and 74th Indiana regiments, and was under command of Colonel Croxton, of the 4th Kentucky. When within a few hundred yards of the enemy, a line of skirmishers was sent out--the regiments forming in line of battle--and advancing a short distance, came in contact with a force of revel cavalry who advanced with the customary yell and whoop and attacked our skirmishers; but a volley of musketry from our lines emptied many rebel saddles and sent back the balance to their lines. Here commenced the great battle and soon the 14th was in the thickest of the fight. In front of them and the division to which they belonged, was Longstreet's celebrated rebel corps, and during the whole day it received the attacks from this corps of the enemy, and made their charged upon it with varied success.
It was not long after the action commenced that the conflict became general throughout the whole line. One continued roar of musketry and artillery, as uninterrupted as the rattling of wagons on the pavements of Broadway in daylight, announced the terrible destruction of human life. One foe appeared as obstinate as the other. The Union boys fought with a courage worthy of the cause, and the rebels with a ferocity of barbarism. Not satisfied with attacking the sound men, they shelled the hospital in which our wounded lay.
The character of the country was unfavorable for observation of the movements of the two armies. The battle was fought in land sparsely timbered, like the oak openings around Toledo; and hence, not being able to witness the whole lines, I shall here only attempt to announce the casualties of the 14th Regiment as far as I have ascertained.
All I can say of the result, is, that on Sunday it was apparent that our lines had given way under the irresistible pressure of the enemy. Our transportation was soon moving in the vicinity of the battle field, as I supposed a preparatory measure to retreat, and arrived safely at night in Chattanooga. The main army was rallied by Gen. Thomas, who saved it from almost total destruction, while another Maj. Gen. commanding a corps left the field when the columns broke and sought refuge in Chattanooga. For saving our army, too much praise cannot be awarded to Gen. Thomas. He is the idol of the army and a host in the field. The 14th Regiment was among the first in the fight, and the last out. During the two days' battle it contested against fearful odds every inch of ground on which it stood. Its tattered flag and broken columns tell a story of its heroic conduct more emphatic than my pen can do. On the morning of the battle it went into the fight with 500 men; now it stacks 195 muskets. Our Brigade numbered of effective men on the day before the fight 2,600; now 1,163.
Lieut. Col. Kingsbury had command of the 14th Regiment during the battle. Shouldering his musket, and fastening his cartridge-box upon his person, he led his regiment into the thickest of the fight, and by his acts during that terrific struggle proved that his heart and musket were in the right place. Maj. Wilson took his position at the left of the regiment and maintained it until the close of the battle with perfect coolness and fortitude, and by his manner appeared to inspire the men with his own ardor, fired, without doubt, by a determination to make good a resolution I heard him express on the morning of the battle; to avenge the death of his brother, murdered by the rebels in Kansas. Capt. Albert Moore, of Co. "A" was wounded in the hand [head] on the first day's fight, and remained in the hospital during the night following. Lieut. Cobb, of the same company, being also severely wounded, the company being without any commissioned officer to take command the second. Winding a handkerchief over the wound, Captain Moore resumed his position with his company, which he still retains, ready to meet the enemy now approaching.
Capt. Ogan, of Co. "K," was taken prisoner by the rebels the first day. As they were approaching the rebel lines, the idea of practicing a little finesse or military stratagem suggested itself; so, pretending to be highly gratified with the idea of being a prisoner, he told his captors that this was what he wanted--that he had long been anxious to get out of this war, and was well satisfied with this mode of getting out; "But," said he, "you are taking me right back into the Federal line." They, supposing they had become confused in the heat and hurry of the movement, turned around and brought him back within the Federal lines, when it became his turn to reciprocate by capturing this captors and demanding them to deliver up their arms, which they did in a very gracious manner, and are now among the rebel prisoners.
General Steedman has gained the name of the best fighting General in the Army of the Cumberland. His horse was shot from under him, and in the fall his hand became seriously injured. Upon rising, he discovered some of his men straggling from his division, when he commenced pelting them with stones, driving them back to their work--concluding that if words and grass would not do, he would try the virtues of harder material. For a long time he held the Union colors in his own hand, in the heat of the conflict. I mention these circumstances because I know that the people at home take a deep interest in all that pertains to their immediate representatives in the field, and that they take in this regiment a just pride for its merits, tempered by a kindred solicitude for its fate.
The result of all this late action is narrowed down to this: We are in possession of Chattanooga. The rebels are now threatening us with an attack in the rear of the city. Our position is strong and deemed safe. On our right there is a high mountain, which protects that flank, while a continuous line of breastworks along our whole front is so constructed that an enemy approaching must be exposed to the most terrific front and oblique fire. The army is in good spirits and determined to resist to the last. But some are fearful of a flank movement by the enemy, by crossing the river above this point and overwhelming Burnside and attempt whipping us in detail.
The enemy is strong and apparently confident of success. Longstreet's men think themselves invincible. They say they came here to "teach Bragg's men how to fight." Their assumed superiority has awakened a strong jealousy and ill-feeling between those two parties of the rebel army.
But amid the late apparent reverse there is no cause for alarm. The battle is not yet over, and now having in the interval changed our position to a stronger one, we are prepared for the foe whenever he approaches. Those who were in the battle of Stone River tell me that our prospects on Sabbath evening were less discouraging than on the memorable Wednesday night at Stone River.
Whenever we review the past we can easily recount the errors of judgment of our action. It is now thought that had Gen. Rosecrans occupied Chattanooga immediately after its evacuation, instead of making the attempt to penetrate the interior of Georgia, his army would now be in a better condition for operating, offensive and defensive, and the Union cause more prosperous by reason of his ability to protect. Perhaps we have been too confident of our own ability, and too much emboldened by our recent successes, in risking an encounter with an overwhelming foe. But the fortunes of to-morrow may retrieve whatever has been done amiss within the past few days, and when to-morrow's sun shall have again shed his parting glances on the summit of our mountain flank, may his evening smile brighten a field of victory.
I append a list of casualties in the 14th Regiment, by companies. [Not included here] Co. B was not in the fight, being on detached service elsewhere. I have not a list for Co. E. The balance, I think, is nearly correct; but probably there are some errors. (Blade: Friday, October 2, 1863)
Following this narrative was a list, by companies, of the killed, wounded and missing/prisoners, which I have not included due to its length. Adjutant Joseph Newton of the 14th O.V.I. stated the casualties of the regiment as follows: Killed, 37; wounded, 170; missing, 65. Total, 272.
This is a far cry from the original report of only a few officers wounded.
Toledo Daily Blade:
- September 18, 1863
- September 21, 1863
- September 24, 1863
- September 25, 1863
- September 29, 1863
- October 2, 1863