A correspondent who signed his name as"N" wrote a series of letters from the Fourteenth Ohio to the Daily Toledo Blade. The following letter appeared in that paper on October 2d, 1863. It contains a full-length account of the 14th Ohio at the battle of Chickamauga.
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)
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