Saturday, January 11, 2020

Monclova resident killed in action at Port Republic in 1862

I have a tradition on every New Year's Day of taking a walk at Oak Openings Park as a way of re-focusing myself for the year ahead. We were fortunate in that this year it was sunny and clear if a bit cool and the walk, as always, was invigorating. 

On my way home, I drove along U.S. 20 in Monclova and passed by Swan Creek Cemetery. It triggered a memory from long ago back in my Civil War re-enacting days. Adjacent to the road is a small monument dedicated to the residents of Monclova Township who died during the Civil War. Driving by and seeing the eagle atop the monument it triggered the memory of helping to re-dedicate this monument back in 2000.

At the time, I was a "high private in the rear rank" of the 14th Ohio/3rd Arkansas. The Monclova Historical Foundation had paid for the restoration of this nearly forgotten monument which had been erected in 1870, just five years after the war. We (our group) were invited to be part of the wreath-laying ceremony. Checking online, this event occurred May 29, 2000 at 10 in the morning- other than being there and part of the event, I can't say I remember much in the way of details except 1) it was sunny, 2) it was hot, and 3) I was very thirsty as a result. It was one of my first events as a re-enactor and it felt good to be paying tribute to the men in blue. 

This year, I took a few moments to visit the monument and read the names of the men. Four brothers with the last name of Ruckel died within a few months of each other in 1864- I can only imagine how devastating the loss had to be for the parents of these brave men. 

My attention was also drawn to the name of Edward Allen. He served with Battery H of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery and lost his life during the Battle of Port Republic, Virginia on June 9, 1862. His name sounded familiar, and after digging into my research files, I found out why. The following letter was written by Second Lieutenant Martin B. Ewing of Battery H eight days after Port Republic, and he mentions that Sergeant Edward Allen was killed at his piece.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Saga of Battery G: A Desperate Escape from the Slaughter Pen at Stones River


On the southern edge of the Stones River National Battlefield is an open field now used for artillery demonstrations highlighting the story of the Federal batteries that fought in that bitterly contested portion of the field known as the Slaughter Pen. Among the batteries that held this ground on December 31, 1862 was Battery G of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery commanded by First Lieutenant Alexander Marshall of Cleveland. This battery was an experienced one having been the only battery in Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio that participated in the Battle of Shiloh. Lieutenant Marshall had assumed command of the battery in place of Captain Joseph Bartlett who was suffering from poor health; Bartlett would resign his commission in January 1863 opening the way for Marshall’s promotion to captain.
 
Guidon of Battery G, 1st Ohio Light Artillery
It was a well-equipped battery, if a ‘weird’ one in that four of its six guns were Wiard rifled pieces: two 6-pdr rifles and two 12-pdr rifles. The remaining two guns were M1841 12-pdr smoothbore howitzers. The Wiard rifles were relatively rare and the unique design of the carriage allowed the guns to be elevated such that they could also serve as mortars. The Wiard rifles generally fired Hotchkiss-type shells, and Marshall’s after-action report mentions the frequent use of canister.

Battery G was attached to Colonel John Franklin Miller’s brigade of General James Negley’s Second Division of General George H. Thomas’ Center Corps. Miller’s brigade consisted of the 37th Indiana, 78th Pennsylvania, and two Ohio regiments, the 21st from northwestern Ohio and the 74th from southwestern Ohio. It proved to be a hard fighting unit that gained much notice for its steadfastness in the cedars at Stones River, and Battery G fit in well with its brigade mates. The gunners hailed from the Cleveland area although a small contingent also resided in my home of Wood County, Ohio, the same home to many members of their brigade mates the 21st Ohio Infantry. Indeed, the ranks of Battery G were sprinkled with men from the infantry regiments of the brigade who were temporarily transferred before the battle.
 
Period photograph of a 6-pdr Wiard rifle; Battery G had two of these and two 12-pdr
rifles of the same design. Only one of the 6-pdr guns made it out of the cedars. 
Battery G’s fight in the cedars was desperate, deadly and costly. Four of its six guns were lost due to enemy action and the battery suffered five men killed, five wounded (although a private offered that nearly three-quarters of the men of the battery had scratches or holes in their clothes from enemy bullets), and 14 men captured. The horses of the battery were decimated as 34 of them were killed and another dozen captured, making it impossible to drag the guns off the field.

Captain Alexander Marshall of Battery G


Lieutenant Marshall’s report of what occurred in the cedars eloquently captures the chaos of the battle in this sector and is, in my opinion, one of the key documents that explain what happened in that very confusing portion of the battle. The portion of his report relating to the battle of December 31st follows, after which I will give a few incidents of the battle as related by other members of the battery. “At daylight of the 31st, opened with the four guns, stationed in the corn-field, shelling the woods to the right and the battery and rifle-pit in front, as the night before. About 8 a.m., moved the center section down to the left about 40 rods, taking position near two log-houses in rear of the corn-field, a dense thicket across the corn-field directly in front, open country to the left and front, where the enemy was in position. Remained in this position about thirty minutes without firing; then moved this section up and took position in center of the battery; worked the battery till about 11 a.m. The enemy up to this time fired but few rounds from their batteries in our front, firing being mostly from their skirmishers in the woods, when, in obedience to Colonel Miller’s order, moved to the right; partially changed front. The batteries of the enemy opened over the advancing infantry a heavy fire before we had fairly got into position. Ordered caissons under shelter a short distance in the rear, and opened upon the rapidly advancing enemy with canister. As our support advanced, we moved our pieces forward by hand and worked them as rapidly as possible.

One of our 12-pounder howitzers being disabled, the trail having been cut nearly off by a shot, ordered it to the rear. Went to work with canister, the enemy advancing in the woods close upon us. As our infantry support advanced we advanced our pieces by hand to the fence close to the woods, that we might hold an interval in their lines, and continued firing canister as fast as possible. During this time our horses were suffering severely from fire from the enemy; had them replaced by the teams from battery and forge wagon 1 ½ miles in the rear, in charge of artificers. All of my spare horses were soon used up and several taken from the caissons. Had 3 men killed and several wounded.
 
A  12-pdr howitzer; Battery G was equipped with two of these guns and left one on the field at Stones River.
Saw the enemy moving down the open field in masses on our left flank, and firing extending far to our rear on our right flank, and one of our 12-pounder rifles having a shot wedged and but three horses remaining, I ordered First Lieutenant John Crable to take the two disabled pieces and caissons to the rear through the cedar swamp, and ordered the remaining four pieces to fix prolonge, to fire retiring. The enemy had already been twice repulsed, when they moved upon both our flanks and front with renewed ranks and vigor, which caused our support to give way. I ordered the battery to retire to the woods in our rear, two pieces having but three horses and two four horses each.

My own, Second Lieutenant Robert D. Whittlesey’s, and one sergeant’s horse were killed; three of the guns moved off as ordered; prolonge of the left piece, 12-pounder Wiard, broken; at the same time the lead rider was shot; the gunner mounted his team, when the off wheel horse was killed and the off lead horse wounded, which prevented us from using the limber. I then ordered a limber of one of the pieces already in the woods out, to draw the remaining 12-pounder off the field into the woods.
 
Map showing the position of Miller's and Stanley's brigades during the crucial fight for the cedars. Battery G is located between the 78th Pennsylvania and 37th Indiana on the southern flank (the right) of Miller's brigade. Note also the pioneer road on the left which provided the means by which the battery was placed into position on December 30th. Access to the road was cut off when Confederate forces pried loose Timothy Stanley's brigade on the Battery's right and forced the gunners to retreat through the cedar swamp directly to their rear. (Map courtesy of Lanny Smith)
We had no sooner started back when I found the right and center of the brigade had fallen back, and the left (21st Ohio) was coming in, leaving the pieces about 40 yards outside of our lines, between us and the enemy, which was fast closing in on us, with a heavy fire. Saw that it was impossible to reach the gun. I ordered the limber back and gun limbered up; moved back through the cedar swamp in rear of brigade. There being no road, I was considerably bothered to work my way through. As the brigade was moving rapidly and the enemy pressing close upon us, two more of my wheel horses were shot and one rider, when I was obliged to leave two more guns, having but one wheel and middle horse on each piece. Sergeant Henry J. Farewell, together with Sergeant George W. Bills, took the remaining piece, passed the pieces left, and worked their way through and took position on the right of Captain James H. Stokes’ battery (Board of Trade battery), where I found them and went to work, using up the balance of our ammunition-about 40 rounds."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Charles Barney Dennis at Stones River Part V: Distinguished Visitors and a Foggy Escape January 1-4, 1863


In the afternoon of January 1st, quite a large cavalcade of horsemen rode into the west gate headed by a man of fine stature and sitting his big, gray horse like the soldier he was; his face was a grim but not unkindly one, his hair and full whiskers trimmed short and just touched with gray, and the head surmounted by a soft, black felt hat that gave him a very decided resemblance to our own Pap Thomas. He rode to the porch of the house and asked if the body of General [Joshua W.] Sill was still there. A hospital sergeant pointed it out to him and riding over, the man dismounted, and approached the body. The body lay on the porch covered with a blanket. The man took off his hat, lifted the blanket, and looked into the dead face for quite a time, and finally recovering, he said to the sergeant, ‘Poor Sill. He was one of God’s noblemen.’ This big, fine looking man was General [William J.] Hardee of the Confederate Army, and at that time both armies were using Hardee’s tactics, although later on the Union Army adopted Upton’s.
General William J. Hardee

          In the evening of the same day there came in to the ground from the east side a mounted man of small stature (compared to the big Hardee). He was attended by an aide and an orderly. He rode up to the fire that had been built in the center of the ground, dismounted, and asked if he could see the surgeon in charge. One of our men ran in and brought Dr. Blount out. He stepped up to the little man who asked how things were going in the hospital, if supplies were plentiful, especially medical supplies, anesthetics, instruments, etc. Dr. Blount told him that the Confederate surgeons had taken most of hos anesthetics, whereupon the little man turned quickly to his aide and told him to ride to Murfreesboro at once and get from the surgeon general of Bragg’s army a supply of ether. As the aide started for his horse, the little man asked him if he knew what ether was and told him he better write it down, which the aide did and departed.

          The little man appeared to be in a talkative mood and not averse to conversing with the enlisted men. The talk was mostly about the war, which the little man said was to be deeply regretted. He seemed either nervous or diffident, his voice while clear was not heavy and he had a habit of rubbing his hands together as he talked, as I have often seen diffident men do. He said he was wounded once at Richmond and showed us the scars on his cheeks where he said some careless Yankee shot him, not doing much harm, though, only making two little holes and taking along two molars. But he said a man can’t tell when ‘Finis’ will be written. He was General Patrick Cleburne, a major general of the Confederate Army. He had been an officer in the British army and when his time was out, he came to America and settled in Arkansas. When the war broke out he joined the rebel side. He was a fierce fighter, a good general, and had the reputation of being a kind-hearted man.
General Patrick R. Cleburne

By this time, having been in the hospital two days and getting very tired of it, I concluded that night that I would change my sleeping quarters by going across the lane from the hospital and sleep in a corn crib. That night was wet and cheerless and my sleep was not the soundest. I heard all through the night troops moving, large bodies of them, the rumble of artillery, the lighter rattle of wagons, but upon looking out the utter darkness prevented me from seeing anything to explain all this noise.

In the morning there was a dense fog and right then and there I made up my mind to get away. I concluded that if I could pass the hospital grounds guard line, I could go farther and that if stopped at the guard line I would make the excuse of having lost my way in the fog. I started out and there appeared to be no guard line so I continued on through a piece of woods that had evidently been cared for in a manner that made it ornamental as well as useful. Great big beautiful oak, hickory, black walnut, and butternut trees well-trimmed up, but with heavy overgrowth, but below so thinned out that one could see quite a long distance unless prevented by fog.

 I had probably gone half a mile possibly more when I discovered not far away two riders. These two men looked like giants and they were riding straight for me. I slipped behind one of the big trees but evidently I had been seen for I heard one ask the other if he saw anything of him yet. The other said no, then number one said let’s circle out to the right and left and if he’s behind one of these trees we’ll get him all right. I was behind the tree and if I looked as I thought I did they could never have seen me for I felt about as a stamp looks on a letter. I was sure glued to that tree. I looked to my left and he was coming straight for me and had unslung his carbine and was ready for all emergencies. So discretion being the better part of valor, I stepped out and put up my hands. He rode up to me and asked where I thought I was going. His blue overcoat would indicate to me that he was Union, but lots of Rebels were wearing blue coats taken from our dead, wounded, and prisoners, so the blue coat was not a sure sign. I thought if I could hear him say something rather at length I could tell what he was, so I said where do you think I was trying to go to. Then he opened up in right good Yankee that he would leave my destination in doubt but would take me where I would at least that I was out of the fog. Then I asked what command he belonged to, and he replied promptly the 4th U.S. Cavalry. Then I told him that I was from the Gresham field hospital and that I was trying to make my way back to our lines and wanted to get to Davis’ division, could he tell me where it lay. He did that promptly and said that the information I had given him about the enemy’s probably withdrawal from that part of the field was valuable and just what he and his comrades were scouting to find out.

I then went in the direction he told me Davis’ division lay and in a mile after crossing the railroad track which was high at this point, I came upon a camp and almost the first regiment was my own. I certainly was glad to get back home and I didn’t lose anytime in making it apparent that what I wanted most was something to eat and coffee-a barrel of it! I got pretty near all I asked for. I had a long talk with Major [Isaac M.] Kirby who was in command, and told him all about Colonels Stem and Wooster, and told him that I was within ten feet of Lieutenant Biddle of the colors company when he was killed. I relayed all that I had seen and experienced while at the hospital and on the way back and he in turn told me of the missing boys, some of whom he knew were in the hospital for I had told him. I also told him of the death of Sergeant Huntingdon who had been as we all supposed only slightly wounded, but who died from his wounds just the same. I did not tell the major that I had been paroled, however, and so I was allowed to outfit again, that is to have a musket or rifle and take my place in the ranks once more.

I had gotten back to my old regiment, my military home, and was glad of it. I reached it on the morning of the 3rd of January. Along about night, we got in line and marched into Murfreesboro. It was only four miles away, but we had to go very slow, feeling our way so to speak, and so did not arrive in town until about midnight. It might have been after that for all I know for we were so dead tired, worn out, and lousy that we were more fit for the hospital than for the cold, wet camp we marched into. We took up a position south of the town on the Shelbyville Pike. The camp was in open ground but all about us were woods. It was rather a low place and everything was wet. We had Sibley tents with the peaked top, but tents were not every plentiful and so the one my squad occupied was uncomfortably full. Sleeping we lay in a circle with our feet to the center of the tent. We were so close together that when we wanted to turn over we had to give the grand hailing sign ‘spoon to the right’ or on the left as the case may be.
General Jefferson C. Davis

[The 101st Ohio marched from Nashville, Tennessee on December 26, 1862 with 19 officers and 441 enlisted men in its ranks. By the end of the Battle of Stones River, Major Kirby reported 10 officers and 178 enlisted men present for duty, and another 15 present on detached service. Casualties totaled 229 killed and wounded: 15 killed, 122 wounded, and 92 missing.]



Charles Barney Dennis at Stones River Part IV: Gresham House Field Hospital December 31, 1862-January 1, 1863


The doctor looked at my wound and said an ambulance would be after me before long, but have patience he said, there’s a lot of you fellows scattered over this field, your ambulances are gone and ours are limited.  He was right and when an ambulance came along it was what they used to call a prairie schooner, the bottom of the box filled with straw. The little doctor that I had been talking with said that while my wound was not serious, it would probably keep me from walking for a few days. I was thrown into the wagon on the straw; not exactly thrown in but lifted about as if I had been a sack of meal. Others were put in with me, including my little artillery friend, and we were driven to what had been the general field hospital of our army for the benefit of the right wing. [Gresham House]
Colonel Leander Stem
101st Ohio

Arriving at the hospital we were delighted to find our own surgeons still in charge. An assistant surgeon of our regiment Dr. [Walter] Caswell was still there and it was to him that I went for relief. He probed the wound and I believe caused the only real pain it ever gave me. He located the bullet and identified the type. In the front line of the Rebel battle line were a lot of sharpshooters armed with what is called down South a ‘deer rifle’ and it was doubtless a ball from one of these that hit me. It was a half-ounce ball but I have never felt like complaining that it was not a larger one.

About this time I began to realize that I was not only wounded but that I was in a hospital that, although established by the Union forces and in charge of Union surgeons, was inside the Rebel lines. That became evident when in compliance with Dr. Caswell’s advice to keep on my feet all that I could, notwithstanding that for two days the wound bled pretty freely, I started to go out into a grove to the north of the hospital building to gather some hickory nuts. The hospital building was a large plantation house surrounded by groves of maple, hickory, oak, and black walnut. The grove was inside the hospital guard line and immediately I reached the edge of the grove I was halted by a big, burly Irishman dressed in Rebel uniform. He was he was guarding the beat and that I couldn’t go out into the grove.

So I turned back and commenced a conversation with him. He didn’t seem at all loathe to talk, so I asked him where he was from. He said he had enlisted at Savannah and that his regiment, the 3rd Confederate Infantry, was made up in Savannah and Charleston. I asked him how he liked the service. He said oh pretty well, but whether he liked it or not he had to go sooner or later, so he gave up the job as policeman and went sooner. I told him finally that I was going after the nuts because I was hungry and told him how I happened to come to that hospital without anything to eat, and also that rations in the hospital were very scarce and had to be held for those that were helpless. At that he handed me a big piece of corn bread and a chunk of fresh boiled beef. It was not bad just at that time.

I asked this Irishman if his regiment had not been given powder and whiskey the night before the battle. He said it had, that it was to give them pluck to stand up to the fight without getting scared. I told him that one of his regiment had given me a drink of it when I lay on the field and that in exchange for the beastly drink he had taken my gun and cartridge box. ‘Beastly did you say?’ he replied. I said yes, I wanted a drink of water and when I got that rotten dope I felt like killing the fellow that gave it to me. All right, he says, I was about to offer you a drink of the same stuff, but since you have such a high regard for it, I’ll keep it. He was not a bad fellow, only he had the blustering, bullying way that a good many Irish policemen have.

The scene within the hospital grounds was anything but cheerful, although the best possible care had been given the wounded, there was much that could have been done for their comfort, and many a poor chap died from lack of proper nursing. The ground outside were covered with badly wounded men, some of them mangled horribly, waiting for room to be made in the operating rooms. Before they reached there many of them died. In a place screened off by brush, there was a row of more than a hundred dead that had died after being brought to the hospital. I concluded that I would ask the surgeon in charge (Dr. Blount) if he could not give me some light work that I could do- anything that would distract my attention from the gruesome sights of the hospital and grounds, and incidentally get me a little nearer the culinary department. I began to feel the need of substantial food.

The surgeon put me writing tags that were pinned to every dead man; the tag was his record so far as it could be obtained. Passing around the grounds the next day [January 1, 1863] I found the body of a man and raised the blanket to see his face. It was our own Lieutenant Colonel Moses Wooster. He had died the night before and had been laid out there in his uniform, a card pinned to him but the name on it was as far from Wooster as Wooster was from life. I got another card, wrote his name on it together with his rank and home address of Norwalk, Ohio. His remains were sent there later on for burial. [The Norwalk Reflector reported that Wooster’s remains were brought home from Nashville by his brother. ‘We are told that Colonel Wooster’s overcoat was pierced by seven balls during the fight in which he was killed. The wounds which caused his death were received in the lower limbs.’]

During the day a flashy little Confederate French major appeared on the grounds and asked to see the surgeon in charge. He was shown in while I was still in Dr. Blount’s room. He was very courteous and begged the doctors effusively, saying that it was his painful duty to ask that all the men in and about the hospital who could walk be ordered into line and that he would march them into Murfreesboro where they would take trains for the various Southern prison camps. The doctor told him that he had a number of men who could walk but that their services in the hospital were absolutely indispensable. The major offered no objection to his retaining those that were needed but said that every man so retained must take the oath of parole, an oath that binds him not to take up arms against the Confederate States until rightfully exchanged. I took this oath but broke it within two days.

The little French major was the only thing we had seen to laugh at since we came to the hospital, and he sure was funny, twisting his head to one side and shrugging his shoulders, talking with his hands, and flying about like a hen with its head off. During his antics one of our batteries, way off to the northwest a mile and a half opened up on some object which brought the hospital directly in the line of the shots. The little major was furious, stormed about calling Dr. Blount’s attention to this woeful disregard of the civilized rules of warfare and finally wound by saying that if the doctor did not find a way to stop that battery, every dead and wounded man in the hospital would be killed! A very large yellow flag was put up higher than it had been, and after a little the shooting stopped, but whether on account of the flag or because the major took exception we never knew.




Charles Barney Dennis at Stones River Part III: Collapse of the Right Wing December 31, 1862


Our position went against us immediately after the battle opened up the next day or early morning. We had had such breakfast as we could get at 5 o’clock and then lay there watching the heavy lines of infantry that the Rebels were pushing around to our extreme right. We could see the battle flags plainly but were not allowed to fire at them. About half past five a line of skirmishers was pushed forward by the Rebels and it promptly commenced picking on us. It was followed, as we found just a little later, by two heavy lines of battle, just twice our strength. Their front was covered by a fringe of small bushes and little cedar trees, while we had been drawn back a little into an open strip that ran along between the lines. [Co. E was on skirmish duty in front of the 101st Ohio when the Rebel attack began and attempted to contest the advance. Lewis Day recalled that ‘the tacit armistice between our pickets and the Rebels in our immediate front was dissolved by the first rays of the morning. Each man took to his tree or his log and warily looked out for both himself and his antagonist. The early and vigorous advance of the Rebel line made it necessary to recall our picket line- indeed, we were unceremoniously driven in, a number of our boys being badly wounded before we reached our place in the line of battle.’ First Lieutenant Lyman Parcher reported that ‘the enemy steadily advanced his skirmishers causing sad havoc in our ranks.’]
Position of Carlin's brigade at the outset of the Battle of Stones River. The 101st Ohio fell back towards the north, being driven from five positions before reaching the safety of the Nashville Pike. The regiment fell apart during the retreat and little more than a corporal's guard remained around the colors by noon. 

When these rebel skirmishers began shooting, we were ordered into line, standing like a wall of human beings for them to pick off. Still the order to came to us, ‘hold your fire, men! Give way to the right, give way to the left, steady, steady.’ All this time we heard the thud of bullets as they found their way into some poor fellow’s flesh and the falling men all along the line were easily seen as they pitched forward on their faces, many of them never to rise again. Finally, their skirmishers came out of the bushes a little, keeping up a steady fusillade but it was then that we could see what was behind that skirmish line. [The Rebels pushed forward their sharpshooters and Colonel Stem called for volunteers to combat them. ‘Several rose, one of whom was shot and instantly killed and a number of others were more or less seriously wounded,’ recalled Lewis Day.]

Soon after we received the order to fire. At first we were ordered to deliver volley firing, then came the order ‘fire at will and fire low, aim at their knees!’ We could see their knees as they came on and we did aim at them, although I think the first shot I fired went very nearly straight up in the air, and if my recollection serves me, it must have taken a sort of curve up and over the Rebel line and fallen on the other side. I hope to this day that it had some effect on some Johnny.

Owing to the fact that the Rebels outnumbered us nearly two to one, at least on the right wing of our army, we were compelled to fall back slowly, changing our front slightly and facing more to the east as we were now in the crook of the elbow so to speak of the Rebel force. They were attempting an enveloping movement which, if successful, would put our whole army in a very dangerous position. But by the prompt action of some of the division commanders, especially General [Philip] Sheridan and [Jefferson] Davis, they were prevented, although they continued to drive our force back. [Major Isaac M. Kirby reported that it was the flanking fire that drove the 101st from their position with heavy losses, including both regimental leaders. ‘It was at this time that Colonel Leander Stem and Lieutenant Colonel Moses F. Wooster fell mortally wounded while gallantly and nobly attempting to hold the regiment in line. Colonel Stem fell just as he called out ‘Stand by your colors boys, for the honor of the good old State of Ohio!’ The regiment fell back in some disorder.’ George Meyers recalled that Stem had urged the men to ‘wait until you see the whites of their eyes then give them the buckeye1’ Attempts were made to carry both wounded men back to the Gresham House hospital during the battle but the heavy assault of the Confederates made this impossible. Wooster told the men ‘Put me down boys and rally to the support of the flag.’ A wounded man stayed with him until he died the following day at Gresham House. Colonel Stem ended up in Murfreesboro where he died on January 5th.]

Speaking of my personal movements, a Sandusky boy named Philip Kunz and I had gotten back to the rail fence that marked the border of the cotton field and had taken position behind a barricade of rails as they had been thrown down to let our artillery pass out of the cedar thicket easier, and we were (we thought) doing very good service there firing deliberately at some individual mark. Our nervousness had all disappeared and in its place a sort of grim determination to stop the oncoming cloud of butternut Rebels. An officer came rustling by pretty soon and ordered us to leave the rail fence and fall back on the colors which we could see at the top of the ridge in the cotton field. Kunz made a quick survey of the situation and said to me, ‘I’m going to the left of our colors, to the line occupied by the 38th Illinois.’ This part of the line was not under as heavy a fire as that of our regiment and the one on its right. [The 101st Ohio’s color bearer Sergeant James M. Roberts of Co. C gained favorable mention in Major Kirby’s report for his steadfastness under fire. ‘He never faltered, always planted the colors promptly where directed, and never moved them till ordered.’]

We were feeling the effects of a heavy fire of musketry on our front, and also enfilading fire of both musketry and artillery from the enemy who had gained a position on our right. I did not follow Kunz, for what reason I cannot now explain, don’t know that I ever could explain. It would have been perfectly right and really the proper thing to do, but I saw our colors and saw the frantic gesticulations of the officers in front of them and had also been ordered to form on the colors.

So like the greenhorn that I was, I started straight for the man in front of our flags and it proved to be John B. Biddle, lieutenant of the color company. [Co. C] Just before I reached him (I was ten feet away and in front of him) I saw him throw up his arms. His sword which he had been flourishing fell at his side for it was attached to his wrist by a strap and then fell flat on his face without even a groan. He had been shot straight through the center and was dead when he reached the ground. I went to him but just before bending over to examine him, I felt a tinge or sting or something that resembled it. The sensation seemed to be in my hip. I started to go to the regiment, but I discovered that it had fallen back a considerable distance. By this time my hip had taken on a new sensation, something like paralysis. I surely did want to get to that old regiment, or any of them, but after making two or three attempts I had to sit down or more correctly to fall down. The Rebel lines were fast closing in on us and were already between me and the fence that Kunz and I had been behind. They were firing as they came and giving the famous Rebel yell which in itself will hypnotize a human or animal. It is not a cheer, such as our men gave when on a charge, or to emphasize any success, but a shrill, ugly sort of snarl that carried a great distance. [Lewis Day wrote that ‘the Confederates were squarely on our flank and were protected by the fence along the Griscom road (Gresham Lane) behind which they were sheltering themselves and from between the rails of which they were deliberately murdering us.’]

Near me lay a little artilleryman who had been shot through the groin. He seemed to be suffering considerable pain but said it was more like a toothache than anything he could think of. He asked me to feel the back of his hip. I did and there was a lump as large as a large hickory nut. While we were discussing the situation, a Rebel officer came along and the little artilleryman called out to him and asked if he was a surgeon. The man said he was and asked what was wanted. The little Yank replied that he wanted this ball cut out of his hide. The doctor came over laughing and asked where the wound was, and being told, turned the wounded man over on his stomach, bared the wound, took his lancet and cut across the lump I had felt, then took a pair of tweezers and pulled an ounce of lead out of the wound. The ball had passed through the man’s body, entered the groin, and came out near the back of his hip. The Rebel surgeon made as if to put the ball in his pocket, but the little Yankee grabbed it from him and said, ‘That’s mine, doc.’

Then he looked at the doctor closely and asked ‘what’s yer name? Is it Dr. Smith?’ I can’t recollect the name he gave, but the doctor said that was his name and asked where the young fellow had ever seen him or how he knew his name. The young Yankee said he had been in a New Orleans hospital before the war for some slight injury he had received and that this doctor had attended him. The doctor admitted being a New Orleans man, but could not place the young fellow.




Charles Barney Dennis at Stones River Part II: Marching to Murfreesboro December 27-30, 1862


The days between the 26th of December and the 31st were put into maneuvers for position and it was not until the afternoon of the 30th that things began to take tangible form. Our army had straightened out on a line some three or four miles long on the north side of Stones River. Stones River is not a very large stream; it is not used for navigation but at times is rather turbulent and has places deep enough to drown men and horses. It was in that condition when it divided the contending Union and Rebel forces.

Our army was divided into three grand divisions, or more properly, three corps but each was designated as a wing: right, center, and left. The Battle of Stones River was fought by a Union force of 43,400 men of all branches. It took more than 3,000 men to guard our line of communications and the trains in our rear. The Pioneer Brigade is not counted in the men who fought the battle of the reason that its duties do not take it on the firing line. Of the number actually engaged, there was 37,977 infantry, 3,200 cavalry, and 2,223 artillery. The Rebels had about 40,000 men of all grades.
Major Isaac M. Kirby
101st Ohio

The night of the 30th we swung into position against the Rebel left wing and had a pretty severe action to make the enemy let go of ground that we thought we needed. It took us into what is called in Tennessee a cedar brake, that is a growth of small cedar trees and other undergrowth. To get there we left an open cotton field to the rear at least 300 yards and this open field was considerably higher ground that that we had fought into and in fighting into it we had lot quite heavily in killed and wounded. [Major Isaac M. Kirby stated this the action Dennis is describing occurred starting in the afternoon, not at night. “On Tuesday morning the regiment was moved forward in double column at half distance supporting the 21st Illinois. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon the 21st became engaged with the enemy, the 101st lying a short distance in the rear supporting the 2nd Minnesota Battery which was engaging a battery of the enemy. Just at dark the 21st fell back through our lines, leaving us in front. This day our loss was two men wounded.’ The 21st Illinois took heavy losses attempting to charge an entrenched Confederate battery with heavy infantry support.]

Personally I lost heavily in rations which happened this way. The regiment came across a large open cotton field in column of fours, and as we neared the cedar brake where the fighting was going on, we were ordered into line of battle ‘by the right flank;’ this means that the regiment must lose its formation in fours and get into two lines from right to left and standing close enough that elbows just touch. In getting into this latter formation the order is ‘right into line,’ which movement is very similar to the old school game of ‘cracking the whip.’ Our company happened to be at the left of the regiment that day and that gave us the long end of the turn. It was made at a double quick. My haversack string broke and away went my grub bag, tin can and all. I stopped to recover it, but some officer gave me a slap with his saber and told me to rush on, never mind the lost haversack, ‘there’d be plenty to eat,’ but there is where he talked about what he didn’t know, for I had no rations except one tin cup of coffee for the next two days. I lived principally on hickory and black walnuts which were plenty in the woods and groves on the battlefield. We lay under the fire of the Rebels that night and there was plenty of night fighting. We slept, what little we did sleep, laying flat down with our guns under our right arm in position to bring it up for use quickly.

Well along in the evening, and while the fighting was rather lively, and the wounded were being brought back in liberal numbers, the members of what was called the hospital corps of our regiment went back well to the rear and made ten of these big 10-gallon camp kettles full of coffee and brought it to the firing line. We of Co. B of course got our share. I got one big tin cup of full-black coffee, no milk, no sugar, but I think it was the most delicious drink I ever had in my life. I remember now how perfectly contented I felt and how I thought this wasn’t such a bad world after all…
Colonel John W.S. Alexander
21st Illinois

          [Regimental historian Lewis W. Day recorded the tense night of December 30th: ‘All night long we could hear the movement of troops and artillery to our right. So serious did this seem to us that we several times sent word to regimental headquarters calling attention to the fact. Colonel Stem forwarded the report to brigade, division, and corps headquarters, but nothing was done about it. Similar reports were sent from other parts of the picket line but to not effect.’ Captain Lyman Parcher and his Co. E from Bucyrus drew skirmish line duty for the evening of December 30-31st and wrote the following: ‘We went in front to our posts for the night, our anxious watch rendered melancholy by the presence of many dead around us. This I believe to be to most unpleasant night of my life. Extremely cold for this latitude, where we dare not trust our eyes to close lest we sleep; nothing but the anxiety and peril served to nerve us up and render our condition tolerable.’]




Charles Barney Dennis at Stones River Part I: Engagement at Knob Gap

Private Albert Palmer
Co. D, 101st Ohio

In commemoration of the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River, I proudly present five excerpts covering the Stones River campaign written by Private Charles Barney Dennis of Co. B, 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Wounded through the hip during the battle of December 31st, 1862, Dennis was left behind at the Gresham House field hospital and his account of his experiences behind the lines is one of the finest I have ever read concerning Stones River. These excerpts, part of a much larger manuscript  covering Dennis' wartime service, reside at the Hayes Memorial Library in Fremont, Ohio.