Defending the 14th Ohio Infantry Flag at Chickamauga
The 14th Ohio sustained its heaviest casualties of the war at the Battle of Chickamauga: 35 killed, 167 wounded, and 43 missing, or 245 of 460 men. In fierce engagements on both days of the battle, the crimson and azure folds of the regimental colors witnessed the death of five soldiers who struggled to hold the flag high and provide a rallying point for the men. The story of the 14th Ohio flag at Chickamauga is truly symbolic of the regiment’s sacrifice at this, the western theater’s most ferocious and sanguinary battle.
|Colonel John Thomas Croxton led a five regiment|
brigade consisting of the 10th and 74th Indiana, 4th and 10th
Kentucky, and the 14th Ohio at Chickamauga. The 26 year old
Kentuckian was wounded on September 20, 1863.
The morning haze hung heavily in the tangled woods near Jay’s Mill on the morning of September 19, 1863. After an all night march, the weary 14th Ohio was just settling down to the morning routine of brewing coffee and cooking breakfast went the order came to fall in. Cursing and grabbing their still steaming coffee boilers, the men formed into line, filed onto an overgrown farmer’s trace and marched off to the east, downing the needed stimulant while on the march. “Although in a bad condition for fighting, still the boys were all willing to do their whole duty, and when the order came for the 14th to take the advance, every man’s countenance seemed to beam with new hope and determination,” remembered Company F commanding officer Captain James A. Chase. Forming into line just to the rear of the 10th Indiana, the 14th advanced slowly through the dense forest eerily reminiscent Adjutant Joseph B. Newton wrote of the “oak openings around Toledo.”
“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 Rebel cavalry (10th Confederate 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,” Newton said. Badly outnumbered and outgunned, the surviving cavalrymen bolted from the field, in the process throwing two regiments of their brigade into confusion.
Croxton halted his brigade and the 14th Ohio was pulled from the reserve and placed on the right of the 74th Indiana. Companies A and F from the 14th were sent forward as skirmishers. The advance resumed and soon came under a steady fire from the dismounted troopers of General H.B. Davidson’s brigade under the personal guidance of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The fighting was done more by feel than by sight, the thick forest and dense overgrowth preventing either side from getting a good look at their adversaries. Delivering several crisp volleys, the 14th Ohio surged over a small ridge as Davidson’s men fell back to a higher ridge to the east where Forrest frantically worked to rally the brigade. Davidson’s troopers had lost nearly a third of their number.
But Forrest’s salvation soon arrived on the field in the form of a Colonel Claudius C. Wilson’s Georgia brigade. Approaching Croxton’s line (facing east) from the southeast, Wilson’s brigade opened a devastating flanking fire. Under this initial and unexpected blast, the 14th Ohio’s color bearer was instantly shot down. Wilson’s Georgians advanced a few paces and reloaded while First Sergeant Frank Brumhoffer of Company C raised the fallen colors. In their next volley, Brumhoffer instantly killed by a bullet through the forehead and the colors fell again. Flashes from hundreds of muzzles lit the morning air, the acrid smoke from thousands of discharging muskets already blanketing the woods in a ghostly plume. Corporal Andrew B. Clements of Company D pulled the flag from Brumhoffer’s grasp as men fell all along the line. Wilson pressed his advantage and Croxton’s brigade started to retreat. With his ammunition nearly exhausted, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Kingsbury ordered a withdrawal in accordance with Croxton’s command and the 14th retreated off to the west. In this harrowing retreat through the woods, Clements was hit. Private Jacob Lohr of Company D later remembered that Clements clung to the colors despite his wound and fell back with the regiment. As his strength failed, Clements said, “Let the Rebels take me but save the flag.” Corporal James Wells of Company D then grasped the now bullet-riddled and blood spattered flag and safely drew it off the field. He was killed the next day.
|The 14th Ohio's position in the morning hours of September 19, 1863. Map courtesy of Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com|
“Two Corporals of my company were shot down while carrying that glorious emblem of liberty,” related Second Lieutenant Oscar N. Gunn of Company D. “One of them was shot down three times before he would give it up. Every shot went through his body. Either of them would have proved fatal. He fell to the earth for every shot, but still rising to his feet would wave the flag on high and shout to his comrades to rally around it. He was the bravest man I ever saw. Our flag was literally shot to pieces. That once beautiful flag is now torn in strings-almost entirely torn away-so much so that it is a mere rag. The staff was cut by a grape shot from a Rebel battery.”
After a difficult passage of the lines, the 14th retired to the field where they had attempted to brew their coffee that morning. In a little over two hours of confused and savage fighting, the 14th had lost 207 men. Nearly half the regiment had been lost in this, its first large-scale engagement.
|National colors of the 14th O.V.I. (not at Chickamauga)|
Adjutant Newton related an interesting story about Captain Noah W. Ogan of Company K who was captured on September 19th. “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 this is 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 lines.’ They supposing they had become confused in the heat and hurry of the movement, turned around and brought him within Federal lines, when it became his turn to reciprocate by capturing his captors and demanding them to deliver up their arms, which they did in a very gracious manner.”
The next day was a disaster for the Army of the Cumberland. September 20, 1863. Croxton’s shattered brigade was in line of battle in some dense woods when Longstreet’s attack drove through the fatal gap in the Union line. The 14th Ohio was on the northern edge of the attack and being flanked on the right, took heavy casualties again before breaking for the rear. After Corporal Wells was shot down, Private Joseph Wernert, a young German lad in Company A, snatched the colors from the grasp of the mortally wounded bearer and “gallantly bore it through the fearful shower of leaden hail which had proven so fatal to so many of its noble bearers and brought it out of the fight safe, if not sound.” The casualties for the second day of Chickamauga totaled 7 men killed, 30 men wounded and 12 missing.
|Civil War Monument in Wauseon, Ohio. Fulton County|
provided the nucleus of Co. H, and men served in many
other companies of the 14th Ohio.
The five color bearers:
1) Unknown (killed in action September 19, 1863)
2) First Sergeant Frank Brumhoffer, Co. C (killed in action September 19, 1863)
3) Corporal Andrew D. Clements, Co. D (killed in action September 19, 1863)
4) Corporal James Wells, Co. D (mortally wounded September 20, 1863)
5) Private Joseph Wernert, Co. A
Captain James A. Chase of Co. F remarked after the battle that "I never saw men fight with a greater determination to win than did the brave boys of the 14th. Every man seemed to go to work with a full determination of crowning the day with a brilliant victory. Truly it may be called a field of carnage." Lieutenant Oscar Gunn reported that "Our flag was literally shot to pieces. That once beautiful flag is now torn to strings-almost entirely torn away- so much so that it is a mere rag. We love it all the more for its time worn and battle stained folds."
Official Report of Lieutenant Colonel Henry D. Kingsbury, 14th Ohio Infantry
HDQRS. FOURTEENTH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY,
Chattanooga, Tenn., September 26, 1863.
Chattanooga, Tenn., September 26, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following as a report of the part taken during the two days' engagement with the enemy by my command:
The morning of the 19th, before any firing was commenced, after moving in line, my command occupied the right of the second line, in rear of the 10th Indiana, consisting of 18 commissioned officers and 442 enlisted men.
|14th O.V.V.I. Regimental Reunion in 1877|
In this position we advanced 500 yards when we were ordered to the extreme right of the front line, where skirmishers were thrown out covering our front.
A heavy force of infantry were seen approaching our extreme right, and the 74th Indiana were formed upon our right to meet them. The enemy advanced with three columns of infantry, without skirmishers, and forced us to retire.
In the afternoon, when the advance was again made more to the right, our position was still on the extreme right.
In this position we were ordered to [move] forward until we came to an open field or the left of the line should halt. In this position we advanced about 200 yards, when the enemy's skirmishers were met and driven back. We then charged upon their line and drove them for over 200 yards, when our line met a superior force and, being outflanked, retired fighting. We were then moved to the right, but without any more fighting. We lay in an open field near where the brigade was halted for breakfast till 6.30 p. m., when we were ordered to the rear for the night. Our loss during the day was 29 killed, 7 commissioned officers and 130 enlisted men wounded, and 31 reported missing.
|Brigadier General John Milton Brannan commanded the Third Division of the 14th Corps at Chickamauga. The 14th Ohio served in the Second Brigade of Brannan's division under Colonel John T. Croxton.|
At 3 o'clock the morning of the 20th we moved by the right flank to the right of the road, and took position in the second line, in rear of the 31st Ohio and a battery, and on the right of the 10th Kentucky.
We were in this position when the line on our right was turned, and held the position until the right was so far driven back that the enemy held position in our rear, and were forced to retire. We fell back across the field, and there rallied what men I could and formed them upon the hill. During the confusion my command became separated and were kept so during the day; but from what fell under my own observation I can report that I never saw men, disorganized as they were, fight better.
|14th O.V.I. Monument at Chickamauga|
The major and several other of the officers, with what men they could rally, remained upon the hill to the right of the hospital (on the right), and fought until the enemy fell back and gave up the contest. It was 6.30 p. m. when they were withdrawn and moved to the rear.
The confusion which we were at times thrown into renders a more explicit report impracticable. Our colors were shot down three times on the 19th and twice on the 20th, but were bravely defended and brought from the field at night.
The loss on the 20th was 7 men killed, 1 commissioned officer and 29 men wounded, and 12 missing.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Henry D. KINGSBURY,Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding.
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